Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri & illustrated by Randy Duburke

Bibliographic Citation:
Neri, G. (2010). Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books. 978-1584302674.

yummybookcoverSynopsis:
Yummy tells the story of 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer who shot and killed his 14-year-old neighbor, Shavon Dean. It details the aftermath of the shooting and his days in hiding before he is ultimately murdered himself.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I liked this book. I am a true crime junkie and juvenile delinquency and gang life have always peaked my interest. The story is told from the point of view of a fictional character named Roger who lives in the same neighborhood and sort of knows Yummy from school. Also, Roger’s older brother leads a similar life to Yummy. The book is Roger’s quest for truth, examining Yummy’s life to try and understand Yummy’s death.

I was already familiar with the story so I didn’t learn too much from it but it did make me think. And it was a quick read. Two things I love in books. If you’re interested in what happened to Robert “Yummy” Sandifer” check it out. This quote was really moving, “I don’t know which was worse, the way Yummy lived or the way he died.”

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The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

Bibliographic Citation:
Donlea, Charlie. (2017). The Girl Who Was Taken. New York, NY: Kensington. 978-1496701008.

thegirlwhowastakenSynopsis:
Dr. Livia Cutty, a medical examiner fellow, is on a search for answers about her sister, Nicole, who disappeared one summer. The same day Nicole went missing, so did another girl, Megan. However, after two weeks she returned, but Nicole never did. Together, Livia and Megan begin to piece together what really happened the night the two went missing.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I really enjoyed this book. I like how it alternated timelines and voices. We see the present mainly through the point of view of Livia, a medical examiner. We see the past mainly through Nicole’s eyes, Livia’s missing sister. Nicole’s chapters really feel like a YA novel, but it was a nice way to break up Livia’s narration, which at times is very scientific and technical.

I do feel like this book was slightly predictable. I love it when I don’t see things coming, but that wasn’t the case with this book. I had it mostly figured out, except for the the identity of who kept Megan. It was a good read, a quick one too. If you like suspense, consider reading this book. There was this really awful typo at the end, and it bugged me (they said Livia Jennings instead of Elizabeth Jennings). I just couldn’t imagine how they missed that in editing, but oh well.

I liked both Megan and Livia’s characters. For many readers, it is important to feel like characters are easy to identify with or relate to in some way. Nicole felt like an authentic teenage girl on a rebellious streak, to the point where I was surprised to realize the author was male and not female. I particularly enjoyed the forensics aspect of the story. At times it was gruesome, but it felt original. In novels you are often introduced to the detective side of things, so the medical examiner part was a fresh and intriguing. I generally read YA novels, and like children’s fiction, they are typically packaged all nice and neat at the end. Literature for youth needs a sense of happiness and closure, I guess. This wasn’t like that and I was glad . Once I got to the point where Megan knew who her captor was, when she knew the sound, I couldn’t stop reading.

Overall I would give this book 4/5 stars.

Check it out.

Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil

Bibliographic Citation:
Denzil, Sarah A. (2017). Silent Child.  978-1542722827.

silent childSynopsis:
Emma Price lost her six-year-old son, Aiden, during a record breaking flood in their small town, and her world falls apart. Fast forward ten years and she is finally moving on with her life. She’s happily married and expecting a baby. The suddenly, Aiden returns. But now he is mute and won’t tell anyone where he’s been.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
So I’m just going to come right out and say it, this is my favorite adult fiction book that I have ever read. Friday of last week my coworker told me to download it on Audible because she was really into it. She was on Chapter 7, and gave me a bit of a rundown of it. I was hooked. On my lunch break I listened to a sample, and then I downloaded it. By the end of the day I was past Chapter 7 and itching for more. This book consumed my weekend. I listened to it while I cooked, while I ironed my hair, while I played on my computer, while I laid in bed, while I drove. Monday morning on my way to school I finished the 45 chapters, and I was speechless. I felt myself needing to call everyone I knew and tell them to get this book. I think I ended up only telling 3 or 4 people, but seriously, READ THIS BOOK. Or listen to it, whatever.

The story takes place in England so the narrator has that wonderful accent, if you go the audiobook route, like I did. I was never really a huge audiobook fan, but this book may have changed that. Or at least this narrator. I could honestly listen to her say anything. The entire time I am imagining these characters in my head. How would they really look? Who would play them if there were to be a movie adaptation? (Please let there be one eventually!) It is suspenseful and enthralling. It is beautifully written and the story it tells draws you in, breaks your heart, boils your blood, and makes you want to hug your children a little tighter.

Read this book.
You must.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Bibliographic Citation:
Thomas, Angie. (2017). The Hate U Give. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray. 978-0062498533.

the hate u giveSynopsis:
A sixteen-year-old girl, Starr Carter, witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a biased police officer. This is the second of her friends to be murdered in front of her. Before the murder, Starr lived as two people. Two versions of herself. One in the poor urban setting where she is raised, and the other at her affluent suburban private school.  The already delicate balance between the two is destroyed after the shooting, and she is torn between speaking out in the name of justice for her friend, and maintaining anonymity for her and her family’s safety.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I can not say enough good things about this novel. It moved me to tears often, many times I actually had to stop reading to regain my composure. However, when I wasn’t crying, many times I was laughing. I loved how relatable these characters are here. As a teacher, someone who is surrounded by young people day in and day out — Angie Thomas GETS them. This book is so real. I felt like I had behind the scenes access to a documentary or a personal narrative. I felt like I really knew this family. Starr is so real, and while I love her, it is gut-wrenching how real she truly is in our society. How many Starrs we have, how many Khalils. Real in a sense that this is too common place. It is sad how familiar this story has become in headline news. A young, unarmed black man gunned down because a peace officer was too quick to shoot.

For anyone who knows me, they know that social justice, race relations, and civil rights are things I am passionate about and are very close to my heart. Honestly, what really drew me into this book is that I had a really good friend named Khalil for years. While he hasn’t been murdered, he too chose a very dangerous path for his life. Since I started reading this book, he has weighed heavier on my heart than usual. A few years ago I read a list of books entitled “Books About Race Every White Person in America Should Read” or something to that effect. This book needs to go on the list. This is an absolute must read.

I love this book.
You’ll love this book.

I can’t wait for the movie.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell (author) & Shadra Strickland (illustrator)

Bibliographic Citation:
Powell, P. H. (2017). Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 978-1452125909.

Synopsis:
In the 1950’s in Caroline County, Virginia, during a time of racism, prejudice, and injustice, Richard and Mildred fell in love. Their life together was against the law, but their determination to be a family whenever and wherever ended up changing it. Mr. and Mrs. Loving were the face of the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage. This documentary novel is this couple’s story of fighting discrimination and winning.

lovingvvirginiaCritical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love, and this book is very special to me. I’m in an interracial relationship that will (whenever we get around to it) evolve into an interracial marriage. At one point in history, loving the man I love would’ve been illegal just like it was for Richard and Milly. I experienced a range of emotions with this book as I tried to imagine what it would’ve been like if the law tried to keep me from Andrew. I couldn’t put this book down.

This book is still extremely relevant today because of the political climate and white nationalist movement that’s been taking place. This documentary novel is beautifully written in free verse, and alternates between Richard and Milly’s perspectives. It is evident that the author did her research through the interviews, photos, and news clippings. This is a must-have book in school and public libraries alike.

 

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

Bibliographic Citation:
Henry, A. (2016). The Girl I Used to Be. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1627793322.

april henry

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Olivia aka Ariel’s mother was murdered when she was almost too young to remember. Most people thought her father did it and then disappeared. Fast forward fourteen years when some new evidence now shows that her father and mother were likely killed at the same time. Now Olivia works to uncover the truth. But can she piece it together before the killer finds her?

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
If you know me, you know crime is my thing. Murder? Yep, I’m interested. Okay, that sounds weird but still true. I’m not sure how this book sucked me in, but it did. I read it pretty fast because curiosity and suspense were taking over. I really liked it too, and I’ve recommended it to several of my students who are fans of crime and mystery.

Olivia/Ariel is your average character. I didn’t think she was too far fetched in her actions usually, and if I was in a similar situation then I might’ve acted the same way she did. Sometimes I felt like she asked too many questions and was either making herself look suspicious or obvious, but nonetheless it made for a good story. I haven’t read any other April Henry novels — I know, I know — where have I been — but now I want to! One of my coworkers today said, “Something terrible always happens to a kid in all of her books!” So now I’m curious.

Read if you like: suspense, crime, murder, mystery

Awards and Honors:

  • The ILA (International Literacy Association’s) Choice List
  • Edgar Award finalist
  • Anthony Award finalist
  • South Dakota high school award finalist
  • The Texas Lone Star reading list
  • The Banks Street Best Books list
  • Winner, Oregon Spirit Book Award
  • Best books of 2016 by Multnomah County Library.

Author Info:

April Henry is a New York Times-bestselling author of 21 mysteries for teens and adults. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Bibliographic Citation:
Smy, P. (2017). Thornhill. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 978-1626726543.

thornhill

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Thornhill tells the story of two girls, Mary and Ella, in two different times. Their stories merge as Ella unravels the story of Thornhill’s dark past.

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I honestly thought this book was weird. I like the way it was written though with Mary’s story told in journal entries and Ella’s told in pictures. However, I didn’t really like it. It was definitely suspenseful and hard to put down, but it was sad and isolating and left me with questions.

I’m not really sure what the point is of this book. Sure it talks about bullying and that’s such a buzzword these days, but its a pretty dark story line for the intended audience. I don’t really know what the author expected the reader to take away from this? I honestly don’t even know what the point was of this book. The format is pretty much it’s only redeeming quality. If you like suspense, check it out. It’s a quick read and you’ll be done in no time. You’ll also be glad you were done in no time. It’s a no go for me, to be frank. It’s a one or two star book in my opinion.