Sal 17, lives in Juniper, California with his sick mother and alcoholic father. Sal attends school while trying to help keep the family hotel afloat. Sal and Noor, 18, were best friends until they had a fight months ago and haven’t spoken since. Sal’s mom collapses and needs to be taken to the hospital while Noor happens to be visiting her. Sal’s mother passes away and her last words to Noor were to forgive. Sal and Noor try to mend their friendship but they’re both keeping secrets and trying to persevere through their own harsh situations. When life implodes, they both have to make some tough choices.
Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about Pakistani culture and its languages. The author gives a comprehensive, concise content warning at the beginning of the book and lists resources at the end for help with domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, immigration and refugee rights, children’s defense fund, and women of color. I appreciate how the author portrayed harsh realities to readers in a way that is educational and with empathy but not graphic. This book is a must read. Language: R for 147 swears and 3 f-bombs. Mature Content: PG for brief undescribed kiss, drug dealer selling pills, mention of marijuana (weed), deeper kiss. Violence: PG-13 for child abuse (a push against the wall), bloody face from abuse, kicking ribs, mentions of repressed sexual assault, continued abuse. Ethnicity: Sal and Noor and their family members are Pakistani living in a predominantly white community. There is a Pakistani religious leader and his wife is Black. The Judge is Mexican American and the story contains mixed ethnicity police officers.
Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.
Likes/dislikes: I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other. Mature content: PG-13 Underage drinking, marijuana use Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region) Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend) Violence: PG-13 Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires. Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs
Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I like the following: -The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”. -The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel. -I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist. -I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life. Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading
Eva is Jewish and lives with her parents in Paris during World War II. Her father is captured and sent to a prison camp while Eva and her mother are away from home helping a neighbor. Eva’s father made her promise earlier that she would leave Paris and travel to Switzerland if he was ever captured. Eva convinces her mother to go. They stop in a town close to the border and meet people that are very interested in the documents Eva made for her and her mother so they could get out of Paris. She discovers they’re forgers and resistance helping Jewish children by creating false documents to help them get to Switzerland. The resistance members are impressed with her work and ask for her help. Eva meets another forger, Remy, who is French. He’s not Jewish but he wants to do everything he can to help stop the Germans and their genocide. Eva and Remy improve their techniques and create better documents faster. They help save many children until the group is betrayed by one of their own. Everything is looted or destroyed by German soldiers and most of the resistance members are captured and killed. This is an inspiring story that gives readers perspective to our times and struggles. I enjoyed reading the author’s notes and her acknowledgments and discovering the research she conducted and the nonfiction books she based her characters and their actions on. I’m interested in reading the author’s other books that also deal with World War II and the resistance groups. 5 heartfelt stars!
A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!
Hanneke lives in Holland with her mother and father. She’s a young woman who has lost her boyfriend in the war, who works as the undertaker’s receptionist and also helps the undertaker with black market dealings. Her jobs support her family. On one of her deliveries, an elderly woman confides in Hanneke that she’d been hiding a Jewish teenage girl, in her home, in a secret compartment behind her pantry. The girl is missing and there’s no evidence of how she left the house. The woman pleads for Hanneke to help her find the teenage girl, Mirjam. Hanneke reluctantly agrees to help so she starts searching for any information she can find on Mirjam. As she’s searching, she inadvertently ends up at a resistance group meeting and becomes accidentally involved in a delivery of a Jewish baby, to an adoptive family, after the baby’s family had been detained by the Nazis. Hanneke learns about all of the ways that young adults around her have been helping with the resistance and she sees how selfish she was by keeping to herself and not becoming involved but that changes during her search for Mirjam. The young adults work together to find Mirjam and help everyone they can in this inspiring story of young heroism and perseverance. A wonderful character building historical fiction book, 4 stars!
Addie was going to be forced to marry a widower with young children, so she prayed and sacrificed to any God that would listen. Darkness appeared and made a deal to give her freedom for her soul. Years, decades, then three centuries go by while Darkness visits Addie sporadically. No one remembers her after she leaves their sight. If she sees them again, they reintroduce themselves as if they’ve never seen her before. She’s truly lonely. She also can’t keep possessions or stay in one place long. Every one of her possessions disappears except for a carved wooden ring. She wanders the world for three hundred years, experiencing famine, poverty, cruelty and love. Addie shows great strength as her character grows through her many experiences. A truly unique story of freedom, love and sacrifice, 5 stars!
Elsinore has grown up feeling ugly, unloved, and like she’s a burden to her family. They tell her she’s too tall, not pretty, and sickly. It’s the 1920’s and women tend to be married and have children by the time they’re twenty years old and Elsinore is twenty-five. She wants a change and wants to enjoy life so she cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and buys red silk and creates a flapper dress. She sneaks out one night to go to the speakeasy in town but they won’t let her in and tell her to go home when they realize it’s her. She walks down the street and meets an eighteen-year-old Italian man who wants to have fun. They both admit they’re lonely and see each other a few times to have sex. Rafe calls Elsinore “Els”; she likes the nickname and feels wanted when she’s with him. She ends up with morning sickness and her parents disown her and her father takes her and one packed suitcase to Rafe’s family farm. Elsinore’s father tells Rafe’s parents what’s going on and leaves her there, stating that their family is done with her. Rafe’s parents have saved for him to go to college for a better life but he seems happy to stay on the farm with Els and says that he doesn’t want to go to college anyway. Elsa and Rafe have a girl then a boy. His parents are grateful for Elsa because she’s strong, brave, a hard worker, and a good wife and mother. When the Great Depression hits, Rafe leaves his family behind because he can’t stand staying on the farm anymore. His parents help Elsa raise their grandchildren and they all take care of the farm together. When the land turns into a dust bowl, life gets even worse! The people and animals struggle to survive the heat, the powerful winds, and the extreme dust everywhere. Ant, the youngest grandchild, becomes deathly sick with dust pneumonia and that’s when they decide it’s time to leave the Great Plains behind. When Elsa leaves for California with her children, she’s terrified but sees no other solution. They make it to California but find discrimination and harsh prejudice, horrible working and living conditions, and struggle to survive because of little and sometimes no income. The three do discover strength and loyalty and what they are truly capable of. A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance, 5 stars!
Coin is homeless and alone. She picks pockets to survive. The homeless people are called Nameless and are ignored and treated horribly by everyone else and have no legal rights. The king passes away and the kingdom is awaiting news of who the heir is. The heir is chosen as the king speaks his last words, mentioning a name. Then a tattoo magically appears on the shoulder of the person named. Coin happens to be that person, therefore the heir. She’s with her friend Hat when she gets a stinging pain on her shoulder and the two of them see her tattoo. She’s arrested for forging the tattoo and escapes only to be tested by the king’s daughter. Danger, intrigue, and a new world surround Coin as she adjusts to royal etiquette, duties, and the constant threat to her life. Self-worth, loyalty and friendship bind this unique story together, 4 stars!
Content warning for depictions of eating disorders, suicide, drunk-driving, date rape and drug and alcohol misuse. The creepy cover promises something foreboding ahead. Several teens are mailed a note to meet at the old, abandoned pier where a carnival was burned down decades ago. The notes all ask the same question, “Can you keep a secret?” As they wander around the area, more teens appear, all with a similar note. As one of them walks on the pier, it collapses, trapping them away from the mainland. One of them dies, then another and the rest are scrambling to figure out how to get off of the island. Mysterious, suspenseful, and creepy! The cliffhanger at the end of chapter 17, when the group follows a trail of blood and ends up at the maze of mirrors, is deliciously ominous! This book is on the same line as It by Stephen King, but for young adults. Guilt feeds the dark entity and only one can survive. Creepy fun, 4 stars!