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

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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

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

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