Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

yaqui delgado

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Tenth grader Piddy Sanchez doesn’t think is can get much worse.  She’s been moved out of her childhood house in Queens New York to a “better” apartment, losing her best friend Mitzi, her familiar surroundings, and the high school she had settled into with friends and activities.  Until today.  “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass,” she’s told by a girl she hardly knows. Huh?  When she investigates with the office student aide she does sort of know, she’s told that Yaqui was suspended twice last year for fighting, and thinks Piddy acts stuck up and shakes her booty too much when she walks.  “Interesting,” she thinks to herself.  “I’ve only had an ass for about six months, and now it seems to have a mind of it’s own.”  Told in the first person perspective, this story of escalating bullying feels urgent and realistic.  Piddy finds out that she’s not safe anywhere when Yaqui and her friends jump her on her walk home and post the fight on the internet.  Her grades start going down and Piddy has to figure out how to survive–become tough just like Yaqui or run away from her problems.

This book is a fast and compelling read that deals with lots of universal teenage issues: having a single parent and wondering about one’s real dad, starting a new school, being harassed by a bully, and knowing how to reach out for help without being a “snitch.”  I think readers will be caught up in Piddy’s life immediately, and will identify with the problems the teen faces.  I recommend this title to all teen readers, especially fans of Sharon Draper.


When I Was Joe by Keren David

when      almost

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Fourteen year old Ty recounts to police a murder he witnessed in a park committed almost by accident by his best friend, Arron. Another older boy pushes the victim on to Arron’s knife. Ty runs for help, stopping a bus to call for an ambulance, while everyone else runs away. Ty doesn’t know one of the boys is the son of a crime boss who is determined to prevent Ty from testifying. After hours with the police Ty and his mother are taken back to their apartment to pack some clothes; while they’re there someone throws a gasoline bomb into the shop right below them.. The police hustle them out the back as the building is on fire. After they spend two weeks in a motel a police specialist changes their appearances with haircuts, new hair colors and colored contact lenses before they’re moved to their new home, 50 miles from London where they lived. Ty enrolls in a new school under the name Joe with a younger age and grade. As Ty/Joe settles in to his new school, his mother struggles with her isolation, missing family and friends, and wants to stop her son from testifying. When the criminals beat up Ty’s grandmother in an attempt to stop his testimony, Ty realizes how serious his situation is. At the same time he is dealing with a bully at his new school.

A sequel to this book, Almost true, continues the story of how Ty, his mother and family deal with the decisions they have to make. While Ty, in the witness protection program, waits to testify about a murder he witnessed, he comes back to police cars at his home and a pool of blood at his front door. He learns his family is safe but hitmen shot a man they thought was Ty. When Ty’s aunt starts believing the police can’t protect him anymore, she makes him move to live with people she knows out in the country. Even as Ty adjusts to a new living situation he still has to go to court several times to testify. Without giving any of the plot away, I can say these two books present teenager readers with some ethical dilemmas to consider.


Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

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.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

grasshopper jungle

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Everything makes sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba horny.  His girlfriend Shann.  Thinking about his best friend Robby’s hot mom.  Considering getting drunk for the first time on the bottles of wine they found on the roof of the local liquor store.  Even his buddy Robby.  As Austin tells the readers his “history,” he weaves in tales about his Polish relatives, trying to show how the past connects to the present, sort of like an absurd historian who smokes too much weed.  But for the most part, Austin is stone sober and life is incredibly dull in his small Iowa town.   That is until the unstoppable killer praying mantises start trying to take over the world!   Through a strange series of weirdly connected circumstances, the DNA for the “Unstoppable Soldiers,” as Austin calls the six-feet tall insect-like  killing machines, gets out of its container and begins to create the bizarre strain of mercenaries.  Because everything is interconnected for Austin, his girlfriend’s insane uncle created in his laboratory before he took off for South America.  And in Austin’s words, all they  “wanted only to f**k and eat,” creating some pretty strange scenes since there is only one female and they two things they like to do sort of get mixed up.  

Although it may sound serious from this description, the story is really full and black humor, Austin’s foul mouth, and his constant obsession with sex.  Even though the story is off-the-wall and outrageous, author Smith looks at some serious question: teen sexuality, gender questions, scientific ethics and bullying.  I would recommend this title to fans of Andrew Smith’s other books, Kurt Vonnegut fans, and anyone looking for a humorous, yet racy, book.

marbury lens          in the path          stick          winger


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Sunday You Learn to Box by Bill Wright

Sunday You Learn to Box by Bill Wright

Louis, a 15 year old African American boy, lives in the projects with his mother, who is a department manager at the Saks 5th Avenue store in their Connecticut town.  Louis’ mother has ambitious plans for them to have better lives, including moving out of the projects into a better place. Even after she marries her new husband Ben, she takes a second job cleaning offices at night, stops having her hair done and finds other ways to save money. Raised by his mother to believe he’s better than the other boys in the projects, Louis never plays with neighbor kids, who bully him often in return. At the same time, Louis idolizes Ray Anthony, an older boy in the neighborhood, who takes Louis under his wing and saves him from a beating.

The title comes from a plan Louis’ mother and stepfather cook up to help Louis get tough by learning to box with Ben every Sunday.  As Louis deals with his own identity issues as well as family conflicts, he starts charting his own path and making independent decisions, including using his new boxing skills.

I liked this book more as I read it and got to know the character Louis better. As he begins to stand up for himself and not be cowed by adults or neighborhood bullies he gains a better image of himself.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

putting makeup

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

Sixteen year old high school student Carlos Duarte has loved makeup as long as he can remember, practicing on himself and putting it on his mother. Encouraged by his friend Angie, Carlos applies for a job at Macy’s Feature Face counter, getting the job with pictures of makeup jobs he’s done on friends and invented experience on his resume, plus an in person demo. Carlos encounters hostility from his manager Valentino, but impresses a high ranking manager. Determined to be a star in the makeup world, he uses every opportunity to achieve success. At the same time, his mother is laid off from her job and his sister’s boyfriend bullies Carlos and starts hitting the sister. Comfortable with the knowledge he is gay motivates Carlos to make overtures to a friend at school who is a talented photographer, in the hope that they can develop their friendship into a more serious relationship.

By the end of the book Carlos realizes he needs to hold onto his dreams even while using better judgment and being more responsible. Narrated by Carlos in a breezy first person voice, this book brings the reader directly into Carlos’ world, complete with all the drama of a high energy high school boy focused on attaining a longed for goal. The reader does not need to be familiar with fashion, makeup or popular culture to appreciate the story.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

sunday you          when the black girl

Winger by Andrew Smith


Winger by Andrew Smith

As a fourteen-year-old high school junior, Ryan Dean West is already somewhat of an oddball at the prestigious, expensive boarding school he goes to in northern California.  But he is determined that this year will be different–he will fit in and not be such a wimp, not be quite so geeky, and escape from his obnoxious roommate in the O-Hall building reserved for the school’s special miscreants.  (Ryan Dean ended up there after he was caught hacking a teacher’s cell phone account.) He plays wing on the school’s rugby team, hence his nickname Winger.  Besides being stuck in the worst dorm conceivable, he is also hopelessly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks he’s an “adorable” little kid.

I  have to say that this is one of the best books I’ve read this year!  Author  Andrew Smith has the knack of getting into the head of a teenaged boy that’s so realistic.  This character is also so hilarious I found myself laughing out loud a bunch of times.  “Nothing that bordered on the undisciplined or unorthodox was tolerated at PM (Pine Mountain School).  Not even facial hair, not that I had anything to worry about a far as that rule was concerned.  I’d seen some girls at PM who came closer to getting in trouble over that rule than me.  The only  thing I’d ever shaved was maybe a few points off a Calculus test so my friends wouldn’t hate me if I set the curve too high.”  The way Smith describes his characters makes readers fall in love with them, even when they’re brawny rugby types who would rather discuss a disagreement with their fists as opposed to talking it out. I highly recommend this book to all teen readers because everyone will find a character with which to identify.  There’s also lots of swearing and bad sex jokes, but nothing that the average teenager doesn’t hear in the hallways at school.

marbury lens          stick          in the path

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