Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: One Crazy Summer

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Publisher: Amistad    Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0060760908

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild Selection, Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Themes / Subjects: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prejudice & Racism, Family Life, Travel & Culture, African American, Black Panther Party, 20th century issues, Civil Rights Movement

Plot Summary:

It’s the summer of 1968 and sisters, 11-year-old Delphine, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern embark on an adventure that takes them from Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California to meet the mother that abandoned them many years ago. The girls have no idea what to expect, but they certainly didn’t expect to participate in a day camp run by members of the Black Panther Party. Cecile Johnson, their mother, “mammal birth giver,” is secretive about her work behind the closed kitchen doors and wants nothing to do with them. Set during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, One Crazy Summer explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of children.

My Take:

I actually walked away from this book with a better knowledge of the civil rights movement and Black Panther Party. The reader sees the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister. Although she is just 11 going on 12, Delphine is extremely wise for her age and carries the added weight of being responsible for her sisters. I love how conscious she is of the differences between blacks and whites, yet she doesn’t allow her views or opinions to be mandated by others especially the Black Panther party.

Throughout the book, I kept hoping for Cecile Johnson to change and finally become the mother the little girls so desperately wanted/needed. However, through Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, and Fern’s journey I grew to feel sorry for Cecile and had a better understanding of her relationship with her children (or lack of one). This book is both excellent for teens and adults because the impact of that summer continues to affect us today.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Title: Gym Candy

Author: Carl Deuker

Publisher: Perfection Learning          Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1606863763

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, High School, Family Life, Sports, Health – Steroids, Friendships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker http://goanimate.com/videos/0vXZkYLbVR68

My Take:

I am not a football person at all. When I was in high school marching band and had to go to all the football games, I would hide books in my uniform and read when I wasn’t playing. I watch the Super Bowl every year and even then I fast forward during the game to watch the commercials and half time show. Did I mention I strongly dislike football?

With that said and off my chest, I loved this book! All the football jargon confused me a little bit but honestly it wasn’t overwhelming. The best part was getting to see the darker side of sports. I’ve always heard about professional athletes using steroids on the news and never thought that it would begin as young as freshman in high school. This book in no way encourages the use of steroids and really goes to great length and detail to show just how screwed up Mick’s life became all because he wanted to be the best. Parents who push their children to be star athletes need to read this because I don’t think they realize the consequences their actions can have on their kids. And all kids whether they are pressured to be the best or not should read this book because it will cause them to think twice about trying any sort of drugs.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars … while I can’t say it has turned me on to being a football fan, this book has caused me to really examine the pressures we put our young athletes under.

Similar read: Boost by Kathryn Mackel. Whereas Deuker explores the use of steroids in male athlets, Mackel takes the readers into the girls locker room for a change.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Square Fish           Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0312674397

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Outcast, High School, Relationships, Social Situations, Art

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My Take:

It’s pretty obvious within the first couple of pages what happened at the party so right away the suspense that captured my attention from the back of the book is gone. The book has a long, drawn out story which is interesting, yet all of a sudden everything is A-Ok at the end. I don’t think so. If she really did experience that terrible thing from the party, I hardly doubt that just by speaking everything is going to be better. That might be the step to recovery but it most definitely does not make everything right.

What I did like about the book is how it is divided by school semesters and the report card so you can see how her grades are being affected. This book is easily relatable to any teenager who is or may have been a social outcast. The occurrences throughout the book could happen to anyone these days which further helps the reader’s mind perceive what is going on. I do think there is an important message to be taken away from this book which is why I would recommend it to teens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars … I didn’t hate or love the book which is why I stand in the middle

Similar read: Monster by Walter Dean Meyers

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Holes by Louis Sachar

Title: Holes

Author: Louis Sachar

Publisher: Yearling Books   Year: 2000 edition

ISBN-13: 978-9990833089

Genre: Fiction

Age: 10 and up

Awards: 1998 New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year and the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the 1999 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Fiction and the 1999 Newbery Medal.

Themes / Subjects: Adventure, Boys, Teens, Camp, Juvenile delinquents, Friendship, Social Situations, Family Life, Survival

Plot Summary:

Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

And so, it would seem that Stanley would be serving an easy sentence for a crime that he had not committed. Yet fate has other things in store for Stanley. Camp Green Lake is not the kind of camp that you look forward to going to during the summer. In the heart of Texas, Camp Green Lake is a bizarre, other worldly place without a lake and absolutely nothing green, although it once boasted to have held “the largest lake in Texas.”

Every day the warden makes the boys “build character” by digging holes five feet deep and five feet wide. Soon Stanley realizes there is more to the character building than simply digging holes but that the warden is actually looking for something lost a long time ago and it isn’t long before Stanley begins to do some searching of his own – for the truth.

My Take:

First off, how cool would it be to have a first name that was your last name backwards and to have that name passed down for generations? It’s pretty neat once you get past the confusing part of understanding what I just said.

Holes is an action filled story full of characters with strong voices, funny scenes and tons of twists and turns that will keep any reader engaged from cover to cover. This is an excellent read for young boys because the characters are so relatable. The beginning is a bit depressing with its bleak descriptions yet the ending is definitely worth the emotional journey. One of my favorite things about this book is how Sachar is able to interweave characters and stories throughout the main story. There were many times I felt myself having an “Oh my gosh!” moment and rushing off to share what I had just read. A good read for in the classroom or book clubs.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and definitely check out the movie (after you have read the book of course!)

 

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Drought by Pam Bachorz

Title: Drought

Author: Pam Bachorz

Publisher: EgmontUSA         Year: 2011

ISBN -13: 978-1606840160

Age: 12 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Young Adult, Slavery, Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cult, Dystopian, Social Drama, Forbidden Romance, Friendship, Family, Coming of Age

Summary:

For the past 200 years, Ruby and the Congregation have been enslaved by Darwin West and forced to collect “blessed” water for a mysterious visitor. Brutally beaten and starved, the Congregation waits and endures for their savior, Otto to arrive and deliver them from their hell. Few people know that the secret to the water is Ruby’s blood which gives it healing and life-sustaining properties. When Ruby falls in love with an overseer she is greatly conflicted with the desire to escape oppression and live in the modern world, and the obligation to endure and sustain with the Congregation.

My Take:

BORING! Not only did the Congregants have to wait and endure until Otto arrived, but I spent the whole book waiting and enduring a poor storyline for something to happen. This book just seemed to drag on and on with very little action and not enough description. Based on how this book ended, I have a very bad feeling that Pam Bachorz is planning on releasing a sequel, gosh I hope not. Although, maybe it will be one of those rare cases where the sequel is actually better than the original but I doubt it. I guess we’ll just have to wait some more to find out. There just wasn’t enough information and back story to truly understand the Congregants plight. And what little action there was lasted no more than a couple pages.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars … I didn’t absolutely hate the book and the concept of it is interesting, I was just so bored.

Similar Read: I’m not sure what to recommend because I would hate for it to be another dud.

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Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen

Title: Notes from the Dog

Author: Gary Paulsen

Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition               Year: 2011

ISBN – 13: 978-0375855429

Age: 12 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Young Adult, Neighbors, Self-Confidence, Animals – Dogs, Health, Friendship, Family Life, Entrepreneur

Plot Summary:

Finn is a fourteen-year-old loner who lives with his dad and best friend Dylan … who happens to be his dog. Finn is terrified of meeting people and finds conversations to be painful which is why this summer he has “planned, in fact, to speak to fewer than a dozen people over the entire summer” (p.14). Then he meets his pretty new neighbor, 24-year-old Johanna, a cancer survivor with a passion for life. With his only true friend Matthew, Finn learns to love and take care of Johanna both emotionally and physically and while doing so begins to change in big ways himself.

My Take:

Gary Paulsen is a celebrated young adult/children’s author whose book Hatchet is a part of our school district’s fifth grade curriculum, so I knew that his latest book was bound to be good and it didn’t disappoint.

The characters in this book were so well developed that as I read, I felt like I truly knew them. Finn is a major introvert at the beginning of the book and your heart just breaks because of his insecurities. Yet, as you learn more about him you begin to realize he is very wise for his age. The whole book I was rooting for him to come out of his shell and for his endeavors to be successful.

I did expect there to be more to the notes from the dog, but Paulsen seemed content to let Finn tuck them away in a special place and let the reader ponder over what the notes meant. I was a little disappointed with the ending but only because I wanted there to be more to it. Still, I couldn’t help closing the book with a smile on my face and thinking “that was nice.”

Our fifth grade teachers are looking to update their reading curriculum and I would highly recommend adding this book to their list. It deals with the difficult topic of breast cancer, loners, and dysfunctional families with such grace and tenderness that as a reader you become more involved with the characters and not so much the negative things they are going through.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars … this is such a wonderful, heart-warming story

Similar Read: Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

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The Shadowland by Meg Cabot (Mediator Series Book 1)

Title: Shadowland The Mediator Series Bk.1

Author: Meg Cabot

Publisher: HarperTeen           Year: 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0060725112

Genre: Fiction

Age: 13 and up

Awards: ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Themes / Subjects: Ghosts, Fantasy, Romance, Relationships, high school, mediator

Plot Summary:

Suze is a high school sophomore, who, in her own words has “this unfortunate ability to communicate with the dead.” She’s a mediator which means she is responsible for helping ghosts solve unresolved issues so they can move on to the next world. As important as Suze’s role is, it is one that she has always resented. At sixteen, she just wants to be a normal teenage girl, worried about clothes and boys, not dead people To make matters worse, her mom has remarried and is moving them from New York City and clear across the country to northern California. With a new stepdad who’s pretty cool, and three stepbrothers who turn out to be a pain, Suze hopes this move to California will be a positive change. At least she thought that until she meets Heather, the angry ghost of a girl who committed suicide over Christmas break and wants revenge on her ex-boyfriend.

My Take:

Meg Cabot is one of my all-time favorite authors so I was really surprised I hadn’t heard about this book until a student suggested I read it. This has now become one of my favorite YA series! Every day I would look forward to seeing this particular student and would greedily beg for the next book in the series.

This is a fast paced novel, chock full of sarcasm and ghost busting action! The book immediately begins with action and just continues to get better. Things really pick up when Suze realizes she is stuck sharing a room with the ghost of a young boy named Jesse. Swoon! He sounds really dreamy (kinda weird since he is dead) and it’s hilarious how much he aggravates Suze. Heather (angry, evil spirit) is absolutely crazy and truly believes that Suze is trying to take over her life and place at the high school.

You will find yourself constantly laughing in the most random of places and breezing through this book with no problem. If you are a fan of the paranormal, romance, and sarcastically funny protagonists, then this is a book for you!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! All teen girls should READ THIS BOOK!

Similar read: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White … Evie considers herself a normal teenage girl even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency.

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Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Title: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Publisher: Scholastic Press    Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0545116749

Genre: Non-Fiction

Age: 8 and up (according to the publisher)

Themes / Subjects: Shipwrecks, Titanic (Steamship), North Atlantic Ocean, History

Plot Summary:

The voices and stories of real TITANIC survivors and witnesses to the disaster are weaved together in a heart stopping action, nail biting drama filled with fascinating historical details, archival photographs on nearly every page and quotes from primary sources. Hopkinson’s book follows the stories of nine-year-old Frankie Goldsmith; Violet Jessop, a young stewardess; Jack Thayer, an American high school senior; Colonel Archibald Gracie, a well-to-do gentleman; William Murdoch, a brave seaman; Charlotte Collyer, a young mother on her way to start a new life; and many others.

My Take:

We recently put this book into our library system and with the recent re-release of James Cameron’s Titanic (the movie) and upcoming anniversary of the event, I thought it would be an interesting read.

Deborah Hopkinson’s style of writing is very similar to James Swanson (I just reviewed his book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer below) in that she takes factual information and weaves it into a historical retelling of that fateful night. It is absolutely heart-wrenching to read first-hand accounts of families having to make the most difficult decisions of their lives. When the women and children boarded the life boats, little did they know that they would never see their husbands/fathers again. This book really made me think about how I would have reacted had I been on the Titanic.

The publisher of this book suggests kids ages 8 and up to read the book, but because of the chilling nature I would suggest at least 12 years old. I seriously had nightmares where I was stuck on a sinking ship, had the potential to be rescued but was told I couldn’t bring my babies. On a happier note, this book is a wealth of information and I learned a lot about the Titanic in a non-boring way.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I just could not put this book down! I would be reading until the wee hours of the morning and fall asleep with the book on my chest. Then when I would wake up in the morning I would be rushing off (usually late) to work because I tried to squeeze in just one more chapter, or two, or three …

Similar read: Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson … I am seriously looking forward to reading more nonfiction books by Deborah Hopkinson and James Swanson.

Just for fun: The release of this book was actually planned to coincide with the 100th anniversay of the sinking of the Titanic!

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Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Title: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

Author: James L. Swanson

Publisher: Scholastic Press    Year: 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0545204705

Genre: Non-Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: YALSA Best Book for Young Adults

Themes / Subjects: Biography, memoir, president, Abraham Lincoln, education & reference, American history, John Wilkes Booth, Civil War, manhunt,

Plot Summary:

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer is an account of Lincoln’s assassination and the 12-day manhunt for his killer, the famous (now infamous) actor John Wilkes Booth. Although nonfiction, this book will read like a historical thriller, as Swanson uses dialogue and text from original sources adding to the authenticity and chilliness of the story. The sentences are short and the chapters condensed yet full of excellent black and white illustrations to compliment the text.

My Take:

Usually when tweens/teens hear the word nonfiction they automatically think boring books about facts. I used to think that too and relied only on the nonfiction section for research. So when student after student suggested I read James Swanson’s book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer I did so reluctantly.

This is how learning about history should be! Swanson is an absolute magician when it comes to weaving together pieces of history and testimony to recreate the manhunt for the infamous John Wilkes Booth beginning with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and ending with Booth’s capture twelve days later. I love history and thought I knew everything about Lincoln’s assassination but this book proved there was still so much more to learn. Swanson at times goes into gruesome, in-depth detail which only serves to captivate the reader and motivate them to keep reading. I was absolutely blown away to learn how many people helped Booth escape and the number of close calls he had with getting caught. My favorite part was seeing pictures and reproductions of all the conspirators, locations, and newspapers/cartoons surrounding this event in history.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. The reason I can’t give this book a full five stars, is that many times I felt like I was rereading certain pages. The author can be a bit repetitive at the beginning of the book but by the end I was more focused on John Wilkes Booth then whether or not I had already read a certain piece of information.

Similar read: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Press      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0385737951

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2011

Themes / Subjects: dystopian society, young adult, fantasy adventure, science fiction, relationships

Plot Summary:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name everything else is a complete blank. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them open and every night they are closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Take:

If you are looking for a great series to read after finishing Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games Trilogy then this is exactly what you are looking for.

From the very beginning and until the finish, author James Dashner provides barely enough information to answer the questions that form in the reader’s mind but what information he gives does promote one to keep reading. I found myself reading the book in one sitting because I just had to know what was going on and how the story was going to end.

I felt the characters weren’t as well developed as they could have been. Teresa is an extremely important character yet she is just so flat. Thomas was a bit of a disappointment as well and his character really doesn’t develop until almost the end of the book. On the other hand certain secondary characters were so deeply created that they at times had a larger impact on me than the main character.

By the end of the book I was wondering, what was the point of all that? The characters themselves don’t understand why they were put through the horrors they were and one can only hope this is because the author will develop the story I the next two books. The reason I liked this book was because the suspense kept me intrigued. I just had to know why the boys were in the maze and how they were going to escape. I just with it had been more thought provoking and detailed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … The plot seemed to drag which dragged out the suspense and not always in a good way. Still a great read.

Similar read: Divergent by Veronica Roth

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