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.

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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.

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.

 

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Bibliographic Citation:
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. (2015). Ruby on the Outside. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1442485044.

ruby-on-the-outside-9781442485044_hrPlot Summary:
A young girl named Ruby copes with life after her mother’s incarceration. She doesn’t quite know what happened that landed her mom in prison, and she doesn’t really remember much of her life before her mother left either. She struggles with making friends and is embarrassed about her nontraditional family life, until she meets a new girl in her neighborhood that changes everything.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Ruby on the Outside is a short, and easy read. I was immediately drawn to this book because someone very close to me was previously incarcerated. I wanted to see it from the child’s point of view and see if I could learn something from it. The story is told by Ruby Danes who lives with Matoo, her mom’s older sister. This story did have a happy ending, but I didn’t feel like it was cliché or predictable. For a little while I thought the story might be heading in a direction that seemed too coincidental to be believeable, but it ended up working out differently. I love contemporary, realistic fiction and I especially like things in stories that make it identifable and can really help you narrow in on a time frame. Ruby and the other girls in the story talk about iPhones, texting, and Demi Lovato posters which really makes you think it could be happening right now. This story felt like a memoir to me. Like I was actually reading the inner most thoughts of a young girl. It was lovely.

Awards and Honors:

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children’s Book Council)
  • IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List Starred Intermediate Title
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association’s Reading List

Author Info:

Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of 13 books, all of which are at least partially inspired by her life. Nora and her work have been recognized numerous times. She was the recipient of the Cuffie Award from Publishers Weekly for Most Promising New Author for her book What Every Girl (except me) Knows. Her novel Anything But Typical won the American Library Association’s (ALA) Schneider Family Award in 2010.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Bibliographic Citation:
Schmidt, Gary D. (2015). Orbiting Jupiter. New York, NY: Clarion Books. ISBN 978-0544462229.

jupiter

Image from Amazon.com

Plot Summary:
Orbiting Jupiter tells story of Joseph, a young, troubled teenage father, who has never seen his daughter. After being placed with a foster family he learns what he’ll do for the people he cares about and what it really means to be a family.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Orbiting Jupiter is a short, easy read that will move you to tears. This book was recommended to me because it is sad and it definitely delivers the emotions. The story is told by Jack, Joseph’s foster brother and he is the perfect narrator because he roots for him from day one. As I’ve mentioned before, literature for children and young adults tends to always have a happy ending, this story does too — which I like — but it felt very predictable to me. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it ends the way you probably think it will once you start reading. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, but it is what it is. I’ll recommend this book to my students who are specifically seeking out a book that will make them cry.

Awards and Honors:
Capitol Choices 2016
Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2015, Middle Grade
Booklist Best Young Adult Books of 2015
ALA Notable Books for Children 2016, Older Readers
VOYA’s Perfect Tens 2015; 2016 Winner, Notable Books for a Global Society
CCBC Choices 2016, Fiction for Young Adults
2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Fiction
ILA Young Adults’ Choices, 2016 Reading List

Author Info:

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of more than 15 books and the recipient of several awards. His book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys won both a Newbery Honor Award and a Printz Honor in 2005.  Additionally, in 2008 his book The Wednesday Wars was also a Newbery Honor Award winner.

 

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