Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Two voices in one town separated by decades, but connected by one tragic event, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

Rowan is home when workmen find a skeleton on her family's property. Whoever the person was, they have been buried a long time. Rowan enlists her best friend to help find answers when the authorities do not see the case as a priority.

William is the son of a white father and a Native American mother living in racially charged Tulsa in 1921. His confrontation with an African American man who was speaking to a white woman sparks more anger in a city already on edge.

Rowan's and William's stories are told in alternating chapters. William struggles with the open racism he sees in others (including his father) and his contact with two young African Americans he grows to like. He also feels the sting of being called half breed and threatened by the obnoxious shop keeper who works across the street from his father's Victrola business.

Rowan, the child of a white father and African American mother, feels and sees racism in current society. Her parents are financially successful so when she starts working in a medical clinic in a low income area, her eyes are opened to the struggles of others.

This incredible story interweaves the past and present skillfully to show how much we have progressed as a society and how far we still have to go. Skin color is only that and has nothing to do with who people really are inside. Basing anything on people's skin tone is just wrong and has lead to too much pain and anguish. Rowan and William, seemingly unrelated, show that we are never that far removed from out past. I highly recommend this book. It is, sadly, very relevant to today's world.

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



Friday, March 17, 2017

To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Erin's mother was murdered. And Erin was there when it happened. She was just a toddler and was left in the house for days while her mother's body lay on the floor in a puddle of her own blood. But Erin survived.

Erin was raised by her mother's best friend, Rachel, who has always been overly protective. Rachel will not discuss Erin's mother or what happened. But it doesn't stop Rachel from wondering. Erin is drawn to forensics like her Uncle Victor whom she has never met. He works for the FBI and has written about his experiences in books that Erin has practically memorized.

Ultimately, Erin wants to solve her mom's murder, but she can only do so much as a student. She is fortunate to have an encouraging biology teacher, Miss Peters, who helps her dabble in forensic science. Erin was delivering some important materials to Miss P's house the night she finds her lying dead on the floor. Two dead bodies is too much for one lifetime.

That night Erin saw Journey Michaels near Miss P's house, too. Erin has been fascinated by Journey for a while, but what if he killed her favorite teacher? Her best friends Spam and Lysa have never understood Erin's attraction to Journey. They also worry about Erin's obsession with her mom's murder case.

So many questions to answer about the two murders with Erin the only obvious connection. There is much to keep the reader guessing, but it is well worth it.

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



This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

School assembly. The auditorium is full of students and teachers. The doors are chained shut. Tyler enters with a gun in his hand. For some it is the end. For others it is the beginning of a nightmare.

This story is told from four different perspectives. Claire, Tyler's former girlfriend, is excused from the assembly for track practice. She is outside with her fellow runners when the shooting the starts.

Autumn is Tyler's sister. She is in the auditorium. Since their mother died, Tyler has been acting differently, but she never foresaw this. Tyler had supported her dancing even as she hid it from their father. Dancing reminded their dad too much of their mother's tragic death.

Sylv is Autumn's friend. She is in the auditorium with Autumn. She was threatened by Tyler for getting too close to Autumn and 'corrupting' her. Sylv has avoided Tyler ever since. Is she the reason Tyler is here?

Thomas is Sylv's brother. He and his best friend, Fareed, are breaking into the principal's office during assembly. As the only unconfined people in the school, can they save anyone else? Thomas confronted Tyler and slammed him against the lockers over hurting his sister. Is Tyler looking for Thomas?

Opportunity is a small town. Everyone knows about everyone else. At least they think they do. Some saw the cracks forming after Tyler and Autumn lost their mother, but no one saw how deeply it affected Tyler. As we go minute by minute through this tragic event, we can only ask who will live and who will die and why.

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



Friday, March 10, 2017

Cuckoo by Keren David

Jake is an actor on the incredibly popular soap opera, Market Square. In one episode, his character Riley goes up the stairs to his bedroom and never comes back down. Jake (and Riley) are left in limbo. Will his character ever return to the show? The producers keep telling him they haven't decided. Jake, now 16, has been playing Riley since he was a child. So what is he supposed to do?

Jake decides to shoot video episodes of his own life and post them on the internet to let the world know why his missing character ultimately led to the end of the show (yes, the show was pulled off the air!). Some fans just want to know what was going to happen to other characters, but Jake has a story that goes beyond his character Riley.

Jake wants to be an actor, so he keeps going to auditions. He is not just desperate to get his career on track but to financially assist his family. Three years ago, Jake's dad lost his job. His mental state has become increasingly unraveled in the months that Jake has been off the show. Jake's older brother, Adam, is severely autistic, a situation that strains everyone. Their mom works some, but the family is in a financial crisis. Eventually, Jake cannot take it anymore and leaves home.

We follow the story through the episodes with Jake's fellow actors taking the parts of his family and friends. This is not about a famous actor losing his job, but a deeper look at a family that has spiraled out of control. And it is told very well.

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



The Boomerang Effect by Gordon Jack

Someone dressed in the school viking mascot costume is creating havoc - spray painting an unflattering message on the principal's parking space, vandalizing the homecoming floats. Principal Stone knows it must be Lawrence Barry. Lawrence is always pulling some prank and has no respect for authority. It is only the intervention of the school guidance counselor that keeps Lawrence from being shipped off to Quiet Haven alternative school like his friend Alex after they disrupted the diversity assembly.

To stay in school, Lawrence must join the Buddy Club and mentor Spencer Knudson, a freshman student from Norway. Spencer dresses like an adult in freshly pressed clothes. He carries a violin case and is constantly reading text books. Spencer is going to need a lot of help if he is going to survive high school. At least that's what Lawrence thinks.

But Lawrence is the last person who should be giving advice even though he thinks he knows what is best for others. If he had listened to Spencer (you know, taken advice instead of giving it), everyone would not believe he is the vandalizing viking.

Still, Lawrence is trying. He is giving up smoking pot (which loses him his old partying friends). He attempts to help his friend ask his dream girl to the homecoming dance. He tries to advise the plain girl who sits in the back of the classroom to reveal more of herself like she does when she is participating in live action role play. Lawrence is also trying to catch the real vandal (he knows it has to be that crazy goth girl Zoe who seems to be stalking him).

Even though you may find yourself scratching your head at Lawrence's plans and begging him not to go through with them, it is a fun journey.

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



Sunday, February 12, 2017

It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

What a fun story. The premise is one used before - a person tracks down ex's to find out what went wrong. In this case, the person is Avery Dennis. Just before prom, she is dumped by Luke Murphy. Even though she is the head of the senior prom committee, Avery decides she will go without a date; in fact, she is done with dating.

In her history class, Avery is assigned to do an oral history project about a historic event. What could be a better subject than her own dating experiences? Her teacher thinks there are many, but Avery is persistent.

Avery's story is told through her assignment using the input of her, her best friend Coco, other students (like that annoying Bizzy Stanhope), teachers, coaches, and, of course, the former boyfriends. Avery also enlists Hutch, her lab partner since freshman year, to help analyze the findings.

Avery starts with her first boyfriend from kindergarten and works her way through summer camp romances, vacation flings, and more than a few boyfriends outside her social circle. Avery is smart and funny and obviously not a stuck up stereotypical popular girl. She is willing to see her flaws and defends herself when needed. Can she really discover why she can't keep a boyfriend? With Avery's determination, anything's possible.

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


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Five young men, close friends, enter the woods after a night of partying to go hunting, but only four come out alive. Grant, the prankster, is left lying on the ground with a gunshot wound. Which one of the four took the shot? None will admit to it. Grant was killed with his own Remington rifle, the only one in the group. Who grabbed the rifle that morning?  While standing over Grant's body, they all agree not to say anything.

While the five River Point Boys go to an expensive private school, Kate Marino attends the public school. As a senior, she has a paid internship at the district attorney's office. Her job is mostly filing for Mr. Stone, a lawyer who is close to retiring. Bowing to the pressure of the boys' fathers (who are highly influential in the community), the DA assigns the River Point Boys case to Stone with instructions to go easy with it. Mr. Stone and Kate agree that determining the shooter should be a priority.

Under normal circumstances, Kate would have no involvement with a case. Mr. Stone's vision is deteriorating and Kate is a photographer with a keen eye for detail, so he asks Kate to help him interpret evidence. She watches taped interviews, examines photographs and even visits the crime scene.

Things get complicated when the four accused boys are expelled from school and start attending Kate's school. She is told not to interact with them. Although Kate knows the importance of the case and her potential conflicts due to working for the prosecuting attorney, she can't completely avoid the boys. Of course, she never told Mr. Stone or her mom (who works in the same office) that she had been texting Grant in the weeks leading up to his death - including the night before he was shot.

It is a compelling story with enough nail biting moments to keep you guessing to the end.

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



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

There was a time not so long ago when dinosaurs were new. Not to the planet, but to the knowledge of humans. The fossilized bones of dinosaurs had to be discovered and dug up to reveal the extinct creatures. The bones had to be assembled and the creature classified and named. Some of the men doing such work were formally educated like Professor Cartland. Some were self-taught like Michael Bolt. Cartland and Bolt are rivals and hate each other so much that they often stoop to petty sabotage.

This story is about the children of those two men - Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt. Both were raised without their mothers by fathers who surrounded them with science and the new discipline of paleontology. Rachel and Sam want to search for bones like their fathers. Sam might not have the money to go to school, but could be like his father. Rachel...well, women do not go to university and become dinosaur hunters. It's not proper.

Sam and Rachel meet for the first time on the night Sam's father is presenting his latest find and Rachel's father is there to embarrass him. Sam feels a connection to Rachel (even as they are both pulling their fathers apart during the fight that breaks out). Rachel has never had boys show interest in her (and is considered plain by most standards), so she hesitates in the face of Sam's interest.

Maybe they would never see each other again...until their super competitive fathers end up pursuing the same dinosaur that could be the most extraordinary find of all. The search takes them all out west (Rachel had to beg to go since a young lady does not travel in the wilds of the west with a bunch of young male students). The heated battle between the two parties is not even the worst of it. They face the hot dry conditions and the ever looming presence of Sioux who view the Badlands as sacred ground.

Through it all, Sam and Rachel find each other. If they survive this expedition, can they be together when their fathers hate each other so much?

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



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

Claire enters 8th grade not having much fun. Ryder, the kid who's been tormenting her since 6th grade, is in all of her classes. The mean girls seem even worse this year. Dance has always been an escape for her, but now her friends have been moved up to a higher group leaving her with the kids.

Worst of all, Claire's dad has a stroke. One minute they are talking in the kitchen; the next he is slumping to the floor mumbling nonsense. Her world is turned upside down. She needs her funny dad who writes books for teens. He cannot speak, can barely walk and struggles to get food to his mouth. The annual Dad's Dance performance was one thing Claire always looked forward to. Now, she will not be able to dance with her father on stage like the other girls.

Claire's mom is always super positive (which is sometimes annoying in a crisis). Her older brother is practically perfect. Her father's prolonged illness tests them all.

We follow Claire through her whole 8th grade year. Her friendships are tested along with her patience and self-esteem. Middle school is tough enough without having an almost non-functioning parent. Once again, Jordan Sonnenblick has given his readers wonderful characters to cheer on.

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


Friday, November 18, 2016

Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash

For three days in 1969, the Woodstock music festival made the small town of Bethel, New York, the center of the rock world. Thousands of people gathered in the name of peace to hear some of the biggest names in music. Two of those people are Michael and Cora, and this is how they met and spent those three days.

Michael drove from Massachusetts with his friend Evan, his girlfriend Amanda, and Amanda's two friends. He's not sure what to do with his life. Go to college? Join the military? He's also not sure about his girlfriend Amanda. Sometimes it seems like she doesn't even like him, so why is she with him at all?

Cora lives in Bethel on a farm. Her dad has nothing but disdain for the people coming to the festival. He is a veteran with great pride in his oldest son's current service in Vietnam. He's not as happy with Cora and her war protesting twin brother. Cora wants to be a nurse...no, she really wants to be a doctor, a lofty goal for a woman from a small town in those times. She works as a candy striper in the medical tent at the festival.

Michael takes some acid with bad results, so his friends take him to the medical tent where he is attended to by Cora. Michael doesn't remember much about their first encounter, but soon realizes Cora is nothing like Amanda. Separated from his friends, Michael asks Cora to hang with him.

The festival allows to Michael and Cora to escape their worries for a bit: Cora's strict father and her brother in Vietnam; Michael's future and his issues with Amanda. Michael gets lost in the music and takes Cora with him. They run into famous people and share in the generosity of their fellow festival goers. Neither, of course, knows the mythical quality that Woodstock will one day represent to generations. But we do, so we can go along with them to feel just a little bit of what it could have been like for those three days of peace, love and music.

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