We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

we are the goldens

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Fifteen-year-old Nell has always adored his big sister Layla, but something feels different now that they’re in the same high school.  Since their parents’ divorce years earlier, they have counted on each other for support and grounding.  But now it feels like Layla is keeping secrets, and the rumors about her and the young, hot art teacher start circulating. Reinhardt draws readers in by narrating the story as if Nell were talking directly to her sister.

“You told me they (the rumors) start up again every year before they go wherever it is rumors go to die.  If they were true, you said, Mr. B wouldn’t be working at City Day anymore.”  But it just feels wrong and even Nell’s best friend Felix can’t help her bring back her usual equilibrium.  Eventually Nell will find out Layla’s big secret, and it will give her anything but peace.

I enjoyed the way this book looked at family dynamics.  There are sisters who are sort of best friends, with two families they split their time with–their devoted, single mom and their dad with his second wife. There is the normal push-pull with all three parents and thier teenaged daughters, and it feels natural and honest.   For me, it doesn’t hurt that the setting is San Francisco and Reinhardt does a great job bringing pieces of  The City into the story.  I would recommend this to readers who like realistic, contemporary fiction and fans of Reinhardt’s other books.

 

 

things          harmless

 

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Sabriel series by Garth Nix

sabriel          lirael          abhorsen

Sabriel series by Garth Nix

Sabriel is the first title in a trilogy about a land divided by a wall between Ancelstierre and the land known as The Old Kingdom. This first title centers on Sabriel, a girl about to graduate from her boarding school in Ancelstierre. Sabriel goes on a quest to find Abhorsen, her father, in the Old Kingdom, where magic still rules. Starting at her father’s house with an unusual cat-spirit who served her father, she travels through the Old Kingdom with a young man she has awakened from death. Sabriel learns that she has inherited the role of Abhorsen and must carry on the battle against evil spirits who refuse to stay dead. Garth Nix has created a world with engaging characters in which all the pieces fit together. I admire authors like Nix whose world-building skills are so well-developed that everything makes sense, even in a world that doesn’t exist in reality. I recommend these titles to readers who are always looking for more fantasy, especially with strong female characters.

Lirael 

This sequel to Sabriel tells the story of Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, who has always felt alone and out of place. At the age of 14 she has still not received the Sight, several years older than more Clayr receive it. Assigned to work in the library, she enjoys her work and even begins exploring out of bounds areas. By accident she awakens an evil spirit and must rebind it. In her exploration she finds a path laid out for her years before. As she follows the path she encounters others who join her on her journey. They encounter dead creatures and learn much about their destinies as the adventure continues. This book is loaded with excitement and suspense; I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next!

Abhorsen

In this last installment of the trilogy about Abhorsen, Old Kingdom and magic, Lirael works as part of a team with Sameth and others to defeat the evil necromancer Hedge. Lirael’s companion Disreputable Dog proves valuable in the fight, as they work also to save Sameth’s friend Nick from Hedge. While these characters and names may sound both confusing or intimidating, the plot is so well written that the reader becomes engulfed in the story, as everything in this world makes sense in context. Nix has created an intricate universe, peopled by engaging characters about whom the reader really cares!

I recommend checking out all three books at once if they’re available. Students will be eager to know what happens next at the end of each book!

Reviews by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Terry Pratchett

Rest in  Peace, Terry Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett, the phenomenally imaginative author who created Discworld and wrote about it in more than three dozen books, passed away last week at the too-young-to die-age of 66 years old. He leaves us a rich legacy of  one of a kind characters, a world full of humor and wit and amazing plots that always make sense in the end.

For those of you who have read the titles with Death as a character, you already know that Death’s dialogue was always printed in capital letters. Thus, knowing that, here are Sir Terry’s final tweets:

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Written by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

love letters

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

High school freshman Laurel begins the story of her life since her older sister died as an English assignment.  Write  letter to a dead person.  “She probably meant for us to write to someone like a former president or something, but I need someone I can talk to.  I couldn’t talk to a president.  I can talk to you.”  She writes her first letter to Kurt Cobain because he May had always loved him. He and the rest of the people Laurel writes letters to died young, just like her sister.  She writes about starting high school, not the high school May went to, but the one near her Aunt Amy’s house where she lives part time.  When May died, their mom moved to a ranch in California because she was just too sad.  But,  Laurel wonders, what about me?  Why can’t she stay and take care of me?  Readers learn about Laurel’s life through the letters she writes in her journal–from her new friendships, to the mystery Hottie named Sky, to the truth about what happened to her sister.  Although Laurel introduces her sister to readers as the most beautiful and perfect person, as the book progresses we learn along with Laurel that all human beings are flawed, even those we love the most.

I really liked this book, although want to warn readers that it is really sad.  I found myself spending more time reading just to finish it, so I could move on to something a little less depressing.   Debut author Ava Dellaira does a great job bringing the lives of emotional fragile teens to life, and I’m looking forward to her other books.  I would recommend this to students who like true life stories, Ellen Hopkins’ books and stories about troubled families.

identical          glimpse          looking          mayas notebook

 

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Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

brutal youth

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Although originally written for the adult audience, I’m sure this title will find fans here at Berkeley High.  In an interview on National Public Radio, the author said “It’s kinda like Fight Club meets the Breakfast Club.”  This book describes the freshman year of Peter Davidek at a Catholic high school that’s been allowing its seniors to haze the ninth graders for years. It’s not exactly that they condone it, it’s just that they look at it as a ” ‘fun’ bonding exercise for the newcomers.”  Except that the activities are anything but fun for the underclassmen.  In fact, during Peter’s open house visit at St. Michael’s a long-harassed student everyone called Clink barricaded himself on the roof and began kicking over the statues of saints onto the students in the courtyard below.  On that same day Peter meets two other eighth graders who will struggle through this first horrific year with him– the volatile Noah Stein and the eager-to-please Lorelei Paskal.  In addition to the culture of bullying, the local parish priest is trying to find a way to close down the failing high school in order to hide secrets of his own.

I enjoyed this book and am surprised it’s not being cross- advertised to young adults.  The protagonist is a high school freshman going through the worst hell all eighth graders imagine might be waiting for them.   I think this dark story is a good fit for readers who enjoy the Alexander Gordon Smith Lockdown series and the popular Maze Runner books.  The characters speak more with their actions that any author description, and the action is relentless and often surprising.  I would recommend this for mature readers.

lockdown          maze runner

Click on the book covers for our reviews of these books.

Inhuman by Kat Falls

inhuman

Inhuman by Kat Falls

This title begins a trilogy set in a dystopian future where a mutating virus has turned much of the population into savage zombie-like creatures.  Lane McEvoy lives with her father inside the the walled safe area west of the Mississippi River.  People are forbidden from crossing into the Feral Zone, but sixteen year old Lane rudely discovers that her father is not an art dealer like she though all long, but a “fetch” who smuggles long lost art out of the Feral Zone to sell to wealthy patrons  in the safe area.  But Lane’s always been interested in what might be on the other side of the massive, guarded wall.  When Lane finds out her father has been secretly a fetch all along, she is given the choice of going into the Feral Zone and completing his last job, one for a corrupt government official who is blackmailing her.  She ends up with two co-conspirators, Everson who was a guard on the Wall and the mercenary named Rafe who is comfortable on both sides of the country.

This book is an action-packed adventure full of twists that please readers looking for a fast-paced story.  It will also be great for fans of science fiction or dystopia.  I highly recommend it to teen readers looking for a fast, suspenseful read.

 

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

how to lead

 

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

This unusual story might be the perfect choice for a reader longing for non-stop action.  Although it’s a bit long at 431 pages, the plots twists will keep most readers glued to the pages.  Flick is a streetwise kid who abandoned his purebred New York family to live as a pickpocket on the streets of New York City.  Readers learn that the reason he ditched the military school his father dumped him at is because he knows his old man killed his little brother and consequently caused his mom to commit suicide.  He dreams of revenge and finally finds proof of the deed in the form of Lucien Mandel, the head of the prestigious Mandel Academy who promises him concrete proof of his brother’s murder if he’ll come to the academy and graduate.  The perverted part the the school’s curriculum is that they train the young people to become criminals, with classes like: Assassination Techniques and Waste Management: Polluting for Profit.  When Flick begins to see Mandel for the madman he truly is, the headmaster recruits Flick’s girlfriend into the academy, leading to much competition, confusion and misplaced alliances.

I found this book almost impossible to put down because each plot twist blended right into the next predicament.  Miller is a natural storyteller and has even included some clever appendices as the back, such as the school’s course catalog, a diagram of the school layout, and news articles about the book’s major players.  I would recommend this title to action fans, readers who enjoy Anthony Horowitz books and fans of horror stories.

kiki strike          eternal ones

 

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