Swagger

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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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A Death-Struck Year

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Title: A Death-Struck Year

Author: Makiia Lucier

Summary: Cleo Berry, 17 year-old high school senior has already seen her share of heartache. WWI is finally over, but now there is word in her town of Portland, OR that a mysterious plague – the Spanish Flu has infiltrated many of the Eastern cities in the U.S. When the first cases are reported in her hometown, Cleo’s classes are cancelled and she is told to go home and wait it out in the safety of her family.

Instead Cleo volunteers for the Red Cross which provides the journey for the book. Lucier’s Cleo is introspective, unassuming, and often unsure of herself. But when challenged, she makes bold choices which surprise her and propel her life forward. A Death-Struck Year combines the best of YA, historical fiction and even manages some romance in the mix. Lucier’s book is accessible to all ages. There’s enough guts and glory to satisfy those hungry for everyday historical heroines balanced with an easy read and an ultimately happy ending.

Who will like this book?: YA Historical fiction readers, those attracted to the forces of nature, epidemics, and dystopian novels, teen heroine fiction, and coming of age fiction.

If you like this, try this: The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr, Palace of Spies  (Palace of Spies #1) by Sarah Zettel, Black Dove, White Raven by  Elizabeth Wein,  

Recommended by: Philip B. Reference Librarian

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

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Title: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Author: Isabel Quintero

Summary: During her senior year of high school, Gabi Hernandez keeps a diary about the things that are on her mind: friends, her appearance, guys, family, college and the future. Each piece of her life has its own complications and contradictions: Her best friends are dealing with coming out and an unplanned pregnancy. Her dad is in and out of her life due to his meth addiction. And does a Mexican-American girl from a poor neighborhood really have any chance of getting in to college, let alone her top choice school? Gabi finds herself making serious decisions about her life and the person she wants to be, as well as discovering her talents as a writer and artist over the course of an awful, wonderful, unforgettable year.

Don’t let the strange-looking cover fool you  – this is an incredible book and worthy 2017 High School Nutmeg nominee, as well as a Printz Honor winner, for a reason. If the story sounds melodramatic, that’s because it is – but only a bit more so than the life of any teen girl  growing up today. What makes this book extraordinary is its clear-eyed portrayal of the ups and downs that make up an ordinary life. You will be so glad to have spent time observing the world through Gabi’s eyes and will miss her frank, unsentimental voice in your head once the story is done. This is a book that teens and parents should consider reading together – adults could learn quite a bit about what life feels like for young people today.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who like realistic, contemporary fiction. People who like multicultural stories. People who like reading books in diary format.

If you like this, try this: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Yaqui Delgado…by Meg Medina. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Maze Runner

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Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Summary:  Thomas doesn’t remember his parents, his friends, or anything from his past life.  He doesn’t even know how he got in the elevator that is climbing to a place like no other, a place the inhabitants a group of about 60 teenage boys call the Glade.  Once he is pulled from the dark box, Thomas begins to learn about his new home and its occupants the Gladers.  The Gladers suffer from the same memory loss as Thomas and arrived in the same manner.  They live together in the Glade, a large town surrounded by walls that are hundreds of feet high.  The walls form a perfect square around them and each side has the same split opening.  Outside the walls, there is a maze that moves every night. It’s populated with deadly monsters the Gladers call Grievers, but they only come out at night. Fortunately, every night the walls close up protecting the boys. 

Inside the Glade everyone has a job.  Some boys cook, some grow food, some butcher animals, while others tend the sick, but the job Thomas is most interested in is being a runner.  Every day runners venture out into the maze and run through its ever-changing paths memorizing the changes as they go.  Before the walls close, each runner must make it back to the glades and sketch out the new pattern of the walls.  The job of a runner is dangerous but vital because the Gladers believe that the answer to escaping the Glade lies somewhere out in the maze. 
 
The Gladers have had a pretty routine life with the walls opening every morning and closing every night.  They have come to expect that every 30 days a new boy will be delivered in the elevator.  However, the day after Thomas arrives the routine is dramatically broken.  The elevator arrives with a girl.  Before passing out, she delivers the ominous message “Everything is going to change.” With her arrival, Thomas begins to feel different.  Something tells him that he and the girl can somehow provide the solution to the maze.  A solution that Thomas will have to go to great and dangerous lengths to retrieve from his memory. 

Who will like this?:  Fans of dystopian fiction will fly through this tense thriller.

If you like this, try this:  The follow-up to this book, The Scorch Trials. The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Princess of the Midnight Ball

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Title: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Author:  Jessica Day George

Summary:  After twelve years of war, the country Westfalin has finally managed a victory.  It’s a grim victory with the country deeply in debt to her allies and many soldiers lost.  As the King attempts to raise the spirits of his countrymen, a palace mystery begins to create more strife for the entire country.  It has been discovered that every third night the King’s twelve daughters disappear for hours and return exhausted with worn out dancing slippers.  Unbeknownst to all,  the princesses have been cursed to travel deep into the earth and dance with the King Under Stone’s twelve sons .  Cursed so that they are unable to speak about the forced midnight balls, the princesses must continue to dance through exhaustion and illness. 

In hopes of winning the hand of one of the princesses, princes from neighboring countries travel to Westfalin to try to solve the mystery.  All who try meet with failure and the future for the princesses looks bleak as they are now forced to dance every night.  But then a brave young soldier, Galen, comes to town and starts work in the king’s garden.  There he meets the eldest princess, Rose, and is moved to action by her misery.  Armed with an invisibility cloak, enchanted silver knitting needles, and a little magically assistance Galen attempts to solve the mystery and break the curse that holds the princesses enslaved. 

Who will like this book?  Fans of fairy tales and romantic adventures.

If you like this, try this:  Beastly by Alex Flinn, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate Dicamillo, Zel by Donna Jo Napoli, Beauty by Robin McKinley, and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President

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Title: I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President

Author: Josh Lieb

Summary:  Can you imagine what it must be like to be the third richest person in the world?  Oliver Watson owns land in all fifty states and most of the capitalist countries in the world.  He owns investment banks, baseball teams, mines, plantations, a movie studio, two television networks, and three newspaper syndicates.   He is powerful enough to instigate the overthrow of a dictator of an African nation for personal reasons having nothing to do with setting the world right. 

Oliver Watson is exactly what the title of this book states – an evil genius – he is also a seventh grade middle school student.  He has used his intelligence to create a fortune.  He’s also used that same intelligence and fortune to rig his middle school up to cater to his every desire from a secret root beer dispensing button on the water fountain and a heated bus seat to the development of a secret chemical, Lazopril.   When released on a person Lazopril saps all hostility from them and gives them sudden intense flatulence.  Oliver even has three secret bodyguards within the school, so secret, in fact, that even Oliver isn’t sure of their exact identities.  

You may wonder the reason behind the necessity of Lazopril and bodyguards.  Why would anyone tease or bully the biggest evil genius in the world?  That question is best answered by looking to Oliver’s assumed alter ego, the dumbest kid in the whole school.  Oliver’s act is so perfect that it is going to take some work to get him elected as the 8th grade class president.  Why does the greatest evil genius in the world want to be class president?  For that answer you will have to read the book.

Who will like this?:  Anyone who has a bit of a wicked sense of humor  and those who are ready to graduate from the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series.  Oliver has the same air of superiority coupled with a dose of condescension for his peers, but unlike Greg Heffley. Oliver actually has the brains to back it up. 

If you like this, try this: Evil Genius series by Catherine Jinks,  N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society series by Michael Buckley, and H.I.V.E. : Higher Institute of Villainous Education series by Mark Walden

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Pop

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Title: Pop

Author:  Gordon Korman

Summary:  In the dead of summer, Marcus is uprooted by his mother and moved to the small town of Kennesaw.   The one saving grace of the move is that Marcus will have the chance to try-out for the championship winning Raiders, the local high school football team.  With dreams of making it on the team, Marcus heads to the local park every day to practice his quarterbacking skills.   One day during his solitary practice, Marcus meets an older man, Charlie, who behaves a bit bizarrely but is the best football player Marcus has ever seen.  Charlie teaches him to embrace the “pop” that comes from a good tackle and how to pull off some amazing pranks. 

It isn’t until school starts that Marcus learns his new practice friend is Charlie Popovich or “The King of Pop” as he was nicknamed during his career as an NFL linebacker.  Unfortunately, by that time Marcus has already clashed heads with the starting quarterback of the Raiders and son of Charlie, Troy Popovich.  Troy wants Marcus to stay away from his Dad, his team, and his ex-girlfriend Alyssa.  Marcus fights for his position on the team and keeps practicing with Charlie.  But Marcus has figured out there is a secret about Charlie that his family is desperate to hide.  Marcus wants to help his friend, but is he willing to risk everything to do it?

Who will like this?:  While football is prominently featured in this story, a love of the game or even an understanding of it, isn’t necessary for enjoyment of the story.  It is the characters of Marcus and Charlie that are truly the center of this story.   There are serious issues presented in this book, but Korman injects some humor into the story. 

If you like this, try this: Anything else by Gordon Korman or Mike Lupica

Recommended by:  Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian