Chainani S. (2013). The School for Good and Evil. NY: HarperCollins.
What if all the fairy tale villains and heroes that we all love and hate come from one place? And what if that place was a school where the heroes and villains trained to be good or bad and where they learned chivalry and hexes. What if that place was called The School for Good and Evil? Sophie and Agatha are best friends. Sophie is the ‘princess,’ pretty, kind, energetic, and beautiful. Agatha is the hag, the witch’s daughter, ugly, and sour. They live in a village where every year two children are kidnapped. One is a good person that everybody loves and the other is the ugly, unlikeable person that nobody likes. And every year the village receives new fairy tale picture books that sometimes have characters inside that look uncannily similar to children kidnapped years ago. So when it’s Sophie’s and Agatha’s year to potentially be kidnapped, Sophie is sure that she’ll be put into the School for Good and Agatha will be put into the School for Evil. Sure enough, one dark night Sophie and Agatha get kidnapped. But somethings strange happens, Continue reading
Stone, N. (2017). Dear Martin. NY: Crown Books.
Powerful and poignant, this story is written about one young man’s struggle with race in Atlanta, Georgia. Following closely on the heels of the publication of The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin also tackles contemporary confrontations between young, black man and white policemen.
Malinda L. (2017). A Line in the Dark. NY: Dutton Books for Young Readers.
A fun, contemporary mystery, this one is a psychological thriller. You may not be sure where this mystery is leading, and you may be quite surprised at the ending! A Line in the Dark has a love triangle between three young women. Jess, the main character, is crazy in love with her best friend, Angie. The admiration seems a bit one sided to start with, and then Angie begins a relationship with Margot.
Margot attends prep school where she and her friend, Ryan, usher them into their private school world and the secrets that hide there. It’s revealed that Angie and Ryan have a secret of their own that may turn the entire mystery.
Slater, CD. (2017). The 57 Bus. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The 57 Bus reads along like a fictional story. You meet characters, learn about their lives, and begin to root for these teens because they’re all good kids. But one wrong, spur of the moment decision, and now this story has become tragedy of sorts. The setting is Oakland, California, where there is a huge disparity of wealth, but it’s also one of the more progressively-minded cities in the States. As the city bus criss-crossed different pockets of Oakland, two teen-agers overlapped paths on their ride home from school everyday for a short eight minutes. Robert and his buddies are black and are from a crime-ridden neighbourhood; Sasha is white, attends a private school, and identifies as agender – neither male nor female. Fooling around, the teens egg on Robert to light the edge of Sasha’s skirt on fire as he sleeps. The material catches on the fourth try. Robert and his friends jump off the bus and turn around to the see the doors closing and Sacha’s skirt erupting in a ball of flames. They ended up with second and third degree burns.
The 57 Bus is a true story. The author elaborates on her 2015 New York Times Magazine article, compiling a book full of interviews, social media posts, Continue reading
Gervais, A. (2017). In 27 Days. NY: Blink.
Hadley Jamison has grown accustomed to being on her own. Her big time lawyer parents are revered in New York City, their time all too often occupied with work. She has a few good friends at her prep school, but when a student’s suicide is announced, Hadley’s sense of loneliness is heightened and it affects Hadley profoundly. Deciding to go to Archer Morales funeral ends up being a decision that changes her life – and many lives. She meets Death himself and signs a contract to go back in time, 27 days, to the first day Archer considered suicide in hopes of changing history. Of course, there are complications …
The characters feel real, even Death. Devouring the book only made me sad to finish. I’ll definitely be including this one in my book talks at high schools (#librarian life)!
Thomas, A. (2017). The Hate U Give. New York: HarperCollins Publisher.
Inspired by the movement #BlackLivesMatter, The Hate U Give is an incredibly relevant and heartbreaking account of a sixteen year old girl who witnesses the killing of her childhood best friend at the hands of the police. Everyday Starr leaves her own neighbourhood where her family owns the corner store, to attend private school in an affluent neighbourhood. Up until this point, Starr had done fairly good job of keeping her two worlds separate –dating someone at school who is white, while still being very much a part of her own community, until now. Even though Khalid was unarmed and innocent at the time of his murder, the press makes him out to be a thug.
The Hate U Give (or THUG) will inevitably spark discussion on race. It reminded me a lot of All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely because both books deal with witnessing a police killing of an innocent young black man and grappling with the decision to come forward as a witness, or not speaking up out of fear. Continue reading
Werlin, N. (2017). And Then There Were Four. New York: Penguin Random House.
Five prep school kids are tossed together under mysterious circumstances. When one is murdered, they begin talking and piecing together what they know about their families, and a terrifying idea surfaces. What if they are all targets? The premise is classically entertaining, mimicking Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, when a group of strangers are assembled on a remote island only to be murdered one by one.
The chapters alternate between two of the five friends, Saralinda and Caleb, she speaking in the present tense, he in the past for some reason, but both pushing forward the pace of the story. Nancy Werlin knows how to create complex characters whose voices captivate us. We become swept up into the mystery as they go on the run from their cloistered, island-esqe school to an actual island, Fire Island in New York. Here there are no cars, only dirt paths through tall grass, and little Continue reading
Lockhart, E. (2008). The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. New York: Hyperion Book CH.
National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2008)
Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2009)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart, showcases Frankie, our highly intelligent heroine, who arrives as the new kid at private school her father used to attend, where he participated in a super secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. The esteemed society intrigues Frankie to no end and she suspects her new boyfriend, Matthew Livingston, of not only belonging but also being president. Frankie has quickly raised her social status by dating Matthew, who is wildly popular and good looking, but their relationship is nowhere near perfect. Matthew is arrogant, secretive and he transparently puts his friends’ needs above Frankie’s.
Frankie longs to make her mark, and becomes quietly outraged that girls have historically been excluded from the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. She’s disappointed that the boys seem only interested in partying and their reputations, and she determinedly sets off to figure out the club’s oldest, forgotten secret. Frankie’s sleuthing around at night and single handedly pulling off extreme, brilliant pranks around campus are the really fun parts of the book. However, the true strength of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the straightforward and interesting manner E. Lockart presents issues of power, gender, and risk taking.