Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the tag “social issues”

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent KingIt’s hard to find your way when your dad is a Pentecostal minister who insists you handle poisonous rattlesnakes. Dill Early struggles to survive his senior year in the Bible Belt, while grappling with his secret feelings for a fellow outcast. He and his two misfit friends have their own methods for surviving senior year.

But a sudden tragedy soon leaves Dill wondering if his love for music, as well as his secret feelings for Lydia, are enough to see him through these dark days. Dill soon find his own faith, leading to a final confrontation with his devout mother about his shifting beliefs on God and the future that is pulling him away from the home that has long stifled him.

This coming-of-age story shows how the pain of the past need not dictate the long path forward. Dill’s struggle to make it through the school year grows more difficult as his parents pressure him to live by the faith with which they face each day. Dill’s own brand of faith finally gives him the courage to move on.

The Serpent King will resonate with fans of Me, Earl, & the Dying Girl, as well as readers seeking a heartfelt story of overcoming life’s challenges to forge one’s own path.

– Travis

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Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

Burning MidnightNo one knows where the colored spheres came from or how they got here. Apparently they arrived years ago, scattered and hidden all over the planet. One thing that we do know is that holding two matching spheres to one’s temple causes an increase in one’s abilities, skills, or appearance. Depending on the color, “burning” a pair of spheres can give the user whiter teeth, increased height, better memory, and other improvements. Some spheres are rare and give greater results, but these are hard to find — and very valuable.

This story takes place on present day Earth, with the main character being seventeen-year-old David “Sully” Sullivan. Sully once found a rare sphere, but was cheated out of his big payday by unscrupulous millionaire businessman, Alex Holliday. Now Sully struggles just to help his mom pay their rent by selling spheres at the flea market.

One day, Sully meets a girl named Hunter, who has a natural ability for finding spheres. The two pair up and start searching for orbs together. After some mishaps, Sully is ready to give up. The two push on and somehow find a color that has never been seen before — a Gold sphere. This could be worth millions, but no one knows what special abilities it may grant…or where a matching sphere may be.

With the aid of two close friends, Sully and Hunter set off on an adventure to find another Gold sphere to complete the set. But Alex Holliday wants the Gold spheres for himself, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get them. Thus begins a race to see who finds the treasured gems first and eventually we discover what the spheres are really for and the dangers involved with using them. This story was action-packed and imaginative with a lot of relatable context.


– Mark

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This Way Home by Wes Moore

This way homeSeventeen-year-old Elijah Thomas is a sensation on the basketball court. His focus and determination have made him a standout player and his skills are getting some serious attention.  His high school team has just won the state championship which for most would be the culmination of a dream, but not for Elijah. He sees basketball and college as a stepping stone and a way out of his tough Baltimore neighborhood.

Dylan and Michael are Elijah’s best friends and together the trio is preparing for a summer 3-on-3 tournament where the teens will compete in the adult division. A win here would give Elijah important visibility in front of college scouts. Along with the positive notoriety, Elijah is also getting noticed by a dangerous group.

An up and coming street gang, known as Blood Street Nation, has given Michael expensive gifts of sneakers and uniforms for the team to wear in the tournament. Although tempted by the new gear, Elijah knows it’s wrong and has the team go back to their worn out clothes to finish the championship. There are major consequences because of this decision and they fear the gang’s elusive boss will retaliate against them, which he does.

Elijah will need the help of Mr. Banks, a gruff, ex-military man who has become a reluctant mentor to the boy. Elijah desperately needs someone like Mr. Banks in his life since he has no real memories of his birth father. Missing his father is a recurring theme for Elijah throughout the book and is a reminder of just how important parents are to our youth. This was a well written and ultimately tragic story with some startling plot twists.

– Mark
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Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson

Placebo JunkiesHave you ever wondered how pharmaceutical companies figure out how their medicines might affect the people taking them? After extensive laboratory research and testing, data is sent to the FDA for approval to continue the process and eventually they begin testing on humans. This phase of development is known as the “Clinical Trials” which are used to help determine whether treatments are safe and effective for a particular disorder. The subjects of these trials sometimes go by some interesting monikers such as “test subjects”, “lab rats”, and “guinea pigs”.

Placebo Junkies centers on an eighteen-year-old girl named Audie and she is one of those “guinea pigs”.

Actually, Audie is somewhat of a professional guinea pig as she uses this odd line of work as her sole source of income. We’re not given much information on Audie’s home life or family and sadly, it can be surmised that she has neither. She does have a circle of friends though and they’re all doing the same ‘pills for bills’ routine. Together they make up an eclectic bunch – a bit of a drug-seeking sub-culture buried deep within the medical and pharmaceutical communities.

This book is somewhat dark and at a certain point, the reader may begin to wonder what is real and what is not. Not everyone is who they appear to be and even Audie’s psychological stability may be in question. Is she losing her mind because of all the drug testing or is she involved with the drug testing because she’s losing her mind? You’ll need to pick up this tale and see if you can figure it all out.

– Mark

Order in Bibz.

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale

Dead BoyCrow Darlingson is dead. He knows this because of the maggots, rotting flesh, decaying body parts, and the stench. What he doesn’t know is how he died and why he’s still hanging around at home with his overprotective and clingy mom.  She homeschools her eleven-year-old boy and rarely lets him go outside or have contact with anyone but her.

One day, new neighbors move in and we meet Melody Plympton, who is about the same age as Crow. Both lonely for a friend, the pair quickly bond during late night meet-ups in their adjoining back yards. Melody has a fascination with all things magical and becomes convinced that some sort of a curse is responsible for Crow’s ‘dead but alive’ condition.

Venturing out to a local park one night, they stumble across an abandoned storage shed. Inside they find a creature that is somehow strangely familiar to Crow. After escaping the shed, he presses his father for details of his death and learns that a wish-granting mythical beast called a Meera was indeed responsible for bringing him back to life.

Thus starts a quest for the new friends to challenge the Meera and try to pass a series of tests in hopes of having their wishes granted. It’s not so easy, as they soon find out, and wishes don’t always turn out the way they’re intended.

I found this story somewhat sad in the beginning, but it really pulled me in as I began to root for the friends to pass each of the tests they’re presented with. There are some interesting themes and morals tied into the wishes and overall this was a unique and enjoyable tale.

– Mark

Order in Bibz.

I Text Dead People by Rose Cooper

I Text Dead PeopleMeet Annabel Craven, a young girl who does not believe in ghosts. Recently, Annabel and her mother moved to a new town and into a new home that was inherited from an estranged uncle. With the move to a new town comes a new school. Anna is excited to start and hopes to make new friends since she was friendless at her last school.

Events suddenly change when Anna finds an abandoned cell phone in the woods near the cemetery.  Anna, never having owned a cell phone, is extremely excited to find it. Thinking perhaps things are starting go her way; she’s even making new friends at the Academy. Suddenly one day at school, Anna receives a text on the new phone. The strangest thing is, Anna hasn’t charged the phone yet, the battery is dead.

The text is just one simple word: “Help”.

The story then introduces us to Lucy, a non-popular girl at the Academy who has a boyfriend named John. One day, Lucy receives a text from John’s number to meet him in the graveyard. She goes, and then mysteriously disappears. Could Lucy be the one sending the texts?

As the story continues, we’re introduced to a handful of new characters. Valerie (Anna’s mother), the Asbury twins (Olivia and Eden), John, and Millie.  Olivia, we find out, is rather mean to her classmates and her sister Eden, whose hobby is practicing witchcraft, is an ‘outsider’. Could any of these characters be the one sending the strange texts to Anna’s new found phone?

Throughout the book we learn a lot about Anna through the texts she receives and the interactions she has with her friends. In the end, we learn that sometimes things are not always what they seem to be and there are many types of abilities that we inherit from our family.

This is a book that I would recommend for ages 9 to 14.  With today’s technology, anything that has to do with cell phones is going to pop out to tween readers. It was a quick read and my daughter finished it in just two days.

– Jodi

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Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy

Running out of NightThis book is about the daily struggle for survival for a nameless girl living in the south.  Her mother died giving birth to her and her father never bothered to name her. Every day was a combination of beatings and isolation until one day a runaway slave girl named Zenobia, stumbles upon the nameless girl and asks for her help.

The nameless girl is hesitant to help Zenobia as she knows the punishment would be severe if she were caught.  She doesn’t have the heart to hand the runaway over to be killed so she decides to help hide her.  After a particularly brutal beating from one of her brothers, the nameless girl decided to run away with Zenobia.  On their flight to freedom, Zenobia gives the nameless girl the name Lark because of her ability to mimic the bird’s song. This book describes their journey to freedom and discovery of the Underground Railroad.

This is a heartfelt story about friendship and love. I couldn’t put this book down, I would recommend it to anyone.

– Renee

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YA Reads for Adults – August 2014

There are so many great titles being published for the teen market that can also be enjoyed by adults. Some are referring to these crossover titles as New Adult.  Check out Brodart’s list of hot, new titles that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.  There’s well-known, as well as, debut authors, a mix of genres, and interesting plots and characters to keep any age reader engaged.    View the entire list here.

Falling into PlaceFalling into Place by Amy Zhang

Liz Emerson, a high school junior, tries to commit suicide by crashing her car into a tree.  She’s taken to the hospital and is stuck somewhere between life and death.  Both friends and enemies visit Liz and the twisted truth of what pushed her to this point is told through flashbacks.  Learn more and order here.

If You're Reading ThisIf You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy

15-year-old Mike starts to receive letters that his father wrote while in Afghanistan seven years ago, before he was killed.  Mike takes comfort in each letter as he struggles to take care of his emotionally distraught family, and tries to follow the advice that his father gives.  Mike must also find the person that held on to the letters the past seven years and discover what really happened to his father.  Learn more and order here.

Zac and MiaZac & Mia by A.J. Betts

17-year-old Zac meets outspoken Mia, a fellow cancer patient, during a leukemia treatment.  Their story is told from each teen’s perspective as they form a friendship and try to see beyond their sickness.  Learn more and order here.

Hunt for the Bamboo RatHunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury

Zenji, a 17-year-old high school graduate, plans on being a translator in the Phillipines but the Army sends him to spy on the Japanese.  Zenji endures hardship and fights to survive as he’s lost for months in the jungle, knowing that if he compromises his cover as an American citizen, he will be tortured.  Based on a true story.  Learn more and order here.

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of MeanMarlene is the mean girl.  She pinches, kicks, flicks, and scowls. She is queen of the sidewalk, playground and the school and you better watch out or she’ll trip you and hit you.

 Tired of her meanness, Freddy decides to stand up to her. He decides she’s not very tall and there’s no reason to be afraid of her. And even though Marlene attacks the kids, they still stand their ground and tell her she’s a bully. Marlene starts to cry and realizes she can’t be a bully anymore.  She becomes someone else, someone who is nice and helpful. Although she still occasionally slips and is mean, she has been made to see the error of her ways and decides this is a much better way to be.

 This comical rhyming picture book is great to read to a bully or to someone who is being bullied.  

 – Tina

 Order in Bibz.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month.  I hope that every day of every month can be viewed as a time to prevent bullying. We’ve created a list of exceptional titles on the topics of physical and verbal bullying, cyber bullying, peer pressure, cliques, and social stress, for guys and girls of all ages.  The titles include information on prevention and intervention, as well as real-life stories.  There are also many fiction titles featuring characters that deal with bullying.  Let’s all do our part to end the cycle of bullying. View the entire list here.

8 Keys to End Bullying by Signe Whitson 8 Keys to End Bullying

This book provides eight smart, practical strategies to help educators, professionals, and parents tackle the difficult issue of bullying.  Author Signe Whitson realizes that there’s no magic cure-all for the problem but presents quick and easy techniques that can make a huge difference in the lives of kids.   Learn more and order here.

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger Bully

Little bull hasn’t been nice to the other animals. He calls them names and insults them.  He learns a lesson by being called a bully and realizes that it’s more fun to be nice to others.  Learn more and order here.

Bullying Under Attack by John Meyer & Stephanie H. Meyer Bullying Under Attack

Read these powerful, true stories from 80 teens on the effects of bullying.  The personal, conversational essays are told from the perspective of the victims, the bullies themselves, and bystanders that stood by and watched it happen.  Learn more and order here.

Gabe & Izzy by Gabrielle Nicole Ford & Sarah Thomson Gabe and Izzy

Gabrielle Ford details her life in middle school as she deals with a degenerative muscle disease and being bullied.  She takes comfort in a dog named Izzy and has the courage to take a stand against bullying.  Learn more and order here.

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