Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
“I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I’ve always been good at pretending.” Verity begins her story for SSHauptsturmfurhrer von Linden. She writes out everything from meeting her friend Maddie right up to the end when she is to be sent off to Night and Fog for extermination. This is not just another WWII adventure or tragedy. It’s a story of friendship and loyalty, choices and lack of choices. Through the storytelling of Queenie and then Maddie, Verity and KittyHawk. A British woman pilot and a Scot spy. Satisfying conclusions and yet so very tragic. As it should be. Excellent. YA for language and torture.

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
Surprised to find he has been accepted into a CIA school for young spy candidates, Ben Ripley soon finds that maybe he is not the best candidate after all. From his actual first step on campus it seems that someone is out to get him. At first I thought this was another fluffy silliness (think N.E.R.D.S.) but fairly quickly the plot complicates and characters become more interesting. Good right to the end. Very very good. 4th+ CCBA nominee.

Middle School: How I survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill. By James Patterson (yea right) and Chris Tebbetts
Rafe Katchadorian (and his sister, Georgia) are sent to Camp Wannamorra to further their educations. It’s everything you would expect an awful camp experience to be—the title says it all. Not much original here or even the small warm moments we’ve had in the past with Rafe. It was Ok. 4TH+

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The audio version was excellent. I can still hear the voices. Someone commented to me that this was just another Whitey saves the day book, but I disagree. I think Aibilene is the huge hero here and the one I admire the most. This book resonates so much with me because Inez MacAbee was a sort of nanny for me and truly felt like one of the family. I loved her. Sorry this book just misses being OK for middleschool just because of the naked man in the garden exposing himself chapter. Of course the point of that was that the white woman came to the defense of the black maid, but that’s not what middleschoolers will take from it. Oh well.

How to Train Your Dragon Book 10: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel. By Cressida Cowell
Our Hiccup is growing up. Literally. His quest is to find the Jewel, but he has to help his friends and family first. Most of them are in the Prison Darkheart. Lots of dangers and decisions in this one. And once again, touching moments—between Hiccup and his mother, his father, his best friend, and even Snotface Snotlout. Very good. 4th+

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
Assigned to write about his life (while getting out of writing about Shakespeare), Julian Twerski talks about his friends, girls (they are so confusing) and a certain incident that gets him suspended from school. This is a low-key narrative set in 1969 in Queens. Great voice. Not a highly suspenseful story but still compelling. I really enjoyed this. 5th+ Very good.

Every Day by David Levithan
This was close, but I think it's OK for middleschool. "A" wakes up every morning in a different person's body. He is totally aware of who he is and can call on memories of facts for that person, enabling him to fit in. Until he meets Rhiannon. True Love ensues. Except A is never physically the same. I found the device of having a different body for each chapter truly interesting. One reviewer called it didactic--we learn about depression, being an illegal alien, being in an oppressive home, being gay (over and over). But I thought it added a great complicating issue. Of course it didn't make sense--this wasn't a science fiction story. But what a great platform for discussions. YA for sexual situations--the one very close scene was handled with thoughtfulness. Good. I would prefer this for 8th graders.

Who done it? : an investigation of murder most foul by Jon Scieszka
`Cute concept. And it might be usable for looking at authors' styles. But 80 chapters all saying "I didn't kill Herman Q Mildew, the editor." got just a bit tedious. I did like Mo Willems very short alibi, and David Ostow using graphic novel form. There are some funny lines (Lemony Snicket's agenda including "Establishment of Alibi In Case Anybody Is Murdered Today." meh, OK 5th+

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
It will be interesting to see if our Wendy Mass fans like this one. It's so weird. I had to drag myself to the end. Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe of the Powers That Be and literally must save the world. At least the solar system that includes Earth. This is astrophysics heavy. Lots of great quotes, but the science thrown in with the idea of a Realm that is overseeing everything really turned me off. Ick for me. 5th+

I'll be There, a novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Slow start but picked up so much speed I was holding my breath. Couldn't put it down by half way through. Emily meets Sam. Destiny. But Sam has a gigantic secret. A psychotic dad and very sick younger brother mixed with avoiding anything normal since second grade has Sam in perpetual survival mode. But meeting Emily (and her family) introduces him to the idea of a possibility of normalcy. This seems really far-fetched, but the writing makes it totally believable. The characters, from Emily's caring but practical mother to the obsessive and highpowered Bobby Ellis, are terrific. Loved this one. YA for romance, and violence. Wow.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Suffers from comparison to I'll be There (see above). This seems like a replay of other dystopia books I've read. Girl thrown into unstable primitive society. Hulky boy comes to rescue. They hate each other. They love each other. They can be highly gifted in one sense --smell, hearing, etc. She sings opera. OK Blue Spruce nominee. YA for sex (it happens, off screen)

Fake Friend: Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters by Marissa Moss
Written on lined paper in handwriting style, this is Daphne's diary of her efforts to make friends with Imogen without making friends with Imogen's friend Darla and without offending her own best friend Kaylee. Yadda yadda. OK 3rd+
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Pretty scary for third grade but OK for most. Zach, Poppy and Alice have been playing imaginative games forever, but now they have a true quest--to bury a doll made from a little girl's bones, hair and ashes. This reminded me of Kehret's Ghost's Grave. This was just the right amount of creepy. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the lack of true consequences of breaking the law, running away, etc. mature 3+

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue Sargent lives in a house of psychic women, except she doesn't have visions, yet. The Raven Boys are students at privileged Aglionby but the three friends have a tenuous relationship. Gansey has money but is cheating death, Adam is poor and resentful, and Ronan is a storm waiting to happen. And the quiet Noah. This was a great read--exciting from the start. Lots of mystery. Spiritism but grounded. But there were a lot of loose ends. The closing was good, but I am left wondering about a number of things (can't mention them or it would be a spoiler.). Scorpio Races was better for me. This was very good. YA for violence. (OK for middleschool)

Captain Awesome to the Rescue by Stand Kirby illus by George O'Connor
Eugene, a second-grader in a new school, is also (you guessed it...) Capt Awesome. This is a very early chapter book (comparable to Judy Moody) with a boy main character. Yeaaaa. Good. 1st+

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and

The Girl With Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti
Frenenqer is locked into her existence by a father with impossibly high expectations. She lives literally on an oasis in the Middle East and has no personal identity. Then Sangris is entwined with her private life--a shapeshifter who flies her away at night. This was complicated and open to a lot of interpretation. Lots of cultural conflicts with plenty of respect. I could read this again. YA for hot kissing but no sex. Complicated.

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike
Read this in one long sitting. Jeff is at a new school and tries to help a girl no one else notices. Because she's dead. Only Jeff can see her and speak with her and of course help her resolve her problems. Her main issue-she was a kleptomaniac who needs to return her loot. But she had deeper problems that she may not be facing. The plot line just keeps moving and pulling us along. Enjoyed this one despite the agnosticism. YA for sex, some language, and death. Good.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Set in England in the recently postWWII tiny town of Bryers Guerdon, this story unfolds using a variety of points of view. It is the story of how Long Lankin, the horror poem/folktale, played out in history right up to the point Cora and Mimi join their Aunt Ida. Not my genre (horror) and the Brit part of it is almost too much to wade through. "Mum and Dad want wafers." from the ice cream truck. ?? Anyway, the horror is only really bad at the very end. Not as Psychopathic as Far Far Away, but more evil. OK for mature readers. YA