Friday, April 11, 2014

The Morgue and Me, by John C. Ford

The Morgue and Me, by John C. Ford, has such an interesting plot and cover that I know several of my students will want to try it out. I already had a few students say they wanted to read it just based on the is a really cool cover!

Main character Christopher lives in small-town Petoskey, Michigan, and is trying to save money for college. Instead of taking a typical employment route, he decides to work part-time as a janitor at the local morgue, under slightly-eccentric Medical Examiner Dr. Mobley. After a short time at the morgue, Christopher discovers that something must be awfully amiss when he witnesses Dr. Mobley falsify a death certificate. He rules the death a suicide, but Christopher knows that the multiple gun wounds the chest can simply NOT be the result of a suicide - it's murder. So, he sets out to find the truth about this supposed nobody's death and set the record straight. Along the way, Christopher learns a lot about his town, his friends, and politics - sometimes more than he'd like to know. Christopher vows to determine the true story behind the death of this mystery man, no matter what it takes.

I loved Ford's characters and the way he developed them, although the strange relationship between Christopher and the reporter he begins to work with frustrated me throughout the entire novel. It did keep me guessing constantly, which I like in a mystery - I never felt like I could predict the outcome, which is fun.
There was some strong language and hints at sex, so I'd recommend this for more mature YA readers. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Full Ride, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I must admit that despite her wild popularity among my students (they love Among the Hidden), I've never read anything by Margaret Peterson Haddix before. Full Ride was my first venture into her writing. I loved her writing style and her characters, but there were some parts of the plot that just bothered me.

Full Ride is about Becca Jones, who is unfortunately paying for the crimes of her father. Becca's dad is in jail for extortion, and he is famously quoted for providing paying for his daughter's college tuition as a major motivator behind his crimes. After his arrest and imprisonment, Becca and her mother have to leave their hometown of Atlanta, because there are threats against them and they can't manage to live them anymore. So, they fled to Deskins, Ohio, just in time for Becca to start out her freshman year. Becca goes through high school in self-imposed isolation, not letting herself get close to anyone in fear that her mother's and her true identities might be found out. For the three years, Becca and her mother have been advised by her father's attorney, Mr. Trumbull. But when Becca starts applying for colleges, she realizes that Mr. Trumbull might not have her best interests at heart. So, she does the unthinkable, and goes to visit her father in prison. He's able to shed light on Mr. Trumbull's true character, and Becca becomes determined to bring him to justice.

While I did really enjoy Full Ride, there were certain parts that frustrated me. I couldn't quite figure out how to feel about Becca's dad, or how Becca even felt about him. I'd imagine, though, if your dad did something like hers, you'd feel uncertain, too. So maybe this was intentional. Additionally, I felt like some of the interaction with Mr. Trumbull was just too coincidental.

Also Try: Blood Wounds, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Boy Nobody, by Allen Zadoff

Nobody knows his real name, he lives alone, he moves around a lot, and is smarter than most people you meet in a year. And he's only 16. Benjamin, as we know him for most of the novel, is "Boy Nobody" - an assassin hired and trained by "The Program", an agency that takes out threats to U.S. Security. Benjamin has worked on several cases, but the case we follow him through in this novel is the highest profile yet - he's assigned to take out the Mayor of New York City, and he's got to get close to the mayor through his gorgeous daughter, Samara. This could spell trouble for Benjamin; part of the reason he's so good at his job is that he never gets close to anyone. Not really anyway.

Benjamin can sense that his "Mother" and "Father" (not his real parents, but his directors in The Program) are worried he won't be able to complete his assignment, but he is determined to see it through, no matter what the cost. He has a sinking feeling that he may be up against something larger than anyone knows, but he can't let those suspicions cloud his judgment. Will he be successful?

I LOVED this book and know that it will really reach some of my more reluctant boy readers - there's lots of action, just a little bit of romance, and the chapters are short, letting the reader move through the book quickly. My students love books with short chapters. There was one part of the book I didn't like though. There's some indication that Ben's real parents might still be alive, but it's never really cleared up. I wish I knew that part of the story. In looking at Allen Zadoff's website, it looks like Boy Nobody's story will continue in a series - I can't wait! The next book is called I Am The Mission, and is due out in June.

Here's a trailer for the book:

Also Try: Hero, by Mike Lupica

Monday, March 31, 2014

This is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith

This is What Happy Looks Like follows the unfolding love story of two teenagers, Ellie and Graham. Their story is atypical though, because it begins accidentally when Graham sends an email to the wrong person. Ellie is the unintended received, and they strike up a conversation. They don't know anything about each other really, but before long feel more connected to each other than they do to anyone else. 

Given that Graham's an up-and-coming movie star, it's no surprise that he bites at the chance to film his next big job in Ellie's hometown in Maine. The problem is that Ellie has no idea the guy she's been spilling her guts to is THE Graham Larkin. On top of that, while Ellie's been more honest with Graham than she has been with anyone else, there's still a part of her past that she hasn't shared with anyone. It involves her father, and it makes a relationship with a high-profile movie star essentially impossible. 

Just like I loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I also love This is What Happy Looks Like because of Smith's witty writing and lovable characters. I can't wait to recommend this book to my female students, especially those who have read all of Sarah Dessen's books and are ready to branch out. 

Also Try: Anything by Sarah Dessen; How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr