2012 Nominee Reviews

Find out more about the 15 nominated MCTBA titles!

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Civilization as we understand it is no more.  Saba lives with her father, twin brother, and little sister almost completely isolated from other people, spending her days scavenging landfills and hoping for rain to replenish the land.  In an instant, however, her simple existence is shattered when four cloaked horsemen appear, killing her father and kidnapping her brother.

Saba sets off on an epic adventure into the lawless world outside her home in a quest to save her brother.  She is a fighter and survivor and regardless of the corrupt society she tries to navigate, she will not stop until she has found her brother. Told in a minimalistic style, Blood Red Road races the reader through to the end of this compelling dystopian tale.

Posted by: Heather on February 17, 2012

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Natalie is focused; she gets awesome grades, is student council president, and looking forward to a great college next year.  And thanks to a strict no dating policy she’s had no trouble avoiding guys in favor of her future.  But when a situation with some freshman girls calling themselves “Rosstitutes” pulls Natalie into a feminist controversy, she loses her best friend and gets involved with the cute quarterback.  Is she foregoing her feminist ideals and future aspirations?

Not That Kind of Girl is a wonderful, thought-provoking look at one girl’s struggle to balance school, friends, guys, and future goals without losing sight of who she is.

Reviewed by: Tiffany on February 16, 2012

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Seventeen year old Sam and his little brother, Riddle, were kidnapped by their thief and murderer father a decade ago.  He’s kept them on the move, out of school, and away from friends the entire time.  Sam spends his days scavenging for food and taking care of Riddle who is basically mute and also suffers from severe, untreated asthma.  The boys don’t dream of the future, they simply try to survive each day.

Until Sam meets Emily.

All of the evil Sam’s father has infused into their lives is suddenly offset by all of the goodness Emily and her family provide.  In small ways and in big, the people who cross your path in life have the power to change you.  This is the story of the struggle Sam and Riddle face to no longer be influenced by their father so they might finally have a future of their own.

Posted by: Heather on February 14th, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina’s dreams of becoming an artist are shattered the night the Soviet secret police take her, her parents, and her little brother Jonas from their Lithuanian home.  Shoved into a filthy cattle car with other confused Lithuanians, the train finally begins to move after two days in the dark with no food and no water.  For six weeks, the train moves north and east across Russia, stopping only once each day for the Soviet police to remove the dead.

When they arrive at their destination, Lina and her family are told that they are political prisoners, sentenced to a life of hard labor on a Siberian farm commune.  Their crime?  Being Lithuanian.  Lina struggles to hold on to hope in the face of bitter Siberian cold, near-starvation, and the cruelty of the Soviet guards.  She knows the Soviets are trying to erase her, her family, her people and her culture – and the only way to defeat them is to stay alive.

This powerful historical novel tells the true story of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of the Baltic states during World War II.  The daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, author Ruta Sepetys has brought to life the amazing strength, tenacity, and determination to survive of the Lithuanian people in the face of almost hopeless adversity.  Also nominated for the 2012 Morris Award for first-time authors, Shades of Gray is not to be missed by readers of historical fiction.

Posted by: Megan on February 10, 2012

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug Swieteck’s life stinks.  His oldest brother, Lucas, is somewhere in Vietnam fighting the war.  Doug’s other brother is the world’s biggest jerk who beat him up and stole his most prized possession, Joe Pepitone’s New York Yankees hat, given to Doug by Joe Pepitone himself.  And now Doug’s dad has lost his job at Culross Lumber, because he’s the kind of guy who just can’t keep his mouth shut.

So when Doug’s dad announces at dinner that Ernie Eco got him a job at the Ballard Paper Mill in upstate New York and they’re moving in three days, Doug knows it’s going to be a stupid town full of chumps.  Especially when he sees their new house, aka The Dump.  But that’s before he meets outgoing Lil Spicer, who shows him how to drink a really cold Coke and gets him a job at Spicer’s Deli.  And Mrs. Windermere, an eccentric, ice-cream loving playwright on his grocery delivery route.  And Mr. Powell, the librarian who teaches him to draw from the beautiful, majestic birds from the original John James Audubon plates in the folio displayed in the public library.

This quiet gem of a book will simultaneously break your heart and make your soul smile as the power of art, creativity, baseball, friendship and family work together to make Doug’s life okay – or maybe even a little better than okay – for now.

Posted by: Megan on February 8, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The setting: Chicago. The time: a bleak future. The choice: life-changing.

Beatrice lives in a society where every 16-year-old must choose between five factions- Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).This choice is permanent and irreversible. Beatrice’s choice comes as much of a surprise to her as it does to her family. What follows is an intense period of initiation where Beatrice must prove to the members of her faction that she is worthy. But there is something she’s not telling them- something that could disrupt the entire system.

This book got a lot of hype when it was published, and it deserves it. Heart-pumping action sequences, high-stakes moral decisions, and a smattering of romance make this one of the best dystopian novels of 2011. The second book in the series, Insurgent, is due to be released May 1st.

Posted by: Richmond on February 6, 2012

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

The Chateau Frankenstein is full of life. Twin brothers Victor and Konrad and their friends Elizabeth and Henry have free run of the place, and every day is a new adventure.  When Konrad falls mysteriously ill, the Victor uses all of his resources to find a cure, even if it involves delving in to a dark library and a bit of alchemy.

Eerie, dark and fast paced this is a gothic adventure you won’t want to miss. Readers are treated to what may have happened to a young Victor Frankenstein that would have given him his later obsessions. Not just for fans of dark books, there is friendship, family and of course a touch of romance.

Posted by: Katie on February 1, 2012

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam is a school drop-out who works at a fast food joint and has no motivation to change that. Then, he discovers one crazy night that he can raise the dead. Unfortunately, there are others like him out there who are motivated- to stop Sam at all costs. Working with his co-workers/best friends (one of whom goes through some major…ummm…let’s call it deconstructive surgery) he discovers the secrets of his past and what the future could hold.  Before the week is out, Sam finds himself in a cellar, caged with a hot girl who is part werewolf, part fairy.

This is a gory and fast-paced read that will leave you laughing out loud and waiting for the next installment.

Posted by: Richmond on February 1, 2012

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Imagine getting the chance to stay overnight in your school with a couple of your friends.  Now take away heat, cell phones, and electricity and add about 12 feet of snow.  That’s the situation Scotty finds himself in after he agrees to stay late at school to help his friend build a go-kart.  Seven students were never picked up when school let out early because a massive blizzard heading for their town.  One teacher remained behind with the students, but he never returned after setting out for help the first night they are trapped.  At first the students wait for the snow to stop and rescuers to find them, but the building is getting colder, the pipes are all frozen, and the snow piles have almost reached the second story windows, but the snow won’t stop.

Northrop does an excellent job of setting up this eerie and intense survival story and gives readers a sense of dread that builds stronger and stronger as the story progresses. The characters are realistic and engaging and will hold your interest through the final pages.  This is a quick read, but just be sure not to read it during a snow storm because although the book takes place in New England, it could just as easily be the Midwest.

Posted by: Emily on January 30th, 2012

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Patrick was beaten and left for dead at a gas station in the small town of Black Creek, North Carolina. Now in a coma, most people are hoping that he recovers, but a lot are also whispering about his “not being right.” This was clearly a hate crime, and the local police are on the case, but no one is talking.

Cat was once Patrick’s best friend, and even though they’re no longer close, she makes it her mission to find out what happened to Patrick and help make things right.

Atmospheric and tense, this book is part mystery and part story of friendship, family, and basic human compassion. Readers will be just as interested in the quirks and characters of the town as in finding out who committed the crime.

Posted by: Richmond on January 27, 2012

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Adam is living a dream life. As the lead singer/ guitarist for the Grammy winning band Shooting Star, he has risen to fame since the release of the album Collateral Damage. Under the tough guy, actress dating persona is a lot of hurt that stems from being dumped by his high school girlfriend. Unraveled by an interview, Adam’s manager gives him the afternoon off, where he just happens to see a concert poster for Mia, his ex.

One concert, and one eventful evening in New York City is what Adam needs to put the past in perspective, and maybe start looking forward to his future.

Where She Went is the follow up to If I Stay (a 2010 MCTBA Honor Book). Here Adam gets to tell his story of what has happened in the three years since If I Stay, and come to terms with his relationship with Mia. Full of romance, frustration and questioning Where She Went will appeal to fans of the first book, as well as those who like a good romance.

Posted by: Katie on January 23rd, 2012

Stay by Deb Caletti

Trying to escape from her abusive stalker ex-boyfriend, Clara and her father decide to spend the summer in a remote seaside town in Washington.  Through a series of flashbacks, readers begin to learn the story of Clara and Christian’s relationship.  They started off as the perfect high school couple, but Christian soon turned jealous and possessive.  After Clara’s love for Christian turns to fear and disgust, she finally has the courage to break up with him, but he can’t let her go.  He continues to stalk and threaten her and cannot come to terms with their break up.

Now Clara is trying to move on.  Through the new friends she is slowly making in her new temporary home, she is once again learning to trust people.  Along the road to recovery Clara discovers that her father may be hiding from his painful past as well.

Deb Caletti does an amazing job of keeping readers’ hearts pounding through the very last pages of this book.  Stay is both eye-opening and entertaining.  This is an especially important read for any teen who has ever thought that jealousy is the same as love.

Posted by: Emily on January 20, 2012

Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce

On the run from the King’s army, Digger, a forger and thief, changes her name and disguises herself as a lady-in-waiting to Meri Nemair. At the Nemair’s castle she finds herself being blackmailed by Lord Daul to spy for him. Sneaking around the castle, Digger, now Celyn, discovers what appears to be a plot to overthrow the King and uncovers someone with magic, the worst offense in the kingdom. Between finding hidden rooms with mysterious guests and hiding her own magic, Celyn must juggle various secrets in an attempt to protect the people she cares about and not reveal her true identity.

Posted by: Tiffany on January 18, 2012

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

When the flight carrying the 50 Miss Teen Dream Pageant contestants goes down in the ocean, what was supposed to be a day of fun on the beach turns out to be a fight for survival. Led by Taylor Rene Krystal Hawking, Miss Texas, the girls continue their pageant training while building shelter, finding food and hoping for rescue from this deserted island.  13 girls survived, and 13 girls are there amid dwindling supplies, natives, angry snakes, and secret agent black ops men on the island.

The story of the girls is interspersed with commercials brought to you by The Corporation, Ladybird Hope interviews (a former Miss Teen Dream builder of an corporate empire), and of course hysterical footnotes that give you a bit of history of this alternate USA.

Don’t be fooled by the cover, this is a smart book about business, politics and reality TV. It just so happens to star 13 unforgettable contestants who fight to the end to live the real teen dream.

Posted by: Katie on January 16th, 2012

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