2014 Nominee Reviews

Find out more about the 2014 nominees here!

5th WaveThe Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

First, the lights went out along with all electronics. Second, the coasts were hit by giant tsunami’s sending the surviving population to the middle of the country. Third, there was disease, a horrible deadly disease that wiped out most of the surviving population. Fourth there were silencers, deadly snipers you couldn’t see or her, hunting survivors. If there is a fifth wave, Cassie doesn’t want to know what it is.

Separated from her brother, survival and finding him is the only thing on Cassie’s mind. Since the alien ships starting hovering over the Earth months ago life has changed so much. At first, no one was sure what to think of the giant airships hovering over the Earth, but now it is clear that these are not friendly visitors. With no friends, limited supplies, and only a slight idea where she is supposed to go, Cassie is on her own, fighting to live.

This is not your typical survival story, and it’s not your typical alien invasion story either. Author Rick Yancey keeps you guessing, as good and evil isn’t always as clear as black and white. If you are looking for action and adventure that will keep you guessing, The 5th Wave is a book that keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens to Cassie, and some other characters along the way.

Posted by Katie on February 24th, 2014

The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterRaven Boys

Every year Blue Sargent goes with her psychic mother to a churchyard to see the spirits of those who will die in the upcoming year.  Blue has never been able to see the spirits, until this year.  She sees a boy.  She is told that the only reason she would see a spirit is if he is her true love or she kills him.

 Blue soon meets the boy, known as Gansey and learns he is a rich student from the local private school—he is a Raven Boy.  She is soon caught up in solving an age old mystery with Gansey and his friends.  But Blue has been warned she will cause her true love to die.  She never worried about it, until getting caught up with these Raven Boys.  Is she the reason Gansey appeared in the graveyard that night?  Is there any way to change Gansey’s fate?

 My favorite part of The Raven Boys is the characters, especially the boys themselves.  Maggie Stiefvater made each one so different and developed—even the bad boy is lovable.  This is a book that successfully combines genres—there are ghosts and psychics, a mystery and a quest, and just a tiny bit of romance.  Something for everyone, but not in a way that is too much.  This is the first book in a trilogy so when you finish it, you can dive right into The Dream Thieves.

Posted by Beth on February 20, 2014

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

OrleansAfter years of hurricanes and plague, the Gulf Coast has been separated and quarantined from the rest of the United States.  Abandoned by the government and with no help coming, the people of New Orleans break off into tribes to try and survive another day.

Deep in the swamp lives a 15-year-old girl named Fen, who lives with a tribe of Type O-Negative blood.  In this plague-ridden world, blood is more valuable than gold, especially Type-O, and people will do anything to get it.  But one night, Fen’s tribe is brutally attacked and her tribe leader is killed; Fen and her leader’s newborn baby are the only two that manage to escape alive.  With no sense of purpose, Fen heads to the U.S. border to try to sneak this plague-free baby into the United States, so that she can live a normal, carefree life.

Meanwhile, Daniel, a scientist from the United States, breaks the quarantine in an attempt to find the source of the plague and find a cure.  But navigating Orleans is harder than expected, and it isn’t long before Daniel seeks the help of a reluctant Fen.  As the two begin to slowly trust each other, they travel and fight through the ruins of Orleans in an attempt to find the source of the plague and escape Orleans alive.

“Orleans” is science fiction at its best–smart and topical, but also entertaining and suspenseful.  Perfect for fans of dystopian fiction.

Posted by Peter on February 17, 2014

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithThis is what happy Looks Like

Summer is supposed to be the time for lazy days, spending time with friends and for Ellie, working to make enough to go to the summer program at Harvard she was accepted into. While she is used to the tourists who stream into her Maine town, she is not looking forward to this summer because in addition to the tourists, there is a movie starring none other than teen dreamboat Graham Larkin.

To most people Graham has a perfect life, a stream of gorgeous girlfriends, movie premieres and more money than he will ever know what to do with. But there is something missing, and that missing thing is what made him change the director’s mind and film the new movie in Henley, Maine. What he didn’t tell anyone was that he was hoping to meet the mysterious EONeill22, a girl who he accidentally e-mailed and started a strange e-mail relationship with.

When Ellie realizes her GDL824 is no other than Graham Larkin, her world goes into a bit of a tail spin. Her own secret past, the fact that she might be interested in dating Graham, and the fact that she still needs to earn the money to go to the poetry program all weigh heavy on her.

This is What Happy Looks Like is a light, fun romance that brings back memories of summer and first loves. While there are secrets and mistaken identities all around, Ellie and Graham are both teens trying to figure out what they want and how to make it happen. If you want to remember what summer feels like in a book form will be enchanted by the world created in Jennifer E. Smith’s This is What Happy Looks Like.

Posted by Katie on February 14, 2014

Winger by Andrew Smith

WingerJunior year at Pine Mountain Academy (PM) is going to be rough for fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West. With a name like Ryan Dean, things don’t come easy. Luckily, most of his rugby teammates called him Winger after his rugby position or Eleven after his jersey number. After Winger steals a teacher’s cell phone to make long distance calls to his crush and friend Annie, he is forced to move into Opportunity Hall, aka O-Hall, with the other campus criminals. The most intimidating delinquent is Chas Becker, Winger’s new roommate. Will he be able to keep his friends from last year?  Can he resolve his roommate problems? Winger’s ups and downs are honest, humorous and even illustrated with some doodles. Winger’s story is something you cannot miss.

Posted by Katharina on February 10, 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

beginning of everythingEzra Faulkner was the “it boy” in his high school.  He was rich, the star of his tennis team, and he and his girlfriend are the school’s most powerful couple, destined to become prom king and queen.  Then as his junior year was coming to an end, Ezra was the victim of a hit and run accident, ending his reign as tennis team captain and changing his life forever.  While he was in the hospital recovering from his injuries, none of Ezra’s friends came to visit him and his relationship with his girlfriend ended.

Now Ezra has to start his senior year letting go of his former identity as the popular jock.  He quickly reunites with a childhood friend, joins the debate team, and taps his inner nerd, all while trying to avoid his former popular friends.  Then he meets new girl Cassidy who is unique and mysterious.  They quickly form a relationship and Cassidy helps Ezra reinvent himself and figure out who he really wants to be.

What makes The Beginning of Everything so great is that it truly is a fun, easy, entertaining read with an important message—you have to be who you are and not let anybody else (even a girlfriend or boyfriend) define you… and of course that life is much more fun when you’re a nerd.

Posted by Emily on February 6, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and parkIt’s 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska and Eleanor is the new girl in school.  She doesn’t have a lot going for her since he’s poor, a little overweight, has bushy red hair, and wears weird clothes.  Not mention her abusive step-father who is a world-class creep.  From the moment she set foot on the bus her first morning of school she was the target for ridicule and bullying from all the other kids.  Now nicknamed “Big Red,” Eleanor just wants to be left alone and survive high school.

Park is the Asian kid at school.  He has never really felt like he fits in, but the other kids mostly leave him alone.  He just wants to sit on the bus listening to his music and reading his comics in peace.  Then one day the new girl gets on the bus and sits in the only available seat right next to him.  At first Park resents Eleanor and tries to ignore her until one day he notices her reading a comic book over his shoulder on the bus and he starts talking to her.  Their mutual disdain quickly turns into friendship and then romance.  Together Eleanor and Park face the challenges of high school life, bullies, and Eleanor’s abusive step-father all while trying to establish their own unique identities.

Rainbow Rowell has created a beautifully written novel that shows not all teens have easy lives filled with rainbows and kittens.  Eleanor and Park are sympathetic, realistic characters written with such depth it’s impossible not to be drawn into their stories.   Although the relationship between Eleanor and Park is the main storyline, there is so much more to this book that make it stand out above all the other teen problem/romance novels.  Eleanor & Park was also recently given a Printz Honor award, which recognizes outstanding books written for teens.  Rainbow Rowell is an author not to be missed.

Posted by Emily on February 4, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me Leonard PeacockLeonard Peacock has just turned 18.  And for his birthday, he’s going to kill Asher Beal.

Leonard is a loner, with very few people to talk to.  His father is an absent, burned out musician, and his mother is totally oblivious to Leonard’s problems.  And both of them have forgotten about Leonard’s birthday.  So before he kills Asher, his former best friend, he tries to say goodbye to the four people that have made his life a little better, whether they knew it or not.   First there’s Walt, the lonely next-door neighbor.  Then there’s Baback, a quiet violionist.  Next is Lauren, a sheltered girl that Leonard has a crush on.  And finally there’s Herr Silverman, his history teacher.  Silverman knows that Leonard is brilliant but troubled, and tries to reach out to him before it’s too late.

Filled with supsense and a little bit of humor, this is a great book that will leave the reader longing to help Leonard, while at the same time wanting to keep their distance from him.  This might be a difficult book for some readers because of its style and tone, but it will touch just the right people.

Posted by Peter on January 30, 2014

If You Find Me by Emily MurdochIf you find me

Carey and Jenessa live in a broken old camper in the middle of a national park in Tennessee.  Their mentally ill and drug-addicted mother hasn’t been around in months, having gone into town for “supplies”. This is how Carey and Jenessa have been living for years, Jenessa never knowing anything else and Carey barely remembering what the outside world is like. They subsist on canned goods their mother brings back with her from town and what little game Carey can shoot. They are down to a few cans of beans when a man and woman find their camp. The woman is a social worker and the man is Carey’s father. The story truly unfolds when Carey and Jenessa re-enter society, living in a loving home, going to school, eating hamburgers and french fries and wondering about this man who Carey’s mother always said was bad and hurt them.  But if he was bad, how come Carey’s mother let him take them?

Carey goes from living largely on her own and being the real provider and parent for Jenessa, to acclimating herself to being a normal teenager with normal teenage problems. Carey’s voice is true and authentic and her story will linger with you well after finishing this great novel.

Posted by Keri on January 28, 2014

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Piddy Sanchez already had a lot of problems before Yaqui.

Piddy was a smart, teenage girl, living with her overworked mother in a poor neighborhood.  Her best friend moved away to join a different high school, and she has no knowledge about her father, since her mother burned all of his photos and refuses to talk about him.   Now their apartment building has started to collapse, and Piddy has to move to a completely different school where she hardly knows anyone.  All she really knows is that Yaqui Delgado, a girl she has never even met, wants to beat her up for some unknown reason.

After several run-ins with Yaqui and with no one to turn to, Piddy starts ditching school entirely to try and avoid her.  But while trying to figure out a way out of this situation, she starts figuring out who she is, who her father was, and, most importantly, what kind of person she wants to be.

With so many books on bullying right now, this is a fresh and realistic story that many readers will be able to relate to.  It not only opens up discussions about many different issues, but grips the reader at just the right, suspenseful moments.

Posted by Peter on January 23, 2014

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

End GamesMichael has to plan his next move very carefully, otherwise it could be Game Over forever for him and his 5-year-old brother Patrick.

In this fresh take on the classic zombie story, Michael and Patrick are alone in a world populated by zombies they call Bellows. In order to shield Patrick the best he can from the realization that his mom is gone and the world has descended into a living hell, Michael has developed “The Game”.  In The Game, he and Patrick fight the Bellows like they would fight monsters in a video game, with the real implications of what could happen if the monsters won going unsaid. A mysterious and unseen Game Master always delivers his instructions for the next days mission to Michael while Patrick is asleep in the dead of the night. That Game Master is Michael and the stress of trying to figure out how to keep Michael in the dark and keep them alive is wearing him out.

But when Michael and Patrick hit upon a town called Coalmount in the middle of the Appalachians, The Game changes. They discover a group of human survivors that have a certain reverence for the zombies roaming the countryside. A reverence so strong that they are willing to kill humans in order to stop them from killing the Bellows.

Now in dire straights being chased by members of a crazy cult, Michael can no longer keep pretending and playing The Game. He has to do something fast or they will both be dead. Until a real-life Game Master comes into play and saves them from capture. But will the Game Master turn out to be the savior they have been looking for to get them to the Safe Zone?

The End Games is a crazy romp through a post-Apocalyptic world, with twists and turns at every step and a surprise ending that will leave you craving more.

Posted by Keri on January 22, 2014

Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanTwo boys kissing

This is a beautifully woven story about young boys in love or looking for love or just trying to figure out if love even exists at all.

Craig and Harry are trying to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. Neil and Peter, who have been together for a year and are not quite sure if they still have the spark between them. Avery and Ryan, who have just met at a LGBT prom. Tariq, who loves to dance and was attacked by bullies waiting for his dad outside the club. And Cooper, who hides his true self from everyone, until he is found out and now he is running away from everything, including himself.

The five stories told in Two Boys Kissing are narrated through the voice of a chorus of men who have passed away from AIDS. They give a perspective to the boys’ stories that only men from a generation removed could.  The men in the chorus did not always have the luxury of being so open and free to express who they were, who they loved and how they lived.  They lived in fear of a disease that was spreading through their community and no one was taking it seriously because of who they were. They lived behind closed doors; out of sight, out of mind.

Levithan has written an honest, heartbreaking and touching account of what it feels like to be a teen boy in love. And he has shown us how far we have come as a society in acceptance and love, but also how much farther we still need to go.

Posted by Keri on January 16, 2014

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph

You may remember Sybella from Grave Mercy; however, this is not a sequel.  It takes place in the same world as Grave Mercy and has overlapping characters, but you do not need to have read Grave Mercy to enjoy Dark Triumph.  (This doesn’t mean you should skip Grave Mercy because it is a great read.)

Dark Triumph is Sybella’s story.  Sybella is a daughter of Death.  With her sisters at the Convent of St. Mortain, Sybella serves Death with the lethal talents bestowed and taught to her.  It is at the Convent that she finally feels safe with those who love her.

When Sybella arrived at St. Mortain at fourteen, she was nearly mad.  Wherever she had come from had driven her to this madness, and now the convent is sending her back.  Is vengeance enough of a reason to live?  Or might Sybella find allies in the walls she fears most.  There is much more to this story, but I do not want to give away too much.  LaFevers has once again taken history and created a full fantasy world within it.  Trust me when I say, it is well worth the read.

Posted by Beth on January 13, 2014

ScowlerScowler by Daniel Kraus

Ry Burke was a hero when he was 10 years old.  He was told to leave his mother alone that awful day but he knew something was not right.  He rescued his mother from a horrific stunt his abusive father did to her.  Their lives became normal for 9 years but the family was always nervous Marvin Burke would return to their family farm.

Years later when Ry was 19, his worst nightmare returns.  After a meteor crashes into the nearby prison, his father escapes and expectantly returns to their home.  Strangely another meteor also lands on their land and when Marvin Burke arrives home to stop his family from leaving, he also decides he wants to claim the meteor for his own and sell it.  With the help of his childhood imaginary protectors, Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and the bloodthirsty Scowler, Ry may be able to defeat his horrifying father.

Will this family survive the horror that Marvin Burke is causing them?  Will the chaos caused by the meteor finally free the Burke’s from the fear they have been living with all these years?  The tension and gruesome details make this a fast-paced read grip you until the end.

Posted by Katharina on January 9th, 2014

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King Ask The Passengers

Astrid Jones likes to send her love to passengers flying on airplanes overhead. Her love feels useless in her small town of Unity Valley, PA, where everything is supposed to be perfect. On the surface, it looks like a perfect town, but beneath the surface not everything is as it seems.

For example, there are her friends Justin and Kristina, the perfect couple. But Astrid knows the truth, which would make them far from the perfect couple. Then there is her mother, cold and distant to Astrid, but more open towards her younger sister Ellis. Her father works a normal job, but spends his time escaping work in a haze of smoke.

Astrid can escape, in her humanities class, at work and with her airplanes, but that isn’t enough. Her humanities class has people who don’t see the world through any lenses but their own, and at work there is Dee who might be her girlfriend, but Astrid isn’t sure. Without anyone to confide in, Astrid feels her small world get smaller, until she gets tired of maintaining the image of perfection.

Ask the Passengers is one of those books that will grab you with interesting characters, and shatter your perception of idyllic small town life. It might even make you want to send love out into the world, especially when you aren’t sure where the love you have should go.

Posted by Katie on January 6, 2013

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