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Summer 2003 Authors and Titles

The City of the Beasts

Isabel Allende


M.T. Anderson

Midnight Predator

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

The Year of the Hangman

Gary Blackwood

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl

Martha Brooks

King of the Mild Frontier

Chris Crutcher

This Lullaby

Sarah Dessen

Point Blank

Anthony Horowitz

No Body's Perfect

Kimberly Kirberger

Shades of Simon Gray

Joyce McDonald

The Enemy Has a Face

Gloria D. Miklowitz

Getting the Girl

Markus Zusak




Book Cover The City of the Beasts

by Isabel Allende

HarperCollins 2003

At the young age of fifteen, Alexander Cold, the son of Dr. John Cold and grandson of the famous Joseph Cold, was presented with the expedition of his lifetime when his mother became deathly ill.  Needing to be treated at a hospital in Texas, she left Alex with his grandmother Kate and his sisters with their other grandparents.  In this way his dark but knowledge-filled journey to the other side of the world finally commenced.  While venturing through the Amazon, Alex’s new friend Nadia soon revealed to him another world much more sophisticated and peculiar than his previous experiences where the mysterious shaman Walimai and the People of the Mist existed.  It was a place that changed his life forever, a place where “spirits walked among the living” and evil lurked once again.  In the time of a sky with six moons, the two friends worked together to discover the totemic animals within their inner selves.  Given tasks worthy of only the strongest warriors, the newcomers worked hand in hand with the Gods of the legendary city of El Dorado to vanquish the evil cannibal-bird Rahakanariwa and save the Indians.  They then struggled through an unexpected controversy and betrayal within their own party, finding themselves in a position where deception veiled the truth.

City of the Beasts is best suited for readers in grades six through ten.  From the beginning the book was appealing both physically and mentally.  The decorative cover, interesting facts and colorful phrases made this an intricately designed book.  The complex plot and carefully concealed resolution to the unusual situation also made the novel unpredictable and intriguing.  Learning wise sayings and listening to Walimai brought both Alex and Nadia closer to the Indians.  Nadia even mastered the skill of invisibility, which “is not a question of magic but a talent achieved with great practice and concentration.”  Then, in completing their destinies, they risked the chance of death of banishment from all human civilization.  In the end the author brought a touch of sadness and understanding to the characters’ personality when they gave up their most prized possessions, in which they applied the law of nature, “For everything you take you must give something in return.”  In these ways the characters came to life in the enchanting setting of the Amazon, each on their own mission through the dense, tropical rainforest despite the dangers encountered through this delightful and heart-warming novel.

~Rebecca Theophanous, 8th Grade, Boardman Center Middle School, Boardman, OH

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Book Cover Feed

by M.T. Anderson

Candlewick Press 2002

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”  This is a futuristic story that I really loved.  It takes place in a time when we live far above the ground in our own little worlds where you can control the weather and your own sun.  People are born in laboratories and they get feeds installed into their brains.  These people are super smart and the feed acts like a natural part of their bodies.  Most communication is telepathically received and released.  It’s like having AOL in your brain and you can go anywhere or do anything while using it.

The story begins with a group of friends who decide to take a trip to the moon.  When they get there, the main character, Titus, meets a girl named Violet.  He is immediately in awe over her and invites her to join him and his friends.  They go to a club and are having a fun time until they are touched by a hacker.  All the kids are put into the hospital for a few days, all leaving healthy, except Violet.  As the days, weeks and months go by, Titus and Violet’s relationship takes a turn for the worse.  She cares about the world and what’s happening everywhere.  She challenges Titus, his friends, and everything that they enjoy and are accustomed to.  She even tries to fight the feed.  She creates pressure on him in their relationship and it’s hard to say if he ends up happy or not at the end of the story.

This book was really great.  It really gets your imagination going and the characters are awesome.  The relationship between Titus and Violet is very real.  It was beautiful, sad, and even a little heroic.  I am disappointed in the end because I don’t like some of the decisions Titus makes.  This book is suitable for high school students.  There is some excessive swearing.  Take this book into consideration.  I usually don’t like fictional, sort of sci-fi stories, but I recommend this book to anyone.

~Dannielle Slaven, 10th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover Midnight Predator

by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Delacorte Press 2002

Midnight, a dark elegant place filled with deceit and death.  It’s a place where humans are sold as slaves to trainers who, for the most, treat them horribly.  Vampires rule this place, yet the company of witches and shape-shifters is not uncommon.  This is a place where lives are tortured and lost.  Yet two women will risk their lives to enter this place.  One with a horrible remembrance of a one time life there, the other with the greed of money, both with their minds set on killing.

Turquoise lived a past life at Midnight.  Then, she was known as Catherine.  Her family was killed and she was taken to this horrible place to be a slave to the infamous vampire Lord Daryl.  Through luck and plain stubbornness, she was sent away with another vampire by the name of Nathaniel.  He, unlike most of his kind, never liked the idea of being a trainer to human slaves.  He did things for people, as long as he made a profit, and was a friend to Turquoise.  He even gave her the new name.  Turquoise, being a mercenary (someone who kills vampires), agrees to a job to kill Jesikah, the high vampiress of Midnight.  Along the way, she meets Jaguar, a very different kind of vampire.  He’s kind to humans and gives them the liberties that they would normally have in their own homes.  He’s quite fond of Turquoise and becomes a friend to her.  With all this, though, Turquoise never loses sight of her goal, but by entering Midnight, she must face her past life and her fears head on.  Can she survive her past and still fulfill her job while dealing with her emotions of fear, guilt and love?

This is an outstanding book that I couldn’t put down.  Each character comes to life as you read through the pages and you long to know more about them.  Although I was a little distraught by how the book ended, each page seemed to get better than the one prior.  I would recommend this book to the ages of 12 and up.

~Laura Weber, 12th Grade, Howland High School, Howland, OH

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Book Cover The Year of the Hangman

by Gary Blackwood

Dutton Children's Books 2002

Did you ever wonder what life would be like if the British had won the Revolutionary War?  A spoiled young man from England finds himself on a ship set for the American colonies after he is kidnapped coming home one night.  Creighton Brown is just seventeen years old when he comes to America.  Back in Britain, he gambled and tried to act like a gentleman.  Creighton carries with him a bad attitude.  He was captured, tied up with a sock put in his mouth, had had nothing to do on a ship he was on for days, and was sent to see his uncle, Colonel Gower, when they reached land.  On their way to Florida, Creighton is captured again, this time by Americans.  His uncle makes him pretend to be an indentured slave and Creighton finds his way to Benjamin Franklin’s house, where the banned newspaper The Liberty Tree is being published.  With Creighton’s connections, he is expected to act as a spy, but Creighton thinks he may “turn his coat” and side with the Americans.

This was a good book.  Creighton Brown is a very interesting character.  He deals with a lot of stress and decision making and is put in some tough situations in this story.  I like this book because with each page turned, you don’t know what to expect.  Plus, the story really makes you think about our country’s history and the people who fought for our independence.  I suggest this book to anyone who has knowledge of the Revolutionary War and wants to challenge themselves to wonder or ask, “What if?”

~Dannielle Slaven, 10th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover True Confessions of a Heartless Girl

by Martha Brooks

Groundwood Books 2003

Lynda Bradley, a single mother, is just about to close her restaurant for the day when a truck pulls up into the parking lot.  Seventeen-year old Noreen Stall comes in for a cup of coffee.  Lynda offers her a place to stay because the young girl looks like she’s been through a lot and might be in some trouble.  Some mistakes Noreen makes when she first goes to the town of Pembina Lake trigger calamities that shake the lives of the people she meets and sees regularly.  In this story, Noreen, Lynda and her son, two elderly women who have long been best friends and a sad, lonely man named Del Armstrong try to bear with their own tragedies in their lives and come together to find a way to make their futures better and their lives brighter.

This was a very nice story.  I felt bad for all the characters because the problems they had to deal with were so realistic and could happen to anyone.  The story drags on in some places but sometimes I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, especially toward the end.

This is appropriate for 9th-12th graders.  You can really get into the story.  It is also very well written.  Overall it was a pretty good book.

~ Dannielle Slaven, 10th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover King of the Mild Frontier

by Chris Crutcher

Greenwillow Books 2003

Life’s an adventure, and it was all that and more for Chris Crutcher growing up.  From dreading and avoiding being dubbed “bawlbaby” to absurd high school initiations and the humiliation that followed, Crutcher’s passage into adulthood is a combination of priceless experience, both good and bad.  From dealing with anger management problems to curiosity with girls, to questions about death and why things happen, Crutcher shares with us some very important life lessons he learned.  He compiled his most memorable misfortunes into an endearing memoir of growing up.

King of the Mild Frontier is an excellent autobiography of Chris Crutcher.  The true-life experiences he chose to account for are both very entertaining and powerful.  The reader is drawn in to the novel, captivated by his compassion, and desires to know just what happens to him next; likewise, the reader is able to relate to his stories of growing up as he/she may have very well had some stories of his/her own.  Chris himself had some difficult experiences throughout his childhood, but he turned out all right and became a successful writer, so this is a great novel of growing up that offers a source of hope for adolescents making the journey into adulthood.

~Kandis Cutlip, 12th Grade, Howland High School, Howland, OH

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Book Cover This Lullaby

by Sarah Dessen

The Penguin Group 2002

This book is about a girl who has her life all planned out until one thing comes along and puts everything out of proportion.  This girl’s name is Remy Starr.  Remy does not believe in love because she has watched her mother go through four divorces.  Remy has to have everything her way or no way.  In her life she has had many different boyfriends.  The reason for this is she has a cycle where she can only date a boyfriend for about six weeks, and then she has to break things off with the same speech she has given many times to the boyfriend before.  Until she meets Dexter.  Dexter is not anyone that Remy would consider dating, or even looking twice at, but for some odd reason she can’t seem to get away from him.  He seems to be everywhere she goes.  Dexter is also in a band, and Remy has promised herself never to date a guy in a band.  Remy has three friends in the book, Lissa, Chloe, and Jess.  

This book is very fulfilling, and the characters are fascinating and easy to understand.  This book takes place in today’s life because this book is very down to earth and easy to relate to.  I loved this book because at the moment I am going through trouble with my boyfriend, but when I picked up the book I did not choose to read it for that purpose.  The story itself seemed very interesting to me to read because I love books that are real life situations that people can go through.  This book seems to be for 10th through 12th grade students because it has older themes to it at some parts, and I think younger kids might be immature at times while reading this book.  This book is an excellent choice to read.  I am glad I got to read it.

~ Nicole Cappelli, 9th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover Point Blank

by Anthony Horowitz

The Penguin Group 2001

Are you a fan of James Bond, Alias, or any other spy thrillers?  If so, then Anthony Horowitz’s Point Blank is perfect for you.  You read about Alex Rider, a fourteen-year old who is forced into the spy business after the death of his uncle.  Alex must investigate mysterious murders of two incredibly powerful and rich men that have recently thought something was wrong with their sons, who both attended Point Blanc, a school that only takes sons of the incredibly rich from around the world.  Alex soon finds how disturbing the schoolmaster, ironically named Dr. Grief, is, and what the Gemini Project is.

Aside from some corny spy lines, this book is really good and I think is a much better read for younger teens (or teenagers looking for a quick read).  Point Blank’s ending is truly a spectacular one that nobody would suspect until its last few pages.

~ Kaley Costello, 10th Grade, Girard High School, Girard, OH

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Book Cover No Body's Perfect

by Kimberly Kirberger

Scholastic 2003

Kimberly Kirberger was inspired by the stories of Lisa Gay, Christine Kalinowksi, Brie Gorlitsky, and supported by Bonnie Solow, her agent, Joy Peskin, her editor, Peter Vegso, her publisher, and Colin Mortensen, her partner and friend in working with young people.  You might have heard of Kimberly Kirberger before.  She is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul books.  She is full of human compassion and love.  Kimberly never tires of helping young people out with their many every day life troubles on relationships, body image, family, and friends.  This book deals solely with body image and how teens should accept themselves for who they are instead of what they want to become.

The question going on throughout the book is “Do you love your body?”  I think that everyone can remember a time of when they were asked this question in their lives, and that is why I feel that this book is so appealing to its audience.  The chapters that I found to be most interesting and important were “Get to Know Yourself,” and “Let it Go.”

One of the short stories, “My Moment of Truth,” is a story about knowing yourself and having inner strength to stand up for yourself.  A girl, Candice, has always been fat her whole life and everybody made fun of her, because of that very fact.  One day she was watching Oprah and this bald man was a guest on the show about how he  cannot stand up to his co-workers’ nasty comments, which ruled his life.  Oprah told him that , “You are the only one who is in control of your destiny!”  The show made a huge impact on her, because the next day she stood up for herself against her bullies.  They never bothered her again.

A letter called “Dear Bulimia” made it possible to understand what bulimia does to you and your loved ones.  Protruding bones, thin hair, insides bleeding when trying to get rid of food, and hurting your friends and family by having them watch you suffer, and not being able to help are all results of bulimia (which are touched upon in the letter).

The problems that happen in a lot of these true stories are easy for teens to relate to.  I like the book, No Body’s Perfect, because it is honest, real, true to life, and interesting.  It’s advice that young people should heed and pay attention to.  Those who have not yet achieved self-actualization gain confidence. Many of the disorders described in this book such as bulimia and obesity may decrease in number thanks to the wise and thoughtful information passed on to readers of this age group.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is a teenager and going through adolescence or to anyone who has a teenager at home.

~ Ashley Commings, 11th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover Shades of Simon Gray

by Joyce McDonald

Delacorte Press 2001

Simon Gray is just seventeen-years old and has a bright future ahead of him but after a serious car accident, Simon is in a coma, lying almost dead in the hospital.  Simon finds himself being pulled from his body, his space and time being overlapped by a man who was hanged two hundred years earlier on the same tree Simon ran his car into.  His other friends involved in “the project” wonder if the plagues that have been assaulting their small town of Bellehaven are causes of their actions.

This book is thrilling, suspenseful and will keep you on the edge of your seat.  I really liked everything about the story, especially the characters and the plot.  It’s really interesting when Simon is able to talk to Jessup Wildemere, the town legend.  He is the only man to ever be hanged in the county without a trial and Simon and Liz find information to prove he was a wrongly accused man.

This book was great.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s mysterious and always interesting.  Anyone can read this book anywhere from ages twelve and up, however I do think that high school students would appreciate it more.

~ Dannielle Slaven, 10th Grade, Lowellville High School, Lowellville, OH

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Book Cover The Enemy Has a Face

by Gloria D. Miklowitz

Eerdmans Publishing Company 2003

Where is he, where is Netta’s big brother Adam?  That was one of the questions that stuck in my head throughout the majority of the whole book.  Fourteen year old Netta Hofman is the narrator of this story.  One night after going out with his friends, Netta’s older brother, Adam, never returns home.  Netta, with the help of her parents, detective Perez, and two friends work diligently to solve the mystery of where her brother is.  In the story there were two major predictions as to what happened to Adam.  One was that a potential “girlfriend” over the internet had planned to meet him somewhere and then turned out to be a fraud and kill him.  The second idea was that a group of Palestinians killed him because he was an Israeli.  The Hofman family had just moved out of Israel where conflict and prejudice between the Israelis and Palestinians was very strong and hateful.  Another problem encountered during the story was Netta’s friend Laith that was trying to help the family find Adam.  Unfortunately, Laith was Palestinian and the Hofman family wasn’t willing to trust and accept him.

Out of all the books that I have ever read, this has definitely been one of my favorites.  It is one of the few whose moral has actually left an impact on me and my outlook on life.  I would recommend this book to anyone of any age that wants to read a powerful, realistic fictional book which shows the importance of trusting one another and accepting people for who they are.  I think it is especially important for people today to read this book because of what happened on September 11th.  Now more than ever people look at people of Muslim and Arab decent as dangerous people because of the possibility of them being terrorists.  The reality is that those people had no control about what happened and a lot of them are completely innocent.  Another admirable aspect of this book besides the fact that it deals with real life issues is that the characters have their own unique personalities and portray the figure of a real person.  The characters can be related to in many ways.  Some of these ways include age, moving to a new place, not having many friends, and having people hate you because you are different.  Lastly, some parts of this book remind me of a book I read called Dear Katie.  I can relate that book to The Enemy Has a Face because Dear Katie deals with a girl that meets a guy over the internet and puts herself in potential danger when going to meet this guy.  It reminded me of the possibility that Adam was meeting a girl from the internet.  So in conclusion, I thought that this book was very entertaining and I would recommend it to anyone.

~ Kari Thompson, 8th Grade, Boardman Center Middle School, Boardman, OH

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Book Cover Getting the Girl

by Markus Zusak

Scholastic 2003

Friends.  Belonging.  Love.  That’s all anyone wants, right?  We long for the company of friends.  We fantasize about the sense of belonging.  Above all, we desire the idea of being loved.  This is exactly how Cameron Wolfe feels.  He doesn’t have any friends.  He definitely doesn’t belong, and as far as love, he’s never felt it.  He’s the odd one in his family.  Sarah has her looks and her artwork.  Steve has his athleticism and carefree personality.  Ruben has his looks and his ability never to lose a fight.  His parents keep the house together.  Cameron has nothing, so he tells himself that is.  He dreams of the day where he’ll finally be somebody, a day where he no longer has to fall behind in his brother’s shadows at least.  Each night he writes his feelings down and conceals them from everyone.  Yet, despite all this yearning, he most desires love and lust.  He fantasizes over women constantly, whether it be his brother’s old girlfriend or the cover girl of a sports magazine.  He even waits outside of a girl’s home everyday hoping that she will one day appear before him.  Through all of this desire, he loses who he really is.  He forgets that he too is a great person with achievements.

Then the day comes where he is loved by a girl, Octavia, Ruben’s latest ex-girlfriend that is.  Finally, a girl who cares for him and wants him!  He’s never felt higher!  What could go wrong?  Everything.  Ruben finds out about him and Octavia.  Cameron ends up with cuts and bruises.  Octavia sees this and leaves.  Cameron discovers that his oldest brother Steve talked to his roommate Sal about him, calling him a loser.  The pet dog next door that Cameron cared for and walked died.  Ruben ends up in a fight and loses.  Nothing seems to go right anymore.  He’s about to give up.  It’s only the words and picture that his sister drew that keeps him going.  He’s determined to set things right.  Finally, he realizes just how significant he is.  Not only do both of his older brothers look up to him, but he also discovers his talent of writing.  He finds himself and learns to do things for himself, not for anyone else.

Getting the Girl is a fairly decent fiction book concerning the stages of a young man’s life.  Males would definitely enjoy this book more than females, but it still contains some of the problems that females face.  Each character has their own original personality, which allows them to come to life, although the slang that they use is a little hard to understand at times.  Due to a very high content of sexual innuendos and comments, I would recommend this book to high school students.

~ Laura Weber, 12th Grade, Howland High School, Howland, OH

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