Saturday, November 28, 2015

LOSERS TAKE ALL by David Klass

Losers Take All
Fremont High has a fine history of winning sports teams.  The student body and a supportive community fill the stands for every athletic contest.  When Principal Arthur Gentry takes his place as the 21st runner in the annual senior race everyone cheers his forty year career as leader of the school and creator of a sporting dynasty.

This year the race ends in tragedy when Principal Gentry collapses at the finish line.  The position of principal is now open, and the school board vows to find the perfect person to take the job.  No one is greatly surprised when long-time football coach Brian Muhldinger is appointed to the position.  He will run a tight ship and keep sports in the spotlight.

Not everyone is happy when Principal Muhldinger announces a new school rule.  Every senior at Fremont High must participate in at least one complete sports season or they won't graduate.  Jack Logan and his friends are not interested in sports, but what choice do they have.

Jack comes from a long line of football players.  His father almost went pro except for a career ending knee injury in college.  His two older brothers were part of the Fremont football winning tradition.  Jack is offered a spot on the varsity team by the new principal, but he turns it down.  His rejection of football starts a revolution that will flip the school's devotion to sports on its head.

Author David Klass takes a look at the overemphasis of sports in some of today's high schools, as well as the issue of bullying and its sometimes devastating consequences.  Jack and his friends recognize the importance of a well-rounded education.  It isn't all about sports, but rather a healthy mix of academics and extracurricular activities.  Teens whose number one priority isn't on the athletic field will cheer on the losers in LOSERS TAKE ALL, and educators will also find satisfaction in a theme that focuses more on success in the classroom than achievements on the field.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

HIT by Delilah S. Dawson

Patsy and her mother have been through a lot.  Her mother works hard and barely enough to make ends meet.  A recent car accident completely wiped out their finances, and not only that, she's just learned she has cancer.

When men in black suits arrive, Patsy can't believe it when they threaten to kill her mother if she can't pay the debt accumulated since the accident.  They tell Patsy that she can save her mother if she is willing to become an indentured assassin for Valor Savings, the company holding her mother's debt.

Patsy is willing to do whatever is necessary to save her mother, and  before she knows it she is wearing a postal uniform, driving a mail truck, and carrying a gun.  According to Valor Savings, she must kill ten people in five days if they refuse to make good on their debt to Valor.

Following the directions on a GPS mounted in the mail truck, Patsy heads to the home of Robert Beard and the killing begins.  Apparently, Valor Savings is now in control of the country.  Calling 911 for help results in an answering machine message generated by Valor Savings, and in time, Patsy discovers the police no longer exist.  The world will soon be in chaos.

Author Delilah S. Dawson's HIT takes a frightening look at a world not so different from our own.  People spending money they don't have while racking up credit card debt is all too real for many.  To imagine a lending company taking over the government and eliminating all those who owe money is the stuff of nightmares.  Dawson's plot is unique and captivating.  Based on the ending of HIT, I believe the adventure will continue to even more horrifying depths in a future book.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

SHACKLED by Tom Leveen

Once again author Tom Leveen takes readers into the stuff of nightmares.  The cover alone suggests the eventual location, a dingy basement prison and a frightening secret.

Pelly has spent years overcoming an incident involving her best friend, the mall, and a stranger.  She tries to forget the day when at age ten she and her best friend Tara were allowed to roam the mall while their mothers shopped.  Tara disappeared in the middle of a game of hide and seek.

It has been six years since the presumed kidnapping, and no one has heard a thing about Tara.  Pelly's fears have her on medication and seeing a therapist.  Just recently she started working at a local coffee shop in an attempt to begin interacting with people.  Another employee named David seems interested in Pelly, but she is reluctant to trust anyone.

All her horrible fears return one afternoon when a man enters the coffee shop with a girl who looks exactly like Tara.  The girl, thin and cowering behind the man, catches Pelly's eye and mouths, "Help me," as he leads her out the door.  Is it really Tara? 

Pelly is stunned, but quickly recovers and calls the police.  They seem only mildly interested in resurrecting the case, but indicate they will check out the details Pelly provides.  Haunted by the girl's unspoken plea for help, Pelly begins her own investigation, but her search may result in a situation way beyond her control.

SHACKLED by Tom Leveen is a mystery along the lines of Criminal Minds and Cold Case.  Pelly must put aside her own fears in hopes of finding her long missing friend.  Leveen's edge-of-your-seat action is sure to hook readers and keep the pages turning.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Everything, Everything
Madeline Whittier has been a prisoner in her own home for most of her life.  When she was less than a year old, she was diagnosed with SCID - Severe Combined Immunodeficiency disease.  Most recognize the rare condition if it is referred to as "bubble boy/girl" disease.  Exposure to even a tiny virus or bacteria could have deadly consequences to someone with SCID.

Madeline's mother is the only family she has left since a tragic accident claimed the lives of her father and brother.  Fortunately for Madeline, her mother is a doctor and able to manage her care so she has been able to reach her eighteenth birthday.  A nurse monitors Madeline's condition throughout the day until her mother comes home.  Her days are filled with online education, reading her vast collection of books, and then movie time and mind-challenging games with her mother in the evenings.

Life changes for Madeline the day a moving truck pulls into the driveway next door.  An curiously attractive young man is part of the family that moves in.  His window faces hers and communication commences almost immediately. 

Madeline and Olly communicate mostly via IM.  Keeping him a secret from her mother is fairly easy, but Carla, her nurse, discovers the relationship quite quickly.  It doesn't take much convincing for Madeline to get Carla to allow a series of short visits.  Olly agrees to the complicated decontamination process required before he can enter the house.  Madeline's secret is out as Olly learns that contact with the outside world's germs could kill the girl he is rapidly falling in love with.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is author Nicola Yoon's first book, and it is an amazing treasure.  I was hooked by Madeline's independent voice and her incredibly positive outlook despite her limited life.  As her new experiences reveal facts she never dreamed possible, Madeline becomes determined to live life on her own terms.  This book will be a sure winner with my students.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

PAPER HEARTS by Meg Wiviott

Paper HeartsYoung Zlatka and Fania are torn from their homes, forced into cattle cars, and transported to the concentration camp.  Fania is frightened and alone on this journey.  Having been arrested with other young girls, some not even Jewish, she fears for her life and knows nothing about the fate of her family.  Zlatka struggles to stay with her family during the chaotic journey only to be separated once their arrive at the camp.
PAPER HEARTS by Meg Wiviott tells the story of two Jewish girls surviving imprisonment in Auschwitz.  Based on true events, their story is painful but one that needs to be told to help others understand the horror of this terrible time in history.

Told in verse, PAPER HEARTS follows the horrific experiences of the two girls as they struggle to survive.  Their determination helps them as they face starvation, freezing temperatures without the benefit of proper clothing, crowded conditions, and back-breaking labor.  They risk death as they attempt to comfort each other and their fellow prisoners sharing what little they have.

Wiviott's first novel for young adults is an excellent addition for library collections and classroom bookshelves.


OBITING JUPITER by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter
When Jack's parents decide to take in Joseph as a foster child, Jack is nervous.  Supposedly, Joseph almost killed a teacher, and at age thirteen, he is a father.  Yep, an eighth grade father!

Joseph isn't too keen on learning how to milk cows and do chores on the farm, but it is what it is.  He buckles down and does what is necessary.  He also heads off to start school with Jack.  Their first school day together starts off with Mr. Haskell, the bus driver, making a rude comment to Joseph.  Even though he still isn't comfortable with this whole foster brother thing, Jack feels he needs to defend Joseph.  The incident is the first of many in which Jack declares that he "has Joseph's back."

As Joseph begins to feel more comfortable with his new family, he opens up and shares the story of Maddie, his girl friend, and the baby they named Jupiter.  Although he knows he will never be allowed to see Maddie again, he longs to see his daughter.  His requests are denied and his frustration grows. 

Jack watches Joseph become more comfortable around the farm, and he begins to think of Joseph as a brother.  Sensing Joseph's increasing desire to find Jupiter, Jack isn't surprised when his foster brother turns up missing.  What does surprise him is that his parents step up to help. 

Author Gary D. Schmidt weaves a tender, yet complicated tale about love and loss that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.  Joseph struggle to deal with the pain of being torn from the only person he believed ever loved him and separated from the child he created as a result of that love.  His struggle is inspiring and also heart-breaking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

STAINED by Cheryl Rainfield

Sarah Meadows is excited.  Today is the day her life is supposed to change, that is until her father announces that his company has just lost a bunch of money, and that means that the treatments Sarah has been wishing for will not happen.

Sarah has a port-wine birthmark on her face.  She has lived her life being stared at and taunted.  She finally discovered a treatment that could give her a chance to be normal.  The treatment would be painful and doesn't promise that the results will be permanent, but anything is better than nothing as far as Sarah is concerned.  Unfortunately, her father's news has ruined everything.

Somehow Sarah makes it through the day.  School was the last place she expected to be today, but she tried to make the best of it as she attempted to ignore the usual comments and rude stares.  At least the day would end and she could go home to hid and try to forgot her last hope was probably gone for good.

When a business associate of her father's offers her a ride, Sarah reluctantly agrees.  That decision would be one she would soon regret with every inch of her being. 

She wakes up blindfolded and bound.  What happened?  Has she been kidnapped?  Is her father's friend responsible?  What follows is a terrifying experience that has Sarah fighting for her life.

STAINED by Cheryl Rainfield is a frightening read sure to keep readers awake at night. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015


A Step Toward Falling
Emily and Lucas only have one thing in common.  They were both at the wrong place at the right time, and they both reacted in the same way.  They chose to look the other way.

The cover of A STEP TOWARD FALLING states, "Sometimes the worst thing you can do is nothing at all."  That's what Emily did the night she saw Belinda under the bleachers.  She knew something bad was happening, but when she saw Lucas was also watching, she made the decision to let him deal with it.  Later, she learned that Lucas felt the same way, and no one stepped in to help the helpless Belinda.

Emily and Lucas have the same punishment for their thoughtless inaction.  They are required to put in volunteer time at the Life-Long Learning Center that serves adults with disabilities.  Their assignment is a class called Boundaries and Relationships in which the young adults are given instruction on dating and other social interactions.  It is quite an eye-opener for Emily and Lucas as they learn to work with disabled people just like Belinda.

Belinda is recovering from the traumatic event in her own way.  A student at the same high school as Emily and Lucas, she hasn't been attending class.  She's been staying home with her mother and grandmother and endlessly watching Pride and Prejudice, the version with Mr. Colin Firth.  Belinda loves Mr. Firth and is sure he sees her watching him day after day. 

As her days at home pass, Belinda begins to wonder if she should go back to school.  She misses her job sorting and delivering mail in the high school office, and she misses some of her classmates in the resource room where she attends class.  Her grandmother is completely against her going back to school because she doesn't believe Belinda will be kept safe.  Belinda is surprised though, when her mother, suffering from her own mental health issues, steps up to encourage Belinda to go back to school.

As Emily and Lucas learn more about the true abilities of people like Belinda, they come up with a plan to help her regain her courage and show her how much they regret their lack of action when she needed them the most.  Although their scheme may not go exactly as planned, they are determined to make things up to Belinda and become her friends in the process.

Author Cammie McGovern uses this tender and insightful story to show readers that we may not all have the same abilities, but we all have something to give that is sure to make a difference.  As part of an organization called Whole Children, McGovern knows first hand about adults and children with special needs.  Her determination to give their cause the attention it deserves is clearly evident in A STEP TOWARD FALLING. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TRAFFICK by Ellen Hopkins


Just in case you missed it yesterday, Ellen Hopkins' latest novel TRAFFICK was released.  TRAFFICK is a sequel to TRICKS and carries on the stories of five teens trapped in the horrors of the sex trade.  Thanks to Lady Reader Blog Tours, I got a sneak peek of TRAFFICK a few weeks ago.  Here's a repeat of the review I posted.

TRAFFICK by Ellen Hopkins is a sequel to her intensely powerful TRICKS.  In TRAFFICK Hopkins provides a follow-up for five teens trapped in the tragic practice of human trafficking.

The victim of a gunshot wound, Cody is in the hospital learning that he may never walk again.  Diagnosed with a SCI (spinal cord injury), Cody must find a reason to fight his way back to some sort of normal life.  His gambling debts sent him in a downward spiral into the sex trade.  He knows he can't return to that life, but facing life in a wheelchair threatens to destroy any hope that remains for his future.

Eden wants a life with her true love Andrew.  Hoping to leave Vegas behind and return to her home in Boise, she just may have found a way to avoid her overly religious, controlling parents.  With help and guidance from a counselor at the rescue center, she files legal papers that will grant her emancipation so she and Andrew can work together to create a future.

After his father's rejection, Seth used his body to survive.  As a gay teen, Seth found everything but love as he tried to eek out a meager existence providing sexual favors beyond anything he could imagine.  Through it all, he wished for a way to reunite with his father and earn the man's respect.  Is it possible for him to return to the farm to live the life he misses so much?

Whitney had everything until she became a slave to heroine.  Drugs took her away from her privileged life and into the horrors of the drug and sex scene of Vegas.  In rehab she tries to overcome the power of the Lady, but her mind may not let her escape the pull of drugs and alcohol. 

Ginger lost Iris to AIDS.  No one ever cared for Ginger more than Iris unless it would be Gram.  Gram always wanted to give Ginger love and provide as much as possible.  It takes hitting rock bottom to remind Ginger how much she lost by running.  Might it be possible for Gram to forgive her and take her back?

Where TRICKS describes the dark and gritty life of the sex trade and the teens it destroys, TRAFFICK provides a glimmer of hope if only the teens can find a helping hand to pull them out of the depths of sex, drugs, and abuse.  Each teen struggles to find the determination and will to overcome great odds to regain control and start fresh.  In her typical fashion, Hopkins doesn't wrap up each story in a neat and tidy package, but instead shares the next step for each teen and allows her readers to relate to and learn from the struggles of others.

Review copy courtesy of Amy Del Rosso blog tour.
Release date: 11/3/15