Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)

long wayAn unforgettable novel in verse about one boy’s role in a cycle of violence.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9781481438254)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, diverse, own voices, African-American, reluctant readers, award winners

Tone/Style: spare, hard-hitting

Pace: fast

Topics: inner city life, gangs, ghosts

Themes: revenge, grief, cycle of violence, decisions, family

Summary: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
Continue reading

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (2013)

steelGore! Explosions! Gigantic weapons! What’s not to love?

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   386 (for ISBN 9780385743563)

Genre(s) and keywords: action, dystopian, science fiction

Tone/Style: dark, gritty

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: supervillains, rebellion

Themes: power, revenge

Summary: There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible. Continue reading

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (2017)

This mystery, set in Kenya and the Congo, packs an emotional and disturbing punch.

Recommended grade level: mature 8th graders and up

Pages:   401 (for ISBN 9780399547584)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, thriller, realistic, diverse, international, Africa (Kenya and the Congo)

Tone/Style: gritty

Pace: moderate

Topics: murder, investigations, refugees

Themes: family, trust, revenge, traumatic family history

Summary: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it. Continue reading

Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner (2016)

samBlood and battles abound in the epic story of one of Japan’s first samurai.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   236 (for ISBN 9781580895842)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, action, history, international, Asia (Japan)

Tone/Style: grimly gleeful

Pace: fast

Topics: samurai, medieval Japan, war, revenge

Themes: loyalty, honor, death

Summary: Child exile. Teenage runaway. Military genius. Immortal hero.

Yoshitsune had little going for him. Exiled to a monastery, he had no money, no allies, and no martial training. He wasn’t big or strong or good-looking. His only assets were brains, ambition, and a dream. But childhood dreams can change history.

Continue reading

srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone (2015)

23743761

It’s Shakespeare…in text messages. I’m amazed nobody tried this sooner.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 128 (for ISBN 9780553535389)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, retellings, text

Tone/Style: chatspeak

Pace: fast

Topics: murder, ghosts, royalty

Themes: revenge, indecision, parent/child relationships, suicide, death, action vs. inaction

Summary: Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?! Continue reading

Will in Scarlet (2013)

will

This middle grade take on the Robin Hood story follows Will Scarlet.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages: 272 (for ISBN 9780375868955)

Genre(s) and keywords: adventure, historical fiction

 

Tone/Style: folktale

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: Robin Hood, medieval society, thieves, hunting, outlaws

Themes: revenge, redemption

Summary: Will Scarlet is on the run.  Once the sheltered son of nobility, Will has become an exile. Continue reading