My Bookshelf

Below, you can find brief descriptions and ratings of books I have read.

Always get your parents' permission before reading a novel listed below.  I do not feel any of the titles are objectionable, but others may have more stringent standards than I.


359

Instructions for a Second-hand Heart by  by Tamsyn Murray

Type: YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B+. A family's tragedy turns into a life-saving miracle for a heart-transplant recipient. The recipient, however, wants to know who his donor was, only to end up falling in love with the young man's sister. What could have been a schmaltzy, overly-sentimental novel ended up being sincere and touching...in just the right amounts. The ending, by the way, brought this book's grade up from a B- to a B+.


358

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

Type: YA Mystery (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Millie, the protagonist, and mysterious Chase are trying to figure out who killed not-so-beloved Coach Killdare. Along the way, I was impressed by the unexpected back stories I learned about Millie, Chase, their friends, and especially Coach Killdare. Throw in some good red herrings, and you have a respectable if somewhat predictable (at times) mystery.


357

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Type: YA Mystery (2017)

My grade and thoughts: C+. A mystery-ish novel centered around a secret cult in a small Oklahoma town, this novel never really took off. I liked it enough to finish it, and the ending was creepy. However, a chilling final several sentences does not quite make up for an entire novel of mostly trite ploys.


356

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Type: YA Mystery (2020)

My grade and thoughts: A. This sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Murder did not disappoint. The characters, especially heroine Pip, grew in believable ways. The plot traveled along its sinuous course with red herrings and a bleak yet very satisfying ending. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series: As Good As Dead.


355

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Type: YA Mystery (2019)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. A twisty, full-of-red-herrings mystery, this novel centers on the capstone project of an ambitious yet endearing high school senior who sets out to prove a young man innocent of a murder. What she finds out along the way will surprise and grip even the most reluctant readers. Highly recommended.


354

Jackpot by Nic Stone

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A-. An interesting, engrossing look at how we judge others, this novel traces the development of a relationship between two young protagonists who come from opposite sides of the tracks as they search for the owner of a valuable winning lottery ticket. What they find when they take a look at the side from which they feel alienated is as edifying as it is surprising. I particularly enjoyed the well-drawn characters, who turned out to be the real jackpot in this novel.


353

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Type: YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. As the title character hunts down her younger sister's killer, we learn more and more about who she is and about the terrible past that she has endured. A gripping, engrossing work.


352

In the Middle of the Night by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (1995)

My grade and thoughts: A. A short work whose length belies its impact, this work confimred my admiration for Robert Cormier. Centering on a tragic accident in the past, Cormier uses his opulent skills as a writer to convey the tension and regret that past actions can bring to bear on the present. As is the case with every Cormier novel I've read, and that's almost all of his novels, this one is gripping...and haunting.


351

Jane Anonymous by Laura Faria Stolarz

Type: YA Fiction (2020)

My grade and thoughts: B. Told in alternating "then" and "now" sections, this novel traces the kidnapping and subsequent freeing of the title character. When she escapes, however, several shocking truths are revealed, one of which I was able to intuit before reading it. Overall, it was a worthwhile read even if the plot did seem a bit strained at the end in terms of believability.


350

The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (2001)

My grade and thoughts: A+. A short novel, but one that packs a punch. A twelve-year-old is interrogated for a murder that it seems he committed. That's all I can say other than the ending of the novel went in a haunting, unexpected direction that confirms my respect for Cormier.


349

This Story Is a Lie by Tom Pollock

Type: YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. A thriller with twists, turns, mysteries, and a good ending make this a worthwhile read. The author's character development of the protagonist is admirable in generating tension...and sympathy.


348

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen (Yes, that's how she spells her first name.)

Type: YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: B. Dealing with his own demons, Henry Larsen is advised by his therapist to keep a journal. He does. The result is an endearing, engrossing journey in which the reader gets to know this novel's teenage protagonist.

 


 

347

Robert Cormier: Daring to Disturb the Universe by Patty Campbell

Type: Nonfiction (2011)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. When I began teaching in 1994, I inherited a reading list for the freshman curriculum. This list had been chosen by members of the English department who had departed before I set foot in Elder, but two titles on that list bequeathed to me were books by Robert Cormier: The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese. As a fledgling English teacher, I had no idea who Robert Cormier was. I had no idea that his books had been deemed controversial over the years. I had no idea of the accolades and other awards and recognition this incredibly talented writer had recevied. I became a Cormier fan as I taught The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese for over 15 years. Unfortunately, his novels have proven too distasteful to a vocal minority, so I made the heart-wrenching decision years ago to drop them from the curriculum, knowing that my students would be missing out on analyzing and enjoying the works of a gifted writer but realizing that I was fighting a losing battle in my attempts to keep the titles in the curriculum. Indeed, I was disappointed at doing this because, as Campbell states in this enticing, well-written biography of both Cormier and many of his works, Cormier's novels teach us how to wage war against the "implacable"...whatever form it may take in our lives. That is, Campbell traces how characters in Cormier's novels are up against unyielding forces that make those characters act (or in some cases, remain inert) as they try to navigate life despite the struggles and seemingly insurmountable odds they face. (What an important lesson for teachers to discuss with high school students as they grapple with their growing sense of autonomy and freedom.) Campbell also does an admirable job of highlighting Cormier's peerless style by aptly quoting his beautiful, often poetic turns of phrase as she takes readers through succinct analyses of his major novels and even some minor works. Even though Cormier is not part of my curriculum, my love for this author's works is as strong as it ever was. I've read nine of his works, and after reading Campbell's biography, I'll be seeking out the remaining titles to read and enjoy, especially in light of what I learned by reading Campbell's insights. 


346

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. As I have come to expect from Reynolds, the characters in this book jump to life on the page, and I really enjoyed that. The novel itself, via those characters, focuses on myriad students walking home from the same school, experienceing vastly contrasting journeys along their own separate ways. Interestingly, Reynolds ties the divergent storylines of the various characters' journeys together at the end in a fitting, satisfying way.


345

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Type: YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A. Americana in its purest form, this novel details the fictionalized trials and tribulations of the young author over the course of two rather tumultous yet edifying months in his young life. This novel is right up there with the classic Cheaper by the Dozen in terms of sincerity and the warmhearted feeling it creates. I can see why it won the Newberry Award in 2012.


344

Be Not Far from Me by Mindy McGinnis

Type: YA Fiction (2020)

My grade and thoughts: A. Now THIS is what a survival tale should be. The female protagonist, separated from her friends during nocturnal debauchery in the Smokies ends up utterly lost. However, the novel focuses not so much on her being lost as it does on what that displacement helps her find out about herself. This is a gripping tale of a strong person whose strength allows her to recognize and resolve to improve upon her weaknesses. Absolutely loved it.


343

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

Type: YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: C-. High school seniors and their two adult chaperones embark on a wilderness field trip. They get separated, and then mysterious, murderous acts begin occurring, driving the protagonist to search deep within herself for the mettle to make it out alive. The red herrings were interesting enough, and I'm not sorry I read it. However, the female protagonist is written with so many stereotypical flaws that I felt insulted for her. The ending, by the way, requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief...too much, if you ask me.


342

XL by Scott Brown

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. Will Daughtry is a high school student who stands 4'11" tall. Then, unexpectedly, he hits a massive growth spurt. It was fascinating to see his physical growth mirror the inner growth he undergoes throughout the pages of this fantastic novel.


341

The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B. It's typical Higgins Clark: an intriguing mystery, some red herrings, and a tidy ending. Granted, we're not talking ground-breaking literature; still, mysteries are supposed to offer the reader a fun escape, and Clark's novel does just that.


340

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Type: YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: C+. An automobile accident kills an entire family except for the protagonist, who evidently has an out-of-body experience over the course of a little more than a day, during which this narrative takes place. Remembering her past, contemplating her future, the main character seems caught in an in-between realm of not-life but not-death. The ending is purposefully vague, and I didn't like that. I guess I should have expected as much, however, when I saw on the back cover that there's a sequel titled Where She Went. I am not really interested in finding out her destination, so I won't be reading that installment. The Lovely Bones handles this sort of setup much more adriotly.


339

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

Type: YA Fiction (2020)

My grade and thoughts: A. An excellent novel about muscle dysmorphia and what teen boys struggle with in terms of body image and societal expectations and images of manhood, this book was gripping and enjoyable. I especially liked the ending, which was pitch-perfect and realistically optimistic.


338

I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

Type: YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. High school corruption told from the point of view of a seemingly unreliable female protagonist who is much more than she seems. Gripping and dark; I loved it.


337

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Type: YA Fiction (1968)

My grade and thoughts: C. I was disappointed with this novel. I had heard, over the years of my career, about this novel; however, it did not live up to its good reputation. I wanted to learn more about Mr. Pignati and the two main characters. I do not feel the author went into enough detail about any of these characters' lives, especially at the end. Definitely not a terrible book, but not one that I'd want to read again. There's a sequel, by the way; I'll pass.


336

Lizard by Dennis Covington

Type: YA Fiction (1991)

My grade and thoughts: C+. I'm not necessarily disappointed that I read this book because the protagonist's journey (slightly reminiscent of Huck traveling down the Mississippi) was engrossing. I also liked the way the author tried to tie the protagonist's plight and life to The Tempest. However, I just don't understand how the main character's odd, semi-disfigured appearance really added anything to the plot other than to make him a symbol of Caliban in The Tempest. It was never really explored beyond the surface and therefore seemed gratuitous and artificial. The ending was a nice touch, however; it was believably poignant.


335

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. A fascinating survival tale like no other I have ever read, this novel was well-paced and engrossing. Kudos to the author for creating a teenage female protagonist who, for the most part, breaks the mold of the helpless damsel in distress.


334

Don't Look behind You by Lois Duncan

Type: YA Fiction (1989)

My grade and thoughts: C. As with my other experience of Duncan's prose (Killing Mr. Griffin), this novel was paced well yet utterly predictable. However, I do not feel my time was wasted by reading it because Duncan presents a tense (yet unexplored to any degree) situation in which doing the right thing leads to terrible consequences for those who have done nothing wrong. I would have liked this aspect of the narrative to be explored instead of reading about a whiny protagonist for the first half of the book, at which point she finally realizes she needs to grow up.


333

Remembering the Good Times by Richard Peck

Type: YA Fiction (1985)

My grade and thoughts: B+. This novel tackles a serious topic in a believable, stragihtforward, heartfelt way. I liked best the author's ability to put into words the bittersweet truth that we all long for a feeling of belonging, yet nobody else realizes those hidden longings inside each of us...sometimes until it is too late.

 


 

332

1984 by George Orwell

Type: Fiction (1949)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Unbelievable. It's like Orwell could see 2020 as he wrote. I'll leave it at that and end by averring this novel is frightening in its ability to predict a grim future that, in many ways, we are living. Chilling.


331

The Island by Gary Paulsen

Type: YA Fiction (1988)

My grade and thoughts: A. Wil has just moved away from home and is trying to figure out what his world and the people in it really are, at their core. He finds an island for his meditations, and the novel takes off from there. I know: it sounds corny. However, this light-on-action novel really engrossed me as it traced Wil's striving to understand and learn and grow. Paulsen is to be commended for creating a teenage protagonist who actually thinks and feels and worries and lives like a real teenager.


330

Tunes for Bears to Dance To by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (1992)

My grade and thoughts: A. This novel could really be categorized as a novella, clocking in at just over 100 pages. Still, what it lacks in length it makes up for in meaningful insights. It's a novel that deals with hatred, racism, manipulation, fear, and conscience in a fascinating, harrowing way. As usual, Cormier pulls no punches, instead coosing to present moral dilemmas and allowing his readers to make up their own minds regarding how a character should or should not act; more importantly, such ruminations on the part of this reader made me question how I myself would have acted if I were the protagonist in this story. That was a tough decision. I hope you are not looking for a tidy ending because Cormier never offers those; it's a characteristic of his that I admire. One more issue: I feel bad for Cormier because his titles always seem absolutely ridiculous if one does not take the time to ascertain their origins. This novel's title is an allusion to Flaubert, and it fits perfectly.


329

You Don't Own Me (Under Suspicion #6) by Mary Higgins Clark with Alafair Burke

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2018)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. What more can be said other than this novel fits the mold of previous Clark/Burke collaborations in the Under Suspicion series? It does not promise to be groundbreaking detective fiction, and it is not. However, it is a fun, whirlwind ride through the life of our returning heroine Laurie Moran.


328

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Type: Fiction (2006)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel since you'll read it senior year.*

My grade and thoughts: A. A post-apocalyptic tale, this novel is grim yet engrossing. A sparse narrative thread unexpectedly brought me into the book more fully than I expected. The ending was not what I wanted, but it works perfectly.


327

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (1983)

My grade and thoughts: A. Tackling terminal illness and the human spirit of resilience in this work, Cormier did not disappoint me. The novel offers a moving and insightful analysis of its main character and even some of the ancillary characters as they face insurmountable and unavoidable truths. I feared the novel would offer a bleak ending as I neared the conclusion. Thankfully, Cormier, as I have come to expect, did not offer anything close to a happy, tidy ending; however, he included hope in ways that I did not expect. A moody work that drew me in and kept me interested.


326

The Crazy Horse Electric Game by Chris Crutcher

Type: YA Fiction (1987)

My grade and thoughts: B+. We all have a moment in our lives (more than one, the older you get) that serves as a turning point. This novel centers on one such moment for its protagonist...and the ensuing, surreal turn of events that shapes his immediate and even long-term future. As I'm starting to expect with this author, this is another novel filled with meaningful life lessons, which manage to be included in only slightly stilted ways. However, the plot, character development, and writing style were good enough to keep my interest even if I had to suspend disbelief a bit every now and then.


325

After the First Death by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (1979)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Another intense, gripping work by Cormier, this novel follows the anxiety-ridden hijacking of a school bus by foreign political activists. Aside from a somewhat interesting character study of the substitute bus driver, we never really get beneath the surface of much in this novel, and that's what I was disappointed by. I want to know more about the father/son frame-narrative, but we did not get much from Cormier...at least not as much as I'd like. I still found it intensely interesting and hard to put down because Cormier was able to keep the tension fairly high during the hijacking, which spans almost the entirety of the novel.


324

Now and at the Hour by Robert Cormier

Type: Fiction (1960)

My grade and thoughts: A. An intense, touching character study and meditation on death and dying, this novel traces Alph LeBlanc through the last days of his struggle with terminal cancer. As I have come to expect, Cormier goes for the heart, and he succeeds without being the least bit schmaltzy. The narrative is discursive, but it has a natural progression and was easy to follow and imbibe. Such a poignant novel. By the way, the title, a meaningful allusion to a well-known prayer, is fitting.


323

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. A missing girl seems to be the focus of this novel, and for a large part she is. Then the plot takes a creepy, unexpected turn that leads to an unsettling yet well-done ending.


322

Bladerunner: Scene by Scene by John David Ebert

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B. Enlightening if a bit stilted, Ebert's exploration of the film makes its points clearly and methodically, bringing a new facet to one of my favorite movies.


321

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

Type: YA Fiction (1991)

My grade and thoughts: A. Cormier's writing has always engrossed and bewitched me, and it does so again in this novel. It is fast-paced, chilling, but ultimately hopeful in the resolution of one storyline, at least. Make no mistake: it's Cormier, so it's gritty and real. However, few other authors, YA or otherwise, are able to use words to paint pictures, evoke emotions, and bring characters to life the way Robert Cormier does.


320

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock by David Sterritt

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (1996)

My grade and thoughts: A. What Sterritt achieves in this work is the ability to make the reader want to re-watch the films under discussion. Indeed, the reader will do so in order to experience the insights the author raises and, more importantly, to arrive at one's own new insights...inspired by the author's creative discourse. Films studied in this book are the following:

  • Blackmail,
  • Shadow of a Doubt,
  • The Wrong Man,
  • Vertigo,
  • Psycho,
  • The Birds, and
  • Marnie (albeit quickly, in the epilogue).

319

Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society by Danny Fingeroth

Type: Nonfiction (2004)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Whether or not you are a die-hard superhero fan, this work will resonate with you. The author offers a fun, insightful meditation on why superheroes are such an integral part of our world.


318

Alien (BFI Film Classics) by Roger Lockhurst

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Mr. Lockhurst makes some interesting points about this excellent film, not the least of which regards the cat, a character (for lack of a better word) that I had never considered as having any import regarding the plot. An edifying, well-written account of the film.


317

The Silence of the Lambs (BFI Film Classics) by Yvonne Tasker

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: B. Ms. Tasker really doesn't break much new ground in her analysis of the film. She does, however, offer the reader a new lens or two through which to view this film.


316

Gut Check by Eric Khester

Type: YA fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. I've never played football, so I was worried that this book would lose me. It didn't lose me at all; as a matter of fact, I found it to be really well done. If you've ever been a part of a team, you'll love this book. If you've ever simply strived for a goal, you'll love this book. With striking similarities to Cincinnati's own fanatic devotion to high school football, the characters and setting really work. I enjoyed the way the author wove sports, brotherhood, and even some really good lessons into a believable tapestry.


315

Bladerunner (BFI Film Classics) by Scott Bukatman

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A-. Steeped in elevated, field-specific vocabulary (understandably, since the author is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford), this short yet engrossing treatment of one of my favorite films is well worth the read. Bukatman seems to revel in the ambiguity of the film, leaving his own analysis in the realm of hypothesizing meanings rather than stating definitive interpretations. This seems an apt way of discussing a film whose own questions and issues cannot be settled. 


314

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type: Nonfiction (1990)

My grade and thoughts: A. This book, a detailed account of one of the best movies of all time by my absolute favorite director of all time, is admittedly detailed, but that's what I wanted. It provides a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the iconic film.


313

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Type: Fiction/Mystery (this collection, 1985)

My grade and thoughts: A. Jane Marple remains one of my favorite Christie characters. In this collection, the demure lady's shrewdly perceptive understanding of the cruelties of humans is on full, enthralling display.


312

Every Breath You Take (Under Suspicion #5) by Mary Higgins Clark with Alafair Burke

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2017)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. What can I say? These are like modern-day Agatha Christie stories with a bit less of Christie's awareness of the human mind. That being said, Clark and Burke do an admirable job of building suspense and using red herrings.


311

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Type: Fiction/Drama (mid-1590s)

My grade and thoughts: A+. I had not read this play since about 1997, so as part of a class I took, it brought back many memories of my first time reading it in graduate school. It's light; it's airy. However, if we dig beneath that oh-so-thin veneer, there's a more troubling aspect to this hilarious yet in some ways troubling comedy.


310

Teaching Shakespeare: A Handbook for Teachers by Rex Gibson

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.* (Not that I think anyone would want to read this.)

Type: Nonfiction/Professional Development (1998)

My grade and thoughts: A+. Required reading for a class I took because I wanted to improve my Shakespeare teaching, this book offers practical yet extremely creative methods for bringing Shakespeare to life in the classroom. For years I've wanted to improve my Shakespeare teaching; I think I found a tool to help me do that. 


309

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

Type: YA Fiction/Mystery (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. Billing itself as a Clue mystery (based on the popular board game), this novel is a typical locked-room mystery. The characters were well-developed enough that I could keep them straight as I read. The mystery was pretty much given away with about 40 pages left; I can accept that becasue at that point, it was time to wrap up the current plot and start laying the foundation for the sequel that will surely follow. The red herrings were not quite as good as Agatha Christie's, but that's a pretty high standard to match. I'm interested enough to read part two when it is published.


308

Partners in Crime (a collection of interrelated short stories) by Agatha Christie

Type: Fiction/Mystery (1929)

My grade and thoughts: B. I enjoyed these stories, all of which include the endearing Tommy and Tuppence. And the little surprise at the end of the final story was a heartwarming touch that fit these two characters, a husband and wife, perfectly.


307

The Cinderella Murder (Under Suspicion #2) by Mary Higgins Clark with Alafair Burke

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2014)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. I didn't figure it out until pretty late, but that's the point of such novels. Plenty of red herrings, as usual. It was a fun ride as the cast of recurring characters in this series continued to endear me in this installment.

 


306

The Sleeping Beauty Killer (Under Suspicion #4) by Mary Higgins Clark with Alafair Burke

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2016)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. Fast-paced, pleanty of red herrings, and definitely worth reading.

 


305

All Dressed in White (Under Suspicion #3) by Mary Higgins Clark with Alafair Burke

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2015)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. Another fun, fast-paced mystery. This time around, the plot revolves around a bride-to-be who has gone missing. Did she run off due to cold feet, the desire to live for herself after a cancer scare...or is there some more sinister work afoot? Plenty of red herrings abound. Granted, Ms. Clark isn't writing groundbreaking literature, but her novels rival (yet never quite match) those of Agatha Christie for creative plot twists and the author's knowledge of the human mind.

 


304

The Athena Protocol by Shamim Sarif

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A+. Strong, well-developed female characters and plenty of action are the focus in this tale of spies and justice...a tale that would leave James Bond in the dust, by the way. Really gripping. Really fast-paced. A fun, edifying read.

 


303

Game Over (Mindwar Trilogy #3) by Andrew Klavan

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B. Filled with action and some unexpected twists, this installment provided a satisfying if somewhat predictable ending. Still, it was well worth reading.

 


302

Hostage Run (Mindwar Trilogy #2) by Andrew Klavan

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Even better than part 1, this installment was an incredibly fun and edifying read. The book features action tempered with its characters' strong morl compasses. The cliffhanger ending, by the way, was excellent.

 


301

Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach

Type: YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Gritty yet optimistic, this novel documents the teenage protagonist's struggle to find meaning after the tragic, senseless death of his sister and the resultant damage it caused in his remaining family members' lives...including his own. All this occurs while Isaiah, the main character, also grapples with losing the one thing keeping him tethered to hope: football. Good lessons abound, yet the book did not feel preachy. If athletics is important to you, even for reasons that go beyond merely winning, this book is for you. Even if you are someone who just wants to know that the struggle to fit in and find meaning is universal, this book is for you.

 


300

"The Witness for the Prosecution" and Other Stories by Agatha Christie

Type: Fiction (this collection: 2012; individual stories: 1924-1932 in various periodicals)

My grade and thoughts: A. As is always the case with Agatha Christie's works, these stories pack a punch. They are fast-paced little gems with a red herring or two to be found. An enjoyable read with the last story in the collection featuring the beloved M. Poirot.

 


299

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden

Type: YA Science Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. Confirming my respect for Barry Lyga, this novel centers on a not-too-distant future in which unsavory online comments and activity can lead to real-world justice via the hive, mobs of people who enact legalized punishments for people who have earned a pre-determined number of condemns based on their perceived online transgressions. When high-schooler Cassie posts a tasteless, offensive joke, she finds out what hive justice truly is. A quick-paced, engrossing, edifying book, The Hive is, abovel all else, frightening...because we are almost there.

 


298

I've Got You under My Skin (Under Suspicion #1) by Mary Higgins Clark

Type: Fiction/Mystery (2014)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. My first foray into the world of the renowned (and, as of 1/31/2020, deceased) Ms. Clark, this novel did not disappoint. Plenty of red herrings abound, and the tension throughout the quick-moving plot is palpable. In this work, two murders, one in the past and one in the present, overlap and intertwine in an incredibly fun yet diabolical way. I finally might have found another author to rival Agatha Christie in terms of understanding the human mind and what motivates us to do what we do.

 


297

Mindwar (Mindwar Trilogy #1) by Andrew Klavan

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B+. An injured high school football player is tasked with bringing down a terrorist who has found a way to attack America via the virtual reality world he has created. I had to suspend disbelief at the outset, but this novel actually ended up impressing me enough that I'll be continuing the series. I'm not saying it's on the level of anything written by Neal Shusterman, but it's worth it if you like fast-paced plots that are heavy on action.

 


296

The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A-. Tense and gripping, this novel is about a teenage protagonist coming to terms with who he is after a friend's death...a friend he comes to know better only after said friend's demise. A quick, engrossing, worthwhile read with a snowbound setting, escaped criminals, and some really good lessons, too.

 


295

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2020)

My grade and thoughts: A. The third and final installment in the Truly, Devious trilogy, this was an impressive ending to the series. With meaningful references to The Great Gatsby and And Then There Were None, the novel enthralled me. I highly recommend the entire trilogy.

 


294

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A. Set in rural Idaho near the Bitterroot Mountains, the novel depicts the high-school-age protagonist trying to sort out his own life while attempting to find his grandfather, a man with an illicit past who is wanted by the authorities. Looking after his young cousin, dealing with the return of his erstwhile imprisoned older brother, coming to grips with his feelings about two special girls in his life, trying to plan his future, Little (the protagonist) takes the reader on an engrossing journey through poverty, dejection, and hope...all of which lead to a shocking secret that I didn't see coming.

 


293

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B. As I have come to expect from this author, I was treated to characters who were well-drawn and engaging. I was not sure where the plot was leading, but I loved the journey...and learned on the way. The ultimate destination of the plot, by the way, felt right and good.

 


292

Day Zero by Kelly DeVos

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B-. A tense plot featuring espionage and set in the not-too-distant dystopian future will keep you interested. The political overtones were off-putting and often over-emphasized, running the risk of alienating some readers who don't need condescending claptrap from an opinionated YA author. Still, I'm considering reading the sequel when it's released later this year.

 


291

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (this collection: 2012; the original stories: 1933 in various periodicals)

My grade and thoughts: B+. A short story collection featuring a character not found in Agatha Christie's novels, these stories offer the typical Christie plot twists, red herrings, humor, and grim awareness of human psychology found in her novels. Parker Pyne offers, via an ad he constantly runs in the paper, to amend whatever it is that has beset his motley assortment of clients. Therefore, those who seek his services are desperate for help and feel hopeless. This is an interesting collection even though it doesn't match the engrossing allure of Christie's full-length novels, but no short story can match a novel.

 


290

Ride On by Gwen Cole

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B-. This is really a Western masquerading (or mislabeled) as science fiction. Granted, it's set in a dystopian future where humankind has apparently savaged Earth to the point that it resembles a barren post-nuclear-apocalypse landscape. The setting, however, is incidental. The plot really centers around marginalized outcasts, forcing the reader to vicariously experience the struggle of survival when others and the law cannot help us. A good read that kept my interest.

 


288

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: C+. I do not regret reading this book, but it did not overly impress me. Seemingly about a group of kids who meet at "period 8," an extra, self-help bell in their school day, in order to work through life's troubles, the novel went in mostly predictable directions. Characters, however, were endearing and engrossing enough to keep me interested.

 


287

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Type:  YA Fiction/Fantasy (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. I was enthralled by this novel, a work that exemplifies the way magical realism should be done. It's a haunting tale of a seemingly living forest and the girl whose past never seems to catch up to her, or maybe it's the other way around. I'll leave it at that. An absolutely engrossing read. Highly atmospheric, beautifully written.

 


286

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. A surreal story, this plot had me wondering if my choice to read the novel was a good one. Then, I started seeing how the pieces fit together, and they formed a mural that was pretty amazing. A tale of regret and growth, this book offers important, heartfelt lessons in a poignant way that never veers into mawkishness.

 


285

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. The second installment in the Truly Devious series, the mysteries continued taking exciting twists and turns in this novel. I'm eagerly anticipating the publication of part three.

 


284

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (2006)

WARNING: Several references of a sexual nature and several references of a grisly nature.

My grade and thoughts: A. In the 1800s, murders are occurring at the US Military Academy at West Point, and retired detective Landor is sought to solve the mysterious killings. He enlists the help of a young cadet, none other than Edgar Allan Poe, to help him unravel the case. I found this novel to be a book for those who love words and a good mystery. Indeed, Bayard's descriptions and the dialogue spoken by Poe are full of bombast although it is not the least bit off-putting. Still, don't take umbrage at the way the author works in tintinnabulation...or at his BIG surprise twist offered in the last 20 pages and which leads to a heartbreaking (pun intended if you read the book) ending.

 


283

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

Type:  YA Fiction (1998)

My grade and thoughts: A. I frequently investigate graduate programs in English at various universities across the country just to see what is currently studied in my chosen field; as part of my searches, I stumbled across a graduate Shakespeare course which featured this novel as required reading because of the rich historical information it offers. I was pleased with the way the author weaves historical and cultural information of the Elizabethan era into the plot. Plus, the storyline itself was quaintly endearing.

 


282

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. A fascinating mystery that tips its hat to Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and even Dorothy Parker, TD is a novel that is both layered and engrossing due to its well-drawn protagonist, red herrings, and literary allusions. The ending? One heck of a good cliffhanger! I've got part two in this trilogy on the way.

 


281

The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. The final installment in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, The Toll wraps up all storylines from its predecessor, Thunderhead, in a satisfying way. What I really enjoyed most about the 625-page behemoth, however, is the brilliant way Shusterman brings the role of Scythes full circle, tying in a horrific yet completely plausible fail-safe mechanism concocted by the founding Scythes. An amazing end to an amazing trilogy, this is dystopian literature at its finest...even if some transient political overtones were irritating although not off-putting.

 


280

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2004)

My grade and thoughts: B+. A cautionary story about how far we should let our scientific knowledge take us in our pursuit to eradicate pain and suffering, this novel delves into a geneticist with, to put it mildly, questionable ethics. Featuring apt references to Swamp Thing, Frankenstein, and William Blake, I was pleased that Werlin chooses to present both sides of the debate around which the book revolves.

 


279

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. This novel follows the hilarious and revealing journey of high school student Norris Kaplan, a black French Canadian young man who is forced to relocate to Austin, TX, with his mother. Norris realizes that stereotyping is a two-way street. With delightfully three-dimensional characters, this novel is not what you'd expect. Instead of a somber trek through "don't judge others before you get to know them" territory, we get the same message but in a heart-warming, endearing, humorous, yet meaningful package.

 


278

The Lost by Natasha Preston

Type:  YA Thriller/Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. Granted, I did not like the ending, but the roller coaster ride to get to the end was pure fun. This book won't win any awards, but if you want a thrilling plot (think Saw but with no gore) with some interesting and unexpected plot twists, give this book a try.

 


277

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Type:  YA Mystery/Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. Tense, moody, and thrilling, this novel details the shady past of Echo Ridge, where people disappear, die, and live in fear. With one of the most haunting endings I've read in a long time, this mystery kept me enthralled every red-herring-strewn step through its tortuous plot.

 


276

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Type:  YA Fiction (2006)

My grade and thoughts: A. An intense, gripping novel, Werlin's work documents the traumatic unpredictability of an eldest sibling's life as he attempts to keep his two younger sisters safe in the face of a fierce aggressor: their abusive mother. The novel looks at several facets of such abuse in a heartfelt way. I read this in two days, not wanting to stop the terrifying roller coaster ride that the child protagonists endured.

 


275

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+. The story of three orphaned children who never knew their father(s) trying to stay together after the death of their mother, this novel presents characters who have every reason to give up but choose not to. Alternating among humor, deep insights, and the cruelties humans inflict on each other, this work really impressed me. A fun, edifying read!

 


274

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

Type:  YA Science Fiction/Mystery (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B. Shine's novel requires some suspension of disbelief, but if you are willing to acquiesce, the book packs one surprising punch after another. It's the story of Ren, who is chosen to protect an FIP (future important person). As such a chosen one, Ren is trained to be a human weapon. That's all I'll divulge; if you want to know more, give the book a try. Heavy on action, with a protagonist who is a hoot, I enjoyed this fast-paced albeit light read; I think you will, too.

 


273

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Scorza's work definitely scores a 10/10 on the creepiness scale, creating a sepulchral atmosphere that had me turning the pages. The end that those atmospheric pages led to, however, was predictable. It fit the narrative, but predictability is just...well, boring, thus making the end a bit of a let-down.

 

 


272

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A. The second work by Sepetys that I have read, this one traces the horrific treatment of Lithuanian prisoners at the hands of their Russian overlords as Stalin and Hitler fight over the Baltic states. This novel is a testament to both the unthinkable cruelty and enduring kindness of humans. The ending, by the way, was absolutely perfect.

 


271

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

Warning: There are intermittently interspersed scenes of a sexual nature and intermittent uses of foul language.

My grade and thoughts: A. A novel mentioned in Suggested Reading (see below), this book was really well done. It reminds me of The Fault in Our Stars. Yes, it's about teen love. No, it is not schmaltzy. The ending, by the way caught me off guard; I loved it...and that.

 


270

The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. The story of chaos instigated by a high-school suicide, this novel went in directions I did not anticipate--and which I respected and enjoyed. While not focusing on the suicide (indeed, it takes place on page 1 and is mentioned intermittently thereafter), the novel instead centers on others' reactions in the aftermath, leading to vigilante justice with severe consequences.

 


269

Devils Within by S. F. Henson

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B+. A reformed neo-Nazi youth tries to rebuild his life, but can he overcome his indoctrination and others' prejudices against him? A tense plot and well-drawn main character make this a worthwhile read.

 


268

Violent Ends by 17 authors

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A. Seventeen authors (including Neal and Brendan Shusterman) each contributed a chapter to this novel. A school shooting is the centerpiece, but the novel is not about the actual shooting. Instead, each chapter is told from the point of view of other students who were, however tangentially in some cases, connected with the shooter. Fascinating and, at times, hopeful, this ambitious project really works well.

 


268

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2019)

Recommended by Mr. Ceddia's wife. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A+. An amazing work, this novel is set in the time during, and somewhat after, the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain. It's a story of hardship, cruelty, resilience, love, and, ultimately, hope. Highly recommended.

 


267

Last Things by Jacqueline West

Type:  YA Fantasy/Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. A moody, intense, atmospheric, hard-to-put-down work, this novel delves into the question of how we determine what is truly most important in our lives. With characters whose sacrifices almost cause their own demise, it's a story that is well worth reading.

 


266

Suggested Reading by Dave Connis

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

Recommended by Mr. Ceddia's wife. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. A story ostensibly about book banning at a private high school, this novel goes much deeper than I expected. It presents both sides of the book-banning issue, forcing the reader to reconsider prior assumptions and to draw his or her own conclusions about that touchy subject. The main character impressed me as did the ancillary characters. Some of the plot was stereotypical in its depiction of the high school landscape, but that never got in the way of my enjoying this novel. Also, as a teacher who has faced this issue himself, I found that the novel resonated strongly with me, especially when allusions to The Chocolate War, Speak, and The Catcher in the Rye appeared and were given meaning in the context of this particular plot.

 


265

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1)

Type:  YA Fantasy/Fiction (2016)

Recommended by Jacob Ramstetter. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. The first in a quartet of novels, this tale weaves bits of magic, betrayal, and loyalty together, forming a fast-paced, engrossing novel. I'm starting book 2 immediately.

 


264

Every Moment After by Joseph Moldover

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. A tangled, messy, beautiful account of people doing their best to move on after tragedy, this novel documents the survivors of a school shooting during the main characters' first-grade school year. Brimming with irony, the novel was enjoyable if somewhat predictable.

 


263

Island by Patrick Downes

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. A gripping mixture of history, literary allusions, mystery, and magical realism, this novel traces the lives of its shattered characters as they sift through the chaos of death. If you are a fan of tidy, everything-gets-explained endings, you'll be disappointed. However, one way the ending does NOT dissapoint is its knock-out punch that incriminates the reader by proving one of the book's central tenets: every man is an island, no matter how much we don't want to be.

 


262

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B. This is a classic "making lemonade out of lemons" story. However, with its clever wit and well-drawn characters, it was anything but ordinary. An enjoyable read.

 


261

The Chosen by Taran Matharu

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A. The first in a three-part series, this novel mixes history with its gods-at-work-behind-the-scenes storyline, almost creating its own mythology of creation and the past. A fast, fun, curious read, this work has me eagerly anticipating part two. Oh, I got a kick out of the creepy little visitor at the end. Wasn't expecting that!

 


260

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Type:  Nonfiction (2015)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. Turkle's premise rings true: technology's great irony is to connect us while simultaneously distancing us from each other. She offers hope for changing this trend; her hopeful words are hollow to me. We aren't going to give up our devices. Through our refusal, we are indeed choosing to give up one another through lack of empathy and human connection. Frustrating. Disheartening. Frightening.

 


259

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

Type:  YA fiction/mystery (2019)

My grade and thoughts: C. While I don't regret reading this novel, the pacing--slow and tedious at points--had me wishing for the end a bit too often.

 


258

In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine

Type:  Nonfiction (2019)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. A thorough and largely enjoyable account, this work explores some radical yet feasible ways to rethink and reshape teaching and learning...and teachers and learners.

 


257

This Might Hurt a Bit by Doogie Horner

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: A-. A story of grief, this novel portrays its adolescent male protagonist in a thoughtful, realistic way. Even some stereotypical ancillary characters are revealed to be what teenage boys (and everyone else in this world) are: real human beings with real feelings and with real fears. Well done.

 

 

256

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. This is essentially a survival story, so I was not sure I'd really like it. However, unlike other novels of this ilk, I felt I really got to know the young female protagonist. Her insights grew as her chances of survival waned. The ending was very well done even if it came after a plot that grew a smidge tedious at points.

 


255

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Type:  Nonfiction (memoir) (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. Reeling from the tragic, freak death of his two-year-old daughter, Greene put pen to paper in order to write this heartfelt memoir. He manages to help the reader feel and see what such an experience--and, more importantly, the healing that arises from it--entails. Only at several points does it verge on maudlin schmaltziness...or political diatribe, which seemed forced, artificial, and shockingly vitriolic from a father ostensibly learning the limitlessness of his love.

 


254

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: C-. Adolescent relationships take center stage in this novel, but they are handled in a stereotypical way, offering only glimpses of how real and human teens are. The kids I teach are deeper than this novel would have readers believe.

 


253

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. Stereotyping is a double-edged sword, and the characters in this novel learn that the hard way.

 

 


252

Legend by Marie Lu

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. A typical dystopian novel that ended up being not as typical as I first thought it would be. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and vicariously experiencing their struggles, losses, and triumphs.

 


251

Road Tripped by Pete Hautman

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

Warning: Several brief references to sex.

My grade and thoughts: B. The main character grapples with many types of loss in this novel. After a road trip of epic proportions and voluminous conundrums, he ends up finding what he needed to find all along. The ending reminded me of Tom Wingfield's poignant epiphany in The Glass Menagerie, one of my favorite American dramas.

 


250

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B. This novel illustrates our human interrelatedness in a surprising, touching, indelible way. The narrative was completely believable and realistic while at the same time laudable for creating a world that took me far away from my own life...only to teach me a great deal about myself.

There's one line that I feel typifies the entire novel quite well and which resonates with me: "But you have to stop expecting the worst out of life, or believe me, that's just what will happen." So many characters had valid reasons to expect the worst, but their lives prove that expectations rarely play out the way our minds will them to.

 


249

The Rule of Many (The Rule of One #2) by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. Again, the authors' ability to paint a haunting picture of our future resonated with me. The ending, while not what I wanted, definitely worked...and didn't pull any punches.

 


248

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. This novel presents a dystopia that seems like today, and that is what is most frightening. I can imagine (without much effort) the technology and cloning in the novel becoming commonplace in our own world; I just hope the consequences are not as dire as those offered by Hanover.

 


247

The Rule of One (The Rule of One #1) by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2018)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. Presenting a dystopian future in which only one child is allowed per family, this novel is haunting in its ability to realistically portray a future that is, in many ways, our own present. Corrupt government stands at the core of this novel, and I'm curious and excited to see how the narrative progresses in the sequel.

 


246

When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry (a Cincinnati resident!)

Type:  YA Fiction (2019)

My grade and thoughts: B. A crashing satellite is the impetus for the narrative, which ends up offering a sobering, heartfelt examination of just what it means to lose those whom we love. With aspects of science fiction, with a nod to physics, with love at its core, this novel kept my interest and offered a satisfying ending.

 


245

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie (the 35th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1942)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. A relatively unknown gem, this tale relies heavily on Christie's perceptive knowledge of psychology. She puts that knowledge to brilliant use. The ending makes perfect sense and does not feel contrived in the least.

 


244

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Type:  Nonfiction/Education (2006)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Frightened by punctuation? Irritated? Mystified? If so, try this book, a humorous, endearingly readable tome devoted to the tiny, maligned marks that are so crucial to writers. It's not a book of lists and rules; instead, it's a guide to some of the most baffling editing marks that writers deploy. What an enjoyable, edifying read!

 


243

Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie (the 34th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1939)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B+. While this non-Poirot, non-Marple, Non-Tommy and Tuppence novel does not pack quite the same punch as others of its detective-less ilk (for example, ATTWN), it certainly delivers in the psychological realm, offering a fascinating glimpse into character motivation. Allusions abound, and if I'd been more perceptive, I would have picked up on the clues they offered. A fun, creepily atmospheric work.

 


242

Monsters of Men  (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A. An excellent ending to a thrilling trilogy. Well worth the read.

 


241

The Ask and the Answer  (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness

Type:  YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: A. The second installment in this three-part series, AA kept me engrossed with fast pacing, good character development, and even a few twists that I didn't foresee. I'll be starting the final part of the trilogy right away; I'm very curious to see if and how Todd and Viola make it through the chaos that surrounds them.

 


240

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Type:  YA Fiction (1999)

My grade and thoughts: B. Well done.  Very poignant, gritty, and real. The ending, while somewhat too "tidy" not to require some suspension of disbelief, worked for me.

 


239

The Knife of Never Letting Go  (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A. The first in a three-part series, this novel chronicles the journey of Todd Hewitt to become a man in New World, a place suffering from a germ that simultaneously kills all women (supposedly) and allows every man's thoughts (referred to as Noise) to be knowable and audible to other men. Todd slowly comes to realize the his understanding of manhood is at stark odds with that of New World's edicts, and chaos ensues. It's a gripping, fast-paced coming-of-age story that is so good I have the second and third parts on order at the library.

 


238

Words We Don't Say by K. J. Reilly

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. This novel presents an endearing, engrossing picture of PTSD, proving that it does not happen only after war. The ending was realistically hopeful; it worked really well.

 


237

Giants' Bread by Mary Westmacott/Agatha Christie (the 34th Christie novel I've read/the 1st Westmacott)

Type:  Fiction (1930)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. Written under her pseudonym, this novel details the life of Vernon Deyre, a war veteran faced with a harrowing decision, the outcome of which I found shocking yet stark fitting. It's no wonder Agatha Christie can write so many detective mysteries: such an endeavor requires a deep, nuanced understanding of human psychology. GB is anything but a mystery, but it definitely, poignantly, and engrossingly proves that the human mind was terrain that Agatha Christie understood to great depths. To be sure, the giant is genius; we are its bread, its sustenance. We are consumed by it...willingly. 

The correct title, in case you've noticed the discrepancy between the thumbnail and my typing above, features the plural possessive: Giants'.

 


236

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie (the 33rd Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1954)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. A spy thriller along the lines of N or M?, this novel was fast-paced and fun. I loved it...especially the revelations of all the red herrings!

 


235

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2010)

My grade and thoughts: B. A student dies during a school field trip, and the one who solves the crime is the deaf protagonist, Will Halpin. So much more than a mystery, this novel offers mostly three-dimensional characters and a multi-layered plot that gives a heartwarming payoff at the end. Lighthearted with a serious undertone, Berk's work is definitely worth the read. (And yes, the title features an allusion to a popular dinner accoutrement, a reference which highlights Will's endearing sense of humor.)

 


234

250 Hours by Colleen Nelson

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B-. The short, 153-page novel(la?) centers on Jess, a teenage arsonist serving 250 community service hours, and Sara Jean, a young woman who lives in the house that is Jess' service site. As the main characters gradually get to know each other, we learn about the harrowing history of Canada's residential schools and see a heartfelt treatment of indigenous peoples. Most characters veered pretty far from stereotypical teenage characterizations, saving this novel from a grade of C-. I felt this was worth the read, but it left some storylines lamentably underdeveloped.

 


233

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (the 32nd Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1942)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. What I most enjoyed about this novel was Miss Marple. She brings an endearing aspect to cynicism, and her cynicism was in full swing in this novel. The red herrings were plentiful, and the solution was brilliant, making for an excellent mystery. I loved it!

 


232

Evil under the Sun by Agatha Christie (the 31st Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1941)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Hercule Poirot is in excellent form as he uncovers the truth about a strangulation. Taking as its setting an island inspired by Burgh Island, a place near and dear to Christie, this story fits together perfectly, featuring characters who become human enough to be discernible from one another, as is frequently the case with this author's characters. By the way, I fell for a red herring...and loved it!

 


231

They Do It with Mirrors  by Agatha Christie (the 30th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1952)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. A Miss Marple mystery, this novel focuses on illusion versus reality insofar as the crime is an excellent example of stage craft. With allusions to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew, the novel provided me with a journey that was mysterious, illusory, theatrical, and thoroughly engrossing.

 


230

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie (the 29th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1973)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. The last novel Agatha Christie ever wrote, although not the last novel of hers to be published, PoF focuses as much on Tommy and Tuppence Beresford's relationship as it does the central mystery.

Although the sleuthing in PoF isn't as exciting as other T&T novels, it's still razor sharp and tinged with a bit of bittersweetness since this is the last work in which the endearing husband and wife appear. Indeed, Tuppence is incredibly perceptive, and Tommy is as assiduous as they come. Additionally, I loved Hannibal, their dog, and the role he played in adding poignance to a novel that has me missing T&T already.

It's interesting, touching, and sobering to remember that Christie herself, experiencing failing mental acuity as she wrote this work, imbued the novel with similar concerns by means of T&T's working to figure out the mystery as well as their trying to get out of the spy/detective game...albeit unsuccessfully. (Oh, I enjoyed and appreciated Christie's telling us what became of Betty from N or M?)

 


229

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie (the 28th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1936)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. An interesting psychological study in what motivates humans, this novel had me hooked from the beginning. Using as its setting a middle-eastern archaeological dig located in Iraq and based on the author's own travels in the Middle East, the lead archaeologist's wife is murdered, and the only suspects are the members of the archaeological team. That death, however, is not the only one to occur at the fateful site of the dig.

The inclusion of fascinating and appropos allusions to "La Bell Dame Sans Merci," one of my favorite poems by John Keats; a brilliant paraphrasing of lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; a reference to Iago from Shakespeare's Othello; and even a reference to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" made this yet another suspenseful, thought-provoking, and edifying journey with Hercule Poirot at the helm.

Incredibly well done, especially since the solution to one of the novel's central mysteries proves that unilateral thinking often does not get us very far in the pursuit of truth.

   


228

N or M? by Agatha Christie (the 27th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1941)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. If you enjoy spy thrillers, this book will not disappoint. On the brink of WWII, Tommy and Tuppence, in fine form, are on the track of German spies whose identities must be uncovered. To say that this is a brilliant, fast-paced, endearing, and fun work would be an understatement.

In addition to the clues and red herrings, the novel makes multiple references to Hitler due to its wartime setting; as a result, it also broaches fascinating ideas about patriotism and even, via an ancillary character, immigration. Those ideas in a book published in 1941 are still relevant today as our country grapples with similar quandaries, not the least of which is "internal rot," as Christie calls it in her novel.

The clues were given throughout the entire plot, and while I picked up on some of them, I could not trust my surmises, most of which were proven incorrect anyway! It was not until the penultimate chapter's exciting revelations that I was able to see the entire picture.

This novel is right up there with And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The A.B.C. Murders in my list of favorite Agatha Christie novels; it's that good.

 


227

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie (the 26th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1937)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. A middle-eastern setting, allusions to Shakespeare's Hamlet and Cymbeline, and the author's brilliant use of human psychology make this a fascinating story. Excellent pacing added to the fun. I loved it.

 


226

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (the 25th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1939)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. No Marple. No Poirot. No Tommy. No Tuppence. No problem! This is by far one of the author's best works. It's a fascinating study of retribution, redemption, and hoplessness.

 


225

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (the 24th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1920)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Christie's first novel, written on a dare from her sister, is absolutely amazing. Featuring the first appearance of our favorite Belgian, Hercule Poirot, Christie's plot toyed with me and then decimated every single one of my surmises when the brilliant plot was untangled.

As an added bonus, Christie makes use of the psychological defense mechanism known as reaction formation. Although Christie never mentions this term by name in the novel, my studies in psychology, undertaken out of sheer pleasure over the years as I read about and wanted to understand multifarious literary characters' minds and motivations, served me well by allowing me to realize how strongly this mechanism buttresses one of the main strands of the plot.

By the way, I was not forced to suspend even a modicum of disbelief when I found out what was really going on at Styles. Definitely one of my favorites when it comes to Agatha Christie's works. Excellent.

 


224

The Row by J.R. Johansson

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Riley's father awaits execution on death row, but she feels he is innocent. This novel follows the sinuous trail of Riley's life as she tries to ascertain the truth which will confirm her father's innocence...or guilt. Some laudable twists and a well-done ending kept me from labeling it as vapid. Still, Ms. Johansson is no Agatha Christie. Is that an unfair litmus test for me to apply? Maybe, but...

 


223

The Hollow by Agatha Christie (the 23rd Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1946)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Christie is quoted as saying that this novel was "ruined by the introduction of Poirot." He definitely did not play as important or noticeable a role in this mystery as he does in others that I've read, so I can understand why she might say that. "Ruined," however, seems, to me, an unwarranted diatribe about such a fine literary work.

Many people are gathered at a country house, and a murder takes place. The clues and red herrings lead everywhere and nowhere, just like Christie wants them to. Unlike other Christie novels, we are given deep, revealing information about the characters; this is dangerous for a mystery writer because the more the audience knows, the greater the chance the end will be revealed prematurely. Christie did not fall into that trap, instead offering a work that had my head spinning with possibilities but no certainties. Interestingly, I found that the somber, haunting revelation in the final chapter was even more poignant and meaningful than the brilliant revelation of the killer's identity in the penultimate chapter. This, then, is very much a psychological mystery which offers characters who are far more multi-dimensional than those found in many other Christie works.

The inclusion of the first stanza of Tennyson's "Maud" was a brilliant touch, as was the novel's focus on art, the artist, and the illusions that we all create as we sculpt our own existence, day by day, into the unavoidable future.

 


222

Crooked House by Agatha Christie (the 22nd Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1949)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. There's no Poirot or Marple, but Charles Hayward is an able protagonist in this harrowing, haunting, creepy, engrossing work. The grandfather/patriarch of a family has been murdered, and everybody is a suspect. The red herrings were plentiful; the clues were all there. As usual, however, I tore off after the red herrings instead of seeing the truth revealed by the clues. Brilliant. I just don't know how Christie does it. Fans of And Then There Were None will really like this particular title for many reasons, none of which I will divulge.

Allusions:

  • Edgar Degas, particularly mentioning one of his works depicting ballet dancers. This allusion was definitely important; too bad I didn't realize its significance sooner...like before I finished the book.
  • Titian
  • The title itself is an allusion to this nursery rhyme, included in the novel.
  • The King and the Beggar-Maid
  • Shakespeare's Macbeth (Lady Macbeth, in particular)
  • The Biblical characters Jezebel, Judas, and Cain.

Vocabulary Words:

  • amicable
  • foment
  • acquiesce
  • austerity
  • vehemence
  • ignoble
  • surmise
  • culpability
  • quell
  • compunction
  • scrupulous
  • mollify
  • salient
  • chivalry
  • coerce
  • spontaneity
  • odious
  • callous
  • assiduity
  • redress
  • extricate
  • benefactor
  • recapitulate
  • poignant
  • tacit
  • ascribe
  • squeamish
  • disapprobation
  • precipitate (adj.)
  • irresolute
  • obsolete
  • nebulous
  • aversion
  • apathetic
  • stolid
  • irrelevant
  • disparage

 


221

Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie (the 21st Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1972)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. Another Poirot mystery, this novel offers many puzzle pieces and challenges the reader to put them together before the Belgian detective does so. I picked up on several truths that the clues reveal, but Poirot beat me to the punch again; that's what made this such an enjoyable, if melancholy, story.

 


220

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B+. It's difficult to describe what this novel is about since it covers so much territory: family, growth, grief, life, love, change, and regret. Documenting the stories of three women, each with a story that takes place in either the past or the future, the novel progresses to an ending that reminds us of the power and beauty of the gift of life. The characters were exceptionally well drawn.

 


219

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B. With subtle, intriguing magical realism, this novel centers on the main character's attempt to unravel the mysteries of her past. What the novel lacks in action it more than makes up for in a suffocating, sepulchral atmosphere and evocative, quasi-lyrical writing. I found it easy and rewarding to enter these characters' harrowing, haunted world.

 


218

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Just a smidge tedious at certain points, the work was satisfying, overall. Documenting the surreal journey of the main character as he searches for the truth of where he is and how he got there and why he got there, the plot thickens as we gradually uncover the reality of the ghostly setting in which the protagonist finds himself. Fraught with really good life lessons along the way, the narrative impressed...but did not WOW!...me. Definitely worth the time to read, nonetheless.

 


217

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie (the 20th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1940)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. Poirot is at his usual best in determining the truth in this novel that deals with the seeming guilt of one who is truly innocent...perhaps. I was enthralled for the entire novel, which included believable twists and turns that I never anticipated. Also, Christie's allusions, as always, are as edifying as they are nostalgic for this reader/English major.

ALLUSIONS:

VOCABULARY WORDS USED:

  • commiserate
  • expostulate
  • brusque
  • feasible
  • musty
  • guile
  • adroit
  • belligerent
  • mollify
  • implacable
  • unctuous (!)
  • chivalrous
  • negligible

 


216

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

Type:  YA Mystery/Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A-. A horrible bully of a daughter who has been missing for four years suddenly returns, but there is so much more to this twisted story. I was engrossed; I couldn't figure it out until the author wanted me to. The creepy ending was perfect. C.R.E.E.P.Y.

 


215

Dan vs. Nature by Don Calame

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+. The fourth work of Calame's I've read, DvN pleased me on several levels. First, it teaches the lesson of reevaluating priorities even when such a tactic will require opening oneself to others. Also, it features a Sheldon Cooper-esque foil (two, actually) whom I found to be delightfully entertaining. Last, the main character is especially realistic. Of course, the intermittent scatological and bodily function humor might be off-putting, but it was not gratuitous. Above all, any book that portrays a teenage protagonist in a touching, believable moment of difficult growth is worth reading; this novel definitely qualifies.

 


214

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A-. I enjoyed this novel and was not disappointed in the least to have spent my time reading it. The main characters were round and engaging; indeed, I felt bad for Caleb on many occasions. Nevertheless, some of the ancillary characters seemed two-dimensional. This was not a major detriment, but it detracted just a bit from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Still, I was impressed by the new take on the struggle-against-the-odds idea, and I really liked the way the author kept the puppetry motif meaningfully alive throughout the novel.

 


213

Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: B. I definitely liked the book; indeed, the end caught me totally by surprise. However, the characters...most of them...remained two-dimensional, mirroring how the main character sees them throughout the plot. Still, the main character especially came to life in this book; I actually felt sorry for him at many points. Overall, a solid work that will not disappoint readers.

 


212

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (the 19th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1968)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Tommy and Tuppence are an enjoyable duo, and they are in fine form in this novel. Unlike some other Christie novels, this work does not necessarily have red herrings; it's more like a puzzle with brilliant, allusive hints along the way about how its pieces fit together. When those pieces do indeed fit together at the end, the picture they create is horrible and frightening yet completely fitting. A very enjoyable read and one that is not overly complex or bogged down by a voluminous dramatis personae.

Allusions: Macbeth (the title, of course), "Little Red Riding Hood," "Hansel and Gretel," Peer Gynt, and the art of El Greco.

New (to me) Phrases:

 


211

Call the Shots (Swim the Fly #3 of 3) by Don Calame 

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

Warning: Crass humor and content are featured in this novel.

My grade and thoughts: A. Any author who can make his characters come to life as much as the characters do in this novel has earned my praise, so I congratulate Calame on a well-done work and series. Beneath the humor and crudeness, however, are real people learning real and good lessons.

 

 


210

Bull by David Elliott

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B. This novel presents the story of Theseus and the Minotaur in a bold, new, poetic (literally) light. Be prepared for a fascinating re-telling...with a really good lesson at the end.

 


209

A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie (the 18th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1950)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. There were so many red herrings I couldn't believe it. There was also an early clue that I noticed but to which I paid no attention...until the end when I realized I should have. Classic Christie; really well done.

Allusions: As You Like It (Rosalind, in particular), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Titania, in particular), and Tennyson's poetry

Vocabulary Words Used: garrulous, stentorian, filch, soporific, placid, voluble, remonstrate, lurid, disapprobation, vapid, and corrosive

My Favorite Words Used: glib and fatuous

 

 


208

Beat the Band (Swim the Fly #2 of 3) by Don Calame 

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

Warning: Crass humor is a fixture of this novel.

My grade and thoughts: A. I never knew this sequel to Swim the Fly (below) existed, and I'm really happy I found it. At times laugh-out-loud (which I did) funny and at times poignant, I really enjoyed seeing the protagonist's maturation. A thoroughly enjoyable, well-paced read with an ending that is perfctly crafted AND believable.

 


207

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds 

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A. The third novel by Reynolds that I've read, this book creates characters so vividly crafted that I felt like I knew them for a long time. The story revolves around such topics as family, responsibility, and conflict resolution. Extremely well done.

 


206

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin 

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A-. This novel, in some ways like no other mystery I've ever read, is a dystopian warning. The book is exceptionally bleak; however, when I realized the author was caricaturing the world in which we already live, the plot snapped into focus. There's a heart beneath this plot; there's heartache there, too. And there's humor. Utterly weird, but definitely worth the time to read. One more thing: prepare to suspend your disbelief...big time.

 


205

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie (the 17th Christie novel I've read) 

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1976, posthumously)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. I don't know how Christie does it, but this mystery had me until the end. It's part haunted house tale, part psychoanalytic excursion, and completely mysterious, of course. I even thought I had figured it out and was starting to cast mental aspersions at Ms. Christie...only to have my assumptions decimated by Miss Marple. I loved that!

Also, the title can be interpreted in three different, fascinating ways; it's mentioned on several occasions throughout the plot, each time earning a nuanced meaning that didn't exist prior.

Additionally, Christie's allusions are extremely well-done in this book: Emily Bronte's poetry; Shakespeare's Othello; Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue;" and Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, a play I read as a graduate student in a Renaissance drama class and one which, if I remembered more about the drama, would have told me the ending by about chapter three. A thoroughly enjoyable, believable, haunting read!

 

 


204

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie (the 16th Christie novel I've read) 

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1925)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B. Wow! This was a complex storyline. It was well worth the effort to find out the truth behind the numerous red herrings, but I missed Inspector Poirot. Still, this was a fun read.

 


203

Signs of You by Emily France

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A-. This novel handles loss in an incredibly insightful, meaningful way. The characters seemed to come to life for me as they each try to live with grief. The religious historical fiction is interesting, and much of that aspect of the book resonated with me, but at times, it seemed like an unnecessary bunch of hocus-pocus. Granted, that is a minor flaw in this impressive, deep, and deeply moving work.

 


202

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B-. The premise is somewhat trite since the whole "I know your secret and will blackmail you with it" premise has been done (I Know What You Did Last Summer, anyone?). Still, Benoit salvages what he can with fast pacing and a super creepy ending. Character motivation that seems real and believable, however, is sorely lacking in some instances. Overall, I'm definitely NOT disappointed; it was a fun read.

 


201

American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. This novel weaves a meaningful, intensely interesting plot by offering characters who must grapple with sacrifice, fear of their future, and demons from their past. I loved it and did not want this road trip to end...which it did beautifully, by the way.

 


200

You by Charles Benoit

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: A+. I finished this book in about 2.5 hours, initially worrying that the sparse prose would equate to an equally vapid plot. I could not have been further from the truth. This work grabbed me from page one, forcing me to think about choices I make as a teacher, a friend, and even as a human. The ending is perfect...absolutely perfect.

 


199

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (the 15th Christie novel I've read)

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1926)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. Poirot uses his "little grey cells" to excellent effect in this novel. I must say, however, that it is grim in the way And Then There Were None was grim: near the end of the novel, we see the sinister, somewhat harrowing undercurrent come to the surface. Still, an engrossing read!

 


198

The Rules for Breaking (The Rules Series #2 of 2) by Ashley Elston

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A. A fitting, thrilling sequel to part one in the series, this novel is excellent. The red herrings were well placed and tricky enough to catch me off guard. The ending verged on being a bit schmaltzy, but I can easily overlook one page with a little bit of over-the-top "happy ending syndrome" when it comes at the end of a ride as taught and engrossing as the one presented in this book. Definitely and highly recommended.

 


197

The Rules for Disappearing (The Rules Series #1 of 2) by Ashley Elston

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2013)

My grade and thoughts: A. ...and my enjoyment of this author's works continues to grow and be solidified. Fast pacing and characters that I really got to know both make this novel an excellent read. The Witness Protection program is center stage...along with plenty of red herrings. Part two is next on my list so that I can see how the series progresses and finally ends.

 


196

We Regret to Inform You: An Overachiever's Guide to College Rejection by Ariel Kaplan

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A+. This novel, ostensibly about a high school senior's rejection from every college to which she applies, ended up being a mystery, a coming-of-age tale, a hilarious story, and a serious story...all at once. I absolutely loved it, and I really got to know the characters. I'm highly impressed.

 


195

The Soul Keepers by Devon Taylor

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A-. As it turns out, the afterlife is a chaotic hodgepodge of battles, grief...and hope. At least that's Taylor's vision. With plenty of action and well-drawn characters, this novel will keep your interest. I was especially impressed by the ending.

 


194

Nine by Zach Hines

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B-. I liked the idea of humans having nine lives because it led to the inevitable lesson that because of our abundance of lives, none of them meant anything to us. As such, this work stands as a cautionary tale about our respecting our own precious, sacred lives. Other than that, I was not overly impressed. The pacing worked, and I grew to enjoy the characters; still, it led to a vapid, predictable ending that made me say, "Meh."

 


193

Snow Job by Charles Benoit

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

Warning: The book contains references to both drugs and sexual situations.

My grade and thoughts: B. The late 1970s serves as the backdrop for this gritty, somewhat somber tale of a teenager trying to start his life over. Replete with shady characters, disappointing parents, and a psychotic drug dealer, this novel doesn't pull many punches, if any. I do wish, however, that I'd gotten to know the characters a bit more deeply. They just never seemed to come to life enough for me to get to feel like I knew them. The ending, however, was at least hopeful...and realistic.

 

 


192

The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. The second work I've read by this author (This Is Our Story, below, is the first.), this novel was engrossing in its depiction of the mysteries surrounding a family in the midst of chaos. The characters were well-developed. There were enough red herrings to throw me off the scent; I especially enjoyed those. The ending was satisfying on several levels in both what it brought to closure and what it left unresolved.

 


191

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: C+. A terrible Nor'easter traps seven ill-fated students in their high school. It might not sound too interesting, but I was oddly fascinated by the plot. The characters, while relatively stale, were realistic, showing glimmers of the personality Northrop wanted them to have. Worth the read.

 


190

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1938)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A-. Plenty of red herrings permeate this tale, but what a fun ride it was to read of the dastardly crimes in the Lee household. Definitely worth reading...even if I did have to suspend disbelief a smidge.

 


189

Rules of the Road (Rules of the Road #1) by Joan Bauer

Type:  YA Fiction (1998)

My grade and thoughts: A-. Yet another Bauer novel featuring rules to live by taught in a palatable way. The characters are, as always, well drawn. Well worth the read.

 


188

Best Foot Forward (Rules of the Road #2) by Joan Bauer

Type:  YA Fiction (2005)

My grade and thoughts: A-. Bauer's ability to write fast-paced, meaningful, wholesome, interesting fiction keeps me coming back. This novel, covering such topics as big business, second chances, and tough choices, works on many levels. First, it features endearing, believable characters. Also, and more importantly, the plot weaves in lessons that teens and adults would be wise to follow.

Meaningful quotations:

  • "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you."
    • How true this is. It doesn't mean that we should go through life trying to offend others. Still, if everybody says only good about us, it might mean that we are trying to please everybody, a tactic which always leads one to cower from his principles.
  • "You won't know how strong your beliefs really are until you have to defend them."
    • Indeed, if your beliefs are weak, you will cave at the slightest provocation. Choose your beliefs wisely, morally...then fight for them fiercely.

 


187

Backwater by Joan Bauer

Type:  YA Fiction (1999)

My grade and thoughts: A-. It's official: I'm a fan of Joan Bauer. This novel is, as I've come to expect from Ms. Bauer, fast-paced but not rushed, edifying without being preachy, and incredibly endearing without being schmaltzy. As with other Bauer works I've read, I found myself wanting to enter into the world of this novel and its realistic characters. Touching on topics of personal growth, family relations, understanding others, and how our history shapes our future, this novel will appeal to many...especially those with a penchant for the outdoors.

Meaningful quotations:

  • "You learn from your mistakes and keep going..."
  • "[W]hen grave mistakes in life are made, we must use all of our resources to face them and right them."

 


186

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A-. My second foray into Kephart's oeuvre (after This Is the Story of You, below), this novel did not disappoint. Kephart is indeed a lyricist, telling evocative stories through atmospheric images, bits of this, pieces of that, and, ironically, words left unsaid. The reader is forced to fill in blanks and enter into the mind of whoever is speaking...or thinking. Isn't that life, though?

 


185

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A+. My respect for Shusterman is solidified with this work. I'd like to say its dystopian setting is so far in the future that it at least seemed implausible in 2018; I cannot. I'd like to say that the authors carry a bleak view of an imminent, disastrous future to extremes; I cannot. I'd like to say that the novel teaches important lessons; I CAN and DO. With pacing that is flawless and character development that was engrossing and believable, this work is highly recommended. Finished it in about two days.

 


184

Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

Type:  YA Fiction (2000)

My grade and thoughts: A. My second foray into Bauer's works (see Peeled, below), this excursion was just as heartwarming and enjoyable as my first. The action is fast-paced, and the lessons about life are surprisingly fitting. Loved it.

 


183

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Lo's novel moves fast, but never seems rushed. The story, bringing up questions of right and wrong, is engrossing. The ending, by the way, was well done. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold; I was chilled after reading this book.

 


182

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Type:  Fiction (1962)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Jackson's final work, this novel is heavy on atmosphere, moving somewhat slowly yet deliberately. It's the tale of a family with a grim, horrifying past told only as Jackson can tell it.

 


181

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A-. Refreshingly creative, this novel provides a look at the most fascinating question we all must face: what happens to us after we die? With cameos by Edgar Allan Poe (who, himself, was plagued by questions about the afterlife and his own haunting taphephobia) and his loves, the novel is an enjoying, if offbeat, look at the afterlife. The ending? Hauntingly uplifting.

 


180

The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A-. A captivating tale of the truth and how it sometimes eludes us, The Truth Lies Here is a blend of mystery and sci-fi. The novel had me hooked from beginning to end...and what a fitting ending it was. Oh, one more issue: I loved the dual meaning of Lies in the title; you'll understand if you read this book.

 


179

Hiding by Henry Turner

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B+. I found this tale of a forlorn young man to be utterly believable and engrossing. The narrator seemed very realistic, not forcing me to suspend disbelief at all. The twist, while somewhat predictable, leads to an ending that teaches an oh-so-important lesson. Well done.

 


178

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+. Believable, endearing characters make this novel, my second foray into Niven's works, well worth the read. The main point with which I'll walk away after my reading is that we never truly see others until we forget how to look at them.

 


177

Don't Make Me Pull Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip by Richard Ratay

Type:  Nonfiction (2018)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. Urbanely yet endearingly written, this book takes the reader on a journey that's filled with as much nostalgia as it is facts. However, I was enthralled for the entire ride...pun intended. Very highly recommended.

 


176

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. I found myself engrossed by the opulent lifestyle of and hallucinatory mystery surrounding the characters in this novel. I don't know which is more haunting: the alluring, esoteric puzzles that form the heart of the plot or this work's reminder that lives...actual lives...can be as bereft of meaning as those of the characters. Unsettling, haunting, and edifying.

 


175

Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. Reintgen continues to draw me into the ever-changing landscape of his dystopian future with this second book in the series. A surprise at the end sets up part three perfectly; it's too bad I have to wait until 4/2019 for it to be published.

 


174

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, this lighthearted tale was pleasing. Not enthralling, but still worth the time to read. The ending, by the way, took an unexpectedly interesting turn.

 


173

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1) by Scott Reintgen

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A. This science fiction gem has it all: off-world mining offering monumental advancements in technology, huge leaps in knowledge, seemingly unlimited power...and an ostensibly hostile alien race; characters with heart and believably real emotions; and a twist at the end which perfectly sets up part two in this series. I'm hooked.

 


172

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1964)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A-. Clues were hidden in plain sight, and red herrings made an appearance. Well worth the read, especially with its Shakespearean allusions.

 


171

Endless Night by Agatha Christie

Type:  Fiction/Mystery (1967)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. Like no other Christie novel I've ever read, EN was engrossing and haunting. Equal parts mystery and folktale, this novel chronicles the ill-fated relationship of a young couple, and with Christie, foul play is a given in their relationship. Due to the title's ironic allusion to William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" (innocence!), I knew Christie was up to her normal tricks. But what fun, unsettling tricks they were! The ending, by the way, was perfectly done.

 


170

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. It kept my interest; I'll give it that. Additionally, I did feel that I got to know the characters somewhat well...especially Skye. Notwithstanding those positives, the whole school shooting issue seemed vapid due to the author's treatment of it.  The ending, however, is a really good example of circular structure; it saved this book from the realm of a C.

 


169

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

Recommended by Mr. Ceddia on behalf of his wife. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. Written in the form of poetry that reads like prose (perhaps even meeting the standards of prose poetry), the novel worried me as I began reading. Indeed, I wasn't sure I'd be able to make sense of the somewhat off-putting format. My fears, however, soon dispersed. This is a powerful work with an excellent, fitting ending.

 


168

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B. Tight, compact, tersely written. I was drawn into the characters' lives and found myself caring. A worthwhile, albeit sad, read.

 


167

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+. I really liked this tale of misfits and the lessons taught via their trials and tribulations. The characters were realistic, and the pacing seemed perfect. It did not, however, tug at my heartstrings as much as Goodbye Days or The Serpent King...and I wish it had.

Meaningful quotation:

  • "Consider this: billions of memories in a brain, each one drowning in a furious river, grasping and gasping for life, a twine of rope, an olive branch. It's no accident, the memories that last. They are survivors."

 


166

The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+. A tsunami unexpectedly creates a clique of its own, forcing its members to gain wisdom and let bygones be bygones. Grimly humorous in parts, this reminds me of Kill the Boy Band and No Good Deed (below...far below). Teens are definitely not stereotyped in this novel, but there are some clichés that crop up when the characters seek growth from their ordeal.

 


165

Heart: Fully Forming Your Professional Life as a Teacher and Leader by Timothy D. Kanold

Type:  Nonfiction/Reference/Education (2017)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: B+. Granted, it's not a title that many (if any) of my students will want to read; nevertheless, for those few who are considering a move in the direction of teaching as they ponder their futures, this book might be a good one to read while they sift through their career ideas. I'll come back to this book many times; its wisdom is practical and meaningful...and grounded in love.

 


164

Numbers by David A. Puolsen

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: C+. A cynical tale about a Holocaust denier teaching high school social studies and the impact he has on his impressionable students, this novel left me wanting more. More character development. More of an exploration of why the teacher held his myopic, misguided beliefs. Granted, this work illustrates very well the idea that we must not merely accept what others tell us without thinking for ourselves, but it lacked the depth that such an issue warrants. The ending was somewhat powerful, but not enough to pull this work out of the realm of blithe mediocrity.

 


163

Feels like Home by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo

Type:  YA Fiction (2007)

My grade and thoughts: B-. Featuring allusions to S.E. Hinton and Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay," the plot centers on characters trying to come to grips with their past. The ending, a realistic coda, saved this novel from being relegated to a C-. Not great; definitely not terrible. Fans of The Outsiders will probably enjoy this novel a great deal.

 


162

The Door to January by Gillian French

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: C-.   Part crime drama, part coming-of-age tale, and part mystery, you won't necessarily be disappointed. Maybe I should clarify: French's work wants to be all of the above, and on some levels it is. It's just that the plot's sinuous storylines seem vapid, requiring far more suspension of disbelief than this reader is willing to offer. (N. B. I've suspended my disbelief regarding a statue being revivified in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, so I can withold my disbelief with the best of 'em and am not being overly persnickety on this point.)

I'd be willing to bet the rent money that, if you're in the mood for a mystery, you'll be better served by reading an Agatha Christie novel or Simon Chesterman's Arcadia series instead of plodding through this loosely-structured, wants-to-be-atmospheric-but-really-isn't tale.

 

 


161

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Last Survivors #1)

Type:  YA Fiction (2006)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. This engrossing novel centers on a world suffering through an all-too-possible catastrophe. The novel forces the reader to ask just what we consider the most important aspects of our lives while offering a gripping plot that will draw you in and keep you interested. With all of our creature comforts and gadgets, we need a wake-up call like Life As We Knew It every so often in order to remind us of what our priorities should be.

 


160

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A. Life is not what you think, but it can be what you make it. Well worth reading.

 


159

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2011)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: B. Set in a dystopian future, this novel takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of its characters as they grapple with survival, the past, the future...and each other in the present. Somehow, the novel points out, we just cannot seem to figure out that last one. This book reminds me of another dystopian novel I taught over twenty years ago: Z for Zachariah. If dystopian literature interests you, neither Plague nor Z will disappoint.

 


158

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A-. A work of magical realism, this novel unapologetically requires the reader to suspend disbelief. Indeed, if you are unwilling to do so, you'll never get past such elements as the man with the coyote head, the dilatory reader covered in ever-growing moss, the woman who cannot but parrot back others' words, the man who grows to over twenty feet tall, or the woman whose dress is covered in monarch butterflies and on whom it continually rains. I suspect, however, that you'll have absolutely no trouble believing the profound truths this novel professes; they are well worth the effort of traveling the disorienting journey that beckons in this work.

 


157

The Path to Serendipity by Allyson Apsey

Type:  Nonfiction/Reference/Education (2018)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: B. This book, raved about by some of the other educators I follow on Twitter, offers sound advice for everybody, regardless of who you are, how old you are, and what you do with and in your life. I'll refer to this book's pearls of wisdom frequently as I continue my career.

 


156

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: B. It's definitely worth a read if you are into the DC Universe. If not, you might find it tedious. I myself enjoyed seeing young incarnations of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne, and others in the Batman world. The storyline, while somewhat trite, had heart and was well-written: I noticed plenty of absolutes and participials! (If, by the way, you're hoping to see the Dark Knight himself in this tale, don't hold your breath.)

 


155

A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

Type:  Nonfiction (2014)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A+. One of the best writing books I've ever read. Its insights are palatable and pertinent. This will change not only the way I write but also the way I teach writing. I recommend this book to all of my students but especially to my budding writers; you know who you are.

 


154

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Type:  YA Fiction (2002)

My grade and thoughts: B. The second novel I've read by the author of The Book Thief, Messenger does not deliver the immediacy and poignance of Thief. Notwithstanding that slight drawback, the lesson this novel espouses is a valuable one indeed, and it's told by means of a powerful, hopeful ending.

 


153

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A+. I found this to be an engrossing, serious, yet endearing exploration of bullying, relationships, and strength. I think the author says it best when it comes to her novel: "Everybody Sees the Ants originated from an idea that we are all prisoners. An idea that bullying is a widely ignored form of torture. An idea that only we can choose to escape our own prisons. An idea that no one can take something from us if we don't give it." A powerful work.

 


152

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A. If you are not a fan of historical fiction, this Nazi-era mystery might very well win you over. A gripping tale, the plot leads to an exciting, thought-provoking conclusion. I was impressed.

 


151

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A. A story so sad, so human.

 


150

Paper Towns by John Green

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A. My first foray into John Green's oeuvre, Paper Towns is extraordinarily well done.  The characters are completely, believably human.  What's more, the book teaches us that our idealized vision of others is not always accurate, fair, or even realistic. I think I might just need to read The Fault in Our Stars.

Meaningful Quotation: "Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn't the way they actually are." So true; so hard to live by.

 


149

Ghost Moon Night by Jewel Allen

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A. A ghost story about far more than what you might expect. Intensely interesting and edifying from a moral standpoint, too.

 


148

The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A. Dealing with the aftermath of a friend's tragic, unexpected death, friends of the deceased find that life's paths lead us where we need to go along routes that we could never imagine. Well done; not schmaltzy in the least.

 


147

UnDivided (Unwind dystology #4) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A. I was treated to allusions from The Merchant of Venice as well as Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" in this final installment of the UnWind dystology. More importantly, though, Shusterman forces us to take a harrowing look in the mirror regarding our treatment of life...in all its forms and at all stages of development. It's not a pretty sight. With Bladerunner, Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi noir classic, echoing throughout this work, we are ultimately offered a fitting, believable, hope-filled, yet haunting conclusion to a riveting four-part series. One of the novel's most powerful lines occurs as an ancillary character asks, "What have we done?" This series, and this fourth and final part in particular, is a wake-up call of the most important kind: one that should raise our awareness of the nefariously unnoticeable ways we disrespect life and the realization that what we have done is tragic. An excellent novel.

 


146

UnSouled (Unwind dystology #3) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: A. With allusions to Shakespeare's Othello and The Tempest, this third installment maintained my interest in this series. The plot thickens...but in believable, meaningful, and haunting ways.

 


145

UnWholly (Unwind dystology #2) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A. The saga continues in quintessential Shusterman fashion: weighty issues presented in the most palatable of ways.

 


144

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Type:  Drama (1603)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A. Never did I realize how many similarities exist between this play and MV: treatment of women, issues of justice, and an ostensibly happy ending that seems...to me...anything but joyous. Notwithstanding such connections, I enjoyed Angelo the most: his faults are our faults, proving that Shakespeare understood human nature so very well. As a matter of fact, Angelo reminds me in some ways of MV's Shylock in that each character seems to present proof that what we despise in others is often what we don't want to admit exists in ourselves.

 


143

Unwind (Unwind dystology #1) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2007)

My grade and thoughts: A. In this dystopian future, one glaring truth becomes evident in Shusterman's work: when it comes to the sanctity of life, equivocation is unacceptable. Well done.

 


142

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Type:  Creative Nonfiction (1966)

Recommended by Mr. Weinheimer. Thanks!

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A. I happened to be observing Mr. Weinheimer's 7th-period senior English class on the day they began their study of this novel. Intrigued by Mr. Weinheimer's introduction to Capote's work, I asked for a copy. From the very first page I was engrossed. This novel is chilling, enthralling, and beautifully written. Broaching such ideas as redemption, vengeance, courage, and forgiveness, In Cold Blood recounts the titular deed...without being gruesome or gratuitous in its depiction of events. Amazingly well-written.

 


141

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B. The first part of the novel (about 160 pages out of 310) was interesting, but it moved somewhat slowly. However, upon further reflection, that pacing did indeed allow me to get to know the characters on a somewhat deep level. Part two, however, really packed a punch. This novel was powerful, no doubt. Covering topics like abuse and trust, this work deals with topics that must be addressed; however, Roe's novel might be a bit more aggressive in its ambition than the narrative could handle. For example, the Adam/Emerald storyline seemed forced and lacking; I wanted to see it more fully developed but then wondered why it was even included. An admirable work, though; well worth reading. 

 


140

Twelfth Night, or What You Will by William Shakespeare

Type:  Fiction/Drama (1601)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A-. As is the case with most comedies, if you are looking for most issues to be tidily wrapped up by the end, TN will not disappoint. Featuring disguises, mistaken identities, and plenty of the other sorts of comedic devices one would expect from a Renaissance author like Shakespeare, TN does not attempt to solve any of the world's problems. Nevertheless, it imagines more than it knows by raising concerns of prejudice, love, and even abuse of others. A comedy? Definitely. Vapid and superficial with no underlying meaning? Definitely not. It might not solve problems, but TN brings some of them to the forefront; that's a first step toward change.

Interestingly, this confirms my belief that The Merchant of Venice is not a comedy; indeed, Shylock's treatment throughout MV and especially at the conclusion take the drama into the tempestuous waters of a romance. TN, incidentally, also verges on romance territory due to Malvolio's similar treatment. However, I cannot feel as much sympathy for Malvolio because he never seems to learn his lesson, nor is he treated as harshly as Shylock. Also, at least Shylock realizes his defeat, accepts it, and seems to realize why he has suffered. Thus, TN rightly remains firmly entrenched in the comedy genre.


139

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Type:  Fiction/Drama (1610)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A-. I continue to grow in my fascination with Shakespeare's later plays as I read more of them. The Tempest requires a good amount of suspension of disbelief, but it is a very fun, very edifying drama, including magical sprites, spells, hallucinatory visions, and even self-reflection among characters. A dreamy meditation on colonization, patriarchy, and even stagecraft itself, this play is well worth reading.

 


138

The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

Type:  Fiction/Drama (1611)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+. I was reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston. That title is actually a stage direction in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. (As a matter of fact, that direction occurs during 3.3, after Antigonus leaves Perdita and meets his shoulder-bone-eliminating fate at the paws--and mouth--of said bear.) Nevertheless, I surmised that such an allusion used as a title indicated more than a mere superficial connection between the two works. Therefore, in an attempt to more fully understand the novel as I continued reading it, I decided to take several hours in order to read WT.

This was an extremely enjoyable, fulfilling endeavor. First, it opened up new avenues of understanding for Johnston's novel. Further, however, I have now read another Shakespeare play. That has allowed me to understand The Merchant of Venice (a play I teach every year) even better. Additionally, it allows me to see the risks Shakespeare takes and the decisions he makes when writing in the romance genre as opposed to, say, the comedy genre into which most place MV. All in all, WT offered an enjoyable, extremely edifying literary excursion into the worlds of Sicilia and Bohemia and into the fictitious lives of Hermione, Leontes, Polixenes, Paulina, Perdita, and Florizel...among many others. This play, one of Shakespeare's last, rivals King Lear and The Merchant of Venice for the title of "My Favorite Shakespeare Play."

Bonus epitome from the "Shakespeare's Globe" website:  "A ‘winter’s tale’ is a fantasy, and The Winter’s Tale is Shakespeare’s great play of the irrational and inexplicable. The play’s uncontrollable emotions–rage, love, grief and forgiveness–range across gender, country, class and age. Its universe is full of monsters, gods and natural disasters, and its colossal sweep takes us from stifling courts to unbuttoned festivals."

 


137

Bang by Barry Lyga

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A. I've read earlier works by Barry Lyga; he has grown as a writer, offering maturely-drawn characters in this riveting novel. Taking place in the aftermath (ten years subsequent) of an unintended death, the narrative traces the life of Sebastian and Aneesa, their families, their grief, their hopes, and their own prejudices. Never once did the novel seem predictable or artificial, and the ending was pitch-perfect. I read it in one day; it's that powerful.

 


136

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fantasy (201o)

My grade and thoughts: A. ...and my admiration for Neal Shusterman continues to grow. In this novel, Shusterman tackles the dilemma of how much we are willing...should be willing...can be willing......must be willing...to take on the pain and sorrow of those whom we love. Told from multiple characters' viewpoints, the narrative's crux can be epitomized by these questions: "When does the cost of helping others bear their pain become too great? Should it? Can it?" Essentially, this novel is a modern-day analysis of our call to turn the other cheek. You won't believe the way Shusterman so adroitly deals with morality, love, companionship, pain, and understanding without injecting artificiality or preachiness into his narrative. Excellent.

(See Challenger Deep, Scythe, Thunderhead, Everlost, and Chasing Forgiveness...all reviewed below. This guy is amazing in his breadth and depth.)

 


135

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: A+. Full disclosure: this book contains explicit language, but at no point did I feel it was used gratuitously. Essentially, this novel achieves what All American Boys and How It Went Down aimed for: engrossing truth that everyone needs to read. This is a riveting book. I think it succeeds so well because it is not trying to solve any problems outright; instead, it offers the truth--from both sides--and hope. Excellent. Highly recommended.

 


134

Everlost (Skinjacker, #1) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2006)

My grade and thoughts: B+. It's official: I am a Neal Shusterman fan. This first installment of the Skinjacker trilogy teaches so much about life...while set in the post-mortal landscape known as Everlost. It reminds me of The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner; however, Shusterman's setting is logically fictitious. To wit: I know it cannot exist, but on Shusterman's terms, the reader can easily suspend such disbelief. This was good enough that I have placed holds on parts two and three.

 


133

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Type:  Autobiography (2005)

Recommended by Mr. Grimm. Thanks!

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A. I was not a fan of memoirs, autobiographies...call them what you want...until now. This work changed that for me. Walls has a beautiful prose style; I found myself getting to know her family very well...and caring about them. I can see why Mr. Grimm and his students liked this book so much.

 


132

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B-. This novel documents the racially-charged aftermath of a white police officer's wrongly brutalizing a black teenager in a scenario marred by prejudice. Of course, the fallout resounds throughout the community, and this is recounted with gritty realism that I found enthralling. Additionally, I liked the way the novel presented both sides of the incident: victim's and aggressor's. Notwithstanding such accomplishments, at several points the authors came very close to serving up propaganda in the guise of literature, seeming to ever-so-subtly proselytize those who ironically might inhabit the realm of prejudice. That leads to my one complaint: I don't need such names as Michael Brown and Tamir Rice invoked in a novel that wants me to rethink race relations in my country. Tell me the story; let me form my own opinions and insights. Other than that, however, the novel worked well as a cautionary tale strongly enjoining readers to see people as just that: people. Sounds like a platitude, but we still need to live our lives accordingly; this novel reminds us that we aren't there yet.

 


131

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Type:  YA Historical Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: C-. Mysteries rely heavily on good pacing; this novel was sorely lacking in that department. The climax was a dissappointment, a flimsy, faltering imitation of Mary Shelley's masterpiece, Frankenstein. The only redeeming factor, ironically, was only tangentially connected to the mystery: the female protagonist's struggle to earn autonomy in a patriarchal, oppressive society.

 


130

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Recommended by Jacob Ramstetter.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2005)

My grade and thoughts: A+. Incredibly powerful, this is the story of Leisel Meminger, a girl who faces the horror of WWII yet finds a way to flourish. Through well-drawn, touching characters, this book will remind you what it means to love, to fear, and to be human. Absolutely amazing; a must-read.

 


129

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Whenever the subject of suicide or depression comes up, I feel authors must take special care not to become condescending or schmaltzy. Stork does not make either mistake in this novel about the aftermath of a suicide attempt, offering instead a truly meaningful, realistically optimistic look at depression, suicide, love, and courage. Plus, it includes two poems by Emily Dickinson and excerpts from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," all used to very good effect; plus, the ending? Perfect...absolutely perfect.

Meaningful quotation:

  • "'You see how silly the world is sometimes and the craziness around you. You see all the things that people strive for, like money and success and popularity, and you realize that those things don't make us happy.'"

 


128

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  This novel simply confirms my growing admiration for Neal Shusterman. His breadth is impressive (evidinced in, for example, Challenger Deep and Chasing Forgiveness), but the Arc of a Scythe series is the crème de la crème of Shusterman's oeuvre. Like its predecessor in the series, this is science fiction with a moral barometer...and plenty of believable surprises to make it a book I highly recommend. Unfortunately, book three is not slated to be released until 2019; I'll be first in line to get a copy.

 


127

Hit (Hit #1) by Delilah S. Dawson

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

Warning: This novel is based on killings, and there is no shortage of them in the book. The details surrounding them are not gratiutous, and the author does not glorify it in the least. As a matter of fact, on many levels the novel makes very good statements against killing.

My grade and thoughts: A.  The first book in the Hit series, I've already requested book #2 from the public library. The story centers around the idea that so many people never read the fine print that a major bank (who has paid off our country's entire debt and now controls the government and police) decides to use that legal fine print in order to eliminate people who have not paid off their credit card debt. The premise might sound a bit far-fetched and boring, but the novel works very well on a moral level, delving into issues of friendship, finding meaning in life, love, and even our ability to cope with guilt. I'm curiously optimistic to start the second book in the series. The pace is fast enough that I never became disengaged. Fans of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, Con Academy, Perry's Killer Playlist, No Good Deed, or Kill the Boy Band would probably like this book.

 


126

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B-. This novel documents the aftermath, via differing POVs, of a black teenager's shooting at the hands of a white man. The multiple points of view grew a bit tedious since none of the characters were really well-drawn. Additionally, there was no real closure: we never find out for sure if the slain young man was guilty, innocent, a little of both...nothing. Then again, rarely do we know all the facts in life. Rarely do our lives have nice, neat closure. This novel will make you think.

 


125

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Type:  YA Fantasy (2011)

My grade and thoughts: B. This work is heavily atmospheric, so be warned: if you like action, you must wait for the final 50 pages. Those final pages, however, were worth the wait.  Notwithstanding the excellent ending, the titular "Solomon Grundy-meets-Dracula" character never really came to life for me, and I'm not being ironic. However, maybe that's a venial transgression in a work that relies so heavily on setting to create a chilling narrative...which it succeeded in doing. Clocking in at 455 pages, though, the novel requires its readers to be sure they are willing to go the extra mile for this ultimately enjoyable, undeniably creepy ride.

 


124

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Highly recommended. Told from the perspective of two protagonists in two different time-periods (9/11/01 and today), this novel makes a poignant statement about hope, love, regret, prejudice, and loss...without being preachy. Really well done.

Meaningful quotations:

  • "'When you grow up Muslim, hell, different in any way, you get real good at reading people. You can tell the good ones, who might not end up liking you--sure, who likes everyone they meet?--but they're not going to hate you because you're Muslim, or black, or gay, or, I don't know, a blue Smurf. And then there are the other kind, the ones who feel better about themselves when they have someone to hate.'"
  • "Hate is just fear.  Fear that we are powerless, ugly, small, nothing, so we hate people to make us feel better about ourselves, so we don't have to be so scared all the time."
  • "'[W]hen something terrible happens, all we have left is choice. You can fill that awful void inside you with anger, or you can fill it with love for the ones who remain beside you, with hope for the future.'"
  • "'People do terrible things. People do beautiful things. It's against the black backdrop of evil that the shining light of good shows the brightest. We can't just focus on the darkness of the night, or we'll miss out on the stars.'"

 


123

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2009)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  At first, it seemed like this novel didn't know whether it wanted to be a mystery or a travelogue about Michigan. However, the characters eventually came to life in a believable way, and the mystery itself kept my interest.  The ending saved this novel from a grade of C.

 


122

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Type: YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A-.  A novel dealing with loss in the many forms it can take, this work was poignant without being schmaltzy; that's a difficult feat to accomplish.  I enjoyed the way it deals with serious issues of life, death, anger, trust, and fear in a responsible, believable, and heartfelt manner.  Well done.

 


121

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2013)

My grade and thoughts: D.  There are so many half-baked ideas in this novel that I don't know what the author wanted me to focus on.  Time travel?  That plot line went nowhere.  Female protagonists who are shrouded in stereotypes?  Check.  Boring red herrings?  I wish I could have followed along the paths of those tangential storylines: maybe they would have led somewhere with at least a modicum of allure.  The one interesting aspect:  allusions to Dracula and Sherlock Holmes.  Still, such allusions could not resuscitate this vapid work.

 


120

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  I like the way which the novel forces us to reconsider our judgement of others.  It also calls into question the ways in which we determine our morality.  I just wish it had not been so predictable.

 


119

Being Arcadia (#3 in the Raising Arcadia trilogy) by Simon Chesterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2018)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A fitting ending to the series, this installment contains the puzzles and surprises that I'd come to expect in Chesterman's trilogy.  Highly recommended.

 


118

All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: B.  It's very much like one of my favorite movies:  Hocus Pocus.  This novel starts out lighthearted, and it never completely loses that feeling; however, it deals with serious issues (like death, respect, and fear).  It's not erudite literature (notwithstanding the Shakespeare references), but it certainly is a fun, meaningful, edifying tale.

 


117

The Final Descent (The Monstrumologist #4) by Rick Yancey

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A fitting, haunting ending to the series.  It didn't end the way I wanted it to, but that's beside the point.  I should mention, by the way, that the ending is frustrating, complicated, and thought-provoking...like people and life.  Well done, Mr. Yancey.

 


116

The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist #3) by Rick Yancey

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Featuring allusions to Shakespeare's works (such as Othello and King Lear), mythology (Charybdis and Charon to name a few), Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, E.E. Cummings, and Edgar Allan Poe, this part in the series was deep.   I mean deep deep. (Arthur Conan Doyle and Arthur Rimbaud even make cameos!) This is far more than a normal monster tale:  the characters are their own monsters, questions of theology arise, and philosophical concerns surface.  I'm excited to start the fourth and final installment in the series.

 


115

I Am the Traitor (The Unknown Assassin #3) by Allen Zadoff

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B+.  As the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series, I was satisfied with the information we received regarding our main character's real mother and father as well as the facts about the Program.  What I didn't necessarily like was the all-too-predictable use of Mother's glasses in the showdown scene.  However, ending on a positive, hopeful note felt right and good; it fit.

 


114

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Type:  YA Fiction (2007)

My grade and thoughts: A.  The first installment in the series, I was impressed by the realistic portrayal of the main characters.  The stepdad twist was a welcome, although somewhat expected, turn.  I'm interested to see where part two takes me, and I hope Fanboy finally gets his hands on a mint edition Giant Size X-Men #1.

 


113

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Type:  YA Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Echoes of Agatha Christie resounded in this gripping mystery, and when I write gripping, I mean gripping.  I especially enjoyed reading the culprit's interior monologues as the narrative progressed; that was very much like Christie's similar technique in And Then There Were None.

 


112

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff

Type:  YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A pleasing mix of poignance, irony, humor, and pain, this tale of Andrew Zansky will immediately speak to readers.  Zadoff, not surprisingly, takes what could have been a boring narrative and turns it into a tale that preaches without preaching.  Job well done...and the ending was somewhat unexpected yet very uplifting.

Memorable Quotation:  "All the people you want to be perfect end up being human.  It kind of sucks."  Zadoff does a really good job of creating a main character who realizes this sentiment's truth without letting that realization get the best of him.

 


111

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Type:  Mystery (1928)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A-.  This was not a bad story by any means.  It was a bit complex, and the solution was just a smidge less surprising than I've come to expect from Christie.  The last chapter with the moral of the story was actually quite impressive, by the way.

 


110

Cured:  The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys by Lol Tolhurst

Type:  Memoir (2016)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A.  This semi-autobiographical work documents the author's life as affected by being a member of the best band ever:  The Cure.  Tolhurst's writing was nearly top-notch, creating an engrossing tapestry of his pre-Cure, Cure, and post-Cure life.  A touching account of a man coming to grips with his own demons, this tome will be a meaningful read for anyone, but especially for fans of The Cure (which, I'm assuming, probably is not anyone who might be reading this).

 


109

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Type:  Fiction (2017)

Recommended by Ms. Williams-Mitchell. Thanks!

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

(I would recommended this for grades 11 and above:  one needs a certain amount of maturity and schooling in order to understand the complexities in the narrative.)

My grade and thoughts: BI did NOT like its political bias because I felt the author minimizes the issues he broaches with a myopic view skewed by his political leanings.  I get it:  he wants to effect a change.  However, some of his more overt, politically-tinged statements were off-putting.  It's a shame because I feel he might alienate some readers to the point that they do not read (or finish) the novel if they feel the author condescendingly pontificates.  Notwithstanding that complaint, I found the pace to be engagingly good.  Additionally, I liked the ending.  I think that's where the novel makes its strongest statement about humanity; it was powerful.  I loved Arturo's decision to live his principles...absolutely loved that.  The novel could initiate many meaningful conversations about a slew of moral, political, ethical, social, and economic issues.

 


108

Blood Will Tell by April Henry

Type:  YA Mystery (2015)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  Ms. Henry is just no Agatha Christie.  There are red herrings and suspense, but they are contrived and predictable.  I did not dislike the novel; it's just that it didn't wow me either.

 


107

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

Type:  Mystery (1936)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Even the title is a huge red herring.  I loved it.  Classic Christie.

 


106

I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin #2) by Allen Zadoff

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This sequel to Boy Nobody (itself subsequently retitled I Am the Weapon) delivers on every level:  it features action, a quick pace, and a protagonist whose morality continues to grow throughout the intriguing narrative.  I have already reserved book three in the series; it's that good.  If you are a reluctant reader, this book will change your mind (but start with the first book in the series).

 


105

The Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist #2) by Rick Yancey

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: A.  In the style of the first novel in this series, part two is a thinking man's monster story:  the characters suffer moral dilemmas and ethical quandaries in a believable way.  This installment contains clever references to Dracula, but the allusions are not overdone; they worked.  Yancey delivers vivid descriptions, too, just like he did in The Monstrumologist; such images underpin the plot without being gratuitous.  An impressive work.

 


104

The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez

Type:  Science Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A.  In a dystopian future, we find a humorous yet poignant mix of mystery, conspiracy, suspense, aliens, humans (or "biologicals" as they are referred to in novel-speak), robots, and mutants.  Depicting an admittedly grim view of the future, the novel's bleak narrative is engagingly and believably tempered by a protagonist who listens to his (ironically non-existent) heart and (equally non-existent) conscience.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Like nothing else I've ever read.

 


103

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Type:  YA Fiction (2000)

Recommended by Jackson Kehling.  Thanks!

My grade and thoughts: B.  I liked it much more than I didn't like it.  Heavy on action (as illustrated in the jellyfish scene), the novel leads to an ending that is believably satisfying.  Also, I admired the author's attempt at getting beneath the surface of the protagonist; I hope there is more of that in the subsequent works in this series.  The James Bond and Mission: Impossible overtones, however, became a bit tedious at times.  What's more, I was forced to suspend my disbelief when I found out the reason the novel's criminal mastermind has decided to enact a dastardly plan of revenge.  If you can suspend your own disbelief regarding this plot point, I'm certain you will enjoy this book.

 


102

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Type:  YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A gothic tale with allusions to Shakespeare's Othello and other famously erudite scholars and writers? Yes, please!  In this novel, we tag along on the characters' desperate, titillating hunt of the Anthropophagi.  Ironically, Yancey's incredibly vivid descriptions were enticing in their stomach-churning detail.  Buckle up if you read this one; it's a bumpy, exciting ride. I am already planning to read the other three works in the series.  By the way, it's like Yancey had our vocabulary book open as he wrote:  there is a voluminous amount of vocabulary words in the novel. 

 


101

The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: A.  I am always wary when it comes to historical fiction:  I do not want to be mired in confusing minutiae.  McKernan alleviates this misgiving of mine with admirable skill in this novel.  The narrative documents the trials and tribulations during an 1860s trek along the Oregon Trail.  Moreover, I found myself caring about the characters; kudos to the author for painting a vivid picture of characters whose misfortunes and successes resonated with me on levels far deeper than those addressed in the novel itself.  An impressive work.

 


100

Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn

Type:  YA Fiction (2005)

My grade and thoughts: B.  I suspected I would like this work based on my approbation for Ms. Flinn's Breathing Underwater (which can be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of this page).  I also knew that, in typical Flinn fashion, the novel would tackle some weighty issues.  I was not disappointed, overall.  My only gripe:  the ending was predictable about two-thirds into the narrative.  It was still effective, and this is not a mystery; nevertheless, I wanted more of a punch to the gut.  Still a very good work.

 


99

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie

Type:  Mystery (1936)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Another Poirot mystery, this novel definitely does not disappoint.  A murder takes place in the same room as two simultaneously-occurring games of Bridge.  All the suspects are in the room in which the murder takes place...as it occurs...yet the culprit is not apparent.  How could Christie possibly devise a way to make this such a tantalizing mystery?  Read it to find out.  There are red herrings galore until the very end of the novel.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

 


98

The Body in the Woods by April Henry

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  As mysteries go, I like believable red herrings and clues that hide in plain sight.  On those two counts, the author held her own rather admirably.  Additionally, I liked the character growth that occurred at the end even if it did feel a bit forced and artificial.

 


97

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  If you like action, mystery, and adventure at breakneck speed, this book will not disappoint.  With plentiful dramatic irony and multitudinous red herrings, the novel held my interest so much that I read it in one day, finding myself engrossed.  It has very much in common with Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick and Perry's Killer Playlist

 


96

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: B.  Everybody needs to fit in, and we all have our own crosses to bear.  Stone, however, deals with this all-too-often trite subject matter in an engrossing way.  About two-thirds of the way through the novel, there's a surprise that I definitely did NOT see coming.  Impressive and uplifting even though I wanted more of a believable reason for bringing the OCD component into play.

 


95

Blight by Alexandra Duncan

Recommended by Logan Schneider.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Every single time I thought I had the narrative figured out, the author threw a curve ball...a totally believable yet utterly unforeseeable curve ball.  It's dystopian, but not hopeless; gritty, but poignant in spots.  To wit:  the protagonist makes a life-affirming, self-denying decision at a crucial point in the novel.  I loved it.

 


94

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Everything fits together beautifully in this novel.  It just works.

Meaningful quotations:

  • "Behind me, a bookcase full of stories my mother read to me, full of swimming trophies and jewel-toned ribbons, full of certificates from childhood piano recitals.  What is any of it worth?  What is any of it without my mom?"
    • This particular quotation gets at one of the novel's core beliefs:  what we have is overshadowed by whom we love.  So true...
  • "I wonder if anything feels as grown-up as not blaming your parents.  Understanding where they're coming from instead of waiting for them to see your side."
    • It is sentiments such as this that typify the author's ability to show growth in the main character.  Better yet, it really worked well.  The main character's growth didn't seem artificial at all.

 


93

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2011)

My grade and thoughts:  A+.  Mackall takes a mystery and gives it a heartfelt, poignant twist that is both suspenseful and believable.  The ending was great, fitting.  I'm impressed.

Meaningful quotation:  "Are we different people every single moment of our lives?"

 


92

The Ables by Jeremy Scott

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts:  A.  This novel explores friendship, morality, fitting in, forgiveness, and loyalty within the context of an adventure story.  I was hooked.  Very well done.  You will not be disappointed.

Meaningful quotations: 

  • "...forgiveness is far more powerful and fulfilling than anger and revenge."
    • We are taught to forgive and forget and to "turn the other cheek."  I therefore really admired the author for including this sentiment in such a believable, meaningful way within the context of the story.
  • "Sometimes, you don't realize how much you've grown to care about people until something threatens to take them away from you."
    • The older I get, the truer and more meaningful this sentiment becomes.  As is the case in the novel, realization of such an idea can inspire us to share and articulate our love with those about whom we care rather than keeping it inside.
  • "Being one of the good guys means that sometimes you don't get what you deserve."
    • How true this is!  As Shakespeare observed, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."  Granted, I'm casting a wide net with my application of Shakespeare's sentiments; nevertheless, if our crown is integrity (that is, goodness), the path can be difficult and frustrating. 

 


91

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This novel, ostensibly about a WWII encounter between an American soldier and his Japanese opponent, is a story within a story.  Throughout the pages, we read about not only the plot mentioned above but also a parallel storyline whose connections to WWII run deep.  Featuring monsters, flashbacks, and family mystery, this work really engrossed me.  I really liked the development of the two island-bound characters; it was exceptionally well done.

 


90

The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner

Recommended by Brandon Hickey.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Fantasy (2015)

My grade and thoughts:  B-.  What really worked for me as I read this novel were the good lessons it espoused without being preachy (see quotation below).  However, the idea of the actual Hush itself (a parallel universe-ish sort of otherworldly location that is simultaneously present and not present) was never really explained well enough to satisfy my lingering questions about it.  That did not really detract from the main storyline's facets of trust, love, realtionships, struggles, and loyalty.  I would recommend this book to those who like adventure with both heart and a touch of mystery.

Meaningful quotation:  "'Sometimes [...] true strength is admitting when you're vulnerable.'"  How true.

 


89

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: D.  I was disappointed with this novel.  I expected more character development, but the characters seemed cardboard and predictable...even when they were supposed to be acting unpredictably.  The atmosphere seemed contrived, and the Farrah/Bell storyline did not seem to work for me.  On the plus side, Mabry's descriptions are clear and somewhat engaging.  Notwithstanding such an ability to paint vivid pictures with words, I found the plot to be unremarkable. 

 


88

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

Type:  Juvenile Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+.  I enjoyed Nesbet's heartfelt glimpse behind the 1989 Iron Curtain.  The author offers good character development although I would have preferred more information regarding the parents' ulterior motives in traveling to East Germany.  The ending impressed me.  I learned history while reading this but did not feel that I was being taught anything; that's the best type of learning scenario.

 


87

The Dire King by William Ritter (Jackaby #4)

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+. This is an absolutely phenomenal final installment of an amazingly good series.  The ending elicited hopeful joy from me; that's all I'll say without spoiling it for anyone who might read the series.  In this final installment, I found further character development of our friends from the previous works in the Jackaby series.  The author's ability to weave a tale of magic and heroism is laudable.

Meaningful Quotation:  “This world doesn’t need showy champions.  It needs people who are good, who do good—even if nobody will ever know.”  As a teacher who believes wholeheartedly in such a sentiment, I was overjoyed to see it enacted so enchantingly in this novel.

 


86

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter (Jackaby #3)

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+. This third installment of the Jackaby series has all the allure of the first two titles...plus some well-played twists and turns.  Highly recommended.

 


85

Beastly Bones by William Ritter (Jackaby #2)

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+. Dragons and (kinda) dinosaurs?  Check.  Believable, loveable, intriguing characters?  Check.  You have to read this.  Amazingly good!

 


84

Jackaby by William Ritter

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Welcome to a world of mystery, fable, folklore, and immediately interesting and accessible characters.  Mr. Ritter has created an endearing and addicting tale in this first installment of the four-book series.  A duck who was formerly a detective's assistant...living on the third floor of a haunted house...whose ghostly hostess is, herself, an intriguing character?  I understand if you think it sounds crazy, but give it a try; you will not be even the least bit disappointed. 

 


83

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  As a rule, I am not a fan of science fiction novels, but this novella (a mere 149 pages in length) diminished some of my disdain for the genre...almost.  I really enjoyed the dystopian view of the future portrayed in the novel, but I guess I just wanted to see more character development.  I wanted to care about the struggles the characters encountered.  Then again, maybe keeping the characters at arm's length was an authorial technique meant to underpin the cruelly sterile interaction between the aliens and humans.  I do not think you will be disappointed if you read this, but I wouldn't nominate it for any awards, either.

 


82

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A-.  This is essentially a lemons into lemonade story with a protagonist who doesn't realize that he's finding silver linings.  It ends up being an exceptionally well done account of friendship, personal goals, and courage.  The ending was really good, too.

 


81

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  I really don't think I'd recommend this novel to anyone else.  It's well-written with a haunting ending, but the reader must endure a grueling examination of life and life after death in order to get to that ending.  A fan of somber, melancholy fiction, I myself found this to be a novel that went overboard on the gloom.  A heavy read!

 


80

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2016)

WARNING:  Contains intermittent (perhaps two) references to occurrences of a sexual nature.

My grade and thoughts: B-.  What we have here is a story of dueling paleontologists whose children fall in love during a quest for the ultimate dinosaur fossil.  The novel is interesting and well written; indeed, the paleontological aspects are not off-putting or boring.  However, some of the personal plot lines get to be a bit much during a narrative that promises an exciting hunt for a dinosaur fossil but delivers it with the gratuitous storyline of a burgeoning relationship.

 


79

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  This is the first installment in a series, and I'm avidly awaiting the next title.  The novel is set long ago and features old Scratch himself.  I found its fascinating mix of magic, suspense, and mystery very appealing.

 


78

Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen

Type:  YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: B.  A novella, actually, this work is quite heartwarming.  It delves into the topic of cancer in a believable way without getting schmaltzy or coming across as patronizing.  It reaffirmed my belief in the inherent goodness in people.

 


77

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2010)

My grade and thoughts: B.  What I really liked about this book was its unflinching look at how we perceive...and judge...others without having all the facts.  We hear all the time that we shouldn't do so, but this novel makes it clear why that is such a bad tactic to deploy in our lives.  I found the ending to be especially effective.

 


76

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Recommended by Logan Schneider.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  The first book in the Arc of a Scythe series, this is an excellent read.  Shusterman, an author of whom I've become an unwitting fan, weaves suspense and weighty issues of mortality together very well in this page-turner.  I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.  Highly recommended due in no small part to the twist at the end.  Loved it!

 


75

The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  The entire dowsing* aspect of the novel was a minor plot point at best.  This is more of a curiosity than a detraction, however.  Notwithstanding that issue, the plot recounts the tale of a family heading for the Oregon Territory in the late 1800s, including the trials and tribulations concomitant with such a journey.  It kept my interest.

*dowse:  to search for underground supplies of water, metal, et cetera by the use of a divining rod

 


74

The Truth by Jeffry Johnston

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  It's a standard "tragedy drove me to extremes" type of storyline, but it works.  There's enough of a twist at the end that I didn't feel the novel to be the least bit banal.  Plus, the opening scene is pretty darn good!

 


73

You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements by David McCullough 

Recommended by Mr. Joe Driehaus.  Thanks!

Type:  Nonfiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This is written by a former English teacher, so I had to give it a try; plus, if Mr. Driehaus recommends a book, then I know it will enlighten and hearten me as a teacher.  Let's just say that I was not even remotely disappointed by this book.  While the book's wisdom and anecdotes struck a chord with me as a teacher, this work actually has a tremendous amount of insight for high school students, with whom it is sure to resonate.  Give it a try!

 


72

Defender by Graham McNamee

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  The story of an adolescent basketball player, the narrative features a protagonist who finds herself in the midst of some unsettling truths about her family.  It kept my interest, and the characters were believable.

 


71

To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  Wanna have fun?  Then read this book.  It features twists, turns, and surprises galore...enough to keep even a sharp reader on his or her toes.  Plus, the novel offers several well-deserved nods to the greatest mystery writer of them all:  Agatha Christie.

 


70

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Wow!  This is a good one.  The story centers on corporate greed and cover-ups all in the name of profits.  Identities are concealed and revealed, motives are shady, and the tension is palpable in this novel.  If you read it, you will not be disappointed.

 


69

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  Well, this novel is almost a really good example of magical realist fiction.  Its characters almost come to life on the pages.  Its ending is almost really good.  Therefore, I can almost recommend that you'll like it.  If you're into moody atmospherics more than action, check it out; you will not be disappointed.  I just feel it promises more than it delivers.

 


68

If Only by Becky Citra

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: D.  I guess I wanted more development between the twin siblings on whom this novel centers.  Notwithstanding that underwhelming issue, the novel's focus on an assault and the aftermath wrought by it were done well enough (barely) to keep me reading.  The plot is believable but delivered in a somewhat vapid way.  I cared about the characters, but they seemed somewhat lifeless and artificial; I wanted to care more, but that's difficult when an author fails to transmute her characters into people.

 


67

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Type:  YA Historical Fiction/Mystery (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  An orphan gets taken under the wing of a renowned detective, and the adventurous mystery begins soon thereafter.  This is a page-turner, heavy on action, believable characters, fun, new-fangled (back then) contraptions, and an enjoyable ancillary character: none other than Teddy Roosevelt!

 


66

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Imagine suffering a town-destroying superstorm along with finding out that your family is not what you thought it was.  That will give you a glimpse of what this novel holds in store.  Kephart writes in beautifully poetic prose with descriptions that are emotional and lush but not overdone.  This is a moody, haunting novel.  Recommended especially for juniors or seniors.

 


65

Peeled by Joan Bauer

Type:  YA Fiction/Mystery (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A.  I'm a sucker for small-town, comfy, bucholic settings; this novel delivers in that arena.  Featuring a spooky little ghost story and some skeletons in various closets, this little gem thoroughly enchanted me.

 


64

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  As usual, Moldavsky takes aim at societal faults, but she does so in a way that makes her readers want to amend those faults -- at least this reader.  This novel was in turns hilarious, thought-provoking, and sobering.

 


63

The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This tale of a dystopian future is applicable to some issues we experience today.  Don't let the title fool you into thinking this book is not worth the grade I assigned it.  The ending, by the way, is really good.

 


62

No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A.  I loved this book.  It shows the vapid attempts we make to change the world when all we really want is to aggrandize ourselves.  Moldavsky's wit is firing on all cylinders in this novel.  Also, the reference to the glass ceiling had me laughing so hard I cried.  Highly recommended because it teaches valuable lessons and applies so readily to our lives.

 


61

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  I'll say this:  it's one of four books I've ever read that has made me cry.  It's that good.  Amazingly poignant, meaningful, and evocative.  Really, really, really, good!

 


60

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

Type:  Mystery (1922)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B+.  This was the first time I got to meet Tommy and Tuppence, a pair of Christie characters who are endearing in their attempts to find adventure, make a living, solve crimes, and sort out their feelings for each other.  As with most Christie novels, this one provides a fun ride with a believably complex yet engaging narrative.

 


59

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall 

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: C.  I was floored by the poignant and detailed descriptions of the trials and tribulations of obsessive-compulsive disorder, especially since the term OCD is thrown around so haphazardly these days.  It's good but not great; engaging but not riveting.

 


58

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  My introduction to Jeff Zentner, Goodbye Days had me hooked almost from page one.  The novel details the death of three friends due to a fourth friend's driving while texting.  However, the novel goes so much farther than merely offering the platitude that we shouldn't text while driving.  Zentner's ability to delve into his characters' souls is notably adroit.  I highly recommend this novel.

 


57

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  This novel details the self-blame that occurs in the wake of the titular character's death.  Unbelievably good.

 


56

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This mysterious tale is actually a case of the underdog sticking up for those who get bullied.  I really enjoyed it.

 


55

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Type:  Mystery (1923)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B-.  I just couldn't get into this novel.  Hercule Poirot is spot on, as usual; as a matter of fact, I really enjoyed the way that Christie develops this character throughout this and other novels in which he is featured.  I don't know; this one just didn't draw me in like so many of her other works do.

 


54

Finding Arcadia by Simon Chesterman

Type:  YA Mystery (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  The second installment in the Arcadia trilogy did not disappoint.  Indeed, Chesterman mixes humor, mystery, poignant detail, and some nods to Arthur Conan Doyle in the most delightful way.  I'm anxiously awaiting the third and final book in the series.

 


53

Michael Vey:  Rise of the Elgen by Richard Paul Evans 

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: B.  The second in the Michael Vey series, this installment became somewhat tedious.  After finishing this novel, I actually began reading the third novel in the series but stopped about 50 pages in*.  It just got to be too much of long, drawn-out, sinister plots.  In this volume, though, it still held my attention long enough to finish the book.  I like the way that Evans adds the moral dimension to his works; his protagonists are frequently caught in moral quandaries as they try to do the right thing.

*My decision to give up on a book is a rare one, nor is it one arrived at lightly.  This is perhaps the third book I have ever decided to stop reading, but sometimes, it just isn't going anywhere.

 


52

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard 

Type:  Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: D.  It wanted to be tense, and it sometimes was.  It wanted to create suspense, and it sometimes did.  It wanted to pack a believable, unexpected ending, but it didn't.  The ride, however, was intriguing enough to be somewhat fun.

 


51

They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie 

Type:  Mystery (1951)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: B.  It's Agatha Christie, so it's good.  Nevertheless, I found the details and minutiae to be a bit distracting this time.  What I really enjoyed, though, was how the book's political intrigue was oddly applicable to the world in which we find ourselves today, decades later.

 


50

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 

Type:  Mystery (1934)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+.  I absolutely loved this one.  The ending was right up there with the culprit's enlightening confession in And Then There Were None; there's no way you'll figure it out on your own! (But isn't that how we like our murder mysteries?)  Highly recommended.

 


49

Great Falls by Steve Watkins 

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B.  This is a novel about the unseen injuries of war suffered by those who serve, but don't scroll further without reading.  It goes further than what my initial sentence might lead you to expect.  This novel also explores relationships, guilt, and moral dilemmas.  I recommend this to anyone who has a brother or who is interested in history or who wants to understand our human condition with more clarity.

 


48

Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber 

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Loved it.  Amazing.  This novel is the second in the Parry/Gobi series, and delivers punch after punch.  It's part action, part adventure, part mystery, and a 100% FUN ride.  Highly recommended.

 


47

Splinter by Sasha Dawn 

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B.  This novel centers around the question of whom the main character can trust.  I found it engaging and well-done.

 


46

Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans 

Recommended by Mason Hershner.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A.  I really enjoyed this first installment in the Michael Vey series.  This novel features super powers and their concomitant burdens and moral dilemmas.  If you like adventure centering on characters that you can get to know, this is a book you would like.  As a matter of fact, it's very X-Men-ish.

 


45

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schrieber 

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  That exchange student you're hosting is really a trained assassin who is about to take you on a non-stop, action-packed escapade through the streets of New York.  That's just the tip of the iceberg in this novel.  Excellent!

 


44

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein 

Recommended by Evan Vollmer.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Mystery (2012)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  The novel provides a pleasant if vapid mix of sports and mystery.  The teenage protagonists are believable if somewhat cliché.  I think most kids in grades 8-10 would like this series.

 


43

Ultimatum by K. M. Walton

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Offering an exploration of the relationship between two brothers whose family life is crumbling, this novel is gripping and engaging.  Highly recommended.

 


42

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Recommended by Mr. Grimm.  Thanks!

Type:  Nonfiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Anything Mr. Grimm recommends is sure to be worthwhile, and this work was no exception.  This is the memoir of a neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Throughout the work, he grapples with the question of what makes life worth living.  Emotional without going overboard into sentimentalism, objective yet heartfelt; I highly recommend this book.

 


41

Wool by Hugh Howey

Type:  YA Science Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: D.  I barely remember this novel; I guess that's how much I was not affected by it.  I seem to remember that everyone's living underground and that being sent outside, for some unknown reason that is supposed to engage readers, is a fate worse than death.  I think we find out what was going on at the end; I think I remember being underwhelmed by that ending.

 


40

The Shadows We Know by Heart by Jennifer Park

Type:  YA Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  This novel includes the sasquatch myth, and it incorporates it in a somewhat believable way...as myths and fables go.  However, I felt the whole "wild person teaches civilized person" motif became somewhat strained as I ventured further and further into this somewhat murky novel.

 


39

Con Academy by Joe Schreiber

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Amazingly fun yet edifying.  You'll learn about relationships and moral struggles as you take part in this adventure.  Highly recommended.

 


38

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

WARNING:  Contains several references that are sexual in nature.

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Wow!  This novel touches on 80s pop culture (which I found endearing and nostalgic), social criticism, relationships, and adventure.  Give it a try if you are ready for a gripping ride.

 


37

The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged version) by Alexandre Dumas

Type:  Fiction (1844)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Quite possibly the absolute best adventure novel ever written.  This behemoth of a novel (totaling about 1442 pages) tackles everything from love and revenge to redemption and sacrifice...and the need to see our own faults.  Incredibly, amazingly, unbelievably, uncategorically great!

 


36

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

Type:  YA Historical Fiction (2017)

My grade and thoughts: C+.  Based on the premise that a character's decision could have prevented WWII, this novel underwhelmed me to a degree.  As long as you buy into the premise that WWII could have been prevented in the way the novel suggests, it will work.  I guess it comes down to how much you're willing to suspend your disbelief.  Granted, I'm a tougher customer than most in that area.  It was, however, an intriguing premise; I'll give Morpurgo that.  If you're a fan of WWII or WWI, you'll like this one.

 


35

A Mosnter Calls by Patrick Ness

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Incorporating pictures drawn specifically for the novel, this is at times funny and at other times melancholy.  I felt so bad for the protagonist.  Like nothing else you've ever read.

 


34

Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  This novel offers a realistic portrayal of its teenage protagonist.  It centers on his attempts to live up to his father's reputation and expectations.  Exceptionally well done.

 


33

The Clocks by Agatha Christie

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type:  Mystery (1963)

My grade and thoughts: A-.  It's typical Christie:  clever and engaging.  You won't be disappointed.

 


32

Thirteen by Tom Hoyle

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  Okay, so you were born at midnight as the new millennium began; a cult therefore thinks you and the other twelve boys (understand the title?) born at the same moment all need to die.  There's action, adventure, mystery, and suspense.  Not bad, but the ending tried to build suspense without really delivering.

 


31

How to Read Literature like a Professor by Tom Hoyle

Type:  Nonfiction (2003)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Ever wonder how we English teachers know how to interpret the novels and poems we read?  Then read this book.  It's a FUN trek through the ins and outs of how to attain that deeper understanding of literature that seems so esoteric to so many.

 


30

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  A fascinating look at the world of mental illness.  Give this novel time.  All of a sudden, you will understand...and care.

 


29

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman 

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

WARNING:  There is quite a bit of explicit language in this novel.

My grade and thoughts: A+.    This novel takes a hard look at loyalty, legality, morality, and relationships.  What a gripping, engaging read.

 


28

No Such Person by Caroline B. Cooney

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: D.  Not terrible; not great.  It will keep your interest as it takes you through its paces, but don't you want more from a novel?  I did.

 


27

Raising Arcadia by Simon Chesterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+.    An absolutely phenomenal work.  I was hooked by the first page when we read of a parent-student-administrator meeting that gives Arcadia a chance to show her amazing abilities to scrutinize, synthesize, and lure readers into her world.

 


26

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

Type:  Nonfiction (2016)

Not allowed as ancillary novel.

My grade and thoughts: A+.    I teach Shakespeare, so I wanted to read this work. Admittedly, I approached it with some trepidation, fearing that a book on Shakespeare's life would be boring.  I could not have been further from the truth.  What an enjoyable work!

 


25

Manitou Canyon by William Kent Kreuger

Type:  Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B.  It's a standard murder mystery with a few twists that raise it above the level of banality.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

 


24

A Detective at Death's Door by H. R. F. Keating

Type:  Mystery (2004)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  What an extremely engaging, fun read!  I absolutely loved the way the author wove Agatha Christie into the plot.  Fantastic!

 


23

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  A kidnapping leads to a fascinating plotline.

 


22

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

Type:  YA Historical Fiction/Mystery (2016)

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

My grade and thoughts: A+.  An absolutely amazing murder mystery including Jack the Ripper.  Extremely engaging and well done.

 


21

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  The central question of a character's history and identity is engrossing.  I was impressed.

 


20

For This Life Only by Stacey Kade

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B.  Kade offers a novel about a sibling dealing with his brother's death.  Overall, well done.

 


19

Cold Case by Julia Platt Leonard

Recommended by Ethan Boyers.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Mystery (2011)

My grade and thoughts: B.  It gets the job done as young adult mysteries go.  Nothing excpetional, but certainly not a novel that fails to please.  I'll never look at restaurants the same way.

 


18

The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison

Type:  YA Mystery (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B+.  In some ways, a typical mystery; this one, however, has more of an eerie psychological mood than others I've read.  Not bad.

 


17

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: B-.  I wanted more from this 9/11 story.  I got some of the poignance of that fateful day, but not all that I wanted.  The novel, it should be noted, definitely takes an "off the beaten path" angle on that terrible day.  Then again, maybe I'm too demanding when it comes to this date in our country's past:  my standards are very high when reading a work about 9/11.

 


16

Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss

Type:  YA Fiction (2016)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This is a really well done coming-of-age story about a senior in high school.  Bliss handles what could have been a trite narrative with finesse and originality.

 


15

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Type:  YA Fiction (2009)

My grade and thoughts: B.  Three adolescent boys spending the summer trying to accomplish, oh, so much.  The novel is humorous but refreshingly perceptive in its depiction of the protagonists.

 


14

Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby

Type:  YA Fiction (2008)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A thoroughly enjoyable and meaningful novel.  You won't be disappointed.

 


13

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

Type:  YA Fiction (2013)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A heartfelt tale of two teens, both of whom have cancer and the desire for a relationship with each other.  Well done.

 


12

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Type:  YA Fiction (2010)

My grade and thoughts: B+.  This novel centers around a cancer patient, but there's so much more to it than that.  I liked this book; I think you will, to0.  Give it a try.

 


11

Prison Boy by Sharon E. McKay

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A.  A novel of political strife and the human struggle to survive, this one is really good.

 


10

If You're Reading This by Trent Reedy

Type:  YA Fiction (2014)

My grade and thoughts: B.  This novel weaves together a father-son relationship even though the father is deceased.  With a hint of mystery, the work pleased me very much.  I felt Reedy handled the subject matter in a believable yet heartfelt manner.

 


9

The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

Type:  YA Fiction (2012)

My grade and thoughts: A.  You'll love it as you get to know the smart-alec Jay.  There's so much more to him than meets the eye...like all of us, right? 

 


8

Sasquatch by Andrea Schicke Hirsch

WARNING:  Be sure to look for the novel with the correct author:  apparently, this is a popular title for novels.

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Loved it.  Loved it.  Loved it.  Just suspend your disbelief (which isn't that difficult with this novel), and go along for a curious, edifying ride.  Loved it.  Did I mention that I loved it?

 


7

The Fall by James Preller

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A.  The novel deals with the aftermath of suicide in a believable and meaningful way.  I was engrossed.

 


6

Inside Out by Terry Trueman

Type:  YA Fiction (2004)

My grade and thoughts: A+.  Wow!  This is a good one.  It starts with a robbery gone wrong, but I guarantee you will not believe where this novel goes.  Really well done.

 


5

Chasing Forgiveness by Neal Shusterman

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Just how much can you forgive, especially when the person whom you must forgive is...

 


4

The 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type:  Mystery (1957)

My grade and thoughts: A.  I love Miss Marple, and this story was not a disappointment as I watched her piece together the case.  The entire premise intrigued me:  a chance occurrence, happening during the slimmest of all possible time frames.  Fascinating.

 


3

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie

*Not allowed as ancillary novel.*

Type:  Mystery (1937)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Yet again, Poirot uses his "little grey cells" to intriguing effect in this mystery.  Loved it.

 


2

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Recommended by Mr. Grimm.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Fiction (2015)

My grade and thoughts: A.  This is a really engaging read.  I found it poignant but not sentimental.

 


1

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

Recommended by Mrs. Brandel.  Thanks!

Type:  YA Fiction (2011)

My grade and thoughts: A.  Tense, poignant, and realistic, this novel takes a look at violence and its effects on a relationship.  Extraordinarily well done.