Category Archives: High School

Full Ride

fullrideby Margaret Peterson Haddix

reviewed by Karina, Teen Advisory Board

From the moment this book starts it firmly attaches to your heart. It pulls at your heart strings every step of the way, through every wittingly titled chapter, through every dramatic sentence, through every span of drama. Full ride is truly a novel worth throwing away two or so hours of your life on. This story starts out in Virginia with our main character Becca. She and her mother have been in hiding for years and they want to escape the pain. The pain of what? Of her father’s many crimes putting them all in danger of Excellerand, a highly powerful corporation like Google. Becca never gets to see or hear from her father unless their malicious, power hungry lawyer gets involved. Becca and her mother flee to Deskins, Ohio where they can start anew, but even by moving Becca can’t achieve the one goal she has. All she wants is to go to college, but with her predicament she can’t…until she finds a scholarship.It’s a full ride scholarship and all of Becca’s friends want it too. It’s called the Whitney Court scholarship…

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Filed under college, Coming of Age, Family, High School, Mystery, Young Adult Fiction

Scrawl

By Mark Shulman

Published by Roaring Book Press

Copyright © 2010

Is there any way to reach a bully? Well I guess that depends why the bully is a bully.

Tod Munn is a bully. He’s the kid that intimidates you until you give up your lunch money. Unfortunately somebody else is horning in on his territory, so by the time Munn gets to his usual prey their pockets are empty. This isn’t sitting well with Tod and his “droogs”, so they are going to have to do something drastic. This time they get caught, but instead of expulsion the school counselor has a different plan. She sentences Tod to a month of detention with her, where he is to write in a journal every day. Tod might actually prefer to be with his friends who get assigned to outside clean up duty, at least then he could keep tabs on their mutinous ways.

The reader gets to view this story through the pages of Tod Munn’s detention journal. We slowly learn what landed Tod in detention and what his motivations are for bullying others. What we learn is that Tod is very smart, and even talented, but he is from the wrong side of the tracks trying to survive poverty and a bad family life. What we eventually learn is that some kids bully to survive, and some bully because their just mean. While neither path should be condoned the reader will come away with some empathy for Todd, because in addition to his other problems he is also being bullied just not in the straight up, physical, intimidating way that he bullies.

I love books that make me question my perception. Like most other people, I had been bullied a little bit when I was in school, and so I hate bullies. I root against them; I want them to get what they deserve. The assumption is that bullies do what they do because they are mean and horrible people.

 Mark Shulman tells us a story from the bully’s perspective though, and he helps us to see that it is completely conceivable that some kids bully as a survival mechanism. Again, it doesn’t make it right, but this story actually made me feel for the bully protagonist. So, now instead of saying – I hate bullies, I’m more likely to say – I hate bullying.

“Scrawl” is one of those stories that you know is good because you get so invested in the character that you want to know what he goes on to do when there are no more words for you to read. Tod is a character that many teens will be able to relate to whether they are a bully or a victim of a bully, and I can see this book as a great conversation starter.

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Filed under Abuse/Bullying, Family, High School, Young Adult Fiction

Perpetual Check

By Rich Wallace

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright © 2009

“Two brothers. One championship.” One really annoying dad.

Zeke and Randy are brothers. Zeke is a senior and Randy is a freshman. Both play chess and are playing in a regional tournament in Scranton, Pennsylvania with the hopes of winning a $1,000 scholarship and an invite to the state tournament. Randy is easy going and friendly and Zeke is a bit of a jerk. Although these boys are very different from one another and don’t generally get along, It is at this tournament that they both reach their breaking point with their meddling father.

Not too long ago I read “One Good Punch” which was set in Scranton, PA as well, and featured a teen track star with a problem. Now reading “Perpetual Check”, I’m beginning to see that Rich Wallace really has a knack for writing quick reading sports dramas.

I really appreciated how in just 112 pages he takes us into the youth chess world, introduces us to a dysfunctional family, and presents us with signs of a resolution to sibling rivalry and parental interference. It isn’t burdened down with chess match details he just provides enough so that the novice and the experienced player get the picture. In addition, the resolution does not feel forced or contrived. While he occasionally gives us a glimpse into the past of these characters, Wallace mainly just gives us a day in the life of these two characters, and it just happens to be the day that they both come together and have had enough. Teens 13 and up will really be able to relate to this characters, and it may just spark their interest in the game of chess.

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Filed under Family, High School, Sports, Strong Sense of Place, Young Adult Fiction

The Unidentified

By Rae Mariz

Published by Balzer + Bray

Copyright © 2010

What if Coke, Revlon, Taco Bell, and Apple ran the school systems? Wait don’t they already? Okay, what if they had complete control because they provide all the funding? It’s an extremely interesting question and “Unidentified” gives us a picture of it that eerily isn’t too far from what the reality would be.

15 year old “Kid” goes to school in the Game. The Game is an old mall that was converted into a high school which is run and funded by corporate sponsors. It is called “The Game” because instead of boring lecture like classes, students learn by playing games, completing searches, or watching movies. There is a price for having this much fun though, the corporate sponsors monitor the students by way of video cameras and keep track of their social networking pages in order to conduct market research. Students who prove that they are “trend spotters” can end up being “branded” or personally sponsored by companies and receive serious loot.

Kid is low-profile, she doesn’t much care if she was branded or not. She just likes hanging out and making music with her friends, Ari and Mikey. When Kid witnesses a slightly scary and realistic looking anti-corporate prank perpetrated by the “Unidentified”, her curiosity is stirred and she needs to know who they are and what the prank was supposed to mean. Her quasi-detective work leads her into a game of deception and backstabbing and she isn’t quite sure who to trust. Should she trust her friends, the corporations, or the Unidentified? The answer will definitely surprise you.

“The Unidentified” is a riveting story of teenage angst coupled, corporate greed, social networking, and suspense. I love this book because it is a pretty accurate look at the youth of today where social networking and having the right brands are all important. To me it is uncanny how close Mariz has gotten to what could happen. I mean, even though it is a work of fiction, it would not surprise me to see this happen to our educational system in the near future. Children and teens are already exploited by greedy corporations and media companies; a complete take over are the obvious next step. In addition, the Mariz describes the inevitable backlash and the fight for a personal identity and private life.

There is some mild language and some rather close euphemisms to beware of in this book so I would probably recommend it for youth ages 13 and up.

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Filed under Dystopian Future, High School, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Stoner & Spaz

By Ron Koertge

Published by Candlewick Press

Copyright © 2002

The physically disabled and the mentally disabled meet and the fireworks fly in a book which is aiming a little too low for a suitable audience.

16 year-old Benjamin, the Spaz, has CP (Cerebral Palsy). He lives in the cocoon of his grandmother’s house studying old movies and feeling sorry for himself. One night at the Rialto Theater he runs into a classmate, colleen, a tough as nails Stoner, who bums a couple of bucks off of him. Ben knows he is being used, and he knows Colleen is bad news, but it has been so long since anyway has talked to him the way she does that he can’t help but feel drawn to her.  Each of them end up giving the other friendship and the listening ear that they desperately need. It is Ben who, trying to harness his passion for film, will learn how tough he really is.

“Stoner & Spaz” is a modern romantic tragedy for the teen set. What a preppy teen with a disability could have in common with the drug addicted girlfriend of a high school thug is hard to imagine, but breaking down stereotypes is very much part of what Koertge is trying to do in this book. He puts his storytelling ability and his knack for smart and realistic dialogue on display.

That being said, it is his realism that keeps me from recommending this book highly. This book is supposed to be aimed at teens 14-17, but the profanity and sexual overtones make this a book more suited for adults or at the very least teens 17 and up. I thoroughly believe that good fiction can help youths cope with life, so there are many teens that may be able to connect with the characters and situations in this book, but I don’t know that I would recommend this book for all teens.

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Filed under Addiction, Disease/Cancer, Drugs, Family, High School, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

I AM NUMBER FOUR

By Pittacus Lore

Published by Harper

Copyright © 2010

Lorien was a peaceful and progressive planet. Hundreds of years ago the Loriens were faced with the choice of changing the way they treated their environment or face eventual extinction. They decided to change, and their planet healed. Lorien decided to bless some of its people with special powers which would enable them to continue protecting their planet, and so they did. They protected it right down to the day that the Mogadorians invaded in large number with soldiers and giant beasts.

The Mogadorians faced the same decision of saving their planet and decided to use it up and then take over another thriving planet. The Loriens fought valiantly but they were caught by surprised and were outnumbered. However, they did have a contingency plan. They rounded up nine children of the Guarde and put them on a ship bound for earth to await the day that they could return and restore Lorien to its former beauty. The Lorien elders knew that the Mogadorians would try to track down these children and kill them before they developed their powers, so they were given charms that would protect them. The elders could not make them invincible but they could slow down the Mogadorian trackers; they made it so that the children each had a number and they could only be killed in numerical order.

John Smith (a.k.a. Daniel Jones, a.k.a. …) has been on the run for the last 10 years. He and his guardian try to keep a low profile so they don’t have to move so often, but they have been moving nearly every 6 months. The Mogadorians have caught up with numbers one, two, and three. They are now coming after him; he is number four. The Mogadorians are getting more frantic now though, because John is now 15 and he is starting to get his powers. The time to stand up and fight is close.

“I am Number four” is a wildly exciting teen Sci-Fi/Romance novel. When you become John you feel the anxiousness that he feels. He is constantly looking over his shoulders and thinking ever so slowly about his actions. You can feel the pent up frustration when he becomes the target of the school bully. He knows he can end the harassment quickly, but not without having to move again. The romance, while it slows the book down a little, never gets too sappy and actually helps with the drama since he is interested in the ex-girlfriend of the aforementioned bully. In addition, the tension and suspense just build as you continue to wonder when and where the Mogadorians are going to catch up to John.  When they do finally catch up the action does not disappoint with glowing swords, corkscrew daggers, laser blasters, giant man eating animals, and 9 feet tall Mogadorian soldiers. It really seems like more than John can overcome by himself. Fortunately he won’t have to.

This book is awesome! It kind of reminds you of Superman except John is not unique; there are now five others like him out there. I don’t want to give too much away, but you are also going to love Bernie Kosar in this book. That’s all I’m saying.  I am definitely ready for book two in the series “The Power of Six.” (Age 13 and up)

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Filed under Abuse/Bullying, High School, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Split Image

By Mel Glenn

Published by Harper Collins

Copyright © 2000

Laura Li is a conundrum. Everyone thinks they know her but nobody does. She really doesn’t even know herself. Laura is the child of Chinese immigrants who came to America for greater freedom and prosperity. Her father used that prosperity to become a slave to his job, and her mother only really left China physically her heart is still tied to her homeland. Laura’s father has little time for her, and her mother smothers her with her outmoded Chinese expectations. What she wants more than anything is love, affection, and acceptance from her parents. Laura bottles up her problems and puts on a calm and slightly aloof exterior, but the smooth surface waters only belie the turbulent seas beneath.

Mel Glenn has written a dramatic multicultural story of love, expectation, misjudgment, and self-destruction. By way of poetry and perspective Glenn shows us the difference between what people see and think and what really is. This story is thought provoking on various levels, and you come away with the distinct reminder that you really don’t know people as well as you think you do based merely on brief and passing interactions.

Judged merely as a story “Split Image” is original and special in the way that the story is told from so many different directions and in so many different tongues. I think this is an important book for young adults and their parents to read as conduit to meaningful discussion.

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Filed under Abuse/Bullying, Cultural, Drugs, High School, Poetry, Poetry, Psychological, Suicide, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Non-Fiction