2013 Nominee Reviews

Find out more about this year’s 15 nominated titles!

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarrhow to save a life

Jill’s father has died, and ever since she has been pushing away those who love her most.  When her mother decides to adopt a baby, Jill can only see it as her mother trying to replace her father.  And then to allow the pregnant teen to live in their home is just insane, especially when the girl’s story is not adding up.

Mandy has not had an easy life, and when she becomes pregnant, she knows she needs to find a better life for her baby.  Online, Mandy finds a woman who wants a baby and is willing to take her in until the birth without asking too many questions.  But can Mandy hide her past forever?

Chapters alternate between Mandy and Jill’s voices, so we get a look at what each girl is thinking.  Jill and Mandy are complete opposites—Jill is unable to trust, while Mandy can be frustratingly naive   The characters are not always making smart decisions, and this is what makes them so real.  This book will have you happy, sad, frustrated, angry, and every other emotion you can think of; in other words, it is so good.

Posted by Beth on February 22, 2013

Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

wendywunderCam is 16 and she knows she is going to die soon.  She has accepted the fact that the cancer she has been fighting for the last seven years is about to take her life.  However, her mother isn’t about to give up hope and decides to move Cam and her little sister Perry from Orlando, Florida, to the mythical town of Promise, Maine, where supposedly miracles happen.

Sound like a downer?  This book is anything but depressing.  In Promise Cam meets a cast of colorful and quirky characters, falls in love, and manages to check off everything on her “Flamingo List” (a list of things she’d like to do before she dies), which includes shoplifting, losing her virginity, having an awkward moment with her best friend’s boyfriend, and cow tipping.  Cam also decides that even though Promise isn’t creating the miracle her mother had hoped for, she was going to create miracles for her mother and sister, including making a unicorn appear.  Promise transforms Cam from a cynical and sarcastic girl into somebody who can see the true beauty in small miracles.

Probability of Miracles will make everybody who reads it see the beauty in life, love, family, and friends.  Don’t skip this inspiring book.

Posted by Emily on February 19, 2013

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

code name verityScottish spy Verity has cut a deal with Nazi officer SS-Hauptsturmfüher von Linden.  In exchange for sets of wireless code and details of the British war effort, he has agreed to return her clothing to her – and, in exchange for the final set of code, to give her two weeks of time and unlimited paper to write her story.    Captured by the Gestapo less than 48 hours after parachuting into France for looking the wrong way before crossing the street, Verity is at the mercy of von Linden and his assistant, Fraulein Engel.  Starved, tortured, with no hope for rescue and scorned by the other prisoners for collaboration, Verity has only the truth to bargain with.

As Verity writes the story of how she came to be an officer for the Special Operations Executive on bits of hotel stationary, the back of flute sheet music, prescription forms belonging to a Jewish doctor, and recipe cards, and any other scraps of paper, layers of truth are slowly peeled away, revealing a wry, witty and fierce girl and her friendship with Maddie, a pilot for the British civilian Air Transport Auxiliary and the woman who piloted the plane that dropped her in France.  Shot down by the Nazis soon after delivering Verity, von Linden makes sure his prisoner sees graphic photos of the pilot’s burned remains.  Verity knows that she is utterly alone.

To tell you any more would ruin the impact of reading this novel that is just as intricately crafted as a wireless code key – but let’s just say that Verity is a spy and a master of deception.  She writes only the truth – la vérité – but the truth is not always what it seems.  This tale of spies and friendship is a thrilling, heart-wrenching, edge of your seat adventure that will leave you hoping for a friend as brave, loyal and true as Maddie and Verity.

Posted by Megan on February 15, 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorJacket.aspx

In Taylor’s new trilogy she creates a beautiful dystopian world full of interesting characters that range from chimaera (fire-breathing monsters usually represented as a combination of a lion, goat, and serpent from Greek mythology) to seraphim angels. The main character, seventeen year-old Karou is living in Prague as an art student. She is a human looking chimaera who has natural blue hair and unusual tattoos. Her sketchbook is full of amazing mythical looking creatures. Though her human friends think these drawings are imaginary, these creatures truly exist in her other world. She tries hard to fit in with her human friends which can be tricky because she has to hide her secret life. Her vast knowledge of languages, questionable errands, along with keeping odd hours keeps her human friends guessing.

Brimstone, who has the head of a ram and the body of a dragon, is constantly summoning Karou to run errands all over the world through portals he opens. When she passes through an unguarded door into an unfamiliar place, Karou’s life will change forever. Her new-found love may cost her more than her heart. This cliffhanger ending will have readers eager to read the sequel “Days of Blood & Starlight”.

Posted by Katharina on February 12, 2013

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

curveballPeter lives for baseball.  He and his best friend AJ are the best pitchers in their summer league and were the best in their eighth grade class last year. They are so good they have high school coaches coming to their games to check them out.  But for Peter, that summer before freshmen year doesn’t go as planned. When the pain in his elbow that he has been ignoring finally explodes while pitching in the league championship, all his plans for the future explode as well.

Peter’s grandfather has been a professional photographer for over 40 years and Peter shares his love of the art. But something strange is happening to Grampa. After a frightening episode on a cliff while photographing eagles, he gave Peter his very expensive camera and lens and said “Here Pete, this is all yours now. I’m done.” and walked away. Pete’s mom doesn’t want to talk about it, but Pete can’t stop thinking about how his Grampa just blanked out there on the cliff…

Without baseball, Peter’s life seems meaningless and boring, until he gets booted from his introductory photography class the first day for knowing too much. Also getting moved into the advanced class is fellow freshman (and super cute girl) Angelika.  Learning photography from his grandfather all those years may have just made Peter’s year bearable.

Combining sports, photography and the awkwardness of freshman year and first crushes, this hilarious and relatable story is a great quick read for a rainy (or absolutely perfect) day.

Posted by Keri on February 7, 2013

Boy21 by Matthew Quickboy21

Finley has two loves- basketball and his girlfriend Erin. Basketball is their ticket out of Bellmont, the gang run town they live in, and Erin’s skills on the court should get her a division one scholarship, and Finley intends to follow her. It’s the start of their senior year in high school and everything is looking up for the two of them. The protection Erin’s older brother offers them keeps them safe from the gangs, drug dealers and other issues in their town.

Before school starts, Finley’s coach introduces him to a new student- Russell Allen, former top recruit and nationally ranked point guard who now goes by the name Boy21 and refuses to shoot a basketball. There is a lot at stake here for both boys. Finely may lose his starting position on the team if Russell wants to play, but basketball might just be what Russell needs to heal.

Two very different boys forced together yet past tragedies might just bring them together.  is more than a sports, gang, friendship or family. Sports fans will love the basketball parts of the story, yet the culture of Bellmont will speak to those looking for a story about gang life and how it can free and trap people. Finley’s relationships with Boy21, Erin and his teammates are genuine and realistic, as well as his broken family.

Make sure you have a good chunk of time to read this one, because once things get started you won’t want to put Matthew Quick’s Boy21 down.

Posted by Katie on Feburary 1, 2013

Legend by Marie Lu

legendMarie Lu’s Legend is the story of two teens living in a futuristic United States that has been split into warring factions.  The first character we meet is Day, a poor 15-year-old boy living on the streets and evading capture for crimes he commits against the Republic.  Day is still committed to protecting his family who believes he is dead.  His path crosses with the other main character, June, when he breaks into a hospital to steal medicine for his sick family and stabs June’s brother in order to escape arrest.

June is a wealthy child prodigy working as a soldier for the Republic.  Orphaned at a young age, June lives with her brother until he is killed by Day.  Now she has devoted her life to capturing Day and avenging her brother’s death, but in the process she begins to learn that things aren’t as black and white as they seem.

Since the overwhelming popularity of Hunger Games, there has been no shortage of dystopian teen novels, but Legend stands out among the crowd.  Lu effortlessly combines action with compelling characters creating a story that will get your heart pumping and leave you hungry for the sequel.  Don’t worry though; the next book Prodigy is available now.

Posted by Emily on January 29, 2013

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy coverAfter escaping an arranged marriage, Ismae is taken in by the convent of St. Mortain.  The sisters of St. Mortain serve Death, and so Ismae is trained to be an assassin so she too can serve.  While at the convent, Ismae is taught to kill, quickly and unquestionably, those who are marked by Death.

Ismae is soon sent on her first mission to the high court of Brittany to protect the duchess, while posing as the mistress of Gavriel Duval.  There is a traitor is the court, and Ismae’s assignment is to kill whoever threatens the duchess.  But what happens when the one marked for death is the only person that Ismae cannot bring herself to kill?

Grave Mercy is an exciting fantasy that takes its setting straight out of the history books.  Ismae serves Death, so there is plenty of action; but there is also palace intrigue and romance to keep you guessing.  Who can Ismae trust?  This is a book that you definitely will not want to put down.

Posted by Beth on January 25, 2013

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

EverybodySeestheAntsLucky Linderman is anything but lucky.  His parents’ marriage is failing, his workaholic father is largely absent from his life, and every day he has to face Nader McMillan, who has been bullying Lucky since they were 7 years old.  Added to these problems Lucky is now in trouble at school for circulating a questionnaire asking students what method they would use to commit suicide.

Things start to change for Lucky after a summer day at the community pool when Nader McMillan’s bullying reaches a new level of violence leaving Lucky with deep physical and emotional wounds.  Lucky’s mother decides to take him to Arizona to stay with some relatives for a couple weeks so they both can heal.

The only time Lucky feels like he has any control and power over his life is in his dreams at night when he escapes to the jungles of Laos to rescue his POW/MIA grandfather who went missing while fighting in the Vietnam War.  During these rescue missions Lucky’s grandfather gives him advice and helps Lucky find the confidence he needs to stand up for himself and take control of his life.

A.S. King uses magical realism and some humor to lighten the tone of this book so it isn’t all doom and gloom.  The realistic and complex characters will draw you into their stories that will stay with you long after the final page.

Posted by Emily on January 22nd, 2013

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

keepingAlthea is known throughout Lesser Hoo as a great beauty, and it’s a good thing she is as she needs to marry someone – and soon – in order to save her family’s castle and their good name from falling into further disrepair.  And it’s quite a happy coincidence that the new Lord Boring has arrived at neighboring Gudgeon Park to claim his barony as the former Lord Boring had recently succumbed to the illness that plagued him for years. He is young, handsome…and rich; a perfect match for a beautiful girl with responsibilities to her family.

However, Lord Boring’s cousin, Mr. Fredericks, is always popping up, with his rude demeanor and uncouth ways. How will Althea woo Boring if Mr. Fredericks is always around, poking holes in their already tattered tapestries and proclaiming his opinions on the state of their household?

With a kooky cast of characters and a crumbling castle on a cliff, the hijinks that Althea gets into in order to marry rich and save her family will keep you smiling through this sweet little novel.

Posted by Keri on January 16th, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Name of the StarJack the Ripper is back in London. Or at least someone is mimicking the crimes he committed over a century ago. London security is at an all-time high with cameras watching the streets, and police on every corner, but no one can see just who is committing these crimes.

Rory is a Louisiana native starting school in London while her parents teach at a college in Bristol. Her school just happens to be in the neighborhood where the Ripper murders are taking place, and Rory is one of the only people who can see the man who might be responsible for the murders. With help from some new friends, Rory just might be the key in solving the mystery of the Ripper, only if she can get to him, before he gets her.

Part school story, part mystery and part ghost story (with a dash of romance) The Name of the Star will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next. The past meets the present in this haunting tale, and readers will be begging for the next book (which comes out soon!)

Posted by Katie on January 14th, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

SeraphinaThis is definitely not your typical dragon tale! The crown prince has been murdered just days before the festivities celebrating the 40 year peace treaty between dragons and humans. This murder is causing uneasiness and fingers are pointing in all directions as to who the murderer is – a dragon or a human? Seraphina draws you into this magical Renaissance-like world of dragons, court musicians and royal scandal.

Seraphina is in charge of the musical portion of the upcoming festivities but of course things go awry. With her quick wit and ease of dealing with precarious situations she does her best to save the day. Because of her ease with tricky situations she is soon assigned to help capture an unruly dragon that may be part of the murder. All this pressure on a teenage girl may take a toll on her since she is also trying to hide a deep dark secret. Will the stress of hiding her true identity harm the mission? Can she come to terms with the political problems of humans who despise the dragons and half-dragons? A great read for those who loved the Eragon series!

Posted by Katharina on January 4th, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel LThe Fault in our Starsancaster is 16 and she is going to die. Although there have been mini-miracles along the way, there has never been any doubt since the initial diagnosis that the cancer invading her body is going to kill her eventually. Hazel’s mother insists she needs to be around other teens like herself, and all but forces her to go to a boring weekly support group. Support group becomes far less irksome, however, when Augustus Waters begins attending. The two witty and charming teens quickly become inseparable as they must come to grips with their mortality.

With that said, this is not a book about death. That Hazel and Augustus have cancer is merely a vehicle John Green uses to ensure they are mature enough to have epic conversations about life and love. The questions they contemplate are some of the most important we face, but they do so with humor and intelligence. The characters are so well written that you will ache for more of their story long after you have finished the final page.

Posted by Heather on January 8, 2013.

Ashes by Ilsa J. BickAshes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex sets off on a hiking trip searching for peace before her brain tumor kills her.  In the vast wilderness, she stumbles upon 8-year-old Ellie and her grandfather who are also camping.  Suddenly, an electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions of people.  Ellie’s grandfather is one of those left dead.

Alex and Ellie begin the long journey back to what is left of civilization.  They soon realize that the pulse didn’t just kill people; it altered many teenagers’ brains.  They are fast, they are cunning, and they crave human flesh.  The girls race to escape these zombies and are saved by Tom, a former soldier.  Alex, Ellie, and Tom join together to survive in this new and ugly world.

Posted by Heather on January 4th, 2013

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