December 2019, Fiction

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall. September 24, 2019. Viking, 402 p. ISBN: 9781984837011.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, a road appears in the forest. And at the end of it, the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Lucy’s game isn’t for the faint of heart. If you win, you escape with your life. But if you lose….

Sara’s sister disappeared one year ago–and only Sara knows where she is. Becca went to find the ghost of Lucy Gallows and is trapped on the road that leads to her. In the sleepy town of Briar Glen, Lucy’s road is nothing more than local lore. But Sara knows it’s real, and she’s going to find it.

When Sara and her skeptical friends meet in the forest to search for Becca, the mysterious road unfurls before them. All they have to do is walk down it. But the path to Lucy is not of this world, and it has its own rules. Every mistake summons new horrors. Vengeful spirits and broken, angry creatures are waiting for them to slip, and no one is guaranteed safe passage. The only certainty is this: the road has a toll and it will be paid.

Sara knows that if she steps onto the road, she might not come back. But Becca needs her.

And Lucy is waiting.

Potentially Sensitive Areas:Strong language, Violence, Mention of underage drinking, Mention of suicide, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2019)
What happened to Becca Donoghue? Sara Donoghue never believed the rumors that her sister, Becca, simply ran away from home with her boyfriend. Becca had been obsessed with Lucy Gallows, the ghost from the 1950s who allegedly haunts their town, and the mysterious road that Lucy traveled on before she disappeared. Before Becca vanished too, the last thing Sara overheard her say was “We know where the road is. We’ve got the keys. That’s all we need to find her. I’m not backing down now. Not after everything we’ve done to get this close.” As the one-year anniversary of Becca’s disappearance approaches, Sara becomes desperate to discover what happened and how it may be related to the real Lucy. The setup is slow and complicated, with many diverse characters, relationships, and supernatural rules. While normally something to be celebrated, this diverse cast feels forced and inauthentic, like moons orbiting the main white protagonist, Sara (Becca is Asian—her ethnicity is never specified—and adopted). When the plot eventually picks up its pace, the story becomes quite engrossing and cleverly moves between its many narrators, characters, and plot twists. If readers can move past the long-winded and complicated setup, they will enjoy this mashup of The X-Files and the The Blair Witch Project, but those seeking a handy conclusion will likely be disappointed. A mixed bag for patient older teens. (Mystery. 15-18)

Publishers Weekly (September 16, 2019)
Local legend holds that the nearby woods are home to the ghost of Lucy Gallows, who vanished decades ago outside Briar Glen, Mass. While searching for Lucy, Sara Donoghue’s sister, Becca, disappeared a year earlier. Now, mysterious texts point Sara and her friends on the same harrowing journey in hopes of finding Becca. Traveling a supernatural road through a deadly darkness, they enter a world filled with myriad terrors and dangers, where breaking the rules leads to a horrible fate. In this chilling tale, Marshall (I Am Still Alive) ties together regional folklore, urban legends, and ghost stories to craft an exquisitely unsettling dark fantasy. Framed as a series of post-incident interviews and supplemented with found camera footage, videos, and texts, this multilayered, unpredictable nail-biter reveals the truth one fragment at a time. The characters, including queer, racially diverse, and variously abled teens, are well-developed, amplifying readers’ engagement in the high stakes. The nightmarish setting, frequent surprises, and inherent ambiguity will appeal to fans of Seanan McGuire’s books. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Kate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along Puget Sound. I Am Still Alive was her YA debut, followed by Rules for Vanishing.

Her website is katemarshallbooks.com.

Around the Web

Rules for Vanishing on Amazon

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Rules for Vanishing Publisher Page

December 2019, Fiction

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Frankly in Love by David Yoon. September 10, 2019. GP Putnam’s Sons, 406 p. ISBN: 9781984812209.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.

In this moving debut novel—featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author—David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Part of series: Frankly in Love (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Racist slurs

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Frank Li has always known his parents expected him to date a fellow Korean American. It was an unspoken rule he tried not to think about until he finds himself kissing, texting, and overall obsessing over Brit—who’s white. To save himself from his parent’s disappointment (or outright condemnation) Frank hatches a plan to create a faux relationship with longtime family friend Joy, who has also fallen for a non-Korean. It seems like the perfect plan, at least, for a little while. With Frankly in Love, Yoon has created a story within the well-trod rom-com trope of fake relationships becoming more than a facade that is completely fresh. Frank is a wonderfully self-aware protagonist with a compelling voice that sometimes seems much older than 18 but never in a way that rings false. To say this debut novel is more than a romance would be to malign the genre it is a credit to, but even readers who aren’t fans of romance will be drawn into this beautifully written exploration of family, identity, and self-discovery.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
A senior contends with first love and heartache in this spectacular debut. Sensitive, smart Frank Li is under a lot of pressure. His Korean immigrant parents have toiled ceaselessly, running a convenience store in a mostly black and Latinx Southern California neighborhood, for their children’s futures. Frank’s older sister fulfilled their parents’ dreams—making it to Harvard—but when she married a black man, she was disowned. So when Frank falls in love with a white classmate, he concocts a scheme with Joy, the daughter of Korean American family friends, who is secretly seeing a Chinese American boy: Frank and Joy pretend to fall for each other while secretly sneaking around with their real dates. Through rich and complex characterization that rings completely true, the story highlights divisions within the Korean immigrant community and between communities of color in the U.S., cultural rifts separating immigrant parents and American-born teens, and the impact on high school peers of society’s entrenched biases. Yoon’s light hand with dialogue and deft use of illustrative anecdotes produce a story that illuminates weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on struggles both universal and particular to certain identities. Frank’s best friend is black and his white girlfriend’s parents are vocal liberals; Yoon’s unpacking of the complexity of the racial dynamics at play is impressive—and notably, the novel succeeds equally well as pure romance. A deeply moving account of love in its many forms. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

David Yoon grew up in Orange County, California, and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Nicola Yoon, and their daughter. He drew the illustrations for Nicola’s #1 New York Times bestseller Everything, EverythingFrankly in Love is his first novel.

His website is davidyoon.com

Teacher Resources

Frankly in Love on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Frankly in Love on Amazon

Frankly in Love on Barnes and Noble

Frankly in Love on Goodreads

Frankly in Love on LibraryThing

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December 2019, Fiction

The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King. September 10, 2019. Scribner, 561 p. ISBN: 9781982110567.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Suicide, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Over a prolific 40-year writing career most authors only dream about, King has turned almost every one of his novels into a bestseller on the strength of his ability to create sympathetic protagonists facing life-threatening and often otherworldly challenges. Following the tender and mysterious fable, Elevation (2018), King’s latest supernatural yarn stays true to his signature focus by featuring a 12-year-old genius named Luke Ellis who’s kidnapped and transported to a secret facility known simply as the Institute. As the shock of capture wears off, Luke discovers his fellow inmates are all other adolescents like himself with latent psychic powers—powers that are exploited and enhanced by a team of abusive researchers. When Luke befriends a disenchanted housekeeper, he quickly seizes the opportunity to escape and reveal the Institute’s undertakings to the outside world. King devotees will, of course, devour this latest suspenseful page-turner, but any reader looking for a smart thriller about an unusual black ops organization will find this compelling and rewarding. With his usual blend of plot twists and vividly drawn characters, King remains at the top of his game. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Abducted psychic teens, a black ops mission, and narrative magnetism ensure the usual King fever. Be prepared.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie. Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was”). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps. King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The InstituteElevationThe OutsiderSleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of WatchFinders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.  His website is www.stephenking.com.

Around the Web

The Institute on Amazon

The Institute on Barnes and Noble

The Institute on Goodreads

The Institute on LibraryThing

The Institute Publisher Page

December 2019, Fiction

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas. September 10, 2019. Tu Books, 348 p. ISBN: 9781620148044.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling–the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Gore, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
New life is breathed into the ballad of Mulan. The Hua and Yuan families share a legacy: As caretakers of the deftly made swords Sky Blade and Heart Sea, each generation must fight to determine the next guardians of the swords. Hua Mulan has only known a life of being disguised as a boy, trained in weaponry by her father. What her father does not know is that Mulan already spars with her future duel partner. On the eve of the showdown, the Hua family receives a letter citing political unrest threatening the Yuans as a reason to withdraw from this year’s duel. When the Hua family receives a conscription notice requiring one male per household to report for duty, Mulan enlists, quickly being recruited into the princeling’s elite team for her skills. Mulan finds herself caught in a web of sabotage, battles, and strained loyalties, trying to maintain her own cover and handling the growing affection between the princeling and herself. While the resolution may seem too neat for some, Thomas (The Hollow of Fear, 2018, etc.) brings new dimensions to the iconic character, weaving emotional depth and ethnic political issues into the plot. She immerses readers in bustling city streets and freezing swaths of wilderness. Scaffolded by detailed research, the story is based on actual historic conflicts and artifacts. A refreshing new take that pays homage to a legendary character. (author’s note, linguistic and historical notes) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Publishers Weekly (October 14, 2019)
Rich cultural references, intricate political machinations, and thrilling Wuxia elements distinguish this deftly woven Mulan retelling by Thomas (The Immortal Heights), who was born and raised in China. Hua Mulan, who publicly assumes her deceased twin brother’s name, Hua Muyang, fills her days with projectile training alongside her father, caring for her seven-year-old brother, and secretly looking forward to the sporadic training sessions she has with Yuan Kai, a mysterious boy she is fated to duel with over a pair of matchless inherited swords. But mandatory conscription causes the match to be deferred, and Mulan enlists on behalf of her household. Her martial arts expertise earns her a role accompanying the royal duke’s son, a young man who seems strangely familiar. As the Rouran invasion looms, Mulan and her companions must evade danger and uncover a traitor at court while unpacking their preconceived notions about family, fear, and nomadic tribes. Skillful martial arts scenes combine with crucial discourse on power, gender, and the impact of language on history in this gripping, thoughtfully layered reinterpretation.

About the Author

Sherry Thomas is the author of nineteen novels across multiple genres, including the acclaimed Lady Sherlock mystery series, a YA fantasy trilogy that began with The Burning Sky, and more than a dozen romance novels, which have twice won her the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award. Born in China, she learned English as a second language, and now lives and writes in Austin, Texas.

Her website is sherrythomas.com.

Around the Web

The Magnolia Sword on Amazon

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December 2019, Graphic Novel, Nonfiction

Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds by Ian Wright

Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the World by Ian Wright. November 5, 2019. The Experiment, 192 p. ISBN: 9781615196258.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A singular atlas of 100 infographic maps from thought-provoking to flat-out fun

Which countries don’t have rivers? Which ones have North Korean embassies? Who drives on the “wrong” side of the road? How many national economies are bigger than California’s? And where can you still find lions in the wild? You’ll learn answers to these questions and many more in Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds. This one-of-a-kind atlas is packed with eye-opening analysis (Which nations have had female leaders?), whimsical insight (Where can’t you find a McDonald’s?), and surprising connections that illuminate the contours of culture, history, and politics.

Each of these 100 maps will change the way you see the world—and your place in it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 4))
A map can convey a lot of information at a glance, something Wright has been documenting on his website, brilliantmaps.com, for nearly five years using maps collected from creators all over the internet. This book is a collection of some of the most popular and commented-on maps from the website as well as some new ones, all of which have been drawn using one consistent style and, if needed, updated data. Grouped into broad categories (culture and customs, history, nature, etc.), these maps cover topics serious and less so, from “the countries in red have as many murders combined as the U.S.” to “heavy metal bands per 100,000 people.” Wright notes in the introduction that context is always necessary to truly understand the information provided by maps. While the full-page spreads make the color maps easy to read, readers may wish to also visit the website, where a short summary/analysis and links to sources are provided with each map. Credits/sources not yet available at time of review.

About the Author

Ian Wright runs Brilliant Maps, one of the most popular cartographic sites on the internet. In addition to being a cartophile, he’s also a keen walker. In 2015, he combined these two passions to become the first person to walk all of the newly expanded London Tube map. Originally from Canada, he now lives in the UK.

Teacher Resources

Brilliant Maps Website

Around the Web

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December 2019, Graphic Novel, Nonfiction

The American Dream? by Shing Yin Khor

The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito by Shing Yin Khor. August 6, 2019. Zest Books, 160 p. ISBN: 9781541578524.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

As a child growing up in Malaysia, Shing Yin Khor had two very different ideas of what “America” meant. The first looked a lot like Hollywood, full of beautiful people, sunlight, and freeways. The second looked more like The Grapes of Wrath—a nightmare landscape filled with impoverished people, broken-down cars, barren landscapes, and broken dreams. This book chronicles Shing’s solo journey (small adventure-dog included) along the iconic Route 66, beginning in Santa Monica and ending up Chicago. What begins as a road trip ends up as something more like a pilgrimage in search of an American landscape that seems forever shifting and forever out of place.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial insensitivity

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Malaysia-born, LA-dwelling Khor introduces the “two Americas” that were their obsessions growing up: a Los Angeles “full of beautiful people and sunlight and open roads” where 10 years of living has also added “lots and lots and lots of traffic,” and a landscape defined by Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, in which the Joad family desperately pursues the American Dream. Khor takes that “feeling of desperately searching for something better, for a new start,” and adapts it to their own “pilgrimage” as immigrant and artist traveling historic Route 66—“the part of America that my brain finds more American than anything else.” Traversing from LA to Chicago in their 2010 Honda Fit will require their “tiny adventure dog,” Bug, and the kindness of multiple friends and strangers en route, captured in whimsical full-color detail. The end-of-the-road realizations are (surprise!) not what they expected, but the rewards—of course!—are many. What lingers longest is Khor’s four-panel epilogue, revealing their trip was taken six months before the 2016 elections; in magnifier-necessary micro-font, the penultimate panel confesses, “This comic feels like a record of a time when a brown girl could drive America fearlessly.” Khor, with Bug’s support, refuses to “let those jerks keep us down”—an encouragement to all to also keep going.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2019)
Artist Khor recounts their spring 2016 road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago in this graphic memoir. Growing up in Malaysia, Khor knew two versions of America: “The first was Los Angeles, full of beautiful people and sunlight and open roads,” and the other was the America in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, “filled with dusty roads and big hopes.” After living in the States for 10 years, they and Bug, their “tiny adventure dog,” embark on a journey along historic Route 66, hoping to better understand the American dream. Through bright, expressive watercolor illustrations, Khor portrays the memorable locations they pass through, including a former gold-mining town in Arizona where several Hollywood films were shot; Amarillo, Texas, which has become a haven for refugees; and kitschy attractions including dinosaur statues and the Blue Whale of Catoosa. They detail both the amusing (going to the bathroom outdoors) and emotional (loneliness and exhaustion) challenges of being a traveler. Khor’s pilgrimage is as much an exploration of themself as it is of nostalgic Americana. Their travels inspire them to share insights into their path to atheism, their anger with xenophobia and racism—which are provoked when they find a motel labeled “American owned”—and the meaning of “home.” Many of Khor’s observations will resonate with those who have questioned national identity and the sense of belonging. An informative graphic travel journal that offers important perspectives on being an immigrant and American identity. (Graphic memoir. 12-18)

About the Author

Shing Yin Khor is a cartoonist and installation artist. Her work has been published in The ToastThe NibUpworthyHuffington Post, and Bitch Magazine. She makes the road trip adventure comic Tiny Adventure Journal, and the tender queer science fiction comic Center for Otherworld Science. She is also the author of The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur StatuesMuffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito published by Zest Books.

She lives in Los Angeles. Her websites are www.sawdustbear.com and shingkhor.com

Teacher Resources

Route 66 preservation Lesson Plan

Route 66 Lesson Plan collection

Around the Web

The American Dream? on Amazon

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The American Dream? on Goodreads

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The American Dream? Publisher Page

December 2019, Fiction

Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen

Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen. October 1, 2019. Kids Can Press, 299 p. ISBN: 9781525301483.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up — even if it means putting her future on the line.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Homophobic slur; Mild sexual themes; Strong language; Underage drinking; Underage smoking; Violence, Sexual harrassment/assault

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Michigan’s entire life was hockey—when she was not conditioning and training, she was watching hockey movies and thinking about hockey. All of her hard work pays off when she is finally named Assistant Captain of her school team, but a few days later, the team is cut due to funding. Without rich parents to pay her tuition at a private school, she’s seemingly out of options. So, she tries out for the boy’s varsity team, which she easily makes, but her coaches and teammates aren’t happy about it. Michigan endures months of physical and emotional abuse and hazing without reporting it, focusing on her craft instead. Allen’s debut is a plot-driven novel that takes readers inside a misogynistic team and a school and town that allow that behavior to go unchecked. The book’s power comes from highlighting the pain and abuse that barrier-breaking women endure in a male-driven field, but the characters are thinly drawn and the ending is too tidy for such a complicated story. Our admirable heroine deserves more than that.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Michigan wants to play hockey, which leaves one last audacious option—the boys’ team. Michigan Manning and her best friend, Brie, dream of victory as the new captains of their high school girls’ ice hockey team. Instead, Principal Belmont shocks them by announcing that budgets cuts will render the girls’ hockey team defunct. The close-knit hockey girls scatter—Brie to private school, the rest to other schools and other sports, but Michigan can’t afford private school tuition or long commutes. Inspired by Jack, a handsome, popular swimmer, and a brave girl on her brother’s AAA bantam team, Michigan shrugs off ridicule, taunts, and bullying to earn her way to a coveted center position on the boys’ varsity team. It’s an exhilarating run, as debut author Allen creates a wonderfully authentic hockey world. Determined, resilient Michigan fights for her right to play despite feeling abandoned by old friends and ostracized by her new team. However, readers may feel frustrated by the author’s portrayal of Michigan’s rationalizations and the alpha bad guy trope, which veers toward the cartoonish—after purposely injuring her, one bully “lowers his voice as if talking to a baby. ‘Are you going to be OK to play this weekend? Coach needs his widdle Michigan out there.’ ” The supportive relationships between Michigan and her brother, boyfriend, and father are beautifully written, and the on-ice experience is similarly nuanced and breathtaking. Most characters are assumed white. Nevertheless, a gritty and heroic athlete persists. (Fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Carrie Allen is a Colorado girl who wears flip-flops year-round and never skips dessert. She is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing around two kids and two dogs. She writes contemporary YA about girls who kick butt in sports.

Her website is www.carrieallenauthor.com

Around the Web

Michigan vs. the Boys on Amazon

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Michigan vs. the Boys on Goodreads

Michigan vs. the Boys on LibraryThing

Michigan vs. the Boys Publisher Page

December 2019, Fiction

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdeih

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdeih. October 8, 2019. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 425 p. ISBN: 9781524738174.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.

When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien’s own lair–the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks–Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.

Part of Series: The Beautiful (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Sexual assault, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

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Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Celine arrives in New Orleans fresh from Paris, she’s looking for a new start. It’s 1872, and options for a woman alone are limited, but Celine, who has dark secrets in her past, is determined to find a way. Celine finds herself falling in love with New Orleans, which, in the middle of carnival season, has a wild, seductive beauty. But the city has its dangers: Celine meets Bastien, a man she is attracted to but resists, who is at the forefront of a mysterious group active in the city’s underworld. And a vicious serial killer begins stalking the city—one who drains the blood of his victims . . . one who may not be entirely human. Eventually Celine catches his eye, but he doesn’t know what’s in her past. Ahdieh (Flame in the Mist, 2017) kick-starts the vampire story with a series opener that, while it owes more to Interview with the Vampire than it does to Twilight, is all its own. An action-packed third act and a final reveal will have readers grasping for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Forbidden love is tested by suspicion and murder in this latest addition to YA vampire lore. Celine Rousseau, a French and Asian (mother’s exact origins unknown) seamstress, sails from Europe to America in hopes of leaving her shadowy past behind. En route, she bonds with Pippa, a white English émigrée, and both girls find refuge in an Ursuline convent. Celine’s talent as a couturier leads to a commission from Odette, a beautiful member of the opulent-yet-mysterious Cour des Lions, where students of the occult practice their craft unmolested. Before long, Celine is swept up in a world of mystical forces centering around Sébastien Saint Germain, an enigmatic aristocrat to whom she is irresistibly attracted. When a fellow convent member is found murdered, Celine suspects all her acquaintances, including Sébastien. The novel, wading into the waters of forbidden romance between teenage girl and hunky immortal vampire previously navigated by Buffy Summers and Bella Swan, feels less magical than it should despite the lush Victorian-era New Orleans setting. At times the mounting attraction between Bastien and Celine is told rather than shown, which makes the central relationship feel forced rather than organic and passion filled. Ahdieh (Smoke in the Sun, 2018, etc.) brings New Orleans vibrantly to life, particularly when exploring the complicated racial and gender restrictions of high society through main and supporting characters of mixed-race origin. Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. She is the author of Flame in the Mist and Smoke in the Sun as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and its sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.

Her website is www.reneeahdieh.com

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December 2019, Nonfiction

A Light in the Darkness by Albert Marrin

A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust by Albert Marrin. September 10, 2019. Alfred A. Knopf, 388 p. ISBN: 9781524701215.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1010.

From National Book Award Finalist Albert Marrin comes the moving story of Janusz Korczak, the heroic Polish Jewish doctor who devoted his life to children, perishing with them in the Holocaust.

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that “children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.” Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

But this book is much more than a biography. In it, renowned nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines not just Janusz Korczak’s life but his ideology of children: that children are valuable in and of themselves, as individuals. He contrasts this with Adolf Hitler’s life and his ideology of children: that children are nothing more than tools of the state.

And throughout, Marrin draws readers into the Warsaw Ghetto. What it was like. How it was run. How Jews within and Poles without responded. Who worked to save lives and who tried to enrich themselves on other people’s suffering. And how one man came to represent the conscience and the soul of humanity.

Filled with black-and-white photographs, this is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose compassion in even the darkest hours reminds us what is possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Racism, Anti-Semitism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jewish physician and an author of books on children’s rights, also served as an orphanage director in Warsaw before and during the Holocaust. The “Old Doctor” refused all rescue offers for himself, accompanying his charges into the Treblinka extermination camp, where he met his death. Marrin’s tribute to the humanitarian is not a traditional biography, however; instead, the National Book Award finalist juxtaposes Korczak, who believed hope comes from bettering the lives of children, with Adolf Hitler, who saw children as raw material to be molded into his racial ideology. Through meticulous research and impeccable storytelling, the result is an astonishing account of the Holocaust that alternates between the worst and best of humankind. The author adds context through background information on how Hitler’s ideology later played out in WWII, including anti-Semitism and mass killings of Jews in Poland. Amid the horrific details of these deaths shine rays of light from the resistance movement and individuals who risked their own lives to save those of persecuted Jews. Rarely seen photographs help document both sides. The conflicting views of children continue to the end as Marrin both honors Korczak’s legacy and reveals how children are still used by terrorists today. Although intended for YA readers, this eye-opening history also belongs in all adult collections. Painful yet profound.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2019)
Janusz Korczak’s dedication to orphaned children during World War II serves as a reminder of the good one person can do in a world gone dark. Henryk Goldszmit, known by his pen name, Janusz Korczak, was a quiet, unassuming doctor, veteran, respected author, director of a children’s home—and a Jew in Poland at a time when Nazi ideology was on the rise in neighboring Germany. Considered a pioneer in child psychology, Korczak and his chief assistant, Stefania Wilczyńska, operated Dom Sierot, a home for orphans in Warsaw, guided by the philosophy that children were worthy of respect as whole beings, not just future adults, and deserving of autonomy and self-determination. Unfortunately, the nurturing environment of Dom Sierot was no match for the Nazi war machine and Korczak, Wilczyńska, and their beloved children died in the gas chambers of Treblinka in 1942. Marrin (Very, Very, Very Dreadful, 2017, etc.) uses Korczak’s life to explore 20th-century Germany’s path to extremism and brutality. Going beyond simple biography, the book focuses on eugenics and the Nazi’s molding of youth, the roots of anti-Semitism and racism, and their modern legacies. The readable tone makes the long text accessible and engaging. Disappointingly, more attention is paid to Wilczyńska’s perceived lack of beauty than to her intellectual accomplishments as a rare woman able at that time to complete a science degree. Meticulous research supports a Holocaust book worthy of attention. (notes, selected sources, index) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Albert Marrin is a historian and the author of more than twenty nonfiction books for young people. He has won various awards for his writing, including the 2005 James Madison Book Award and the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal. In 2011, his book Flesh and Blood So Cheap was a National Book Award Finalist. Marrin is the Chairman of the History Department at New York’s Yeshiva University.

Teacher Resources

Janusz Korczak Research Activity

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December 2019, Fiction

Caster by Elsie Chapman

Caster by Elsie Chapman. September 3, 2019. Scholastic, 326 p. ISBN: 9781338332629.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Fight Club in this action-packed fantasy about a secret, underground magic fighting tournament.

If the magic doesn’t kill her, the truth just might.

Aza Wu knows that real magic is dangerous and illegal. After all, casting killed her sister, Shire. As with all magic, everything comes at a price. For Aza, it feels like everything in her life has some kind of cost attached to it. Her sister had been casting for money to pay off Saint Willow, the gang leader that oversees her sector of Lotusland. If you want to operate a business there, you have to pay your tribute. And now with Shire dead, Aza must step in to save the legacy of Wu Teas, the teahouse that has been in her family for centuries.

When Aza comes across a secret invitation, she decides she doesn’t have much else to lose. She quickly realizes that she’s entered herself into an underground casting tournament, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Real magic, real consequences. As she competes, Aza fights for her life against some very strong and devious competitors.

When the facts about Shire’s death don’t add up, the police start to investigate. When the tributes to Saint Willow aren’t paid, the gang comes to collect. When Aza is caught sneaking around with fresh casting wounds, her parents are alarmed. As Aza’s dangerous web of lies continues to grow, she is caught between trying to find a way out and trapping herself permanently.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. The world is falling apart. Real magic, rare and potent, drains energy from the earth every time a spell is cast, leaving behind charred land, frozen oceans, and smog heavy in the air. Aza is secretly a full caster, but she hides her powers, pretending to be someone who can only do small, leftover magic. She’s trying desperately to pay her family’s debt to sector boss Saint Willow before goons come to bust up her home and torture her family. Stuck in the shadow of her now-dead sister, Shire, Aza has one week left until Saint Willow’s people come for her parents. When a note left by an old tutor leads her to an underground magic-fighting ring, she realizes she has the chance, the power, and the skill to get out from under Saint Willow’s thumb—possibly for good. The fighting ring leads to more questions still, as well as more danger. Could learning the secrets of magic and the truth behind her sister’s death be worth it all? Chapman (Along the Indigo, 2018) has created compelling young adult novels before, but this is a cut above; the fully realized and atmospheric dystopia is crafted at a level not seen often. This stunning fantasy will fly off the shelves.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
In a dystopian world broken apart by magic, Aza Wu struggles to unravel the mystery of her sister’s death while fending off gangsters and dodging Scouts who hunt full-magic casters like herself. The rules of magic set up by Chapman (Hungry Hearts, 2019, etc.) come down to this: The more magic you use, the more magic you pull from the Earth, leaving behind a scar ranging from a buckled road to an earthquake that levels buildings. A full caster is limited by their level of control and the physical pain that follows a spell. Despite the dangers and the guilt she feels for damaging the world around her, Aza desperately casts magic for marks to pay off the family debt. This leads her to the underground Tournament of Casters, where she will risk her life for marks and answers. The main character identifies as Chinese, and though some racial and cultural discrimination is discussed, the story focuses more heavily on the haves and have-nots of magic and power. The pacing is fast and furious, upheld by the deadline Aza faces of a single week, which almost becomes a running joke. Some characters are ham-handed in their villainy, but most are genuine in their struggle to do what it takes to survive. A dark and, at times, vicious and violent story of will and questionable honor. (Dystopian fantasy. 13-17)

About the Author

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels DualedDividedAlong the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

Her website is elsiechapman.com

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