UNDER the COVER
Book Reviews by Teens
Volume 4 - Number 3

You’re looking at Volume 4, Number 3 of UNDER the COVER, a fun partnership between Skokie Public Library, local junior high schools, and several book publishers who give us a sneak peek at the newest books for young readers. This is the final issue of the 2009-2010 school year. It’s also our “seeing double” issue. We call it V4N3 for short.

V4N3 is one of the biggest issues of UNDER the COVER that we’ve ever published. It’s jam-packed with book reviews written by students from Fairview South, McCracken Middle School, and Old Orchard Junior High School. Most of the titles are available for checkout at Skokie Public Library.

There’s certainly enough in this issue to get you through summer vacation! If not, you can find more reviews in back issues of UNDER the COVER on the Web.

Have a great summer. See you in the fall!

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13 Treasures

Reviewed by Diana S.
McCracken Middle School

photoWhat if you could see fairies? Well, Tanya can, and they’re not the kinds that grant you wishes and fly around sprinkling fairy dust. Fairies are vile creatures that like to torture Tanya. In 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison, Tanya is constantly tormented by fairies. When one night, Tanya’s mother is fed up with her strange behavior, she sends Tanya off to spend the summer at her grandmother’s house. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Fabian, son of the groundskeeper, won’t leave her alone.

coverEverything is okay, boring even, but then when she was exploring the large house, she discovers a newspaper article about Morwenna Bloom, a girl who supposedly fell into a catacomb in the woods almost fifty years ago. When Oberon, Tanya’s pet Doberman, runs away into the woods, Tanya and Fabian follow after him and quickly get lost. About to give up, they see a mysterious girl who claimed she knew where Oberon was. The girl looked a lot like Morwenna Bloom as she was fifty years ago, but how is that possible?

As Tanya and Fabian search for answers, Tanya finds a girl who calls herself Red. This girl can also see fairies and is hiding in a secret tunnel in the house. What really happened to Morwenna Bloom? Did she really fall into a catacomb, or was she stolen into the fairy realm? Read 13 Treasures to find out.

I really like this book because it was really interesting, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it! I would recommend 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison to students in 6th or 7th grade who like reading fantasy and mystery books. (Youth Fiction HAR)

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The Adventures of Jack Lime

Reviewed by Ari B.
McCracken Middle School

photoLiterature is filled with great detectives. There’s Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot, to name a few. However, Jack Lime is NOT one of them. The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck, is about a high school senior who acts as a PI (private investigator) to solve his fellow students’ problems. The first case involves a stolen bike, the second is about blackmail and deception, and the third and final story explains how Jack came to be where he is now.cover

When I first picked this book up to read, I thought that it looked interesting, and maybe even a little exciting. My discoveries were contrary to my expectations. It turned out that my attention had been lost by the fifth page! I would not recommend this book to anyone, of any age group. I found it to be boring, and I could not connect to the characters at all. I hate to say it, but the next time you’re at the library or book store, don’t waste your time reading The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck. (Youth Fiction LEC)

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The Adventures of Nanny Piggins

Reviewed by JD Kim
Fairview South School

photoDo you have a very cheap dad who hates spending money except on himself? Well the Green children do, and this is why they are always looking for a new nanny. They lose yet another nanny and Mr. Green posts a “wanted nanny” sign in his front lawn. One night he receives an answer from a mysterious woman in a dress. It is dark outside, but by the shape of the figure, Mr. Green thinks it is a lady. Little does Mr. Green know he is in for a shock for when he lets her in and he realizes that she is a pig!cover

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins is about a chocolate loving, adventurous pig who gets a job as a nanny. Her boss, Mr. Green, is cheap, hates taxes, and his children. These are bad conditions for a nanny, but Nanny Piggins thinks she can do it. The book describes the adventures the children and Nanny Piggins have. There are some competitions, LOTS of games, many lies and even some surprises here and there. This book is for ages 8-12 and is a fantastic fiction book. So grab this book, plop on a bed or chair, and have a great time! (Youth Fiction SPR)

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Anastasia’s Secret

Reviewed by Sara M.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe book Anastasia’s Secret by Susanne Dunlap tells the story of the Russian Revolution from the perspective of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova, the youngest of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. Anastasia recounts the tale of the fall of the Russian monarchy, and its replacement by a democratic government which fell to the communists a few years later. She tells how the Romanov family was taken prisoner and of her secret romance with a guard named Sasha.

coverAnastasia is a kind sincere character who is naïve in the ways of the world, but is also passionate and strong willed, and therefore willing to learn. She really loves her family, and it hurts to hear the new government and the Russian people use words to make monsters out of them. The book is historical fiction, and is relatively accurate with the exception of Anastasia and Sasha’s relationship, as no evidence that Anastasia had a secret lover has ever been found. Nevertheless, the romance they share makes the story all the more enriching and exciting.

The author does a very good job of bringing the reader into Anastasia’s world, and though the story gets monotonous at times, this is no doubt done on purpose to help the reader understand the monotony the Romanov’s lives have become. However, while her physical and personality descriptions are done well, the author has Anastasia speak of Tsarevich Alexi Romanov as though he is a small child, when he was in fact only two years younger than Anastasia herself. All in all, however, the book is an interesting and compelling read, both on historical and personal levels. Anyone who is interested in the women of history should definitely read Anastasia’s Secret by Susanne Dunlap. (Youth Junior High Fiction DUN)

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Bad Apple

Reviewed by Allegra R.
McCracken Middle School

photoBad Apple by Laura Ruby is the story of Tola Riley, a misfit high-schooler who gets accused of having a romantic relationship with a teacher. Told through Tola’s perspective and the commentary of her family, friends and enemies, the novel follows her story through stages of denial, mischief, revelation, and her family’s MANY problems.

Tola Riley is a rebel, with her green hair and fishnet tights. Tola, short for Cenerentola, loves fairy tales, especially Grimm’s. She soon comes to realize that her life is similar in many ways to the dark and gloomy stories inside her favorite books—she has an evil stepmother, a strange sister, and she seems to be trapped inside a terrible situation of her own. Her best friend turned arch enemy Chelsea Patrick started a rumor that turned into a fact that turned into a national news story. Now Tola is the center of attention and NOT for a good thing.

coverI really enjoyed Bad Apple. The plot and dialogue were fast paced and interesting to read, and I thought that the author portrayed Tola’s teenage, rebellious emotions very accurately (maybe from experience). All the characters, but especially Tola and her sister Tiffany, were three-dimensional and empathetic. You could really relate to Tola’s anger and confusion at the situation she was pushed into, and also a little bit to Chelsea’s vicious cruelty towards Tola. Tola’s family dynamics were also very realistic and intriguing—her tall, blonde busty stepmother and her sister’s deep depression were two more elements that kept the pages turning as I read.

I recommend this novel to anyone with a love for fairytales, as Tola’s journey draws heavily on Grimm’s stories. I would also recommend this novel to all teenage girls, whether they’re fans of romance or nonfiction or whatever. Bad Apple by Laura Ruby has elements of all those genres, and more! This book will strike very close to home for young girls, and I loved it. You will too! (Youth Junior High Fiction RUB)

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The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette

Reviewed by Sophie S.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe Bad Queen, by Carolyn Meyer, is a wonderful historical fiction book told from the point of view of the famous Marie-Antoinette. This story tells of how much pressure this queen was under, from the time she was engaged to a dauphin in France until the end of her life. She was expected to be perfect.

coverShe was the fifteenth of sixteen children, so she never even thought she might be a queen one day. However improbable her situation was, it was reality, and she needed to be flawless to gain the little respect she was given by the French. The Bad Queen, written as a diary, shows what went on in Marie-Antoinette’s mind from before her marriage and through all of her struggles in France.

Pick up a copy of The Bad Queen if you are interested in a marvelous book that will give you access to the last Queen of France’s private life. (Youth Junior High Fiction MEY)

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Bank Job

Reviewed by Andrew L.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoBank Job by James Heneghan and Norma Charles, tells the story of three very different teenagers that have lived in Janice and Joseph’s foster home for three years and have become very close. Billy is a clever 14-year-old, who looks older. Whenever something bad happens, he always has a plan to make it work out. Tom is smart and geeky, and he never wants to get into trouble. Nell is a tough girl who feels uncomfortable when she gets into trouble, but will do it anyway. Janice and Joseph explain that they need $10,000.00 in six months to make essential repairs, or Billy, Tom, and Nell will be separated and sent to other foster homes. The foster parents say that they will find a way to solve the problem and try to reassure the teenagers, but they really have no idea what to do. So, to prevent being separated, Tom, Billy and Nell come up with a plan…. to start robbing banks! What happens when three teenagers attempt to rob banks?

coverBank Job had such good description with sensory imaging, that I could visualize what was going on as I read. I could also picture what the characters looked like in my head. I thought that the characters’ personalities were so realistic and well-developed, that other teenagers would be able to connect with them too.

The book was very exciting in most parts, and was sad at other times. It dragged for two chapters, but once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop. I always wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next! If you like realistic books with a lot of action and suspense, Bank Job is the book to read! (Youth Fiction HEN)

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Boys Without Names

Reviewed by Camille H.
McCracken Middle School

photo In the book Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth, Gopal and his family lived and worked on their onion farm. But when the price of onions grew, Baba (Gopal’s father) couldn’t pay back the money he had borrowed to buy seeds and fertilizer. And even after paying the interest on their debt, there was not enough money to feed five family members.

With the hope of finding work and a better future, Gopal and his family members flee to the large city of Mumbai. Gopal, eager to support his family as they make their way to Mumbai, accepts an offer to work in a factory. However, Gopal has been deceived! In reality, Gopal is sent to a small stuffy attic to work with a few other boys. The boys do beading under the watchful eyes of their master. Even worse, Gopal isn’t even paid, is fed very little, works long hard hours and is beaten, slapped, kicked, and punished by his master. Miles away from home, and deprived of everything he holds dear, how will Gopal survive?

Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth, though sad in some places, was an extremely good book. I would recommend this book to readers who are twelve and older. It realistically describes sad unfortunate but true lives of too many children in third world countries. coverOverall, Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth inspires readers to treasure what they have! (Youth Fiction SHE)

Reviewed by Tessa W.
Fairview South School

photoHave you ever been tricked into something you would never expect to happen? For Gopal and his five other frame-making peers this is exactly what happened to them. When Gopal and his family, who are extremely in debt, run away to Mumbai to find their wealthy Uncle Jamal, things start to go downhill. First Gopal’s Baba (father) gets lost, and then Gopal is tricked into becoming a slave for the boss named “Scar.” Along with five other boys, Gopal makes picture frames from dusk until dawn. Gopal and the other five slaves are not allowed to know each other, but at night when “Scar” is gone, that’s when Gopal decides to share kahanis, or stories, with his unknown friends telling them about his life. As the other boys join in, they become closer, and then make a plan to escape. Will they be able to trick Scar or not?

In this realistic fiction narrative, Kashmira Sheth shows the life of young slave boys in modern day India. This story really illustrated the meaning of friendship and trust.Boys Without Names sends a message to all people about life in Mumbai with an ending you can never forget. Every part in this story is so good that you just can’t put the book down. You really feel like you are a part of Gopal’s journey in finding a way to see his family again. I would recommend this book to anyone ages 11-15 because of its fun and creative writing. Anytime you want a book that you will just gobble up (not literally) go and grab Boys Without Names, a book you will never forget. (Youth Fiction SHE)

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The Cats of Roxville Station

Reviewed by Gabriella J.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoThe Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George, is about one particular cat named Rachet. Rachet’s old owner beat and kicked her, treating her horribly. Finally, Rachet gets abandoned in the middle of Roxville Station and needs to learn to survive on her own. Because of her abuse, she definitely does not trust people.

coverMike, a boy who lives near Roxville Station, really wants a cat. When he sees Rachet, he instantly falls in love with her and wants her to be his cat. Rachet, however, wants nothing to do with people, including Mike.

Both Mike and Rachet have many different challenges and problems to deal with in the book. Will both of them survive? Will they ever become really close?

While reading The Cats of Roxville Station, I learned a lot about how cats think and deal with problems related to food, shelter, and danger. I have a cat, and this book made me wonder what she is thinking and what she would do to survive on her own.

The book started slowly, but soon I became very interested in what was happening. For readers who love cats or other animals, The Cats of Roxville Station would be a great book! (Youth Fiction GEO)

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Cinderella Cleaners: Change of a Dress

Reviewed by Abigail R.
McCracken Middle School

photoCinderella Cleaners: Change of a Dress by Maya Gold is about a girl named Diana Donato. She has a step mom who makes her work at her father’s dry cleaners, Cinderella Cleaners. It’s not like she doesn’t want to, but did she have to start on the same day as the fall play tryouts? But as she begins to work there, she likes it more and more.

coverWhen a customer leaves a coat that has two tickets to the new Broadway show, Angel in the Pocket, she gets a crazy idea. Along with her new friends, the tickets, and an amazing dress, she may just be able to go to the opening of Angel, and get away with it! Can she do it? Or will her evil stepmom thwart her plans?

This book was a cute piece of fluff that I enjoyed very much. It may look a little juvenile, but it’s a great book. The plot is fun and exciting (and sometimes sad), and it is written really well. I’d recommend this to someone who’s looking for a semi-short story that makes you laugh. It will be a series, too, so check out Cinderella Cleaners: Change of a Dress by Maya Gold. It will be worth the trip to your library! (Youth Series Paperback CINDERELLA CLEANERS)

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The Clearing

Reviewed by Olivia S.
Fairview South School

photoIn The Clearing a girl named Amy who has lived in Seattle all her life moves to a quiet town with her Aunt Mae. She moves there to get away from her abusive ex boyfriend, Matt. One day, when playing with Katie-dog she hears something coming from the Clearing. That’s when she meets Henry, a boy who lives on the other side of the Clearing. Amy notices Henry is different. His vocabulary and clothes look decades old. coverAfter several visits they both begin to really like each other. Amy never realized Henry was that different though. She finds out on his side of the Clearing it’s still 1944. Henry and his side of the clearing are stuck in time. Amy and Henry visiting on each other’s sides of the clearing may cause major trouble.

I highly recommend The Clearing. Girls would enjoy reading this book. It’s also good for someone who enjoys romances. From the start of the book you wonder how Amy and Henry’s live can exist together. This book is hard to put down and doesn’t drag. Read it today! (Youth Junior High Fiction DAV)

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Deep in the Heart of High School

Reviewed by Madeline M.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoDeep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach, is a heart-filled drama! You will feel like you’re really there, when Vanna, Fatima, and Olivia go through hard times and good times in this novel!

coverVanna Reynolds, a popular teen in Plano, Texas, moves to San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her mother in a tiny apartment. She will start her junior year at a new high school with only two friends, Fatima and Olivia. The three teens are in the high school band together and become very close. Fatima is very concerned about her weight and has boy problems as well. Olivia’s mother works two jobs, so Olivia takes care of her sister, the dogs, and the house. She has no time for romance or for being a teenager. Vanna, Fatima, and Olivia are so close and so supportive of each other, that they help each other with their very different problems and choices.

After the first few chapters, the book really grabbed my interest, and I couldn’t put it down. The story is told from the points of view of Vanna, Fatima, and Olivia, and was not confusing. The three girls seemed so realistic, that I often didn’t know how they would decide to deal with their problems. It almost felt like I was a part of the story. This is a great novel for teenage girls, because they can identify with some of the girls’ situations, problems, and feelings.

When you start reading Deep in the Heart of High School, you won’t be able to stop! Follow Vanna, Fatima, and Olivia in their journey through high school, and find out where the “deep heart of high school” is! (Youth Junior High Fiction GOL)

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The Doom Machine

Reviewed by Ashton A.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoIf you are a reader who likes action-packed speed chases and science fiction adventures, you should read Mark Teague’s The Doom Machine.

The book begins very normally. Jack Creedle, a boy who is always in trouble, spends a lot of time with his mysterious Uncle Bud at his auto shop. In fact, Jack actually fixes most of the cars, since he is a very good mechanic. When the car of Mrs. Shumway, a scientist, breaks down, she and her daughter Isadora end up at Uncle Bud’s shop. Eventually the Creedles and the Shumways notice strange things happening and become aware that aliens from another planet seem to be threatening earth. When the four people try to investigate, the aliens capture them and take them on the spaceship to the alien’s planet.

coverOn the other side, the aliens come to earth to search for a family known to them as the “Creedle earthlings.” The aliens’ goal is to find the machine that can blow up earth and save their queen. If the alien scouts don’t get the machine before the United States Army learns about their presence, the alien queen will grow too old and die. Will Jack and the gang escape the aliens and save earth? Or, will the aliens get the machine, blow up earth, and save their queen?

As soon as I started reading, I wanted to continue and not put the book down. The Doom Machine was filled with fast-paced action. Mark Teague also added humorous touches throughout. People like me, who like science fiction and adventure books, should read this excellent book! (Youth Science Fiction TEA)

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Dragons of Darkness

Reviewed by Martin W.
McCracken Middle School

photoI read the book Dragons of Darkness by Antonia Michaelis.

When Christopher’s brother, Arne, goes missing in the mountains of Nepal, Christopher reads up on anything about Nepal he can get his hands on. One day while reading a book full of pictures of Nepal, he falls asleep, dreams himself into the book, and with a strange, unrealistic cast, and an even stranger villain, unintended hilarity ensues. This book’s twisting, unformed plot, and awkward chronological leaps, all combine to make a pitiful, sloppy, and deformed excuse for a book.

coverWhile reading this absurd text, I was immediately struck by the awkwardness of the characters. First of all, one of the main characters is an invisible crown prince, with a tendency to mutter, "interesting" at every single new experience, which gets really old really fast. He escapes from the palace to hunt down the marauding Maoist guerrillas, but actually ends up joining them, then betraying them and running away with another Maoist deserter. Before he does this, he meets Christopher, who makes an entrance so bizarre, I was forced to read it over several times before I understood what was happening. After the prince, the Maoist, and Christopher team up, they go on a crazy, incomprehensible, quest to save Nepal.

Christopher’s fictional dreamland version of Nepal is, as it turns out, plagued by “color dragons.” These sinuous, winding beasties are sucking all the color out of Nepal. While this might have been a good problem if written by anyone but the unskilled auteur incompetent, Ms. Michaelis does a perfectly wonderful job of transforming this tale into an extremely potent insomnia treatment.

Aside from a jumbled and unbelievable cast of characters, this book’s smoldering wreckage of a plot was enough to make me want to vomit. It consistently jumps from one event to another without any explanation. The events themselves destroy any broken, optimistic fragment of hope that this could even be a mediocre work of fiction with their awkward wording and unnecessary descriptions.

Reading this book was a long hard slog through a quagmire of words. I would advise fans of great literature to look elsewhere for entertainment. On the other hand, if you want a silly and unrealistic piece of fiction then Dragons of Darkness by Antonia Michaelis is for you.
(Youth Junior High Fiction MIC and Adult Fiction-Teen MIC)

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The Faceless Ones

Reviewed by Anguel H.
Fairview South School

photoThe Faceless Ones by Derek Landy, is the follow-up novel to the award-winning Skulduggery Pleasant series. In this great read, Skulduggery Pleasant (one of the main characters) and Valkyrie Cain (another main character who works mutually with Skulduggery to accomplish the main conflict) have to prevent a faction of the antagonists of the book who want to bring back the Faceless Ones, who were evil gods bent on destroying our world. But before the evil guys can bring them back, they need a teleporter and the Grotesquery. coverThe Grotesquery is the key to all of this. Without it and without a teleporter, they can’t bring back the Faceless Ones. Because of this, Skulduggery and Valkyrie plan to keep both of the items apart. But the enemy grows stronger every day. Will the Faceless Ones be stopped from coming back or will Skulduggery and Valkyrie see the world go up in flames? Only one way to know. Read to find out.

This book somehow amazingly mixes magic with some treachery to make it more exciting. Plus, these two subjects and others like some weird parts, are magically crafted together to make this book a more enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to people who like near-apocalyptic stories and also to people who like fast-paced action stories. For me, I was stunned when I finished it because it was so good and I really liked it. I recommend that you read this book and share the same feelings that I had when I was reading it. (Youth Fiction LAN)

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Finnikin of the Rock

Reviewed by Emily R.
McCracken Middle School

photoIn four words: this book was awesome. If you’re looking for more detail, read on. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta is about Lumatere, a country full of chaos, a country with no hope on the horizon. With the Royal Family dead, everyone is searching for their heavenly savior, from Lagrami or Sagrami--it matters not. The King’s Guard’s leader (Trevanion) is imprisoned, his only son alone. That happened some time ago, but to the main character Finnikin, it is a fresh memory.

coverThen Finnikin is summoned to a Lagrami novice mountain, where he meets Evanjalin, a young novice with a curious claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive! Finnikin is astounded. Now his childhood pledge comes back to him. A childhood pledge upon a rock when Balthazar, Balthazar’s cousin Lucian, and Finnikin all make a flesh sacrifice to save the Lumateran throne when needed. Balthazar vows to die protecting the throne. Lucian vows to be the beacon of energy pulling the throne to safety. Finnikin vows to be the guide of the throne and that is exactly what he does as he, Sir Topher, and Evanjalin traverse Skulendore to rescue enslaved Lumateran citizens and find Balthazar. Will they find Balthazar? Will they free Trevanion? Will the country come back together? To find the answers, you’ll have to read the book.

If this book was a movie, I’d rate it PG-13 for scary sequences. I’d recommend this book to 12-year-olds and up. Finnikin of the Rock is a fabulous book, being well written and a definite page turner. Melina Marchetta has written other books, and judging by Finnikin of the Rock, they’re probably great as well. (Adult Fiction-Teen MAR)

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Flash Burnout

Reviewed by David S.
Fairview South School

photoFlash Burnout is about a 15-year-old boy named Blake. Blake is a normal boy who goes to high school and is in love with two things, his girlfriend Shannon and photography. He met Shannon while helping out with an after school program. coverThe third character Marissa comes from a troubled life she lives with her grandma and doesn’t know where her mom lives. Blake comes to the aid of his best friend Marissa to solve the mystery and Blake discovers he might have bit off more than he can chew.

If you would like too know the rest of the book READ IT!!! I promise you, give it a chance. If you’re here for a book about dragons, vampires, or other kind of mysteries this is NOT YOUR BOOK. This is a book with a life story to it, this is the kind of book I would recommend from 7-10 about a funny life story. I would think that anyone who has ever had a friend in need would like this book, this is for BOYS but girls would also relate with the female characters. (Adult Fiction-Teen MAD)

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Incarceron

Reviewed by Alexander B.
Fairview South School

photoWhat if you are locked in a place so tightly you don’t even know that there is an outside? That is the main plot of Incarceron, which tells the story of Finn and Claudia. Finn believes he was born outside the prison, but no one believes him. Claudia however, is the daughter of the warden who takes care of the prison. She’s stuck in an arranged marriage, and she wants to get out. However, the prison, Incarceron, is alive, so getting out is definitely easier said than done…

coverThis sci-fi novel is a very good book, but it’s very dark, so I would only recommend this for 13 to 16 year olds. The book gets tedious at some points, but sometimes a sudden plot twist will suck you in. The plot is full of twists, so that’s certainly a good thing. The little flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter really help the book make more sense overall. The book can get a little confusing, so make sure you know what’s happening to get the most out of the book. There are many characters who all play an important part in the story, and you really feel the characters and can connect with them, so they aren’t just put in and then thrown out. Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it is dark. If you want a book for a long journey that will keep your attention and will last a long time, Incarceron is absolutely a book you should consider picking up, as you will be “trapped” into it! (Youth Junior High Fiction FIS and Adult Fiction-Teen FIS)

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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling

Reviewed by Rachel S.
Fairview South School

photoPoor Ms. Penelope Lumley, coming from The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, tries to make a living in the world. She gets through each day by remembering her leader, Agatha Swanburne’s, inspiring quotes. While looking for a job, her teacher, Charlotte Mortimer, recommends that she becomes a governess. Penelope accepts, hops onto the train, but little does she know, a dog-gone confusing mystery with the children will soon unfold onto her lap. The mistress of the house, Lady Constance, does not believe that the children can become smart, but boy, do they prove her wrong! The howling from the children will soon subside and they will become civil.

coverThe Mysterious Howling is about a woman going to a wealthy estate and trying to teach three "unteachable and incorrigible" children manners, poetry, Latin, and even ENGLISH! They have many obstacles, but if you like this kind of read, pick up this book somewhere! I thought this book was very confusing at some parts because of vocabulary, so the age range I would recommend would be 12 to 17. When you read this book, you cannot put it down once you get to the really exciting parts, and there are quite a bit of them! This novel will teach you about how to dance the schottische and many more activities growling to get out of the book and into your mind! (Youth Fiction WOO)

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It’s Not Summer Without You

Reviewed by Alyssa M.
McCracken Middle School

photoSpending time with friends, shopping, the hot sun tanning your skin, dipping into a cool pool, eating cold treats to cool you down, spending time with family, and having the time of your life! That’s mostly what everyone thinks about when they think of summer. But, Belly has different things on her mind when the fun hot season comes in this novel, It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han.

coverLast year, Belly, a 17 year-old girl, had a dream of a summer that came true. But, just a couple months ago, everything went downhill and her perfect life crashed. She lost her best friend, Susannah, and lost her first love, Conrad. This year, instead of spending summer at Cousins Beach with Conrad, Jeremiah, and Steven, like every other year, she’s spending the summer at home with her best friend, Taylor. Belly hates the idea of not going to Cousins Beach for the first year of her life, and she can’t take the pain of not seeing Conrad. She can’t wait until summer is over so she can forget about everything. But, that’s when she gets a call from Jeremiah and finds out Conrad has gone missing from his campus at the university. Would she stay home and forget about her past or take the final chance to win her first love back and spend her last summer with her loved ones?

It’s Not Summer Without You is a sweet, heartfelt book about friendship and losing the ones you love. The book captivated me and brought me into Belly’s world. I felt all of her emotions as I read about her adventure and her realistic events brought back many memories about my past summers. It made me want summer to come even more!

I would definitely recommend It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han. I would recommend this book to girls ages 13 and up because of the feminine plot and some inappropriate language. This book was the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I think you don’t have to read the first book to understand the sequel because it covers most of what happened in the first book.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han. It brought tears, laughs, and happiness. It teaches the great lesson of appreciating the ones you love and holding onto the memories because you’ll never know when they’ll be gone. I know I’ll hold onto that lesson forever. (Youth Junior High Fiction HAN)

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The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

Reviewed by Sorettti D.
Fairview South School

photoWhat do you think about death? Are you scared? Or do you just don’t care? In the book, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, this subject comes up often. Pancho, the main character, doesn’t care about the afterlife until his only sister dies. The police and detectives think she just died of natural causes, but Pancho thinks it was murder. coverHis only wishes are to avenge his sister’s so-called killer. Then he meets D.Q., a teen dying of cancer, who changes Pancho’s whole perspective on life. D.Q. and Pancho start forming a friendship that continues throughout the whole story. Will Pancho find his sister’s killer? Will D.Q. survive? Can Pancho finally forgive and let go? Read the book and find out!

This book is a good page-turner, but it has situations teens might only understand. I recommend teens 13 and up for this amazing book! This story will grasp you from the first word to the last sentence taking you on a ride through the life of a teen boy going through hard times. This book is amazing and breath-taking! In this realistic fiction narrative you will enjoy the writing of Francisco Stork and beg for more. Just pick up The Last Summer of the Death Warriors and you’ll never put it down! (Adult Fiction-Teen STO)

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Leaving Paradise

Reviewed by Abby H.
Fairview South School

photoIn Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles a boy named Caleb hits a girl named Maggie with his car as he is driving home drunk from a party. Caleb has a twin whose name is Leah who is also Maggie’s best friend, and they both happen to live next to each other as neighbors. Right as Caleb hits Maggie he runs because he doesn’t want to be in trouble. coverOnce the cops find Maggie, they go straight to Caleb’s house and take him to juvenile detention. Once there, Caleb spends a year and finally gets to go home. When he gets back he doesn’t feel the same and is struggling to adjust back to the way he was. All this is going to take a while for Caleb, but then he finds a shocking discovery about his twin sister he’ll never be able to forget.

I recommend this book because it is very interesting. Teens can get into it and find themselves reading and not being able to stop. It also relates to teens in a way that other books don’t. This book also includes a lot of drama. People who would like this book are people who are into drama and mystery. It combines these two genres in a great way for teens to relate. I loved this book so much, and I guarantee that anyone else who reads it will love it also. (Adult Fiction-Teen ELK)

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Life, After

Reviewed by Patricia V.
Fairview South School

photoLife, After is a book written by Sarah Darer Littman. As pre-teens and teens, we start to go through new challenges. Change is one of them. Changes… they don’t always come at the right time. Sometimes, they actually even ruin your life. How will Dani handle it? She is just a normal girl from Argentina who enjoys life with her family and Roberto, her boyfriend. coverWell… life is fun and easy until a crisis comes and Dani and her family have to move to America. Now, it is as if everything else was history. Will her boyfriend still love her even though they’re far apart? Will Dani survive in America with her family? Find out by reading Life, After. It’s a story of a girl who faces changes all at once.

I definitely recommend this book to girls ages 11 through 15 because we can relate to the changes we have been through or we’re starting to experience. We’re young and we love, but we also get hurt and things happen by surprise. I definitely found this book relevant, especially since I emigrated from a different country to America. It’s definitely not easy adjusting to a new language, different weather, and and a new place. If you have gone through hard times, I definitely recommend this story. (Youth Junior High Fiction LIT)

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Linger

Reviewed by Ilma L.
McCracken Middle School

photoLinger by Maggie Stiefvater is an extraordinary love story. This book is a sequel to Shiver (which was reviewed in UNDER the COVER Vol. 4, No. 2). The main character in this book is a girl named Grace. Her true love is Sam, but he is definitely different. He used to change from a human to a wolf during the winter until Grace found a cure for him. Since then, he has remained human.

coverFor Grace, her future is becoming less and less certain. She goes through physical pain like a severe fever and even though she suspects that there is something supernatural about it, she isn’t quite sure what it is.

Along with Grace and Sam’s enticing and alarming love story, comes a character named Cole who is also a wolf during cold weather. His past is full of hurt and danger and he is trying to embrace his wolf instincts and lose his human ways. All three major characters struggle against the many forces—wolf and human—that create hurdles for them. “As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?”

I recommend this book, especially if you have read the first novel Shiver. If you enjoyed the Twilight Saga and found yourself leaning towards the werewolves’ perspective, you will most likely LOVE Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. (Youth Junior High Fiction STI)

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Mockingbird

Reviewed by Rida R.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoImagine having the only person who understands you, gone forever.

In Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Caitlin, a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, must deal with her life without her older brother Devon, who was killed in a shooting at Virginia Dare Middle School. He was the only person in the world who understood her. Now Caitlin must learn to deal with Asperger’s by herself. She must figure out how to fit in with everyone else, no matter how hard it may be. She must learn to make friends, and Caitlin and her father must find ways to deal with Devon’s death. Can she ever put her life back on track? But most of all, next year, how will she be able to attend the same middle school where Devon was shot ?

coverThis book is based on the actual shootings of 33 people at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, on April 16, 2007. Although the book is based on the Virginia Tech shootings, it is a made-up story. Two strong themes in Mockingbird, are both related to violence and, of course, to the Virginia Tech shootings. They are that violence is never the answer, and that there wouldn’t be so much violence, if people took the time to understand the situations of other people.

I would recommend Mockingbird to people 12 and over, because the reader needs to be able to understand how Caitlin is dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome, and the emotional effects of her brother’s death. This book will definitely leave you with a better understanding of other people’s problems and disabilities they might have to deal with.

As soon as I started reading, I lost track of time and everything except Caitlin’s experiences. If you’re the kind of person that loves warm and heartfelt books, you should definitely read this book! (Youth Fiction ERS)

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Murder at Midnight

Reviewed by Lyle R.
Old Orchard Junior High School

photoIn a kingdom long ago, thousands of fliers suddenly are everywhere. They are against the king and how he is running the country. Since copy machines don’t exist yet, and the fliers look exactly the same, Mangus the Magician is accused, arrested, and sentenced to be killed.

coverFabrizio, a boy who is Mangus’s servant, must find out who is plotting against the king. If he does learn who is trying to overthrow the king and saves Mangus, maybe Mangus will keep Fabrizio instead of throwing him back on the street.

Fabrizio’s two main suspects are Count Scarazoni and Prince Cosimo. Count Scarazoni loves power and is very influential in the country. He blames the fliers on the prince. Prince Cosimo is the king’s son, and he says that Count Scarazoni is responsible.

Who’s trying to overthrow the king? Is it Mangus the Magician? Is it Count Scarazoni, or is it possible that it’s the king’s own son, Prince Cosimo? It’s Fabrizio’s job to find out who is plotting against the king, and he must do it before his master, Magnus the Magician, is killed.

At first Murder at Midnight was pretty interesting, but gradually the plot became more and more involved. The story kept me guessing, which made it more fun to read. Avi ended every chapter with a sentence that made me want to keep reading to find out what would happen next.

Anyone who likes a good mystery, will love Murder at Midnight. (Youth Fiction AVI)

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My Soul to Save

Reviewed by Tenzin W.
McCracken Middle School

photoDo you like a thrilling story about mystical beings and a whole different world? What about a romantic love story? Well, My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent is just what you’re looking for! Kaylee Cavanaugh is a female banshee, and her boyfriend, Nash, is also a banshee. Nash’s brother Tod is a reaper and their good friend (and Tod’s former girlfriend) Addison is in some serious trouble.

coverThis story starts out when Kaylee and Nash go to an Eden concert. Eden is the most famous teen pop star in this universe. But then, at the climax of her concert, she all of a sudden dies on the stage! So, Eden’s best-friend, Addison, who is also a pop star, is scared the same thing might happen to her. Kaylee, Nash, and Tod go to Addison’s dressing room to try and do something about her possibly tragic, would-be fate.

When the group of friends confronts Addison, she tells them about how she traded her soul for fame, fortune, and looks. She describes how she walked into the Dekker Media Corp., which is the most recognized music company in the world, and got tricked into signing a contract to sell her soul, so her poor family would be able to live a happy life. The story really gets good when Tod visits the Netherworld, and finds out that they have only four days to find Addison’s soul, or else her soul will be tortured for all of eternity!

I would recommend this book for girls 12 and up, because it’s told by a teenage girl’s point of view, so then girls could probably relate to and understand more of the things. I would also recommend reading the first book, because I realized too late that My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent is the second book in the Soul Screamers series. (Adult Fiction-Teen VIN)

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Out of My Mind

Reviewed by Emi K.
McCracken Middle School

photoWe all have things on our minds that we just have to say. Whether it’s the history exam, when to meet at the mall, or how the basketball team creamed the school’s rivals, we can all share just about anything we want. Melody Brooks, the main character of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, is a sassy, sweet, 11-year-old girl with messy, curly hair, and A LOT to say. Having a photographic memory as well, she’s beyond brilliant. When it’s time for the annual “Whiz Kids Competition,” Spaulding Street Elementary, Melody’s school, is preparing for the contest by quizzing all interested students on many different subjects. Of course, Melody, the smartest kid in school, is totally excited to try out, but that doesn’t keep anyone from staring, accusing her of cheating, and continuing to think of her as a complete “retard,” as they say. Why would anyone be so mean to a genius? Well, because nobody knows she is one. Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy, damage to the brain at birth, prohibiting her from ever talking, walking, moving and being “normal” in her entire life. Will anyone ever see the light just waiting to shine in her?

coverOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is an honest, emotional, realistic book of a disabled girl trying her best to cope with all the problems she has to face. With bratty girls sticking their noses up at her presence, a not-so-pleasant appearance, but her truly amazing abilities, Out of My Mind is an exceptional novel. I also quite enjoyed how the author included many complications to challenge Melody and make her strive harder. Both boys and girls can read this extraordinary book with equal understanding and connect to its sad but brutally true reality. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is an incredible story that is fresh, candid and full of zest, and it’ll leave you bawling, smiling and begging for more! That’s a guarantee. (Youth Fiction DRA)

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The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang

Reviewed by Lucas B.
Fairview South School

photoDo you like to read fun girly books? If you do, then The Popularity Papers could be just what you’re looking for. It is a very interesting plot about two girls trying to become popular in junior high. Lydia and Jamie are researching the popular girls in their grade to find out what makes someone popular. They start hanging out with the girls and they’re very excited. coverBut then they are separated within the groups, because the groups hate each other, and challenges start appearing.

The Popularity Papers is a book for mostly girls ages 10 to 13. This is contemporary realistic fiction which could be relatable to girls. It has some surprising twists and turns. But in the end… well you’ll just have to read the book to find out. I honestly didn’t like it too much since I am a guy, but it was a quick read to pass the time. So if you have an itch for a quick read just pick up a copy of The Popularity Papers. (Youth Fiction IGN)

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Powerless

Reviewed by Areian Z.
Fairview South School

photo“Welcome to Nobles Green” the safest town on earth. This is the first sign that Daniel Corrigan’s family first sees when they first move into their new home. Daniel is a normal 12-year-old who has just moved in and doesn’t know anyone whatsoever. The first day his brother Georgie wanders in the street after his ball, but suddenly he is rescued by a girl who lives across from the Corrigans. coverDaniel is amazed with the girl’s fast speed before she rescues Georgie. Daniel learns the girl’s name is Mollie. The next day, it’s Daniels first day of school, he meets Mollie again at the bus stop with a rather short Indian kid named Rohan with big bottle thick glasses and dressed as a mini adult. Later in class, Daniel meets Eric Johnson who is a friend of Mollie and Rohan. Daniel finds something strange about them when they go to the observatory. While at the observatory, they get into a little situation with Bud and Clay the school’s bullies. Daniel learns that they have secret superpowers. Daniel finds out that these three, Mollie, Rohan, and Eric, will lose their powers and any memory of having them. Because there is a supervillain who takes these powers away when these pals turn thirteen. Will Daniel find out who takes these powers away, and the answer within the long meteor called the green-flaming witch fire and the World War II comic book starring Johnny Noble in Fantastic Futures? Find out in Powerless by Matthew Cody.

When one reads a book of a certain genre like Powerless is written in, they find a story about a kid struggling with no powers who tries to fit in. This intriguing chronicle gives a glimpse of good and evil combining together to slaughter the villainous Shroud. This book gives many cliffhangers and puzzles to solve to get the ending of the story. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking toward the mystery and adventure genre. (Youth Junior High Fiction COD and Adult Fiction-Teen COD)

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Rush

Reviewed by Reyvin R.
Fairview South School

photoHave you ever felt as if you want to do something extreme? If you did, you just lived a life like Jake King. Jake is an 18-year-old boy who lives for the rush. He would do anything just to feel a near death experience. But one day, he went too far. He decided to climb the old water tower of Brockton. As he was climbing up, the water tower started to collapse and one of the metal bars fell into a car on the road. Now, everybody hates Jake and because of this, his dad recommended him for a wildfire rappel crew. coverKoss, his fellow crewmate gave him some advice: decline an offer that Mox, their leader, offers. The offer was to be an Immortal and to be in the Rush Club. Read on to learn everything about the offer and if Jake decides to decline or accept Mox’s offer.

Rush is a good book for teenagers and adrenaline junkies. It tells the life of a serious adrenaline junkie and the bad part of being an adrenaline junkie. It has a very good plot and some magnificent twists and turns. This grabbed me from the start and I couldn’t stop reading until it ended. The book has romance, action, and some suspense. Both boys and girls would like it.Rush is amazing and is filled with action packed moments. (Adult Fiction Teen-FRI)

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The Space Between Trees

Reviewed by Erin R.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe Space Between Trees by Katie Williams tells the story of Evie, a teenage girl who doesn’t really fit in. Her life takes a complete turnaround when her crush of many years, Jonah, finds a body in the woods. Later she finds out that the body is that of her childhood friend. This shocking event brings together some unlikely friends. Soon Evie finds herself in a dysfunctional friendship with the murdered girl’s dangerous best friend and father, on a search for the killer.

coverEvie is the classic quirky girl who we all love to pity. We cheer for her as she begins to make friends only to watch helplessly as she loses them again. Evie’s predicament brings out some unusual events and we learn that she is actually very brave and the ultimate helpful best friend.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The plot was very similar to the main character herself. Quirky, strange events kept happening that you wouldn’t expect. The story was light and breezy and ultimately satisfying with moments of suspenseful crime drama in parts. The ending seemed to be wrapped up very quickly, but overall I very much enjoyed reading The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams. (Adult Fiction-Teen WIL)

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Tangled

Reviewed by Kaelie S.
Fairview South School

photoIn Tangled, by Carolyn Mackler, several different teen worlds collide while on a tropical vacation in paradise. The first character that is introduced is Jena. While on vacation, Jena finds four things: romance, heartbreak, herself, and a suicide note. The next character that is introduced is Skye. coverSkye is drop dead gorgeous, but very insecure about herself, and her life as a millionaire’s daughter. The third character that is introduced is Dakota. Dakota has had a rough life, so he has a pretty bad attitude. This all changes when he meets someone, while on vacation. The last character that is introduced is Owen. Owen is Dakota’s little brother. He has trouble making friends, or contact with people, that is until he meets Jena.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes nonfiction, romance, humor, and tragedy. I recommend this book because it is funny, and sweet. It brings points of view of an event together in a way so that you will love all of the characters in the end. If I had to rate this book from one to ten (ten being highest) I would give it a 9.5. (Adult Fiction-Teen MAC)

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Thirteen Days to Midnight

Reviewed by Ben B.
McCracken Middle School

photoThe book Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman is a dark, macabre book about a boy named Jacob Fielding, who has a power that will test his strength and willpower. He first realizes that he has a superpower when he signs a new student’s cast; and writes “You are indestructible.” He thought that it sounded good, and it was the last thing Jacob’s foster dad said to him before he died in a car accident that Jacob survived. Soon after Ophelia (the new student) tried a skateboard trick in front of Jacob and some others, she had a horrible accident, which would have put her in the hospital for months, but she was completely fine and she didn’t feel any pain.

Ophelia, Jacob, and their friend Milo realize something is wrong. They realize that Jacob has the ability of being indestructible, and he can give it to others. For the next twelve days, they start testing the limits of their ability, and save people who are stuck in an avalanche, or lost at sea. On the twelfth night, Ophelia goes crazy, and Jacob and Milo must save her from herself. They spend the next day trying to figure out how to save her. Can they save her by midnight?

coverThirteen Days to Midnight is so dark and creepy, it actually gets to be too much and ruins the great plot. I would advise to read the first 200 pages, and ask your friend who has already read the book to summarize the last 94, because past 200 it gets too creepy and macabre! You have to really love being freaked out to like Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman. (Youth Junior High Fiction CAR)

Reviewed by Paul K.
Fairview South School

photoImagine that you have an incredible power to be indestructible. Now imagine that you can temporarily give that power to other people, therefore be able to save lives. Now you know how Jacob Fielding’s life is. Jacob is just about the average teenager except for the fact that he has that power. He has saved lives with the help of his two friends, Oh and Milo. But with each life they save, the more painful it is for Jacob to give away his power to someone else, and more and more deaths are being stored inside Oh. What will happen when too many deaths are held? Read Thirteen Days to Midnight to find out.

I think this book is a good one for at least age 13 and older, because otherwise it might be hard to understand what is going on. I think that if people are just willing to try it, many people will like this book. (Youth Junior High Fiction CAR)

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Vulture’s Wake

Reviewed by Claire O.
McCracken Middle School

photoHave you ever stopped in the middle of reading to say to yourself: “Wow, this is a great book!” If you have said this, that book must have been well-written, interesting, creative and above all: not so weird and pointless that it makes you want to shut the book and go watch paint dry!

coverWhile reading Vulture’s Wake by Kirsty Murray, I experienced none of the characteristics previously stated. Sadly, my interest was lost before page 50. This abominable tale takes place in the future where girls are extinct. After escaping from the circus, the main character Callum finds himself in the middle of the desert where he meets Bo, who claims to be female. When Outstationers blow up Bo’s home, she and Callum must escape. They start their journey to a city called Vulture’s Gate, where Callum believes his fathers will be waiting for him. But when they are nowhere to be found, Callum must trust his instincts-and Bo-to survive in a world at war.

This story was very confusing to me, and the details and events were quite random. At some points, I was overwhelmed while reading. Things were happening too suddenly, and I had no idea what was going on. The major concept, however, is interesting and although exceptionally obscure, I’m sure some readers would be entertained. I would recommend Vulture’s Wake by Kirsty Murray to those interested in science fiction, adventure, and who are brave enough to endure 267 pages of random, sometimes confusing and crazy action. (Youth Junior High Fiction MUR)

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War Games: A Novel Based on a True Story

Reviewed by Lily G.
Fairview South School

photoDo you enjoy reading about World War II? If you do, read War Games. In this story, 12-year-old Petros isn’t sure what to do with the fact that the Germans are invading his country, Greece. Petros, his brother Zola, his sister Sophie, his mother, father, cousins and neighbors have to prepare for the German occupation. When the Germans begin to invade Greece, they force families to take in soldiers, and Petros’ family has to deal with the commanding colonel. coverPerseverance, cunningness and bravery helps the family survive these rough times. In this story, there are many adventures. For instance, one certain person in Petros’s family gets shot… Read the book to find out whom.

This is a historical fiction novel based on a true story. I recommend this book for ages 10 years and older. In this story, you are always left hanging, chapter after chapter. I enjoyed this work of historical fiction because I like reading books about real experiences. War Games is a story that will keep pulling you to read more and more of the book, from just plain curiosity of what will happen next. If you enjoyed Anne Frank’s Diary, you will enjoy this story from another person’s point of view – but in Greece! (Youth Fiction COU)

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When I Was Joe

Reviewed by Sam B.
McCracken Middle School

photoWhen I Was Joe by Keren David is a novel exploring the psyche of a British teen who witnessed a murder and is forced to go under the protection of the Witness Protection Program. Tyler (his original name) is a social outcast in his old school in London, and spends most of his time with his family and neighbors. Tyler’s one friend, Arron, starts to carry a knife around, and Tyler assumes he’s part of a gang. Since Arron is Tyler’s only friend, he still hangs out with him.

coverArron and Tyler go to the park one day to mug a person, but the victim ends up pulling a knife, and a deadly fight ensues. The victim ends up dead, and Tyler goes to the police. Tyler is put in the Witness Protection Program. Tyler and his mother are hesitant about leaving, but when the newspaper shop next door is hit by a petrol bomb, they leave as soon as they can. The new school welcomes him, but he is soon on the list for teachers to keep an extra special watch on him, which is usually reserved for troubled kids or juvenile delinquents. With so many different pressures forced on his life and the desire to interact with somebody that’s not a policeman is so great, it seriously tests the foundation on which Tyler thinks and acts.

This story is part romance, part murder mystery/court and part adventure. Tyler learns in this story that he can do whatever he wants in life, he just has to put his mind to it and overcome the past. He has an advantage of being able to change cities if he blows his cover, but it is still devastating to have to leave everything you know and start again. I would recommend When I Was Joe by Keren David to anybody who enjoys a thrilling novel, where more facts are introduced progressively. (Adult Fiction-Teen DAV)

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A Wizard of Mars

Reviewed by Kevin T.
Fairview South School

photoAre you into science fiction or fantasy? If so, then A Wizard of Mars is for you. This story is about two kids named Nita and Kit, and their friends. Nita and Kit are Wizards. Nita, Kit, and their friends find a Martian “message in a bottle.” Once the bottle is uncorked, many strange events take place. coverThe Martians, who have been gone for a long time, return. They are friendly, but they have plans to change not only Mars but another planet.

This book is a good story for pre-teens and young teens around the age of 10-15. If you enjoy fantasy or sci-fi, this book is made for you. This novel starts with a long character building section, but then goes into much action. The story is creative in the idea that there was once life on Mars. This story is good to read for many different audiences so I recommend this novel to anyone. (Youth Science Fiction DUA)

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Zen and Xander Undone

Reviewed by Sean L.
McCracken Middle School

photoIn the book Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Athena (Zen) and Alexandra’s (Xander) mother has died. Now everything is falling apart. Their dad is very depressed and both sisters Zen and Xander have very different ways of coping with the loss.

coverZen started taking Shotokan (a type of martial art) and found out that she wants to hurt everyone who tries to hurt her family. This will soon get her into trouble. On top of that, she has to try to keep her older sister out of trouble too.

Xander’s life goes crazy after her mom dies. She starts to do drugs and drink even though she’s underage. Xander also goes places she shouldn’t go, so it’s no wonder that Zen has her hands full keeping an eye on her sister.

On top of all of this, Zen and Xander’s mom had a secret that the girls will have to uncover. Will everything they think they know fall apart? You’ll have to read to find out! There is some mature content, so this book isn’t appropriate for younger readers. I enjoyed Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan because it has clever humor, the characters are realistic and easy to relate to, and the story has a good plot line. (Adult Fiction-Teen RYA)

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This issue of ‘UNDER the COVER: Book reviews by teens’ is published in partnership with...

Fairview South School: Sarah Florea, 7th Grade Core Teacher; Yolanda Toni, Spinout Teacher

McCracken Middle School: Tori Gammeri, Director of Learning Center; Kim Favor, ELP Language Arts/Literature Teacher; Judy Kopp, Assistant Director of Learning Center; Annie Monak, Technology Specialist

Old Orchard Junior High School: Rebecca Borree, LMC Director; Judy Martin, Language Arts Teacher (Retired)

Skokie Public Library: Linda Sawyer, Youth Services Programming Coordinator; Ruth Sinker, Youth Services Technology Coordinator