Tuesday, August 15, 2017

PRISONER OF WAR: A Novel of World War II by Michael Spradlin


                                                        Prisoner of War: A Novel of World War II
Henry "Tree" Forrest is fifteen years old. In order to avoid another beating from his vicious father, he decides to enlist in the Marines. He barely makes it through boot camp and finds himself fighting beside grown men in the Philippines.

Henry's height earns him the nickname Tree, and his courage and bravery earn him the respect of the men in his unit. When the tide of the war turns after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tree experiences the true evils of war. The Japanese constant air and ground attacks force the allied soldiers to retreat and surrender.

Tree and his fellow soldiers become prisoners of war. The conditions are horrendous. The defeated and exhausted men are marched from the shores of the South China Sea into the interior of the island. Denied food and water and medical treatment, many men don't survive.

Once at Camp O'Donnell, Tree suffers beatings he could never have imagined from his father. With the constant encouragement of a veteran soldier named Gunny, Tree digs deep to find the strength to withstand the beatings and the miserable conditions for years.

Author Michael Spradlin has explored the world of war in his previous novel THE EMENY ABOVE. This new release takes readers into the mind of a young boy as he experiences unbelievable horrors. Written in a voice and pace that will definitely hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers, PRISONER OF WAR is perfect for a library or classroom collection.

THE PANTS PROJECT by Cat Clarke

                                                        The Pants Project
Liv is excited to start middle school except for one thing. Liv's school is the only one in the area that requires girls to wear skirts. Wearing a skirt might not be so awful if Liv thought of himself as a girl, but he doesn't.

Not even Liv's two moms know Liv's secret. Born a girl, Liv doesn't feel that is the right sexual definition. He believes he was meant to be a boy. That's a pretty big secret that is difficult to express. The fact that Liv will have to wear a skirt every single day once school starts might just be a big enough deal to get him to share his secret with someone.

Author Cat Clarke dives into the subject of transgender identification in her new book THE PANTS PROJECT. With the help of a new friend, Liv decides to protest the school's new rule. As the fight for his right to wear pants unfolds, Liv deals with bullies, disgruntled administrators, and people who don't readily accept that it's amazing to have two moms.

Aimed at a middle grade audience, THE PANTS PROJECT is an excellent addition to a library or classroom collection for teens of any age.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

AFTERCARE INSTRUCTIONS by Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions
Genesis Johnson is facing a decision that will change the rest of her life. She believes that she and her boyfriend Peter are on the same page when it comes to this decision, but she quickly learns that isn't true.

Genesis enters Planned Parenthood with Peter. She is called back for her procedure. She remains brave as the doctor terminates her pregnancy knowing that Peter is waiting outside to take her home. When she returns to the waiting room, Peter is nowhere to be found.

Phone calls and text messages are not returned, and Genesis can't believe he has just left her there. She's stranded in New York City.

With no support from home and fearful of telling anyone but her closest friend, Genesis must navigate the aftermath of one of the worst days of her life. Did the love Peter professed even exist? How could he leave her when he had declared she was his "forever" love?

In a combination of prose and script-style dialogue, debut author Bonnie Pipkin explores the consequences of a life-changing decision. Her protagonist is struggling with multiple personal issues, and at the same time, trying to hold together a fractured family after the death of her father. Even if you don't agree with Genesis's decision, you'll find her journey both heartbreaking and hopeful.

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE by Matthew Quick

The Reason You're Alive
David Granger is a Vietnam vet. He saw intense action fighting the Vietcong in the jungle during the war. He has a few fellow vets with whom he shares some of his memories, but he has always protected his family from the horrors he experienced.

Recently, Granger crashed his BMW as the result of a seizure. Doctors determined he had a brain tumor. Granger blames Agent Orange. After surgery to remove the tumor, Granger attempts to return home. He is determined to face his memories of the war and find closure by returning a ceremonial knife to its rightful owner.
Following another seizure while visiting a museum with his son and grand-daughter, Granger's son insists that he stay with family. Since Granger's relationship with his son really revolves around his deep love for his grand-daughter, Ella, this temporary stay proves to be tense at best.
As the days pass, the two men begin to communicate in a way they never have before. Granger's son learns that his father isn't the bigoted, old man he thought him to be. Opening up to each other helps to heal some of the pain from their pasts, and father and son come to respect the choices each have made.
BOY 21, EVERY EXQUISITE THING, and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by author Matthew Quick are popular with YA readers in my classroom. THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE should also be of interest to mature YA readers even though the focus is on an older protagonist. Today's teens are not familiar with the Vietnam War, but Quick's book might spark an interest to learn more.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

BERSERKER by Emmy Laybourne

Berserker
Hanne and her siblings suddenly find themselves embarking on a journey from their native Norway to America. The original plan was for Hanne's older brother Stieg to make the journey, get settled, and then send for the others. That plan quickly dissolves when Hanne flies into a rage and murders three intruders threatening her family's safety.

With their father dead, the four siblings take their inheritance and flee to America. The new plan involves crossing this new country in search of an uncle who will hopefully help them make sense of an ancient Norse curse that haunts their family.

Both Hanne's parents carried the Nytte curse. Odds were their children would be born with the "gift" of the Nytte. Three of the four siblings have already exhibited their gifts. Knut has incredible strength, Stieg has the power to blow powerful cold or warm blasts of wind, and Hanne has the power to kill. Known as a Berserker, Hanne flies into a killing rage whenever she or a family member is threatened. Until now Hanne's gift, in combination with Knut's powerful strength, has allowed them to provide for their family while serving as butchers for neighboring farmers with livestock.

Soon after arriving in America, Hanne and her siblings meet Owen, a cowboy down on his luck. He is willing to escort them to Montana in search of their uncle. For a fee he outfits the group with horses, clothing, and needed supplies, and their journey begins. Unfortunately, news of the tragedy that forced them to leave their home in Norway follows them and they are soon fleeing for their lives.

Author Emmy Laybourne has earned a loyal fan base with her MONUMENT 14 series and her novel  SWEET. With the October release of BERSERKER, she is sure to thrill those fans and many new ones as well. BERSERKER combines the adventure of the American frontier with the mystical intrigue of a legendary curse. Likeable characters and a bit of romance round out this must read thriller.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE YOU I'VE NEVER KNOWN by Ellen Hopkins

The You I've Never Known
Ariel's family is her father. The two of them have been on their own since Ariel's mother ran off. Ariel was only a toddler at the time and has been raised to believe that her mother was a lesbian whore. Life for the father and daughter has been a blur of different cities living in their car or with a string of women Ariel's father has charmed.

Recently, Ariel has found comfort in Sonora, California. She is attending school and has even made a few friends. There's Monica, a girl who frightens Ariel because her look and touch stir something in Ariel that would likely have her father labeling her a lesbian whore just like her mother. There's also kind and supportive Gabe, the nephew of Ariel's father's recent lady friend and drinking partner.

Maya speaks in journal-type chapters writing to her daughter Casey. Maya is trapped in a marriage of her own making. She used her teen pregnancy as a way to escape life with a cult-obsessed mother, but it landed her in a marriage to an enlisted man about ten years her senior. She wishes for more for her daughter as she writes about her struggle to be a good mom and share her love with the only positive thing in her life.

Author Ellen Hopkins works her magic in this combination of verse and prose to weave together two lives whose connections are sure to surprise her readers. Both Ariel and Maya show courage and determination as they explore their individual identities and where they fit in the world. I found THE YOU I'VE HEVER KNOWN as compelling as Hopkins's IDENTICAL.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

Dear Martin

ARC courtesy of publisher at ALA conference.


DEAR MARTIN is a novel ripped from the headlines. Like THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas and HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon, debut author Nic Stone takes readers into the current issue of racism and police brutality. One unique difference is the main character's attempt to reach out to the late Martin Luther King Jr. as he struggles to make sense of the often tragic world around him.

Justyce McAllister is a senior in high school. His mother works hard so he can attend a prestigious school that will prepare him for a chance to earn a spot at a good college. Her sacrifice pays off when Jus learns he is accepted at Yale.

Unfortunately, Yale is still a year away and much will happen before Jus gets to begin his college career. First, comes the traumatic experience of being handcuffed by police after simply trying to do the right thing. The event haunts him as he tries to negotiate the difficult journey of attending a mostly white school filled with rich, privileged kids who never had to struggle one day in their lives. Stereotypes prevail but Jus is determined to succeed on the debate team and make his mother proud.

One day Jus finds himself stopped at a traffic light in a car with his best friend Manny. Some white guy in the neighboring car demands that Manny turn his music down. There's an unpleasant exchange that ends with Manny turning the volume up. Three gunshots follow that will forever change Justyce's life.

Author Nic Stone uses a variety of text styles to tell the story of a young black teen trying to do the right thing. Readers will see the private thoughts of Justyce as he writes letters to the late MLK hoping to be inspired to live a life that will make his family proud. News accounts of several shootings reveal the tremendous inequality and tension between black teens and law enforcement and will take readers in a totally different direction and help them relate to a current issue facing teens around the country. DEAR MARTIN is a powerful, must-read novel for both teen and adult readers.