Unbreak My Heart – Melissa Walker

Unbreak My HeartTitle: Unbreak My Heart
Author: Melissa Walker

ISBN: 9781599905280
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 231
Price: $16.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 690

Annotation: Clementine is heartbroken over events at school, but this summer vacation might heal her heart.

Plot Summary: All Clementine wants this summer is personal space to nurse her broken heart. During the school year, she fell hard for her best friend’s boyfriend and now she is a social pariah at school. So drifting away this summer on her parents sailboat with her family sounds pretty fantastic. When she meets James and his father at one of the stops and they become friendly, will he help heal her broken heart?

Critical Evaluation: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker was definitely a great book to usher in summer. Set during the season, the story has travel elements as well as a potential summer romance – two things that I like to read about, especially during summer. Make no mistake though, this is not a light hearted novel on the fun times of summer – the heart of Walker’s book focuses on relationships, betrayals and most of all, forgiveness.

While the natural feeling is to hate Clem for going after her best friend’s boyfriend, Walker has written Clem as a pretty sympathetic character. She’s definitely flawed with her bratty and selfish moments. There were times when I wanted to shake her for the way she treats her family. However, her actions and emotions are realistic and natural given she’s a teenager with her heart broken and reeling from intense emotions. Walker’s use of flashbacks to showcase the events leading up to Clem and Amanda’s break in friendship lend to Clem’s sympathetic characterization. I definitely felt for Clem after what happened. Especially when it comes to light that she’s the one saddled with the majority of the blame, while The Boy gets off scot-free. Speaking of the characters, I love love love the secondary characters. Walker has definitely created a fun, likable crew of characters. For example, Clem’s parents. Too often when I read YA, the parents are either terrible, dead or never much on the page. This isn’t the case here. The positive relationship they have with their children is one that I would like to see more often in YA. I also adore the sibling relationship between Clem and Olive as well as the run ins with the older couple, Ruth and George.

To tell you the truth, I know nothing about boats and sailing so I cannot say if Walker’s portrayal of this world is realistic, but I can tell you that I enjoyed her illustrations of sailing life. The nautical aspects of the story add to the story and never slow the pacing. Additionally, Walker makes it fun with the puns Clem and company encounter throughout the trip. Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book. Walker has created a emotionally driven story with great characterization and a common theme that can be relatable to most teens.

Author Bio: Melissa Walker has worked as “ELLEgirl “Features Editor and “Seventeen “Prom Editor. She is the author of “Small Town Sinners,” the Violet on the Runway series, and “Lovestruck Summer.” Melissa manages the daily e-newsletter, iheartdaily.com and handles blogging for readergirlz.com. (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Summer, sailing, best friend breakup, family

Challenge Issues: This sweet love story is pretty vanilla, but if this were challenged I would mention that sometimes light hopeful love stories can be a balm to the harsher darker stories in YA literature. Additionally, Kirkus give it a positive review saying “Walker’s compassion and emotional insight, lauded in her well-received Small Town Sinners (2011), are strengths, as is the setting. From vessels named with groan-inducing puns like Sea Ya to the challenges of shipboard sanitation, she brings the insulated boating world to life with knowledgeable affection. A quietly absorbing journey.”

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The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The OutsidersTitle: The Outsiders
Author: S. E. Hinton

ISBN: 9780140385724
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1967
Pages: 192
Price: $17.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback) $25.00 (audio)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 750

Annotation: Struggling in a difficult world, all Ponyboy Curtis wants is a place to belong.

Plot Summary: To Ponyboy Curtis, there are two types of people in the world – Socs and Greasers. Socs have money and can get away with almost anything. Greasers live on the outside and always have to watch their back. Ponyboy, a member of the Greasers gang, was walking home after watching a movie when a rival gang, the Socs, jump him. His brother, Sodapop, and other members of the gang rescue him. The next night at the movies, he and Johnny meet two girls at a drive-in movie theatre and realize there are nothing like the Socs they met before. Walking them home, they are stopped by Socs and a fight almost happens. Coming home late, his brother and guardian, Darry, yells at him and Sodapop devolving into a strike to his face. Angry, Ponyboy runs away from home and meets up with Johnny to run away. As they are walking in a park, they run into the same drunken Socs from earlier and they attempt to drown Ponyboy. Frightened, Johnny defends his friend accidentally stabbing Bob causing his death. To escape the death punishment, they run off and hide in an abandoned church. Hiding for a couple days, they decide to turn themselves in and head home. Before they can do so, a fire starts at the church and kids are trapped inside. Ponyboy and Johnny run back in to save them, but they do not escape unscathed.

Critical Evaluation: The Outsiders is about a group of teenagers who the world has forgotten. About teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks and fighting against the world perception of them. Small town prejudice and judgements based on appearances. Mostly, it’s about trying to find your place in the world and realizing we are not too difference from each other when it comes to the fundamentals – pain, loss, honor. All themes and messages that still matter today. Spot on characters with heartbreaking stories that you cannot help rooting for and authentic dialogue full of slang that drags you into their world. A fantastic and hopeful portrayal of the human spirit.

Author Bio: S. E. Hinton was the first author to receive the Young Adult Services Division/School Library Journal Award for Life Achievement, and has received numerous other awards and honors. Her gritty and powerful novels have also inspired four major motion pictures. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Gangs, Families, Class Conflict, Honor

Challenge Issues: The Outsiders have been challenged before on various reasons from gang violence to broken families to underage drinking. I would cite this fantastic NYT article talking about the book 40+ years later or this NPR article. I would also mention the rich themes in the novel and that it is consider a classic in YA literature.

Forever – Judy Blume

ForeverTitle: Forever
Author: Judy Blume

ISBN: 9781481414432
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Publication Date: 1975
Pages: 209
Price: $18.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback)

Genre: Contemporary – Romance
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 590

Annotation: Katherine and Michael are in a forever kind of love, but what happens when that is tested by a summer apart?

Plot Summary: At a New Year’s Eve house party, Katherine meets Michael. They are attracted to each other and start seeing other. Date nights with each other and double dates with best friends Erica and Artie. Soon they fall in love and Katherine knows its forever. She loses her virginity to him and their bond is stronger than ever. Plans for their future start being made, but when her parents send her away for the summer to test their relationship and she starts falling for another boy, what does it mean for her relationship with Michael?

Critical Evaluation: Judy Blume tackles first love in all its awkward, intense, and realistic moments. Blume’s focus on emotional and mental readiness for sex instead of morality issues in Katherine’s decision to have sex was significance in its time and offer new and positive perspectives on sexual awakening. Additionally, Blume portrays sex and the decision to do so realistically by touching on points like birth control and STDs. Katherine and Michael’s sexual moments are not always perfect – it’s awkward or sometimes it just doesn’t happen or incredibly fulfilling, but it is real. One of my favorite moments is Katherine’s decision to take charge of her own sexual education, an important message still today. While the focus of the story is Michael and Katherine’s relationships and Katherine’s sexual awakening, Blume touches on family relationships, grief, depression and a host of other themes. The storytelling flowed and it was an easy read from beginning to end. Something to note is the new edition of the book highlight the importance of discussing sexual responsibility and contains contact information for Planned Parenthood.

Author Bio: Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We’re Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written three novels for adults, Summer Sisters; Smart Women; and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her. (via Goodreads)

Tie to Curriculum Units: Sexual Education

Booktalking Ideas: Romance, Sex, First Love or True Love, Friendships

Challenge Issues: Forever is a book about sexual awakening, a controversial topic which lands it on many challenged lists. To defend this book, I would point out the strong reviews and continued relevance of the topic discussed in the story. If the challenger does not agree with Blume’s stance on sex, I would ask for them to recommend other titles they would like to see to create diversity in the collection.

No Normal (Ms. Marvel #1) – G. Willow Wilson

No NormalTitle: No Normal (Ms. Marvel – Vol. 1)
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Illustrator: Adrian Alphona

ISBN:9780785190219
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 120
Price: $15.99

Genre: Graphic Novel/Comics – Superheroes
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 420

Annotation: Kamala Khan was a simple Jersey girl until one night she discovers she has extraordinary gifts.

Plot Summary: 16 year old Kamala Khan always wanted to fit in, but its hard with strict Muslim parents. One night she sneaks off to a party, something her father has forbidden her to do, and sees the alcohol and debauchery of the popular kids. Disgusted by their actions and their taunts about her culture, she leaves the party. Meanwhile, a strange mist starts rolling in knocking people out. In her dream state, Kamala sees her heroes, the Avengers, and makes a wish to be like Carol Danvers who is Captain Marvel. When she wakes up, she is wearing Ms. Marvel class costume and her appearance has been changed to blonde hair and blue eyes. This does not last long as Kamala explores who she wants and does not want to be.

Critical Evaluation: Ms. Marvel marks the first appearance of a Muslim woman superhero and one of the first graphic novels I have read in a long time. This first collection of Ms. Marvel contains the comics #1-5 exploring issues of identity, gender, culture, and sexuality. It’s a refreshing perspective from the comic books of old with strong stances on gender and racial inclusivity in both the characters and the creators behind the comic. Kamala’s exploration of her identity, the yearning to be like everyone else, the external and internal transformations will resonate with many teens. Dialogue is spot on making it easy to identity character relationships and personalities. Paired with Adrian Alphona fun illustrations, it lend itself well to the storytelling with expressive faces that add nuances to the dialogue. Ms. Marvel marks a fantastic beginning of a new comic book series with fun storytelling, diverse characters, and straightforward writing. A must for any collection.

Author Bio: G. Willow Wilson is the author of the graphic novels Cairo, named a Best Graphic Novel of the Year by PW and Comics Worth Reading; Air, nominated for an Eisner Award, and Vixen, winner of the Glyph Comics Fan Award for Best Comic. Her most recent comics project is the relaunch of Mystic with artist David Lopez. Her first non-graphic work was the memoir The Butterfly Mosque, a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year. (from Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Superheroes, 1st Muslim superhero – diversity, themes of identity,

Challenge Issues: Even before its publication Ms. Marvel garner tremendous buzz. This year, it won the Hugo Award for graphic novel. Booklist give it a starred review and NPR also came out as a fan for it. It also was nominated for an Eisner Award, the comic book industry equivalent of the Oscars. Additionally, as a diverse superhero story – something that is still rare in the superhero comic book stories and should be represent on the shelves.

Weetzie Bat – Francesca Lia Block

Weetzie BatTitle: Weetzie Bat
Author: Francesca Lia Block

ISBN: 9780060736255
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 128
Price: $7.99 (paperback)

Genre: Magical Realism
Interest Age: 14 and up
Reading Level: 6.29

Annotation: Follow the lives of Weetzie Bat and her friends as they explore Los Angeles and find love.

Plot Summary: When Weetzie Bat and Dirk meet in high school and they hit it right off. They explore and gallivant around LA together with a friendship that never falters when Dirk comes out as gay. Having trouble on their search for true love and their perfect men, they are presented a magic lamp which grants 3 wishes – a “duck” for Dirk, a My Secret Agent Lover man, and a house for them all to live in. With love found, Weetzie Bat, Dirk and their partners are content for awhile until Weetzie Bat decides she wants a baby. My Secret Agent Love man does not want one and he leaves for a while. During that time, Weetzie Bat ends up pregnant by Dirk or Duck. When My Secret Agent Lover Man returns, he reveals his reasons and all four live together as a unique, magical family.

Critical Evaluation: For a slim book, Francesca Lia Block crafts a beautiful magical love letter to Los Angeles. The writing is descriptive and evocative, crafting detailed characterizations and magical stories. In a short chapter, Weetzie Bat is described as a girl who loves the memories of Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, wears Harlequin glasses and ’50s taffeta dresses, and sews fringes in the side of her minis. Block uses the evocative writing and magical realism to tackle issues of blended families, premarital sex, homosexuality, and AIDS. This creates a dreamy landscape where true love is possible for everyone and attainable. Additionally, the casual acceptance of Dirk’s homosexuality and the happy ending for Dirk’s character was a new concept when the book came out. Most gay characters did not have joyful endings or positive futures. In this book, they do.

Author Bio: Francesca Lia Block is renowned for her groundbreaking literary works, including the best-selling Weetzie Bat. Her writing transports readers through the harsh landscapes of contemporary life to realms of the senses where love is a saving grace. She lives in Los Angeles. She has received numerous honors, including the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award and the Phoenix Award, as well as citations from the American Library Association, The New York Times Book Review, and School Library Journal. (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: LGBTQ Literature

Booktalking Ideas: Magical realism, Los Angeles, manic pixie dream girl

Challenge Issues: Weetzie Bat is a book also on the challenged lists because of a few factors including Dirk’s sexuality. Besides this off-beat, quirky story, the story is importance because Weetzie Bat is one of the first YA books that have positive endings for its queer characters. It is a vital resource for queer and HIV positive teens. The book was also recognized and awarded the 2009 Phoenix Award.

The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier

The Chocolate WarTitle: The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier

ISBN: 9780375829871
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 253
Price: $8.99 (paperback)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 820

Annotation: Devastating consequences await freshman Jerry Renault when he refuses to participate in the school’s annual chocolate fundraising drive.

Plot Summary: As Jerry Renault starts his first year at Trinity, an all boys Catholic School, he is coping with depressing feelings and existential questions left after his mother’s death. He quickly ends up on the football team making friends with a fellow teammate Goober. At the same time, Brother Leon, the vice-principal of Trinity, extends his ambitions by committing the school to selling twice the amount it did the previous year. To meet this goal, Brother Leon meets with Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils – a cruel secret society of student pranksters, to garner his support. While Archie promises Brother Leon the Vigils support, he has his own plan of alternately supporting and betraying the sale using freshman assignments to do so. The first part is using Jerry to decline selling chocolates for ten days. After the ten days, Jerry continues to pass on selling chocolate causing a break with both the Vigils and Brother Leon. At first, the school rallies behind Jerry calling his actions heroic for standing up to the school and the Vigils which threatens their power. Archie and the Vigils put their full force behind the sale creating a narrative that sets up Jerry to be harassed and bullied culminating in a showdown boxing match where students decide the blows from a randomized lottery system. Midway through the fight, a teacher shuts down the lights and Jerry is brutalized. While Archie is fingered as the mastermind, Brother Leon intervenes on his behalf and they get away with their cruelty.

Critical Evaluation: Stripped down, The Chocolate War is a well-paced story about conformity and corruption. When Jerry Renault makes decisions that go against the grain, both the vice principal and the secret society manipulate students into a cruel and harsh mob. Cormier captures the adolescent period well – a time where the acceptance of peers is crucial. A period where most teens can easily relate to. Additionally, the reality of high school in all its’ ridiculousness and hell is captured throughout the novel. For example, the cruelty and beatings of Jerry over a simple no. The easy passing of judgment and the bullying of those who go against the norm. What struck me is Cromier’s uncompromising portrayal of human nature. Jerry, Archie Costello, Brother Leon characterization were superbly done and Cromier was not afraid to push the envelope. Archie and Brother’s ambition and human cruelty, Goober’s actions and choices, Jerry’s stubborn tenacity all feel real and true to life. Besides the human cruelty of the characters, Cromier’s ending of The Chocolate War follows a similar pattern to his characterization – very tell it like it is. The only failing of this novel is the lack of nuanced female characterization. Most mentions of women at all in tied to the sexual ponderings of various characters and the way they are presented is fairly disgusting.

Author Bio: Robert Cormier (1925-2000) changed the face of young adult literature over the course of his illustrious career. His many books include “The Chocolate War,” “I Am the Cheese,” “Fade,” “Tenderness,” “After the First Death,” “Heroes,” “Frenchtown Summer,” and “The Rag and Bone Shop.” In 1991 he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution to writing for teens. (from Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Secret Societies, Bullying, Peer Pressure, YA Classic

Challenge Issues: The Chocolate War is a book frequently on the frequently challenged/banned books list for the number of times it has been challenged in schools and libraries for the portrayal of mob mentality in schools and the sexual pondering of characters. To defend this title, I would mention the various awards it won during the book’s year of publication including ALA Best Books of the Year, NYT Notable Books of the Year, SLJ Book of the Award and the various review sources praise it got. Additionally, it’s status as a YA classic and the important theme present make this a must for collections.

Losing Faith – Denise Jaden

losing faithTitle: Losing Faith
Author: Denise Jaden

ISBN: 9781416996095
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 381
Price: $9.99 (paperback)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 700

Annotation: Full of questions and struggling with the loss of her sister, Brie decides to look into her final night alive.

Plot Summary: Brie’s family is broken when her older sister, Faith, dies by falling off a cliff. Faith was always the good sister with her songbird voice and devout Christian faith. Her parents drift apart, each absorbed in their own grief. Left alone by the parents, Brie does not want to weep, she’s angry at the world and she wants answers to the last moments of Faith’s life. Together with new friends Tess and Alis, Brie starts digging into her sister’s life.

Critical Evaluation: Overall, Losing Faith is a story about death, the people left behind and how they grieve. The thread that connects most of the character is their loss of a love one and how each person has a unique way of dealing with the pain. Jaden adds a twist to the story with Brie’s investigation on the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. What shines in this story is how Jaden approaches the themes of death, grief and faith. Through the different families, Jaden reveals how the death of a love one can tear apart a family. In Tessa family, her mother left because her father could not move on. Brie’s father buries himself in work, while her mom loses faith in religion and closes herself off. Both become overprotective of Brie, yet ignoring Brie’s longing for comfort. Alis’ father spend long periods of time on the road and his sister finds salvation in religion. Also using the different character, Jaden displays different ideas of faith. How faith can be a balm of the living and how faith can sometimes go too far.

What needs polishing is the mystery element of the story and some of the relationships between characters. Why would Alis tell Brie (who he just met) all about his crazy sister, especially if it might implicate her in Faith’s death? Especially since she’s all he has since his father never there. It was a little too unrealistic for me. And the mystery plot needed some work. The climax where everything was revealed seemed rushed and forced. I didn’t think there was enough of a established foundation to have to cult thing thrown in so late and I don’t know if I missed it, but how did someone with Faith’s strong testament in her religion get involved in something like that? I just think that the mystery needed some tighter plotting. Losing Faith was a good distracting read and has its good parts, but there was nothing extraordinary about it. It could have been great with stronger characters, a tighter mystery and a more tied up plot. To sum up, I liked it, but with reservations.

Author Bio: Denise Jaden lives just outside Vancouver, Canada. When she s not writing, she can often be found homeschooling her son or dancing with her Polynesian dance troupe. “Losing Faith “was her first novel. Find out more at denisejaden.com or follow her on Twitter at @denisejaden.

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Christian faith, death, cults, sisters

Challenge Issues: A finalist in INSPYs Blogger Award for Faith-Driven Literature, Losing Faith can be a powerful book to teens coping with loss and grief. Additionally, the book’s portrayal of diverse perspectives on faith adds variety to the collection.

The Ghosts of Kerfol – Deborah Noyes

Ghosts of KerfolTitle: The Ghosts of Kerfol
Author: Deborah Noyes

ISBN: 9780763648251
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 163
Price: $7.99

Genre: Horror, Short Stories
Interest Age: 12 to 17
Lexile Level: 980

Annotation: A collection of short stories inspired by Edith Wharton’s ghost story Kerfol.

Plot Summary: A collection of five stories starting with a retelling of Kerfol, a story where a young lady murders her husband, from the perspective of the chambermaid Perrette. The following stories move from the 17th century setting forward chronologically, but remain at the haunting Kerfol estate following four unsuspecting victims where ghosts dogs and spirits haunt the estate.

Critical Evaluation: In Edith Wharton’s ghost story “Kerfol” – a young man discovers the ghost story behind Kerfol, the name of the mansion that his friend urges he buy. The tale is of the young Anne de Barrigan, a young Frenchwoman convicted of murdering her jealous husband – Yves de Cornault. Deborah Noyes takes that story and rewrites it in her first short story in the collection – “Hunger Moon”. She sets the story through the observations of the eyes of a maid that works for Anne de Barrigan before and during the night of the murder. The prominent theme of the story, fidelity and betrayal, finds it way to the other four stories of the collection. Set at Kerfol, the other stories follow a young artist on the brink of a wealthy inheritance, a party girl during the Prohibition, an American couple that seem to have lost their love for each other and a deaf gardener from a family of musicians. Each stories intertwine with other elements – not just the setting. The dead dogs, the lovely diamond and sapphire necklace, the appearances of the dead characters from the first story. Also, Deborah Noyes builds the stories on each one by adding things from the previous story. An eerie and haunting ghost story.

Author Bio: Deborah Noyes writes for children and adults and is a photographer, editor, and former zookeeper. To learn more about her books and photography, and for playlists of her favorite music, visit hauntedplaylist.blogspot.com. Ms. Noyes lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Tie to Curriculum Units: Literature – Edith Wharton, Short Stories, Gothic Literature

Booktalking Ideas: ghosts, murder, short stories, haunted houses

Challenge Issues: Booklist gave this short story collection a starred review and the twists on a classic short story may be a good gateway or pairing towards the original story.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan

ForestofHandsTitle: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan

ISBN: 9780385736824
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 320
Price: $9.99 (paperback)

Genre: Horror
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 900

Annotation: Orphaned Mary seeks to find out what lies beyond the walls fences of her village.

Plot Summary: Imagine a future where your world consists of the village you live in surrounded by the Forest of Hands and Teeth – a forest that contains the Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that crave living human flesh. One bite from the Unconsecrated on a living human will turn them and they, in turn, become an Unconsecrated. This is Mary’s world. A world where the village she lives in is led by the Sisterhood and the fence, the barrier, between the forest and the village is protected by the Guardians. A world where the people are taught to dedicate themselves to the Lord (God) and that their purpose is to live, to continue (basically reproduce) so humanity can survive. Mary questions this existence. When she was young, her mom use to tell her stories of life prior to the Unconsecrated passed down from generations; stories of tall metal buildings and an endless ocean untouched by the infection. When Mary goes to live with the Sisters after her mom is infected and toss out into the Forest, the truths that she grew up learning from the Sisterhood begin to unravel. Mary begins to ponder of a life outside the fence walls and when the fence is breached, her whole life, and that of her friends, is thrown into chaos.

Critical Evaluation: When I first heard the summary of this novel, I immediately thought The Village (the movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan). The similarities with The Village is basically the plot – a village surrounded by woods/forest that people cannot enter because it contains dark creatures that will kill you and then the main character stumbles upon something that threatens to unravels that whole infrastructure of the village, etc. Carrie Ryan’s dark, post-apocalyptic novel is raw and ominous with an honest, brutal look at human nature, faith, love and hope. There were times when the story felt repetitious especially the constant see-saw love triangle with Mary, Harry and Travis and certain scenes could have been spiced up but, the layers of themes in this story make this a book worth discussing.

Author Bio: Carrie Ryan is the New York Times bestselling author of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series and the co-author of The Map to Everywhere. She lives with her husband, two cats, and a rescue mutt in Charlotte, North Carolina. (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Zombies, Postapocalyptic, Love Triangle, Survival

Challenge Issues: Both School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly give this book starred reviews. PW stated “Mary’s observant, careful narration pulls readers into a bleak but gripping story of survival and the endless capacity of humanity to persevere . . .Fresh and riveting.” Additionally, the book’s popularity led to a potential movie.

Wrapped – Jennifer Bradbury

wrappedTitle: Wrapped
Author: Jennifer Bradbury

ISBN: 9781416990086
Publisher: Athenenum
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 309
Price: $16.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 860

Annotation: Unknowingly pocketing a strange artifact from a mummy unwrapping party, debutante Agnes sets off on a crazy adventure.

Plot Summary: Infused with history, humor and romance, Wrapped is an adventure tale featuring a plucky heroine. Agnes Wilkins is not your typical Regency lady. Instead of going to balls and flirting with potential suitors, Agnes rather spend her time reading novels by a Lady and learning languages. But alas, her debut has come and her first event is a mummy unwrapping at the house of Lord Showalter – London’s most eligible and desirable bachelor. There she steals away an object found on the mummy and gets follow by a strange waiter who is mysteriously found dead at the end of the party. This sets off a chain of events with Agnes potentially caught in the middle.

Critical Evaluation: Wrapped is an enjoyable read. One great thing about this novel is the family dynamics presented. Most YA novels do not show a positive relationship between parents and child, so I thought that is a nice touch. While Agnes’ mom does not understand her child’s interest in literature over catching a beau, she still obviously loves Agnes. And vice versus. Agnes’ spunk is unusual for the time period, but her father clearly loves her for her adventurous independent spirit and does not force her to change. I adore Agnes partly because she has a mutual love for Austen and partly because she can speak ten different languages. So envious of that talent. The pacing is steady and made for quick reading. The adventure is filled with fun mishaps and historical detail. While sophisticated readers might easily deduce the villain, the story has a charm that will keep readers going. At least it did for me.

Author Bio: Jennifer Bradbury is the author of the middle grade novel “River Runs Deep” and of several critically acclaimed young adult novels: “A Moment Comes”, “Wrapped”, and her debut, “Shift” which “Kirkus Reviews” called fresh, absorbing, compelling in a starred review. “Shift” was picked as an ALA and a “School Library Journal” Best Book for Young Adults and is also on numerous state reading lists. A former English teacher and one-day “Jeopardy!” champ, she lives with her family in Burlington, Washington. (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: 19th Century – Napoleonic Wars

Booktalking Ideas: Mummies, Spies, Regency, Napoleonic Wars, Egypt

Challenge Issues: This fizzy, frothy caper is very unlikely to be challenged, but if it was I would point to the various positive reviews including VOYA’s thought mentioning its classroom potential: “Though slightly different in exact years, this novel would pair well with the classic Count of Monte Cristo as “Old Boney,” Napoleon, indirectly influences both protagonists’ actions. The differences between the two novels would make an interesting comparison on political and social levels.”