2013 Close Calls

Every year we read so many great books that there are always titles we want to share with you that didn’t make our top 15 list. Enjoy our 2013 close call reviews while we wait to announce the winner on April 1st!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing and when Prince Kaito comes to her booth in the market to get his android fixed, she can’t believe it . On top of that, she just bought herself a new foot, after having endured the last four years with a too-small model.  Her day could not be going any better. That is until Chang Sacha’s scream…and the splotches everyone sees on her hands.

Cinder is a cyborg living in the Eastern Commonwealth 123 years after World War 3.  A disease called letumosis is running rampant through the streets of New Beijing and there is no known cure.  When Cinder’s stepsister Peony comes down with the plague, her stepmother blames her and volunteers her for the cyborg draft, to be used as a test subject to try to find a cure for letumosis. While testing Cinder’s blood, Dr. Erland, a lead researcher in the palace labs,  learns that she is immune to letumosis.  But cinder also learns she is also something she never dreamed she could be; something both horrifying and astonishing at the same time.

This sci fi retelling of Cinderella includes all the classic characters, a handsome prince who has his eyes on Cinder, a truly evil stepmother and an evil queen who will do anything to rule over the entire Commonwealth and, ultimately, the world and beyond. Cinder is a smart, funny and strong protagonist that has a lot of things thrown her way, but manages to deal with them and persevere even when her own life is in extreme danger.

Posted by Keri on March 21, 2013

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster calls

Every night Conor has the same nightmare.  One night, at 12:07am, Conor wakes up from his nightmare to find a monster outside his window.  This is not the monster from Conor’s nightmares though; it is the yew tree from the yard come alive.  The monster is going to tell Conor three stories, one a night.  But in return, the monster wants a story from Conor, and his story must be true.  While Conor is facing down the monster, he is also dealing with the fear of losing his mother as she is battling cancer.  How will Conor handle his mother’s condition?  Will he be able to face down the monster and the changes it brings in his life?

Make no mistake, this is a sad story.  Conor must learn to face the monsters in his life, no matter how difficult that may be.  Add to it the darkly beautiful pen and ink illustrations throughout the story, and you have a story you won’t be able to put down.

Posted by Beth on March 19, 2013.

The List by Siobhan Vivian

listThere is a strange tradition at Mount Washington High School where every fall somebody posts a list of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. Nobody knows who creates the list or how they break into the school and post hundreds of copies everywhere to ensure that the entire student body reads it. Year after year the list goes up and eight girls are affected by the results. The List is the story of these eight girls.

Danielle is an avid swimmer and is cruelly nicknamed “Dan the Man” because of her athletic build and listed as ugliest freshman. Prettiest freshman Abby is more interested in fashion and friends than in passing her classes. Being named prettiest freshman puts a strain on her relationship with her geeky older sister who was named ugliest freshman the previous year. Sophomore Candace is listed as ugliest despite her good looks because of her mean personality. New girl Lauren is the prettiest sophomore, but she is having problems with her mother who won’t give Lauren much freedom. Sarah has always had a problem fitting in and doesn’t want to look like every other girl, but when she’s named ugliest junior she decides to take on the role who-heartedly and gives up showering and changing clothes for the entire week. When Bridget is named prettiest junior she can’t take the pressure and turns to anorexia to help her live up to her title. Senior Jennifer is the only girl to be listed as ugliest all four years of high school. Margo was hoping being listed as the prettiest senior will help her win homecoming queen, but now she doubts her chances.

The List explores issues of what beauty really is and how painful labels can be, even if they seem positive at first. Vivian creates eight very different, but believable characters who are brought together by unusual circumstances in this entertaining and thoughtful read.

Posted by Emily on March 15, 2013

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Based on Patricia McCormick’s interviews with Arn Chorn-Pond, Never Fall Down is a powerful story of survival.  Arn was a regular, young boy in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge swept into his village and forced the entire population to march intonfd the countryside.  Arn, separated from his family, walked alone day after day, watching both neighbors and strangers die from exhaustion and the soldiers’ guns.  Finally, he reached a labor camp where he and other children were forced to work in the rice paddies.  Those around him continued to die of exhaustion, starvation, or simply never returned after soldiers dragged them off into the mango grove.

One day Arn volunteered to play in a band for the soldiers, even though he’d never played an instrument before.  He had to learn to play quickly and perfectly or he would be killed.  Although this decision likely saved his life, he had to continue to watch those around him die.  Finally, just before the Khmer Rouge was defeated, Arn was given a gun and forced to become a child soldier.  Throughout his terrible ordeal, he continued to remind himself to never fall down.  This story demonstrates just how strong the human spirit can be and the resiliency of children even through the worst conditions.

Posted by Heather on March, 13, 2013

Every Day by David Levithanevery day cover

Imagine waking up and borrowing someone else’s life every day.  In his latest book, Levithan does a superb job of creating more than thirty characters for a being, named “A” that each morning wakes up in a different body. While consistently aging like any human, “A’s” experiences are not limited by gender, race, or sexuality.

The story opens with “A” waking as a 16 year-old boy with a beautiful girlfriend named Rhiannon.  Their special day together will change “A’s” view on life and love forever.  Traveling through the days following this day with Rhiannon, we feel the heartache and frustration of “A’s” challenge to make this first love work.  Each day “A” awakes in another body and immediately tries to figure out how far away Rhiannon is and how can they be together on that day.  In the beginning, devising ways to cross Rhiannon’s path, “A” eventually reveals to her the truth.

The fascinating part of this story is how we need to look past a person’s appearance and know a person before forming an opinion about him.  You see how Rhiannon reacts to the various bodies that “A” borrows and her struggle to deal with an ever changing person.  Can they truly make this love work even though “A” is never in the same body?  Levithan has written a true page-turner that will have the reader eager to find out how it will all turn out.

Posted by: Katharina on March 4,2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Auggiewonder figures he is an ordinary kid. There isn’t much that makes him extraordinary, except for his appearance, the fact that he’s had about 27 surgeries since he was born, and he’s been home schooled. Now it’s time for fifth grade and things are changing. For starters, he is going to go to school. School is rough for any one starting middle school; however for Auggie starting school is going to be rougher.

Sure there are kids that are nice to him, but even those kids aren’t friends. Of course there are kids who tease him, and stare. But then there is Jack a good guy who he can laugh with and Summer the girl who dares to sit with him at lunch. Things can’t always be this easy, and after Halloween things start to fall apart when under a disguise, Auggie hears the other kids talk about him.

Told in multiple voices, Wonder is one of those amazing feel good stories that you want to tell everyone to read. Each person’s story gives insight into Auggie’s own story, and you get a real feel for the world that Auggie lives in. His sister Olivia is supportive, yet hesitant that Auggie is babied. Summer is a good friend, who likes Auggie for who he is. Jack, Olivia’s boyfriend, some of Olivia’s friends and yes, Auggie himself contribute to Auggie’s story.

Not just for kids, Wonder is a book that you should check out, and make sure you have a pile of tissue for.

Posted by Katie: on March 1st, 2013

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