Refugee by Alan Gratz

71TYwaGsuIL1930s Nazi Germany, Josef and his Jewish family must flee the country, to escape the madness of Hitler, and the horrors of WWII.
1994 Cuba, Isabel’s family and fellow residents encounter civil unrest, riots, and dictator Castro with hopes for a better future in America.
2015 Syria, the Middle East war rages on, destroying the country, leaving Mahmoud, his parents, and siblings on a dangerous journey to Europe.
This story does not shy away from the atrocities of war, the unconditional sacrifices or the treacherous travel conditions refugees must face. And although this is an immensely important and very current topic, I was unhappy with how the stories jump from one character to another, making it rather difficult to find cohesiveness.
– KC
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Cover Up by John Feinstein

Cover Up

Life is good for Susan Carol Anderson and Steve Thomas.  They are famous all over for solving sports mysteries. But then the Super Bowl comes up and the both get their hands caught in one of the biggest sports scandals ever. Can two 14 year olds really figure this one out or will they run into a brick wall?  Read Cover Up to find out.

-Ben (Teen Reviewer)

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ungifted

Donovan Curtis is a boy who gets into a lot of trouble.  But one day he accidentally  goes over the top.  He winds up in the principal’s office again. But things get mixed up and he’s gets away scot-free.  Then a letter comes in the mail.  It’s something for gifted school.  He goes, but he knows he doesn’t belong. But he does help the gifted kids in different ways.  Will he stay hidden or will it turn into a mess?   If you want a funny read- this is the the book.

– Ben (Teen Reviewer)

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

gym candy

A high school football player who’s up for the challenge- all he wants is to get better.   But he takes it too far…every practice he gives it his all.   He used to be small and scrawny not able to bring power to the game.   But next season it all changes and he’s big and strong. How did this happen so quickly?   The coaches get suspicious.   What will happen next? For an intense thriller read Gym Candy by Carl Dueker.

-Ben (Teen Reviewer)

Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Evil Spy School

Ben Ripley is training to be a spy under the CIA at a special school.  One thing leads to another and he is wrongly kicked out. But later he ends up at an Evil Spy School that trains to thwart the CIA. The Evil Spy School is nice and he actually gets treated well.  However, something feels wrong. Will Ben listen to his heart and save the CIA or will he ignore it and destroy the CIA?  Read Evil Spy School.

-Ben (Teen Reviewer)

Boxers & Saints

boxerssaintscover

Title: Boxers & Saints

Author/Illustrator: Gene Luen Yang

Summary: In this stunning masterwork, Gene Luen Yang tells an epic story across two books about young people facing the devastating consequences of war in 18th century China. Little Bao and Vibiana both live in the idyllic but impoverished rural countryside with families that are facing challenges. Soon, inspired and driven by the hidden magic surrounding them (Bao by the god-kings of Chinese mythology and Vibiana by the legend of Joan of Arc), they each embark on a journey through the rapidly-changing world around them, finding themselves as they endure the upheaval, war and devastation that comes when people with different points of view cannot coexist peacefully. When their paths finally cross, neither will be the same.

It probably doesn’t matter in which order you read these dual narratives, but I’d suggest you start with Boxers. You might not learn too much about this famous colonial-era Rebellion in your history classes, but this story will immerse you in the violent and bloody struggle between those who wished to reject foreign influence in China and others who welcomed it. You will  be moved by both of these young people as they find themselves leading their people towards an unthinkable destiny, each believing they are right.

Who will like this book: Graphic n0vel readers. Fans of historical fiction and stories laced with magic and spirituality.

If you like this, try this: Yang’s Printz-winning work, American Born Chinese. Another fantastic graphic novel with a supernatural element, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol.For another era in Chinese history, take a look at Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. For more on the history of this era, read The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Swagger

swagger

Title: Swagger

Author: Carl Deuker

Summary: Jonas is nervous about moving to Seattle. He was an all-star with a shot at a college scholarship at his old school – will he be able to get on the team and garner the stats he needs to compete at his new one? Before school begins, he meets two important people who will change his life forever: His neighbor Levi, the son of a strict pastor with a simple manner and a good heart who is also a monster on the court and potential future teammate, and Ryan Hartwell, a local guy not much older than them who hangs out at the practice court with a lot of good advice on how to improve their game. Hartwell tells Jonas and Levi that they need to celebrate their swagger on the basketball court and in life – but the collision of these three people will lead to both incredible success and devastating, irreversible damage.

At first this book seems like a simple sports story about teammates and friends. As the pages turn, however, it becomes something deeper, more affecting and ultimately unforgettable. Jonas is a protagonist you will really root for, even as he makes questionable decisions in part of a chain of events that may leave you heartbroken. While it contains sensitive content, Deuker, a master of sports fiction, handles these serious situations without sensationalism and with careful grace. A challenging and rewarding tale that should be read by teens and parents/caregivers together.

Who will like this book?: People who like quick reads. Fans of sports stories that are about more than sports. Readers of intense books about friendship.

If you like this, try this: Boy21 by Matthew Quick. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Crackback by John Coy.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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