Thursday, January 17, 2019

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

Varnes, Allison. Property of the Rebel Librarian. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-524-77147-8. 275 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6 and up.

From the Publisher: 

When twelve-year-old June Harper's parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can't give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn't have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It's a delicious secret . . . and one she can't keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library's popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle--a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it's powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.

Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn’t believe one person can effect change…and for all the kids who already know they can!
 

My Review: 


     


I listened to the audiobook version of this adorable middle grade read via my public library. June is a reader; the library is her sanctuary, and librarian Ms. Bradshaw is her idol. When June's parents discover her reading an "inappropriate book," they go a little overboard. Taking drastic measures to ensure their daughter is not manipulated by such unacceptable content, her parents (and other parents in their parent organization) convince the school to place the Ms. Bradshaw on leave and close the school library until the entire collection can be reevaluated. Heartbroken by this transgression (are books really that bad?), June hides what little books remain after her parents clear the shelves in her bedroom. Taking the long way to school (because she has free time now that she's not in the library), June stumbles across a Little Free Library and what follows can only be described as a librarian being born. Suddenly, rule following June is loaning books out on the black market, making new friends, and taking risks she never imagined. 

THOUGHTS: Cute and quirky, hand this one to your readers. Classes can create a list of books that June obtains, talks about, or requests she fills. Discussions can follow about what books students would break the rules to read.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Mills, Emma. Famous in a Small Town. Henry Holt and Co., 2019. 978-1-250-17963-0. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

For Sophie, small-town life has never felt small. She has the Yum Yum Shoppe, with its famous fourteen flavors of ice cream; her beloved marching band, the pride and joy of Acadia High (even if the football team disagrees); and her four best friends, loving and infuriating, wonderfully weird and all she could ever ask for.

Then August moves in next door. A quiet guy with a magnetic smile, August seems determined to keep everyone at arm's length. Sophie in particular.

Country stars, revenge plots, and a few fake kisses (along with some excellent real ones) await Sophie in this hilarious, heartfelt story.
 

My Review: 




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Sophie loves everything about her small town and is a proud member of the Marching Pride of Acadia which has been invited to march in the Rose Bowl Parade. Amidst a summer of fundraising for the trip, spending time with her best friends, volunteering at the library, and babysitting the neighbor kids, Sophie meets August. Even though August doesn't know who Megan Pleasant is (Acadia's claim to fame when she made it big after being on America's Next Country Star), Sophie works to convince August of Acadia's appeal. Still, her friends aren't sure August deserves to be added to their WWYSE (where would you spend eternity) text thread. Alternating between the last summer before senior year and a text thread with her sister (who doesn't come home from college for the summer), Sophie's story unfolds. 

THOUGHTS: Much more than the slow burning romance this book seems, friendship and mystery take center stage among the banter of friends. A must purchase for high school fans of realistic, character-driven romances. 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

McManus, Karen M. Two Can Keep a Secret. Delacorte Press, 2019. 978-1-524-71472-7. 336 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery's never been there, but she's heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it's hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone's declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she's in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous--and most people aren't good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it's safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

My Review: 


     


I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

With their mother Sadie away for the next four months, twins Ellery and Ezra are on the way to their grandmother's house in Echo Ridge. Echo Ridge is a place Sadie mostly avoided since turning eighteen and where the twins never have spent any time. If the bad omens since their arrival mean anything, it seems like the past is coming back to haunt Echo Ridge. A huge true-crime fan, Ellery has always been curious about her aunt's disappearance and the unsolved murder of an Echo Ridge homecoming queen five years ago. When mysterious threats start appearing around town, Ellery races against time (and her grandmother's fears), determined to get some answers.  

THOUGHTS: 
This small town is full of secrets, and no one will predict the ending. Readers will not be disappointed in McManus's second novel. This one is a must-have for high school mystery fans, and it will fly off of the shelves! 

Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

Johnson, Abigail. Even If I Fall. Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-335-54155-0. 352 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.

My Review: 


     


I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 

One year ago Brooke's life was shattered when her older brother confessed to killing his best friend. Outcast by their entire town, Brooke and her family are left to navigate their lives but do so more like passing ships than the close-knit family they used to be. Brooke's mother puts on a happy face when visiting Jason on the weekly family day but walks around in a daze otherwise. Brooke's father copes by spending extra hours in his woodshop, and her little sister has all but stopped talking. Previously dreaming of becoming a professional ice skater, the only place Brooke finds any peace is on the ice at the rink where she works, though her boss and co-workers don't give her any breaks. Brooke isn't sure how to keep going when she sees the only other person who might understand her pain. One year ago Heath lost his older brother when Brooke's brother killed him. Torn by love for their brothers, Heath and Brooke begin a cautious friendship. Conflicting emotions run high, though, and they may be too lost to help each other.

THOUGHTS: Full of strong emotions, this is a great read for fans of realistic fiction with a little bit of mystery and romance. Readers will race through this novel in hopes of getting answers to the many questions it poses. Perhaps, most importantly is the question of what exactly happened the night Calvin died? A must purchase for high school libraries. 

The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

Elston, Ashley. The Lying Woods. Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-368-01478-6. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.

Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he can barely remember despise him for his father's crimes. It's bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac--and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.

Owen's only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets--and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same Preacher Woods he's claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past--and write a better future.


My Review: 


     


Hours before his father's embezzlement goes public, Owen's mother gets him from his elite New Orleans boarding school. Forced to leave all of their possessions including their house behind, Owen and his mom move in with her sister, and Owen must adjust to senior year back in Lake Cane. Living among the families whose life savings and retirements were invested in Louisiana Frac (the primary local employer) proves to be more difficult than he imagined. Of course, his father is long gone. Most are suspicious of their involvement or their knowledge of Owen's father's whereabouts, but Owen and his mother are left to deal with the repercussions and threatsTold in alternating chapters Owen's story unfolds over dual narratives from the past and the present. With mystery surrounding his entire life, Owen must look to the past to help guide his future. 

THOUGHTS: Subtle in its mystery, this book is difficult to describe without giving away key details. With dual narratives from different time periods, readers will work the entire novel to puzzle out the story of Owen's life. At times a page-turning mystery and others character driven, this work will have a wide appeal. A must-purchase for high school libraries. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett

Crockett, Mary. How She Died, How I Lived. Little, Brown Books, 2018. 978-0-316-52381-3. 416 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.


From the Publisher: 

I was one of five. The five girls Kyle texted that day. The girls it could have been. Only Jamie--beautiful, saintly Jamie--was kind enough to respond. And it got her killed.

On the eve of Kyle's sentencing a year after Jamie's death, all the other "chosen ones" are coping in various ways. But our tenacious narrator is full of anger, stuck somewhere between the horrifying past and the unknown future as she tries to piece together why she gets to live, while Jamie is dead.

Now she finds herself drawn to Charlie, Jamie's boyfriend--knowing all the while that their relationship will always be haunted by what-ifs and why-nots. Is hope possible in the face of such violence? Is forgiveness? How do you go on living when you know it could have been you instead?

My Review: 





I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 


“Want to hang out this afternoon?” One simple message has an irrevocable ripple effect; five girls received it, and only the one who responded – beautiful, sweet, innocent Jamie – was brutally murdered. Coming up on the sentencing hearing one year later, each girl is (or isn’t) coping in her own way. Though readers know the other survivor’s names, the narrator remains anonymous. Through her eyes readers are taken on a journey of pain, grief, and survivor’s guilt, as she tries to make sense of the senseless and move on from this tragedy. Together with Charlie, Jamie’s boyfriend at the time of her death, and Lindsey, another of the targeted girls, these teens process their emotions and the role this event has played in their lives while trying to figure out how to live. 
THOUGHTS: The unique point of view of this novel helps readers understand how trauma survivors (and friends and family of those impacted by trauma) cope, process their emotions, and learn how to live. The author’s note adds some insight into how Crockett was inspired by a violent act in her own community and used writing to process her own anger (listen to this podcast for more). Recommended for fans of character driven, realistic novels. 

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Little White Lies. Freeform, 2018. 978-1-368-01413-7. 400 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.
From the Publisher: 


"I'm not saying this is Sawyer's fault," the prim and proper one said delicately. "But."

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.
My Review: 

     



I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 


The hardworking daughter of a flighty single mom, eighteen year old Sawyer Taft does not expect to become a member of high society. When her estranged grandmother makes an offer she cannot refuse, Sawyer steps into her mother’s former world to participate in debutante season. Initially caught up in the life she hasn’t had, Sawyer eventually realizes that there is more than meets the eye. If she wants to get the answers she’s looking for, Sawyer will have to join the others and play dirty. 
THOUGHTS: Readers will adore and root for Sawyer, respecting her search for the truth about her family origins. The complex and twisted friendships and family ties will leave readers unsuspecting of the eventual outcome and highly anticipating its sequel.