Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (2014)

rebelLed by a spunky, girly, and charismatic heroine, this book bends fantasy tropes to hilarious effect.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages: 345 (for ISBN 9780399256936)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy

Tone/Style: classy

Pace: moderate

Topics: secret organizations, supernatural powers, girl power, dating, love-hate relationships

Themes: destiny, romantic relationships

Summary: Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him–and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more. (Source)

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Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015)

most-dangerousThis tense story of a lesser-known figure from the Vietnam War era is a timely look at whistleblowing and patriotism.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages:   384 (for ISBN 9781596439528)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, history, thriller, award winner

Tone/Style: informational

Pace: moderate

Topics: the Vietnam War, government secrets, peace movements, the news media, Watergate, information leaks

Themes: privacy, dissent, loyalty

Summary: From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Bomb comes a tense, exciting exploration of what the Times deemed “the greatest story of the century”: how Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into “the most dangerous man in America,” and risked everything to expose the government’s deceit. On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these documents had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. A provocative book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children’s nonfiction. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Most Dangerous reads a bit like a cerebral spy thriller.  Those interested in secrets and conspiracies will gobble this up. Deep thinkers will be spurred to ask themselves questions about morality and patriotism for which there are no easy answers. As with all Sheinkin’s work, this will appeal to a wide swath of readers and will likely sway some fiction-only readers to give nonfiction a try.

Who won’t like this book?: This is a bit more rooted in politics and less rooted in action than some of Sheinkin’s other works. The moral questions posed may be over some readers’ heads.

Other comments: This is an incredibly timely peek into the past. If I didn’t believe before that history repeats itself, I certainly do now. Sheinkin includes a fascinating section at the end tying Ellsberg’s story to the story of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks. This is a 2015 National Book Award Finalist and the winner of the 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Sequel(s):

Readalikes: In The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery, Sheinkin offers a close look at another morally murky figure from American history.  Though the Vietnam War isn’t a popular topic in young adult lit, there are lots of nonfiction books involving resistance and espionage from the WWII era, including The Boys Who Challenge Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose and The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb.

-Kylie Peters

Image source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23310694

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest (2015)

17408897This unique book integrates comics into a mystery perfect for the internet generation.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages: 232 (for ISBN 9780545620857)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery

Tone/Style: modern, investigative

Pace: moderate

Topics: investigations, comics, hackers, the internet, escape, secrets

Themes: friendship, perseverance

Summary: Once upon a time…two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later…Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her. Continue reading

We Are All Made of Molecules (2015)

19405297I was blown away by this affecting, hilarious, insightful book about a blended family told from two very different points of view.

Recommended grade level: 7-10

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9780553496864)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, humor, Kylie’s favorites, Canadian author, international, North America (Canada)

Tone/Style: optimistic (Stewart), judgmental (Ashley)

Pace: fast

Topics: blended families, divorce, gifted students, popularity, homosexual parents, secrets, dating

Themes: grief and loss, change, self-acceptance, shame, true friends

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant, but socially clueless.  Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her grade, but her marks stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Continue reading

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2012)

seraA unique YA fantasy about a girl who must hide her half-dragon ancestry in a court thick with tension between humans and dragons and reeling from a murder

Recommended grade level: 7-12

Pages: 515 (for ISBN 9780375866227)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy

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This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh (2013)

ratA light middle-grade novel told in journal-style about a homeschooled girl seeking friendship, acceptance, and an understanding with her unconventional father.

Recommended grade level: 3-6

Pages: 320 (for ISBN 9781402281068)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, diary

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