Monday, October 24, 2016

Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker

Girl meets boy. Boy likes girl. Boy and girl rob a bank. OK, it's more complicated than that. Let's start with the boy...

Christian lives in rough part of Los Angeles. Even though he is a good student and gets accepted to college, he has not been able to avoid being involved with a gang. The gang takes care of his alcoholic dad's debts as long as Christian fulfills his obligations: robbing banks with his crew.  The crew (aka the Romero Robbers) stage hold ups and keep some of the money with the rest going to the gang leaders. Keep the jobs quick and small - get too ambitious and you get careless. That's how you get caught. But now Christian's boss wants a big job: breaking into a vault.

Lexi goes to an exclusive private school. She, her brother and their friends do extreme activities (like illegally BASE jumping from the top of an office building). Her life is pretty good until her father is arrested for a fraud scheme at the bank where he works. Her family's accounts are frozen and the school kicks her and her brother out. Lexi is so angry that her father's boss is probably also guilty but continues to live his luxurious life. She must find a way to take him down even if it means breaking into the bank to find incriminating evidence.

After a few chance encounters, Lexi and Christian have an attraction, but are suspicious of each other. Once they reveal their plans, they decide the best course is to team up to rob the bank - him to get money and her to get documents. They need each other, but they have different objectives that do not always mesh.

The story is involved, suspenseful and a fun exploration of a topic not often seen in teen books.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

A giant asteroid is heading for earth. Southern California is the target, but the whole world will be impacted. The smartest minds are assembled in a NASA facility in Pasadena to solve the problem. With less than a month left, a young Russian physicist arrives to join the team. Yuri's mathematical skills are unquestioned, but since he is only seventeen he is often not taken seriously by his fellow scientists. That is most unfortunate when Yuri knows he has the best solution to stop the asteroid.

One day Yuri decides to eat lunch outside and finds a pretty young woman named Dovie. Having spent most of his life focused on physics, Yuri is socially awkward and does not know how to interact with other people his age. In addition, Yuri has never been to the U.S. and does not understand the customs (or often the subtleties of the English language). Fortunately, the artsy Dovie takes a liking to Yuri and invites him to her house. Dovie's hippie parents and wheelchair bound brother Lennon are welcoming but live a very different existence than Yuri's.

With the world in peril, Yuri gets to spend time as a regular teenager while simultaneously trying to convince his colleagues that his unique knowledge holds the key to saving the planet. It's possible his overzealous behavior will keep him from returning to Russia.

This is a nice blend of science and teenage uncertainty about their own future.

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Graham really likes Roxy. They have been friends ever since Graham moved next door to her after his mother died eight years ago. The first thing she asked him was which Hogwarts house he would be sorted into. How could he not love her after that? Graham is ready to tell Roxy how he really feels, and he is planning to do it at Comic Con.

Graham and Roxy collaborate on their own graphic novel (he writes, she illustrates) and are huge fans of the reclusive Robert Zinc, creator of The Chronicles of Althena. Zinc has not been seen in public for years, but with the movie adaptation in production he will be appearing at the convention in a Q&A session with limited seating. What a perfect time for Graham to express his true feelings.

Things are complicated from the start. To get tickets to see Zinc, Graham will have to wait in line all night outside in New York City. Roxy's parents would never allow her to do that, so Graham convinces his best friend Casey to get Roxy's ticket (but not before agreeing to convince his sister to go out with Casey).

And it only gets worse. Graham could not have foreseen the large number of fans willing to do anything to see Zinc. Or the attractive guy who attaches himself to Roxy from the beginning of the con. What should be the best Comic Con of Graham's life turns into a series of frustrating events.

For all of Graham's misery, this is fun excursion into the New York Comic Con. It's all you could ever want from a con without being there - laughs, suspense, adventure and pop culture references galore.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Autumn's Wish by Bella Thorne

Autumn receives a locket from her late father that allows her to travel through time. In the past two Autumn Falls books (which I have not read), Autumn gets a journal that grants her wishes and a dry erase map that lets her travel anywhere instantaneously. In conjunction with her father's wishes, she uses these items to bring peace and happiness to her little corner of the world.

As with any time travel story, there must be parameters. First, Autumn can only use the locket ten times. Second, she cannot travel into the past. Third, her visits are very short. Fourth, she cannot interact with anyone; she is merely an observing ghost.

By seeing the future, she can interfere with current events to change it. And what does she see? Her friends' lives are in turmoil and her mom is married to some goofy guy. So Autumn sets out altering the course of each person's life. But the changes often moves someone else's life in the wrong direction. Sometimes it makes her wonder what her dad really wants to happen.

I chose to read this because I like time travel stories. Imagine if you could see your own future. Would it be worth the risk to change it? Would you feel guilty about changing other people's lives? The possibility of time travel always causes more questions than answers, but that is the fun of it. And this books is an enjoyable, quick read.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Haters by Jesse Andrews

Wes and Corey love music, well except the music they hate on...which is a lot of it. They know they are haters - it's what they do. They are attending a jazz camp (Wes plays bass and Corey plays drums) with a bunch of young people way more into jazz than they are.

Back home, Wes and Corey do not play together a lot - they usually just end up listening to music. Needless to say they are not the best players in camp, so they end up in the worst group. But so does a guitar player named Ash. On the first day of camp, the three end up jamming together. They are so impressed with themselves that they decide to form a group and immediately hit the road to find venues to play.

What could go wrong with spur of the moment tour? Wes, Corey and Ash find out as the head through the South on route to New Orleans. It is a road trip of disasters, disappointments, weird characters and epic moments.

Music has a way of bringing people together. Wes, Corey and Ash came together through music and their lives will never be the same.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

JT has only done drag once - and it was humiliating. Of course, it wasn't the best venue with the most receptive audience (high school talent show with jocks watching). JT will not put himself through that again.

The problem is that JT does not want to be stuck working in his family's gas station in Florida for the rest of his life. His parents do not have the money to send him to college and do not seem to care what happens to him as long as he works at the station. How can he escape? His boyfriend, Seth, discovers a teen drag contest that gives the winner a four year scholarship to college.

So here are the problems (as JT sees it): 1)The contest is in New York City and he has no money to get there and 2) He is not a real drag queen since his only performance was a total embarrassment.

It's a good thing JT has friends like Seth and Heather. They are constantly talking him through his insecurities. And they have a plan. JT just has to find the confidence in himself and trust the people who want to help him. In New York and on the trip there, JT finds many of those people.

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

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan

Max is tired of being 'Just Max.' So when he receives a mysterious invitation  from the Chaos Club to meet at the water tower, he goes. For decades, the Chaos Club has pulled pranks around the school. Could this be an invitation to join the secret society?

Max soon realizes he is not the only one to get the invitation. The group includes a dumb jock, a tough girl, a slacker/troublemaker,  and the girl Max has a crush on. They make it to the top of the water tower as instructed only to realize they have been set up (and the whole thing is recorded and uploaded to the internet).

Tired of being pushed around, the group decides to pull their own epic pranks and take down the Chaos Club at the same time (and if they can make a certain coach look bad, too, all the better). Each group member will pull a prank to see who can do the best one.

How do you pull of pranks without involving innocent people? It's a question Max asks himself as the 'war' escalates. He wants to be somebody, but is it worth getting expelled?

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

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Holmes and Watson must solve the mystery before the killer catches up to them. No, not Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (they are long dead). This is Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, decedents of the famous crime solving team. Through coincidence (or is it?), they both end up at a private school in Connecticut. Watson knew of Charlotte, of course, but had never met her.

The death of a classmate finds them awkwardly paired. Jamie must adjust to Charlotte's unusual habits and eccentricities. From birth she has been trained in the Holmes tradition of crime solving and all the goes with it (observation, forensics, interrogation). Although the Holmes and Watson families have shared history, Jamie's mother has tried to keep him away from the Holmes'.

But once Jamie follows Charlotte through the dead student's window to examine the crime scene, there is no going back. Jamie is completely immersed in Charlotte's world. Adding another level of intrigue, the crime (and the ones that follow) mimics the stories of the original Holmes and Watson.

I have never been a reader of Sherlock Holmes (other than a few in high school), so I do not know how closely the characters of Charlotte and Jamie resemble their famous ancestors. I do know that there is enough mystery (mixed with teen angst) to keep the pages turning.

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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

Almost by accident, Normandy, Dusk and Neil start a movement to find the truth. They ask the questions everyone wants to know but are afraid to ask. Why did Aimee have plastic surgery over the summer? Is Tyler Jones gay? But how do you get the answers - you go right to the person of interest and ask them.

Normandy, Dusk and Neil attend the Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design. It is a unique school that allows students to focus on different aspects of art. Neil is a painter (of the female form). He also likes to dress as characters from classic 60s and 70s movies. Dusk is currently working on taxidermy. She is the most effortlessly beautiful girl in the school. Normandy is a writer who is famous for being portrayed in her sister Keira's hugely popular graphic novel.

Normandy is uncomfortable asking others about their secrets because she has enough of her own family secrets (like how her sister has left college in California but won't tell anyone why including her agent). Normandy's family has always revolved around her sister's gifts and talents, so as long as Keira is working on her novel her parents will not do anything to upset her.

Normandy tells the story in a paper (aka the book itself) she is writing (complete with footnotes) for her Spring Special Project. She includes all the humor and drama that is her life: her sister's breakdown and her friend's quest for the truth that becomes bigger than all of them.

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

23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde

Imagine if you could go back in time to change something. Correct an answer on an exam. Take back something hurtful you said. Save someone's life. It seems easy enough, but time can be unforgiving. Suppose you can only go back 23 minutes. Zoe can. She doesn't know why, but she has the ability to jump back 23 minutes (and reset 10 times before the she reaches her oringinal starting time).

So on a rainy day, she ducks into a bank to stay dry and finds herself in the middle of a robbery. The young man who steps between her and the gunman should not have to die, no one should. Zoe tries to intervene using her time travel abilities.

It should be easy enough - call the police before the robbery happens; try to stop the robber from entering the bank; tell the young man not to enter the bank. Zoe has ten tries to stop people from dying. Her time travel has never been needed for something so important.

The author has given us a tight scenario with strict rules that makes for a tense story.

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