What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott (2015)

what waitsTraditional horror that will scratch the itch for casual genre fans.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   288 (for ISBN 9780545691116)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, thriller, survival, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: scary, tense

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: camping, murderers, being lost

Themes: trustdating, friendship, mean friends

Summary: For city girl Callie Velasquez, nothing sounds more terrifying than a night out in the wilderness. But, wanting to bond with her popular new friends, Lissa and Penelope, she agrees to join them on a camping trip. At least Callie’s sweet new boyfriend, Jeremy, will be coming too. Continue reading

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (2018)

princeAn uplifting graphic novel about celebrating yourself.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   228 (for ISBN 9781626723634)

Genre(s) and keywords: graphic novel, LGBTQIA+, historical fiction

Tone/Style: stylish, fairy-tale-esque

Pace: fast

Topics: gender roles, royalty, fashion, drag, secrets, marriage

Themes: being different, being oneself, friendship, responsibility, expectations

Summary: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)

InsignificantA smart and hilarious voice sets this apart from other books in its genre.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:   262 (for ISBN 9781454923459)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, mystery, ability diverse

Tone/Style: blunt, humorous

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: differently-abled people, theme parks, moving, making friends, new experiences

Themes: perseverance, independence, family, being different, friendship

Summary: Aven Green gets that question a lot. She loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Continue reading

Posted by John David Anderson (2017)

postedA thought-provoking look at bullying and changing friendships, with just a touch of silliness in the mix.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  384 (for ISBN 9780062338204)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: both light and serious, thoughtful

Pace: moderate

Topics: bullying, LGBT issues, new friends, friend abandonment, technology

Themes: change, friendship

Summary:  There was a war. This is where it ended.

I can’t tell you exactly when it changed, when it spiraled out of control like a kite twisting in the wind. When it stopped being something funny and clever and became something else. Maybe there was no single moment. Maybe underneath all the squares plastered on the walls and notebooks and windows there was the same message over and over. We just ignored it because it was easier to stomach that way.

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Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (2018)

aru shahA heartwarming fantasy steeped in Hindu mythology.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  355 (for ISBN 9781368012355)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, diverse, own voices, Indian-American

Tone/Style: epic, humorous, sincere

Pace: moderate

Topics: Hindu gods, quests, religion, mythology

Themes: responsiblity, destiny, heroism, friendship

Summary: Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? Continue reading

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and 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

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