Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The Fourteenth Goldfish
Ellie is starting middle school. Things are definitely different than fifth grade. Her best friend's interests have totally changed directions. Brianna is more into volleyball than the monster movies she and Ellie always loved to watch. Looking for a new friend isn't something Ellie is looking forward to, and she certainly never dreamed that the new middle school friend she would make would end up being her own grandfather.

A phone call from the police ends with a surprise houseguest for Ellie and her mom. Ellie's grandfather was caught trying to break into his science laboratory. It turns out that the teenage boy using her grandfather's keycard was actually her grandfather. He was recently experimenting with a compound made from a rare jellyfish and discovered a way to reverse the aging process. Ellie's grandfather is now in middle school just like Ellie.

THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm is a hilarious read. Grandfather Melvin as a teenager provides lots of laughs. Ellie connects with her grandfather on a whole new level and comes to appreciate science in a way she never has before. Holm includes vital facts about a number of famous scientists and their contributions to mankind. Stay tuned for a review of the sequel titled THE THIRD MUSHROOM.

EXPELLED by James Patterson and Emily Raymond

Just weeks before the end of his junior year, Theo is expelled for posting an inappropriate photo on his Twitter account. Theo swears he didn't do and vows to find out the real culprit and clear his name.

Theo isn't the only one expelled. Parker, the school's most popular jock, happens to be front and center in the photo with drink in hand. Jude is also booted from school since he appears dressed as the school mascot performing a lewd act in the background of the picture. Sasha's expulsion is for an entirely unrelated crime, but she's convinced to become part of the plan to clear Theo's name.

EXPELLED is the perfect quick read for teens. They will easily relate to the stresses of high school as well as the cliques and the inappropriate use of social media. Patterson's partnership with Emily Raymond results in a page-turner that includes intrigue, romance, and family issues.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

TIGHT by Torrey Maldonado

Bryan loves quiet places and quiet times that allow him to read and draw in peace. Why does that earn him the name Nerd from the other dudes? He likes to hang out with his mom at her work where he gets his own little "office" for homework and reading comics. Why does that seem strange to his frequently incarcerated father?

At the urging of both his parents, Bryan hooks up with a kid named Mike. He and Mike have some common interests - comics and drawing. They love quizzing each other on superheroes and which ones they wish they could be. It seems like the perfect friendship until Mike's true nature surfaces.

When Mike suggests cutting school, hopping the subway for free, and more, Bryan joins right in, but his own conscience questions the actions. Breaking the rules and acting tough is what his father does all the time, but Bryan knows it means trouble. He knows he should stop hanging out with Mike, but his mom and pop still think Mike is helping Bryan change his quiet ways.

Torrey Maldonado, also the author of SECRET SATURDAYS, captures the frustration of a young boy living in a poor neighborhood in NYC as he struggles to find what's right for him in a world of peer pressure and parental expectations. Readers will immediately connect with Bryan and his love of comics as he explores an alternative that he recognizes may lead him in an unwanted direction.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


The Opposite of Innocent
Fourteen year old Lily is so excited that family friend, Luke, is returning from a research trip in Kenya. She hasn't seen him forever and now he will actually be living with her family until he finds an apartment. Lily's fondest memory of Luke is when she told Luke she hoped to grow up and marry him. His response was that he would definitely wait for her.

Lily is thrilled by Luke's initial response to her maturing teen body. She decides to spend as much time as possible with him to convince him that she is more grown up than people might think. She is sure that she is receiving signals from him that indicate he thinks of her as more than just his good friend's daughter.

One afternoon on the beach, Luke kisses Lily and assuring her she is worthy of his affections. Soon stolen moments are followed by more than kisses, and Lily lets it slip to her friends that she is interested in an older man. At first the steamy make out sessions are exciting, but after a short while, Luke begins expecting Lily to satisfy his needs in a way that leaves her feeling uncomfortable and lonely. Now fear has Lily afraid to confront him or confide in someone who might help her deal with the out of control relationship.

Author Sonya Sones uses her trademark verse to show readers an example of a #metoo situation that is becoming all too familiar. In a final author's note, she urges readers to understand the actions of Luke are totally inappropriate and Lily is not to blame. Sones gives sound advice for readers should they find themselves in similar situations.

Friday, September 14, 2018

MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner

Maggot Moon
Standish Treadwell is fifteen. He can't read and he can't write, but that doesn't mean he isn't a creative thinker. He and his Gramps live in the Motherland in Zone Seven. Since their disappearance, Standish doesn't like to think about his parents.

Standish and his friend Hector are planning to build a spaceship so they can travel to the planet Juniper. That is until Hector disappears behind the wall. Standish is positive there is an important secret behind that wall, but proving it will be a challenge.

In the meantime, all the people in the Motherland are talking about is the upcoming moon landing planned by the government. There's something mysterious about that, too. Could the secret behind the wall, the disappearance of Hector, and the moon landing have anything in common? Standish must be very careful as he searches for answers.

Author Sally Gardner combines bits of history and popular conspiracy theories to create this unique tale. Readers will root for Standish as they follow him through the twists and turns of his strange story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HOOPER by Geoff Herbach

If you are looking for basketball action mixed with family, friendship, and life in general, then HOOPER by Geoff Herbach is for you.

Adam Reed describes basketball as his "passport." He knows if he focuses on his game, it could take him anywhere. Unfortunately, the rest of Adam's life threatens to interfere with that focus.

Born in Poland, Adam was adopted and brought to the United States. His mother, a single mom, has worked hard to help Adam adjust, but it hasn't always been easy. Learning to speak English and deal with schoolwork has been a challenge. Adam's temper caused problems in Pennsylvania so he is now trying to fit in to a new school and team in Minnesota.

Adam's natural basketball talent has earned him a spot on a travel team. Through basketball Adam meets Carli. Recovering from a recent knee injury, she coaches him from the sidelines and drills him to improve his skills. Adam would like to express his true feelings for Carli, but his confidence is shaken by taunts from bullies and the fear that he might lose control of his temper.

HOOPER shows how Adam learns to accept the support of family and friends as he learns to trust himself and navigate in his new surroundings.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

GHOST BOYS by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys
Jerome was only twelve years old the day he was shot and killed by police officers. He was innocently playing with a toy gun given to him by a new friend when the police rolled by in their car and, fearing for their lives, shot Jerome in the back.

Jerome returns as a ghost to observe the preliminary hearing that will determine if there is enough evidence to charge the police officer with murder. As he watches the testimony, Jerome realizes that one person in the courtroom can actually see him. Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, watches Jerome carefully. Although they cannot touch, they are able to communicate. Jerome knows that Sarah is trying to understand how her father could possibly have shot and killed a boy her own age.

Other ghosts appear during the court proceedings and interact with Jerome. They are all young black boys, victims of violent deaths. One in particular connects with Jerome. It is the ghost of Emmett Till, a young Chicago black boy who was killed while visiting relatives in Mississippi.

Sarah researches the story of Emmett's death and shares it with Jerome. The more she learns about others who died because they were black, the more she wants to be the proponent of change for the future.

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells Jerome's story as he remembers it up to the day he was shot and beyond as his ghost observes the reactions of the world and those he loves. Even though his life ended tragically, he expresses his gratitude for a new friend made in the days before his death and the friendship he discovered with Sarah after he died. GHOST BOYS is perfect as a connection to the history of white on black crime and is sure to spark productive discussion among its readers.

Monday, September 3, 2018

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me
It all began the day Ms. Laverne told six students to pick up their bookbags and follow her. She led them to the old art room and told them they would be meeting there every Friday from 2:00-3:00 to talk. No adults allowed.

Four boys and two girls - all some shade of brown except for one - christened the room the ARTT room - "A Room to Talk" and communication began.

Ms. Laverne explained that she wanted the students to express themselves and learn what it means to "harbor" one another. Esteban was the first to share. He told of his father being taken from work and put in a detention center in Florida. He was to be deported, and Esteban fears he will never see him again.

Haley, fondly called Red by the kids in the ARTT room, decides to record their conversations. She has a feeling that important things will be shared and she wants to create a historical record. Once the students learn to trust one another all barriers come down, and they closeness they feel in the room begins to spread beyond it.

Author Jacqueline Woodson uses the conversations of these six young souls to tell us all that communication and sharing could be the answer to understanding each other better and making the world a kinder place. As the children's stories unfold, readers will hopefully feel a part of the ARTT room and carry some of what they learn out into the world and their own lives.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


People Kill People
Popular YA author Ellen Hopkins has done it again. In PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE, Hopkins combines her signature verse with prose to take readers into the lives and minds of six teens contemplating the place guns have in their day to day existences.

Guns have vital meaning for each of the characters. Grace's father was shot and killed in an incident of road rage. Silas sees weapons as a method to promote his neo-Nazi philosophies. Rand would like to end the life of his childhood abuser, and his wife Cami thinks having a gun might be a good idea when she delivers for her drug dealer. Daniel and Noelle also think a gun would be useful to take care of their problems.

These teens range in age from 17 to 19, all on the threshold of adulthood. Past experiences and current life issues have them turning to the possibility that guns could be the solution to their troubles. Whether it be revenge, protection, or self-destruction, each teen is rationalizing the use of violence as the answer.

The blurb on the book flap states, "Someone will fire. And someone will die." Hopkins sets up numerous scenarios as she describes the each character. Readers will no doubt make predictions as the stories unfold which is part of the novel's appeal. Hopkins also drives home the meaning of the title by pointing out that people kill people with more than just guns. This reviewer believes PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE is Hopkins's most thought-provoking novel yet.

Friday, August 31, 2018


Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish
Many people automatically assume that Marcus is a bully. He is six feet tall and weighs 180 pounds and is in the eighth grade. When you are that big, people make assumptions.

Actually, younger kids come to Marcus for protection. When Marcus discovers a demand for his services, he decides to turn it into a business to help supplement the family budget. However, when Marcus punches the real school bully for calling his brother the R word, the principal not only suspends Marcus for his behavior but also shuts his protection business down.

Marcus's suspension gives his mother an idea. Using some of their emergency cash, she plans a trip to visit relatives in Puerto Rico. Marcus was born there, but his little brother had never visited. They would visit San Juan and stay with an uncle while they reconnect with other family. Marcus is especially excited about the possibility of seeing his father who abandoned the family just after Charlie was born.

Author Pablo Cartaya takes readers on an adventure in which Marcus discovers that family is truly important even when the family member he most wants to see turns out to be a disappointment. MARCUS VEGA DOESN'T SPEAK SPANISH celebrates the uniqueness of every individual and the talents each brings to the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

THE DOLLAR KIDS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

The Dollar Kids

The rundown town of Millville is looking for new residents to revitalize the town after the closing of the papermill. It is offering five families houses for the low price of $1. There are some qualifications. Each family must have at least 3 children and acceptable repairs must be made to the houses within the first year to earn each family official ownership.

Lowen Grover's family has the opportunity to buy one of the dollar houses. It is the perfect chance for the family to escape the city and for Lowen to escape the guilt he feels for the violent death of his friend Abe. 

The Grovers have a plan. Mr. Grover will keep his job in the city and commute on weekends to help with repairing the multiple problems with their new house. Mrs. Grover, originally from England, has plans to open a small restaurant featuring Cornish pasties. With the help of Lowen and his brother and sister, they are ready to tackle the physical work necessary to make their new Millville house a home.

Complications come in many forms. Some Millville residents are not as welcoming as others. A competitive business owner is determined to make selling Cornish pasties as difficult as possible. There's an uncooperative village council member, a coach who expects Lowen to develop his non-existent athletic skills, and living next to a funeral home is not the best way for Lowen to forget his role in Abe's death. There's a lot to overcome, but Lowen is determined that he and his family can make the best of a challenging situation.

Author Jennifer Richard Jacobson's newest book THE DOLLAR KIDS captures the effects of today's financial crisis on a small town as well as the strength of family and friendship when the chips are down. Lowen is an immediately likeable character, and readers will root for him to succeed as he attempts to leave behind the past and start fresh in Millville.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

AFTER ELI by Rebecca Rupp

After Eli
Danny Anderson is looking for answers. His older brother Eli was killed in Iraq. His parents are not able to answer his questions. His mother has turned Eli's room into a shrine, and she has all but shut herself off in her room. His father was always a man of few words, and Eli's death is definitely something he doesn't want to talk about.

One way Danny has coped with losing Eli is by creating a Book of the Dead. In the book he lists people who have died, when they died, how they died, and if possible why. That's what he longs to learn about his brother - why Eli died.

Two people are there for Danny. One is Walter. Walter is the target for the bullies at school, but he and Danny connect. The other person there for Danny is a new girl Isabelle. Her crazy ideas and carefree attitude actually mask some deep issues, but she begins to help Danny see beyond the pain of his loss.

Author Rebecca Rupp deftly combines humorous dialogue and description with serious issues and conversations to create a story sure to touch the hearts of teen and adult readers alike.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE by Michael Belanger

The History of Jane Doe
Ray and Simon are used to being misfits. They eat at their own lunch table and hang out together because no one else seems to notice them unless it is to poke fun at their expense.

Enter Jane Doe (Ray ops for using a fake name for the girl who changes their lives). No one is sure why Jane's family moved to Burgerville, but it's something Ray vows to figure out. Jane immediately connects with Ray and Simon, and both of them fall for her.

As a history buff, Ray insists that Jane learns the history of Burgerville and steps forward to show her the highlights. When Ray's tour begins to take on the feeling of dating, Jane suggests finding Simon a girl friend of his own. Wow! Who would have believed that outcasts like Ray and Simon would be hanging out with girls?

Something is obvious from the start. Jane has issues. Ray is so happy with Jane, he wants to do whatever is possible to make her feel happy, too, but that might be more than anyone can handle.

Author Michael Belanger explores loneliness, love, and loss in THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE. Readers will learn that even when something doesn't last forever, it is still worth the effort.

Monday, August 13, 2018

FADEAWAY by Maura Ellen Stokes

Samantha "Sam" and her best friend Reagan may only be starting their freshman year, but they are going to take the high school basketball team by storm. A powerful pair on the court, they have promised each other that the high school gym will be their stage and they will perform like no others.

After a summer pickup game, Reagan decides to stay and play with a group of guys. Sam reminds her they have already been playing for a while and they should probably head home. Reagan brushes off Sam's warning and heads back to the court. That's the last time Sam sees Reagan alive. A rare, undiagnosed heart condition causes Reagan to collapse in the middle of the game. She never recovers.

Sam's life comes to a screeching halt. She can't imagine continuing on after the loss of her friend. There's no way she can play basketball again. Going to school is torture. It's like half of her is missing. It isn't until she meets a boy dressed all in black who refuses to answer the geometry teacher's questions that things start to look better for Sam.

Author Maura Ellen Stokes's book FADEAWAY explores friendship and loss, and what it takes to keep going even when life seems determined to take everything away. This new release will tug at your heart at the same time it offers hope and recovery.

Friday, August 10, 2018

AWKWARD by Svetlana Chmakova

AWKWARD by Svetlana Chmakova is a fast, fun read with an appropriate message for readers of all ages. Chmakova shows her talent in both story-telling and art in this graphic novel.

Penelope (Peppi) makes an unfortunate mistake on her first day at her new school. Her reaction to an accidental collision with a fellow student is to push him out of the way as she yells, "Leave me alone!" She immediately regrets her action and knows she should apologize, but it seems easier said than done.

Peppi, not the greatest student, finds her science class and the demand of homework more than she can handle. When the science teacher assigns her a tutor, she can't believe it when this tutor turns out to be the boy she shoved.

Other plot twists involve a competitive battle between the art club and the science club, an uncomfortable family situation involving one of Peppi's new friends, and the continued pressure to improve her grades and fit in without being considered a nerd.

The graphic novel format makes AWKWARD an easy read which means its message is accessible to readers no matter their ability level. There are lots of opportunities for discussion which also makes it perfect for classrooms and book clubs.

MY FAMILY DIVIDED: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero with Erica Moroz

My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope
Immigration is a hot issue in politics today. Diane Guerrero, an actor in Orange Is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, and Superior Donuts, shares her story about overcoming the devastation of her parents' deportation.

Diane's parents and her brother arrived in the U.S. from Columbia before she was born. They were searching for a better place to raise their family. Born in the U.S., Diane was automatically a citizen, but her family remained undocumented. Years went by as the family settled in and worked hard to make a home.

During those early years, Diane's father found a lawyer to help him with the complicated process of becoming a citizen. He paid the lawyer monthly payments totaling many thousands of dollars. After Diane's mother was arrested and deported, her father went to check on the progress of his citizenship case only to find the lawyer's office empty. Terrifying times followed ending in the deportation of both of Diane's parents and her brother.

America was home to Diane, and determined to stay, she found help from friends and enrolled in a high school for the arts in Boston. It wasn't easy. Debilitating depression, financial struggles, and missing her parents all threatened to destroy Diane. Through hard work and dedication she is a college graduate and a successful actor involved in the fight to protect immigrants like her parents.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer
It's 1968. Delphine, and her two young sisters, Vonetta and Fern, journey from Brooklyn, NY, to Oakland, California to spend a month with a mother they have never really known.  According to their father, it is time they spend some time Cecile.

The three girls board the plane with varying degrees of excitement. Delphine has vague memories of her mother, Vonetta was just a baby, and Cecile was pregnant with little Fern. All Delphine remembers is watching Cecile leave days after the birth of her third daughter. The story Delphine has always heard was that their father refused to allow Cecile to name the newest baby one of her made-up, imaginary names. She took one last look at her newborn daughter in her crib and left.

The visit to Oakland is quite the adventure. Cecile, a self-described poet, is busy with her art and doesn't have time for the foolishness of taking care of three young girls. During the day, she ships them off to a community center for free breakfast and lunch at a summer school program sponsored by the Black Panthers. Delphine, used to watching over her sisters, takes on the role of mother as she plans activities, cooks supper for all of them, and keeps the peace when her mother is agitated.

Despite her mother's odd and neglectful behavior, Delphine is determined to connect with her and get to know as much as she can about this strange woman. They may not get to visit Disneyland, but they do take memories back to Brooklyn of an independent woman and first hand knowledge of an important time in the history of civil rights.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

PETEY by Ben Mikaelsen

Oh my! How did I miss this brave and wonderful book? It was in my classroom, but I never picked it up, and judging by the sign out card, very few of my students ever took notice of it either. Well, take my advice and get your hands on a copy today! And be sure to share it with a friend.

Petey was born in 1922 in Bozeman, Montana. He was born with cerebral palsy, although the condition was not recognized at the time. After several years of his parents trying to care for him and his siblings, they relented to institutionalizing little Petey. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed as an "idiot" and sent to live in an insane asylum.

No one recognized that nothing was wrong with Petey's mind until he had been at the institution for years. One of the workers final noticed that Petey smiled and reacted to the world around him. Bit by bit with the help of a few of the caregivers and another patient named Calvin, Petey began to communicate on a very basic level.

In his seventies, Petey was finally moved to a local nursing home. A new boy in town came to his rescue one winter day and an unusual friendship began. Despite his physical challenges, Petey remained optimistic and inspired his young friend Trevor to view the world from a new perspective.

Author Ben Mikaelsen's beautifully crafted novel describes a man whose life should have been filled with sadness and despair, but Petey's outlook on life is just the opposite. Touching and inspiring, PETEY is sure to be a classic.

Monday, July 30, 2018

#NEVERAGAIN by David Hogg and Lauren Hogg

#NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line
#NEVERAGAIN puts into words the tragedy of the violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. David Hogg and his sister Lauren share their experiences on the day of the school shooting and the movement they helped start as a result.

These two teens along with others at Stoneman Douglas chose to mobilize through social media as a way to deal with the trauma of that horrible Valentine's Day. David explains how speaking up through interviews and twitter resulted in allowing the teens to bring attention to Parkland in a way that will hopefully have more long-lasting impact than the multiple previous school shootings that seemed to make the news for a few days before they were forgotten.

Crediting many of his teachers and his education at Stoneman Douglas, David discusses how he, his sister, and others learned how to research situations, sort through the facts and the "fake news" to present a message that is difficult for politicians, organizations, and news pundits to twist or ignore. Not willing to settle for the "thoughts and prayers" comments, the #NeverAgain movement promises to be a force that will continue to make a difference.


Holding Up the Universe
Once known as America's Fattest Teen, Libby Strout is working on changing her life. As a result of a panic attack several years earlier, Libby was literally cut out of her house and transported to the hospital. Thus began her weight loss and her eventual return to Martin Van Buren High School, where she is struggling to endure the rude stares of her classmates and the stereotype of being the "fat girl."

Jack Masselin has a much different problem and no one knows of his personal struggles. He suffers with face blindness. Using humor and charm, he has found ways to develop markers for the individuals in his life so he can identify and recognize them. Even his own family members become strangers to him from one meeting to the next.

Libby and Jack find themselves thrust together on a number of occasions and a friendship begins to form. Jack knows about Libby's obvious issues, and she begins to guess Jack has a unique secret. Their relationship takes a number of strange turns, but despite the odds, their friendship begins to deepen.

Fans of Rainbow Rowell's ELEANOR AND PARK are sure to love HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE. Author Jennifer Niven's characters come alive immediately and will leave pieces of themselves behind even after their story concludes.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

TOOK: A GHOST STORY by Mary Downing Hahn

Took: A Ghost Story
The last thing Daniel and his sister, Erica, wanted to do was leave their terrific home in Connecticut, but when their parents basically lost everything, they didn't have a choice. Moving to a remote location in West Virginia changed everything and not for the best.

Daniel and Erica didn't fit in in Woodville. They hated the rundown house in the middle of the woods, and they hated the local kids who did nothing but tease and bully them. Getting used to small town life and spending time alone while their parents worked minimum wage jobs, made life miserable for the entire family. Learning that their new house was the subject of a local legend involving a missing girl the same age as Daniel's little sister, made the eerie woodland surroundings even creepier. The entire family was on edge.

Daniel found out it was easier to just avoid his constantly grumpy parents, but trying to pal around with Erica was just as annoying. One of their hikes in the woods resulted in a quarrel that ended with Daniel leaving Erica to find her own way home. Big mistake! Erica disappeared just like the little girl who lived in their house fifty years before.

Prolific mystery writer Mary Downing Hahn is at her best in TOOK. Suspense, mystery, and supernatural events abound. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they read about Daniel's attempts to find his missing sister and keep the family together.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye
Natalie has wonderful parents, a fun-loving sister, and an eccentric grandmother. She has always known she was adopted. Her parents have shared the difficulties they had conceiving a child and the frustrations of dealing with adoption agencies. When they were approached by a doctor from a small town in Maine, they jumped at the chance to be parents to a baby girl who needed them.

Now Natalie is graduating from high school and will soon be headed off to college where she plans to study medicine and follow in her father's footsteps. Life has been good for Natalie, but there's one problem. She is feeling a bit lost and incomplete. She knows there is more to the story of her birth and adoption, but fearing that her parents will be hurt, she hesitates to ask them for their help.

After an uncomfortable conversation, Natalie discovers that her parents are supportive of her quest. They are hurt that she feels the need to search for her birth parents, but they offer her time and money to follow her dream.

Natalie starts in the small Maine town where she was born. It seems that each door that opens to her is followed by disappointment. Her search is difficult, but her determination is strong.

FIND A STRANGER, SAY GOODBYE by Lois Lowry is a quick read that defines family and the sacrifices made for love. I stumbled across this novel published in 1978 and was surprised to see it was written by Lois Lowry. It definitely stands the test of time and is worth adding to any library or classroom collection that doesn't already have a copy.

Monday, July 23, 2018

PRICE OF DUTY by Todd Strasser

Price of Duty
Jake Liddell is about to receive the Silver Medal of Honor for his heroism in saving his fellow soldiers. After multiple surgeries for his own injuries, he has flown home to a hero's welcome. His family is proud especially his grandfather, a retired general. His town has scheduled numerous events to honor his service.

Jake is questioning the choice he made to enlist. He is remembering the encouraging words of the recruiting official who inspired him with promises of a signing bonus, the frat house brotherhood of living in the barracks, powerful weapons, tanks, and defending freedom for his country. The actual experience of life on the battlefield wasn't anything like what the recruiter promised.

The real truth included fear and pain like nothing Jake could have imagined. He lost friends, watched explosions shatter bodies, witnessed children with AK 47's give their lives to defend their families, and saw the mental torment caused by senseless violence. After learning the truth about serving on the frontlines, can Jake accept his award and complete his tour of duty as expected by his grandfather, or will he open up about what he sees as the dishonest recruitment of countless young men and women?

I recently retired as a middle/high school teacher. Military recruiters were frequent visitors to our high school cafeteria. Dressed in spotless uniforms with colorful posters and pamphlets, they enticed students to sign on the dotted line. Like Jake, I recognize the need for an active military, but at what price do we send our youth to battle? Are we honest about what their duties will include and what lasting effects their acts will carry?

Author Todd Strasser deftly explains one young man's perspective of his life on the front lines. He handles a potentially controversial subject in a manner that will speak to teen readers and adults and inspire in-depth discussions of the topic. PRICE OF DUTY is a must read, especially for any student considering the military as an option after graduation.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


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.