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.

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


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.