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Howton's Hidden Corner Posts

The Serpent King by Keff Zentner

What is it that really shapes who we are as a person. Is it where we grow up? Do our parents influence the person we are or who we will become?  Do we really have any control over our future?  These are the questions that are explored through the eyes of Dill in The Serpent King.

Dill isn’t the most popular kid at his rural Tennessee high school. After his father fell from grace in a public scandal that reverberated throughout their small town, Dill became a target. Fortunately, his two fellow misfits and best friends, Travis and Lydia, have his back.

But as they begin their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. His only escapes are music and his secret feelings for Lydia–neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending–one that will rock his life to the core.

I was engulfed in this authentic look at adolescence and the pull to find our own personality and future out of the life that everyone around us seems to think we should be living. This book slowly won it’s spot in my list of favorite books.

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Goodbye Stranger By Rebecca Stead

“Who’s the real you? The person who did something awful, or the one who’s horrified by the awful thing you did? Is one part of you allowed to forgive the other?”

Long ago, best friends Bridge, Emily, and Tab made a pact: no fighting. But it’s the start of seventh grade, and everything is changing. Emily’s new curves are attracting attention, and Tab is suddenly a member of the Human Rights Club. And then there’s Bridge. She’s started wearing cat ears and is the only one who’s still tempted to draw funny cartoons on her homework.

By the time Valentine’s Day approaches, the girls have begun to question the bonds—and the limits—of friendship. Can they grow up without growing apart?

7th grade is hard. Everyone is mean, even the people who you think are your friends.  It is a cutthroat world where you are trying to figure out who you want to be, who your current friends are, if you really still  fit within their group, and if not, then where do you belong.  This was a perfect look into what being a 7th grader looks like and I enjoyed every moment (unlike the year that I actually was a 7th grader)!

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Scythe Neil Shusterman

In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. —Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

I thoroughly enjoyed the world that Neil Shusterman created in this new series.  I found it to be a believable scenario and found  the different ideals that different Scythes made into their individual creeds to be authentic.  I look forward to delving into this world again with future books in the series.

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Sea of Ink and Gold: The Reader by Traci Chee

Words hold magic, and those who can read them hold power that many are afraid of. That is why things called book are unheard of in the world created by Traci Chee.  An adventure from page one, this book grabs you and takes you on many different journeys to the point where you are anxiously anticipating what will be continued in the next book!

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

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NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

Dark, intense, and worrisome but boy was this a great read.  A gripping look into what happens when people (especially teenagers) think they can do harmless tasks in order to get the things they need…

 

When a new social network pops up promising to fulfill any need, 16-year-old Kaylee Dunham knows it’s too good to be true. It’s one thing to deliver new phones, computers, or sports equipment, but how can an anonymous site give Kaylee what she needs—a kidney for her little brother? Kaylee joins NEED to please her best and only friend, Nate, but starts to worry when NEED begins asking users to complete tasks in exchange for getting what they want. The tasks seem harmless enough at first, until a student turns up dead, and Kaylee finds out the lengths to which some people will go to get what they think they need. —Kimberly Ventrella, Southwest Oklahoma City Library for School Library Journal

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The Thing About Jellyfish By Ali Benjamin

Grief is an intricate process that is hard to define and is experienced in a different way for every person.  Suzy is a quirky, stubborn, and brilliant girl and she just isn’t sure how to approach life when her friend dies. Especially when she thinks about the last time she saw her friend and how their friendship was changing. This book gripped me in the throws of Suzy’s grieving process and I was swept along with the tide, much like…jellyfish.

 

Everyone says that it was an accident… that sometimes things “just happen”. But Suzy won’t believe it. Ever. After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The hype surrounding this book and the subsequent Netflix series made me feel like if I didn’t read this book this summer, that I would be left out of a major issue surrounding young adults and what they read/watch. So like any good librarian would tell me to do, I read the book and then watched the series.  I truly fell in love with Hannah Baker and therefore Clay Jensen.  It is a haunting story but one that is also so full of moments in which to look at the way we treat each other and to find ways to change our behaviors in order to be kinder.   I found it to be a very realistic look at depression and all of the small moments that combine to convince someone to choose to end their life rather than try to find something to live for.  The publisher’s synopsis is as always quoted below!

 

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Here we go again, another World War II novel.  But this one is a story that you probably haven’t heard.  Ruta Sepetys is one of the best at finding the story that you haven’t heard.  This story involves groups of people that were rarely spoken of and a ship wreck that was the greatest maritime disaster in terms of lives lost in history and yet most have never heard the name of the ship.  The alternating narrative chosen by the author creates a feeling of snippets of memories being reveled in an edited slide projector format.  To see the story play out from many different narrators gives you a disjointed feeling of seeing the events but only partially.  It is a highly emotional journey because you know the fate of at least some or most of the characters you meet and yet you want to hope for the best.

 

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloffthe greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

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Front Lines by Michael Grant

I was enthralled by the premise of this book as soon as I heard about it at  the Bureau of Education & Research’s What’s New in Young Adult Literature conference.  I have always had a fascination with the 1920-1960 time period and especially the World War II years.  This book takes an alternate look at history with women being drafted for life on the Front Lines. It felt authentic and harsh but the retelling of history was an amazing look into what life might have been. It is definitely a young adult book. It is not highly censored and is definitely a realistic look into military life (boot camp, barrack life, and war) where the two sexes have to figure out how to live and work as a team. I loved every minute of this book and look forward to reading the rest of the coming series. As always, the publishers blurb is below.

 

World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.

These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I usually fly through books, reading them in two days, but this book was different. Not only because of the nature of the writing but also because of the nature of my life when I started reading it. However, I stuck with this book, reading it little pieces at a time, and by the end I was very sad to be finished. It was a wonderful look at history through a very odd narrator.  I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I got to spend in Amor Towles’s Moscow.  Included below is the publisher’s description found on Amazon.

He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

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