Love and Other Theories

Love & Other Theories

Alexis Bass

HarperTeen, imprint of HarperCollins 2015

376 pp.     $17.99

Love/Friendship, Relationships/High School Culture

ISBN 978-0-06-227532-5

 

Aubrey, Shelby, Danica, and Melissa—last-semester seniors—survive high school relationships unscathed because they create the “theories.”  They understand how to leave, not be left; not to demand or expect; to give less if they want more. They hold the power, feeling superior to female peers and to high school guys of no depth or commitment.  Until this semester, Aubrey focused on school over relationships and having a “life.” Holding an acceptance to Barron University frees her to join the party scene with her best friends.  Enter newcomer Nathan Diggs; will the “theories” protect Aubrey and her friendships?

 

On the surface, Love & Other Theories presents self-centered, arrogant, and risky young women.  Are the “theories” solely for their benefit?  Is their cruelty to others who don’t “get” the theories justified? Bass creates in Aubrey a complex narrator who raises valid questions, but often fails to see beyond her needs. 

 

Reviewed by Mary Warner

San José State University

San Jose, CA

The Mermaid's Sister

The Mermaid’s Sister

Carrie Anne Noble

Skyscape 2015   

252 pp.   $9.99

Fiction

ISBN 9781477820889

 

Sixteen-year-old Clara has lived her life dreading the day her sister, Maren, completes her mermaid transition. Maren has always felt an overwhelming interest in the ocean, while Clara wishes for a cure. Both adopted, Clara wonders what her heritage could force her to become. Carrie Anne Noble’s The Mermaid’s Sister begins with the caution that “wishing gets you nothing.” Clara constantly reminds herself of this as she wishes for things out of her reach. As Maren’s transition begins to accelerate, Clara and their lifetime family friend, O’Neill, realize Maren must be returned to the ocean or face death. As they set out on an adventure of a lifetime with their pet dragon and a slowly shrinking Maren, they must not only overcome love-struck mermaid followers and those who would abuse Maren’s condition but also come to the realization that wishing–and hope–give you far more than nothing.

 

Reviewed by Allanah Osborn

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

On the Edge

On the Edge

Allison Van Diepen

HarperTeen, imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 2014

294 pp.   $17.99

Teen Romance

ISBN 987-0-06-230344-8

 

Maddie Diaz can’t wait to graduate high school and leave her lower-class neighborhood to attend college. But one night everything changes when Maddie witnesses two members of the local gang, Los Reyes, beating up a homeless man, and she calls the cops. With a fresh target on her back, Maddie is scared for her safety, until she meets Lobo, the head of a rival gang, who promises to protect her. As Maddie spends time with Lobo and his gang, the Destinos, she learns their goal is to rescue girls who are victims of human trafficking at the hands of Los Reyes, and she can’t help falling for Lobo. This novel is moving, with a message that penetrates the heart of the reader, plus the Latino flavor throughout is incredibly refreshing. Teens will relate to the characters in this book who make the most out of the situations life throws their way.

 

Reviewed by Kelly Rogers

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

The Only Game

The Only Game

Mike Lupica

Simon & Schuster 2015

310 pp.  $16.99

Fiction-Baseball-Middle Grades

ISBN 978-1-4814-0995-7

 

Well-known sports writer Mike Lupica ventures again into young adult literature with this middle-grades book about an exceptional player who is sidelined by personal tragedy.  Lupica brings the character of Jack Callahan to life as the “best seventh grader in town, the best pitcher, and the best shortstop when he wasn’t pitching.”

 

Faced with the death of his brother, Jack quits the team, and the novel traces his steps through the healing process and toward returning to his life and moving forward.  Key to his maturation and development are his friendships with Cassie, a star softball player, and Teddy, an overweight boy who is the subject of harassment by the other students.

 

The novel wraps the issue of grief in the comfortable cloak of baseball and presents a highly readable and engaging story that will certainly benefit students who are in similar situations or need to support others who are dealing with loss.

 

Reviewed by Todd Goodson

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS

Promise of Shadows

Promise of Shadows

Justina Ireland

Simon & Schuster 2014

371 pp.  $11.99

Mythology/Murder

ISBN 978-1-4424-4465-2

 

Zephyr Mourning and her friend Cass are in hell.  They’re shoveling mud back and forth in Tartarus, part of the underworld.  Zepher, a harpy, is accused of being a godslayer by Hera, who wants her dead.  There is a prophecy of Nix, who will fight and restore order.  But many questions emerge: Will Zephyr accept the mantle placed upon her?  Can she trust Cass?  Can she find the shade of her deceased sister?  How will she pass from the underworld to the mortal realm?  And will she find romance with a childhood friend?

 

The themes of Greek mythology, romance, friendship, adventure, family problems, and drama are sure to appeal to young adults.

 

Reviewed by Kaylyn Keating

Fort Riley Middle School

Fort Riley, KS

Ravencliffe

Ravencliffe

Carol Goodman

Viking Juvenile 2014

432 pp.    $17.99

Fantasy, Historical Fiction

ISBN 978-0-670-78477-6

 

Carol Goodman’s Ravencliffe continues the adventure of Avaline Hall, a student of the Order being trained to hunt intruding magical creatures. As half-darkling, Avaline is dreading the day the Order discovers her secret so she seeks refuge with a darkling named Raven. Despite the risk, the evil Judicus van Drood is out for revenge against the Order. Ava knows that only through working with the darklings will they be able to defeat him, but she is afraid of revealing her secret in the process.

 

Goodman’s novel explains the power self-doubt holds as it hangs like a dark cloud and shadows the truth. To defeat the shadow master van Drood, the girls of the Order must first see past their doubts using love and honesty. Ravencliffe is about looking past the lies and the misunderstanding and discovering truth. It raises the question: What would you risk for those you love?

 

Reviewed by Allanah Osborn

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

 

 

The Second Guard

The Second Guard

J.D. Vaughn

Disney Hyperion 2015

432 pp.   $16.99

Fantasy

ISBN 978-1-4231-9037-0

 

In the realm of Tequende, all second born at the age of 15 must leave to serve the queen. Talimendra, or Tali, reports to join the second guard. During her training, she meets friends who will join her in finding the truth to a rumor that could ruin everything. She must look deep into her evidence to discover the truth. The search will bring her to know more about the realm and the different guilds.

 

The Second Guard is an enchanting tale about adolescents transitioning into adulthood. The book captivates by continually pulling the reader deeper into the culture of the realm of Tequende, including the excerpts of history about the realm that provide for a deeper understanding. Vaughn reveals each character slowly, which allows readers to uncover each character’s background and his or her importance to the story at the reader’s own pace. It’s an engaging read for all readers.

 

Reviewed by Miranda Koehn

Student of Gretchen Schwarz

Baylor University

Waco, TX

Seekers: Return to the Wild #5: The Burning Horizon

Seekers: Return to the Wild #5: The Burning Horizon

Erin Hunter

HarperCollins 2015

304 pp.   $13.35

Fable/Animals  

ISBN 978-0061996467

 

Toklo, Lusa, Kallik and Yakone are back in this fifth installment of the Seekers: Return to the Wild series. These bear friends are traveling to Great Bear Lake for the Longest Day to find their own place to call home. With a dramatic mix of unfortunate circumstances and amusing predicaments, these bears run into a plethora of obstacles along the way, each more harrowing than the last. However, nothing can tear apart the friendship of these four. Every bad thing that happens brings them closer together and makes them more aware of the fact that at the end of their journey, all of them will have to go their separate ways. Hunter does a phenomenal job of demonstrating the power of friendship and how important it is to have good friends to lean on in hard times.

Reviewed by Sarah Hrncir

Student of Gretchen Schwarz

Baylor University

Waco, TX

Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight

Sharon M. Draper

HB: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2015

320 pp.   $16.99

Historical/Cultural Fiction

ISBN 978-1-4424-9497-8

 

“Nine robed figures dressed all in white.” With this powerful first sentence, on a dark night in 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, readers crouch behind a tree with 11-year-old Stella and her brother JoJo as they witness the reemergence of the KKK. Not all of the white citizens agree with segregation, and many are opposed to their treachery. Still, tensions escalate in the small community. Young Stella loves going to school but notices the inequities between her school and the school for white children. Then a friend gives her a worn-out typewriter, and Stella dreams of becoming a journalist and writing the truth. When Stella’s papa joins a handful of others who decide to vote, family and friends prepare for inevitable consequences. This story, inspired by the diary of the author’s grandmother, brings us to the very heart of racial injustice in the early Depression years.

 

Reviewed by Vicki Sherbert

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS

 

Tragedy at the Triangle

Tragedy at the Triangle

Mary Kate Doman

History Press 2015

58 pp.    $14.99

Historical Fiction

ISBN 978-1-62619-645.2

 

The story of Cecelia, a Catholic immigrant, is a sweet little story. Events test the strength of the human spirit and friendship during a time of isolation as her family faces difficulty in a foreign land. This short book also draws the reader’s attention to the value of friendship and the necessity of acceptance of all people. Based on actual events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, this book quickly grabs your attention as you are immersed in the New York City tenements of 1911. The ability to see past differences allows Cecelia and her new Jewish friend Rose to create a life-saving bond that defies all odds.

 

The reality of the girl’s situation makes a short, easy read and an emotional experience, as the themes of friendship and sacrifice are seen through the eyes of children, prematurely forced into a world of necessity.

 

Reviewed by Zach Posey

Student of Gretchen Schwarz

Baylor University

Waco, TX

Vicious

Vicious

Sara Shepard

HarperCollins 2014

338 pp.   $17.99

Realistic/Mystery

ISBN 978-0-06-228704-5

 

For Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily, Rosewood, Pennsylvania, has always been home, but it hasn’t always been safe. In the past couple of years, these four girls have faced death, been accused of murder, and fought their enemy, “A,” for longer than they care to remember. Vicious, the thrilling series finale, finally gives answers to a long awaited question: Will the Pretty Little Liars ever find peace?

 

With a possible prison sentence looming, the Liars not only question life as it is but what their future holds. The four friends must muster the last remaining strength within them and slowly begin to find themselves. This novel is one that makes readers ask the question: How do you know who you really are? Young readers must decide, along with the Liars, how they will choose to define themselves. Perhaps we are defined by our experiences; perhaps it is so much more.

 

Reviewed by Branda Greening

Student of Gretchen Schwarz

Baylor University

Waco, TX

Watch the Sky

Watch the Sky

Kirsten Hubbard

Disney Hyperion 2015

262 pp.  $16.99

Realistic Problem Novel

ISBN 978-1-4847-0833-0

 

Jory has more to worry about than the average 6th grader. The signs are everywhere; Jory never knows when his stepfather, Caleb, will explain. He only knoews he is afraid. Jory loves his mom, his “sister” Kit, who appeared in the field one day, and his baby brother. But he is wary of everyone else; Caleb says you can never trust anyone outside the family. Caleb has many demands, like having everyone wear combat boots, which makes Jory different when he goes to the public school. In time, Jory makes new friends and likes school. However, ultimately, he has to decide whether to trust Caleb or choose his own way.

Not only suspenseful but thought provoking, this novel does not target any group of “survivalists.” Caleb clearly suffers from PTSD, but he is not an evil man. However, unspecified fear can ruin lives, an important idea in these fearful times.

 

Reviewed by Gretchen Schwarz

Baylor University

Waco, TX

Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink

Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink

Gail Carson Levine

HB: Harper 2015

295 pp.  $16.99

Reference—Fiction Writing Advice for Teens

ISBN 978-0-06-227530-1

 

In her second book on writing, Levine draws on material from her writers’ advice blog and addresses questions about fiction writing posed by her followers. According to Levine, "There's a lot to say about writing stories. A lot, because people tell stories constantly. We are forever shaping what happens to us into anecdotes and sometimes into grand sagas" (4). In a conversational tone to teen readers and fellow writers, Levine dedicates sections to developing characters, creating an engaging plot, crafting strong story aspects, and explaining some of the underpinnings of writing—such as tenses and word choice—as well as addressing aspects of poetry and blogging.

 

Throughout her book, Levine provides excerpts from stories and poetry to explain concepts. At chapter endings, readers are also given writing prompts to help them practice writing elements, which is always followed by Levine’s mantra—“Have fun, and save what you write!”

 

Reviewed by Amanda D. Lickteig

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS

Zodiac

Zodiac

Romina Russell

HB: Penguin Group 2014

319 pp.   $17.99

Fiction—Astrology/Drama

ISBN 978-1-59514740-0

 

Set in the distant future, humanity inhabits a galaxy where Guardians—who represent the 12 different Zodiac Houses—are sworn to protect and rule their people by reading the stars and predicting danger. However, a 16-year-old student from House Cancer, Rhoma Grace has her life turned upside down when an attack on Cancer’s moon disrupts her ocean planet and kills thousands, including Cancer’s Guardian. Rho is then named her House’s new leader. 

 

Now called Mother Rho by her people, she—and her advisor, Lodestar Mathias, along with Hysan, a young diplomat from House Libra—must travel the galaxy and warn the Guardians about the imminent attacks Rho has predicted in the stars. Rho suspects Ochus, the exiled Guardian of the 13th Zodiac, to be responsible for the attacks, but everyone just tells Rho he is a children’s legend. How can she gain their trust and unite the divided galaxy?

 

Reviewed by Amanda D. Lickteig

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS