Saturday, July 21, 2018

THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End
*Spoiler Alert! The title does spill the beans.

A phone call from Death-Cast means you will die within 24 hours. The callers are generally polite and soft-spoken, and each call ends with an apology "so sorry to lose you" and advice to live this last day to the fullest.

When Mateo receives the call, the Death-Cast caller mistakenly calls him Timothy. For a brief moment Mateo hopes this call was made in error, but he quickly learns that today is indeed his last day. The person he most wants to speak to is his father, but the dear man is currently in a coma in a nearby hospital. It seems like going there would be a given, but Mateo has difficulties when it comes to leaving the apartment.

Another Death-Cast call is made to Rufus. An orphan living in the foster care system, Rufus can only let his friends know that today is his day to die. One of his greatest regrets is having a fist fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. His shame drives him away from the people who have meant the most to him in his short life.

Mateo and Rufus meet using an app called Last Friends. The intent of the app is for people to find someone with whom to spend their final hours. These two young men may only have a brief time left, but meeting appears to be just what each of them needed.

In THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END, author Adam Silvera explores a concept many may wish to be true. What if you could know that your time is limited? Would you rush to complete a "bucket list" or spend time with someone who matters to you? Death, friendship, and making the most of life are the centerpieces of this unique story.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

BAD CALL by Stephen Wallenfels

Bad Call
If you are looking for a thriller with several shocking surprises, then look no more. BAD CALL by Stephen Wallenfels is perfect.

Four private prep school tennis players are about to head out on a mountain camping trip. At the last minute one of the four backs out leaving room for soccer champ, Ellie. Now the group consists of best friends Ceo and Collin, teammate Grahame, and of course, Ellie.

Things are a bit rocky from the very start. A forest fire requires a change of plans which takes them in a different direction. No problem - that's why there's GPS. Ceo seems to be in charge since he proposed the adventure and provided most of the equipment for the trip.

The fact that no one in the group is a particularly skilled hiker along with the fact that each member of the party seems to have his/her own private agenda for making the trip, means the whole plan was probably doomed from the start.

When their phones are out of range, the GPS malfunctions, a bear appears to be stalking them, and a storm approaches, all four are having second thoughts about their journey. Only three will make the return trip. Who will it be?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SHOOTER by Caroline Pignat

Shooter

Alice, Isabelle, Hogan, and Xander end up in the same boys restroom when the Lockdown announcement is made over the PA. Hogan is dressed in the school mascot costume and not at all happy about it. Isabelle is concerned that a string of recent pranks will result in the principal following through on his threat to cancel all extracurricular events including the prom she has work so hard to plan. Alice is worried about her autistic brother and how he will respond to this sudden change in his routine. Xander continues snapping pictures without seeming to care about the potentially dangerous situation.

Isabelle's phone soon buzzes with a text from a friend hiding under a desk in the main office. The text describes the police arriving at the scene and the frightening fact that THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

At first it appears there is one shooter and he has been identified. There are sounds of gunfire and possibly firecrackers. What could be taking so long? Minutes tick by as the each of the students share their thoughts and fears.

When another text message from Isabelle's friend mentions the presence of a second shooter, one of the four bathroom prisoners reacts in a way that suggestions one of them might be involved. Now what should they do?

Author Caroline Pignat uses prose, poetry, text messages, and journal entries to chronicle the events of one hour in the lives of four grade 12 students as they struggle to survive an incident of gun violence in their school. SHOOTER is passionate and realistic from start to finish.

Monday, July 9, 2018

DIVE SMACK by Demetra Brodsky

Dive Smack

What happens when a history project reveals things about your life you never knew? DIVE SMACK by Demetra Brodsky takes readers on a wild ride with main character Theo Mackey. This book's thrilling plot will hold the attention of readers right to the very end.

Theo is busy trying to score a scholarship to Stanford with his springboard diving skills. He'd like to give all his attention to the sport, but life has other ideas. His history teacher has assigned a group project involving tracing his family tree. Theo's only access to his murky past is through his grandfather and his "uncle" Phil. Neither of those individuals seem particularly interesting in answering Theo's questions. Part of that might be because of his mother's unfortunate death when their family home burned to the ground. The fact that Theo had been messing around with matches on that fateful night has left him feeling tremendous guilt.

Theo's strange visions don't help matters either. PTSD has wiped any memory of the actual night of the fire, but from time to time, Theo imagines glimpses of his mother and a mysterious, long-haired girl. There must be some connection to what happened, but Theo can't quite pull it all together.

Filled with competitive diving references, stressful family relationships, sealed records, unnerving premonitions, and a mysterious mental facility, DIVE SMACK has a little something for everyone. This is definitely a thriller you won't want to miss.

Friday, June 22, 2018

BREAKOUT by Kate Messner

Breakout
What happens when you learn that not everyone is who you think they are?

Nora Tucker is finishing her seventh grade year in Wolf Creek, New York. She has always lived in this small town with its quaint little stores, library, treehouses, and mountain view. She also knows that beyond the wall outside of town is the prison where her father is superintendent. When two inmates escape, Nora finds out in a few short weeks that things aren't always as they seem.

Nora and her friend Lizzie are excited about the start of summer, but first they have two weeks left of school. It is a surprise when a new girl named Elidee arrives with so little left of the school year. Nora learns that Elidee's brother is one of the inmates in the prison so Elidee and her mother have moved to Wolf Creek to be closer to him.

Everyone is looking forward to the end of the year traditions at the middle school. The most exciting event is Field Day and the Mad Mile. Relay teams run a cross country type course with the winning team earning the privilege of throwing water balloons at the school principal. Nora and Lizzie invite Elidee to be on their team since she has demonstrated her superior running ability in gym class.

Unfortunately, when the two inmates escape from the prison, all town events are cancelled, and everyone is left hanging out indoors or greatly modifying their activities. Watching her family, friends, and neighbors in this time of crisis, opens Nora's eyes to the fact that even when you think you know someone, you rarely know their full story.

BREAKOUT by Kate Messner is a unique tale told in a series of letters, recorded conversations, news articles, comics, poetry, and more. Readers will be amazed at how quickly they will come to like and even love some characters and dislike others. Messner also makes sure to let readers know that first impressions may lead to misinterpretations. BREAKOUT is perfect for middle grade readers, but older teens will find much to like as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

DEAR RACHEL MADDOW by Adrienne Kisner

Dear Rachel Maddow
Things haven't been going well for Brynn Harper. Her brother died of an overdose and her mother remarried to a real jerk. Brynn was an honor student with her sights set on college, but her grades have recently plummeted sending her to one of the remedial classrooms in the school's basement.

Her teacher knows she has potential and so do the two honor student tutors who volunteer their time helping the students in Brynn's classroom. One of the tutors, a new student, has the potential of being more than just a friend for Brynn.

A longtime fan of Rachel Maddow, Brynn writes an email to the MSNBC news star. It is supposed to simply check off a writing assignment for Mr. Grimm, but when Brynn actually receives an answer, she continues writing and storing each email in her drafts folder.

When an opportunity to become involved in student government catches Brynn's interest, she begins to question What Would Rachel Do? The emails become a place for Brynn to seek advice, express ideas, and unload about the abusive treatment she is experiencing at home. Even when things don't go the way she hopes, Brynn's imaginary communication with her hero fills a void and allows her to focus enough to begin raising her grades.

Debut author Adrienne Kisner has created a unique style that should appeal to YA readers. The email format and the contemporary comments about current politics offer great discussion starters.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

RESTART by Gordon Korman

Restart

RESTART by Gordon Korman takes a different look at bullying. It asks the question, "Once a bully, always a bully?"

When Chase falls off the roof of his family's home, the result is amnesia. He wakes up in the hospital to strange faces claiming to be family and friends. Chase doesn't even recognize his own face when he demands to see a mirror.

Everything about his life has changed. Because of a severe concussion, he isn't allowed to play football. He isn't sure he wants to play football, except all his father talks about is what a great player he was with chances for another state championship.

Chase has no memory of his former friends so he has to trust what they are telling him. Aaron and Bear try to remind him that they are his closest friends and that they are a team both on and off the field. But, when Chase learns that the three of them are serving community service time at the local nursing home, he has his doubts about exactly what kind of friends they really are.

Other kids at school seem to steer clear of Chase, and the more he learns about his past, the more he realizes he was a bully. In fact, Chase and his buddies Aaron and Bear are the reason one kid actually switched to another school. Could he really have been the instigator of the prank that blew up a baby grand piano?

Readers of Korman's RESTART will follow Chase as he tries to discover who he was and who he really wants to be. Some believe he has changed for the better, but others don't think that is possible.