Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Ages 10 and up

This book, told from the viewpoint of eleven-year-old Caitlin, is amazing.  Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes functioning in the world a challenge.  Mrs. Brook helps Caitlin learn important social skills, like:  “Look At The Person”, using “YOUR MANNERS”, and respecting other people’s “Personal Space”.  Unfortunately, Caitlin has a bigger problem.  She is looking for “Closure” and a way to deal with “The Day Our Life Fell Apart.”  When Caitlin refers to “The Day Our Life Fell Apart”, she is referring to the day that her older brother Devon was killed, changing life for Caitlin and her father who are both grieving.

As Caitlin tries to learn to “Deal With this difficult situation called life”, she comes across a few people who may be able to help her find “Closure” too.

My Rating:  5 stars!

 The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

Ages 12 and up

Gecko, Terence and Arjay have the opportunity to leave the juvenile detention center that they have been sentenced to so they can live in halfway house with Mr. Healy, a man who wants to work with troubled youth and make a difference.  Unfortunately, one night when the boys are fighting, Mr. Healy gets hurt and is knocked unconscious.  While he is hospitalized, the boys have to decide what to do.  They know that if they tell, they’ll land back in the juvenile detention center, so they try to keep their freedom.  They agree that one way to protect their freedom is to stay out of trouble, which is quite the undertaking for boys used to lives of crime.

My rating: 3 stars

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

Ages 10 and up

When San Lee moves to yet another school, he sees an opportunity to reinvent himself. San is good at moving, and good at taking on a persona for wherever he is.  So far, he has been a skater, a Bible-thumper, a rich preppy kid, and a macho pretend-jock.  This time, as an eighth-grader in Pennsylvania, he lets the persona come to him.

As San becomes the Zen Master of his school, he struggles with who he really is:  an Asian kid who was adopted by white, American parents, with a father who is in prison, and a guy with feelings for a girl that might see through his lies.

My rating: 4.5 stars





All in the Family

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

Ages 12+

Vince is trying his hardest to be a regular high-school guy, and to live quietly and honestly.  In spite of his efforts, his family’s business keeps affecting his life.  Because his father is the big boss of the mob, Vince’s house is bugged and the F.B.I. is always keeping tabs on what they are doing.  Life gets even more complicated for Vince when he falls for a girl, and then later discovers that her dad works for the F.B.I.

This book deals with some challenging issues, as Vince confronts his own morals and makes sense out of his beliefs about what makes a “good guy” and a “bad guy.”  I loved this book because it dealt with these issues in a humorous way, and I could relate to Vince.  I really did laugh out loud a few times as I read this book.

My Rating:  5 Stars

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Grades 8 and up

Set in the future, along the Gulf Coast, Nailer struggles to survive.  His job is to scavenge copper wire from ships that sunk during “city killer” hurricanes.  While Nailer belongs to a crew, the work is every-man-to-himself, as it is about survival.  Living under poverty conditions, with a drunken, abusive father as his only “family”, Nailer has to make decisions about who to trust and who not to trust.   The considerations about what constitutes family, and how to determine if someone is trustworthy get even more complicated when Nailer rescues Nita from a ship filled with riches.

While I do enjoy a good, futuristic, dystopian novel, I struggled with this one.  Maybe because I went in unfamiliar with ship breaking, which I have since researched.  I also found some of the characters to be somewhat flat, so I was less concerned about what happened to them than I should have been.

My Rating:  3 Stars

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Grades 8 and up

Matt is isolated and abused for the first years of his life.  A clone to El Patrón, the drug lord of the land called Opium (between the U.S. and Mexico, now referred to as Aztlán), Matt realizes that he is different the other clones, as they are all “eejits.”  Matt learns about his purpose (why he was cloned), and confronts his beliefs about family, love, trust, government, power, and fear as he grows up under El Patrón’s “care.”

This book pulled me in, and kept me fascinated throughout its entirety.  Nancy Farmer knows how to develop characters that one is led to care about, while twisting science-fiction, reality and thriller into one amazing masterpiece!

My Rating:  5 Stars!!

Beginnings (or Catching Up)

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Grades 5-8

Anybody who knows Wallace Wallace knows that he can’t lie.  He just can’t do it.  When Mr. Fogelman has Wallace write a book report on Old Shep, My Pal, Wallace says he hates the book (remember, he can only tell the truth).  Wallace explains that any book with a dog on the cover  results in death for the dog.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fogelman loves Old Shep, My Pal and Wallace ends up in detention.  While serving the detention (weeks and weeks of detention), Wallace makes some suggestions on how to improve the school play (Old Shep, My Pal), learn some things about friendship, and help Mr. Fogelman learn some things too.

My Ratting:  4 stars

  The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Grades 7-12

In the year 2140, Surplus Anna lives in Grange Hall with other unwanted children.  Children are considered thieves, as the Legals are entitled grown-ups thriving on Longevity drugs. When the drugs became available, decades before, humans had to sign the Declaration, promising to not have children.  While at Grange Hall, Anna is told that she should not exist, and is told that her parents were criminals.  When Peter shows up, however, Anna is forced to question things (including authority), and is faced with some decisions that may compromise her safety, her life, and the lives of others.

My Rating: 5 Stars