Saturday, February 9, 2019

Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack

During a student body election that goes completely off the rails, all three candidates end up in the principal's office on election day.

Who are the candidates? Stacey has wanted to be the president for her whole high school career. She has been involved in student government and many clubs. A few weeks before the election, she is running unopposed.

Julia is new to school having just moved from Canada to live with her aunt. Her features make some think she is a Latina, but even she's not sure. Her mom is white, but she never knew her dad. Mom thinks Julia should be an individual and not worry about racial identity.

Tony only wants to hang out his parent's mansion (they travel a lot) and get high. School is of no interest. He is talked into running for president by a mo-hawk wearing freshman. Tony's platform is all about getting his favorite chocolate milk back in the cafeteria.

And then there's Brian, Stacey's best friend and election confidante, who falls for Julia the first time he sees her. His life is not complicated at all: friend to one candidate and hopeful boyfriend to another. Another force in the whole election is Kyle, Brian's little brother, who will do whatever he can to make Brian's life miserable. Oh ya, Kyle has a mo-hawk.

Even school politics can be messy. And when the stakes are high, even the most respectable student can dirty. For the reader, it's all fun and worth the time.

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

Ray lives in a weird little Connecticut town, Williamsburg (aka Burgerville). Being the history buff that he is, he knows all about the strange happenings his town's past including the green cows. Were the cows real? Does it even matter when everyone still talks about them?

One day, a young woman comes to town who Ray (the narrator) only calls Jane Doe for this story. She chooses to hang out with Ray and his friend Simon when she could obviously be part of the popular crowd. Jane is unlike anyone.

Jane loves folk music thanks to her Grandma Irene (a somewhat famous singer in her day) who has a connection to Burgerville. The story of the one time folk festival that Irene organized is one of the stories shared between Ray and Jane. Ray takes Jane to all the sites of famous Burgerville historical moments.

I'm finding its difficult to describe this book. Really, it is two young people discovering themselves (ya, I know what teen book isn't). Ray gets to do a rare thing: share his interests with someone who is interested (or at least interested in him enough to listen). Jane...there is more going on with her than Ray knows and for a short time he gets to see her for who she is.

The story is quirky, funny and serious, too. I look forward to another book by this author.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Cliff's older brother, Shane, is dead. Shane is the only thing Cliff care's about. He doesn't care about school or his stupid classmates. His dad is abusive, and his mom is his dad's enabler. Basically, Cliff's life sucks.

Sometimes when nothing feels right, Cliff goes to the Monolith, a tall abandoned never finished seven story office building in his small town. He and his brother used to go there, and hang out on a top floor balcony.  But now, Cliff goes by himself.

Cliff is a big, physically big. So big that his nickname is Neanderthal. He is called a lot of things by classmates who think they are so clever. He is not afraid to throw punches if necessary. He does just that against Aaron Zimmerman the popular quarterback. Cliff hates Aaron.

So imagine Cliff's astonishment (and skepticism) when Aaron tells him (after waking from a coma - NOT caused by Cliff)  that he saw God. Not only that, God gave Aaron a list and wants Cliff to help him make their high school a better place. It's a nice goal, but why would Cliff want to help Aaron do anything?

Maybe Cliff and Aaron can change their small part of the world. Maybe Cliff can discover more about his brother. And maybe not everyone at school hates Cliff like he thinks they do.

Interesting characters and an intriguing plot make this a worthwhile read.

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor

Imagine if your favorite author wrote a book based on your life. How would that even happen? Maybe the author moves to your town and lets you hang out with her. That would be amazing...unless the book was less than positive and exposed things about you and your friends that you didn't want everyone to know.

So this story gets a little confusing because at some point there is a book within a book within this book. Three friends (Miri, Penny and Soleil) fall in love with a book by Fatima Ro. After meeting her at a book signing, Fatima invites them to a book talk she is giving at coffee house. Of course, they go and that's when the real connection starts. Fatima invites them to her house, and it becomes a regular hang out for the girls.

I have to mention Jonah who was right along with the girls the whole time. He just moved to their school and was a new member of the group. He said he had never read Fatima's book, so he bought one for her to sign.

So Fatima's book becomes a guide for living for the girls. They start a group at a school to talk about the book and live by it's themes and quotes. Fatima totally encourages all of it. Fatima has a way to reach these young people so they reveal more about themselves. This is particularly true with Jonah who had to leave a very unpleasant situation at his old school. It seems Fatima is also good at manipulating people.

The story is told through interviews, blog posts and excerpts from Fatima's new book (the one based on Miri, Penny, Soleil and Jonah). The girls' friendship is sacrificed for Fatima to get her story. The structure itself (although sometimes confusing) makes the story unfold in a fascinating way.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil

Would you watch a brutal execution online? If you knew the person being killed was a convicted murderer, would that make a difference? If the government decided to build a 24 hour reality 'show' around inmates trapped on an island (Alcatraz 2.0) where they could be killed at anytime by one of the sanctioned executioners, would you watch? If the executioners all played a character who kills in their own unique style, would you? In this story, millions do watch. In this story, Dee never watched the show but she ends up on the island fighting for her life.

Years after Dee was kidnapped and escaped, her sister was killed in their home. Dee was wrongfully convicted of the murder and finds herself waking up in the maze of Prince Slycer, one of the executioners on Alcatraz 2.0. How did this nightmare come to life?

The Postman, the mysterious unseen man who created the prison and show with the full cooperation of the Justice Department, controls everything: who is killed when and by whom. The inmates live openly but are surrounded by cameras recording their every move. The executioners and inmates have online followers. No one dies off camera.

When Dee survives her first encounter with a killer, she becomes an instant celebrity and the person on the island with a target on her back. No one is supposed to survive a face off with one of the killers. That's not how Alcatraz 2.0 works. Can Dee trust the other inmates to help her survive until she can prove she was framed for her sister's murder?

A little mystery, some graphic violence and a little romance make for a quick read. Recommended for the twisted premise if for nothing else.

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

So they made a movie based on this book (no, I haven't seen it). It was the movie's release that prompted me to finally read the book.

Simon is gay, but he hasn't told anyone yet. He has been corresponding (emailing) with another guy who goes to the same high school, but neither know each other's identity. Simon is curious, but the other boy wants to keep the secret. Along comes Garrett who accidentally sees one Simon's emails and decides he can use the info to get something for himself (a date with Simon's friend, Abby). Yes, Garrett threatens to out Simon to everyone unless Simon helps him get to know a friend. What a jerk, right?

Simon is not ready to share his sexuality with the world and is afraid that it will scare off his potential boyfriend if he is outed. This could be his first boyfriend ever! It might be...Simon is not sure if he is reading the signals correctly. The other guy seems to be flirting, so it could happen.

Simon has a great group of friends. They are written with more depth than you might find in many teen novels, and I found that refreshing. He also has nice (but not perfect) parents. So Simon's world is pretty good (except for some uncertainty about being accepted for who he is). It's a pleasant, fun read.

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

Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Brynne idolizes political commentator, Rachel Maddow. So when she is forced to write to a famous person for an assignment, she chooses Rachel. The thing is Brynne keeps e-mailing Rachel with all the details of her life.

So what is going in Brynne's life? First off, her parents are horrible (particularly her stepdad). Not just typical 'my parents suck' horrible. They really treat Brynne terribly. Second, her brother, the only person who she could depend on, died. Third, her grades plummeted after his death and she ends up in the remedial (and literal basement) classes. Which also means she got kicked off the newspaper staff. Oh, and her girlfriend broke up with her.

As her junior year continues, Brynne becomes annoyed with Adam who believes only honor students should represent the school on student council (no surprise, he is an honor student). Adam is also not above using questionable tactics to win. Brynne does not want to involve herself, but cannot stand the thought of Adam winning knowing he does not care about the other students (like herself and her fellow basement dwellers).

Brynne tells us her story through the e-mails to Rachel. She is young woman full of angst and self doubt. We hope she finds her way in spite of her own misgivings about her worth and abilities. It's a serious story with humor thrown in. I hope Rachel Maddow enjoyed it as much as I did.

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

Rewind by Carolyn O'Doherty

Alex is a spinner meaning she can rewind time to view past events (but no more than a day or so). The world fears spinners so she and the others are locked up together in a facility. On those rare occasions when they are allowed to go out, they must wear a band that keeps them from rewinding time.

Upside to being a spinner: they assist the police in solving and preventing crimes. Alex is one of the better ones, so she gets to help with murders and bomb attempts.

Downside: spinners eventually get the disease and die before they are 20 years old. And they have a implanted chip that tracks them.

Alex is happy with her assigned police officer, Agent Ross. He is not afraid of her abilities and sees their potential in helping him track a criminal he has wanted to catch for a long time. Ross even bends some rules so Alex can help.

But it's a dangerous world when you are pursuing powerful criminals in a world where most people do not like your powers already. Even the facility is not safe when Alex can't trust the staff to do what is in her and the others' best interests. KJ, her best friend, is the only person she truly trusts, but things have been strained between them since he has shown interest in another girl.

Can Alex avoid the disease and help catch a killer? Or will Alex have to escape from her confined world? And who will help her?

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

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

It's been a while since I read this. I am finding it difficult to describe. I really enjoyed it, but is so different from what I normally read. About 40 pages in, I almost stopped reading it. It was just a little too odd. I liked the author's language and unusual descriptions enough to keep going. And I am glad that I did.

Miracles happen. In this small Colorado town, they really do. So much so that people come from all over to have miracles performed for them. What they don't know is that they must finish the miracle themselves or forever be stuck in some in between state. For example, one lady is in a perpetual state of being rained upon. Wherever she goes, whatever she does she has a rain cloud over her head.

The miracles are performed by one chosen member of the community. Once the miracle is performed, the members of the community must never talk to (or show concern for) the ones in limbo or they might find themselves stuck as well.

So that's just the basic explanation. There is a lot going on in this book. But the narrative is driven by two strangers who come to the small village. One looking for a miracle and one just looking for a truck he was told he could get. Someone showing up who is not looking for a miracle never happens, and it creates changes in ways no one could have foreseen.

This is an incredible book with a setting, characters and story I could come up with on my own. Really amazing.

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

Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg

Jamie loves math. Recently, he has become interested in game theory, the strategy of determining your opponent's actions. He practices it with his clever, precocious younger sister, Phoebe.

Jamie's older sister, Summerlee, buys a lottery ticket on her 18th birthday and wins 7.5 million dollars. Already rebellious, the money causes her to break free of her family. Against her parents' advice, Summerlee lets the world know that she won and goes on a spending spree.

One day when Jamie and Phoebe go to the grocery store together, Phoebe is kidnapped. The sudden horror and remorse Jamie feels is gut wrenching. Phoebe is the best of the family. Even Summerlee who can be nasty to anyone is never cross with Phoebe.

Is the kidnapping related to Summerlee's sudden financial windfall? No one knows for sure, but they do know that the kidnapper(s) will only speak with Jamie. Maybe he can use game theory to outwit the kidnapper and get Phoebe back. But dealing with the kidnapper without the police is a risk.

This is a story filled with tension and suspense. So if you are looking for something with some mystery that is a little different, check this one out.

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