Book Reviews by Teens
Volume 6 - Number 2

You’re looking at Volume 6, Number 2 of UNDER the COVER, a 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 second issue of 2011-2012 school year. We call it V6N2 for short.

Reviews in this issue were written by students from Chute Middle School, Fairview South School, McCracken Middle School, and Old Orchard Junior High School. Most of the titles are already available for checkout at Skokie Public Library or your school library.

You might find a few good books in this issue to read for yourself or recommend to a friend. You can find more reviews in back issues of UNDER the COVER on our website.

Read, print, save, and share this issue of UNDER the COVER in its original print format.
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janeThe Apothecary

Reviewed by Jane H.
Fairview South School

Have you ever moved far away, to a different country without friends, because of your parents? In The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, Jane Scott, Janie to her friends, moves from sunny Los Angeles to rainy England. coverThe year is 1952 and Janie’s family moves to England because her parents are communists, and they want to leave the country after U.S. marshals come to Janie’s home to possibly arrest them. One day Janie meets Benjamin, the apothecary’s son, and the two soon become friends. All is well until Benjamin’s father is kidnapped by Russian spies; Janie and Benjamin go to jail and experience many more outrageous events.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy is a great book. In addition to events that can happen for real like kidnapping, there are also many incidents that cannot happen such as turning invisible. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading fantasy books because there are so many wonders in this book that you can only dream about. Read The Apothecary to see what happens to Janie and Benjamin in their unbelievable journey. (Youth Junior High Fiction MEL)

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dianaBehind the Masks:
The Diary of Angeline Reddy

Reviewed by Diana S.
McCracken Middle School

Behind the Masks by Susan Patron is a diary of a girl named Angeline Reddy. It takes place in Bodie, California in 1880. Angie’s family lives in Bodie so that her father, who’s a lawyer, can get many cases. Life is hard in Bodie; there are gunfights and robbers; it’s perfect for Angie’s father’s work, but not for living there. Then one day, Angie’s father is killed, or so everyone thinks, but Angie and her mother are sure that he is still alive and is just hiding. Angie even sneaks into the mortuary and finds that the body in her father’s casket is not even his. She feels that he wants her to do something for him, but she’s not sure what. coverSuddenly, Angie’s mother gets a terrible toothache and is rushed to the dentist, and on her way home she faints. A little Chinese girl appears by Angie’s side and offers to help her. She says her name is Ling Loi, and she is always there for Angie. However, she usually keeps to herself, and won’t tell Angie anything about herself and why she suddenly wants to help Angie. Things are gettinbug stranger and stranger in Bodie. Once when Angie went down to her father’s study, she found a little ghost girl drowning in water. What does this all mean? Where’s her father? What is Ling Loi hiding? Who’s the ghost girl?

This was a very good book, and I really enjoyed reading it. I always loved the Dear America books, and this one is probably my favorite one of all. It was interesting, and I just wanted to find out what happens next as I was reading it. I would give this book a nine out of ten. I thought it was brilliant. I would recommend Behind the Masks by Susan Patron to anyone who likes historical fiction and mystery. And if you like the Dear America books like I do, then you will surely love this book. (Youth Fiction DEA)

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rubabThe Big Crunch

Reviewed by Rubab H.
McCracken Middle School

Do you meet someone and then turn to leave right away? Well, probably not. But that’s what it’s like for June Edberg in the book The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman. It’s about a girl named June who often moves to different towns due to her father’s job. She thinks that it’s quite normal for her to meet people and then leave people so quickly. coverThen June meets a boy named Jerry, who is running for president. Soon, Jerry falls in love with her. But there’s a twist, June does not like Jerry. Instead, she falls in love with Jerry’s best friend, Wes. Their secret love is falling in their hands. Their secrets begin to twist and turn as June realizes that she might move again, leaving Wes into pieces. June is left with many different options based on their love. The suspense in this book will kill you.

I rate this book a 4 out of 5. I was not completely satisfied with the ending, but I did understand that the ending should be better left that way. The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman shows that if you truly believe in what you want, you can get it. I would recommend this book for ages 14 and up. (Youth Junior High Fiction HAU)

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margaretThe Book of Blood:
From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins

Reviewed by Margaret S.
Old Orchard Junior High School

“Red. Wet. Sticky. Gross. Most of all, red. Bright red.” It is with these words that H.P. Newquist starts off one of the most engrossing non-fiction books I have ever read. The Book of Blood takes its reader on a journey through the history of blood, making us realize just how much of the scientific discoveries we take for granted happened by mere chance. We see blood through the eyes of other cultures, then look at the importance it holds in our lives today.

coverWhile this book is chock full of facts, the style of the writing pulls you in like it is fiction. You learn a great deal about how your body operates and how blood is essential to that process, but at no point does the book grow dull. The illustrations are plentiful, and that is indeed a positive. The diagrams are very helpful in giving you an accurate mental image of what is going on inside you, as are the eerie photographs. These elements, along with the “blood spattered” pages, help to set the mood. H.P. Newquist does not shy away from the more fantastical side of blood either, devoting a whole chapter to vampires and the legends surrounding them.

The Book of Blood: From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins lives up to its name. It is a fascinating and completely engaging read. (COMING SUMMER 2012... WATCH FOR IT!)

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tinaThe Boy on Cinnamon Street

Reviewed by Tina A.
McCracken Middle School

The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone is about a girl named Louise whose mother dies in the house on Cinnamon Street. coverSo Louise is living with her grandparents, and she is living an abnormal life since she doesn’t have parents.This bothers her a lot. One day Louise went to the house, and found an anonymous note written on the doorstep. So she thinks that she now has a secret admirer, and her mission is to find out who this secret admirer is.

Another character is this one boy named Benny McCartney. Louise thinks he is the admirer, and Louise’s genius friend named Henderson is trying to help her figure out who wrote those notes on the doorstep on Cinnamon Street. Will Louise be able to find out who her Secret Admirer is?

I totally recommend The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone because this is a great book for a teenage girl or anyone who loves to read books about romance and drama. (Youth Fiction STO)

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dustynChronicles of Avantia: First Hero

Reviewed by Dustyn B.
Fairview South School

How many times have you ridden a giant phoenix? In The Chronicles of Avantia: First Hero, there is a phoenix, or a giant firebird who has a chosen rider, Tanner. The phoenix, Firpos, teaches Tanner how to survive, and fight. coverAn evil man, Gor, leads an army to find all the fragments of the mask of death, for his leader, Derthsin, who wants to control all of Avantia. Gor and his army go from town to find the pieces of the mask, while Tanner tries to stop them. Along the way he meets a girl, Gwen, and she has a giant wolf with wings. She helps Tanner, and they fight Gor’s army, but will they find the fragments of the mask of death, or will evil prevail?

The Chronicles of Avantia: First Hero is a great book, or at least I liked it. It has adventure, and it has a little mystery in it, but not too much. I would recommend this book to all people who like adventure stories, and people who like the medieval era. I think that this book will turn into a great series. I am looking forward to reading the next novel in this series, The Chronicles of Avantia: Chasing Evil. (Youth Fiction BLA)

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shandiinDark Eden

Reviewed by Shandiin O.
McCracken Middle School

Everyone has fears, whether it be fear of sharks, the dark, or death, we all fear one thing or another. The characters of Dark Eden by Patrick Carman are no exception. Will, Marisa, Ben, Kate, Alex, Conner, and Avery all have fears too, but there’s a dark twist to them. They can’t get over their fears, until their therapist tells them about Dark Eden. At Dark Eden their therapist’s old “mentor,” Rainsford, who lives and works there, can cure you of your fear. When they get there it’s isolated and lives up to the name “dark” by being extra creepy, but Will escapes to the woods before he can enter the large brooding house. coverHe finally sneaks into the servant’s bunker and into the basement where there turns out to be an abandoned bomb shelter and he hides out. After he discovers several TV screens inside, he realizes he is watching everyone being “cured.” But what he sees is horrific. After discovering this, he tries his best to put a stop to the unspeakable things happening. But will he? Can Will stop the horrors that are supposedly curing his friends? Will he be able to unravel the slowly churning mystery of Rainsford and the secret rooms in the basement? Read Dark Eden by Patrick Carman to find out!

In my opinion Dark Eden was an amazing book. The plot was full of twists and surprises. It had me guessing until the end. This book had a very surprise ending that helped the book become even creepier, if that’s even possible. I would recommend this book to people who like a little bit of fear, mystery and adventure. (Youth Junior High Fiction CAR; Teen Fiction CAR)

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conorThe Dead

Reviewed by Conor T.
McCracken Middle School

The story The Dead by Charlie Higson is about a group of boys who live in England where many families have been infected by The Disease. Once someone passes the age of 16, they are prone to getting the disease which might appear to be a normal sickness at first but they later turn into horrible creatures that crave human flesh. In the beginning, two boys Ed and Jack are trying to gather supplies for themselves and others while defending themselves from people who have been infected by this disease. As supplies and rations are starting to wear thin, the boys and everybody decide to find a new place to live. As a result the group splits up, half of the group going to London and the others go look for a grassy area to live.

coverBoth groups meet many challenges and many people in the groups meet very horrific fates due to the road they chose. As Ed, Jack and their friend Bam head to London, Jack decides to go home because he wants to go there one more time. During their travel, they come across an army of infected people, a stock pile of weaponry and an infected driver who has a vendetta against the boys. During this time something very life-changing will occur for one of these boys and he gets a good perspective at what his life must be now.

This story was well written due to the strong emotion and how certain events transpired. This book is not recommended for little kids due to the fact there was a lot of violence and as much as it was well written, was very saddening as there were many deaths over the course of this story. The Dead by Charlie Higson is more recommended towards people who enjoy very action packed and emotional stories. Overall I did enjoy this story a lot because of how the author incorporates action scenes even though sometimes the graphic scenes were very descriptive. (Youth Junior High Fiction HIG; Teen Fiction HIG)

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abdurahmanDeadtime Stories: The Witching Game

Reviewed by Abdurahman D.
Fairview South School

Have you ever played the Bloody Mary Game? In this book Deadtime Stories: The Witching Game, Lindsey gets an old mirror that her parents bought at an auction. One day her little sister Alyssa wants to play the Bloody Mary game using the mirror with Lindsey and her friends. coverLindsey, her sister, and her friends make a couple of wishes and ask Bloody Mary to fulfill them. They soon realize Bloody Mary hurts someone in some way to fulfill their wishes and so Lindsey, Alyssa, and Lindsey’s friends stop the wishing. When Lindsey tries to convince her parents that Bloody Mary is real, they do not believe her. Lindsey runs upstairs to the bathroom and unwillingly wishes that her family will go away. Bloody Mary happily captures her family. What do you think is going to happen to Lindsey’s family? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

This book is very exciting and thrilling because of the twists and turns. At the ending there is a surprise which you have to read the book to find out! I would recommend this book to boys and girls who like reading horror stories and about Bloody Mary. If you like to read about Bloody Mary, this is the book for you! (Youth Fiction CAS)

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Reviewed by Shandiin O.
McCracken Middle School

Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? In Double by Jenny Valentine, this happens on a much larger scale. Chap is just a kid living in London at a homeless shelter when one of the volunteers recognizes him from a paper with his face and the words Cassiel, MISSING. coverOne problem: Chap isn’t Cassiel, he never even met him, and after being missing for two years Cassiel’s family is willing to accept anyone who might be him even if their supposed “Cassiel” is having strange behavior. But when “Cassiel’s” brother returns to greet him after two years, things start to change.

Chap meets an old friend that tells him Cassiel’s brother was trying to kill him and says “you told me that if you went missing, it was because your brother killed you.” Why would he say this? Chap tries to get to the bottom of this life endangering mystery. What really did happen to Cassiel? And why does Chap look exactly like him? Find out all these answers and more when you read Double by Jenny Valentine. This was a really good book with a surprise ending. The cliff hangers will leave you on your toes. I would recommend this book to people who like mysteries. (Youth Junior High Fiction VAL)

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yousufDragons of Silk

Reviewed by Yousuf Q.
Old Orchard Junior High School

In Chinese mythology, the weaving maid fell in love with a cowboy, whom she dearly loved and from whom she could not think of being separated. But her love for the cowboy took her away from her weaving, and without her weaving the beauties of the world, the decent earth began to get uglier, smellier, and more disgusting. Heaven decided that they must be separated from each other to avoid destruction in the world. The magpies felt guilt in them as the two lovers could never meet again. So on the seventh day of the seventh month, the magpies built a bridge with their bare bodies so the two lovers could meet each other. The magpies could be recognized for giving up for a greater good.

coverDragons of Silk is an amazing book that combines Chinese philosophy with the drama that Chinese girls and women faced from the 1800s into the present. This novel follows four girls from the same family, except each girl is from a different time period. The first story follows Lily and Swallow, whose family lives on nothing but the produce of silkworms. Their father, who “walks in the clouds,” leaves young Lily and Swallow as he is addicted to opium, or Demon Mud, that can be exchanged for the fortunes of silk. Their father returns during the shedding season of the silkworms, and Uncle Prosperity, the dictator of the village, forces Swallow and Lily’s mother to take him back in. They fear that once again their lives will be ruined. Due to their unbelievably bad luck, just after a few weeks of trying to be a good father, he steals all the silk the family has gathered, and wastes it on something the family can’t afford just to prove a point that can’t be proven. Swallow takes a stand, just like the magpies in the weaving maid story, and sells herself into slavery to pay off the debts that her drugged father caused.

Lily, her sister, finds herself in the majestic golden mountains, the Chinese name for America, after she falls in love with a merchant. A man known as Lucky comes to China on a business trip but leaves the country with a wife who has stories to tell for generations upon generations. Dragons of Silk is a must read book. You won’t be able to put it down. (Youth Fiction YEP)

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Reviewed by Nina Y.
McCracken Middle School

In Drought by Pam Bachorz, Ruby dreams of leaving the Congregation, slaves for the cruel Darwin West and the Overseers. coverSince 1812, they have been enduring backbreaking work of gathering water with little food, water and supplies to survive on. Then, Ruby meets Ford, an irresistible, sweet, forbidden new Overseer. She longs to run away with him and live a normal teenage life. But if she leaves, her community will be sentenced to certain death, for she, alone, possesses the secret ingredient that makes the Water special - her blood - something they can’t live without.

Drought combines a forbidden love-story like Romeo and Juliet with the action, moody attitude and desire for escape of The Hunger Games series to create a page turner. Although this book has a somewhat predictable ending, it had many surprising turns. Overall, Drought by Pam Bachorz was a compelling idea, character and book. This was a quick, easy read that had me hooked to the last page! (Youth Junior High Fiction BAC)

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Reviewed by Abbie W.
Chute Middle School

The book Flyaway by Lucy Christopher is about a girl named Isla who has a love for birds. She also is very lonely at school because her best and only friend moved away. Her dad becomes ill and all that she begins to care about is making her dad’s face light up by creating a flying machine. While she is in the hospital with her dad she meets a boy named Harry. Harry is a patient in the hospital who has leukemia. coverOver the few weeks that Isla is at the hospital for her dad she becomes really good friends with Harry.

I did not enjoy this book at all. The author did not tell the reader the ages of the characters or what they looked like, which made it hard to picture the whole story. The author also did not tell me the town that the story took place in so that also made the book harder to picture. I also feel that some parts of the book were not explained very well. For example, when Isla felt like she was flying with the swans it was not made clear to me that that was not actually happening until about 3 chapters later. I thought that somehow she had hurt herself and was not able to move, but really she had fallen asleep. I also think that this book was not very interesting until the last 20 pages or so because I could not picture it in my head.

I would not recommend this book to anyone. (Youth Fiction CHR)

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juliaThe Gathering Storm

Reviewed by Julia G.
Fairview South School

Do you like The Twilight Saga series by Stephenie Meyer? If yes, you’ll love The Gathering Storm by Robert Bridges. Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, is one of the most important people in the Russian Empire. She has a dark power no one knows about. Her mother wants her to marry the tsars’ son or a king or a duke, but all Katerina wants to do is to be a doctor. She longs to help people get cured. coverBut, one night Elena, a girl who goes to Katerina’s school at the Smolny Institute, casts a spell on the tsar’s son. Katerina knows she must use her gift to save the tsarevitch Nicolas. Now, to save her secret, she must marry Elena’s brother who is a blood drinker. Grand Duke George Alexandrovic needs her help to save Russia. Whom will she help, and whom will she love?

I think that this story is filled with action, romance, and a tiny twist of horror. Katerina is a lovebird that wants to fly free without the influence of a dark power. She must face creatures that roam Russia, ready to kill at any second, while her heart is filled with a first love for the tsarevitch. I would recommend this book to girls from pre-teens to teens because it is a good romantic story. If you read The Gathering Storm, be ready to be blown away. (Teen Fiction BRI)

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dinaGlory Be

Reviewed by Dina B.
Chute Middle School

How would you feel, if you could not do many things, because you, were you?

Glory Be is an interesting historical fiction book written by Augusta Scattergood about civil rights.

coverIn the summer of 1964, in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, some changes are being made in Gloria June Hemphill’s town. The segregated pool is closing, because it is being forced to be integrated. People are unsure of how they feel about this. Here’s an excerpt from the text: “Many of our citizens prefer to see it closed, rather than what might happen if we allow people with germs, some who don’t bathe regularly, to swim with us.” While that was one townsperson’s opinion, others disagree, and believe the pool should be integrated.

Laura Lampert and her mother have just come to town. Her mother started a “freedom clinic” or a free doctor’s office for African-Americans who may not get medical attention otherwise. Laura, coming from Ohio, is not aware of the segregated customs. Quoted from Glory Be: “What difference does it make which one we drink from?” Laura asked. “The water tastes the same.” And she stepped up to the wrong fountain to get herself another long drink.”

Glory Be is an upbeat, yet serious book about a girl whose southern town deals with civil rights. I would most definitely recommend this book. (Youth Fiction SCA)

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wasanThe Goblin Wars: In the Forests of the Night

Reviewed by Wasan K.
Fairview South School

Have you ever felt like you were part goblin or had goblin blood in you? Teagan Wyllston is part teenage girl and part goblin. In the first book, after her mother is killed by the goblins Teagan goes into Mag Mell, a separate dimension with mythical creatures, and forests, to fight Fear Doirich, a fallen Angel who wants control over Mag Mell. In this book, after a close escape, Teagan, her father, Mameo and Finn (Firg Bolg), Abigail Gaglliano (her friend), Thomas (a highborn), Roisin, Aiden (her brother), Grendal (a cat sidhe), and Lucy (a sprite) return to their home in Chicago. Although they escaped Mag Mell and defeated Fear, all is not well. Fear and Mab (his wife) have elaborate plans for Teagan and her brother. Teagan and Finn must return to Mag Mell to defeat Fear once and for all.

coverThe Goblin Wars: In the Forests of the Night by Kersten Hamilton is not, in my opinion, the greatest book ever (in fact it was quite the opposite). The beginning is very slow without much action and mostly romance. If you haven’t read the first book, you won’t understand most of this one. The only real action (in a book titled The Goblin Wars) is at the end while fighting Fear. The ending is a sort of cliffhanger that makes you want to read the next book. I would recommend this book for teenage girls, because most of it is full of romance. They also shouldn’t mind a bit of swearing, since some of the words in there are not for 12-year-olds for whom it is written. I firmly recommend that you read the first book before so you can comprehend what happens in this installment of the series. Before reading this book, I have read series where you don’t have to read the first book to understand it, but for this you have to go in order. (Youth Junior High Fiction HAM and Teen Fiction HAM)

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sorettiThe List

Reviewed by Soretti D.
Fairview South School

Labels. We’ve all had them. Whether it is from a complete stranger or even your own friend! Some you may be proud of, some may hurt as much as you’d like to ignore it. In The List two girls are picked from each grade at Mount Washington High. On this list one is named the prettiest, the other girl named the ugliest. Everyone focuses their attention on those two girls from each grade. This year’s list of girls is made up of Abby, Danielle, Lauren, Candace, Bridget, Sarah, Margo, and Jennifer. Abby is excited getting named the prettiest, while Danielle is concerned of how her boyfriend Andrew will take the news of her being named ugliest. Lauren, the new homeschooled “prettiest” girl, is surprised at how everyone becomes her friend instantly after the list is posted. Candace believes it is a mistake that she is named ugly, but with her attitude towards others; it isn’t surprising. coverBridget is paranoid she’ll gain weight and ruin her “pretty” status. Jennifer is not surprised, since she was named ugliest from the time she was a freshmen. Her ex-best friend Margo, named prettiest senior, is happy to carry on the tradition since her sister left for college. How are these groups of girls going to react to their labels? And how will these “labels” change the way they are viewed as in high school? To find out the answers to these questions check yourself out a copy of The List .

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy reading this novel as much as I thought I would have because I found a stereotypical high school in this novel that just revolves around appearance. I usually enjoy reading historical fiction or horror, so I wasn’t used to reading novels like this. I would recommend this for those teens 13 and up who delight in reading novels based on high school drama. Although I didn’t like it as much, this novel is still filled with loads of suspense and seat gripping moments. Remember, head down to the library to check The List out and have fun! (Youth Junior High Fiction VIV)

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ileanaMay B.: A Novel in Verse

Reviewed by Ileana S.
Fairview South School

Have you ever been alone? May has for months, 15 miles from home. coverIn May B. A Novel in Verse Malvis Bett (May for short) goes to help out the new neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Oblinger. They have just moved in and Mrs. Oblinger doesn’t like the prairie in Kansas. May must cook and clean for them while they adjust to their new home. When something unexpected happens May is left alone to survive. May is unprepared for the upcoming winter and the blizzard.

This book is great. I really like it because it fills you with suspense while you wait for May to do something next. I would recommend this book for boys and girls. Even though the main character is a girl, boys can still enjoy the story just as well as girls can. Join May on her journey to survive. Does May try and get home or does she wait desperately for help? What would you do? (Youth Fiction ROS)

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cameronThe Midnight Tunnel:
A Suzanna Snow Mystery

Reviewed by Cameron E.
Chute Middle School

I read The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery, by Angie Frazier. The main character is Suzanna Snow. coverShe is clumsy and forgetful. What she most wants to do is be a detective like her uncle Bruce. Her parents want Suzanna to work in the hotel. The story takes place in Loch Harbor, her parent’s hotel, in 1904. Another important character is uncle Bruce who Suzanna wants to be like. Her uncle is travelling from Boston to the hotel when tragedy strikes.

What I liked most about this book was the suspense. For example, a powerful passage in the books says, “As the lightning flashed the door swung wide and I saw a little girl with skinny legs then flash she was gone.” This passage is a great example of the suspense in the plot.

This is a great mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Next time you’re in the library look for The Midnight Tunnel. It’s a great read. (Youth Fiction FRA)

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thomasNightshade City

Reviewed by Thomas W.
Chute Middle School

Prepare for an action-packed fantasy in Hilary Wagner’s Nightshade City. Set in the Catacombs, a huge, sprawling city built deep underground, Nightshade City is an adventure that you won’t want to miss. Catacomb city isn’t a normal city; it’s a city inhabited by rats. Only these rats aren’t like normal rats, they are much larger and more intelligent. They behave just as humans do.

The main characters in this book are brothers Vincent and Victor Nightshade. They are the last of their clan and, after their caretaker dies, have to escape the Catacombs or be forced into the Kill Army. If they are placed in the army, they will live a horrible life, being forced to serve the tyrant Killdeer, ruler of the Catacombs.

coverI really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. The writing flowed in Wagner’s unique style and the plot was action packed. The plot is engaging and captivates the reader. Even though the main characters are rats, you care for them as much as you would any human character. The characters seem real and have a wide variety of traits and flaws. For example, Billycan is a sadistic and evil escaped lab rat that is so well described he becomes the most interesting character. A passage located towards the end of the book depicts Billycan in the following way, “Clean this mess up!” he hollered. The laborers were paralyzed with fright, unable to move. “Quit staring, you toothless imbeciles, and get back to work!” White foam seeped from Billycan’s snarling mouth. “Get back to work-now!” He bounded off the stage and lurched toward the nearest rat, his spiny claws protracted. The panicked laborer jumped out of his path and scurried onto the stage, picking up the torn garland as fast as he could. Everyone started back to work, lest they end up as a cold corpse.” This passage shows how well Wagner’s characters are developed and how realistic they are.

I couldn’t put this book down, but that doesn’t mean that it was without flaws.. This book seems geared toward young readers with its approachable writing style and fantasy theme. But, while reading this book, I realized that the amount of gore might make it not suitable for a younger audience. Also, while the writing was engaging and flowing, I felt that it was a bit simplistic. It could have been more descriptive and detailed in certain areas. Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend Nightshade City to anyone looking for a great adventure. I would recommend this book to kids ages 10 and up that enjoy action packed fantasy stories. (Youth Fiction WAG)

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aimeeNerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus

Reviewed by Aimee M.
Old Orchard Junior High School

coverNerd Girls is a funny, interesting book. Three nerdy girls are planning to win the talent show: Maureen, who thinks she’s a potato, Alice, who is allergic to everything and has a pretty big secret, and Barbara, who has a double jointed pinky and is a total klutz. I feel like my friends and I can relate to all the hilarious characters. I’m a total klutz like Barbara (aka Beanpole). I loved the plot structure: they all meet each other when Maureen shoves a mango peanut butter sandwich in her mouth. They also use a dog for their talent show act, which is cute and funny at the same time. Kiki, Brittany and Sofes (aka the ThreePees, which means pretty, popular, and perfect), are their enemies, and they’re wicked bats. My favorite is Sofes, because she’s a moron. They always make fun of the nerd girls. I recommend you read this if you are a dorkasaurus.  (Youth Junior High Fiction SIT)

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benOddfellow’s Orphanage

Reviewed by Ben B.
McCracken Middle School

coverOddfellow’s Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin, is a charming book perfect for your little brother or sister. The recommended age for reading it is 7-10. The story is about the misadventures at a strange (to say the least) orphanage run by Headmaster Oddfellow Bluebeard. The main character of the story is Delia, a newly arrived orphan. She cannot speak, so she writes what she wants to say in a red notebook. She quickly makes new friends and learns the routine; but it will take time to learn all the traditions at Oddfellow’s Orphanage. Each school day consists of three classes: Folk Tale and Fairy Tale Studies, Cryptozoology (the study of mysterious or non-existent animals, such as Unicorns and Bigfoot), and Astronomy. Various misadventures occur, like when the group spotted a sea monster. Finally, there are some interesting characters: for example the hedgehog named Hugo and the Onion-Headed boy named Ollie.

This book took about an hour to read, but this is a great work for someone who is learning how to read. I found it very amusing, and it comes with excellent pictures that add to the storytelling. I would recommend Oddfellow’s Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin to anyone who has an hour to kill, or has a little sibling who just started reading. (Youth Fiction MAR)

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seanPerception: A Clarity Novel

Reviewed by Sean L.
McCracken Middle School

In the book Perception by Kim Harrington, Clarity “Clare” Fern does not have a normal family. Her mom is a telepath, her brother, Periwinkle (Perry for short), is a clairvoyant, and Clare is a psychic who can touch objects and see visions. coverAfter the events of the summer set in the first book in the series, Clarity, Clare is now a celebrity in a sense at her school. She has “friends” named Brooke and Kendra, who only became friends with her after the summer. The only true friends she had the year before and over the summer were Justin, her ex, and Gabriel, the son of a cop that she has interests in. Clare has interests in both of them. In East Port, Clare’s hometown, there is a murder that recently took place.

One day, Clare finds a note in her locker with the three words, “Beautiful, wonderful, talented.” Clare thought of this as a note from her secret admirer. A couple days later there are flowers on her porch that she only notices when Justin brings them in on a visit to her house. But, then things begin to get creepier, stranger. When Clare went out with a friend to help her with a dress, she finds a dress that she likes, so she tries it on. She walks to the front of the store to look at the mirror. What Clare didn’t notice was horrifying. The saleslady told her that someone was looking at her through the store front window. The secret admirer was turning out to be a secret stalker. Everywhere that Clare went by herself, she felt that someone was watching her! But who is the secret admirer/stalker? Will Clare figure it out before it’s too late?

It all will unfold in Perception by Kim Harrington, the second book in the Clarity series. Perception is a nail biting thriller that will give you goose bumps. Throw horror in with some romance and drama and you get the perfect book. (Youth Junior High Fiction HAR)

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tylerThe Shadowing: Hunted

Reviewed by Tyler T.
Chute Middle School

I read The Shadowing: Hunted by Adam Slater. The Shadowing: Hunted is a fictional horror book with a little mystery in it. The main characters in this book are Callum, a chime child, a person who is born in the hour of the chime, which is 11:00 and 12:00 p.m. Many people who live in the town were born between the hours of the chime. Callum is fighting for survival. Then there is Melisa a monster expert that helps Callum along the way. She is one of Callum’s classmates. Gran, who has protected Callum all his life, realizes that Callum’s chime powers are too strong to hide. And, last but not least, Jacob and Doom are an undead boy and his demon dog that can howl as loud as you could ever imagine.

coverIn this story the main conflict is that Callum is getting hunted by a demon with no face that has stolen his face. The demon is going around and killing all the chime children. He is doing that because the chime children are the only things that stand in his way from unlocking the gate to the underworld. Callum is the only chime child that stands in his way now.

I think the author’s purpose in writing this book is to give a new meaning to demons. The author does a very good job of giving a description about the demons, like Jacob, “He had the palest skin and blood runs down his hands and it never stops.” I also think that the author is trying to put you in the character’s body yourself because it gives many heart pounding details and its intense vocabulary will scare your pants off.

I recommend this book to kids of all ages and only the ones who can handle the intensity. I think this book is for kids of all ages because the main character is a teen and many kids can probably relate to that. I hope that you find this book amazingly intense and scary, and I hope everyone that reads this book loves it. (Youth Junior High Fiction SLA)

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camilleTris & Izzie

Reviewed by Camille H-A.
McCracken Middle School

Picking up Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison, a modern version of the German epic “Tristan” might seem like a good idea, but trust me– it’s nothing but a waste of time. Nothing appealed in this book. The characters were unlikable and severely undeveloped, the plot was far-fetched and overly melodramatic, and the writing was immature and stilted.

coverThough the cover is provocative, it only serves to lure unsuspecting readers into its trap. One example of many is found on page 221, it reads “‘Shall I take you bit by bit?’ asked Gurmun, looming closer again. ‘A delicious meal you would make that way, many small courses to heighten the anticipation of the final one, the dessert– your death.’” Gurmun is of course, a large evil melodramatic serpent, who sent slurgs (slug-rugs) to kill Izzie. His sole purpose in life is of course, to kill her slowly, and relish in the pain of her death.

All details aside, this opinion is not unsupported. Read Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison, and you’ll find out for yourself. I consider myself an avid reader, I love escaping into the alternate worlds that books offer. But this was, by far, the worst book I have ever read. (Youth Junior High Fiction HAR)

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chrisTuesdays at the Castle

Reviewed by Chris S.
McCracken Middle School

When the king and queen go missing, it’s up to their children, Celie, Lilah, and Rolf to keep the country of Sleyne and the enchanted castle safe in the new book Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. With dishonest council members and plotting embassies, Rolf, the biological heir, is forced into having regency under the justification that he is too young to rule. As the council’s ulterior motives become public knowledge, cruel Prince Khelsh of Sleyne’s rival country, Vervhine, is elected to the council. The king and queen’s disappearance seems all too convenient. Skeptical Rolf and his sisters send townsperson Pogue to search for their parents elsewhere. But with a Vervhine council, it looks as if Sleyne is lost. coverBut the castle doesn’t approve. It shows Celie a secret room that allows some one in it to listen to council meetings. With Celie’s help, Liliah and Rolf can stay one step ahead of the council. But how long can they last? Can they really protect the throne from usurpation? What if Pogue returns without their parents?

Geared for younger readers (8-12), Tuesdays at the Castle puts a new spin on fantasy because one of the main characters is a building. That is, a building that can add and take away its rooms at will. Written in a carefree style, it is a fun read for young fantasy readers. Those unfamiliar with this genre may find it dry and uneventful. But if you do like to read fantasy, it stands out from all the rest. The book harbors kidnapping, conspiracy, siege and magic, all taking place in a moving castle! The plot line’s many twists and turns can be exciting, but sometimes seem silly and out of hand. This book will captivate young fantasy enthusiasts. (Youth Fiction GEO)

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jimmyUnison Spark

Reviewed by Jimmy G-V.
Old Orchard Junior High School

Unison Spark by Andy Marino is an adventurous story that asks questions about the possibilities of the future of the social networking system we all know and use today. In Unison Spark, Twitter, Facebook and other online social systems have evolved so drastically they seem to “know you better than you know yourself.” coverWhen not in Unison (the name for the universal social network), people live in a dystopia called Eastern Seaboard City. It’s not an extreme dystopia where you have to “brace yourself,” but you do have to “go with the flow” to get into the feeling of the book. Eastern Seaboard City is covered by a giant ceiling that separates the wealthy, social network-using Topsiders from the Downsiders who live in poverty with no “modern” technology. Down-side meets up-side when Mistletoe, a Downsider “sub-canopy girl” meets Ambrose, the 15-year-old boy next in line to own and control Unison. In their adventure, Ambrose and Mistletoe work together despite their class differences to stop Unison 3.0, a viral upgrade that will affect millions or even billions of the social network users. As their adventure progresses they learn the importance and value of real face-to-face connections over online friendships.

Unison Spark is a very good book choice if you’re a reader interested in reading about the future, its possibilities, technology and mystery, particularly regarding social networking and its uses. This book was awesome and it really makes you think about and realize how much your life and the lives of others are built around modern day technology. (Youth Junior High Fiction MAR)

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sonjaThe Unwanteds

Reviewed by Sonja M.
Fairview South School

How would you feel if everyone you know is placed into three categories: Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds? That’s the way things are in the land of Quill, a colorless place in the book The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann. In Quill, when you turn thirteen, you are sorted into one of the three groups. The Wanteds are strong and smart, and they get government jobs. The Necessaries are needed to do jobs such as farming, and the Unwanteds, the creative, artistic ones, are sent to their deaths. Alex Stowe is sure to be Unwanted since he was caught drawing in the dirt, while his twin Aaron is likely to be Wanted, because he is strong, brave, and does not care for creativity.

coverAlex, along with several children his age, is on his way to becoming eliminated. But as soon as they reach the “Death Farm,” they meet Marcus Today, a compassionate magician who, instead of eliminating the children, changes the place into a secret world for the Unwanteds. They enter the magical land of Artimé, full of amazing creatures and artistic tools, such as invisibility paint brushes, which, they are told, can also be used as weapons. But the secret of Artimé is soon found out by Quill, and the war begins.

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, is a story of true friendship, sacrifice, and bravery. If you love a good fantasy story with surprise and action, this is the book for you. Read the amazing tale of Alex Stowe and his life in Artimé. I recommend this book for all genders, from pre-teens to teens. Full of magic, adventure, and even a little mystery, I guarantee you’ll love it just as much as I did. (Youth Fiction MCM)

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Reviewed by Tessa W.
Fairview South School

Imagine having nothing your whole life and then the next second finding out you have been accepted into a prestigious boarding school, with top varsity athletic teams, intriguing clubs to suit all your interests, and a learning program to inspire any student to do their best. Most importantly of all, you have this fantastic experience on a full scholarship.

That’s what the main character experiences in the book Variant by Robison Wells. Benson Fisher, who is a seventeen- year-old foster child, thinks he will be receiving this when boarding a bus in New Mexico to get to his new life and finally proper school, Maxfield Academy. Benson soon finds out that Maxfield is actually a total and complete scam.

coverNow imagine going to a school surrounded by barbed wire fence and a huge wall with security cameras practically lining everywhere, even in bedrooms. With no adults, it is a place that tests students in ways such as locking them outdoors all night without any notice. Losing paintball games means no food for a couple or more days on end. Students can just disappear. Finally, choosing between the three gangs (Havoc, Society, and the Variants) that split the student body can either mean ruin or survival in the school. These are just a few challenges the students at Maxfield Academy must face every day. Will they escape even with the Society security lining the walls? Or more importantly will Benson Fisher and the others who plan on escaping be able to do so when they also have to constantly worry about surviving each other and the school and its tricks first?

I really enjoyed Variant, because it has action, romance, danger, and suspense. Robison Wells does a fantastic job putting together this thriller with its exciting twists and turns all throughout this constantly wonderfully surprising book. I would recommend Variant to anyone seventh grade and up; it’s a mature fast-paced read that everyone will love. (Youth Junior High Fiction WEL)

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ianThe White Assassin

Reviewed by Ian S.
Fairview South School

coverDo you love to read action adventure stories? If so then march to the library and read The White Assassin by Hilary Wagner. In this action adventure story Juniper and the city of Nightshade have to protect themselves from the attack that Billycan is planning. After a long quest, Juniper and his city may have finally trapped Billycan before he can conquer Nightshade city, and take back all he was meant to be.

The White Assassin is a fascinating book that kept me on my toes every second. If I could read five books again, this one would be the first one because of its action and suspense that continues throughout the book. I would recommend this book to boys or girls in their teens, or anyone who loves a good action story. If you like the Percy Jackson series you will probably love and relate to The White Assassin. So drop the video games and get The White Assassin by Hilary Wagner. (Youth Fiction WAG)

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staceyThe Winter Pony

Reviewed by Stacey H.
Old Orchard Junior High School

coverIain Lawrence’s novel, The Winter Pony, is definitely not the book for animal rights activists. It tells an interesting part of scientific history, and portrays the horrors of animal cruelty in a very unique way. While animal cruelty itself is horrible, the way it is shown through the race to the South Pole makes you not see it through the eyes of humans, but rather the eyes of the animal himself, James Pigg. You have two extraordinary scientists both racing for the honor and reward of being the first to reach the South Pole. This book was very different from many other books I have read before. Most either had me cheering for the main character or hating the main character, which therefore decides whether or not I love the book. With The Winter Pony, however, I didn’t love or hate the book. It was a likable book, but I would never read it again. It was very, very sad. This pony tries his hardest, along with the other ponies, to get to the South Pole, in a climate made for another type of animal. The other scientist uses dogs and dogsleds to get around the South Pole, so he would naturally win the race due to the fact that his teams were made for the climate; the ponies weren’t. This book is mostly true, and for me that was the saddest part. To think that someone could do this to ponies in real life, even to make a scientific breakthrough, was just terrible. So, though I liked the book, I would not consider reading it ever again in my life. The story was just too depressing for me. I would not recommend the book to people, though as I told more and more people about the book, their answers were all the same: What was it called again? I really want to read it! (Youth Fiction LAW)

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emilyWinter Town

Reviewed by Emily R.
McCracken Middle School

In Winter Town by Stephen Emond, Evan Owens’s childhood friend Lucy has returned for the holidays like every year, but this time she has changed. She now has “choppy black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl.” Evan initially asks his highly intelligent self if he still knows her, and after she turns up at several unexpected times, realizes that the girl he knew is still there. Evan knows “old Lucy” is still there, and he has his mind set on finding her. Evan introduces his friends, and art comes up in many of their discussions. Comics and drawing are some of Evan’s talents, but he doesn’t think so. Evan realizes this when he “kills the king” (alluding to Freudian psychology) and tells his father that no, he is not going to an ivy-league college and yes, he is an artist. Guess who helped him realize his talent. Yes. Lucy. Evan helped Lucy, too. She was able to (albeit slowly) find her way again.

But all things eventually end, as they both realize. Winter break finishes on a angry note for Lucy and Evan. They don’t send any texts after an incident of wheatpasting Evan’s comics to a building and getting caught. Evan is wondering about Lucy’s year. He has a hunch that she hasn’t been telling the whole truth. Well, it turns out she hasn’t. Evan and Lucy go back to their lives sadly. Why are they sad? Read Winter Town by Stephen Emond to find out.

coverOverall, I enjoyed this book. There were several aspects of the story which I could connect to; it is important to have some kind of connection to the story so you can have a clearer understanding of the plot. In general, the content is equivalent to that of a PG-13 movie, so I would recommend this book to readers aged 13 and up. (Teen Fiction EMO)

emmaReviewed by Emma M.
Chute Middle School

The book Winter Town by Stephen Emond takes place in New England present day. It is realistic fiction. Lucy and Evan reunite again for their annual winter break visitation. Evan, one of the nerdy types is surprised to see Lucy his former best friend come to visit with cut black hair, a nose stud, and an awful attitude. Evan knows that if he tries hard enough he can bring the old Lucy back, not only does he know he can bring her back he is determined to.

Winter Town was an amazing read. Each character had a unique personality and an intriguing background story. For example, in the story Evan comes from a family of people who are very invested in his education, especially college, whereas Lucy comes from parents who are separated and can’t even talk to one another, let alone help her figure out her life. Over the summer Lucy has done some things she isn’t proud of, she’s dating a guy she shouldn’t be with and much more. When she comes to visit Evan she plans on telling him, but it doesn’t workout very well. The book Winter Town was a fantastic read.

I would recommend this book to any gender ages 10 and up since it had some content not understandable to younger children. Overall, I loved the book Winter Town and think everyone should read it. (Teen Fiction EMO)

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charmeeWithout Tess

Reviewed by Charmee K.
Old Orchard Junior High School

coverWelcome to a world full of mystical creatures such as selkies and flying horses. This oasis is a magical make-believe world created by sisters, Lizzie and Tess, who are super close. However, Tess can’t let go of this fictional universe and grow up. While Lizzie moves on, Tess digs her grave in her imagination. Literally. Tess becomes so obsessed with her world that she decides she can’t continue to live in a world without magic, disappearing from Lizzie’s life forever. Now, Lizzie’s in high school. Even though many years have passed, Lizzie still hasn’t gotten over Tess’s departure. She’s seeking to comprehend what exactly happened to cause things to turn out as they did with her sister. With the assistance of Tess’s Pegasus journal and Kaplan, a school psychologist, Lizzie looks for a way to let go of her sister Tess and finally move on.

Overall, I thought Without Tess was a magnificent read because I found Tess’s imagination unique and captivating. The way the plot plays out in this book is really fascinating too. I felt that the way Marcella Pixley told stories about Lizzie and Tess’s childhood was really interesting, and I recommend this book to junior high girls. Out of 10, I would give the book an 8. (Teen Fiction PIX)

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maryamYour Life, But Better!

Reviewed by Maryam K.
Old Orchard Junior High School

Your Life, But Better! by Crystal Velasquez is a clever little book. It follows a 12-year-old girl around one day at the mall with her friends. They are looking for a popular girl from school who is giving away tickets to the best birthday party of the year. The trick is that, once you find the girl, they have to compete for the coveted tickets.

coverWhat’s unique about this book is that the reader makes the story. It lets your true personality lead the way. YOU are the main character, so the narrator talks directly to you.

At the end of each chapter, there is a quiz. Readers take it, tally up their points, and, depending on what their results are, they either proceed to one chapter or another.

The book progresses in this way so the story unfolds in a most realistic manner in accordance with how the reader would act. In this fashion, multiple stories and events unfold in different directions that make this book great to read over and over.

This is a must have for any teenage girl! The story and plot are engaging and well written. You just want to keep turning the pages without stopping, so I would strongly encourage people to read this. (Youth Series Paperback YOUR LIFE, BUT)

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‘UNDER the COVER: Book Reviews by Teens’ is published by Skokie Public Library in partnership with middle school students and their teachers. In this issue...

Chute Middle School. Daisha Fox, Language Arts/Reading teacher; Evelyn Delgado-Levin, Reading/Language Arts & Spanish Heritage Teacher

Fairview South School. Yolanda Toni, SPINOUT Reading Teacher

McCracken Middle School. Tori Gammeri, Director of Learning Center; Judy Kopp, Assistant Director of Learning Center; Annie Monak, Technology Specialist

Old Orchard Junior High School. Rose Schreier, Library Media Center Director

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