Nothing

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Title: Nothing

Author: Janne Teller, translated by Martin Aitken

Summary: Seventh-grader Pierre Anthon announces to his classmates on the first day of school that nothing really matters, so nothing is worth doing. He promptly leaves class and climbs a plum tree where he remains indefinitely, every day taunting and raining down insults on his former friends, driving them to outrage and despair with his new philosophy. Something must be done to prove Pierre wrong, narrator Agnes and her peers decide: Life isn’t pointless. Each member of the class decides to sacrifice the thing that means the most to them, creating a “heap of meaning” in an abandoned sawmill in town. And since they are all friends, they all know what things hold the most meaning for each other…

At first the sacrifices are small: A pair of shoes, a fishing rod. But as each classmate raises the stakes on the person who comes after them, the items added to the pile become more personal, more intense, and more gruesome than the last, with devastating consequences that no one can foresee. This Printz-honor book, originally published in Denmark, takes a philosophical idea to a terrifyingly creepy conclusion. A great piece of psychological horror, this might be the most dangerous (in a good way) book I’ve read in a long, long time. 

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are into intense fiction, especially ones that start off slow and build in excitement. Budding existentialists. Anyone interested in psychology, or who just like to have their minds warped. 

If you like this, try this: Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. Godless by Pete Hautman. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Harvey

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Title: Harvey: How I Became Invisible

Author: Herve Bouchard

Illustrator: Janice Nadeau

Summary: This deceptively simple, award-winning graphic novel tells the story of young Harvey, an ordinary kid growing up in Canada with his mother, father, and a kid brother who is much taller than he is. On the first day of spring, which Harvey notices is extra-bright because of the leafless trees and remaining piles of snow, after playing in the streets with their friends, the two boys return home to learn that their father has died suddenly of a heart attack.

Using some wordless panels and simple illustrations, the author and illustrator get right to the core of Harvey’s experience of his father’s disappearance and the subsequent days of mourning when the young boy begins to feel invisible. This is a moving, sincere, and emotionally devastating story that will hit home for anyone who has suffered the grief and sadness of losing someone important in their lives. Readers can only hope that we see Harvey again someday.

Who will like this book?: Anyone who likes books that make them cry. Fans of  realistic stories, and readers looking for stories about grieving.

If you like this, try this: Another stunning story about love, loss, and growing up set in Canada, the Essex County trilogy by Jeff Lemire.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Paper Towns

Title: Paper Towns

Author: John Green

Summary:Every once in a while you read a story that becomes an instant favorite. One so good you can’t stop telling everyone about it. This  is one of those books, which shouldn’t be a surprise, since author John Green’s previous books Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines were also outstanding.

In Paper Towns we meet Q, a smart, nice kid drifting through his last days of high school, and his neighbor, childhood friend, and longstanding crush Margo Roth Spiegelman. When the enigmatic Margo appears at his window on a school night, Q has no idea that he is in store for quite an adventure. And when Margo doesn’t show up at school the next day, he realizes that the story is just beginning. Following clues she left behind, Q and his friends piece together the mystery that is Margo Roth Spiegelman as they also move towards the unknown future. Will their lives be merely paper? Or something more substantial? This is a funny, intelligent, and unforgettable book.

Who will like this book: Anyone. Everyone. If you are looking for a book that will make you laugh almost as much as it makes you think – this is what you’ve been waiting for.

If you like this, try this: Looking for Alaska by John Green. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Getting the Girl by Susan Juby.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Blind Side

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Title: The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game

Author: Michael Lewis

Summary: The game of football changed forever on November 18, 1985. As millions watched on Monday Night Football, Joe Theisman was sacked by Lawrence Taylor, and suffered a career-ending leg fracture. Taylor hit Theisman from the blind side; the quarterback never saw it coming. As a result, team owners and coaches scrambled to find a way to protect the quarterback’s blind side and the position of left tackle was transformed. Once just another interchangeable big man on the line, he is now often the highest paid player on the team. Good left tackles possess a freakish combination of speed and size, and they are very hard to find.

Michael Oher was born to a drug-addicted mother in Memphis. He doesn’t know his father, or even his own birthday. Growing up on the streets, he faced a very difficult future. But opportunities for an education and a career in the NFL all emerge, because at 6’6” with the speed of a basketball player, Oher was born to play left tackle. The Blind Side is more than just a riveting sports book. It makes you wonder: If Lawrence Taylor hadn’t landed that monster hit, would Micheal Oher be starting his senior season at Ole Miss today?

Who will like this book?: Football fans. People who like to read stories about life on the streets and kids who triumph over difficult odds.

If you like this, try this: Moneyball, also by Michael Lewis. Game by Walter Dean Myers.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Repossessed

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Title: Respossessed

Author: A.M. Jenkins

Summary:  Kiriel is getting tired of his thankless job and is in desperate need of a little vacation.  Sound familiar?  The twist is that Kiriel is a fallen angel and his thankless job is reflecting back, rather like a mirror,  all the misery and guilt that tear up and torment souls in hell.  And, Kiriel’s idea of a vacation involves hijacking the body of Shaun, a human just seconds away from being crushed to death by an oncoming car.  Once in Shaun’s body, Kiriel gets a chance to experience what he has only been allowed to observe.  Ketchup, baths, writing utensils, and fruit loops are just a few experiences Kiriel relishes.  But human life is not just about experiencing materialistic pleasures: Kiriel must also deal with the people in Shaun’s life including his divorced mother, isolated and angry little brother, the school bully, and the girl who has secretly been nursing a crush on Shaun. 

Who will like this book?:  Those who appreciate a witty, thought-provoking, fast-paced book.  Through Kiriel’s thoughts and experiences, A.M. Jenkins has created a venue for considering not just human life but the concepts of good versus evil, and the afterlife. 

If you liked this, try this: Night Road by A.M. Jenkins. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke

Recommended by: Jen, Branch Teen Librarian

A Northern Light

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Title: A Northern Light

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Summary: Unlike many girls in the Great North Woods at the turn of the century, Mattie Gokey is gifted: She is a writer so talented she has been offered a full scholarship to Barnard College. But how can she leave? Since her mamma died, it has been Mattie’s job to run the farmhouse and look after her sisters, neighbors and her gruff pa. To earn money for the family, Mattie goes to work at the Glenmore Hotel. One day she is handed a bundle of letters by a guest named Grace, who asks her to burn them. Hours later, Grace’s body is found in the lake, and the boyfriend who took her out rowing is nowhere to be found. As Mattie begins to read the letters and piece together the mystery, she also begins to answer the questions of her own life: Should she stay and marry her gorgeous neighbor Royal, who doesn’t understand her love of books and words, or take her chances in New York and chase her dream of becoming a writer?  

The book is based on a real murder case that was the basis for the classic novel An American Tragedy and the film A Place in the Sun. But it is the fictional Mattie’s struggle to define herself in an era where girls had so few choices and little say in their futures that will linger long after the final page has been turned.

Who will like this book?: People who like fiction based on true stories. Fans of authentic characters with a lot of depth and honesty.

If you like this, try this: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. For another unforgettable, beautifully written historical novel featuring a book-loving heroine, try The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Looking for Alaska

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Title: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Summary: Miles Halter is making a major change in his life: He is leaving his home in Florida to attend a boarding school in Alabama. When he arrives, skinny Miles is nicknamed ‘Pudge’ by his new roommate Chip (aka ‘the Colonel’), who also introduces him to the girl of his dreams. Her name is Alaska. She is smart, gorgeous, and just a little crazy. Miles falls right into their social circle, sneaking drinks, experimenting with girls and pulling pranks on the school’s strict headmaster and snobby students. He also falls hard for Alaska, even though she has a boyfriend away at college.

But finally falling in love doesn’t make life any less complicated, especially when the person you fall for is Alaska. As the book goes from counting the ‘days before’ to the ‘days after,’ you realize something big is going to happen. When it does, Miles has to deal with the devastating aftermath. This Printz Award-winning book will leave you wondering, as Miles does, about ‘The Great Perhaps’ of your own life.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who like realistic fiction. It is a funny book, but it is also quite sophisticated in the way it describes growing up, being a guy, and falling in love.

If you like this, try this: Green’s second novel, An Abundance of Katherines. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. King Dork by Frank Portman.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian