The Iron Trial by Holly Black abd Cassandra Clare (2014)

iron trialThis dark story about three kids in a magic school will appeal to those looking for Harry Potter readalikes.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:  295 (for ISBN 978054552225)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, adventure

Tone/Style: dark, mysterious, magical

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: dark magic, magic schools

Themes: destiny, evil, friendship

Summary: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him — a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come… Continue reading

Losers Take All by David Klass

losers take allI’ve had a lot of success recommending this funny, subversive sports story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9780374301361)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, sports

Tone/Style: humorous, satirical

Pace: moderate

Topics: soccer, high school, social norms, internet fame

Themes: being oneself, discovering oneself, nonconformism

Summary: At Jack Logan’s sports-crazy New Jersey high school, the new rule is that all kids must play on a team. So Jack and a ragtag group of anti-athletic friends decide to get even. They are going to start a rebel JV soccer team whose mission is to avoid victory at any cost, setting out to secretly undermine the jock culture of the school. But as the team’s losing formula becomes increasingly successful at attracting fans and attention, Jack and his teammates are winning in ways they never expected—and don’t know how to handle. Continue reading

Speed of Life by Carol Weston (2017)

speed of lifeThough it is ostensibly about grief, most readers will be more touched by its frank and empathetic exploration of common and often unspoken relationship struggles experienced by young teen girls.

Recommended grade level: 7 or 8 and up

Pages:   329 (for ISBN 9781492654490)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, romance

Tone/Style: personal, angsty

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: death of a family member, advice columnists, mixed families, first relationships, when to have sex, moving, new school

Themes: grief, moving on, growing up, friendship, family

Summary: Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on. Continue reading

Miles Morales: Spider-man by Jason Reynolds (2017)

milesUltimate Author Jason Reynolds brings Ultimate Spider-man Miles Morales to novel form in a surprisingly complex superhero story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9781484787489)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, superheroes, diverse (Black, Latinx)

Tone/Style: urban, cool (There’s got to be a better word than “cool” but I don’t know what it is. This book just has a lot of swagger)

Pace: moderate

Topics: superheroesboarding school, crime, urban life, mixed-race families

Themes: (with great power comes great) responsibility, protecting others, familydefying a destructive family legacy

Summary: Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man. Continue reading

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (2017)

felix yzThis unusual story with an LGBTQA+ diverse cast is both humorous and thought-provoking.

Recommended grade level: 6-8

Pages: 283 (for ISBN 9780425288504)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, humor, LGBTQA+, diverse

Tone/Style: epistolary, conversational

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: aliens, accidents, impending surgery, crushes

Themes: death, family, being different 

Summary: Felix is thirteen. When he was three, because of a science experiment gone wrong, he was fused with a fourth-dimensional being named Zyx, who communicates by using Felix’s fingers to type. Counting down to a risky procedure to separate them again, Felix blogs about a boy at school he likes, a bully, his mom’s annoying boyfriend, the threeness of things, and more, and we meet an Estonian chess grandmaster, Felix’s piano genius sister, his gender-switching grandparent, the denizens of the House on Harmony Street, and many other quirky and fascinating folks. (Source) Continue reading

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009)

if-i-stayA dramatic, emotional story about family and love.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   201 (for ISBN 9780525421030)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction in spirit, though it has a dash of fantasy; romance

Tone/Style: serious, sad

Pace: moderate

Topics: grief and loss, accidents, music, choices

Themes: death, family, hope, romantic love, purpose

Summary: Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving. (Source) Continue reading

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2012)

dragonslayerFantasy meets weird British humor in the first YA offering by a well-loved adult author.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:  287 (for ISBN 9780547738475)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, humor, British

Tone/Style: quirky

Pace: moderate

Topics: magic, dragons

Themes: change, responsibility

Summary: In the good old days, magic was indispensable. But now magic is fading: Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. (Source)

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