Friday, November 10, 2017

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

It's 1956 and Hitler is still alive. The Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) won World War II. The current resistance could start a true uprising and bring the Third Reich to an end if Hitler could be killed. Unfortunately, he rarely appears in public.

There is one hope: Yael could be the one to kill Hitler. She is the only one who can get close enough to do it. Every year, an intercontinental motorcycle race is run pitting the best riders from each country. The winner is celebrated at the Victor's Ball attended by Hitler himself. Last year's winner (and only female racer) Adele Wolfe danced with him.

Due to vicious experiments in a concentration camp, Yael can change her appearance at will. She will become Adele and take her place in this year's race. She must win against the best, so she can get close enough to Hitler to shoot him.

The race is grueling: fighting with other riders, battling the elements, facing mechanical breakdowns, thwarting sabotage. And then there is Luka, another rider who was a love interest of Adele's. Can Yael trust him? Is he flirting or just waiting for a chance to take her out of the race.

Add to all of this Adele's brother, Felix, who joins the race to keep an eye on his sister. Can Yael fool  him and the other's who know Adele so well? Yael has endured much already in her life, so she is ready for this challenge.

It is a drama filled, action packed alternate history. I am ready to jump into the sequel for the rest of the story. 

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


Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin

Two best friends separated for the first time. Ava stays in California to go to film school. Gen goes to Boston to study journalism. Some would say they are opposites and wonder why they are friends at all. Ava is uptight, anxious and struggles with issues that have caused her to take medication and see therapists. Gen is a free spirit, open to new experiences and doesn't shy away from meeting new people.

They promise to communicate everyday. So through e-mails and texts, we see their friendship strain against the separation as they each have new experiences that do not include each other. They tease, criticize, question, encourage and support each other. There is no question that these to young women have a strong friendship, but that doesn't stop them from fighting. As time goes on, the strain starts to show.

Neither Ava nor Gen is perfect. They make mistakes. They do things the other one questions: Ava joins a sorority (Gen: really?). Gen explores her sexuality (Ava: are you gay now?). There are guys and girls, kissing and sex, possible love and definite heartbreak. Truly, this first semester is a test for them. But it's amusing and worth the time.

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


Monday, October 30, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Yes, I am a huge John Green fan. And yes, I liked this book very much. I was delighted that the last sentence of so many paragraphs were profound and spoke a basic truth. It's like he peppered small philosophical statements throughout the whole story.

We have Aza who is struggling with a mental disorder that causes a voice in her head to tell her she will contract some horrible illness from microbes. She knows that microbes are in all of us. Maybe she is just the host. Maybe the microbes actually control her. Maybe she doesn't even control her own thoughts. Even with therapy and medicine (which she doesn't always take), the nagging thoughts are still there. It is excruciating at times to feel Aza go through it.

Aza's best friend Daisy is much more extroverted. They have been friends since grade school and often hang out at Applebee's using a bunch of coupons (much to the disdain of their usual waitress). Neither have a lot of money and both go to public school.

Daisy is particularly interested when one of the city's wealthiest businessmen disappears on the eve of his arrest. Aza went to a camp with the man's son (named Davis), so Daisy is sure they can use that connection to help solve the mystery (and get the reward). Aza is not so sure. Will Davis even remember her? And even if he does, he lives in a mansion and goes to private school.

This story is not about the solving the mystery; it is about Aza coming to grips with her life. John Green does an extraordinary job of putting us right in her head. Dealing with anxiety myself, I know what it is like to have those irrational thoughts that seem beyond my control. I like to say my brain is working against me as if it is completely separate from me. It is a rare and amazing thing to hear your own voice in a story. This book is one of those times. I felt Aza's pain all the more because I have personally felt some of her struggle.

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


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Warcross by Marie Lu

Emika needs money to pay three months back rent or she and her roommate will get kicked out on the the street. Since the death of her father, the fastest way for her to make a lot of money is bounty hunting. Using her hacking skills she can hunt down a person who is not dangerous enough for the over worked police to find themselves. It's a tough job, but it pays well.

She hunts her latest shortly before the start of the International Warcross Tournament. Warcross is a interactive three dimensional virtual reality game that has swept the globe. Everyone can play, but only a few are professionals who play in the annual tournament.

Emika could never dream of being in the tournament due to her criminal record. Also, her ranking in Warcross is never high because she plays often under a different name. As the tournament begins, she decides to hack in to get a valuable power-up in the game and sell it. It is a decision that thrusts her into the international spotlight and gets the attention of Hideo, the game's creator. Emika has idolized Hideo for years. Now, she may get to meet him in person.

Emika's hunting and hacking skills may be just what Hideo needs to find someone else hacking the virtual world he created. The best way to do that...put Emika in the tournament.

This incredible story exists in a bleak world where most of the planet is caught up in Warcross. The technology is believable enough that it seems possible and may not be that far into the future. I recommend going along with Emika as she becomes immersed in the dangers of the game and the real world.

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



Monday, October 2, 2017

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

Eddie has a chance to escape his life. He is one of several candidates chosen to be tested for one of two positions in NASA's secretive Interworlds Agency. The testing is anything but normal, but then so is the job.

Eddie feels pressure to separate himself from his criminal father. Eddie's  beloved grandmother raised him and taught him to all that she knew about science and the world. He still mourns her recent passing.Rosa is one of the other candidates. Her parents are highly successful scientists. She feels the pressure to do well.

During the testing, Eddie provides interesting, unconventional responses. His troubled past bothers the higher ups who do not quite trust him. Eddie struggles to not end up proving them right.

Then a life changing event happens. Visitors from beyond our planet arrive. From another world, another dimension? It is a historical event and Eddie and Rosa are right there when it happens. With their instructor Reg as a guide, the teens may be the only ones who can deal with the visiting beings to our planet.

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



Friday, September 22, 2017

Literally by Lucy Keating

How much control do you really have over your life? Annabelle likes to be in control and organized. Just look at her color coded schedule. Lately, she feels less in control. Like how her parents are going to sell their comfortable house in Venice Beach because they separating. Selling Annabelle's house? Her parents splitting up?

And then there's Elliott, her brother's best friend who has been hanging around annoying Annabelle since they were kids. Why is she getting this vibe that there is now something between them?

Just to stir things up a little more: enter Will, the new guy in school, who takes an immediate liking to Annabelle. He is gorgeous and is just perfect for her. Maybe too perfect.

Changes are frustrating, but they are just part of life, right? Maybe for most people, but Annabelle is told that someone is controlling her life...

Author Lucy Keating visits Annabelle's fiction writing class and describes her new book. The plot is Annabelle's life - house selling, parents separating; the whole thing. After class, Keating tells Annabelle that she is just a character in one of her books. It has to be a joke. At least, Annabelle thinks so until other things start happening. The author wants to give Annabelle a happy ending, but it may not be the life Annabelle wants for herself.

An author putting herself in her book to interact with the characters is a bit meta and tricky. It could have easily warped into a confusing plot, but Keating treads carefully. It makes me wonder if the author sometimes feels like she is not totally in control of her characters and that her stories ultimately go in directions she was not planning.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Petula fears the world - at least the things that could harm her. She is very careful, like how she will not walk next to a construction site. It's too risky. She keeps a scrapbook of unusual ways people have died. You can never be too careful. Petula knows this because her baby sister Maxine died, and she feels responsible.

To deal with the loss, Petula is forced to be in an art therapy group at school, and it is horrible. First, the therapist treats them like preschoolers. Second, she does not belong in a group with Ivan who is prone to outbursts, Koula who is a druggie and an alcoholic, Alonzo who tried to commit suicide and Jacob who is missing an arm and obsessed with movies .

OK, so Petula stopped crafting which she loved and did all the time. And she stopped talking to her best friend and crafting buddy, Miranda. It's not like she is the only one not dealing well with Maxine's death. Her mom keeps adopting kittens (much to her dad's dismay).

When Jacob (who isn't so bad after all) suggests the group make videos, Petula is reluctant. How could a video possible help her when she doesn't have a problem? Petula just needs to open herself up to the others and Jacob in particular.

Petula's journey of loss, discovery, self-examination and perhaps love are worth the reader's time.

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


Friday, August 18, 2017

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Just when you thought you'd see it all from reality TV, DV8 brings you the most extreme show yet. Eight teens will be launched into space and must survive the dangers of space flight as well as being confined with each other for weeks.

OR maybe the teens don't go into space at all, but they and the rest of the world do not know that. It is all the brainchild of DV8's CEO (and obnoxiously overconfident) Chazz Young. He's the genius(?) who brought the world a string of reality show hits, and this is the biggest one yet.

Selecting (and perhaps kidnapping) the perfect mix of teen stereotypes from across the country and contracting NASAW scientists to build the 'spaceship', Chazz is set to grab the viewing public's attention. And, boy, does it work. Waste of Space becomes the show everyone is talking about (and texting and blogging, etc.).

This story is presented as an informal report by an anonymous intern who wants the world to know what really happened behind the scenes. We see the show transcripts as well as what was edited out. We have Chazz's phone calls (that he records, ironically, to protect himself).

We get to know the teens at their best and their worst and not just the edited versions DV8 wants the world to see: Barcardi, the party girl; Snout, the hick (and his pet pig); Kaoru, the foreigner who only speaks Japanese; Jarmakus, the black gay astronaut wannabe; Louise, the nerd; Nico, the orphan; Hibiscus, the musician; Matt, the disabled hero; Titania, the tomboy; and Clayton the rich kid who happens to be related to Chazz. Like I said, stereotypes  but ultimately each had more going on in their lives before this show.

This story is a funny, over-the-top adventure.

For more info, check out the author's site.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Lie for a Lie by Robin Merrow MacCready

As a child, Kendra had a traumatic experience on a boat with her mom, dad and family friends. She likes going to the beach, but to this day she has anxiety when the high tide approaches. Her dad has always been the one to calmer her when the anxiety arises. Attending a music festival with her friend Jenn, Kendra sees her father with a woman who is not her mother. The shock is almost too much.

Kendra and Jenn have decided this is going to be a breakout summer. Jenn is going after the guy she liked, and Kendra will try to break from her routine whenever she feels anxious. Kendra's summer becomes two pursuits: Will, the guy she turned down causing him to turn to his current girlfriend Nicole, and her father to find out who the other women might be.

Kendra stakes out her the apartment of the other woman and sees a young child. Does her father have another family? Jenn worries Kendra is becoming obsessed and reckless in pursuing her father. Kendra's friend, Bo, is the only one who is supportive.

As her interactions with Will become more serious, it's not clear if Kendra is more like her father than she is willing to admit. Whatever happens, it is not the summer Kendra had planned.

For more info, check out the author's site.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

Once again, A.S. King gives us a realistic story with twist of fantasy thrown in. Or does it even happen? Maybe it doesn't even matter because it works.

Sarah likes art, but one day she just can't do it anymore. She can't draw the pear her teacher tells the class to draw. She can't draw her own hands for another assignment. She can no longer do any of her art projects. Sarah also decides she can't go to school anymore, so she stops going. Her parents (who have always supported her artistic talent) are not happy, but no matter what they do Sarah will not go.

What does Sarah do instead? She wanders around the city, follows a homeless artist and eventually runs into a younger version of herself. And then an older version of herself. The younger Sarah wants to talk about the family trip to Mexico and Sarah's brother who went away. But current Sarah doesn't want to talk about her brother and how he never calls. At home, it's like her brother doesn't exist.

Older Sarah tries to reassure current Sarah, but it's not the past or future that is the problem. Sarah doesn't want to deal with all the stuff in her life happening now. Over the course of this unconventional story, we learn the truth about her missing brother, her angry father and the reason she walked out of school.

The story is off beat enough that I had second thoughts for the first few chapters. It is odd even for A.S. King (whose books I generally love). But I am glad I continued because it is a remarkable story.

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



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bang by Barry Lyga

When Sebastian was four years old, he accidentally killed his infant sister with a gun. Ten years later, Sebastian is waiting for the right time to use a gun on himself. The voice in his head will tell him when.

Sebastian lives with his mother in the same house where the accident happened. She won't talk about his sister Lola and what happened that horrible day even though Sebastian needs her to. By trying to avoid it, neither can ever escape it for long. His dad left long ago.

Sebastian is the guy who shot his sister. Everyone knows it even if they don't talk about it anymore, so Sebastian is pleased when he meets Aneesa, a new girl in town. He is immediately taken with her face and how it is framed by the scarf wrapped around her head. Aneesa is different and doesn't know anything about Sebastian's past. They begin hanging out and quickly bond.

Aneesa suggests that she and Sebastian start an online video series of Sebastian making pizza (after impressing her with his cooking skills). They hope they will eventually be able to make money if the videos become popular enough. Is his friendship (and maybe more?) with Aneesa enough to stop the voice in his head?

The horrible death of his sister has eaten away at Sebastian, and it has come to define who he is. Heart wrenching but with hope - just what you expect from Barry Lyga.

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



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin is alone. She stayed in her college dorm (with special permission) over the holidays while everyone else went home. Marin feels like she has nowhere to go. Her mother died a long time ago while surfing and her grandpa (who she lived with) is gone now, too.

Marin lived in California until she fled to her college in New York two weeks before the semester started. She left abruptly and came with few possessions. She has tried to escape what happened back home. It is with mixed feelings that she awaits a visit from her best friend Mabel who she has not had any contact with since she left.

Something happened back in California that only Marin can explain and she has not been ready to do that. What will she say to Mabel? They were so close for so long and now they seem almost like strangers. In the middle of a snow storm, the two friends only have each other.

This is not a story of action; it is a sorrowful story of a lost young woman. Marin's story is peeled back in small bits. Her secrets are revealed slowly through flashbacks and conversation with Mabel. It is a remarkable story that is worth the read to find out why Marin left everything behind. To tell more would be unfair to you.

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



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.