All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

An absolute must-read!

An absolute must-read!

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.

Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones

A school assignment turns deadly!

Best friends, Cam and Blair, are making a podcast about the twenty-year-old cold case of Clarissa Campbell, who’s been missing since the night of a senior graduation party in the local woods of Oreville, Washington in 1999. Clarissa was a popular cheerleader dating a popular football player and her life seemed perfect to outsiders. Mr. Park, journalism teacher, has assigned a project to his students and that’s why Cam came up with the cold case podcast idea. Blair and Cam are dealing with their own personal struggles but become devoted to figuring out Clarissa’s story. They soon realize they’re in over their heads and that they’re in danger themselves.
5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: The story is so interesting that I didn’t want to put the book down. Overly political statements are a bit confusing when Cam’s friend Sophie blurts them out. I enjoyed the character development throughout the story.
Mature Content: PG-13 for mention of sexual assault on a high school student by the teacher, off page sex, nondescript brief kissing, underage drinking and underage drinking and driving undescribed.
Language: R for 51 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for bloody gunshot wound, and purposely run off the road by another vehicle.
Ethnicity: mixed and includes Black, Mexican American, Korean American, white, and Filipino.

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

School mystery!

At Urban Promise Prep school, strict rules keep the students in line, even to the point of harassment. Donations are given to the boys’ school in large amounts but students are told no when they ask for help with extracurricular activity funding. On a day when Principal Moore sent three teens to detention, he ends up being fatally shot and those three young men are blamed. Trey, J.B., and Ramon have to work together to clear their names. They also need help from others to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery and the story behind it. I enjoyed how the suspense built throughout the story. The alternating narrative made the book more interesting.
Mature content: PG-13 for implied sex
Language: R for 110 swears and 12 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for fatal shooting with description of blood when finding the victim.
Ethnicity: mixed-white, Black, Mexican-American

Some Kind of Hate by Sarah Darer Littman

Insider’s view of hate crimes!

Declan hurts his shoulder by climbing where there’s a “no climbing” sign and it takes his future away. He needs surgery and physical therapy to heal and in the meantime he has an angry attitude. He pushes his friends away and joins a hate group that promotes propaganda and conspiracy theories about cultures that aren’t predominantly white, focusing especially on Jewish people. He’s happily blaming others for his problems and being fed propaganda by his “new friends” and he’s taking it too far by willingly participating in hate crimes. When Declan’s lifelong friend is threatened, he has to make the choice to harm or protect.

Likes/dislikes: Declan was whiny and ungrateful even though the accident was because he made the choice to do something negligent. I enjoyed the history class discussion about different cultures and evaluating online sources. The author approached hate groups from an insider’s perspective from both sides.
Mature content: G for nondescriptive kissing
Violence: PG for undescribed phone threats from a hate group, vandalism, bomb threat.
Language: PG for 6 swears and no f-bombs.
Ethnicity: mixed

A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy by Jeff Bishop

Quirks, romance, and high school antics alongside heartbreak and tragedy!

Cam is still devastated and heartbroken from Allison (Ally) breaking up with him months ago. Now he’s worried she won’t come out of the coma that was the result of a car accident she was in. He’s been injured during sports so he’s out of commission and is prescribed medication for the pain. He starts his pain meds and soon sees Ally. She talks to him. He thinks he must be hallucinating. The conversations began to occur frequently and Ally becomes more real and can physically move things. Cameron’s personality and sense of humor made me laugh. He’s endearing and learns a lot about himself through his hallucinatory conversations with Ally. I enjoyed reading this young adult realistic fiction story full of quirks, romance, and high school antics that also deals with more serious issues like heartbreak and tragedy, 5 stars!

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

Thoroughly entertaining!

Em wakes up on Valentine’s Day excited to celebrate with her boyfriend Josh. Her day goes horribly in so many ways that she’s relieved to have it end but she wakes up the next morning and it’s Valentine’s Day all over again. This happens several times and she finally decides to not care about anything and has a great day doing whatever she feels like. She pulls her chemistry lab partner along for the day and they have such a great time that she doesn’t want this Valentine’s Day to end. When she wakes up the next morning expecting to have to relive another Valentine’s Day, she has a lot of repercussions to deal with! 5 stars for a thoroughly entertaining story!

The Headmaster’s List by Melissa de la Cruz

Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance!

Spencer wakes up in the hospital after being injured in a car crash that involved her and three other students from Armstrong but she only remembers a few details. One of the students, Chris, died in the crash and another passenger, Tabby, won’t talk to Spencer but only glares at her. Ethan was driving and speeding and says he tried to brake but the car wouldn’t stop and they hit a tree. Ethan is on house arrest, Tabby seems fine but angry, Chris died and Spencer has broken some bones and has stitches from her jaw to her cheekbone. Jackson, Ethan’s best friend, helps Spencer get around and with her schoolwork, as well as helping her piece the details from the night of the accident together because she’s extremely frustrated that she can’t remember. The more she digs into the details, the more in danger she becomes.
Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I like the intense, poetic opening that reveals the story. I like Spencer’s strength and integrity and Jackson’s personality. I enjoyed figuring out the mystery and how a mental health therapy dog helped a trauma victim.
Matue content: PG-13 for prescription drug addiction, drinking, vaping
Language: PG-13 for 24 swears and 5 f-bombs
Violence: PG for brakes being cut to cause an accident, hit and run, being held at gunpoint and being hit in the head with a gun.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

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

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

Talk Santa To Me by Linda Urban

A cutesy Christmas story!

Francie helps her family with their Christmas business and all of the ups and downs that go with it. She’s trying to overcome her horrible, mistaken kiss and outlive the teasing that’s occurred ever since the boy shared the details with his friends. He told everyone it was like kissing a stick. A few people have offered ways to overcome the bad kissing problem and only one person truly helps her, and helps her without judgment, by kissing her and offering sincere and honest critiques. Once that’s over, Francie gains some confidence and is able to go after her crush. A cutesy Christmas story, 3 stars!

Language Content: PG for three uses of the word dang
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, kissing
Violence: none
Ethnicity: mixed
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mixed ethnicities, the cute Christmas setting and the light humor. I didn’t like the length of time it took for the romance parts to appear in the book. I enjoy the service that the Christmas interns give by offering to buy books for a girl who only wants to finish reading Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, since the copy she had didn’t have the ending; it was missing. That’s her request in the letter she wrote to Santa.

Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne

A fun mystery!

The main character’s mom recently passed away and now Cecilia is moving into her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother, Maura, happens to be a famous author and lives in a large home with four floors. Maura has brought fame to the town after writing a fictionalized book about the murder of a classmate that occurred during homecoming when she was in high school. Maura continues to write mysteries and her fandom holds yearly conventions in town. Cecilia makes friends and ends up on the sidelines of their drama. Then she finds the body of another homecoming murder victim and it’s eerily similar to the murder all those years ago. She throws herself into trying to discover the killer as a way to distract herself from losing her mother. She ends up in the middle of trouble and has to fight for her life. A fun mystery, 4 stars!

Language: R for 139 swears and 101 f-bombs
Violence: PG-13 for Bodies found in school swimming pool. Strangulation mentioned. Serial killer in community. Premeditated murder. Punching.
Mature content: PG-13 for sex mentioned, no details, drug use mentioned.
LGBT content: bi mentioned, lesbian mentioned
Likes/dislikes: The swearing was too much. The main character, Cecilia, is wishy washy with her new friends. She expects them to immediately divulge their secrets to her because she wants to know but she’s completely disregarding their rights to privacy and gets upset if they ask her questions about her life. I was enthralled by the two mysteries, past and present, and wanted Cecilia to expose the twisted actions of the townspeople.
Ethnicity: white, brown, Filipino, Black