I am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 6/17/2014
After his last mission Zack went off the grid to think, but “Father” managed to track him down. For his next assignment, his name is Daniel and he must complete a mission where another teen assassin failed. The target? A crazy ex-lieutenant colonel who runs a military camp for teens. It’s supposed to be an in-and-out mission – go to a recruiting event and get it done, no going into the camp. But when events take a turn for the worse, Daniel heads into camp against “Father’s” orders.
Allen Zadoff, a master of writing non-stop action & adventure stories, does it again with I Am the Mission. From his first words to the last sentence, readers are drawn into the assassin’s mission where everyone is a suspect and every snap of a twig sends our hearts racing. At one point, I had to put the book down just so my heart would stop pounding! The feints within feints and the fast-paced action will keep even the most reluctant readers hooked. Give this to any teen who likes spy novels or adventure stories; just be prepared for the question, “when is the next one coming out?”
Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
Published by First Second 6/17/2014
|| Full Disclosure: I am a Shackleton fanatic. I have read numerous books, watched PBS specials, and bought my father a 1st edition of South by Ernest Shackleton. Yep, fanatic!
Ernest Shackleton tried to reach the South Pole on numerous expeditions, but it wasn’t meant to be. Even though he missed the opportunity to get there first, he couldn’t let go of his desire to explore Antarctica. His next ambitious move – to lead the first expedition to cross Antarctica through the South Pole.
Nick Bertozzi takes the powerful story of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914 and does a superb job of bringing it to life in his graphic novel Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey. Through his drawings and text, Mr. Bertozzi skillfully weaves a story of facts about Shackleton’s past and his current expedition with the human face of Shackleton & crew and their struggle to survive. Needless to say some of the story is horrific and Mr. Bertozzi wisely throws in hints of humor to counteract the horror via penguins, the dogs, and potty humor. Shackleton’s story is one of perseverance even in the face of disaster, a story to admire, a story to share, a story to read again and again and we are lucky to have Mr. Bertozzi’s version. Teens and tweens who love adventure stories as well as those who love history will enjoy this nonfiction graphic novel. Librarians be forewarned – keep plenty on hand.
My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books 6/3/2014
Once upon a time, before high school, Colette and Sadie were best friends, but Sadie quit talking to Colette the summer after 8th grade. Now at the end of 11th grade Sadie has invited Colette to Greece. When asked why, Sadie says “I need you” thereby invoking their promise from years ago. Colette doesn’t understand, but goes anyway – with the support of her father, but not her mother’s or her boyfriend’s – hoping to discover the truth about why they are no longer friends.
Caela Carter adroitly weaves the heart-breaking story of two friends, their broken friendship, and the unspoken cause of the rift with the exquisite beauty of Santorini. Told from Colette’s point-of-view, readers are left in the dark alongside Colette as she struggles to find the truth, as she struggles to understand what happened. While the reader catches on to a piece of the truth before Colette, our jaws drop when we learn of the final betrayal. Needless to say, the breath-taking descriptions of Santorini, swimming in the volcano, and watching the sunset leave the reader with the desire to hop the next plane to Santorini to reconnect with friends and find love. Ms Carter’s written a beautiful story about honestly, love, and giving people a second chance that teens will devour.
Playing by the Book by S. Chris Shirley
Published by Riverdale Avenue Books 6/11/2014
Jake, a naïve sheltered teen from Alabama, lives by the Book – the Bible. His father, The Preacher, wants Jake to follow in his footsteps. Fortunately, Jake’s love of journalism has him headed in another direction, headed to New York City and Columbia University’s prestigious summer journalism program. Needless to say, Jake’s entry into New York is eye-opening. From homeless people on the streets to his hot neighbor Sam and gay marriage, his world view gets turned upside down. Most importantly though, how can he follow the Book when he can’t stop himself from fantasizing about Sam? This summer, Jake is about to find out if he can be true to himself and still play by the Book or least part of it.
S. Chris Shirley’s first novel details Jake’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and his Christianity. A beautiful and profound story that asks readers to question their own beliefs and their ability to look at people beyond the labels, beyond what we “see.” Mr. Shirley’s powerful prose draws us into Jake’s world – a world of fundamentalist Christians, a world where people must follow the book, a world that makes me cringe. In this world, Jake tries so hard not to be gay that even his part is straight. Jake’s authentic voice underscores the reality that many GLBT teens live with and struggle against every day. Though Sam, the wise, hot, Jewish, gay friend, puts it best, “How can it be a mistake, brah? It’s who you are.” Mr. Shirley, drawing from his own experience, resolves the gay/Christian dilemma superbly and leaves Jake and readers with the knowledge that interpreting the bible, like the constitution, evolves over time. An excellent story with an insightful message – perfect for all teens, especially Christian teens.
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Published by Scholastic 5/27/2014
In the summer of 1964, the headquarters for SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the Mississippi Freedom Project are located in Greenwood, Mississippi. The Mississippi Freedom Project is designed to education African-American children and adults and to conduct a voter registration drive. It is a summer of turmoil because white Mississippi takes offence of the Freedom Summer invaders and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Churches and crosses were burned, people were beaten and arrested, and three Freedom Summer workers were murdered. Revolution tells the story of upheaval in Greenwood, Mississippi during this summer through the eyes of Sunny a white girl, her step-brother Gillette, and Raymond an African-American boy.
Deborah Wiles once again stuns readers with a powerful story told not only through fictional characters, but through photographs, quotes, and lyrics which provide readers with a more thorough understanding of that summer. She cleverly inserts juxtapositions between the Freedom Workers’ invasion and the Beatles’ invasion and the US’s commitment to Vietnam with their lack of commitment to African-Americans in Mississippi to get us thinking. In addition, Ms Wiles superbly brings in crucial side stories about Bob Moses, LBJ, Muhammad Ali, and Wednesday’s Women & Dorothy Height which offers a deeper insight into the time period. Needless to say, we as readers are privileged to read this insightful story. Thank you Deborah!
WARNING: Readers of all ages may have a visceral reaction to pamphlets & flyers written by the KKK, the words of Governor Wallace, and communications from the town of Greenwood. Librarians, parents, and teachers – please use this opportunity for discussion about Civil Rights and the 14th amendment.
For older readers who’d like a more thorough account of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner and subsequent lack of justice, I recommend The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, published by Scholastic.
Nick the Saint by Anthony Szpak
Published by Vincere Press
It is after the Civil War and American is in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. In New York City, people are hungry and factories use child labor to cut costs. Into this mess comes Nick – who lost his parents, who lost his girl and who was sent to jail because of a ruthless factory owner, Fergus Crank. Nick survives only to end up back in New York where he discovers his purpose – to help the children in the factories.
Anthony Szpak’s wickedly creative version of Saint Nicklaus has a comic book milieu which depicts Nick as a vigilante fighting for kids. Since all good comic book heroes have a sidekick, Nick gets Benny, an inventor and fellow inmate, who adds levity to the story with a little OCD, a little steampunk, and a little love. Additionally, Mr. Szpak ingeniously weaves in some pulley theory, some penicillin and some history to get us thinking. Readers will quickly get caught up in the story as we watch Nick develop his own brand of justice. Needless to say, all is not as it seems and we encounter unforeseen twists which keep us on the edge. An excellent action story that will draw both middle grade and teen audiences.
Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Gemma’s summer plans go askew when her boyfriend of two years dumps her and her mom & step-father are headed to Scotland. Instead of staying home, she’ll spend her summer with her dad in the Hamptons. Not so bad unless it happens to be the place where she wreaked havoc five summers ago. As Gemma heads out of town, chance encounters, mistaken names, and trying to right wrongs collide and mayhem ensues. What’s a girl to do?
Katie Finn masterfully creates Gemma’s crazy world where everything that can go wrong will go wrong and where “karma’s a bitch” seems to apply more than “forgive and forget.” The story has the readers so caught up Gemma’s life that we want to scream at her and tell her to stop the scheming because it will only make things worse! Interwoven in the story are twists and turns that surprise even the most jaded of us in addition to an ending that leaves us stunned. Ms Finn takes readers on a ride of mayhem and no holds barred revenge and all I can say is HOLD ON!