The Best of SCHS Reading

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The Border - Guest Post by Y.C.

posted by SCHS Lib




One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families' murders have put out a reward for the teens' capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape...









Four friends are forced to leave the only town they've ever really known growing up, all because they're in BIG trouble. These drug lords have have taken everything from each and every one of them, but the teens also had no choice but to shoot one of them…. now they're on the run to cross the border into the U.S.


I do have to say that at first I didn't like the way the author started the book. I felt as if it was kind of an easy start, just because he started it with Pato and his parents going to Patos cousins’ quinceañera. The author took a typical, common sense “Mexican” route in the beginning of the first chapter. BUT… as you keep reading it's like each page just draws you in more and more. It starts to get intense, and realistic. This book literally would make me feel nervous for them that even my hands would sweat!


I love how all the characters are well developed. The characterization for each and everyone of them go throughout the whole book. I just love all of them and how they were made. You felt their personality off the pages, while reading the book, which is what I liked the most about the book. One of them, Marcos was very “cocky” , but it worked well with how he was described in the book and the situation. I get that he had to man up and be a leader for them, but he was just too much and sometimes wouldn't make the right decision. Gladys, was a very sweet and loving girl, along with Pato. Arbo on the other hand was kind of a shy teen that wasn't afraid to speak out when he knew he needed to.


I would definitely recommend this book! It's a very realistic book, with some real life events I would say have happened before to actual people. The drug lords are also just like they were described in the book, because they are indeed dangerous, evil people. So, of course I would recommend it to teens, or anyone in general that would like to know more about horrific things like this. It really helps you picture everything.




Moxie

posted Sep 21, 2017, 9:22 AM by SCHS Lib




Moxie girls fight back!


Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.











Working in a high school definitely gives you a different perspective as you read "Moxie". 
Yes, these things really do happen. 
Yes, the smallest of things can be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Yes, if a student made an empowering zine, the teachers would be all over it - half in support, half not.

Here are, perhaps, the best four things about this book:
1. The tone. The way Vivian is written was very relatable. She's witty, intelligent, and capable. I actually said to one of my students, "I'm reading this book and this character sounds exactly like you." Sounds like a silly thing to point out but it is rare.
2. Relationships. In particular, the mother-daughter relationship. In so many YA novels, parents are painted negatively or simply not addressed at all. This one had a healthy relationship and also drove home the point that parents used to be high schoolers too. As a parent, I appreciated this aspect.
3. The little things. It's never one big thing that tips you to one side of an issue or drives you to action. It's the little things. The snide remarks. Being sent to the office for attire a boy could wear but not you. The t shirts. Little drops in a bucket until it overflows. This author is good at establishing that fact. 
4. Giant movements begin with grassroots steps. This book showed that a simple handmade anonymous zine left in bathroom stalls can unite people to create a bigger change.

One awesome quote:
"...all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that's always finding ways to tell them they're not."
This hit me right in the gut. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

One wish:
At times, the novel feels very preachy or can convey the idea that, for women to rise up, men have to be brought down. I don't subscribe to that thinking, and I don't think it is the author's intention for that to come across. Perhaps it was just seeing the jerks get what they deserve, which was nice, honestly.

So, did we buy it? Yes, of course we did. This is an important novel for all teens to read about basic respect and taking care with what your message is - all wrapped up in a sassy little package.

Behind the Song - Guest Post by GR

posted Sep 20, 2017, 5:54 AM by SCHS Lib



A song to match everyone's heartbeat.

A soaring melody, a pulse-pounding beat, a touching lyric: Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It’s a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching, and wing spreading—all in the span of a few notes. In Behind the Song, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them.

So cue up the playlist and crank the volume. This is an anthology you’ll want to experience on repeat.






I really need to emphasize how much I appreciate the idea behind this book. When I first listen to a song, I immediately try to think of a scenario that might’ve inspired it or a story that goes

hand in hand.


Now, the first few stories this book opened up with really sucked me in. Mainly because the writing style of the authors was similar to mine. It was very laid back and had a “go with the flow”

kind of vibe to it. Unfortunately, around the fifth or sixth story I became uninterested. The events taking place in the stories weren't as interesting as before; to me that is. 


My personal favorite short story was the one inspired by Hotel California. I found that the author had a good way of tying the sequences of the song to the story. I even caught myself singing some of the sentences. I really grew to like the main character, Lennon, for his though process and how “real” his opinions over certain matters felt. I also enjoyed how the ending of the story can be interpreted in several ways.


My least favorite story was Cold Beverage. Purely because this story started the downfall of my interest for the rest of the book, I felt it was anticlimactic and I couldn't really relate too deeply with it. I only really drink water.


I really recommend this book to anyone with a passion for music and literature, even with my disinterest as it progressed. The variety of writing styles and stories really keeps you hopeful throughout the book that you’ll come across a story you'll really enjoy.

Behind the Song - Guest Post by Ashley H.

posted Sep 18, 2017, 1:26 PM by SCHS Lib




A song to match everyone's heartbeat.

A soaring melody, a pulse-pounding beat, a touching lyric: Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It’s a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching, and wing spreading—all in the span of a few notes. In Behind the Song, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them.

So cue up the playlist and crank the volume. This is an anthology you’ll want to experience on repeat.




I thought that Behind the Song was a great book. Some stories caught my interest immediately, like the first four out of fourteen. For once, my focus on a book was 100% instead of 25%. It made me want to keep going, which surprised me. After the fourth story, it took me a while to recapture focus on most of them, but after reading a couple of stories, at least one captured me for the entire thing. There are also many unique aspects of each story, but not every story can catch your attention.


I'm mostly a fan of the fiction stories personally. They add a sense of a new world. Especially with ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ where everyone who wasn't in the dome was basically a zombie. The twist end especially got it to be one of my favorites. Also coupled with the fact that the main character turned mischievous by the end. My #1 might have to go to ‘It Hurts’ because of how it ended with the brother getting a chance to say goodbye before his sister died.


My least favorite story would be ‘Planting Trees’ mostly just for the reason that it didn't hook me much at all. It wasn't that bad in general, but I had a problem keeping my mind in focus to the story instead of wandering off.


Overall, I liked this book. Some of the stories created imagery that sticks in my mind, even right now, but I would like them to improve on the hook the most. I would recommend this book, and recommend it to some of my friends who love to read short stories and listen to music, which would be quite a few of them.


The Border - Guest Post by C.G.B.

posted Sep 15, 2017, 7:29 AM by SCHS Lib   [ updated Sep 15, 2017, 7:42 AM ]




One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families' murders have put out a reward for the teens' capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape...







Over my years of reading books, I have learned the dangers of becoming attached to characters. They commit heinous acts of treason, they disappear,
they let their emotions overtake them, they become dull, and worst of all, they die. However, none of these facts stopped me from growing to truly care about the four teens in The Border. Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys all grew on me faster than I could imagine. Their ingenious design gave them room to grow up, much to my displeasure. I only say that because I watched the four of them go from kids to adults in less than a week, all because they were thrust into a situation they couldn't control.

So besides some lovely character development, I would have to say that the author was very good at studying up on illegal immigration. His writing was
almost as if he'd gone on the journey himself. Every struggle, every problem, every little detail seemed so well thought out that I felt as if I was there with Pato. There were also some very heartwarming and humorous parts mixed into the story to keep it from just
being depressing, which is a kind thought from the author.

My only problem is that, while the whole journey sounds very realistic, I have a hard time believing that Pato is really Mexican. I know this sounds
silly, but sometimes he just sounds... American. This doesn't mean that I at all blame the author or think the story itself was bad, it's quite the opposite. However, at some points, Pato begins to think like an American teenager, and not a Mexican. I get the feeling that this would only bother some people, and that others wouldn't even notice it, but the problem remains.

I would recommend this book to everyone because I love it and it's a beautiful story with a gut-wrenchingly beautiful group of kids with all their wonderful flaws. I don't think anyone should deny themselves the chance to read The Border.



Crash land on Kurai

posted Sep 14, 2017, 7:39 AM by SCHS Lib


Title: Crash land on Kurai
Author: S.J. Pajonas
Genre: Space Opera/Action/Adventure



Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi's life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she's separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.





Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war.







Do you love tough characters who talk like real (potty-mouth) people and act like you want your heroes to act? Yes? This is the book for you? From the very first chapter, Yumi is sparring with friends, foes, and life as she navigates life in space. 


....


What?

Why are you not reading it yet?!?

Okay, you want more info. Well, despite that stinking awesome cover and description, I was tentative stepping into a spin-off of a series I wasn't familiar with at all. Believe when I say: it didn't matter at all that I hadn't read the original series. It really just a solid standalone book too. The author has strong world building skills and has a knack for introducing new things in a way that it's easy to keep up without slowing down the pace of the novel. The dialogue is strong - never superfluous, always serves a purpose.

Bonus to me: I'm a huge Firefly fan. While this is only slightly reminiscent of my beloved short-lived TV series, the universe feels slightly familiar and was comforting and entertaining. It's obvious that S.J. Pajonas has dedicated tons of time to this world and these characters. 

So, Firefly fans, sci-fi fans, and action fans, get in on this! I'll be checking out other S.J. Pajonas offerings for sure!

All Rights Reserved

posted Aug 29, 2017, 7:26 AM by SCHS Lib


In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks ("Sorry" is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She's been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can't begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she's unable to afford.

But when Speth's friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family's crippling debt, she can't express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech - rather than say anything at all - she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth's unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.




What will draw you in and keep you reading is this unique world created by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. A world where every gesture and word is copyrighted is such a fascinating take on the future! I haven't seen it done before. The author's world building never falters; new elements are introduced often and subtly. The writing flows, making for an easy and enjoyable read. You can't help but become more conscious of your words and actions as you read this story. "How much would that have cost me?"

The characters are all believable. We get to know them at a reasonable rate, taking time to grasp each one before another is introduced. I quite like the unusual names and roles that many of them play in the future society. 

Herein lies my problem: I did not like the main character. At all. Until the final pages of the book. And even at that, I didn't feel like it was enough to redeem her. Here's my beef with Speth: SHE HAD NO IDEA WHY SHE CHOSE TO MAKE THE MOTION THAT MEANT SHE COULD NEVER SPEAK AGAIN. Speth acknowledges repeatedly that she doesn't know why she did it. Even in the moment, the gesture is less significant to her than it is to the audience. It's a very purposeful gesture! She just looked at her speech, decided it wasn't what she wanted her first paid words to be, and decided not to speak at all. WHAT? In that moment, it wasn't an act of revolution, although that is what it turned into later. This indecisive inner dialogue permeates the narrative and kills every ounce of caring I had about Speth. If she had been passionate, even in the moment, about the whole thing, I would have been with her through the self doubt period. But the self doubt is all we get.

So, would I recommend it? Yes actually. Just because I don't like Speth doesn't mean you won't. We all have different friends for a reason. The world in this book is JUST THAT GOOD. I do plan to read the second book because Speth makes some improvements throughout this one, and I want to see what happens next.



Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for allowing me to read and review this book.

Mend Your Heart

posted Aug 23, 2017, 8:32 AM by SCHS Lib


Storm of Hope

posted Aug 3, 2017, 5:48 PM by SCHS Lib















Excerpt:

Side of the Road

 

I heard the loud unmistakable sound of the horn from an 18-wheeler, just as the wind moved my little red SUV as it passed by. I barely look up.

 

I am currently pulled over on the shoulder of I-45 during morning rush hour traffic. The tsunami of this unnamed emotion propelled me to pull over so I can ride this out. Its waves begin with sadness, quickly peeking with horror and guilt, and a crescendo of rage and jealousy.

           

As the horns and cars whizz by me going 75 miles per hour, I had a sudden thought that I would be okay if I died today. My hazard lights were on but seriously, no one pays attention to stranded motorists. There are hundreds of distracted drivers around me, all hoping to make it to work or school or somewhere they deemed important.

           

A knock on my door finally pulled me out of my ocean. It’s a police officer. Just great.

           

“You alright, ma’am?” I hear as I roll down my window. I noted that the worry in his tone did not quite match the wariness in his features.

           

“Yes,” I lie. “I’m sorry, officer.” I wave at the mess that I’m sure I looked.

           

“I just had a baby and today is my first day back to work.” I lie again.

           

He nodded. The wariness was gone, replaced with some relief and understanding. I’m wondering what put the distrust there. “I understand. My wife had some trouble going back to work, too.”

           

“It’s tough,” I respond, wiping away my tears, “but no worries, officer. As soon as you let me go, I promise I will drive to the closest Starbucks, clean up, and buy myself a cup of coffee.”

           

He smiled. “Ok, but promise that next time you’re having, uh…,”

           

“A meltdown?” I supply gently.

           

“A moment,” he cleared his throat. “You won’t have one of your moments here. It’s dangerous, you know. Get off the highway. It’s safer.”

           

I nod in earnest. “Yes, yes, I promise.”

           

He gives me a single nod and from my rearview mirror, I watch him walk back to his patrol car. I signal and see an opening in the line of commuters and off I go. I sighed. The day was just beginning and I already wish for the end.

           

What I didn’t tell the officer was that it was my month back into work. I had somehow started a typical pattern of crippling anxiety every Monday morning on my commute. By Wednesday afternoon, I wondered why I needed to hyperventilate. I was usually back to myself by Thursday.

           

This has to be remnants of post pregnancy hormones, right? 

My Best Friend's Exorcism

posted Jul 28, 2017, 7:27 PM by SCHS Lib   [ updated Jul 28, 2017, 7:28 PM ]






Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?







Ummm... This book, you guys? Where do I even begin? Even though it started off just weird and slow, once I got into it, I was hooked with a preoccupying, thinking-about-it-when-not-reading, need-to-finish-it-now type of attraction. Seriously, I'm thirty something years old, and this book had me reading it while looking around the dang room. I haven't felt that heart-pounding level of book fear since I was a teenager reading old Fear Street tomes. 

So, was the writing brilliant? Not flashy or wordy, the writing does an amazing job of taking you deep within the character, planting little hints for future reference, and caring about what happens. I cringed so many times, teared up a bit, and found myself filing pieces away in my head to think about where Grady Hendrix might be heading.  Isn't that the beauty of reading?

I loved the 80s references - which makes this gal wonder if it may not be better suited for thirty something readers than teen readers. However, I know teens in my school right now who would devour this book. (That's why we are getting a copy!) The over-arching theme of friendship and love for your friends was refreshing and unexpected in a horror novel. 

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