2012 Close Calls

Finished reading all 15 nominees? Here are some other books we thought you might enjoy!


Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Sixteen-year-old Grace lives under the extremist government of Keran Berj.  She has been trained by a group of rebels to be an Angel and offer herself as a sacrifice to the cause as a suicide bomber.  But Grace doesn’t want to die.  So, instead, Grace sets off her bomb and tries to escape across the country’s boarder on a train. 

Grace’s disguise is not a great one and the threat of discovery is constant.  It is within this context of fear that we learn about Grace’s life, the questions she has about taking the lives of other people, and what freedom really means.  A dark story set in a fictional country which could be all too real.

Posted by Heather on March 28, 2012

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi’s family has been torn apart by the death of her little brother.  Her father, who has since spent all of his time focused on his genetics work, suddenly reappears just in time to send his depressed wife off to an institution and move Andi to Paris with him while he conducts more research.  Andi has also been severely depressed and is on the verge of flunking out of school.  Paris is her last chance to make serious efforts on her senior thesis and possibly graduate.


While in Paris, Andi uncovers the lost diary of a friend to the boy who was prince during the French Revolution.  She also finds time to meet Virgil, a young hip-hop artist.  The story then unfolds in layers as Andi researches the diary and begins to connect with Virgil despite her seemingly insurmountable depression.  History, music, mystery, romance—there is something in this story for every reader, including a dramatic ending.

Posted by Heather on March 26

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

June is (yet again) the new girl in school, and while she is navigating the halls of (another) new high school, she doesn’t notice Wes. Wes notices her, right away. She has kind of funny hair, and these huge blue eyes, so blue that he starts to call her Aqua Girl in his head. Wes broke up with his girlfriend Izzy, and it surprised everyone. June never wants to get too attached to anyone because she knows she’ll just have to pick up and move again.

June and Wes do become friends, and slowly something more. Real life gets in the way of romance when June has to move. Told in seasons, and in both Wes and June’s points of view, this is realistic fiction at its most real. Both Wes and June have lives outside of each other, but there is a connection between the two of them. The Big Crunch may not come with swoon-worthy kisses, and glittering vampires, but it is like reading about some of your best friends. 

Posted by: Katie on March 19th, 2012

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Australia in the 1960s is a desolate place- hot, dry, and with simmering layers of racism and intolerance. When Jasper Jones, the town hoodlum knocks on Charlie’s window in the middle of the night, life for Charlie becomes much stranger.  After finding the dead body of a local girl, Jasper and Charlie form an unlikely partnership to investigate the town’s secrets to discover the killer.

While this book has some mystery elements, some romance elements, and some historical fiction elements (and is pretty funny to boot), Jasper Jones transcends labels. This book will keep you reading, not only to find out who killed the girl, but also to spend more time with the beautifully developed characters.

Posted by: Richmond on March 16, 2012

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

On the way to a track meet, the school bus Jessica was riding in was struck by a car.  The devastating accident left Jessica an amputee with no legs and little hope of running again.  Jessica now lives a completely different life where she can’t get upstairs to her bedroom, taking a shower or bath is nearly impossible, and all of her teachers treat her as if she’s not the same person.  Then her track team decides to find a way to help Jessica run again.

Although it may seem that the premise of The Running Dream has all the ingredients for a sappy feel-good tear-jerker, there is so much more to this book.  There is so much truth and depth to the characters and the story-line is never unrealistic or too sentimental.  The most touching part of the book is not Jessica’s struggle to overcome her difficult circumstances, but a relationship she develops with Rosa, another disabled student who is wheelchair bound.

Don’t miss out on this inspiring book that almost made our Milwaukee County Teen Book Award shortlist.  This fast read will have you cheering for Jessica until the last page.

Posted by: Emily on March 12, 2012

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Tom has hit rock bottom. When he passes out at a bar and ends up at the hospital needing 10 stitches, it’s not his mother or father who come to get him…it’s Francesca. Tom and Francesca, along with Tara, Justine, Siobhan and Jimmy, all become friends in high school. But that was five years ago and Tom hasn’t spoken to any of them since his uncle died. His uncle’s death tore his family apart and Tom pulled away from everyone, include Tara, his girlfriend. But now, homeless and out of work, Tom turns to his Aunt Georgie. Will reconnecting with family and old friends help Tom deal with his grief?

A beautifully written story of one family’s struggle to come together after the death of a loved one threatens to tear them apart.

I also recommend Saving Francesca, a companion novel to The Piper’s Son, that tells the story of how Tom and Francesca met.

Reviewed by: Tiffany on March 9, 2012

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Liz and Kate have been forever best friends for over 10 years, but when Kate makes a serious accusation against Liz’s brother, everything changes. Liz feels caught in the middle, who does she side with and who does she believe, her loving older brother or her amazing best friend?

Exposed is a thought-provoking novel-in-verse about family, friendship, photography, and the repercussions of violence.

Reviewed by: Tiffany on March 6, 2012

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John Now that Piper’s best friend moved away she can’t wait to escape to college. Too bad her parents spent all her college money on her sister…

When, through a series of uncharacteristic choices, Piper becomes the manager of the hottest band in school she decides to make money by making them a success. Standing in the way of that success are the giant egos of the band members, and oh, yeah, Piper’s deafness. She can talk and read lips, but can’t hear anything. Now she has to prove to the band, the school, and her family that a deaf girl can manage a rock band.

This book has rock n’ roll, romance, and a heavy dose of realism. The characters in Five Flavors of Dumb are complicated, just like people in real life. While the story is inspirational, it never shoves the positive message down your throat.

Posted by: Richmond on March 5, 2012

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

Norrie, Jane, and Sassy are the three beautiful and wealthy Sullivan Sisters.  On Christmas Day their grandmother, whom they call Almighty, announces that one of the Sullivans has greatly offended her and that this person must write her a letter asking for forgiveness or the entire family will be cut out of Almighty’s will and left penniless.  Not wanting to cause the family to be thrown into poverty, the three sisters all write letters to Almighty detailing their offenses.

The book consists of the sisters’ three letters.  First readers learn Norrie’s story of forbidden love.  Then Jane explains why she has betrayed the family by writing a popular blog criticizing the family and revealing their dirty secrets.  And finally Sassy write about why believes she is responsible for the death of Almighty’s husband.  Each sister’s story is captivating and amusing and will leave you wondering if she is the one responsible for offending Almighty.  Don’t miss this fast and fun read.

Posted by: Emily on March 2, 2012

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Three years ago, Levi’s older brother Boaz announced at the dinner table that instead of going to college, he was joining the Marines.  Now he’s coming home, and Levi doesn’t know how he feels about that.  But having Boaz home every day is almost worse than the everyday not-knowing of having him overseas fighting a war in a foreign desert.  He won’t come out of his room and he won’t talk to anyone – all Levi can hear are computer keys and radio static.  His mother’s anguished pleading, his father’s exasperated yelling, even Boaz’s high school girlfriend, the mind-bogglingly gorgeous Christina Crowley, have no impact.  Until the motherboard on Boaz’s computer dies, and he asks Levi to borrow his laptop.

Levi gets a rare glimpse into Boaz’s room, and there are maps covering every surface with names and addresses written all over them.  The search history on the laptop shows the same thing.  So when Boaz announces that he’s going to hike the Appalachian Trail over the summer, Levi doesn’t know what his brother is really up to, but he knows it sure isn’t hiking in the mountains.

With the help of his grandpa Dov and best friends Pearl and Zim, Levi decides he’s going to do whatever it takes to understand his brother’s choices.  Sometimes, there are things a brother knows – and sometimes, there are things a brother has to know.  By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, The Things a Brother Knows is, at its heart, just a story of two guys figuring out what it means to be brothers.  For anyone who’s known someone serving overseas, thought about joining the military, questioned their own beliefs about war and serving their country, or just anyone with a brother, Levi and Boaz’s journey will strike a chord.  Don’t miss this quick, powerful read!

Posted by: Megan on February 29th, 2012

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

In a school where football rules, and teachers and coaches turn a blind eye to the bullying displayed by the football stars, Danny is target. He may be an awesome athlete, but he is small and his sport is gymnastics. While he might be state bound, that is not enough to stop the insults and pranks. Kurt is new, and while his out of date clothes and foster child status should make him a target, his skills on the field make him a star. After a gymnast stands up to one of the football players, a war of sorts starts between the two teams. Kurt and Danny become unlikely allies in this war, however will that be enough?

Leverage is a gripping read that will keep readers turning pages. Danny and Kurt alternate telling the story, and the changing points of view give readers the whole story. Fans of books by Chris Crutcher will enjoy this look at high school athletics, and what happens when winning means more than anything.

Posted by: Katie on February 27th, 2012


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