2011 Nominee Reviews

Find out more about the 15 amazing books on the shortlist.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Will Henry is the assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop.  Dr. Warthrop is a monstrumologist—he studies monsters.  Will Henry’s father was Dr. Warthrop’s assistant, but after he and Will Henry’s mother died in a fire, Dr. Warthrop took Will Henry in as his assistant.  Now he has become part of a dark underworld that most would never believe exists.  Will Henry sees what goes bump in the night.

This story begins with a visitor in the middle of the night.  Late night visitors were common for Dr. Warthrop.  “His business was dangerous and dark… and so, on the whole were his callers.”  On this night a grave robber has brought a large, grotesque package for Dr. Warthrop.  It is anthropophagi.  This is a creature that Dr. Warthrop did not believe to be in America, and claims that if there was a large pod they would have known about it.  So they head back to the cemetery to rebury the victim and hunt, and it is there they discover how wrong Dr. Warthrop was.

The Monstrumologist is a true horror story.  It is filled with gruesome creatures and horrific attacks.  The suspense builds as we figure out where these creatures came from and if it is even possible to kill them before they attack again.  This is a book you will want to read with the lights on.

Posted by: Beth on February 24, 2011

Bruiser by Neal Schusterman

Tennyson has no reason to like Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlings. Here is the guy who was voted most likely to receive the death penalty, and now he is dating his twin sister, Bronte. After Tennyson crashes their mini-golf date, Bronte asks Tennyson to give Brewster a fair chance.

All it takes is one visit to Brewster’s home, and Tennyson starts to realize that there is something different about Brewster. It starts with the scabs on his knuckles, mostly from lacrosse, that disappear. Then he notices that Brewster has similar scabs on his knuckles. Both Tennyson and Bronte start to notice things healing or not hurting the way they should. It’s too weird to question, so they don’t. Bronte makes it her mission to help Brewster make friends, even against his wishes. He surprisingly fits in quickly with her friends. Each move brings Brewster closer to them, and into the lives of others.

Told in the voices of Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster and his younger brother Cody, Bruiser is ultimately a story of friendship and family. Author Neal Shusterman mixes reality with the supernatural, and gives each teen an authentic unique voice. What is the cost of friendship, and what would you be willing to do to never feel pain?

Posted by: Katie on February 21, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Sam Kingston has a great life.  She is pretty, popular, and her boyfriend is one of the cutest boys in school.  Sam loves being popular, and she gets away with everything.  February 12 seems like any other day in her perfect life.

That night Sam and her friends head to a party.  There is some major drama, but the girls all leave together, happy.  But then unthinkable happens.  Elody and Ally are fighting over the ipod, Lindsay is smoking and drops her cigarette.  And suddenly there is a flash of white in the road, the car flipping, glass shattering, and then—

In this novel, Sam is forced to relive the last day of her life 7 times.  It sounds like it might get boring, but it never does.  Each day Sam alters how she will live that day, not always for the better, and she learns how much her decisions effect those around her.

Posted by: Beth on February 17, 2011

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie has always been happy in the shadow of her larger-than-life older sister Bailey.  But when Bailey dies unexpectedly, Lennie’s lost.  She doesn’t know who to be without Bailey.  Band geek, bookworm and poet, Lennie doesn’t know how to be the solo in her own life – first chair has always belonged to Bailey.  How could someone who was so alive be dead?

On the first day back at school, one month after Bailey’s death, Lennie meets musical genius trumpet player Joe Fontaine, he of the killer eyelashes and mega-watt smile.  The smile that makes her forget, just for a minute, that Bailey is gone.  The new boy, Joe is the only one who knows Lennie as herself, not just Bailey’s sister.  And then there’s Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend, the only one who is as sad as she is.  Gram and Uncle Big are devastated too, but they don’t get Lennie’s grief like Toby does.  Not even Sarah, Lennie’s vivacious best friend, understands how lost Lennie is without Bailey.

Heartbreaking and beautiful, Jandy Nelson’s prose will make your heart ache and your soul smile all at once.  Set in lush, green northern California, you’ll soak in this novel about what it means to love, lose, and find someone – and your true self.

Posted by: Megan on February 14, 2011

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

Meet Jena, Skye, Dakota and Owen. On the surface…Jena is an ordinary girl, Skye is a beautiful upcoming actress, Dakota is a good looking jock, and Owen is an anti-social computer geek. But when these four meet in Paradise, a tropical resort, while on vacation, their lives become interconnected and they prove first impressions can be deceiving.

Told from the perspective of each person over the course of the four months following their fateful vacation, Jena, Skye, Dakota, and Owen find their lives changing in unexpected ways.

Posted by: Tiffany on February 10, 2011

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash is alone, lost in grief after the deaths of her beloved mother and father.  Removed from her childhood home near the Wood by her indifferent stepmother and taken to the Royal City, Ash’s days are spent working off her father’s debts as a servant in her stepmother’s home.  Her nights are filled with desperate longing for the fairies to steal her away and numb her sorrow.

When Ash finds herself alone in the house one day, she does not hesitate or look back when she leaves, walking into the Wood.  It is there that she meets Sidhean.  Ash is both terrified and entranced by the cold, sharp beauty of the fairy prince.  Despite his cruel rejection of her desperate wish to stay with him, Ash and Sidhean become companions.  Sidhean is mysteriously bound to her, and Ash knows that, when the time is right, he will take her away forever.

And then Ash meets Kaisa in the Wood.  The King’s Huntress is vibrant, warm, and alive, and takes the lonely Ash under her wing.  Slowly, the two form a tentative bond as Kaisa draws Ash out of her grief and into the real world, teaching her to move and hunt in the forest.  As their love grows, Ash finds herself faced with a choice – between Sidhean and his cold, glittering immortality, and Kaisa’s real, human world, with all its sorrows and joys.

Lyrical and dreamlike, this reimagined Cinderella story will break your heart and give you hope.  Nominated for the 2010 William Morris Award, you don’t want to miss this haunting, beautiful fairy tale.

Posted by: Megan on February 8, 2011

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Micah is 17, lives in New York City, and is a liar.  She even admits it.  However, when her boyfriend Zach is brutally murdered, she promises to tell us the truth.  She wants us to know what really happened and now it’s her turn to tell her side of the story.  Micah then begins the story of her life and how she started to secretly date Zach.  She explains where she was the night that he was killed.  It all makes sense, but is Micah really telling the truth this time?

Micah is a complex character in a book that is different from anything you’ve ever read before.  Liar will pull you in as you look for clues about what is truly going on in Micah’s life and how Zach really died.  Make sure your friends read this book too because this is one you’ll want to talk about when you’re done.

Posted by: Emily on February 3, 2011

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson has two rules in life: 1) Don’t care too much. 2) Shut up.  However, Will’s best friend is the larger than life Tiny Cooper, which effectively negate his efforts to avoid notice.  Flamboyantly gay, out and proud, in love with life and in (and out) of love every 15 minutes, Tiny’s exuberance frequently leaves Will and the rest of their friends gasping in the wake of his awesomeness.  There is no stopping Tiny Cooper, which is how Tiny got everyone, even the school administration, on board with staging Tiny Dancer: The Tiny Cooper Story, a musical.  The world’s worst fake ID does, however, stop Will from getting into the Chicago club with Tiny and their friend Jane where Will’s favorite band Neutral Milk Hotel are playing.

will grayson hates pretty much everything and everyone.  and if he doesn’t hate it, he’s really, really angry about it.  especially maura and her persistant, obnoxious refusal to accept will’s rejection of her.  Friends and happiness aren’t really will’s style.  except issac.  will is pretty sure issac is his soulmate, or at least has the potential to be – he just has to meet him.  which is why he is in chicago the neutral milk hotel is playing.

When Will Grayson, will grayson, and Tiny Cooper all meet in a most unlikely location, chaos, disaster, and love, and the biggest, most spectacular high school musical ever have unexpected results.  Brilliant, heartbreaking and hilarious, John Green and David Levithan have combined their genius wit and clever writing to create this piece of awesome about the coincidence and unlikelihood of love and friendship.

Posted by: Megan on January 31, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Finn is a prisoner. In the world of Incarceron everyone is a prisoner, no one enters and no one escapes. But Finn knows he’s from the Outside, he has painful seizures where memories of another world, a world outside, overtake him. When a crystal key finds its way to Finn he knows this could be his only way out.

Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Trapped in her own kind of prison, Claudia suspects a treacherous plot involving her father and the Queen that took the life of her betrothed, Prince Giles. Determined to find out what happened, Claudia breaks into her father’s study and finds a crystal key, a key that could answer all her questions.

Complex and brilliantly written, Incarceron is a fast paced adventure from the depths of a malevolent prison to the outside Realm, a world with its own dark side.  And if you like Incarceron, check out the sequel, Sapphique.

Posted by: Tiffany on January 27, 2011

Happyface by Stephen Emond

Happyface used to have a normal life. He used to have a best (girl) friend, who he had a crush on, who didn’t quite like him the way he liked her. He used to live with his parents, in a house in a nice neighborhood. He had a brother, who was away at college most of the time, but he came back from time to time. Sure, he was not popular, or social. But he liked to draw, and he started a journal.

Then it happened. Now he lives with his mom in an apartment. Now he is only going to be happy. He will smile at everyone, he will engage with the kids in the class. He will talk to that cute girl. He will make things different.

Happyface is told as journal, supplemented with drawings, e-mails and other writings from Happyface.  Each piece of his journal helps tell the story, whether it’s one of his e-mails, a sketch of a girl on a bus, or a cartoon about an event that just happened. His observations about his family and friends help shape Happyface’s world, and his story. No matter what comes his way he wants to take on life with a smile, even if there is not much to smile about.

Posted by: Katie January 24, 2011

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When 16 year-old Thomas wakes up in a box the only thing he can remember is his name.  He quickly learns that he has arrived in the middle of a maze where a group of boys his own age has already been living.  Every day runners go out into the maze and try to find a way to escape while the remaining boys maintain the village they have built in the center of the maze.  Thomas isn’t sure why, but he feels he was sent to the maze to become a runner, despite the many dangers that await him outside the protective walls of the maze’s center.  Then weird things (even for the maze) start happening and Thomas knows he must act quickly to escape the maze.

The Maze Runner is filled with nonstop action and will keep you turning pages late into the night.  Dashner combines elements of science fiction, survival fiction, and thrillers in this first book of a planned trilogy.  Make sure you have the second book, The Scorch Trials, on hand for when you finish The Maze Runner.

Posted by: Emily on January 20, 2011

Fire by Kristin Cashore

In the kingdom of the Dells there are monsters.  They look just like regular creatures except for their brilliant colors and beauty.  Fire is a human monster, the last human monster.  With her incredible beauty, and bright red hair, she has the ability to take over minds and control them.  But Fire does not want to control others, nor does she want the attention that being a monster brings.

There is a war coming to the Dells; a war that her father, Cansrel, helped to create.  Cansrel used his monster powers in the worst ways, and Fire does not want to become like him.  But her kingdom needs her, needs her abilities.  Fire must decide whether she can betray her own morals to help the people of the Dells, all while protecting herself from those with extreme love and hate for her, including the king.

Fire is an excellent fantasy novel that will keep you wanting more.  Fire is a strong and compassionate character who only wants to overcome her father’s terrible legacy.  This is a companion novel to Graceling, but completely stands on its own; there is just one overlapping character.  You will not want to put this book down.

Posted by: Beth on January 17, 2011

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

When Valerie’s boyfriend opens fire in their school cafeteria she finds herself injured and implicated in the crime.  Valerie and Nick started a “hate list,” a list of all the things and people they hated.  Valerie thought of it as a way to vent her frustrations, but Nick used it to find targets for his shooting spree.  Now several months after the shooting, Valerie must return to school and face her classmates.  A school dealing with loss and fear confronts Valerie and her guilt over the tragedy.

Posted by: Tiffany on Janurary 13, 2011

Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Catherine (Cat to her friends) is an over-weight high school student who is determined to win this year’s science fair and beat her former best friend and current enemy, Matt.  When Cat sees a drawing of a prehistoric woman and notices how thin and muscular she is, she decides to become her own guinea pig and try to live like a prehistoric woman for her science fair project.  Cat changes her diet to all-natural foods similar to those prehistoric people would have eaten and avoids modern transportation when possible by walking everywhere.

Cat’s healthier life style helps her lose some of her extra weight and gain some self-confidence.  More boys start to notice her, especially her enemy Matt.  But Cat can’t forget or forgive his betrayal from four years ago.

Fat Cat will really make you examine your own life style and think about the kinds of foods you put it your body.  The smart, creative, and funny heroine is refreshing and inspiring.  Don’t miss this fun and intelligent book, Fat Cat by Robin Brande.

Posted by: Emily on January 11, 2011

You by Charles Benoit

“When did it go wrong?” You are Kyle Chase, a hoodie, not so great of a student and all around disappointment. “When did it go wrong?” is what you wonder as you stare at the blood and glass that surrounds you, and him. This is not an easy question to answer, as there are many events that could be points that brought you here. Of course there was meeting Zach, but that would be too easy. There was the break-in, or the start of school, or even Ashley. But it goes beyond that, back to junior high when you decided not to go to Odyssey High.

Tension and suspense build as each moment that brought you there is re-examined. Every action, or lack there of, brings you closer and closer to a brutal scene, and the realization that something has finally happened, it just might not be the end you hoped for.

Author Charles Benoit mixes mystery with a typical high school slacker story and puts you right in the middle of it all by writing in the second person. You is a fast read, that will keep you turning the pages to see what happened and what brought you here.

Posted by: Katie on January 6, 2011

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