Posted in Fantasy/Science Fiction, Michael Printz Award Winner, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction


Title: Scythe

Author: Neil Schusterman

ISBN: 978-1442472426

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 22, 2016)

Age Range: 12 and up


In the future, we know everything. All knowledge is stored in the Thunderhead- all anyone has to do is ask. Death is nonexistent. The world no longer experiences war. To control population growth, some people are ordained as Scythes, who are charged with randomly selecting people for death. Citra and Rowan have been chosen to compete against each other to become the next junior Scythe. As they progress through the program, they quickly realize that all is not as it seems within the Scythdom. The two must decide what they believe in, and make a stand against corruption in a society where corruption supposedly doesn’t exist.

My Impressions:

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a refreshing change of pace from the typical dystopian novels available to youth today. There are so many discussion topics hidden within these pages. This novel with cause readers to THINK- which is not something that all stories can boast these days.  Furthermore, the characters are extremely likable, the plot- thrilling and action packed. Events in the story were not easy to predict, making Scythe an enjoyable read even for adults. Likewise, the main plot was not overwhelmed by teen romance, which is rather refreshing. Yes, it is there, but it never becomes the main plot to the story.  I could not put this book down.  The teacher side of me kept thinking about what a fantastic middle grade read aloud this book would make. Young readers will not be able to get enough of this entrancing future world, and teachers will have a blast inciting moral discussion and debate in their students. I highly recommend this read.


Gr 8 Up—In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.—Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

“Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likeable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Posted in Fantasy/Science Fiction, Michael Printz Award Winner, Module 3, Young Adult Fiction

Module 3: Ship Breaker

Title: Ship Breaker

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

ISBN: 978-0316056199

Publisher: Little Brown & Company


This is an edgy dystopian adventure in which the main currency is salvaged goods. Nailer and his friends must work together to salvage metal from tankers. Nailer discovers just how dangerous it is when he falls into a pit of hidden oil and almost drowns. He learns that he must think carefully about who he can trust, and finds that every decision he makes could change his future.

Bacigalupi, P. (2010). Ship breaker. New York, NY: Little Brown & Company.

My Impressions:

This book wasn’t for me. It was well written, but there was too much dialogue and world building, and not enough plot advancement. I found my mind wandering throughout the dialogue, wondering when something was going to happen. I was mostly unable to relate to the characters-they all seemed kind of gray and flat. I was unable to picture most of the scenes in my head, possibly because I have absolutely no past experience with boating, or working with scrap metal. I was intrigued by the idea, the alternate world that this story offered, and I do think there are a lot of readers who could really get into this one, but I was not one of them. I would recommend this book to readers with a tad bit of background experience in boating, or living out at sea. It would probably make a good recommendation to a male reader interested in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic adventure story Gr. 8-12.

For Use in the Library:

Ship Breaker would probably make a great read for a high school boy’s book group. It’s edgy, and I think it could really appeal to that age group. It could also be a good recommendation for a reader who is looking for a dystopian adventure story.


Teenaged Nailer is living in a dystopian fixture America where climate change and humankind have wreaked havoc on the land and society. Nailer works as a ship breaker, scavenging copper wiring from the insides of abandoned oil tankers being disassembled along the Gulf Coast. A lifealtering, near-death experience—he gets trapped in a chamber filled with oil (“I’m going to drown in goddamn money”)—is just the beginning of Nailer’s adventures as he survives a hurricane and then discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, a rich girl named Nita. Nailer chooses to protect her from harm and help her find her family even though it means leaving hehind the only home—and means of survival—he’s ever known. With Nailer’s menacing and ahusive father, vicious half-men, and a corrupt shipping company all after them. Nailer and Nita journey to the drowned city of Orleans in the hope of rescue. Nebula Award winner Bacigalupi’s debut YA novel vividly depicts a bleak vision: a “whole waterlogged world.. .torn down by the patient work of changing nature.” It is difficult for characters to know who to trust as money and greed separate the haves from the have-nots and dictate loyalty. ‘This thriller will grab and keep readers’ attentions as Nailer and Nita “crew up” in their fight to survive.

Ritter, C. K. (2010). [Review of the book Ship breaker, by P. Bacigalupi]. Horn Book Magazine, 86(4), 98-99. Retrieved from

Posted in Michael Printz Award Winner, Module 3, Young Adult Fiction

Module 3: Midwinterblood

Title: Midwinterblood
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
ISBN: 9781596438002
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press


This is a tale of love and mystery. Sedgwick links seven stories of seven lives together, through a mysterious island housing an even more mysterious flower. In each story, Eric and Merle are someone else, yet always find each other. However on each solstice moon, something inevitably happens to break them apart. In the last story, the story of a king, the mystery unfolds, revealing that upon his sacrifice to the gods, the king vows to his bride that he will come back, living each of his seven lives as someone new. As he takes his last breath, the king asks his bride if she will follow him into his future lives. Years later, when she is old and dying, the bride whispers her promise to follow him, and thus their story begins anew.

Sedgwick, M. (2013). Midwinterblood [Audiobook]. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.

My Impressions:

I picked up the audio version of this title at my local library. It was phenomenal. The story was expertly read, rather edgy, and drew me in from the first page. Sedgwick’s character development was top notch and I became emotionally invested in the main characters’ lives very early on in the story. Furthermore, the plot was so mysterious and intriguing I almost couldn’t stand it. More than once, I was tempted to listen to the end of the story just so that I could figure out the mystery behind the strange flower and bizarre island. Sedgwick kept me guessing until the beginning of the epilogue, which at times made me feel desperate- almost as if I were worried that the story wouldn’t unravel into a tidy conclusion. In the end, all of my waiting paid off, and I was rewarded with a perfect ending to this beautiful, tragic love story. I do think that this title is not for just any reader. To enjoy this book, you must be patient, enjoy the bits and pieces of clues you are given, and trust that everything will work itself out in the end. Overall, I would recommend this title to those patient readers looking for a mysterious love story, and who aren’t afraid of a little blood. It would be a great read for young adults 12-17, but can absolutely be enjoyed by adult readers as well.

For Use in the Library:

Recommend this title to readers looking for an unconventional love story. Or, as a creatice writing assignment, have students create their own story linked together through short stories. Show them similar titles and ask them to analyzing the writing conventions that make each story work.


Seven related stories chronicle life on a remote Scandinavian island, from the future (2073) backwards to the distant past (“time unknown”), gradually revealing Blessed Islands profound dependence on a strange drug and the islands disturbing history of human sacrifice. Each tale centers on two bonded souls-reincarnated variously as family members, lovers, and intergenerational friends-who reunite only to be wrenched apart again. Subtly changing pronunciation to reflect each time period, narrator Rhind-Tutt emphasizes the texts use of shifting language through the reverse progression of centuries. More importantly, Rhind-Tutt ably captures the emotional extremes of this unsettling novel: the uncanny recognition and tender reunion of the protagonists; the desperate fear and violence of their community; and the dark machinations of the island itself. KATIE BIRCHER

Bircher, K. (2014). [Review of the book Midwinterblood by, M. Sedgwick]. The Horn Book Magazine, 90(6), 133. Retrieved from