How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

how it went down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

This ripped from the headlines story details the shooting of the black, sixteen-year-old Tarik Johnson by a white man named Jack Franklin.  The neighborhood is in an uproar, and even the eyewitness disagree about what they saw.  When Franklin is released by the police about claiming self-defense, the community tries to make sense of what really happened, but the truth seems to get more distressing as new accounts of the event come to light.

Magoon discloses the story from varying perspectives: local teens and adults, police logs, a local bodega owner, 911 emergency response call log and more.  Through the multiple points of view, readers are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about “How it went down.”  This story echoes incidents going on across the country without pointing fingers of blame and striving to give real insight into racial relations in the country today.  I commend Magoon for her good writing that makes readers feel that they are in the moment of the incident, while trying to show how urban violence can impact one young man and his community.  I highly recommend this to all teens and fans of urban drama.

37 things          rock and the river          fire in the streets

Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass


Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass


Tessa narrates this novel in verse beginning with the day in gym class when she’s hit in the head during dodge ball and falls to the floor with a major head injury. She watches from above as other students run toward her, some screaming, while the teacher calls for the school nurse. She soars toward what she thinks will be heaven, but instead finds herself in the local mall where both her parents work. Waking briefly from a medically-induced coma in the hospital, she sees a boy who has been with her in the “heaven mall.” Each poem tells an episode in her life, most of which are not at all flattering to her character. As she looks at her life while she’s in the coma, Tessa realizes she has not always made good decisions, and the consequences often had negative  effects on her friends and family.

The reader doesn’t know until the end whether Tessa will live or die, and where her spirit will go if she doesn’t survive. The verse format makes this book easy to read a bit at a time, since each verse is like a separate event, not always in chronological order/  I liked the story especially because the author gives no clues as to how the book will end. This book gives the reader a lot to think about. Even though the narrator is still in her teens, her situation has forced her to reexamine her life.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

dead girls

Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Sixteen-year-old high school student Charlotte remembers being on the subway platform waiting for the F train when she wakes up on a couch in the lobby of the Hotel Attesa. She thinks she must have fainted, but teenagers Nancy, Lorna, Tess & Ed explain to Charlotte that they are all dead, including her. Each of them was murdered; when they find who murdered them they will receive a key to the Big Red Door, through which they will pass to the Other Side. Charlotte narrates the account of their investigation, following her boyfriend and other people at her school. Charlotte suspects the cheerleaders, since they were all jealous of her because her boyfriend is one of the hottest boys in school. Since they can watch and follow everyone without being seen, they uncover some surprises about people at school. Solving Charlotte’s murder becomes urgent when they realize others are also in danger.


I have noticed several books in the last few years that are set in the authors’ imaginations of the afterlife. Each author has different ideas about what happens after death, but the characters in the books I’ve read encounter certain tasks or stations on the way. Could this be the new trend in Young Adult literature?

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This new book combines sports excitement  with a story told in free verse poetry and will be a slam dunk for readers who like either of those two genres.  Josh and Jordan are twins who can rip up the b-ball court, and have always been close.  When Jordan starts dating a girl they call “Miss Sweet Tea,” Josh feels left out the the boys’ closeness begins to fade into memory.  Josh is also a rap artist and starts cultivating his skills there.  “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering.

What I think readers will like about this book is the realistic, fast-paced sports action.  The family interaction feels authentic, with dad being a former pro basketball player and mom and assistant principal.  The book also goes super quickly since it’s written in free verse, making it the perfect choice for that last minute book project.  I would recommend this to sports fans and readers who enjoy family drama.

he said





Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

ten miles

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

This charming title is a perfect choice for a summer beach read or a last minute book review.  At just over 200 pages, it goes quickly and readers will easily fall under the spell of the quirky Janie Gorman.  The the high school freshman aspires to is to be normal, like the rest of the kids, but it seems far from her grasp as she gets on the high school bus at the beginning of the school year with goat poop on her shoe.  “Farm girl strikes again,” Janie thinks to herself as the rest of the bus tries to figure out what the terrible smell is.  In her younger days after a field trip to a goat farm, the nine-year-old Janie had suggested they live on a farm.  Instead of looking at her like she was nuts,  her back-to-nature parents actually bought a small goat farm in the outskirts of their community.   Although Janie loved it as a child, now her mom has become known as a country woman blogger, and the last thing Janie wants is to milk their goats every morning before school and have their family’s personal stuff out there in the blogosphere.

Although this coming-of-age story has many of the typical elements (not fitting in, loss of old friends, potential new friends and hiding out in the library during lunch) writer Dowell gives her first person narrator a smart and slightly sarcastic voice, making the character real and engaging for the readers who will find themselves waiting to see if the tall kid who’s real name is Monster will actually teach her how to play the bass guitar.  I recommend this to teen readers looking for a fast, fun story that isn’t drowning in the usual teen angst.  This book would be a great choice for fans of Jennifer E. Smith’s books.

statistical          geography of you and me


The Lure by Lynne Ewing


The Lure by Lynne Ewing

This quick-reading Urban Drama tells the story of fifteen-year-old Blaise, who lives in the dangerous neighborhood of Washington, DC, where gunshots and gangbanging is the norm rather than what the kids avoid.  Blaise is jumped in to the Core 9 gang, against the advice of her two best guy friends who are already in it.  They know that the leader Trek wants to make her a “lure,” to attract rival gang members to get revenge.  Although Blaise is wary, she can’t resist the power and money that being a lure brings her, but eventually she is forced to face some agonizing decisions.

This book is a decent example of Urban Drama and I think fans will like it.  The narrative is fast, with lots going on and feels fairly realistic.  I would recommend it to fans of the Bluford High series and readers who like Nini Simone and L. Divine books.

party girl          daughters of the moon          culture clash          girl like me

AudioSync – Young Adult Lit for your Earbuds


This wonderful summer program started up today.  Here are the deets:

Here’s their link:  AudioSync

Here’s how they describe the program: SYNC is a program that gives away two complete audiobook downloads — a current Young Adult title paired thematically with a Classic or Required Summer Reading title — each week to listeners ages 13+ while SYNC is in session each summer.  Each set of  audiobooks is only downloadable for one week, but then its yours forever on your device.  This is a great way to keep up with summer reading while you’re on the go, using just your smart phone.  The first time you download a title it can be a little complicated but the website will walk you through the entire process HERE.

Here are the first week’s titles:

Beautiful Creatures          Rebecca     Available: 05/07 – 05/14

They are have a pretty cool blog that describes the week’s titles HERE.

Here is a complete list of books for the summer.  See their website for the dates for each set.

SYNC YA Audiobooks



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