Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A fictionalized account of a 1979 murder that took place in the author’s hometown while he was in high school. Told through 6 different narrators – including the killer.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued by the plot, but when I realized it was based on a real murder from my hometown’s past I knew I had to read it.

My favorite things: Wolf changed the name of the town and the people involved, but he kept the names of streets, events, and local businesses. For a native of the town where the murder occurred, reading this was a bizarre experience but still engaging. I love the variety of voices, used to paint a more complete picture of the events that took place, with each of the narrators trying to discover ways they could have prevented the senseless murder.

Who it’s great for: Older teens and adults who crave mysteries or suspense. The short chapters and rotating narration make this a great choice for reluctant readers.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A teen girl watches her oldest friend as he is murdered by the police. She contemplates Tupac’s concept of THUG LIFE (The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everyone) while struggling to stand up for her community.

What made me pick it up: This has been getting crazy good press so I scooped it up as soon as I could.

My favorite things: Starr’s voice is genuine and her heartbreak palpable. Thomas captures the essence and urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement without exploiting or forgetting the real lives that have been lost. The current movement is tied to the past through more than Tupac’s words; reminiscent of the response by Bloods and Crips to the Rodney King verdict, local opposing gangs band together to protect their communities and join in protest against the violence they face at the hands of the state. The overall effect is both breathtaking and devastating.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults looking to understand and process the violence faced by communities of color in our society.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: A collection of short horror stories told in a graphic novel format.

What made me pick it up: This is one of my favorite graphic novels from the past few years, so I picked up back up to help me out of a reading slump.

My favorite things: The stories are short and simple but absolutely haunting. Each time I read them I end up with goosebumps and a distinct feeling of unease. The art is beautiful and bleak, using color only sparingly and to great effect. Reading this is like experiencing some of your creepiest nightmares on the page.

Who it’s great for: Adults and teens that enjoy graphic novels and want creepy horror stories. Fans of Audrey Niffineggar’s illustrated works.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


The Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch

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Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: A young boy trains to become protector of his best friend, the prince, but on the verge of doing so he breaks an oath he did not know about and his world is shattered until he goes on a journey to uncover the truth.

What made me pick it up: I was ordering books for the library years and years ago and saw this and planned to purchase it and read it. Purchase, yes. Read? Not for ages because I changed jobs and my new library did not have a copy. We do now. And the sequel which I am very excited to begin.

My favorite things: This is some top notch YA fantasy. Once you get through the initial world building and character introductions the tale sprints along to the conclusion. Equal parts action and mystery, you will be fully immersed following Raim as he tries to clear his name and discovers the truth about his world and powers in the meantime.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults looking for some great fantasy writing.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or at a library near you.


 

Heist Society by Ally Carter

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Originally published in: 2010

What it’s about: Kat attempts to leave the family business of stealing art but she gets roped back in through an effort to save her father.

What made me pick it up: This was the first pick for a new book club we’re both in. We were looking for a quick, light, and engaging young adult read.

My favorite things: This was a really fun read. There are a few different threads to follow and relationships that become more complicated with each page. I love that the thieves all work off a shared knowledge of cons named for fairytales and bedtime stories. It’s a fast-paced and exciting read that never has a chance to get the slightest bit boring.

Who it’s great for: Good for teens and adults looking for something upbeat and engaging. Fans of Robin Benway’s Also Known As and Ally Carter’s other work. Readers interested in spying, thieving, or just carrying out some good old-fashioned cons.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Princess Jellyfish #1 by Akiko Higashimura

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Originally published in: 2016 (Japanese edition 2009)

What it’s about: A house full of geeky manga-illustrating women is shaken up by the threat to sell and raze their home and by a pair of dreamy brothers infiltrating their women-only world.

What made me pick it up: I’m not a big manga reader, but a colleague recommended it to me promising that it was a good choice for readers not used to manga.

My favorite things: This is a cute story with fun characters and nothing too far off the wall. I love the Higashimura’s ability to poke fun at herself and her world of manga creation through these characters.

Who it’s great for: Good for readers who are interested in manga but don’t know where to start.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Never Caught tells the story of Ona Judge’s time as a woman enslaved by George Washington, her escape from the President’s home, and the rest of her life as a fugitive.

What made me pick it up: I first read about Ona Judge in the YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth Davis. When I saw an entire book dedicated to her I knew I needed to know more.

My favorite things: This is a compelling read that is never dry. Dunbar seamlessly weaves Judge’s own account with other recorded details from history to create a well contextualized and more comprehensive report. Dunbar repeatedly reminds her readers that no matter how “good” or “kind” slaveholders were or tried to be toward the people they enslaved, those that they considered property would choose freedom of any kind every time they could.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults interested in learning more about the reality of slavery and the lives of the fugitives who escaped during the early days of the United States. Readers who struggle to engage with nonfiction and history will appreciate Dunbar’s style of narrative nonfiction.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: What happens lives and drama of suburban teens accidentally collide with the world of superheroes and the larger battle between good and evil?

What made me pick it up: I make sure to scoop of anything I see by Jeff Lemire, and this one is new to our library.

My favorite things: Lemire has a gift for creating believable teens and he does it with such care and understanding that it’s nearly impossible to hold their faults against them. I love the peek we get into Plutona’s life- a single mom and superhero struggling to find a sustainable work-life balance.

Who it’s great for: Fans of  all things superhero. Readers who loved Paper Girls. Older teens who want both realistic fiction and superheroes in action.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The story of a 1921 murder in Tulsa, Oklahoma unwinds through two perspectives: William’s, set at the time of the murder, and Rowan’s in the present day.

What made me pick it up: I read a prepub review that piqued my interest and put it on hold as soon as our library ordered it.

My favorite things: Latham uses the dual timelines explore the parallels between racially motivated violence in the early 20th century and the violence of today that has inspired the Black Lives Matter movement. Based on the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s African American community, the author effectively uses mystery and suspense to bring attention to an often forgotten part of American history.

Who it’s great for: Teens interested in understanding racial violence and justice in American history. Fans of murder mysteries and readers of historical fiction.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A blind teen boy gets the opportunity to gain sight thanks to a new medical procedure and how it changes his life for better and worse.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Josh’s. His memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime was such a heartfelt, engaging read (or listen, I guess, since I listened to it). And he does these awesome videos on the interwebs. Plus he’s from Virginia, where I now live, so heyyyy! Also, this cover is so engaging. I’d heard about this book ages ago and when I saw a reminder about it at the end of one of his videos I went online and checked it right out. Thanks, OverDrive!

My favorite things: This is Sundquist’s debut novel which makes it all the more impressive. It is top notch YA and I really enjoyed the John Green-ness of everything about this book. It’s got lovable misfits that find each other in the abyss of high school, an impromptu road trip, a truly lovely confusing crush/friend situation, and a health related element that is strongly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (although not as sad, I promise!). I appreciated the supportive but still annoying parent relationship and the tough but supportive teacher relationships the main character has. It is such an interesting take on what makes us different makes us beautiful.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who feels other or invisible, especially in high school. Readers who want to be uplifted by a great story. Fans of John Green because I can’t say enough that this is an excellent read alike for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines or that other one I already mentioned. Really, just read them all. All of the books.

What else it reminded me of: Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and the movie Shallow Hal.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells