"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

31 July 2014

Far From You

Sharpe, Tess. Far From You. 2014

Three years ago Sophie was in a car accident and nearly lost her life. Her subsequent recovery sparked an addiction to narcotics, which her parents attempted to cure by sending Sophie to live with her aunt for several months. Soon after Sophie's return, there's another accident, but this one involves murder. Used to Sophie's lies, no one will believe that she hasn't relapsed. Sophie needs to find her best friend's murderer before it's too late, and she might have to do this all by herself.

This book is told in chapters which alternate between present-day and stories from the past which relate to whatever's happening in the present. The labels at the beginning of each chapter, in addition to a change in font, make it fairly easy to follow along. I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of this story, and I tried to follow along and guess who the murderer was before the end of the book. (I was wrong.) This is a great, suspenseful story of a girl who happens to be bisexual; the focus is not on Sophie's coming-out but rather on her attempt to solve her best-friend/almost girlfriend's murder.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: drug use, alcohol, sexual abuse
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alike Suggestions: The Name of the Star, Confessions of a Murder Suspect

30 July 2014

Teaching the Cat to Sit

Theall, Michelle. Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir.Gallery Books, 2014.

In alternating chapters, Theall tells the story of growing up in a very religious Catholic family and realizing that she is a lesbian while also telling the story of her son, Connor, and the choice she and her partner made to remove him from his Catholic preschool. Throughout her memoir, the theme of what makes a family - whether it be our family of origin or our family of choice - prevails.

As a lesbian who grew up in a very religious family, I can relate to Theall's story of her family's repeated rejection of her "lifestyle" as well as her struggle to reconcile the faith tradition she was raised in with her sexual orientation. Theall's story will ring true with many readers, and not just those among the LGBT community. This book would be an excellent addition to a public library's collection.

Recommended for: adults
Red Flags: Theall is raped by a neighbor when she is 11. The rape scene in this book is not graphic, but it is sudden, so readers who are abuse survivors should take gentle care in approaching this book.
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alike Suggestions: Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family, Love Makes a Family

29 July 2014

God and the Gay Christian

Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian. Convergent Books. 2014. 

After the viral success of his video lecture on the Bible and homosexuality, Vines has continued his study of the topic and compiled his findings into a book. Starting with introductory comments and continuing through the six “clobber passages” from the Bible most commonly used to condemn same-sex relationships, Vines draws from biblical scholarship, language studies, ancient history, and other texts contemporary to biblical writings to show a different way of looking at the arguments against homosexuality. The factual information is punctuated with snippets from Vines’s own coming-out experience with his father. The final chapter highlights modern church reformers such as Kathy Baldock of Canyon Walker Connections and Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, as well as discussing Vines’s own work in the Reformation Project. Extensive endnotes indicate that Vines has, indeed, put much time and effort into thoroughly studying this topic. Rather than giving pat answers or simple slogans, Vines walks the reader through the historical context of the arguments against same-sex relationships and explains how the church (and the world) has viewed this issue throughout history.

An excellent academic read and companion to Lee’s Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate and Shore’s Unfair: Christians and the LGBT Question, Vines avoids the common pitfalls of resorting to numerous “human interest” stories to prove his point and instead focuses on the logic and history behind the religious arguments against same-sex relationships. Readers who expect an in-depth look at biblical themes and passages will not be disappointed. Evangelical and other conservative Christians will appreciate Vines’s approach to the topic as well as his stance on church doctrine. Vines asserts his belief in the absolute authority of the Scriptures, and in so doing he invites those who have turned away from previous attempts at reconciliation between the two camps to look again at what the Bible itself has to say on this very controversial topic. This book would make an excellent addition to a public library’s collection in conservative communities as well as academic libraries at religious institutions.

28 July 2014

Caught in the Crossfire

Rich, Juliann. Caught in the Crossfire. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. 

Jonathan is spending his seventh summer at Spirit Lake Bible Camp, but things have become complicated for him. The appearance of the new camper, Ian, has shown Jonathan that he isn't like the other guys at camp. Ian, who was sent to Bible camp by his foster parents, gladly chooses his orientation over his faith, but Jonathan isn't so sure. He's caught between what he was taught is right and what he feels is right.

This is a well-written summer camp story, complete with all the typical camp hijinx, s'mores, pranks, and plenty of mosquitoes. However, as a survivor of many summers of Christian camp in the Midwest, I was a bit confounded by the author's depictions. This camp seemed like a stereotypical summer camp with a few serious Bible-based discussions thrown in. But there was alcohol available for kids to sneak out of the cafeteria, and one boy smuggled in a huge stack of porn to look at. The campers went skinny dipping. One girl, who is described as being homeschooled with her nine siblings, is expected to "dance seductively" in a play that some of the campers are performing on Parents Day. There was only mention of a brief Sunday service, rather than daily or twice-daily services that are typical at Christian camps. None of these things describe the Bible-based camps I attended, so the story didn't ring true to me for a Bible camp, but instead a standard summer camp with a few Christian discussions thrown in.

The conflict between those who believed that being gay is a sin and those who did not rang true, however, as did Jonathan's internal struggles with wanting to please god and struggling with his feelings for Ian. This is still a major issue in American society, so this book, while not filling an empty niche, fits well with others of its ilk, and may appeal to religious readers who might not otherwise pick up a book about LGBT characters.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: a few homophobic slurs, the campers steal wine and get drunk at a bonfire, several teens make out at the same bonfire, Jonathan and Ian have sex in the woods, some campers go skinny dipping, one camper brings a stack of [his dad's] porn for his bunk mates to enjoy

Overall Rating:3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The God Box,   The Order of the Poison Oak,  Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family,

25 July 2014


Lam, Laura. Pantomime. Strange Chemistry, 2013.

Gene (Iphigenia to her parents) lives in a land not so different from Victorian times, except that there is mysterious Penglass all around as a remnant of older times. Gene is intersex, but for the sake of simplicity I'll use female pronouns as that is how she was raised and she does not choose to change her pronouns later. Gene doesn't fit the mold of a typical female - she hates sewing and would rather be climbing trees and chasing after her brother. When Gene overhears her parents talking one night and discovers that they are going to make her get surgery to become a "real female," she decides to run away and join the circus. Literally. But how long can Gene hide the truth about herself?

This book is excellent for many different reasons. The fantasy side of the story is great - the storytelling and narration read like many other fantasy stories. The diversity in characters is also wonderful - many of the circus performers that Gene meets are gay/lesbian/bisexual, although they don't wear rainbow shirts or have fabulous parades. Gene herself is very real and is dealing with very real problems. It's pretty obvious from the end of this book that there will be a sequel, but the book stands alone well itself. Absolutely this is a must-have title for libraries that want diverse books; there are too few YA books featuring intersex characters.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: Gene is nearly raped twice; both times the man stops when he discovers her unusual genitalia; there is talk of her binding her breasts; the man who runs the circus is an alcoholic who beats his wife; there is some minor violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Graceling for the fantasy and GLBT content; Etiquette & Espionage for the Victorian-esque feel, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite for another intersex character.

24 July 2014

Down to the Bone

Dole, Mayra. Down to the Bone. Bella Books, 2012.

Laura gets caught reading a note on the last day of school.  The nun who runs her class decides to read it out loud, and the entire class is scandalized to discover that Laura's note was from her girlfriend.  Laura is promptly expelled from school, and once her mother discovers that Laura is unwilling to reveal the name of her girlfriend, she is also kicked out of the house. Her mother will not let her return until she has a boyfriend and is willing to name the girl who caused her to be expelled.  Devastated, Laura seeks refuge with a friend who allows her to stay as long as she needs to.   Laura attempts to reconcile with her mother, going so far as to date a boy, but eventually she must decide whose happiness is most important to her: hers or her mother's.

I was glad for the Latino focus in this book.  The setting - Miami, a Latino neighborhood and a very Catholic family - isn't one often described in books. I would love to get this book for my library.  I was also glad for the mention of a transgender character (who, unfortunately, never shows up in the book because she committed suicide off-stage) as well as Tazer, a person who identifies himself as genderqueer and often presents male although he was assigned a female gender at birth. Laura's family's reaction to her orientation is unfortunately all-too-real, even today.  As soon as I can get my hands on it, a copy of this book will be in my library.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots of homophobic slurs in both English and Spanish (there's a glossary in the back in case you want to learn how to insult GLBT people in two languages); alcohol use
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

23 July 2014

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly

Wesselhoeft, Conrad. Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly. HMH BFYR, 2014.

Arlo is a daredevil.  He rides his dirtbike down the highway, racing semi-trucks and leaping over hills.  He is also the #1 ranked player in the game Drone Pilot, where he flies planes to complete various missions.  His international ranking has gotten the attention of the military, who want to use him to fly real drones in war zones. Arlo doesn't want to be responsible for anyone's death, but his sister's medical bills are piling up, and he knows his family could use the money.  Arlo has to choose between what is right and what is easy.

I really enjoyed this book. Arlo is a likable character, and his stunts are never boring. Also, the descriptions of New Mexico were beautiful, and I was glad that while Arlo's sister had Huntington's, the book wasn't trying to teach everyone exactly what Huntington's is like.  I thought his decision at the end was ... interesting, to say the least.  I can't say I'd have done the same thing in his place, but I respected the journey he went on to make that decision.  All in all, this is a great book, and although I don't like to gender stereotype, I know that many of the boys in my library would LOVE to read it.

Recommended for: teens, fans of adventure/stunts
Red Flags: minor violence, minor language, Arlo's dad drinks a lot
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Eye of Minds for video game aspect, Killer of Enemies for adventure, The Green Glass Sea for setting in White Sands, NM.

22 July 2014


Fine, Sarah. Scan. Putnam Children's, 2014.

Tate is frustrated with his father's expectations for him.  Tate has to get up at 4:30 every morning, learn to speak twenty different languages, eat a very carefully balanced meal, and excel in school. Tate's father always tells him that he'll explain why when it's the right time.  The right time never comes, though, and one decision soon changes everything in Tate's life. He will need to use every bit of his father's training just to stay alive.

This book was filled with action sequences, surprises, and technology that would make it a great Apocalyptic-esque film. I enjoyed the story until it became obvious that the author was stretching it to create at least a sequel, possibly an entire series.  Then it lost me. I did enjoy this book, though, and could easily recommend it to my students, especially those who are obsessed with the Special Forces divisions of the armed forces. 

Recommended for: teens, those who enjoy action/adventure
Red Flags: lots of violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

21 July 2014

The Girl in the Road

Byrne, Monica. The Girl in the Road. Crown, 2014

In a futuristic world, there is an energy collecting "road" between India and Africa. Two different women from opposite sides of this road travel to the same town for completely separate reasons. These are their stories.

This book was a bit too "out there" for me. There wasn't enough explained, and I didn't care enough about either character to want to keep reading. I would recommend this book to older teens or new adults, especially those who enjoy literary fiction.

Recommended for: older teens, adults
Red Flags: violence, one character is probably bipolar and the reader spends a lot of time inside that character's head
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

18 July 2014


Khoury, Jessica. Vitro. Razorbill, 2014

Sophie is trying to find her mother, who is working on mysterious Skin Island which is somewhere in the Pacific relatively close to Guam. She gets there and finds all the crazy experiments her mom has been a part of.

The science fiction part of this story, as well as the cover, will definitely appeal to my students. And I had fewer problems with the Guam descriptions in this book than I did in the previous two books I found set on Guam. I don't, however, recommend that anyone stand outside the Guam airport and wait for a taxi like the main character did; you'll be waiting a long, long time.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: violence
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

17 July 2014

One Man Guy

Barakiva, Michael. One Man Guy. 2014

Alex didn't get high enough grades to stay on the honor track, so his parents have decided he will forego tennis camp and family vacations to go to summer school with kids who won't pass to the next grade otherwise. Alex is less than excited about this until he notices one of the guys in his class. Ethan is Alex's opposite: he doesn't care about school, spends his free time skateboarding, and breaks rules that he doesn't agree with. Ethan is exciting, and Alex finds himself drawn to him. But what will his very strict parents say when they find out he's been skipping school to go on dates with a boy.

I enjoyed this book for the picture it gave of the American-Armenian culture, which is not a culture with which I was familiar. I was also glad for the personality differences between Alex and Ethan and that neither of them was a stereotypical gay boy who spends time participating in musical theater, etc. I loved that this story is more about two kids who fall in love and have to surpass cultural barriers than it is about the fact that they're both boys. Also, Alex's family cracked me up. They would have made me crazy, had I lived with them, but they cracked me up.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

16 July 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter

Carleson, J.C. The Tyrant's Daughter. Knopf BFYR, 2014.

Laila is the daughter of a middle eastern ruler, and when he is assassinated, she and her family flee to the United States while her evil uncle takes over the country. Now Laila is straddling two worlds: at home she has to take care of her brother and her mother, all the while wondering if they'll ever return to their country. At school, she's looked at as just another international student and has to adjust to American customs.

I liked the concept of this book - a family from another place that is living here has as much of a back story as anyone else, and sometimes it's easy to forget that other people might have more things on their mind than we can imagine. I didn't find Laila to be very likable, though, and I didn't want her family to go back to her wreck of a country where her life might very well be in danger, just so her little brother can be king. Overall, a good read and worth the time invested.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: violence, alcohol use
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

15 July 2014

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Random House BFYR, 2013.

Kyle and his buddies write essays to win an opportunity to be the first people to use the new public library in his town, a library designed by the premiere game-maker, Mr. Lemoncello. While in the library, they have the opportunity to play a game for an even bigger prize.

Wow. I loved this book so much I hardly know what to say. I love all of the literary references and really want to play the Bibliomania game the kids play in the book. I love that the competition in the library was something the kids could leave any time, so there wasn't any serious danger/consequences involved. Of course I loved all of the library terminology and Dewey references throughout. I liked that the kids who were the "bad kids" were bad but not evil (think more Veruca Salt and less Draco Malfoy). I liked the puzzles throughout the book. If I had a 4-6th grade classroom, I'd probably read this one aloud in my class. I don't know that many of my middle schoolers would check this book out, but some of them would definitely enjoy it. And now I want to have a scavenger hunt in my library. :D

Recommended for: middle grade, librarians
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alike: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

14 July 2014

The Last Dragonslayer

Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer. HMH BFYR, 2012.

Jennifer Strange is running a company that employs wizards and sends them out to fix problems for people. Then everyone starts predicting that the last dragon is about to die, and Jennifer is forced into a complicated relationship with the current dragonslayer and the dragon. She has to make a lot of adult decisions even though she's still a teen. This is an interesting fantasy story with a foot in the real world.

I listened to the audio version of this book, and there were certain aspects of the story I enjoyed a lot. I loved the Quarkbeast and how all he did was say "Quark" every once in a while. I was glad that Jennifer was the hero, and that it wasn't really a big deal that she happened to be a girl. I thought the personalities of the different wizards were very well developed. Overall, this is a great story. I don't know that it will be very popular with my middle school students, no matter how interesting I found it, though.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: fantasy violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-alike: Terry Pratchett, especially his Tiffany Aching series

11 July 2014

Breaking Free

Page, Winter. Breaking Free. Harmony Ink Press, 2014.

Raimi is trans*, and she has been homeschooled for the past two years while she underwent her transition. Now her family has moved to a new town and she has started high school as a junior. She falls in love with a girl at school and has to deal with the backlash as the girl's ex-boyfriend outs them to the school. And she's terrified that everyone will find out that she's trans*.

While I like the fact that this is a book about a trans* character who isn't coming to terms with her trans-ness, this book really didn't have much to offer in terms of good writing, character development, or reality. Raimi has already had several surgeries, apparently, which not only would be insanely expensive but also usually isn't done until after a person is eighteen. While it was nice to see her mom being so supportive of her gender identity, the medical details didn't match up.

Also, the author's writing is deplorable. She used the word "literally" incorrectly far too often. This would be perfectly acceptable if it was in a character's speech, but it detracted from the story itself as it was in the narration.

The ending of the book was too sudden and too unrealistic. SPOILER ALERT. Raimi and her girlfriend get home from getting tattoos (why the girlfriend would want to drive 2,000+ miles home with a fresh tattoo on her lower back is beyond comprehension). Raimi walks in the door and reads a note from her parents. The doorbell rings, and the ex-boyfriend is there. In the span of about five pages, he shoots her, shoots himself, and she wakes up in the hospital to find out that he was gay and hated himself and that's why he drugged and raped girls and shot her and killed himself - WHAT? That ending was just too sudden and way too unrealistic to be believable.

Then I read the author information - the author of this book is a high school freshman, which is why I gave the book 2 stars instead of 0 or 1. It's nice to have another book about a trans* character, but I would point people to other published works before turning to this one.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: drug use, alcohol, near rape, violence, language, homophobic slurs
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

Read-Alike Suggestion: Almost Perfect

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

10 July 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Anderson, Laurie. The Impossible Knife of Memory. 2014.

Haylee and her dad have been moving about the country to avoid dealing with the dad's PTSD, but he decides to settle down in his hometown so Haylee can go to a real school. While there, he starts to battle the PTSD demons more than he had before. Haylee is trying to live a normal life, adjust to high school, and take care of her father all at once.

I really, truly wanted to love this book. It's by one of my favorite authors, and the idea sounded great. It is a good book, and I think it's a good picture of living with someone with PTSD. But it's also very slow-paced, which is going to make it a hard sell to my students, and I had to force myself to keep reading even though the only thing that was going on was that Haylee had a hard life. Some of my students who like to read "books about kids with BIG problems" might enjoy this book.

Recommended for: older teens
Red Flags: language, violence, alcohol and drug use
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

09 July 2014

She Is Not Invisible

Sedgwick, Marcus. She is Not Invisible. 2014

Laureth's father, a famous author, has disappeared, so Laureth takes her younger brother on a plane from England to New York to locate him. The search for her father becomes a bit of a mystery/adventure, as we get pages from his notebook with notes that connect to the happenings in the book. Oh, and Laureth is blind, which is why she dragged her brother along.

This book, in spite of the search for a lost father, is fairly slow paced. I liked the lyrical quality of the writing, and I was glad for a book from the perspective of a blind person. I also liked the science connections, and this book definitely reminded me of Stead's When You Reach Me. While I wouldn't recommend this book to struggling readers, I could get my average middle school student to read it based on the cover and a short book talk. All in all, it's worth the read, but maybe pick it up at the library rather than at a bookstore.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alike: When You Reach Me

08 July 2014


Vawter, Vince. Paperboy. Delacorte BFYR, 2013.

Victor has a stutter, so he's used to people not taking him seriously. He's excited about taking his friend's paper route for him for a month in the summer, but he's nervous about collecting the money at the end of each week. Throughout his route, he ends up meeting a cast of very interesting characters.

This book is fairly slow-moving, so it might be difficult to convince kids to read it, but it would make a great class book or read-aloud book. I listened to it as an audio book during my commute each day and the audio book does a great job at portraying Victor and his stutter without making fun of him. This book also tackles some difficult issues: racism, a kid who is deaf/mute, a woman who is an alcoholic, etc.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade, classes
Red Flags: alcohol use (by adults), some bullying
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alike Suggestions: The Wednesday Wars

07 July 2014

No One Needs to Know

Grace, Amanda. No One Needs to Know. Flux, 2014.

Olivia and her brother Liam are twins, best friends, and more entitled than they can really understand. Olivia is in the popular crowd at her all-girls school. Zoey can only attend the school because of a scholarship, and she has to work at a fast food place at night just to help her mom make ends meet. She is the opposite of popular. When Liam starts dating Zoey and then Zoey and Olivia fall in love, things are bound to get interesting.

I liked this book much better than I thought I would. When I started reading it, I thought, "Typical chick lit. Not impressed." But it got better, and the sub plots helped to give the story more depth than expected. I would easily put this one on the shelves of my middle school library, should I ever get my hands on a print copy.

Recommended for: teens, fans of chick lit,
Red Flags: some alcohol use
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

04 July 2014

This Side of Salvation

Smith-Ready, Jeri. This Side of Salvation. Simon Pulse, 2014.

David's older brother was killed in the Middle East. David's parents turned their mourning into religious devotion and eventually were sucked into a cult that believed the rapture (when all true believers are taken to heaven) would occur at a specific date/time. David and his sister have to give up everything in preparation for this event - no more school, no more extracurricular activities, etc. When David sneaks out and accidentally comes home after the prophesied time, he finds his parents' pajamas in their beds, as if they had truly been raptured right out of their clothing. But David, his sister, and his girlfriend soon discover that there's more to it than that.

This was a great book about being sucked into a cult, and it included a character who happened to be gay, which I am glad for - it was not a coming-out story, but rather the story of a couple of kids trying to figure out how to rescue their parents from a cult that sucked them in.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, alcohol use (fairly minor in both cases)
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-alike: Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family

03 July 2014

Frenemy of the People

Olsen, Nora. Frenemy of the People. Bold Strokes Books, 2014.

Clarissa has it all - a perfect family, plenty of money, supportive parents. Then her parents find themselves in a financial crisis, and Clarissa isn't sure what to do. Also, her sister, who has Downs Syndrome, wants to be crowned homecoming queen. Lexi has a rich but mostly absent mother who tries to buy her love. Clarissa is devastated when she has to stop taking riding lessons and her horse is sold, and Lexi is confused when her mom suddenly buys her a horse. Eventually Clarissa and Lexi work through their problems and fall in love. End scene.

I really wanted to like this book. I was glad for the inclusion of a bisexual character, especially since she didn't spend the entire book trying to decide if she was gay or straight. But the characters in this book were SO immature it drove me nuts. This seems like the kind of book I would recommend to a 3rd or 4th grader who wants to read "big kids' books." Clarissa has a fit because her parents sell her horse. Yes, really. And then she gets mad at Lexi when it turns out Lexi's mom bought Clarissa's horse, as if Lexi did that on purpose to hurt Clarissa. Being inside Clarissa's brain feels like watching an episode of Barney.

I love the idea of having a book with a bisexual character and a lesbian character that's about other issues instead of just their coming out, but this one was way too childish. The cover art is wonderful, but I wouldn't be able to convince my students, who are way past their horse obsessions now that they're in middle school, to pick up this book. And although I was interested in the information about mortgages and the financial crisis, I doubt that information would interest the audience for whom this book is intended.

Recommended for: tweens (maybe with different cover art to show that this book is really about a horse)
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

02 July 2014

The Rules

Kade, Stacey. The Rules. Disney-Hyperion, 2013. 

Ariane is an alien-human hybrid who was kidnapped from a research facility and has been raised as a "replacement" for her kidnapper's dead daughter. She lives a very careful life so that no one will discover the truth about her. Only one day she breaks the rules, and then she realizes everything she thought she knew was a lie.

From the cover, this looks like a good read-alike for Matched. I was expecting another typical YA dystopian series, where I would enjoy the first book and be annoyed at the others in the series, but this is actually a decent science fiction novel without falling into the Dystopian Trilogy Trap. It is a good book, and it is a YA science fiction series, but it isn't a dypstopia. I started reading this one because I thought my students would like it, but I actually enjoyed the book more than I expected. Yes, the "surprises" in the book aren't really that surprising, but they might be to the average teen reader. And the concept of an alien-human hybrid is interesting.

Recommended for: teens, fans of science fiction, fans of dystopia (even though this one isn't really a dystopia)
Red Flags: minor violence
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Read-alikes: Adaptation

01 July 2014

The Secret Side of Empty

Andreu, Marie. The Secret Side of Empty. Running Press Kids, 2014.

M.T. doesn't stand out from her classmates.  With her pale skin and blond hair, she looks like many of her fellow seniors. However, M.T. won't be graduating from high school. She won't be traveling abroad with the National Honor Society group.  She won't be getting a driver's license.  M.T. is an undocumented immigrant, so all of the hopes and dreams of her fellow graduates are things she can only wish for.  As her family life and the secrets she hides begin to unravel, M.T. has to decide if she's willing to dare to follow her dreams.

This is an excellent glimpse into the life of a family dealing with immigration issues. I know there are students at my school who are the children of undocumented immigrants or are themselves undocumented.  As soon as I find a magic money tree, I'm getting a copy of this book for my kids.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, adults who work with immigrant populations
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars