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 Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

ISBN: 978-0062498533

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray

Age Range: 15 and up


Staar Carter’s life changes forever when her best friend is murdered in front of her when she is ten. Fast forward a few years, and Staar tragically witnesses the murder of her friend Kahlil by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The media quickly gets wind of the fact that Kahlil was unarmed, and the case gains national attention. Staar struggles with her desire to hide from the spotlight, and the need to speak out for justice. Ultimately, she must decide which is more important- her life returning to normal, or fighting for equality in an age of social injustice.

My Impressions:

I could not put this novel down. I even bought the audio book to supplement my print copy so that I could listen in the car. Staar Carter is a character that all teenagers can relate to, regardless of race. Her story compels the reader to stop and think about the world today, and the overflowing evidence of the social injustices surrounding minorities, especially African Americans, in the United States today. The plot is beyond engaging. and heartbreakingly real. Every reader (15 and up) should give this one a read. It will jump start your brain, and make you dream of a better future. Note: There is some content that may not be appropriate for all readers. Though it is all handled tastefully, there is a considerable amount of violence and gang/drug references throughout this novel. Consider reading it with your child, as there are many excellent discussion points along the way.


“Angie Thomas has written a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time.” (John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars)

“Though Thomas’s story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are depicted—and completely undervalued—by society at large.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Pair this powerful debut with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s ALL AMERICAN BOYS to start a conversation on racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

Posted in Module 8, Mystery, Young Adult Fiction

Module 8: The Book of Blood and Shadow

Title: The Book of Blood and Shadow

Author: Robin Wasserman

ISBN: 978-0-375-87277-8

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books


When Nora’s brother dies in a car accident, she cosoles herself by losing herself in her hobby- Latin translation. Nora receives a scholarship to a private school, where she can receive specialized instruction in Latin her senior year, and she surrounds herself with new friends who know nothing about her family’s past. When Nora’s professor asks her to translate a collection of old, and seemingly useless letters, she grudgingly takes on the task. But Nora soon discovers that the letters contain the key to a mystery that scholars have sought to uncover for centuries. Upon her discovery, Nora’s best friend is mysteriously murdered in his home, and the only witness has no memory of the event. Nora embarks on a quest to discover the truth behind the letters, and the mysterious book they are connected to. She finds herself in Prague, investigating the history behind the Voynicht manuscript, and it’s connection to a powerful alchemical machine with the power to allow its user to connect with God. Nora soon finds that she can’t trust anyone around her, as she comes closer and closer to the truth of the machine. She is captured by religious fanatics who are intent on using her blood to power the machine. Nora must fight, and find the inner strength to cope with the betrayal she faces upon discovering that her boyfriend is at the heart of the fanatic mob.

Wasserman, R. (2013). The book of blood and shadow. United States: Random House Children’s Books.

My Impressions:

This is a worthy addition to the young adult mystery genre. Nora is a lovable character to which the reader will instantly relate. She has a sassy, almost sarcastic  voice, and tells her story in a very compelling manor. The plot is engaging, and leaves the reader desperate to begin the next chapter. It is quite complex, and delivers juicy twists and turns throughout. There was quite a bit of Latin throughout the book, but it is almost always translated into English. The story feels like it gets a little tedious and long in the second half of the book, but that is by no means a deal breaker with this one. Despite the length, readers will be anxious to finish this one, and discover the secret behind the Lumen Dei.

For Use in the Library:

Recommend this text to a reader who is interested in languages. The main character’s love of language is obvious, and will likely be inspiring to young readers. Nora is easy to relate to, and will make the study of language seem mysterious and exciting.


When high school senior Nora is assigned to translate Elizabeth Weston’s Latin letters of the 1590s rather than decode the mysterious, medieval Voynich manuscript for a research project, at first she’s insulted. Then she realizes that the letters offer a vital key to the design of the Lumen Dei, an ancient alchemical device intended to give man limitless knowledge and communion with God. When her best friend and fellow researcher is murdered and her new boyfriend disappears, Nora’s caught up in an ancient competition between two secret societies whose race to build the Lumen Dei first began in Renaissance Prague—and who will kill to find out what Nora knows. As Nora searches for her vanished boyfriend throughout Prague, she becomes ever more mired in deception, double deception, murder, and theological conflict. This is a thorough mixture of contemporary American adolescence, the sixteenth-century occult, and atmospheric, historical substance, all dished up with a convoluted plot in Da Vinci Code mode. An afterword describes the historical basis of the real Voynich manuscript and sixteenth-century poet Elizabeth Weston. deirdre f. baker

Baker, D. (2012). [Review of the book The book of blood and shadow, by R. Wasserman]. Horn Book Magazine, 88(2), 122-123. Retrieved from

Posted in Module 4, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Module 4: Fangirl

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

ISBN: 978-1-250-03095-5

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press



This story follows Cath, a slightly nerdy fan fiction writer just starting her freshman year of college. She is a twin, but her counterpart seems to not want anything to do with her, and requests to live in separate dorm rooms on the opposites sides of campus. Cath finds herself awkwardly trying to survive her first semester, all while losing herself in writing fan fiction. Her room mate seems to hate her, and Levi, who Cath thinks is her room mate’s boyfriend, spends more time than her room mate does in their dorm room. reagan and Levi take pity on Cath, and demand that she let them get her out of the room once in a while. Cath slowly adapts, and becomes friends with the couple, not knowing that the boy is not her room mate’s boyfriend at all. He spends so much time in her dorm room because he like her, and is doing all that he can to show her. Meanwhile, Cath’s twin is out of control and her dad is struggling at home without them. In the end, Cath realizes that Levi is interested in her and she opens up enough to begin a relationship with him. She reconciles with her sister, and helps her father find strength and peace within himself.

Rowell, R. (2013). Fangirl. United States: St. Martin’s Press.



I liked almost everything about this book. For one, I was able to utterly lose myself in the story. I related to the main character extremely well, and was able to escape to her world completely. Secondly, the story had such an engaging and believable plot. Cath goes through what all of us go through as a freshman. And deals with her problems in the only way she can, by writing fan fiction. I found myself cheering Cath on, and even yelling at my book when she fails to connect with Levi. This story gives the reader a delicious taste of what it means to be a fangirl trying to figure out how to grow up and still stay true to herself. I did get a little frustrated with the length of the “fan fiction” sections. I felt like Rowell could have made the same impression with shorter sections. I cared more about Cath’s personal story than I did about the characters she wrote in her fan fiction. I was emotionally invested in her story, not theirs. I found myself wanting to skim through those sections to get to another juicy advancement in the plot. Overall, this is a delightful read. I recommend it to readers 15-adult (gr. 9 and up).

For Use in the Library:

This is a great title to display prominently on your “must reads” shelf. The cover is eye catching and well designed. It will catch any reader’s attention and cause them to ask more about it. This book is fantastic, and easy to talk up once the display has caught a reader’s interest.


Horn Book Magazine
( November 08, 2013; )
College freshman Cather Avery is resistant to big life changes such as moving away from home and leaving her childhood behind. With identical twin sister Wren eager for more independence, Cath holes up in her dorm room, writing on her own the fanfiction they used to create together about the Harry Potteresque Simon Snow books: It felt goodto get lost in the World of Mages and stay lostThis was why Cath wrote fic. For these hours when their world supplanted the real world. But as Caths first year progresses, she is continually pushed outside her comfort zone: by her snarky roommate, Reagan; by Levi, Reagans ex-boyfriend with the smiles and floppy hair (and eventually Caths first love interest); by her fiction-writing professor; by her manic but well-meaning father; and even by her estranged mother. While the fanfiction and first-love story lines are important, this is first and foremost Caths coming-of-age story. She is a teenager overcoming numerous insecurities and learning to balance family and school responsibilities with her writing and romantic interests in order to discover what truly matters in her life. As she did in Eleanor Park (rev. 5/13), Rowell creates a refined narrative style that transitions seamlessly between Caths strong interior voice and clever dialogue to fully develop Caths complex personality. Between chapters, Rowell incorporates scenes from both the Simon Snow series and Caths fanfiction, further connecting readers to Caths literature-centric world. This sophisticated novel from a talented writer will captivate nerds, romantics, and book lovers alike. cynthia k. ritter (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Ritter, C. K. (2013). [Review of the book Fangirl by, R. Rowell]. Horn Book Magazine, 89(6), 105-106. Retrieved from

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

Posted in Module 3, Pura Belpre Award Winner, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Module 3: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Title: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Author: Meg Medina

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5859-5

Publisher: Candlewick Press



Piddy Sanchez is in trouble. Her mother recently moved them out of their old crumbling apartment, which means Piddy has to change schools mid-year. Worse, she soon finds out that the wrong girl hates her- Yaqui Delgado. The problem is, Piddy doesn’t even know what Yaqui looks like. Not that it matters to Yaqui. Piddy soon finds herself the victim of a malicious gang of girls, and must do what she can to protect herself. Piddy dons a hard mask, begins skipping school, and becomes a girl her own family doesn’t recognize. She swears she is never going back to school again. When a concerned classmate reports Piddy’s problem to the counselor, she at last gains the confidence to speak up to the adults in her life. In the end, Piddy has to learn what is important, and decide what kind of person she wants to be. She decides to be someone she is proud of, someone not afraid to dance to her own rhythm.

Medina, M. (2013). Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

My Impressions:

I recently went looking for this title at Half Priced Books. I couldn’t find it on the shelf, so I decided to try my luck asking a very knowledgeable looking clerk shelving books. When I told him that I was looking for a young adult book by this title, he asked, “Are you sure this is young adult with THAT in the title?” I assured him that it was, and that it even won the Pura Belpre Award. Needless to say, we were not able to locate this title in the store, but I soon found it at my local library, in the young adult section. Well- I loved it. In fact, it might be my favorite book I have read thus far this summer. Piddy Sanchez’s story was captivating, to say the least. Told in first person point of view, this title follows the thoughts and fears of a Cuban American teenager, who is having trouble with the other girls at her new school. I’m normally not fond of reading young adult titles written in first person, however this one was an exception. Piddy’s conversational style of storytelling added humor to the text, and made the story seem much more realistic than it would have otherwise.  The problems that Piddy faces throughout the story are problems that every teenager will relate to, and connect with. Teenage girls will find it especially powerful, and culturally diverse teenage girls even more so. This is a high-low book, meaning it is of high interest to teenage readers, but has a low enough level of vocabulary that struggling readers can read it independently. There is some content that could be inappropriate for younger readers. I highly recommend this title to readers 14 and up.

For Use in the Library:

This is an excellent high-low title to recommend to a reluctant reader, or a teenager who is struggling socially at school.


School Library Journal
( April 01, 2013; 9780763658595 )
Gr 7 Up-Piedad Sanchez moved at the beginning of her sophomore year, and a few weeks into classes at her new school a girl comes up to say that “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” As a first line, it sets the focus for Piddy, who has always had friends, gotten good grades, and managed quite well in her old school. There’s no real reason for the enmity, but the threat is more than real and begins to permeate Piddy’s life. Gradually readers see that her mother’s best friend, who works at a hair salon and has been her support, is the only adult who even has a clue about what is going on. The Queens, New York, neighborhood is solidly Hispanic and the language reflects the culture. Piddy does a downward spiral as the torment gets increasingly worse. The school reaction and the dilemma she faces are realistically portrayed. Yaqui can get to her in and out of school, and she is vulnerable to being terrorized by a whole group of Yaqui supporters. The way that the abuse and threats impact Piddy to try to become a bad girl herself is logically presented. The plight of a pair of abandoned kittens parallels her own loneliness and loss. The Latino cultural milieu adds a richness and texture that lifts this up above many problem novels. The plot points are dexterously intertwined, and the characters are distinct. A real bonus for those looking for a bullying book for older readers that is not simplistic.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Edwards, C. A. (2013). [Review of the book Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass, by M. Medina]. School Library Journal, 59(4), 168. Retrieved from