2015 Nominee Reviews


Find out more about our 2015 nominees here!

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose under fireRose Justice’s job is delivering personnel and planes for Britain in 1944 during World War II.  On one of her routine flights she ends up being forced to land in German territory and shortly after being captured is sent to Ravensbrück, a women’s German concentration camp.  While imprisoned her first job is building fuses for bombs which will be used by the German army and she cannot consciously do.  She is then punished, being forced to do tough labor jobs that no one else wants to do.  When she is assigned her barrack she is befriended by many of the victims of the Nazi doctor’s medical experiments.  Many of these women, including Rose, create groups that they consider their family while imprisoned.  Though Rose is only in there for six months the reader really gets to understand the horrors that happened in this camp but also how even under the worst surroundings her camp family really stuck together and helped each other cope.   All these women hoped for was that the world would one day know their story and all of their names.  After she escaped and got to safety she started writing down and compiling her poems, letters written to her and recording her experiences in a journal.

If you are intrigued by historical fiction and have read A Code Name Verity you will enjoy this companion novel.  Rose is an ordinary teen who wants something exciting to happen in her life, like getting to fly a fighter plane in the Army.  Little does she know that her routine transport job leads her into more than she could ever have imagined.  Realizing that spreading her story and the names of her former inmates is what she must do to make their story known.  Wein did a remarkable job of fact checking and trying to make a believable fiction story come alive.  This is one book deserving a win from the Milwaukee County Teen Book Awards!

Posted by Katharina on February 24, 2015

Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

thievesThe group is back in Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys sequel The Dream Thieves!  Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah and Blue are still in search of the legendary Welsh King Glendower in the ley lines in the nearby countryside of their small Virginia town.  The mysterious Gray Man shows up in town searching for Greywaren, an object rumored to allow one to pull things from dreams.  Will he find who or what he is looking for?  When the Cabeswater disappears what can be done to bring it back?

Ronan is dealing with horrific dreams and learning to use his ability to take things out of dreams.  Other secrets arise that may help the group on their quest.  Especially when Joseph Kavinsky, who keeps harassing them and no one is sure what he is up to, happens to teach Ronan how to better utilize his abilities to take things out of dreams.  Things start to get messy but just as The Raven Boys ended, Stiefvater does the same great job of keeping the readers shocked and eagerly awaiting how the story will unfold in the next book of The Raven Cycle.

Posted by Katharina on February 20, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Jacket.aspxGrasshopper Jungle is a tough book to summarize, but stay with me. In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin Szerba and his best friend unknowingly unleash the end of the world. In this story, the end of the world comes in the form of giant, man-eating praying mantises. Yes that’s right, giant, man-eating mantises. Austin and his friends spend much of the book avoiding them, trying to figure out where the mantises (also known as unstoppable soldiers) came from, and how to defeat them.

Even as the end of the world is upon them, Austin’s teenage life is still complicated. He is in love with two people—his girlfriend, Shann and his best friend, Robby. Austin documents his life, so readers are privy to his true feelings and the distress Austin feels not knowing what to do about being in love with the two most important people in his life. Austin is very honest; this often means we are reading the inner thoughts of a teenage boy—meaning, it is raunchy, creepy, and hilarious.

The premise may sound strange, but Austin has such a real voice that you’ll quickly buy into the craziness. Andrew Smith is quickly becoming a favorite young adult author.

Posted by Beth on February 17, 2015

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlFreshman year of college is the time for fresh starts, but for Cath it’s the time for high anxiety. It’s not that she wasn’t ready to start college; it’s more she wasn’t ready to start her life without Wren, her twin sister. While Wren is off living the college life with her new best friend and roommate, Cath is stuck with her non-freshman roommate Reagan, and her revolving door of boyfriends. The only thing that seems to help is that she is a major Simon Snow fan-fiction author, and getting lost in his magical world is ten times better than the real world.

With classes starting, and Reagan’s boyfriend Levi hanging out all the time, Cath throws herself into academic life. Sure Wren is around some of the time, but she is more interested in her new party girl roommate Courtney, and doesn’t want to talk about the imagined world of Simon Snow. It’s Levi who really gets Cath out of her shell. His smile, nagging and always trying to good ways have her charmed. But what is he to Reagan, her one (non-related) friend on campus?

Rainbow Rowell gives us a non-fluffy romance that will keep you turning the pages to see what happens to Cath and Levi, along with Simon and Baz. You don’t have to be a fan of fan-fiction to enjoy the world of Fangirl.

Posted by Katie on February 14th, 2015 (Parts originally posted by Katie 11/14/2014 at www.waplteens.blogspot.com)

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

untitledMila and her father, Gil, have traveled to America to visit his best friend, Matthew.  But Matthew mysteriously vanishes before they arrive, leaving his wife, his child, and his dog behind.  Now Mila, with a Sherlock Holmes-like ability to notice overlooked details, and her father to try and track him down and find out what happened.  As Mila interviews the people closet to Matthew, she quickly discovers that they all have something to hide.  But while gathering clues, she uncovers a secret that tests her trust and shakes up her own relationships.

Part mystery and  part coming-of-age story, Picture Me Gone is a great read with a relatable and realistic protagonist.  Mila is strong willed and very intelligent, always questioning other peoples motives as she begins to learn about what being and adult is all about.  A great read for both teens and adults.

Posted by Peter on February 11, 2015

More Than This by Patrick Ness

more than thisA boy named Seth drowns, violently dying in the crashing sea. But then he wakes. He is alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying. Where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he has vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

Patrick Ness does it again!  This story alternates between Seth trying to figure out where he is, if he is alive, and his vivid dreams about his life before death.  How did he end up in the ocean that day?  What happened to his little brother that led his family to move to America?  But most of all, where is Seth now?  This review is full of questions, but More Than This is worth reading to find the answers.

Posted by Beth on February 9, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsCadence’s family has everything — unbelievable wealth, undeniable beauty, and a private island where they chill all summer. They don’t have to work, they don’t have to worry; all they have to do is stay afloat. Their enviable lives look so perfect, but Cadence, in her quirky, bitter, poetic voice, let us know something early on: Nothing is perfect. Nothing is easy. What starts out as a star-crossed-love story (Cadence loves her aunt’s boyfriend’s nephew, Gat; Gat loves her back but kind of hates Cadence’s entire privileged lifestyle) escalates into a deep, vicious mystery. Something happened on the island that Cadence can’t remember — something traumatic enough to give her memory loss, something that makes her drop from golden-girl status in her family, something that pushes Gat farther away from her. As Cadence struggles to unlock the secrets to last summer, we tread water with her, reaching for through clues that seem to bob on the surface, pushed out even farther when we try to get a finger on them.

The world Lockhart sucks us into is as deep, dark, and crushing as the ocean floor. For readers who like clever, unexpected plot twists, messy, complicated romances, and broken characters seeking redemption, We Were Liars is a must read.

Posted by Abby on January 31, 2015

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality BoyWhen Gerald was a little boy, he was featured in a reality show for parents with troubled children similar to Supernanny. He told everyone his older sister Tasha was trying to kill him, and no one listened, so he took to showing his anger by defecating in public areas of the house, often in front of the cameras. Now he’s 16, but he hasn’t been able to escape his past: kids still call him the Crapper, he has no friends, he takes anger management classes, and his sister is still a bully. The only escape he has is in his fantasies where he gets everything he wants and everything goes his way, which he calls Gersdays. When Gerald meets Hannah, another troubled loner, he finally starts to deal with his trauma and let his fantasy life go.

A.S. King always writes unusual but relatable stories with smart, funny characters, and this one is no exception. Gerald’s troubles at home and at school and at his job are familiar, even if the specifics of his life are unique. Realistic fiction readers and reality show fans should check this out to see how King explores the way public exposure can warp children; and the way treating someone like a “problem kid” can reinforce a negative cycle in which they can’t break free of the label.

Posted by Krista on January 27, 2015

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Vigilante PoetsWhen a reality TV show comes to the hallowed halls of Selwyn Academy, most of the students think it is a great opportunity. As an arts high school, most of the students are looking to break it big in dance, acting, or any of the performing or visual arts. With For Art’s Sake, some of the students are given the opportunity to compete for scholarship money, as well as become semi-famous on TV.

Ethan and his friends are not those students. First it’s Luke who hates the idea, and before long his best friend Ethan and their other friends Jackson and Elizabeth are on board to try to take down the TV show through art. Inspired by their English teacher and Ezra Pounds Cantos, the group starts to write poems (anonymously) that slam the TV show, the school and the students involved. However, when the producers catch wind of the poems, along with golden boy Luke, friendships are tested as loyalties change.

Readers looking for realistic fiction that feels like hanging out with friends, all be it talented and subversive friends, will want to check out The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer.

Posted by Katie on January 20, 2015

Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll

Through the WoodsIt came from the woods. Most strange things do.

A hunter leaves his three daughters alone on one wintry night and doesn’t return. A young girl is haunted by ghostly singing in her new husband’s chilly manor. Two brothers hunt a beast plaguing their town, but the beast isn’t the dangerous one. Two girls pretend that they can speak with the dead, until one becomes haunted. A girl moves in with her brother and suspects something monstrous going on with his fiancée.

In these five deliciously creepy stories, Emily Carroll calls to mind familiar old-school fairy tales, the kind without happy endings, but twists them into something even darker. Each of the stories will take only minutes to read—more if you pause to soak in the gorgeous stylized artwork (and you should)—but their unsettlingly ambiguous endings will linger far longer. Carroll knows that your own dark imaginations will provide the final fright. This is the perfect read for a quiet winter night, all alone…

Posted by Krista on January 17, 2015

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

tyrants daughterLaila grew up as a Middle Eastern princess and lived a very sheltered life filled with riches, until her father is killed in a coup.  Now Laila, her mother, and her little brother have escaped their country with very little money and are living in a tiny apartment in the United States.  As Laila’s mother is meeting with an undercover CIA agent and members of the resistance originally from her own country, Laila is just trying to adapt to life as an American teenager.  In her home country, Laila lived a very sheltered life in her palace, so she has a difficult time accepting how Americans dress and their casual attitude toward dating.  As Laila starts to adjust to her new life she decides to research her family and discovers that her father might not have been the benevolent leader she always thought he was.

Carleson does an amazing job of imaging what it would be like to enter an American high school as a foreigner raised in a culture very different from our own.  Tyrant’s Daughter  is a thought-provoking novel that makes readers examine our culture,  while sympathizing with Laila until the novel’s surprising conclusion.

Posted by Emily on January 13, 2015

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in ColdtownTana wakes up bleary and embarrassed in the bathtub the morning after a big party. She hopes to sneak out unnoticed by her friends, and her friends actually don’t notice her … mostly because they’re all dead. This is how we enter Holly Black’s creepy vampire novel, by nosediving into a world that’s eerily similar to our own with the one huge exception being that vampires come out at night and everyone knows it.

In the back bedroom of the house that hosted her friends’ doomed sundown party, Tana finds her ex-boyfriend tied to a bed and cursed with a vampire’s bite, plus a mysterious vampire chained to a chair who warns her that the monsters who slaughtered her friends are in the basement, biding their time until sunset. What follows is a tense escape where Tana races to save herself, her infected ex, and the dangerous chained vampire. Seeking safety in the most unsafe environment possible, they drive to the nearest Coldtown, a government-established community for vampires, vampire enthusiasts, and infected humans. Tana plans to drop off her ex and try to get back home, but as the saying goes, the night is dark and full of terrors.

Tana is brave and strong despite being tired, scared, and frail, plus she has a killer backstory which is uncovered through tantalizing reveals after each chapter. Through these same reveal sections, we learn more about many characters, including the super mysterious chained vampire and believe me, you want to know his story. Filled with suspense, action, super deadly vampires, and yes, even a little romance, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one to read alone in the dark in a securely locked room with your phone close by so you can do a Snapchat story about how scared you are.

Posted by Abby on January 9th, 2015

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