Sunday, September 4, 2016

Plot Summary:
After losing her mother unexpectedly, Jessie's father remarried, sold their home in Chicago, and moved them across country to live with Rachel and Theo, her new family. Although Rachel, her father's new wife, is trying to make things work, Theo, her stepbrother, isn't having any of it and ignores Jessie even on her first day of school. What was a tough day, it gets even stranger when she gets an email from a person named "Somebody Nobody" offering her advice on how to navigate Wood Valley High School and who to avoid. Although Jessie isn't sure why this person would want to help her, she trusts this stranger and they develop a rather peculiar and sweet friendship. Although SN (Somebody Nobody) wants to remain anonymous, Jessie is also creating new friendships of her own and even catches the eye of super popular, Ethan. However, Jessie is also on the radar of Gem and Crystal who are not only the most popular girls in school, but also the meanest. Despite having to start over again, Jessie tries to keep a low profile, and out of Rachel's house, so she decides to look for a part-time job. Ironically, the book store she works in is owned by the parents of another super popular boy named Liam, who will eventually cause Jessie a whole new set of problems. Miles away from Scarlet (her best friend), and distant from her father, the only person Jessie can rely is SN, but who is SN and why do they care so much about her. In this funny and poignant story, Jessie is forced to deal with her grief while trying to start all over again one day at a time. 

Critical Evaluation:
I can honestly say I didn't expect a lot from this book, but WOW was I surprised. Jessie, unfortunately, was hit with way too much stuff that no human being should ever have to face at sixteen years old. What was even more aggravating is that her father thought it was in her best interest to start all over again in a different state without even asking her. Although the same could be said for Rachel, Theo's mom, what readers need to realize is that grief can make people do things that aren't always rational, but, at the same time, Rachel and Jessie's father, needed each other in order to cope with their loss. What this book does so well is teach us how debilitating and ugly grief can be when we lose someone we love, but, at the same time, shows us the beauty of hope, forgiveness, and love. I can honestly say that I thought the SN/Jessie conversations were a little creepy at first, I eventually learned to love them because SN became someone that Jessie could rely on when she needed someone to listen. I think all of us need an SN because we sometimes need someone to help us forget our problems and just talk. Although SN identity was a little on the predictable side, once you get half way through the book, I am glad the author didn't throw us for a loop and I LOVED the last line of " But sometimes a kiss not a kiss is not a kiss. Sometimes it's poetry." 

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Julie Buxbaum is the New York Times best selling author of Tell Me Three Things, her young adult debut, and the critically acclaimed novels The Opposite of Love and After You.  Her work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Julie’s writing has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times. She is a former lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two young children, and an immortal goldfish. Visit Julie online at www.juliebuxbaum.com and follow @juliebux on Twitter.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fictions, Teen Issues, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up


Books Similar to Tell Me Three Things:
  • Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schnieder
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
 
Awards & Recognition:
 From Amazon.com:

"Three Things about this novel: 1. I loved it. 2. No, really, I LOVED it. 3. I wish I could tell every teen to read it. Buxbaum's book sounds, reads, breathes, worries, and soars like real adolescents do." - Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of LEAVING TIME and OFF THE PAGE.

"Here are three things about this book: (1) It's sweet and funny and romantic; (2) the mystery at the heart of the story will keep you turning the pages; (3) I have a feeling you'll be very happy you read it."—Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
"The desire to find out whether Jessie's real-life and virtual crushes are one and the same will keep [readers] turning the pages as quickly as possible."--Publishers Weekly, Starred

"A heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change."—Kirkus Reviews
"Buxbaum's debut is hard to put down because of its smooth and captivating text. The addition of virtual conversations through email and chatting adds to the exciting plot twist."--SLJ

"Buxbaum adds layered plotlines about grief, family, and the confusion and hardships of growing up, all with a touch of humor and romance. A solid YA debut."--Booklist

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Plot Summary:
Last year, on October 15th, Morgan's life changed forever. Rather than attending class and hanging out with friends, Morgan doesn't leave her apartment...ever. When Morgan has a bad day, she tries to follow the three-steps, but, sometimes, she needs an emergency pill. Although Morgan's family understands why she is feeling the way she does, Morgan has no idea if, and when, she will get better. What was supposed to be a day of online classes, television, and a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, Morgan looks at the window and she sees Evan. Not only is Evan gorgeous, he is her new neighbor. It's been a long time since Morgan has ever felt this way so when he knocked on her door, nothing was ever going to be the same because he reminds her of everything she misses dearly. The only way Morgan is ever going to get her life is to have the courage to step out the front door and finally face the past that has haunted and crippled her. What happened last year? What will happen if Morgan shuts the door on Evan? In this amazing debut, Marisa Reichardt brilliantly describes the fragility of the human psyche and how courage, and love, can help us find the strength to move on.

Critical Evaluation:
As stated, previously, this is a wonderful book that gives readers insight on trauma-induced anxiety. Without giving the book away, Morgan is suffering from a type of mental illness that cripples hundreds and thousands of people and it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. What I appreciate the most about this book is how the author depicts the process of overcoming mental illness through her therapy sessions with Brenda, her mother and brother, and the way that she grapples with her father's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like anxiety, PTSD is a horrendous disease that plagues veterans is a result of seeing, hearing, and dealing with so much stress that the brain literally malfunctions and the person is just unable to deal with every day life. Although Morgan and her father experienced horrible things, their illnesses are treatable with time and medical treatment. As a person who lives with mental illness, I appreciate the author's narrative as it describes the process of recovering from a mental illness. It's incredibly important for reader's to understand that recovering from mental illness can't be fixed with a pill or just a few therapy sessions. For Morgan, Evan was the missing piece she needed in order to step outside her front door, get back into her car, and go back into the water she loved so much. This is a great book for teens who are not only experiencing mental illness, but for teens who may know someone they love or care about.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native who has paid the bills by shucking oysters, waiting tables, peddling swimwear, tutoring, and writing. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. Her debut novel, Underwater, was an Indies Introduce New Voices pick for winter/spring 2016 and an Indie Next Top 10 pick for winter 2016. 
Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Issues, 

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Underwater:
  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith 

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"Debut author Reichardt doesn’t oversimplify: Morgan isn’t saved by love; rather, new neighbor Evan reminds her of life and what it’s like to have a friend. As Evan, who has his own connection to the shooting, tells her, what he likes about Morgan is that she’s real, and that’s exactly what readers will appreciate about this book." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Debut author Reichardt smartly reveals the source of Morgan's agoraphobia--a school shooting--very gradually, which, along with the sweet romance with Evan, urges the plot forward. Morgan's... story of growth and redemption will be rewarding for readers who love character-driven novels." ―Booklist

"Readers will enjoy the emotional balance Reichardt gives to the high stakes conflicts in a teen’s life." ―School Library Journal

"A moving, reflective exploration of grief, trauma, and how individuals find their paths toward resilience." ―Kirkus Reviews

"While this is a tender and appealing romance, it would also make a thoughtful complement to the many books about school shootings to illuminate the effects that last beyond the horrible day."―BCCB 

"Reichardt's remarkable debut novel, told in Morgan's voice, is a sensitive and inspirational exploration of the aftermath of tragedy and of a young woman's grief and guilt. Young adults will enjoy sharing Morgan's passage from hurt to healing." ―VOYA

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Plot Summary:
 After the bathroom incident at her last school, Amanda has to decided to move in with her father and start over. Life for Amanda hasn't been easy because she has had to bury a secret that almost cost her her own life. Now that she has decided to not hide who she is, Amanda must pick up the pieces from her former to life in order to start anew. Although she and her father haven't really spoken since the divorce, he is trying to make amends for the fact that her father wasn't there at the hospital he refused to acknowledge the fact that Amanda was different. Apart from her mom and her best friend, Virginia, Amanda has to tread lightly with who she befriends for fear her secret would come out. Luckily, Amanda has managed to not only keep her secret a secret, she made news friends on the first day of school, which ave her hope that she could live a normal life. However, Amanda has decided to throw caution to the wind  after meeting, and getting to know, Grant. Not only is Grant gorgeous, but there is something genuine and kind that Amanda can't get enough of. So what if she is hiding something because Grant has given her the chance to start over and, for the first time ever, be loved for who she is and not who she used to be. This is heart wrenching story of a girl who has split blood, tears, and suffered years of agony to be who she wants to be and finally realized that she deserves to be loved and to love in return.

Critical Evaluation:
I was left speechless after reading this book. It seriously took me several minutes to understand and digest how important stories like this are for the youth of today. Without giving away an spoilers, I want to stress that all of us, no matter who are or where we come from, deserve love. In fact, I want to make it a point to tell all of the readers out there that they are beautiful and that they are indeed loved. If you don't feel like you are loved than I will say this: I love you because you exist and because you are doing something incredible to make this world a better place. Amanda, in my opinion, is the most brave and forgiving character I have ever come across in YA lit and I want to personally thank Meredith Russo for having the insight, courage, and strength to tell this story. There is so much about this book that I want to talk about, but I don't want to ruin this experience for potential readers. I will say this...at some point in our lives we will all meet someone who will struggle with their identity and, as friends, mentors, and family members we need to support them and help them in any way we can. More importantly, we need to speak up for them in times of injustice and fear because, at the end of the day, we are all the same. Please stop what you are doing and read this book. When you are done, go into your community and tell everyone you know about this book. It's 2016 and it's time to have this discussion because too many precious teens are lost to the stigma, the shame, and despair. If you would like to know more about the transgendered community, please check out: http://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics


Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:

MEREDITH RUSSO was born, raised, and lives in Tennessee. She started living as her true self in late 2013 and never looked back. If I Was Your Girl was partially inspired by her experiences as a trans woman. Like Amanda, Meredith is a gigantic nerd who spends a lot of her time obsessing over video games and Star Wars.

If I Was Your Girl is her debut novel, but definitely not her last. When she's not busy writing she can be found reblogging pictures of cats and babies, reading high literature (and definitely not fanfiction and fantasy novels), arguing with strangers about social justice, and, of course, raising her two amazing children, Vivian and Darwin.
You definitely, absolutely should not be shy about contacting her, even if it's just to talk. She's always open to new opportunities and chances to speak with new people.

 Genre:
Teen LGBTQ Fiction, Teen Issues, Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to If I Was Your Girl
  • Freakshow by James St. James
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • George by Alex Gino
Awards & Recognition:

From Amazon.com:

IndieNext Top 10

Named one of the 50 Books Every Modern Teenager Should Read by Flavorwire

One of BookRiot's Most Anticipated Books of the Year

An Amazon Best Book of the Year (So Far)

"An illuminating debut guided by hope and overwhelming kindness.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A necessary, universal story about feeling different and enduring prejudices…full of love, hope, and truth.” ―Kirkus, starred review

"This is everything a coming-of-age novel should be―honest, complicated, and meaningful. Transcends the typical 'issue' novel to be a beautiful tale in its own right." ―School Library Journal, SLJ Popular Pick

"Russo, a trans woman, writes with authority and empathy, giving readers not only an intellectual but also an emotional understanding of Amanda and her compelling story. Never didactic, this debut is a valuable contribution to the slender but growing body of literature of trans teens." ―ALA Booklist

"Poignant and rare. If I Was Your Girl is the type of book you read and want to immediately share, because it's too important to keep to yourself." ―Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin'

"If I Was Your Girl is important and necessary and brave, and deeply, electrically inspiring. Read this wonderful book. Just read it." ―Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places

“Will change minds and open hearts.” ―Nina Lacour, critically acclaimed author of Everything Leads to You

"If I Was Your Girl is real and raw and layered and wonderful." ―Alex Gino, Stonewall Award-winning author of George

"If there's any justice in the world, we're all witnessing a YA powerhouse in the making."
Forever YA

"Pure magic." ―BookRiot
 

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Plot Summary:
When Em woke up in complete darkness, she had no idea where she was or who she was. When she tried to move, something was holding her down and something was trying to hurt her. After fighting the darkness, Em emerged from her trap to an empty room and no idea where to go. What was worse, she noticed other "coffins" liker hers and that is when she heard the screams from the other coffin. After rescuing a girl who happens to have the same birthday as Em, they leave their room to stumble upon other coffins. Not knowing what to do, or where to go, Em tries to rescue other teens who may be laying in the coffins, which gets her nominated to becoming the leader of their group. As Em leads this small band of survivors through their concrete prison, Em and her teammates are being hit with flashbacks and memories from their previous lives, which means that somebody has to be looking for them or missing them. The only thing the group can't figure out is that all of them claim to be twelve years old, but, when they look at each other, they see bodies and faces of young adults and not children. Why would their parents leave them all alone? What exactly happened to them that would leave them abandoned in a tomb filled with dust and bone. As Em and the others explore this maze, not only do they learn that they are not alone, but their escape becomes more complicated and even more dangerous. Readers will not be able to put this book down and the end will leave them starving for more.


Critical Evaluation:
Per the author's request, which I completely respect, I will not divulge any major plot points as to not spoil the story for potential readers. I will instead comment on just how much I LOVED THIS BOOK! OMG! All I can say is that Scott Sigler has given us a gift because it conveys the ultimate power that is the Science Fiction genre. Compared to traditional Sci Fi stories, authors are adding another dimension to the character development that not only makes them accessible to non sci-fi readers, it makes the characters that much more human, which, in this genre, can be a good thing and a terrible thing. I had no idea whatsoever to expect from this story so I highly recommend that readers do not go into this book with expectations. If readers do, this will story will destroy those expectations for the better. I am actually going to be discussing this book with a bunch of teens so I am totally stoked to hear their thoughts and how they can relate to this story. I am going to pick up the sequel, Alight, and I can't wait to return to the crazy world that Em and friends are trying navigate and I am looking forward to their adventures.


Information about the Author:
According to Siglerpedia:

Raised in Cheboygan, Michigan Sigler's father passed his love of classic monster movies along to his son. His mother, a school teacher, encouraged his reading offering him any book he wanted. Sigler wrote his first monster story, "Tentacles", at the age of eight.
Sigler didn't travel far for college having attended Olivet College (Olivet, MI) and Cleary College (Ann Arbor, MI) where he earned a BA in Journalism and a BS in Marketing. Scott has had a varied career path having worked fast food, picking fruit, shoveling horse manure, a sports reporter, director of marketing for a software company, software startup founder, marketing consultant, guitar salesman, bum in a rock band, and social media strategist before turning in his corporate ID to write fiction full time.
Genre:
Teen Sci Fi, Teen Dystopian Thrillers

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Alive:
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  • I Am Number 4 by Pitticus Lore
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com
“Suspenseful . . . [Alive] lives up to its hype, packing plenty of thrills.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Fascinating and intriguing . . . a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Maze Runner and yet . . . so much more.”—Fresh Fiction

“A ripping, claustrophobic thunderbolt of a novel, Scott Sigler’s Alive gives us an unforgettable young hero who must find the inner strength to lead without knowing where she is, who she is, and how bitterly the odds are stacked against her.”—Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising

“Sigler has created a wonderful and engrossing character in M. Savage. Strong and smart, but with the naïveté and misgivings of any teenage girl, she’s someone you’ll definitely want on your side when s**t hits the fan, which it most certainly does.”—Veronica Belmont, host of Sword & Laser

“A tense, unsettling page-turner of a story—both deeply strange and wildly compelling.”—Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker and Maplecroft

“From the first page I was hooked. The puzzle unfolds masterfully, right down to the last page.”—Dr. Phil Plait, Ph.D., author of Bad Astronomy

Alive by Scott Sigler

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Friday, May 27, 2016
Plot Summary:
It's graduation night and Thomas' bags are packed and ready for boot camp. Like his father and his brother, Thomas is fulfilling his duty by joining the United State Army. The problem is that he doesn't want to go because he doesn't want to end up like his brother Jake. When Jake returned from Afghanistan, everyone greeted him with a hero's welcome. However, Jake isn't the courageous hero that everyone thinks he is. In fact, Jake is a ghost who hardly says a word, doesn't take care of himself, and always carries around a mysterious black backpack According to Thomas, Jake will never be the same and his parents refuse to recognize that he is a broken man. Before going to war, Thomas worshiped his brother and was excited to follow in his footsteps. Now, all Thomas can think about is running away and never looking back until Mallory backhands her boyfriend at the party they are at. Thomas and Mallory haven't spoken in two years and when she asks him for a ride home, Thomas reluctantly agrees. What should have been an easy trip turns into a highway pursuit that will kick start a series of events that will take him all over town that will eventually lead him back to why he and Mallory lost touch and uncover the demons that have been haunting Jake. In this riveting story about a teen who just wants some normalcy, he will finally break down the walls that have been separating him from his family and Mallory, which is anything by normal.

Critical Evaluation:
I was unbelievably impressed with this story. I literally blew through this book in one night and I can't express how important this subject matter is given today's political climate. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Combat Stress are, categorically, the most detrimental mental illness' that plague the men and women in the armed forces.One thing readers will learn is that mental illness does not effect just the person experiencing the disease, it effects the family unit as well. For Thomas, he knows his brother is not well and his parents refuse to acknowledge this fact. What's worse is that his own father, a Desert Storm veteran, is the reason why Jake is not receiving the medical treatment he needs. Unlike Jake, many vets prior to 9/11 experienced PTSD, but there was never a campaign to advocate for treatment. Although Jake and Thomas' father believes that Jake will be fine when he "snaps" out of it; in reality, he will continue to deteriorate if he doesn't receive the treatment he so desperately needs. Although Jake's mental illness is the only part of the story, Thomas' fears are very real because a lot of vets are coming home broken and lost. Aside from his family problems, there's Mallory who is also in a bit of a downward spiral as well. In theory, readers will discover that both Mallory and Thomas have one thing in common: they want to run away from their problems because they are afraid. Given the events of the night, it's nice to see that they have gathered up the courage to not only confront their problems, but deal with the consequences that may follow. Bottom line: these teenagers turned into adults overnight and this story leaves readers asking "what happens next?"

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.
Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Issues, Teen War Stories

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Meet Me Here:

  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Something Like Normal by Trish Doller


Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“Bliss keeps the pages turning with vivid, rich characters and weighty moments of self-discovery. With compassionate grace, Bliss plumbs the depths not only of Thomas’ heavy choices but also the impact of war on a personal level…Thoughtful, empathetic, and deeply stirring.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Bliss offers a well-crafted story about the people who come home from war damaged and the family members this affects. …A love story between brothers, the novel provides a touching glimpse of a different kind of courage.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Bliss’s novel address the push teens may feel after high school to do what is expected of them and not what they want…With a 24-hour intense timeframe and thoughtful discussion of PTSD, this title has elements of Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon and Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal.” (School Library Journal)

“Told over one night, Thomas’s story is both classic night-before-it-all-changes hijinks-parties, fighting, nostalgia, and unexpected friendships-and part darker, existential concerns connected to the realities of war. …The strong emotional impact will attract serious readers.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

“Bliss presents another thoughtful and penetrating family drama. …through meaningful encounters with friends and family, Thomas gains a deeper understanding of sacrifice, the power of brotherhood and community, and just how fine the line between courage and fear can be.” (The Horn Book)

Praise for No Parking at the End Times:“Bliss’s debut explores family, sacrifice, and the power of everyday faith with a deft and sensitive hand.” (The Horn Book)

“Bliss has worked with teenagers, and it shows—his characters are not stereotypical ‘teens’ but human beings who must face and overcome unique problems. A fine debut.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“This quietly powerful story of a young woman’s quest for deliverance in the face of parental failure, religious disillusionment, and self-doubt moved me deeply. I can’t wait to see what Bryan Bliss does next.” (Sara Zarr, author of National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl)

Meet Me Here by Brian Bliss

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Plot Summary:
When people think of Parker Grant, they think she is outspoken, intelligent, and incredibly brave despite the fact that she is blind. Parker wasn't born blind, but an accident that claimed her mother's life is the reason she can no longer see. Although Parker cannot see, she chooses to wear a scarf around her eyes simply to make a statement that she may be blind, but she isn't dumb. Along with her intellect, and sharp whit, Parker is passionate about running. Whenever Parker goes running, she uses her senses to navigate the streets pretty much freaks out her aunt  and most of the neighbors. Despite running the risk of literally running into things, Parker runs her heart out because it's her only chance to escape reality for a few moments. Life wasn't always easy for Parker, but, with the help of her devoted father, Parker has been able to overcome quite a few things. Unfortunately, life happened once again and Parker must now go on without her dad. Luckily for Parker, she has a group a friends who have not only been there since the accident, but have been by her side ever since her best friend betrayed her. Now a junior in high school, Parker must now face the past and not only forgive, but deal with the challenges that face her in the present and future. In this riveting coming of age story, Parker Grant must let go of all of the pain and learn how to trust and love all over again.

Critical Evaluation:
I am beyond impressed by Eric Lindstrom's craft. Not only did I devour this book in one night, the story has been stuck in my mind for over a week. Although this story is nothing new, it is told from the point of view that a lot of us cannot begin to understand. Parker Grant is blind and it happened in accident that claimed her mother's life. Although her mother should have never been behind the wheel, stories like Parker's are not new. Furthermore, with the loss of her father, Parker has never been more alone despite the unconditional love and support from her best friend, Sarah. Furthermore, with the return of Scott, all of the pain and anger that she has been trying so hard to bury is ready to explode. What I love the most about this story is that it's not a story about a girl with a disability, but about a regular teenager who is trying to mend a broken heart and just so happens to have a physical disability. By using her blindness as a back drop, Lindstrom conveys to readers that being blind doesn't affect a person's ability to love and feel. In fact, the only difference between a person who can see, and one who cannot, is sight. All of the characters in this story are so well done that it's not hard to love them because they represent some aspect of our own character whether we want to believe it or not. This is a beautiful debut and I can't wait to see what this author comes out with next!

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Eric Lindstrom writes Young Adult novels, including Not If I See You First, released December 2015, and the upcoming A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, coming January 2017, in English in the USA from the Poppy imprint of Little, Brown for Young Readers, and in the UK and the rest of the world from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

He has worked in the interactive entertainment industry for years as a creative director, game designer, writer, and combinations of all three. As Editor and Co-Writer for Tomb Raider: Legend he received a 2006 BAFTA nomination for Best Video Game Screenplay. As the Creative Director for Tomb Raider: Underworld he received a 2009 BAFTA nomination for Best Action Adventure Video Game and a 2009 WGA nomination for Best Writing in a Video Game.

He has also raised children, which led to becoming first a school volunteer, then a substitute teacher, then a part time kindergarten teacher, then getting a credential to teach elementary school, and most importantly the discovery that Young Adult books are awesome. It’s pretty much all he ever reads, and now writes, in his house near the beach on the west coast, with his wife and, yes, cats.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teens with Disabilities, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Not If I See You First:
  • Running Dreams by Wendolyn Van Draan
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

* "Lindstrom's immersive portrayal of the dimension Parker's blindness adds to both atypical and everyday angst imbues his protagonist with mature complexity...An unflinching exploration of trust, friendship, and grief."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The byplay between Parker and her friends is believable, and in creating a heroine whose drive for independence brings both risks and rewards, Lindstrom adds a note of complexity to his gripping depiction of how Parker learns to trust and forgive."―Publishers Weekly

"[Not If I See You First] possesses crackling wit, intense teen drama, and a lively pace that pulls readers in, as do the everyday details of Parker's world: spoken-word texts, clever methods of finding her way, and a guide runner who helps Parker when she considers joining the school track team. This unique coming-of-age tale is off and running from the start."―Booklist

"Characterization is fantastic-very few high school stereotypes, and lots of challenged expectations about mean girls, pretty girls, blind girls, fat girls, jocks, and coaches. Parker has just the right degree of acerbic wit to be likable even when she's bitchy, and when she falls apart, her insight into her own character is heartbreaking. And Scott?-oh, Scott, may your tribe of boys who respect boundaries and learn from mistakes increase. This will have broad appeal for readers who need to learn a thing or two about how to shepherd themselves and their friends through difficult times."―BCCB

"Lindstrom's realistic and humorous dialog breathes life into an eclectic cast of characters. Parker's relationships, including the one with herself, do not sugar-coat the mental struggles familiar to many teenagers. Readers will laugh through tears, with the novel ending on a note of hope and maturity."―School Library Connection

"Bursting with complex, lovable, and, best of all, real characters, Not If I See You First is a beautiful story about love, loss, friendship, and the difference between looking at and truly seeing. Parker Grant feels like a friend now -- a friend I want to laugh with, to cry with, and especially...to run with."―Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List

"This book is fierce, funny, and honest. And get ready for some of the most likable characters you've read in years."―Deb Caletti, National Book Award Finalist

"Parker Grant is unforgettable: vivid, feisty, and absolutely loveable. This book broke my heart, but left me smiling."―Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife and Six Impossible Things

"Not If I See You First is thoughtful and honest, with characters that made me laugh, cry, and surprised me at every turn. It's a book I'll recommend for years to come."―Kody Keplinger, New York Times bestselling author of The DUFF and co-founder of Disability in KidLit

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Plot Summary:
In the final installment of The Lunar Chronicles, readers read about the life of Princess Winter, the stepdaughter of Queen Levana. While Levana scours the universe for Cinder, Winter finally learns the identity of Cinder who happens to be her blood relative. More importantly, Winter continues to communicate with Scarlet, who happens to be an ally of Cinder. In order to take down Levana, Cinder, Kai, Wolf, Cress, and Thorne devise a plan that is not only dangerous, but could result in the their deaths. In order to infiltrate the Lunar Kingdom, Kai convinces Cinder that they only way they will get close to Levana is to go through with wedding. In other words, Cinder must bring down Levana at the coronation, which is not only risky, but could seal the fates of every Lunar and Earthling. Despite the danger, Levana must be stopped because she is the key to supplying the antidote to the plague that is destroying the citizens of Earth. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the crew, Levana is planning something even more evil and that is to not only destroy Cinder, but Winter as well. As Cinder and her crew uncover the horrors of Levana's rule, they learn the real reason behind her hatred for both Cinder and Winter. This is an epic conclusion to an amazing adventure where five young women must not only battle evil, but they must for the sake of those they love and hold most dear.

Critical Evaluation:
 I will admit that I am a huge fan. Not only is it genius to put a science fiction spin on fairy tail characters, it's even more awesome when they know how to fly space ships, hack networks, and be all around bad asses while maintaining their beautiful spirits. I was very, very happy with this conclusion because it did not end in a WEDDING! OMG! Thank you so much Marissa Meyer for providing a story for strong young women where they decide their fates, who they love, and how they will live their lives. This series will be a forever fixture on my book shelf because I want to read it with my future children where everything great in literature collide. Although Winter is not tough like Cinder or Scarlet, her strength lies in her kindness. Unlike Levana, the people love her not just for her beauty, but because of her gentle spirit. More importantly, Winter refuses to use her powers on her subjects, which is why she suffers from hallucinations. Winter literally dies a little with each episode, but she refuses to hurt her people. More importantly, her love for Jacin is so beautiful and his loyalty and love for her is so refreshing! One thing I got to had to Marissa Mayer is her ability to create beautiful couples. Although I am a huge Team Scarlet/Wolf, Team Winter/Jacin is my second favorite. All in all, this was a fantastic ending and I can't wait to read Marissa Meyer's next series!

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.
When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at fanfiction.net. Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).
When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.
Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER is my first novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around too.

I now live with my husband and our three cats (Calexandria Josephine, Stormus Enormous, and Blackland Rockwell III), who go in and out, in and out, about eight hundred times a day. My favorite non-bookish things include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, re-watching episodes of Firefly, and playing all manners of dress-up.
Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Romance
 
Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 8 & up
 
Books Similar to Winter:
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Awards & Recognition:

“In this final book in the Lunar Chronicles, the stepdaughter of the wicked Queen Levana joins Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress to defeat the Queen and restore Cinder―aka Selene―as the rightful ruler of Luna. Yes, it's another one of Meyer's very fractured fairy tales, in which she offers a new amalgam of Grimm's fairy tales, science fiction, violence, women's lib, and romance. Our Snow White stand-in, Winter, is beautiful in spite of facial scars, kind to all she encounters, mentally fragile, and in love with her lowly guard, Jacin . . . Meyer's series has sold well and achieved a degree of acclaim. This conclusion's cinder-block size should only drum up further interest.” ―Booklist, starred review

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Plot Summary:
The only life Darrow has ever known is the dangerous life of a helldiver. As a helldiver, Darrow mines precious gases of Mars to help those on the surface create a world where every living creature can live on the surface. Known as the Reds, Darrow and his brothers battle the heat, flames, and pitt vipers of Mars to win a bounty of items that will benefit his clan. Although Darrow is content with his life, his father's ghost haunts him because he decided to "dance" and speak out against the the Golds; by speaking out against the Golds--you die. Although this has been going on very several hundred years, the Reds continue to what they do with no questions asked. When Darrow's wife, Eo, opens his eyes to the truth of their people, she asks him to do the impossible: create a world where their children can be free. Unfortunately, Eo pays the ultimate sacrifice that forces Darrow to make a choice: either continue living a life of servitude or fight. After being saved by the rebellion, Darrow has the opportunity to take his revenge, but ti required a lot more than dying. He literally has to change who and what he is. After infiltrating the institute that trains young Golds to become elite military leaders, Darrow not only has to work with these young men and women, he has to hide the fact that he is Red. Pierce Brown has written a story that not only defies space itself, it will take readers onto a journey where blood, whatever its color, will be spilled and the corruption that that has oppressed the blood races will be exposed.

Critical Evaluation:
As a new writer, Pierce Brown has set the bar high when it comes to amazing storytelling. Given the popularity of Dystopian fiction, Brown has created a world that is not only terrifying, but could very well be our future if we don't take care of environment and each other. Darrow's characters development is not only dramatic, but all of the trials that he had to endure have proven just how tough and tragic his character is. This story is definitely violent, but the violence portrays how this society functions. When Darrow realized that if he was going to pass his trials, he had to do one thing: conquer. If he was to complete his mission to not only be an elite military leader and savior for the Reds, he knows that he cannot let his desire to belong and be loved get in his way. What's heartbreaking is that Darrow has formed some amazing friendships with his fellows Golds, but, in the end, he has to destroy them if he wants to accomplish his mission. This story will probably try every emotion we have to not only portray the evils of humankind, but it dares to give us hope that Darrow will succeed. As Darrow progresses, it will be very difficult to see him struggle with some of the decisions he had to make for the sake of survival. Furthermore, his relationship with Mustang will pull at the heartstrings because it can only end in tears. This is a breathtaking story that will not only make your blood pressure rise, but you will be up in the late hours trying to figure out if Darrow has what it takes to succeed.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.
Genre:
Science Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Red Rising:
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

“[A] spectacular adventure . . . one heart-pounding ride . . . Pierce Brown’s dizzyingly good debut novel evokes The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game. . . . [Red Rising] has everything it needs to become meteoric.”Entertainment Weekly

“[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field.”USA Today
 
Red Rising is a sophisticated vision. . . . Brown will find a devoted audience.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power . . . reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Fast-paced, gripping, well-written—the sort of book you cannot put down. I am already on the lookout for the next one.”—Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Sword of Shannara
“Pierce Brown has done an astounding job at delivering a powerful piece of literature that will definitely make a mark in the minds of readers.”The Huffington Post
 
“Compulsively readable and exceedingly entertaining . . . a must for both fans of classic sci-fi and fervent followers of new school dystopian epics.Examiner.com

“[A] great debut . . . The author gathers a spread of elements together in much the same way George R. R. Martin does.”Tor.com

“Very ambitious . . . a natural for Hunger Games fans of all ages.”Booklist

“Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow: Pierce Brown’s empire-crushing debut is a sprawling vision.”—Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Pandemic
 
“A Hollywood-ready story with plenty of action and thrills.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Reminiscent of . . . Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games . . . [Red Rising] will captivate readers and leave them wanting more.”Library Journal (starred review)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tag :
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Plot Summary:
In Bone Gap, Illinois there aren't any mountains or hill...there is nothing but gaps. For Finn, Bone Gap is the place where his mother left him behind and trapped his older brother, Sean, forever. Finn is known as the Space Man who never looks anyone in the face. The thing about Finn is that he isn't clueless or empty-headed: he just has a hard time remembering faces. When Roza was kidnapped, Finn saw the man who took her, but, for some reason, he couldn't remember his face. Although everyone blames Finn for being unable to identify Roza's kidnapper, he never stopped looking unlike Sean. Just when he was about to lose hope, Finn sees the same man who took Roza and, when he tries tell the sheriff and Sean, no one believes him except for Petey (aka. Priscilla). Finn has had feelings for Petey for a long time, but, when the black mare mysteriously showed up in his barn, the mare finally brought him and Petey together. The problem is that Petey is the only face he remembers, which is strange because he can't remember his own face. As Petey and Finn dive into their relationship, Roza is trying desperately to escape from the man that took her, but something strange is going on because one moment she is in a house with unbreakable windows and then a castle out of a fairytale. What exactly is going on in Bone Gap where a person can be taken away in an instant and faces become unforgettable. In this riveting story where reality shifts, Finn must find Roza before it's too late.  

Critical Evaluation:
I really did not expect this story to turn out the way it did. My first impression is that it's a typical young adult mystery, but it intertwines mystery, fantasy, suspense, and romance into a story where two people who were lost and found again. I really thought Finn was in love with Roza, but it's actually quite the opposite. Finn literally brought Roza into his world so it's only natural that he would be the one to bring her back home. Roza and Finn have this relationship that isn't based on romantic love, but on a different kind of love that two lost souls need to find their place in this world. As for Petey, the love that Finn feels for he isn't only genuine, but forces Petey to realize that he loves her for who she is and not what she looks like. Love is the underlying theme of this story because it was the loss of love that made Finn and Sean's mother leave, but it was the want and need for love that provided the happiness and hope that everyone needed. I really didn't know what to expect when I read this story, but I am happy I did! 

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Laura Ruby writes fiction for adults, teens and children. She is the author of the newly-released YA novel BONE GAP, as well as the Edgar-nominated children's mystery LILY'S GHOSTS, the ALA Quick Pick for teens GOOD GIRLS (2006), a collection of interconnected short stories about blended families for adults, I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS (2007), and the forthcoming middle-grade trilogy YORK. She is on the faculty of Hamline University's Masters in Writing for Children Program. She makes her home in the Chicago area.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Fantasy, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Bone Gap:
  • The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie MacLemore
  • More Than This by Patrick Ness
  • Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“It’s a novel about actual changes in worldview, and all its science and myth and realism and magic are marshaled, finally, to answer crucial questions about empathy and difference, and the way we see people we love.” (New York Times Book Review)

“BONE GAP marks Laura Ruby as one of fiction’s most original voices. She is capable of moving you to tears, terrifying you on deep and dreamlike levels, and making your heart shout with happiness. This book is magic realism at its most magical.” (E. Lockhart, author of WE WERE LIARS)

“Ruby’s novel deserves to be read and reread. It is powerful, beautiful, extraordinary.” (SLJ)

“With rich characters, captivating world building, and a stunning secret at its heart, BONE GAP is utterly bewitching.” (ALA Booklist (starred review))

“Cleverly conceived, and lusciously written.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“The real magic in Bone Gap is the discovery of love, an idea many stories misrepresent but Bone Gap explores with the utmost honesty and truth.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)) 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Friday, January 15, 2016
Plot Summary:
Mare is a Red and Reds are subservient to the Silvers. In Mare's world, if a Red does not find work he or she is conscripted into the army and sentenced to death on the battlefields. Mare is near her 18th birthday and all she can do is steal what she can to help her family. With all of her brothers in the military, the only one who has the talent to escape conscription is her younger sister Gisa. Although Mare is aware of her fate, she is biding her time with her best friend who has able to land a trade. However, when she learns that he lost his job before it began, Mare searches for someone who can help him escape conscription, but it's going to cost. While desperately searching for money to buy her best friend's freedom, she tries to steal from a stranger who, inadvertently, will become her savior, especially when the Scarlet Army strikes and Mare is captured and taken to the castle against her will. While at the castle, Mare witnesses the strength of the Silvers and, when she faces a fierce opponent, Mare releases a power she didn't know she had and neither did the royal family. In this tale of mystery, action, and romance, an ordinary girl learns that she is not only the key to changing her future, but her heart is torn in two between two boys who she can never be with.  

Critical Evaluation:
I will say that it took me a second to get into this story because the plot is similar to other stories I have read such as the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Despite these similarities, I soldiered on and I finally got into the stories towards the end of the book with a plot twist that made things interesting. Since this is a trilogy, there isn't a whole lot of character development, but the villains are absolutely fantastic! The Queen and Evangeline are absolutely terrifying and awful. As for Maven, I really got attached to him so I am still holding out for him to be the hero.  After finishing the story, I am a little curious to see what the next step is especially now that Shade, her elder brother, is back. Other than that, I wasn't completely blown away the story other then the fact that Silvers are almost mutant-esque and the Mare is a higher breed of mutant. I will say that there is plenty of action and the love story arch is actually a minor arc, which is nice since a lot of teen fantasy needs the love arc to attract readers. With that said, this would actually be a good title for guys and girls to read if they can get past the cover of the book. All in all, I would recommend this book to any reader who likes these types of fantasy stories.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
I’m a writer repped by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. I split my time between my hometown East Longmeadow, Massachusetts and Los Angeles. After graduating with a BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. My debut RED QUEEN came out of the terrifying, unemployed year after college.
Currently I’m revising the second book in the RED QUEEN series, along with pursuing other projects in literature and film. My proudest achievements are riding a horse in the mountains of Montana and navigating from London to Edinburgh without GPS.

Genre:
Teen Fantasy, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 8 & up

 Books Similar to The Red Queen:
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“A sizzling, imaginative thriller, where romance and revolution collide, where power and justice duel. It’s exhilarating. Compelling. Action-packed. Unputdownable.” (USA Today)

“Aveyard weaves a compelling new world of action-packed surprises... inventive, character-driven.” (Kirkus)

“A volatile world with a dynamic heroine.” (Booklist)

“Breakneck pace and engaging characters.” (School Library Journal)

“ [Aveyard] sets her audience up for a gaspworthy twist that reconfigures nearly every character’s role and leaves Mare with no one to trust but herself... This blend of fantasy and dystopia will be an unexpected and worthy addition to many genre fans’ reading list.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Fascinating world building... Readers will be intrigued by a world that reflects today’s troubling issues concerning ethnic inequality, unfair distribution of wealth, pollution, warfare, political corruption, and the frightening power of the media.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)) 

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Sunday, January 3, 2016
Plot Summary:
Caden Bosch is caught between two worlds. In one world, he is part of crew led by a captain obsessed with the Marinas trench (aka Challenger Deep). In the other world, he is a teenager who can't sit still and unable to shake the idea that someone is trying to kill him. Whether he is conversing with a the treasonous parrot that would do everything to overthrow the captain of the ship, or walking at all hours of the day around the neighborhood, Caden can't escape the feeling that he is trapped and has no way to escape. As Caden gets to know his fellow shipmates, he realizes that he has met these people before and, when he alienates his friends at home, he realizes that something is going on and he has to find out why everyone is abandoning him. As time goes by, the fear and the dread becomes more real especially when he is appointed cartographer by the captain AND learns that the ship, itself, is alive and wants to know everything that happens on board. The closer they get to Challenger Deep, the more treacherous the journey has become. Moreover, Caden's parents have  become increasingly concerned with the fact that he hasn't been honest about his whereabouts and his overall behavior. Just when he thinks he has found a way out, Caden is suddenly captured and taken to a place he doesn't want to be. Fortunately, for Caden, this place not only helps him decipher the mystery behind his mission to Challenger Deep, but to figure out if someone is out to get him. In this gripping story about one boy's struggle with his own mind, readers will see how fragile we are and how we need to recognize that certain behaviors need to be addressed in order to help those we love and care about. Bravo, Neal Schusterman for winning the 2015 National Book Award!  

Critical Evaluation:
As a librarian, youth advocate, and reader, I cannot express how necessary and needed this book is. Not only is time for a real discussion about mental illness, it is time to take a stand and help young people recognize the signs and symptoms and understand that there is no shame in asking for help. For Caden, schizophrenia is so powerful that it not only clouded his judgement, but it almost destroyed him when he decided to go down Challenger's Deep. What saved Caden is that his parents noticed how disconnected he was and decided to place him in the care of professionals who know how to treat this illness. Not only is Schusterman spot on with his descriptions of Caden's treatment, he provides three point of views that include: Caden's delusion, reality, and his family's helplessness. What most people don't realize about mental illness is that it affects not just one person, but that person's support system. As reader's read about Caden and his battle, they not only see the ugliness of mental illness, but they will also see the power of Caden's spirit, especially when soars out of Challenger Deep and back into the arms of those he loves. Anything is possible when we find the strength to overcome the darkness within us by asking, and accepting, help from those around us. This is such a powerful story that will bring reader's to tears, but it will also provide hope that if we are stricken with mental illness we can defy the call to Challenger Deep by choosing to ignore the call. If not, knowing that we can get the help we need to by recognizing the signs and telling someone.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movie script.
In the years since, Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal’s talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays – including book and lyrical contributions to “American Twistory,” which is currently played in several major cities. He has even tried his hand at creating Games, having developed three successful “How to Host a Mystery” game for teens, as well as seven “How to Host a Murder” games.
As a screen and TV writer, Neal has written for the “Goosebumps” and “Animorphs” TV series, and wrote the Disney Channel Original Movie “Pixel Perfect”. Currently Neal is developing an original TV series with his son, Jarrod, and adapting Tesla’s Attic with co-writer Eric Elfman for TV as well.
Wherever Neal goes, he quickly earns a reputation as a storyteller and dynamic speaker. Much of his fiction is traceable back to stories he tells to large audiences of children and teenagers — such as his novel The Eyes of Kid Midas. As a speaker, Neal is in constant demand at schools and conferences. Degrees in both psychology and drama give Neal a unique approach to writing. Neal’s novels always deal with topics that appeal to adults as well as teens, weaving true-to-life characters into sensitive and riveting issues, and binding it all together with a unique and entertaining sense of humor.
 
Genre:
 Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Issues

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Challenger Deep:
  • Inside Out by Terry Trueman
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“A brilliant journey across the dark sea of mental illness; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary.” (Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak)

“Haunting, unforgettable, and life-affirming all at once.” (Booklist (starred review))

“An adventure in perspective as well as plot, this unusual foray into schizophrenia should leave readers with a deeper understanding of the condition.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Clearly written with love, the novel is moving; but it’s also funny, with dry, insightful humor. Illustrations by the author’s son Brendan, drawn during his own time in the depths of mental illness, haunt the story with scrambling, rambling lines, tremulousness, and intensity.” (Horn Book (starred review))

“Teens, especially fans of the author’s other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

“A powerful collaboration...[Caden’s] story turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“A thoroughly realistic story...Both male and female readers will find this compelling while acquiring a deeper compassion and understanding. ” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

“Shusterman does a masterful job...The intensity of living inside Caden’s mind makes this a wrenching read.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review))

Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Monday, December 7, 2015
Plot Summary:
When Cody got the email Meg committed suicide, her world imploded. Meg and Cody have been best friends since they were kids and now Meg is gone. Why didn't Meg tell Cody that she was so unhappy? Meg's sudden demise was not only devastating for Cody and her family, it just didn't make any sense. In fact, Meg and Cody had big plans so there is no way that Meg would every take her own life the way she did.

Unwilling to accept that Meg intentionally meant to commit suicide, Cody dives into the chaotic world that her best friend lived in. More importantly, when Cody confronts the man who broke Meg's heart, her mission to unravel the mystery behind Meg's downward spiral reveals unsettling details involving a support group and a dangerous mission to confront those murdered Meg. The ending will shock readers to the core, but, more importantly, this story conveys the battle that Cody is facing, internally, and how this whole outcome occurred by forces that no one could prevent without knowing, first hand, what was going. This book will have readers firmly planted in their chairs until the very end. 

Critical Evaluation:
This books is mind blowing. I don't think I have ever read a book so fast in my life and it was not only heartbreaking, but it paints an accurate portrayal of what depression can do when we don't seek they help we need. No one really knows why mental illness occurs, but it is something that should never be taken lightly. What Forman does here is that she sheds light on how depression doesn't just affect individuals, but what it does to those around us. Cody never knew that Meg suffered from depression and, as readers will learn, was because Meg's family decided NOT to tell her. I will say that this angered me because depression is something no one should ever feel ashamed of. Depression is a real illness that affects millions of people all over the world and, although it can't be cured, it can easily be managed with a combination of cognitive therapy and medication. I, myself, suffer from depression, and I am so glad that Forman wrote this story to tell teens that if they are struggling with bouts of sadness and hopelessness, suicide is NEVER a solution; if someone says otherwise, they are not a friend and they are certainly not someone, or something, who cares about them. I will say that they way Cody managed to track down the person who communicated with Meg was definitely reckless, but it revealed the danger of online communities where seriously sick people can pray on the weak. What I hope readers take away from this book is to not only be careful with online communities, but don't be afraid to ask for help when they are at the end of their rope. Depression is not a sign of weakness, but an illness that needs to be treated. This story is a cautionary tale for teens today, which is a conversations that must be discussed. 

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:

I’m a woman. There seems to be some confusion about my gender, which I find disturbing if you’ve seen my author photo.

I used to be a journalist. My first job was for Seventeen magazine. You can see some of my articles here.

When I was little I wanted to grow up to be the sun. I was devastated to learn this was not a career option.

Adam from If I Stay was inspired by my husband, Nick. No, you cannot meet him.

Willem from Just One Day/Year was inspired by some Dutch guy who dumped me. (Willem is my revenge.) No, you don’t want to meet him.

I bombed my SATs. I still did okay in life.

I was once an extra in a Bollywood movie. (And yes, that’s where I got that part of Just One Year from.)

I have been to 64 countries. I used to travel a lot. I once wrote a book about it. Favorite country visited: India. Least-favorite country: Tonga. (Sorry, Tonga.)

I can bake a batch of cupcakes from scratch in under 20 minutes.

The worst job I ever had was as a data-entry clerk. Honorable mention to hotel maid and traveling flower seller girl.

I have learned, and forgotten, three foreign languages. Regretfully, French is not one of them.

I took three years off to travel before college.

As a teen, I was so obsessed with Molly Ringwald that I started biting my lip like she did and now I have a permanent scar. And this is why I am a YA author.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Mysteries, Teen Suspense

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to I Was Here:
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

"I Was Here is a pitch-perfect blend of mystery, tragedy, and romance. Gayle Forman has given us an unflinchingly honest portrait of the bravery it takes to live after devastating loss." —Stephen Chbosky, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“Irresistible tear-jerker” —New York Times

“A heartbreaking novel about coping with loss from the bestselling author of If I Stay” —People
"As she did in If I Stay, Forman offers an introspective examination of the line between life and death, and the courage it takes to persist."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Forman sifts through Cody’s shifting psychological landscape with a sure and delicate hand, developing a character that readers will recognize themselves in. . . a relevant book as well as an absorbing one.” —BCCB, starred review

"Part tautly paced mystery, part psychological study of suicide and its aftereffects. . . An engrossing and provocative look at the devastating finality of suicide, survivor's guilt, the complicated nature of responsibility and even the role of the Internet in life-and-death decisions." —Kirkus Reviews

"Suicide has always been a subject in YA literature, and to her credit, Forman handles it sensitively and gracefully, raising important issues of the ethics and morality of the subject. The combination mystery and love story is sure to reach a wide readership and excite essential discussion. . . This latest offering should generate massive teen interest." —Booklist

"Cody's struggle with grief and complicity is intense and affecting up until an emotional gut-punch of a conclusion. Once this compelling case is closed, what remains is a haunting, elegiac tale about enduring and understanding loss. " —The Horn Book

"Teens will clamor for this latest offering from the author of If I Stay." —School Library Journal

"Hugely popular Forman, author of the acclaimed If I Stay among others, has another best seller here. This novel’s strength lies in its depiction of main character Cody, a young woman torn by conflicts but sustained by her own sense of purpose." —VOYA

“Takes tragedy, guilt, friendship, inspiration, heartache, and bravery and mixes them all up in a blender of feelings” —Bustle

Praise for If I Stay and Where She Went:

“Beautifully written.” —Entertainment Weekly

“An achingly gorgeous portrayal of rejection and rekindled love.” —USA Today

“A page-turner, tearjerker and romance all in one.” —BookPage

“Pitch-perfect...a moving, skillfully crafted novel.” —VOYA, starred review

Praise for Just One Day and Just One Year:

“Offering mystery, drama, and an evocative portrait of unrequited love, this open-ended novel will leave fans eagerly anticipating the companion story.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Readers were enthralled with Forman’s If I Stay books, and now she’s captivated them again as they fall in love with her characters in Just One Day.” —NPR’s The Roundtable

“As satisfying as both of these books are, readers are going to wish for a third.” —Booklist

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Posted by Deborah Takahashi

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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