"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

30 March 2018

Ruin of Stars

Miller, Linsey. Ruin of Stars. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018.

Having won the position of Opal, Sal now works for the queen. In the meantime, though, they are also pursuing their own agenda of revenge on those responsible for their family’s death. The Queen sends Opal on a mission: discover why children have been disappearing. Kill those responsible. Sal works to uncover this mystery as they also discover that revenge isn’t always as good as it seems.

This is a well-written fantasy epic that fits in perfectly with the multi-hundred page tomes I devoured as a teen. I know the teens at my library will love it. I enjoyed the discussion of gender and the presence of gender fluid, bisexual, aromantic, and transgender characters. The idea of a land where gender and sexuality are seen as fluid and not binary is truly beautiful.

What I missed, though, was the page-turning intensity of the first book. Sal is already Opal at this point, so people are still trying to kill them, but not with the same frequency as when they were vying for the position. There is a fair amount of political intrigue mixed into this book, which is not something I particularly enjoy, either. Nonetheless, this is a good addition to the series and worth reading. I recommend reading the two books close together so the storyline is not lost.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: fantasy violence (main character is an assassin)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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

28 March 2018

Little Do We Know

Stone, Tamara. Little Do We Know. Disney Hyperion, 2018.

Hannah and Ellory have been best friends and neighbors their entire lives. Now they haven’t spoken for over three months. Hannah’s dad used her college fund to boost the Christian school he founded, and Hannah finds herself falling for the music pastor. Meanwhile, Ellory is cherishing the days until she and her boyfriend head off to separate colleges and is attempting to help her mother plan her wedding. Neither Hannah nor Ellory wants to discuss what happened three months ago.

TW: molestation


It’s impossible to talk about my opinions regarding this book without spoiling the ending; consider yourself warned.

The relationship between Hannah and Ellory rang true for me; also, both of their characters were really well developed. Hannah’s school and church are spot-on for an Evangelical Christian church/school. Ellory’s discomfort at spending time at Hannah’s church also makes sense. I appreciated the discussion of Hannah’s doubts regarding what she believes and whether she believes because it’s true or if she believes because she’s been taught these things her whole life. The church is described accurately without being mocked.

The scene near the end where Ellory and Hannah talk about what happened - Ellory’s stepdad-to-be molested her one day when her mom wasn’t home, and when she told Hannah, Hannah tried to get her parents involved, but a flippant comment from her dad made Ellory feel that she was to blame for what happened. The reveal and consequent dramatic conclusion / Disney-esque ending was a bit much, but probably not over the top for the intended audience. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, molestation
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-alikes: Devoted; Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature; Speak

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

26 March 2018

Ghost Boys

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ghost Boys. Little, Brown BFYR. 2018.

This story opens with Jerome dying as he is shot by a police officer. The rest of the story alternates between Jerome's "life" as a ghost in his own home and the home of the officer who shot him and also Jerome's backstory from when he was alive. Jerome the child did not have many friends at school and was often bullied; he focused on taking care of his sister and spending time with his family. Jerome the ghost wonders whether he can/should help the daughter of the officer who shot him and what needs to happen for him to move on from this life.

This book covers an obviously timely topic and includes references to Emmett Till and other boys who have been killed because of racial profiling. I am going to leave coverage of the race issues to others who are better able to discuss them. I will be adding this book to my library's collection and will recommend it to patrons young and old.

Recommended for: middle grade / tween
Red Flags: violence (the main character is shot; Emmett Till is also a character and his beating/death is discussed as well)
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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

23 March 2018

Heretics Anonymous

Henry, Katie. Heretics Anonymous. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.

Michael, an atheist, has been sent to a private Catholic school. His dad keeps getting promoted within his company, which has sent Michael and his family traveling across the country, and Michael has been promised that this is the last move. Michael ends up making friends with other "heretics" at his school: people who, for various reasons, do not fit the mold of a Catholic school student. They meet together as a sort of unofficial support group, until Michael challenges them to begin changing the system. Thus the group of heretics start fighting back against what they see as injustice at their school.

While Michael himself and his friend Lucy are both well-developed characters, we learn much less about the other members of HA, which is unfortunate. Watching them plan and fight back against their school with mixed results reminds me of Jennifer Mathieu's Moxie. The story is about the group of characters, but mostly it's about Michael and his relationship with his friends and also with his family. Michael's frustrations at being moved across country on the whims of his parents will ring true to teens who have had to move in the middle of a school year. I was impressed by the inclusion of an atheist character, as this is a rare occurrence in teen contemporary literature.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language; underage drinking;
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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

21 March 2018

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone

Solomon, Rachel. You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone. Simon Pulse, 2018.

Adina and Tovah are fraternal twins; Adina's first love is the viola, while Tovah is more science-oriented, hoping to one day become a doctor. Their mother was diagnosed with Huntington's disease when they were fourteen; now that they are 18, they are going to be tested to see if they, too, will one day develop the disease. Once they receive their results, the twin who tested positive heads on a destructive crash-course, assuming that she should squeeze as much as possible out of her short life. The other twin, feeling guilty for not having a disease, isn't sure how to react.

When I started this book, I assumed that somewhere near the end there would be the inevitable call from the doctor's office saying they had switched the test results. I was wrong. I appreciated the diverse voices in this book and the way one sister clung to her Jewish faith while the other did not. I don't think this is a book I enjoyed reading, but it is one I am glad to have read. I could easily recommend it to older teens who still enjoy reading books about other people's suffering.

Recommended for: older teens
Red Flags: underage drinking; Adina has a sexual relationship with her viola instructor, which technically begins after she turns 18 but as she is still in high school and he's her teacher that's still creepy; language
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

19 March 2018

P.S. I Miss You

Petro-Roy, Jen. P.S. I Miss You. Feiwel and Friends, 2018.

Evie's older sister becomes pregnant at 16, so her parents send her away to stay with an aunt and plan to send her to a private Catholic school after the baby is born. This book contains Evie's letters to her sister while she is away.

When I heard this was a middle grade book about a queer girl, I was excited, as I have loved Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World; Drum Roll, Please; and Star-Crossed. However, this book was disappointing. The letters do not make for compelling reading, and while it is absolutely possible that there is a strict Catholic family who would send their daughter away while she has her baby, that family is shrinking into a very small minority, so the entire concept tends to date this book a bit.

There are certainly strict families, particularly strict religious families, who would not look well upon their teen becoming pregnant or their tween discovering she is queer, but this book isn't compelling or realistic enough to engage the intended audience. The idea is great, but the execution is lacking. Not recommended.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: other than the inevitable slut-shaming of the older daughter, nothing really
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

Read Instead: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World; Drum Roll, Please; Star-Crossed

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

16 March 2018

An Unkindness of Magicians

Howard, Kat. An Unkindness of Magicians. Saga Press, 2017.

New York City is filled with magicians who all belong to various houses. When there is a Turning, the houses compete to see who will be the ruling house. Some of the competitions are deadly. Sydney is a magician who escaped from the House of Shadows, and she has more power than can be imagined. Will she beat the others in the Turning and become the new ruler, or is something more sinister at play?

This is a great read-alike for those who enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians series. This is grown-up magic: dangerous, serious, and deadly. It took a while for my questions about the backstory in this novel to be answered, but they were eventually answered. Recommended.

Recommended for: adults and teens
Red Flags: as an adult book, it contains adult themes as well as violence and language
Overall Rating; 4/5 stars

14 March 2018

Time Bomb

Charbonneau, Joelle. Time Bomb. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Six teens each go to their school before the start of the school year. Each of them has secrets and things they are ashamed of. Each is carrying a nondescript backpack or duffel bag, the contents of which are unknown. But when bombs start detonating in their school, they will have to work together to survive.

The description makes this book sound like it is very compelling and intense, and I truly wish it were that way. Unfortunately, the characters were all a bit flat, except for Rashid, and their voices weren't distinct enough to differentiate whose character you were reading in each chapter. The reader is thrown right into the action, which would be intense if we had had any idea of what was going on. Each chapter starts with a time stamp, but as the reader isn't informed how many bombs there are, when they are going off, etc., the time stamp only proves how little time has passed throughout the story.

And the plot itself felt super-contrived. This may be colored by recent events (the most recent school shooting of which I am aware was in Florida in February), but the plot didn't seem intense, and the story didn't keep me turning pages like I thought it should.

All that being said, this would be a good book to spark discussions among teens, and I'm sure many teens would not guess the ending as quickly as I did, so they may be wondering throughout the book and changing their guess of who set the bombs, etc. I won't be purchasing this for my library or book talking it, but it could be popular with teens in another location.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, suicidal ideation, some graphic descriptions of injuries
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

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

12 March 2018

Speak: The Graphic Novel

Anderson, Laurie Halse and Emily Carroll. Speak: The Graphic Novel. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018.

Melinda begins her freshman year a very different person from the one who just finished eighth grade; over the summer she was raped at a party and called the cops. Her classmates don't know about the rape, but they do know about the cops breaking up the party. Melinda is an outcast at the school. She finds herself unmoored without her former friends and is further traumatized by her rapist, who also attends her school. Throughout the school year, Melinda slowly finds her voice and begins to heal.

The novel version of Speak is one of those rare timeless teen books which belongs on every library's shelf. This book is an amazing adaptation of that story. Parts of the book have been updated (references to Instagram, etc.), while the original message of the story is still present. The black and white drawings are appropriate for the serious topic, and the novel manages to portray the ridiculousness of some aspects of high school (such as the constant changing of the school's mascot and the lack of supplies for the art class) while also demonstrating the very real impact the social aspects of school have on a teenager's ability to thrive and learn. Melinda is shown as a very real, developed character who has hidden inside herself; throughout the story we get to watch her unfold and learn to speak again.

I have recommended before that everyone read Speak; I say the same of this graphic novel adaptation.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, rape, bullying
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

09 March 2018

Reading Challenges

Although I have written before about my choice not to complete the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge, there are other challenges which I enjoy participating in. One of these is YALSA's annual Hub Challenge. Every year the youth media awards - Newbery, Caldecott, Stonewall, Belpre, etc. - are announced during ALA's Midwinter conference. Some people watch the livestream in their pjs and cheer on the winners. I am usually in the middle of something else (sleeping, commuting, etc.) when the awards are announced, but I definitely look at the final list after the announcement has been made. Then YALSA puts together a list of all the books for teens that have won awards or made it to one of several top ten lists, and the challenge is this: read at least 25 of those books between the announcement of the awards and the end of June.

The final list is usually around 80 titles, and because I'm me, I generally try to read every single title on the list. I definitely read 25 that I haven't read before for the challenge itself, but then I attempt to conquer the challenge by reading all the other books, at least the ones I haven't yet read. The fun part of this is looking through the list and discovering which books I've already read (usually everything on the Rainbow list as well as the Stonewall winners) and which books I've never even heard of (generally the Alex award winners).

I like that this challenge exposes me to a lot of books I wouldn't have read otherwise. For example, I loved Andy Weir's The Martian. Loved it so much that I own a physical copy and have reread it probably five times. This is a book I wouldn't have known about until the movie came out, but I read it because it won an Alex award. Another example is Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series. Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones each won an Alex award, and these also are books I have copies of and reread occasionally.

So each year I start with reading the Alex award winners as well as the Great Graphic Novels, and then I will branch out for other books I haven't yet read but think look interesting. This helps me complete the basic challenge, and then I can slowly work my way through the rest of the list for my own personal challenge.

If you'd like to join me in completing the YALSA Hub Challenge, there is a post on their site that can be accessed here.

07 March 2018

Drum Roll, Please

Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Drum Roll, Please. HarperCollins, 2018.

Melly joined the band at school because her bold best friend Olivia joined. She also signed up for a summer band camp so she could be with her friend Olivia. The day before she left for camp, her parents told her they were getting divorced. Reeling from this news, Melly flounders a bit at camp. Olivia is making friends and spending time with other kids, and Melly isn't quite sure what to do with herself. Slowly, Melly discovers her own interests and finds confidence to speak up for herself, including finding a person that she may like as more than just a friend.

The main story itself is not that different from many other tween books. A quiet girl finds confidence to stand up for herself and do her own thing, spurred on when her bold friend finds other friends and she has to forge her own path. The difference here is that Melly develops a crush on a fellow camper, a girl named Adeline.

There are not many tween books featuring girl characters crushing on other girl characters, so this book stands out for that reason alone. The other important feature here is that when Melly discovers she likes Adeline, she doesn't have a huge identity crisis. She doesn't have to hide her crush, worrying that her friends will hate her or her parents will send her to a deconversion program, etc. etc. I do wish that middle school me had had this book to read as it gives HOPE and provides a great mirror to kids who aren't getting one anywhere else. Highly recommended.

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

Read-Alikes: Star-Crossed, Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, Better Nate than Ever

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

05 March 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the End of Time. Rick Riordan Presents, 2018.

Aru Shah lives in a museum, and when some frenemies from school visit her and dare her to light the lamp that she has been told she must never light, she does what they ask. Little did she know that this would waken an ancient enemy, that she would be one of the chosen warriors to fight this enemy, and that the fate of the world would be left in her hands as a result.

This book is very similar to Percy Jackson and other demigod stories, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Aru's companion on this journey is a pigeon whose story is similar to the dragon in Mulan; he has lost his status as a guardian, has been demoted, and is hoping for redemption but doesn't believe that will happen with Aru in charge. The ending leaves room for further books in the series, and I can easily see myself offering this book to the Percy Jackson fans in my library who want to read another adventure of a demigod. My only gripe with the book - and this is truly a very minor detail - is that the main character talks about how visiting Muir Woods near San Francisco was peaceful and amazing, and in reality Muir Woods is frequently overrun with tourists and is not the quiet, peaceful forest everyone expects. I would send my main character to a different forest, but as I said, this is an extremely minor detail.

Recommended for: tweens / middle grade
Red Flags: "mild fantasy violence" is the best description; this is a very clean book
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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

02 March 2018

Monday's Not Coming

Jackson, Tiffany. Monday's Not Coming. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.

Claudia and Monday are best friends and practically inseparable, but one summer when Claudia is away at her grandmother's, Monday doesn't write to her, and Claudia can't find Monday once she returns home, either. No one else seems bothered by Monday's disappearance, but Claudia is determined to find out what happened to her.


This book alternates between "before," chapters before The Big Event, and "after," which are after TBE, and things that are labeled "One year before the before" or "two years before the before," etc. etc. It's extremely confusing to read because some of the chapters are short and the time jumps around so much. The bottom line is that Monday was from an abusive home and her mom beat her and locked her in a closet until she died, then stuffed her body in a freezer, and Claudia was the only one who noticed she was gone because Monday didn't live in a nice part of town and no one was willing to say anything. Claudia has a breakdown after Monday's body is discovered, and she loses about two years of her life as she tries to recover, during which time she often forgets that Monday is gone.

What I Liked: The premise is good and necessary, even if it doesn't make for a nice, happy story.

What I Didn't Like: The time jumps in the chapters were difficult to keep track of since there were so many timelines going on at once. This book is also WAY too long to tell the story it was telling. The 400+ page tale could have been reduced to maybe half that. Claudia doesn't read as 14 (the age she believes she is) or 16 (the age she actually is). This may be due to her trauma, but she still sounds so much younger than she actually is.

Bottom Line: I will probably buy it for the library, but it won't go on my personal shelf.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: abuse, domestic violence, murder, bullying, drug and alcohol use, language, homophobic language, ableist language
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars