All Fall Down
Young Adult / June 22, 2016

Embassy Row #1. Author: Ally Carter. Summary: Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things: 1. She is not crazy. 2. Her mother was murdered. 3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay. As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Grace was an intense, and very interesting, character. She certainly had problems;…

Rites of Passage
Young Adult / June 16, 2016

Author: Joy N. Hensley. Summary: Sam McKenna, daughter of a Colonel and only girl in a military family, has never yet turned down a dare. That’s partly why she’s here now, in the first girl-class at the military academy. Bring it on, boys. She’s ready for the exercise, the orders, and the hardships. She’s ready for prejudice and insults. But she’s not ready for the coldness from her brother, the romance developing between her and her sergeant, and most of all the over-the-top hostility and hints that there’s something more going on behind all the threats and efforts to get her out. Will she make it through in honor of her brother, or will this be the first dare she’s backed out of? My Thoughts: I have problems with large amounts of swearing. That slowed me down. Putting that aside, I thought this would have been a better story without the secret group hiding behind the scenes and trying to get her out. Sure, it ratchets up the tension as they begin to figure things out, but it shifts the conflict. The beginning of the story, where the plot is centered around Sam striving to show her excellence at this…

The Great Gilly Hopkins
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Katherine Patterson. Summary: Watch out world! The Great Gilly Hopkins is looking for a home. She’s a foster kid who’s been angry, lonely, and hurting for so long that’s she’s always ready for a fight. Be on the lookout for her best barracuda smile, the one she saves for well-meaning social workers. Watch out for her most fearful look, a cross between Dracula and Godzilla, used especially to scare shy foster brothers. Don’t be fooled by her “Who me?” expression, guaranteed to trick foster parents, teachers, and anyone who gets in her way. (Goodreads Summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 18 hell, 10 d***, 10 exclamations of ‘God’, 1 bloody. One suggestion of a derogatory term – leaving a blank space in a rhyming lyric. Violence: Character snatches a ball and starts a play-ground scuffle.

Hope Was Here
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Joan Bauer. Summary: When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope’s not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn’t quite ready to give up yet – in fact, he’s decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.’s campaign – particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times… even Hope herself. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: This was a fun, refreshing read. I’ve never read a book before where a character was proud of being a waitress, but it was cool having her professional. Hope Was Here is a straight-forward read about an adolescent girl struggling to hold onto hope through difficult circumstances, and teenagers pulling together to help the community. Content Review: Sexual content: MC’s mother says she doesn’t know who the father was. One kiss. Language: 2 exclamations of ‘God’ Violence: Off-screen, a man is jumped and beaten up – a couple of ribs broken.  

In Real Life
Young Adult / June 16, 2016

Author: Jessica Love. Summary: Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another. There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met. Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him. Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: I’d recommend this if you enjoy drama, angsty romance set in Las…

We Are All Made of Molecules
Young Adult / June 7, 2016

Author: Susin Nielsen. Summary: Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules. My Thoughts: The viewpoints were grating – Ashley may be going through a lot, but that doesn’t completely excuse her being the complete stereotype of the popular mean girl, down to her shallow thoughts and back-stabbing habits. Stewart was more interesting, but seemed much younger than his given age. The book tried to tackle difficult topics, but overall it was a letdown. Content Review: Sexual content: Character threatens to tell school classmates that her friend “stuffs her bra”. Smaller boy in gym class has to strip and shower with other boys, and worries about being teased because…

The Kite Runner
Adult / May 10, 2016

Author: Khaled Hosseini. Summary: Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had. (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: My feelings about this book were complicated; no conclusion formed at the moment. I will say that while at first I strongly disliked the main character, I found it very powerful, disturbing writing, with complex characters and vivid description. Hosseini brings multiple themes into play through the book, including yet not stopping at friendship, betrayal, courage, honesty, and love. It would be hard to appreciate how well he weaves these together into a single heartbreaking story until you’ve read it. Content Review: Sexual content: Soldier implies that he raped a character’s mother. One boy sexually assaults another and…

Saint Anything
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Sydney’s life is tumbling topsy-turvy as she has to move, adjust to a new school, and make new friends, all while dealing with the guilt and trauma left from her brother Peyton being arrested and jailed for hitting a child while drunk driving. The charismatic older one, Peyton has always been the focus of her family’s life – and even now he holds the spotlight of her parents’ attention. But for the first time, Sydney is looking away as she tries to make a life of her own. My Thoughts: Dessen certainly tackles an interesting and lesser known topic, as she considers what it’s like to be related to a juvenile delinquent. For the most part the story was well-written and interesting, with Sydney’s problems and friendships believable and moving, but at times the drama felt overdone. Not every coincidence has to be against the main character. Content Review: Sexual content: An older boy/girl couple are supposed to stay with a teen girl while her parents are away, but only the boy shows up, and makes romantic gestures. At a party, a character sees a girl and boy heading to the back of the house where…

Up to this Pointe
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jennifer Longo. Summary: Harper has been training with her best friend for most of her seventeen years for one day. The day they’ll audition for the San Francisco ballet and be accepted. She’s starved, sacrificed, and worked herself to the bone for this. When things start to fall apart a few weeks before, Harper keeps going… she just has to get past The Day. Now she’s in Antarctica, trying to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly, what she’s going to do about it. My Thoughts: This was a disappointing read for me. First of all, the characters weren’t engaging. I never quite connected with the main character; this may be because her solution to failure is running away to Antarctica. Her best friend is underdeveloped: she seems the perfect dancer, simply to offset Harper. She’s the best dancer at the studio, has a fast metabolism that lets her eat whatever she wants, doesn’t have to work as hard as Harper, etc. The first love interest was actually kind of sweet, being a genuinely nice guy. The second – I won’t spoil it for you, but we have no explanation for certain things, leaving…

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
Young Adult / April 22, 2016

Author: Robin Brande. Summary: Mena’s starting highschool at the worst time of her life. Her old friends all hate her and even her parents are distant and cold – she tried to do the right thing, but everything went wrong and she doesn’t know how to recover from the effects. Things begin looking up in biology class, when she is assigned to a completely capable and rather engaging partner, but some of her old friends from church are in the same class – and when the syllabus moves onto evolution, they’re not going to stand for it. Caught up in her partner’s enthusiasm for their science project, Mena is dragged into an ever deepening whirlpool of lies with her parents so that she can go to his house and work on their project. She must struggle to balance all her old beliefs and the new teaching that sounds so convincing, separate her life cleanly between home and school without slipping up, and walk the gauntlet of her classmates’ hate. My Thoughts: Written in the first-person voice of a teenage girl journaling, the writing was convincing and realistic, if occasionally grating. Mena as a character was also believable and relatable, a…