Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
May01

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Wendy Darling is responsible—a straight A student heading for Stanford in the fall. But during the summer following graduation, Wendy is haunted by her missing brothers. When pieces of John and Michael’s ruined surf boards show up on the beach, Wendy’s parents give up hope, but Wendy believes her brothers are still out there. Her search leads her to Kensington beach, a surfing haven populated by runaways that live and breathe surfing. Drawn by their charismatic leader Pete, Wendy joins their carefree life of catching the next wave. However, she finds herself caught between Pete, his rival Jas, and the lies they tell about her brothers. In fairy tale retellings, I look for creativity. How close can the author stay to the original story while also creating something entirely new? Peter Pan is one of my favorite fairy tales, so I was skeptical about Second Star. A surf-themed love triangle between Wendy, Peter Pan, and Captain Hook was intriguing, but seemed a little far-fetched. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Alyssa Sheinmel captures the magic of Peter Pan in a contemporary setting devoid of any actual magic. Her characters hold true to the forever young Peter, responsible Wendy, jealous Tinkerbell, and bad boy Hook (she takes some liberties with Hook, but in an acceptable way). The conflict is new, but lends itself well to most elements of the original Peter Pan story. Sheinmel also manages a love triangle free from sex or preoccupation with sex. Conservative readers should be aware this isn’t an innocent and childlike Peter Pan. There are edgier, teenage elements to the plot, but the story remains appropriate for older teens who enjoy both contemporary novels and fairy tales. Recommended ages—15 and up...

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The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Apr04

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

War has finally come to Carthya. Prince Jaron faces both physical and psychological battles and he struggles to save his kingdom. As usual, Jaron’s greatest strength and his greatest weakness are the people he loves. Enemies use his friends to lure him into traps, influence his actions, and cripple him. However, in spite of hardships, loyalty and trust prove to be Jaron’s best weapons. With The Shadow Throne, Nielsen provides a satisfying conclusion to The Ascendance Trilogy. The fast-paced adventure is perfect for teen and tween readers looking for battles and intrigue. Jaron retains his brilliant personality. My only disappointment with this final book is Jaron has less interaction with his friends. Characterization is put on the sidelines in favor of plot. However, the plot is intricate and well-written for adventure seekers. It is exciting, but remains uplifting and age appropriate. Recommended ages—11 and up...

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The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Apr02

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

In The Here and Now, Ann Brashares takes the old and overdone dystopia genre and gives it new life by bringing a damaged future into the present. Prenna James is an immigrant, but she comes from the future—a dark future where blood plagues and food shortages make life unlivable. She and a small group of other immigrants form a secret community trying to blend in with life in 2014. Life is better, but Prenna feels bound by the strict rules and constant surveillance by community leaders. When Prenna breaks some rules and forms a bond with Ethan Jarves, a ‘time native’ who senses something different about the time travelers, her world changes. Together, Prenna and Ethan must discover how to change the present and prevent an awful future. The Here and Now has all the elements that draw dystopian readers—controlling governments and leaders, intrigue, impending world disaster, and a little romance. However, Brashares adds the exciting twist of time travel and an ability to change the future. Ethan and Prenna are interesting and well-written characters with typical teenage concerns as well as admirable maturity. Their story is a captivating mystery where elements of science fiction combine with a contemporary plot. With these style combinations, The Here and Now will appeal to a wide variety of teen readers. Conservative readers should be aware the characters talk about sex, but it is not a major plot point and no teen sex occurs. Recommended ages—14 and up...

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Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman
Feb27

Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

When their home burns down, Nick Slate and his family move to a deteriorating Victorian home they inherited. In an attempt to earn some much needed money, Nick organizes a garage sale and sells the strange junk he finds in the attic. However, Nick soon learns that the antiques are inventions of Nikola Tesla, the eccentric, early twentieth century inventor. The inventions have extraordinary and dangerous properties and are also being sought after by a mysterious organization with malevolent intentions. Nick and his new friends must reclaim the inventions before they harm anyone or fall into the wrong hands. This entertaining, middle-grade novel combines a little history, some science, and a lot of supernatural adventure to create a captivating story. Tween readers will connect well with Nick and his friends as they grapple with both typical and atypical teenage struggles. The cast of characters is full of variety with a wide range of personalities, character traits, and interests. Tesla’s Attic reaches a broad audience because it presents a little of everything—mystery, suspense, history, and fantasy. It also speaks to a large age group. It is exciting enough for young adult readers, but the subject matter is not too intense for younger readers as well. The writing is descriptive with strong characters and an engaging mystery. Tesla’s Attic is a well-crafted beginning to a unique new trilogy. Recommended ages–10 and up...

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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. Book 1) by Jonathan Stroud
Feb19

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. Book 1) by Jonathan Stroud

Since the beginning of the Problem in London, malevolent ghosts and spirits have been showing up everywhere. Only children and young people have the psychic abilities to hunt and destroy the ghosts. Lockwood and Co. is one of the many agencies that deals with the supernatural problem. However, it is the only agency without adult supervision. Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle, and George Cubbins do their best to make a living destroying ghosts. Through success and disaster, the agents learn more about each other as well as their own ghost hunting abilities. When the agency is threatened with financial ruin, Lockwood & Co. is forced to take a job at Combe Carey Hall. They face the legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room, but are they finally in over their heads? Jonathan Stroud creates a plucky heroine and a mysterious hero. He places them in an intriguing alternate London with non-stop adventures. The Screaming Staircase is a good book for lovers of ghost stories who still like to sleep at night. The book is filled with adventures that are always exciting and sometimes frightening, but it is still mild enough for tween readers. This is a fast-moving beginning to a well-written new series. Recommended ages—11 and up...

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Outlaw, by Stephen Davies
Nov05

Outlaw, by Stephen Davies

Jake Knight lives a privileged life as the son of a British ambassador. He longs for adventure, but when he and his sister are kidnapped by an African outlaw, he gets more adventure than he ever wanted. Soon, his life is consumed by violence, terrorism, and a desperate race for survival. As Jake travels through the African dessert and small villages he learns about his personal strength while also recognizing the great need of others around him. Outlaw is a fast-paced adventure story filled with high-tech surveillance equipment, political intrigue, and intense chase scenes. However, it is also a coming-of-age story with surprising messages about sacrifice and compassion. Although some of the story is a little far-fetched, Outlaw is an entertaining story that can educate young readers about some African geography, culture, and political unrest. Recommended ages–12 and up...

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Perfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter
Oct18

Perfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter

In this third Heist Society novel, Katarina Bishop is up to her old tricks—going outside the law to see that justice is done. However, this time her heist is getting personal. When Kat’s boyfriend, W.W. Hale the Fifth, leaves her in the middle of a job, Kat is unsettled and a little angry. It turns out his grandmother has died and left him heir to the Hale fortune and their billion-dollar corporation. However, Grandma Hazel’s most trusted employee is convinced the will is a fake. Kat and her crew have to stop the con without losing Hale’s fortune or his friendship. This fast-paced novel includes intrigue, and complicated heists while keeping a fun and teen appropriate feel. The characters are complex and enjoyable and often unpredictable. Perfect Scoundrels is a fun adventure with a fresh feel outside the dystopia or paranormal romance scene. Recommended ages–12 and up...

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The Agency: A Spy in the House, by Y.S. Lee
Apr22

The Agency: A Spy in the House, by Y.S. Lee

After nearly hanging for thievery, Mary Quinn is rescued and educated at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. She receives an excellent education, but is unsatisfied with her options for employment in Victorian England. When she expresses her feelings, Mary learns the school is a cover for The Agency, a top secret group of female investigators who assist the Scotland Yard in solving mysteries. Mary joins the Agency and begins her first assignment. Posing as a female companion for the only daughter of a rich merchant family, Mary seeks to find solid evidence for the family’s suspected illegal smuggling. Mary uncovers secrets, but also makes unexpected friends and enemies while completing her first assignment. This is a light mystery, pleasantly low on violence with a nice historical feel. While not entirely believable, the story is entertaining and the characters are well-written....

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The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley
Oct01

The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley

On the way to Nottingham Fair, Robin is waylaid by a group of bullies. In self defense, he shoots and kills one of the king’s foresters. This act sends Robin into hiding in Sherwood with a few of his friends. As word spreads, more Saxons displaced by harsh Roman overlords join him in the forest and for survival, they begin robbing Norman noblemen. The Outlaws of Sherwood follows many of the well-known aspects of the Robin Hood legend, but gives depth and complexity to all its characters. Robin is not a perfect archer, nor the carefree outlaw we know. He is a man forced into exile and consumed with anxiety over his responsibility to keep a growing band of outlaws safe. He loves Marian, but fights with her constantly in an attempt to keep her safe and away from him camp. For lovers of the Robin Hood tales, this brings that story to life with much more detail and reality than most fireside stories. A good read for legend loving readers. Recommended for ages 11 and up...

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The Wild (The Secret Journeys of Jack London #1), by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Jul24

The Wild (The Secret Journeys of Jack London #1), by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

When I picked up this book, I expected a Jack London-like outdoor adventure featuring a boy, wolves, and survival. However, this book is more hints of The Call of the Wild with a supernatural, ghost story twist. Authors Golden and Lebbon place a young Jack London in the Yukon searching for gold, but they draw from the myths and legends of that area and time period to add to their story. Jack’s story has wilderness adventures with a spooky, surreal tinge to them. Although it was different than I expected, The Wild is a good read for teen boys who enjoy frightening, but not too gory stories. The story is fast-paced and intriguing, but doesn’t rely on detailed descriptions of blood and gore for its spine chilling aspects. Jack is a strong character with a good head on his shoulders, a sense of loyalty and a desire to see justice done. This is an interesting and different kind of read for adventure lovers. Recommended for ages—13 and up....

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Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Feb14

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan begins at the start of World War I, but in a world very different from what we know.  The Germans, known as Klankers, have technologically advanced war machines.  The Britains, known as Darwinists, fight with genetically engineered war animals.  In a genre also known as Steampunk, Westerfeld creates wonderful characters and an original rendering of WWI. In his series we follow Derryn, a girl disguised as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.  She soon meets Alek, heir to the throne of a country that no longer wants him to exist.  These two characters develop an unlikely friendship as they are drawn into the battles and politics of an alternate World War I. With an engaging hero and heroine, Leviathan is a great read for all teenagers.  It is especially interesting for historical fiction readers to compare actual and alternate histories....

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The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer
Nov23

The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer

When Meg Finn meets an unexpected, early death, she ends up trapped in limbo. Her scale between heaven and hell is exactly even. To fix this problem, she is sent back to earth to help old Lowrie McCall fulfill his wish list before he dies. With this service, she hopes to tip her balance toward heaven, but she receives another reward—the friendship of a cantankerous and wonderful old man. Colfer’s humor makes this story both delightful and touching....

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Silver Fin (Young James Bond, Book 1), by Charlie Higson
Oct29

Silver Fin (Young James Bond, Book 1), by Charlie Higson

 In the Young Bond Series, we see how a teenage Bond becomes the famous British spy who graces books and movies as an adult.  These books follow the trend of mystery, chase, and fight scenes, (as well as a little get the girl scenes), but  they stay appropriate for a young teen audience.  The audio books, read by Nathaniel Parker, are also very well done....

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The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1), by James Dashner
Oct27

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1), by James Dashner

This is a fast paced adventure and mystery combined. Thomas wakes up in an elevator with no memory of his previous life. He finds himself in a community of teenage boys with similar spotty memories. They only know they are in a giant maze and their lives depend on solving it. This book is a dystopian novel of the world gone wrong, but I appreciate that the focus is on solving the mystery and not the political aspects....

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The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, by Eve Bunting
Oct27

The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, by Eve Bunting

This is a fast-paced adventure for younger teen readers. Catherine begs to join her father on his pirate ship following her mother’s death. On the ship and disguised as a boy, she learns of the ruthlessness and danger that come with adventure. This fast read looks at the real life of old time pirates....

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Steel, by Carrie Vaughn
Oct27

Steel, by Carrie Vaughn

When she finds a rusted tip of a rapier washed up on the beach, Jill takes it with her. However, through some power of the sword, she soon finds herself transported through time to the deck of a pirate ship. As she tries to find her way home, Jill is introduced to the life of a pirate–the cruelty as well as some surprising human kindness....

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Virals, by Kathy Reichs
Oct27

Virals, by Kathy Reichs

Reminiscent of Michel Crichton, this teen science fiction thriller is an exciting and interesting read. When Tori Brennan and her friends discover some old dog tags, they try to discover the original owner. This attempt leads them to an illegal experiment being conducted on a wolf-dog and starts them on the trail of an unsolved murder. The more they learn, the more danger they encounter. A good mystery with attention to science....

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Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel
Oct27

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel

Set in an alternate past, Airborn takes place aboard a giant pleasure cruise airship. Matt Cruse, a cabin boy on the Aurora airship, lives to fly. When he meets Kate, an outspoken girl who refuses to be confined by the expectations of society, their adventures begin. They discover a new species of animal as well as encounter air pirates. This well written story contains hints of our actual turn of the century, with a few twists and new technology thrown in. A fun read for teens....

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Airman, by Eoin Colfer
Oct25

Airman, by Eoin Colfer

Living on the Saltee Islands at the turn of the century, Conor Broekhart has always been fascinated by flight.  When he is framed as a traitor to the king, Conor has to rely on flight to free himself from prison.  This is a fast-paced adventure story with great characters and the feel of a more modern fairy tale....

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Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller
Oct25

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller

Ananka’s life changes dramatically when she enters a sinkhole near her New York City apartment.  She discovers a hidden city under the streets of New York as well as an unsolved mystery.  Her life becomes even stranger as she meets Kiki Strike and begins adventures inside the shadow city.  A fun and dark adventure with interesting characters....

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