Hidden Talents by David Lubar

HiddenTalents13 year old 8th grader Martin Anderson arrives at Edgeview Alternative School, a locked facility, after being expelled from three schools, a scout troop and a Little League team. Martin is put in a room with Philip, also called Torchie, who keeps having fires start near him even though he claims he doesn’t do anything. Through Torchie Martin meets and becomes friends with Cheater, who’s really smart but gets accused of cheating frequently, always claiming innocence. Other friends include Finch, who’s great at kickball and physically very adept, and Lucky, who gets accused of stealing because he always finds stuff including coins, wallets, etc. Martin recruits a boy called Trash for their group, even though he’s treated as a loner because he’s known to throw stuff all the time. Martin figures out they each have psychic powers and researches at the school library what they are. Together they have to decide what to do with this awareness and their powers.

I especially liked this book because of the author’s attention to developing each of the characters. For readers who get drawn into their stories, the author wrote a sequel calledTrue Talents to find out what happens to them after the ending of Hidden Talents.

Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson

Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Sister WifeSister wife by Hrdlitschka, Shelley

This is told from the point of view of 13 and 14 year old sisters in a plural marriage community called Unity and a teenage girl named Taviana who is brought to Unity by elder Jacob when he found her living on the street. Each girl gives her perspective on life in Unity. When she turns 15 Celeste will be assigned other eternal husband. She keeps having misgivings, due to a mutual crush on Jon, a boy nearer her own age. Although she was more obedient before Taviana came, she is questioning in her mind her faith’s traditions. After her younger sister Nanette happens on Celeste and Jon kissing, she tells their father, who confines her to the house. Jon leaves Unity on his own, knowing he will be told to leave, begging Celeste to come with him. Celeste struggles with her decision whether to stay with the only life she knows or look for freedom to live by her own choice. The author describes how Celeste comes to a path for her life in a completely realistic way consistent with the character she has created. Although fiction, this book gives an understanding into a topic that pops up in the news periodically.

Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

MissPeregrineCoverMiss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs

Everything about this book screams Strange, starting with the title, front and back covers, to its title page and its beginning and layout. The text is interspersed with photographs of unusual people and other occurrences as they are mentioned. 15 year old Jacob has always maintained a special relationship with his grandfather, whose spooky stories about monsters gave Jacob nightmares when he was a child. Even though no one is the family including Jacob believed the tales, after his grandfather dies from a brutal mysterious attack in the woods, Jacob convinces his parents to let him trace his grandfather’s enigmatic last words. Jacob and his father travel to a remote island off Wales, where grandfather was evacuated during World War II after being on a kindertransport from Germany. Tracking down the house where grandfather lived with other children, Jacob finds it in ruins from a German bomb. After returning to the house several times, Jacob chases a mysterious girl through an underground cairn and learns his grandfather’s stories may have had some truth.

Even though I was hesitant at first to read this because of its unusual presentation, I kept reading due to its nomination for the 2015-16 California Young Reader Medal award in the Young Adult category. The story gains power as it continues; I became engrossed in it and am glad I read it to the end. The weaving of fantasy and reality blend seamlessly; the reader can believe this story could be possible!

Review by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

Cashay by Margaret McMullan


Cashay by Margaret McMullan

You try to hold life up & it pushes back. Pushes down, down, down. You do all you can & it still goes wrong. What makes you think you can help me?

Living in the projects in Chicago with her mother and one-year-younger sister Sashay, Cashay helps her sister with homework and keeps them both focused on staying out of trouble. Although she’s very good with math and numbers, Cashay flunked seventh grade on purpose just so she and Sashay could start high school together. Despite all Cashay’s efforts, Sashay is accidentally killed during a drive by shooting. Cashay begins acting out with bad behavior at school and is referred to an after school program that includes anger management and mentoring. When her first mentor, a nun, doesn’t work out, Cashay gets a single white woman stockbroker as a mentor, and against all odds they begin to make a real connection. When Cashay’s mother relapses to using crack cocaine after being clean for three years, life takes on more bleakness than ever. Whether she can manage to find her way through a life that becomes desperate, presents challenges that Cashay must find a way overcome if she is to survive.

This book is short enough that I read it in one day, but the characters and content have so much richness that I went back to the beginning and read it again. Every character became a real person to me and I hoped the author would help each of them find their way in the world. Cashay especially inspired me with the way she tackled her problems, even when she was scared. I am looking forward to reading more of Margaret McMullan’s books.

Reviewed by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

YALSA Official 2015 Teens’ Top Ten

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country.

View a list of the winners with annotations here

  1. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic)
  2.  I Become Shadow by Joe Shine. (Soho Teen)
  3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. (Simon & Schuster)
  4. My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak. (Sourcebooks)
  5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. (Bloomsbury)
  6. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
  7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. (Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  8. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. (Macmillan/ Henry Holt & Company)
  9. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. (Simon & Schuster)
  10. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith. (Hachette/Poppy)

A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

ABAdDayForVoodooA Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

When getting revenge goes bad, it can really…go…BAD! And – WARNING – using a voodoo doll doesn’t seem to help the situation get better.

High school sophomore Tyler Churchill studies hard for a world history test and is sure he aced it, so he’s shocked when Mr. Click, his teacher with a reputation as evil, hands back Tyler’s test marked 0/100 – F at the top. Mr. Click accuses Tyler of cheating and even refuses to give him a chance to retake the test, saying he gives no second chances. Tyler’s best friend Adam comes up with ideas like letting the air out of Mr. Click’s tires, but ends up bringing a voodoo doll of Mr. Click to school. When Adam pushes Tyler to use the doll during class, Tyler puts a pin in the doll’s leg and Mr. Click’s entire leg comes off in the middle of class. Tyler and Adam decide to return the doll, but before they can the TV news announces Mr. Click died at the hospital of a broken neck. When they check the doll its neck is bent backwards. Tyler calls his girl friend Kelley, who is smart and level headed, and the three decide to return the doll together. In each chapter they encounter increasingly dangerous situations, starting with a carjacking and continually getting worse. Somehow Adam had a second voodoo doll of Tyler, who also gets injured when the doll is damaged. Each chapter presents another totally impossible to believe scenario, just when the reader thinks it can’t get any worse. I kept reading just to see what would happen next. This is a good book to read when you think you’re having a bad day, since no day could be as bad as what the characters experience in this book!

Review by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

SweetDeadLifeThe Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

Stoned brother, walking-ghost mother, snake venom poison, and a car crash. The mystery that Jenna’s Dad left behind is all beginning to unravel.

14 year old Jenna’s life has been falling apart since her father left a cryptic note and a coupon for dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant and disappeared 5 years earlier. Jenna’s older brother Casey gets stoned much of the time even though he holds 2 jobs to support the family. Their mother has become a virtual walking ghost, eating almost nothing and taking vitamins her former boss, a doctor, brings over. The worst part is that Jenna herself always feels sick; when she collapses at home Casey drives her to the hospital but they crash along the way. Waking up in emergency, Jenna remembers Casey covered in blood, but he’s there with her, looking all cleaned up. Her mother’s former boss, Dr. Renfroe, is caring for her. An EMT named Amber from the scene of the accident stays with them even after Jenna’s ready to leave, wanting to be sure enough tests are run to find out what’s wrong with Jenna. They learn Jenna is being poisoned with a rare snake venom. Faced with mysteries on top of more mysteries, Jenna, Casey and Amber try to find out what’s going on, even as Jenna faces confusion about puzzling questions she has about Casey and Amber.

This mystery has some supernatural elements that fit perfectly within the plot. This is the first title in what promises to be an intriguing series.

Review by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers