Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Summary: Aristotle and Dante meet for the first time at a public pool in El Paso, where Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. Over the long summer of 1987, the two boys, both loners, become best friends. Dante is confident and free-spirited. Ari, with an older brother in jail and a father emotionally scarred by his time in Vietnam, is more guarded and unsure of his place in the world. Over the course of the next year and a half, the extraordinary relationship between Ari and Dante is tested, first by an accident, then by a separation, and finally by a revelation: Ari is into guys.

After they reunite for another summer, Ari must come to terms with how he has changed in the past year, the secrets about his family’s history and his own uncertainty about his feelings for his best friend. This is a lovely story about what it means to be a friend and what it means to become a man. Ari and Dante will live on in your heart long after you’ve finished turning the pages of this book.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like beautiful, poetic language. Romance fans. Teens who are questioning their place in the world.

If you like this, try this: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Drama

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Title: Drama

Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier

Summary: Callie loves the stage…well, backstage anyway. A proud member of the stage crew, she is thrilled to get the opportunity to design the sets for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. Callie may not be in the spotlight, but she and her friends all have some drama to deal with. Does she still have feelings for Greg? Or does she really like Jesse? Does Jesse like her? Or is he into boys like his twin brother? And how on earth is she going to convince everyone to let her fire a live cannon onstage in the middle of the show?

This delightful graphic novel is great fun for anyone who likes a little bit of innocent drama in their stories. Telgemeier perfectly captures the chaos of stage production and the calm of performance in such a way that you feel like you are right next to Callie as she preps the next scene. The characters are all teens you can root for, whether you are an ‘onstage’ type, a ‘backstage’ type or an ‘offstage’ type. This is a great choice for someone looking some something fast and fun to read.

Who will like this book: Theatrical types of all ages. Readers who like stories with love trianges…or pentagons…or octagons.

If you like this, try this: Dramarama by E. Lockhart, My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluge, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

My Friend Dahmer

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Title: My Friend Dahmer

Author/Illustrator: Derf Backderf

Summary: Jeffrey Dahmer was a notorious serial killer, responsible for the deaths of 17 men and boys. But before he became a monster, he was a kid growing up in the Midwest alongside author/illustrator Derf. This graphic memoir brings the reader into their world and shows how Dahmer’s crimes had as much to do with the people in his life who failed to see to the warning signs as his own troubled psyche. Beginning with their first acquaintance in middle school in the 1970s, the author tracks his evolving acquaintance with the weird, introverted boy who always seemed to be on the outside looking in.

Derf does not excuse Jeff’s horrifying crimes, but he asks the readers to look a little deeper at the circumstances that enabled Dahmer to become a killer. This book is more about how our actions can have consequences beyond our own understanding at the time. Derf also includes a terrific bibliography and information about his research for those interested in learning more about Dahmer and his crimes. This excellent graphic novel deserves to be read. It is not an easy book, but it is one that you will remember.

Who will like this book?: Older, mature readers interested in crime stories and psychology. This book is disturbing and intense – but it is very thought-provoking and memorable.

If you like this, read this: Stitches by David Small. The true crime graphic novels by Rick Geary, including Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy and The Lindbergh Child. Columbine by Dave Cullen.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Summary:  Set in World War II, this story tells the tale of two young women and their harrowing experiences serving their country.  Verity is a secret agent captured by the Gestapo after parachuting into Nazi-occupied France.  She is given two options by her captors: reveal everything she knows about England’s defenses and her mission or face torture and an excruciating death.  Verity believes she will die regardless of her decision, so what she must come to terms with is how much she is willing to reveal.  Given paper and ink, she is tasked with betraying her country, yet what she puts down is so much more.  In her writings, she tells the story of her captivity, her past life and how she became friends with Maddie, the pilot, who flew her into France and subsequently crashed.  Her story is a tribute to friendship, a test of courage, and revealing look at how it feels to face the possibility of one’s own failings.

Who will like this book:  Fans of historical fiction and strong female characters will love this emotionally charged story.  That being said, this is really a book for anyone who appreciates a good story with amazing characters.  Code Name Verity is a book you regretfully close after finishing and recommend to all your friends the next day.

If you like this, try thisThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Where Things Come Back

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Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

Summary: Cullen Witter lives in a sleepy little Lily, Arkansas, where not much ever seems to happen until the summer after his junior year, when everything begins to tailspin. It begins when his cousin overdoses. Later, someone claims to have seen a legendary – and thought-to-be-extinct – woodpecker nearby, causing his whole town to go crazy trying to capitalize on the media frenzy surrounding the bird. Worst of all, his beloved brother Gabriel disappears. Cullen’s heartbreaking summer is contrasted with the story of a young man who returns from a failed mission in Africa, which in turn sets in motion a chain of events that will surprise you.

Cullen is an ordinary guy placed in an extraordinary situation. Not only is he dealing with the usual stresses of growing up – finding and keeping love, dealing with an annoying job and surviving his boring hometown – he has to keep it together as his family and friends deal with the sudden loss of Gabriel. This book, which won the Michael L. Printz award, is mesmerizing and beautiful. It is hard to describe just how very good it is. This is the kind of writing that sticks with you for a long, long time.

Who will like this book?: Mature fans of fiction that is realistic but not ordinary. Adventurous readers who like a touch of mystery. Fans of Sufjan Stevens (his song Chicago inspired the story and the title.)

If you like this, try this: Happyface by Stephen Emond. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony. If you are intrigued by the woodpecker stuff, try The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

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Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Author: A.S. King

Summary:  In an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of her parents, Vera Dietz has spent her life trying to blend in and lead a nondescript existence.   Her childhood best friend, Charlie, is the only one who has gotten close enough to understand her fears and see Vera for herself.  But Charlie betrays Vera, and before things can be resolved dies under rather dark circumstances.  Vera knows more about those circumstances than virtually anyone, but needs to find a way to deal with the painful past before she can move forward to clear Charlie’s name.

Who will like this book?:  This is a gripping story for mature readers that somehow manages to be both dramatic and funny.  Fans of realistic fiction will enjoy stepping into the lives of Vera, Charlie, and Ken (Vera’s Dad) and experiencing the heart-wrenching drama found there. 

If you like this, try this: Paper Towns by John Green and Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Ship Breaker

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Title: Ship Breaker

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Summary: In a bleak future ravaged by the results of global warming, Nailer works as a ship breaker, disassembling the useless oil-dependent freighters that litter the feral Gulf coast where he lives. He dreams of sailing away on one of the sleek, white carbon-fiber sailboats that fly across the oceans, or maybe hitting a Lucky Strike: Finding a hidden pocket of precious oil or a piece of silver or gold hidden in the depths of a ship’s skeleton. He and his crew break their backs night and day to meet their work quotas but they know as soon as they are too big to crawl through a ship’s ductwork, they’ll have to fend for themselves amongst the drug-addled thugs and vicious cutthroats who make surviving life on the shipbreaking beach a bleak proposition. Nailer knows it well: His father is one of those killers, and he never knows if he will be safe in his own shack.

After a city-killer hurricane batters the beach, Nailer and his crew-mate Pima are scavenging for fish when they stumble upon something miraculous: A wrecked white sailing ship. What they find on board will set Nailer off on a high-stakes adventure that will see his fortunes change – or his life end. This Printz-award winner feels like an old-fashioned high seas adventure mixed with a frightening view of what the world could look like when oil supplies run out. It’s a perfect read for people who like fast-paced stories with heart and soul.

Who will like this book?: Fans of gritty, dystopian sci-fi. Readers who like old-fashioned adventure stories.

If you like this, try this: The Carbon Diaries series by Saci Lloyd. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. The Windup Girl, also by Bacigalupi.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian