Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Con Academy by Joe Schreiber

Will Shea attends the exclusive Connaughton Academy. He grew up on a tiny island in the Pacific. His parents were missionaries and died tragically. Sad story really - except none of it is true. Will is from New Jersey and is the son of a con-man. True to his upbringing, Will is pulling a con on Connaughton, successfully getting a scholarship to one of the most exclusive private schools in the country.

This con has no angle. Will wants to go legit and make something of himself. That hope quickly fades when another student Andrea discovers his secret and challenges him to a con-off. The first to fleece a load of money from the king of the campus, Brandt Rush, gets to stay and finish school.

Ah, Brandt. He's obnoxious and arrogant. Half the buildings on campus are named after his family. He throws crazy huge gambling parties and gets away with everything. Brandt is just asking to be taken.

And so it begins, Will versus Andrea. Who's conning who? Will brings in his uncle for help with his first big con, but did not intend for his alcoholic dad to get involved. With such a huge payoff that his dad is depending on, the stakes are even higher.

The story has twists and turns that keep everyone guessing. The story does borrow a few things from the movie The Sting, but it is still fun and suspenseful.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's blog.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

Atticus is short with curly hair, not really thin and wears glasses. He's not athletic enough for his father or the baseball coach (yes, he is suffering through a season of baseball even though he has no talent for the game). He is being bullied by the coach's son, Danny (who cleverly calls him Fatticus). Atticus is starting to think he is the reason his father left.

Atticus copes by playing out fantasies in his head (like the one where poet Robert Frost helps him with a class presentation and tells Danny off, too). He also dreams of his classmate Audrey, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen.

What really seems to be his saving grace is the new substitute English teacher, Mr. Looney. And he lives up to his name right away. On the his first day of class, Mr. Looney doesn't say a word to any of the students. He just stares at them. Atticus feels like Mr. Looney can really see him - maybe he's the first person who has ever seen the real Atticus.

Atticus gets bullied more by Danny. His (once non-existent) friendship with Audrey gets stronger. And Mr. Looney's 'antics' get the attention of the school board. Through it all, we pull for Atticus. We want him to see what we know to be true (and what his mom and Mr. Looney see): that Atticus is a good guy.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's blog.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

Imagine if the person sitting next to you in class can hear your every thought. He would instantly know about the boy you think is cute. He would know the answers you were writing on your test. He would know what you think about him. But what if you could read his mind, too?

The students of homeroom 10B know all too well the answer to this question. Through a twist of fate almost all the members of the homeroom have developed the ability to read minds. Fearing the consequences of what could happen if their powers are discovered, they decide to keep it a secret.

Polly (aka Pi) has a curious mind is most interested in exploring her new powers and keeping them secret.

Mackenzie is worried her boyfriend, Cooper, will find out she cheated on him (now that the whole group knows her secret, somebody is bound to tell him).

Tess has a crush on her best friend Teddy (they've known each other forever) and can now find out if he likes her in the same way.

Olivia is shy and cannot speak in public, but maybe her powers might help her with Lazar who she heard may like her.

Yes, this is a story of the normal teen experiences and worries with the added bonus of them knowing what everyone else is thinking. I am glad when I was a teen that I could not hear others' thoughts (and they could not hear mine), but it is fun to think and read about.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

On the outside, Regan is Little Miss Perfect, but really she is a schemer looking for dirt on people - sometimes for no other reason than to be part of the popular group. But sometimes she does it to get what she wants, like a spot on the cheer leading squad. She shouldn't need to (she was on the squad last year and is good friends with the captain), but a little bit of dirt on her closest competition won't hurt. Until...

Someone prints out Regan's texts and plasters them all over the school. Every nasty comment (including ones about her friends) is there for everyone to read. She quickly becomes the most hated person in school. Christy (the cheer captain) becomes openly hostile and 'steals' Regan's best friend, Payton. Only Nolan, Payton's weird brother, will talk to her. He follows her around with his video camera which she finds annoying.

Regan must be perfect at all costs; that is what her mother, the congresswoman, taught her. Cheerleading, National Honor Society and student council are all part of the plan. Regan needs to be successful and not embarrass her mother (especially with an election coming up). It's no wonder Regan suffers from panic attacks and relies on medicine to get her through the day.

Regan just wants to wait until it all dies down and in the meantime try to figure out how to return to her previous social status. What she finds on the way is that others have secrets even bigger than hers and that she has misjudged a lot of people. Time for Regan to make some changes - and you will be cheering for her.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation by John Grant

More people have access to information than anytime in our history. That means there is more misinformation, too. If it were just social media and the internet causing it, it would be bad enough but people of authority (politicians, religious leaders and broadcasters) are helping spread misinformation everyday.

The author of this book wants to help you break through all that. He wants the reader to develop what he calls a bullshit meter to weed out arguments and methods of arguing that cloud the issues at hand.

The author begins by discussing the effects misinformation can have (and has had). He then describes common methods used by the people spreading misinformation. He uses plenty of examples along the way.

In the second part, he takes controversial topics like evolution and climate change and dissects them using the methods he's trying to teach. Needless to say, some readers will not be happy with his reasoned approach in discussing religion, mysticism, medicine and the climate.

With so many questionable sources, I appreciate the reasoned approach presented in this book.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher

Zak and Ana. They shouldn't even be hanging out together, in Ana's opinion anyway. Just look at him: shaggy hair and his scruffy attempt at a goatee. He plays role playing games after school; he and his friends even wear goofy hats. And he's kind of a slacker.

Zak wouldn't mind hanging out with Ana. Even her frizzy hair is kind of cute. She's obviously smart. She does seem kind of uptight with all her extra-curricular activities, but that's why she should have joined in the war game with his friends when Zak invited her.

And how will fate bring them together? Zak messes up a health quiz and, to save his grade, he is forced to join the academic quiz bowl team on their trip to a competition. Ana is the captain of the team. Zak is not looking forward to it, but resigns himself until he realizes the competition is the same weekend as Washingcon, a huge sci-fi convention that Zak has never missed.

A weekend that should have been boring (for Zak) and satisfyingly successful (for Ana) turns into a mess when Ana's 13 year old brother Clayton (also on the team) decides the sci-fi convention sounds cool enough to see for himself. So he travels the few miles from their hotel to the convention center to see all the things Zak has been describing to him.

Zak has been warned not to leave the hotel and Ana's parents are way strict (to the point where she has no life outside of anything that will not help her get into college). Having to go in search of Clayton is a huge risk for both of them, but it's better than telling their teacher.

Their quest at the con is chaotic, dangerous, suspenseful and really funny. They are chased, attacked, insulted, challenged...so many twists that you never know what is going to happen next. But through it all, Zak and Ana discover much about each other and that is really the story.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen

Four girls out for revenge. The football team has run the school for too long. The players get special exceptions with class work. They never get into trouble no matter how heinous the crime. They are treated like gods.

Well, enough is enough. When Liv and Melanie Jane are both dumped by their football player boyfriends at the same time, the secret of the List is revealed - some underclass players are forced to break up with their girlfriends or face the consequences on and off the field.

By chance the two girls find each other (and team up with Peyton and Ana who have their own reasons for disliking the football players) to beat the team at its own game - no, not football, the annual scavenger hunt. Losers have to walk on the field at homecoming naked.

The girls enter the scavenger hunt secretly (only team members are allowed). They are driven to get the sacred Football of '76, the good luck charm of the team. If they can just get the attention of the school and knock the team down a few notches...

We follow the girls on their hunt and learn the events leading up to it in flashbacks. Each girl tells her own part of the story. Liv is the girl with an undeserved reputation. Peyton is the shy girl who tries not to draw attention to herself. Melanie Jane has relationships with expiration dates - why be too serious at her age? Ana is the girl no one talks to - her reputation was cemented the night of the party that caused the split between her and Melanie Jane.

As they progress toward their shared goal, they bond with each other and address old wounds. It is a fun story with justice being the goal, but friendship being the result.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.