A-Z Reviews

Keep up with what Mrs. Alvarez is reading by visiting A-Z Reviews. If you like the review, check it out! (Some of the books are available as eBooks, and you can check them out with your device!)

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Note: The novels reviewed are young adult literature and reflect the ideas, thoughts, and experiences that are universal to young adults around the world. Students with questions about the literary content should chat with Mrs. Alvarez before reading any of the summarized works.

April 26, 2018

What I'm Reading Now . . .

Favorite Line:

Genre: Romance

Status: Available in print.

April 26, 2018

It's a Throwback Thursday Edition!

Since I finished History is All You Left Me, it reminded me of a new favorite. So, I returned to I Wrote This for You. The author, who remains anonymous, chronicles the journey of his love. The story of their romance is like a stream-of-consciousness to which any reader can relate because no matter where the reader is in his journey, he can feel the joy, delight, anguish, and sorrow of the writer.

Favorite Line: And then my soul saw you and it kind of went / "Oh there you are. I've been looking for you" (7).

Second Favorite Line: "There are a million ways to bleed. But you are by far my favourite" (55).

Third Favorite Line: "Congratulations. / You took me down. And now, you have made everything that is sad, relevant" (91).

Fourth Favorite Line: "The least you could do, is uncross your heart. Unhope to die" (114).

Genre: Poetry

Status: Available for purchase from your local bookstore or from Amazon.

April 11, 2018

It took me fifteen days to read this book. It took me fifteen days because I knew this book wasn't about laughter, and I knew it probably didn't have a happy ending. It is a book about how to move on when the person you love the most dies. It is a book about facing the truth of the role you played in that person's life and in this case--that person's death. If you scroll down, you'll see this novel contained quite a few lines that were memorable. So, let me give you a little summary. Theo McIntyre no longer exists, and his best friend and former boyfriend, Griffin is upset that Theo broke his promise not to die. It doesn't matter that Griffin and Theo are no longer together; what matters is that Griffin is broken and that their history is all he thinks he has left.

Favorite Line: "And if bringing up the past annoys you now . . . know that I'm sorry, but please don't be mad at me for reliving all of it. History is all you left me" (1).

Second Favorite Line: "I've spent a lot of the past year waiting--mostly for you" (130).

Third Favorite Line: "Having a plan isn't always a guarantee" (142).

Fourth Favorite Line: "History remains with the people who will appreciate it the most" (292).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

April 08, 2018

Jessie and Dawn were separated because of curiosity and because of betrayal, but now that they are teenagers who are adrift, they need each other. Jessie, on the cusp of being a professional dancer, decides to fit into the mold that others create, and she wills herself to conform until it is painful. Dawn, on the other hand, is plagued by an unknown condition that embarrasses her mother and isolates her and threatens to derail her dream of getting into Stanford. As they decide their paths, what becomes of the ballerina and the scientist?

Favorite Line: "What matters is not what is taken but that we fight" (226).

Genre: Fantasy

Status: Status: Available online. Download the MackinVIA app in Self Service.

April 05, 2018

If you find yourself not understanding why people want to come to this country and what those who have that desire in their heart are really like, read American Street. Fabiola, or Fab, as her cousins call her, just returned to the US. Accompanied by her mother, they plan to start a new life after living in Haiti for the last sixteen years. However, Fabiola's mother is detained in New Jersey, but Fab is allowed to proceed to Detroit because she has American citizenship. Yet, life on the streets of Detroit is really not much different than life in Haiti. There is still corruption, and there is still two sides to every story amongst the truth. How can this one girl help her cousin, who has an abusive boyfriend, and her mother, who is still detained, and her boyfriend, who puts his "fam" before good decisions save her cousins, her aunt, her boyfriend, and herself from all that awaits them at the intersection of Joy Street & American Street?

Favorite Line: "And then tomorrow, she will come to this side of the glass, where there is good work that will make her hold her head up with dignity, where she will be proud to send me to school for free, and where we will build a good, brand-new life" (6).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

April 05, 2018

When I read the jacket, I thought This isn't going to end well for her. And, I was right . . . and, I was wrong. Amanda is transgender, and after suffering for fifteen years, she gets the chance to be the girl she always wanted to be. After being beaten, she transfers to a small town to start over with her dad and start over at a new school. Things go well for a while; she meets a nice boy, and she makes friends, but as I figured, not all goes well for Amanda. But, Amanda finds she is stronger than most people give her credit for, and she learns that her friends are stronger than she gave them credit for.

Favorite Line: 'You can have anything . . . once you admit you deserve it' (180).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

April 04, 2018

Three siblings were given up for adoption. The boy, Joaquin, spends his life in and out of foster homes and trying to atone for a mistake he made as a twelve year old. The sisters, Grace and Maya, grow up with loving families, but one of them spends time looking for love in the wrong place, but both of them ignore the love that surrounds them. Can these three figure out what it means to be a family?

Favorite Line: "Maya had never realized how much power was in loving someone. At first, she thought it was a source of strength, but now she was realizing that, in the wrong hands, on the wrong day, that power was strong enough to destroy the very thing that had built it" (156-157).

Second Favorite Line: " . . . and Joaquin hung on to them so tight that his arms ached and he thought that this must be what forgiveness felt like, pain and hurt and relief all balled up together, pressing against his heart so that it might burst" (355).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

April 01, 2018

She is the author and illustrator of one of the greatest and most profitable online creations . . . Monstrous Sea. And, she likes her identity being a secret. IRL, she is an older sister to two brothers and a misfit in her high school. It is not until Wallace, a new student, shows up that Eliza contemplates leaving her online world for the real one. Can Eliza conquer the monsters that live outside the sea?

Favorite Line: "There's a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt. The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It's always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild" (88).

Second Favorite Line: "Nothing makes a joke less funny than someone wanting in on it, especially parents" (144).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

March 19, 2018

If you liked "The Most Dangerous Game," you will love Blackbird. This novel is told in second person because the protagonist does not know her name, her family, or her past. She wakes up on subway tracks with a bookbag and no memory of how she came to be in such a dangerous situation. All she knows is that she is being followed, and when she manages to trust anyone, she discovers those people cannot be trusted and the ones she does not trust save her life. This is the first in a duology.

Favorite Line: 'Isn't everything a choice?' (174).

Genre: Suspense

Status: Available in print.

March 18, 2018

Five teenagers spend their senior year wondering if they could have stopped Christopher Goodman from dying after their individual decisions, small--yet important, could have altered how or when or whether Christopher meets two other teenagers who shoot him and leave him on the side of the road in order to steal a car to escape their hopeless lives. There is no wonderful ending for Christopher; there are only "what-ifs" for those who have no choice but to go on without him.

Favorite Line: "Either way, I'm glad I've got God who is tough enough to withstand my blame and gracious enough to forgive my guilt" (262).

Genre: Mystery

Status: Available at your public library. Visit http://darlington-lib.org/ and search the online catalog.



March 17, 2018

"Ant"hony Jones from East Cleveland, Ohio has just been accepted to a private boarding school in Maine, and thank goodness---on his way back from the store, he and his friend dodge bullets. One of those bullets kills his friend, Mookie, so going to Maine probably saves Ant's life. But, in Maine, Ant has to become Tony if he wants to be accepted by his roommate and his teachers. Being a black boy in a white school shows Ant there's more to the world than East Cleveland, and that just like he wears a face to fit an image, other people wear masks, too.

Favorite Line: 'So I put on a mask that was so perfectly polished that it only reflected who you all wanted to see' (241).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available at your public library. Visit http://darlington-lib.org/ and search the online catalog.

March 14, 2018

Five kids and one teacher walk into detention. Four kids and one teacher go home. One kid winds up spending the night with the medical examiner. We know how, but we don't know why. All four kids have a valid motive. With too many motives and far too many suspects, can the truth find its way out of detention?

Favorite Line: 'I already wasted too much time' (355).

Genre: Mystery

Status: Available in print and online @ https://www.mackinvia.com/ or download the app from Self Service.

March 12, 2018

After a night out, Justyce sees his ex-girlfriend unaware and vulnerable, and like a gentleman he tries to help her get home safely. While in the process of doing the right thing, he's accused of assault and arrested. For Justyce, this is when the blinders come off, and he sees himself through the eyes of those who who don't see him as equal. By writing to MLK, he hopes he can find a way to make himself better and avoid the path of anger.

Favorite Line: 'You ever consider that maybe you're not supposed to 'fit'? People who make history rarely do' (38).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: To be ordered.

March 10, 2018

It's the summer right before senior year, and all is well with Lena. Her best friend comes over every night; her part-time job allows her to save a little money. She stands a good chance to earn a volleyball scholarship, and right now, she's on her way to a party hoping that when it's over her best friend is her boyfriend. But, Lena's a master at hiding her feelings and waiting until tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes, she's bedridden after a horrible accident in which four of her friends died. Instead of putting off facing her mistakes, can Lena face her mistakes today?

Favorite Line: 'It's always easier to point out the flaws in others while ignoring your own' (320).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

March 04, 2018

They say only two things are guaranteed: death and taxes. The title doesn't leave room for any other interpretation regarding the protagonists, but the mystery and uncertainty is found in their lives. Rufus and Mateo, virtual strangers, begin their last day apart, but they find meaning with each other, and at the end of their day, they find death. These two fast friends come together via an app for people who receive a call from Death-Cast. Death-Casts calls on the last day of your life. If you're lucky, you get about 24 hours to do all that you wanted to do. For these two, how they spend their last day is so much more meaningful than all their days prior.

Favorite Line: "I can't just wish for the future; I have to take risks to create it" (265).

Genre: Science Fiction

Status: Available at your public library. Visit http://darlington-lib.org/ and search the online catalog. (I purchased it from Kindle for $1.99.)

March 03, 2018

I did not plan on reading this book because, really, how can John Green top The Fault in Our Stars? But, since I purchased it for the library, I figured I should.

Aza cannot escape her thoughts, and her thoughts can take her into a tightening spiral in which the reader is also trapped. So far, there is nothing than can help her--not thinking about, taking medicine, therapy. But this year, a diversion awaits her--the disappearance of a friend's dad gives her and her best friend a chance at a $100K award. Can Aza find a way to overcome her paralyzing spirals that threaten every relationship?

Favorite Line: "True terror isn't being scared; it's not having a choice in the matter" (22).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

March 01, 2018

Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank are metaphorically lost. These four teenagers are bound to the land and bound to a past they cannot manage to escape. They have lost fathers and mothers, so it is no wonder that they are lost. It appears that their stories have no connection but towards the end their paths cross. This story, set in Alaska, shows another reality that we just don't see in South Carolina. Although each teenager has a different challenge they yearn for the same feeling and connection--and, it is universal to us all.

Favorite Line: "It feels like my best friend just skipped a pebble across the glassy surface of my soul" (87).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

March 01, 2018

It's Another Throwback Thursday!!

There is nothing wrong with a picture book. And, anything Kadir Nelson illustrates is a work of art, so if you have not seen his work, be ready to be impressed.

Not only is Nelson the illustrator of this beautiful book, he is also the author. In this book, he treats the chapters as innings, and in the first inning, he tells the story of the beginnings of baseball and the beginnings of the Negro National League to ninth inning and the first man who integrated baseball. And, just like some games do not end in the ninth inning, Nelson gives a little extra by adding an additional inning with more information.

Favorite Line: "When Willie Wells was just a rookie, he found the ball was making its way toward his head a little more often than he liked, so he decided to wear an old miner's helmet when he stepped up to the plate. Boy did they laugh at him! But today, you won't find a ballgame played without batting helmets" (18).

Genre: Nonfiction

Status: If you just want to look through the book, visit me in the library; I have a copy in my office. If you want time to sit and enjoy and read, it is available from your local library. Visit http://darlington-lib.org/ and search the online catalog.

February 24, 2018

The science of capturing killers is an ancient one and dates back over a thousand years. In the process of refining this science, innocent people have been accused and convicted, but innocent people have also been freed. In the process of refining this science, the guilty have been apprehended. Heos highlights cases/people you've heard of (Jack the Ripper, Sam Shepard, Czar Nicholas), and she highlights people you've never heard of (Fannie Creighton, Germaine Bichon, and Walter Dinivan). Read this if you're looking for an intriguing history and science lesson that connects what you've learned in school to what you've learned from watching Law & Order & CSI.

Genre: Nonfiction

Status: Available in via interlibrary loan via the public library. Go to inside and speak with a librarian to borrow a copy. This is one of the 2018-2019 SCYABA nominees, so it will be available in the library soon!

February 21, 2018

I planned on reading this book in segments, but I kept turning the pages until I arrived at the end. The title lets you know that it's not like every other book. Ari is a loner until he meets Dante. Together they discover the secrets of the universe. So, what is this novel really about? Read my favorite lines to get a better understanding.

Favorite Line: "The problem with my life is that it was someone else's idea" (8).

Second Favorite Line: "I had a rule that it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else" (17).

Third Favorite Line: 'I was ashamed of myself for being ashamed of myself' (18).

Fourth Favorite Line: "Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder" (261).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: To Be Ordered

February 19, 2018

If you're looking for a book that raises more questions than it answers, this is the book for you . . .

Mary didn't kill the baby her mom was watching, but she agreed to take the blame. The problem is everyone believes that she did. Now, Mary is pregnant, and as a ward of the state, she won't be allowed to keep her baby. Can sixteen year old Mary save herself and her child?

Favorite Line: "We smile and I can't help but to look for my smile in here. I wonder if that's the problem. Too much of my daddy in me, not enough of her. Maybe if she had been able to see herself in me, she would have loved me a little more" (141).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: To be ordered. FYI--I purchased it from Kindle for $1.99.

February 15, 2018

Emika Chen is three days from being evicted from her Manhattan apartment, and she's desperate to earn quick cash. So, she hacks her way into the biggest online game in the world with the plan to steal an artifact that she can sell on the dark web. Of course, her plan goes awry; and, she finds herself on a private jet meeting the game's creator, Hideo Tankana. Hideo's pitch is simple . . . find the hacker who is sabotaging his company and win the $10 million dollar bounty.

Favorite Line: "Every locked door has a key" (22).

Genre: Science Fiction

Status: Available in print.

February 09, 2018

Because she's good with numbers, Farrah's unwanted nickname is Digit. She's better than good with numbers; she's a prodigy who figured out that the terrorists communicated their plans to bomb a private plane at JFK via a message on a popular teen show. Now, the FBI has her under protection, but Farrah still isn't safe. How is it that a girl named Farrah, for Farrah Fawcett, grows into her own and embraces who she really is?

Favorite Line: "The worst part was that I had been so wrong. I had become my truest most authentic self; I had listened to my instincts and followed them completely. I had opened up and jumped in . . . and I had been completely wrong" (177).

Genre: Suspense

Status: Available in print.

February 8, 2018

Hey . . . It's another Throwback Thursday!

This book started my personal library when it was given to me as a gift when I was about 14 years old.

Patty Bergen, a young Jewish girl, is loved by two people, and those two people aren't her parents. Those two people are her nanny, Ruth, and her sister, Sharon. Ironically, it's not until she meets Anton, a German soldier, that she understands her worth and her strength. This story is one of sacrifice; it is a story of love.

Favorite Line: 'Am I still your teacher?' . . . 'Then I want you to learn this, our last, lesson. Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession' (134-135).

Genre: Historical Fiction

Status: Available in print.

February 06, 2018

Ben Gibson has decided he is going to be good at making people happy--his mother, his girlfriend. He makes this decision after a traumatic incident that affected his life and his mother's life. This decision means hs spends the rest of his life in the same town in which he grew up, and he's okay with that until he decides to go camping with his teacher and a few classmates. Nothing about this trip goes right, and when it's finally over, his teacher, three classmates, and three strangers are dead.

Favorite Line: "I'm no longer ice drawn to flame; I'm captured beneath glass, far more sculptured than alive, and there's nothing about my current situation that's going to change--no matter how much I believe in myself. No matter what choices I make" (292).

Genre: Suspense

Status: Available in print.

February 1, 2018

Nixy Bauer is the go-to bounty hunter for parents whose kids whose kids are spending too much time in the MEEP, a virtual reality game, and she has a 100% success rate in bringing kids home in an hour. However, this time, she's going after the game creator's son, Wyn, who has created his own game that reflects all of the other bounty-hunters' worst fears. It's Nixy's turn to go after Wyn, and if she can't find him, the game will be shut down, and everyone in the game will be lost with them.

Favorite Line: "After the dark hell that was Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Hemingway's stories seem pleasingly crisp and clean" (90).

Genre: Science Fiction

Status: Available in print.

It's Another Throwback Thursday Edition!

February 1, 2018

I read this a few weeks ago, but I have to share it. Jason Reynolds' protagonist, Will just learned his brother was murdered. And, what does Will want? Revenge. So, he grabs his brother's weapon and leaves his apartment to take the elevator. But, on every floor the elevator stops. And, someone from his past gets on for the ride down.

Favorite Line: 'I know you're young / gotta get it out, / but just remember, when / you're walking in the nighttime, / make sure the nighttime ain't walking into you' (40).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

Bonus: Listen to Jason Reynolds' interview on National Public Radio @https://www.npr.org/2017/10/30/560286304/in-long-way-down-the-ghosts-of-gun-violence-chill-a-plan-for-revenge

March 01, 2018

I still haven't restarted this book.

January 26, 2018

What I'm Reading Now . . . I'm going to put this read on pause. I borrowed it from the public library, but the vocabulary is challenging, so I am going to purchase this novel so that I can annotate. I'll come back to this in a few days.


Favorite Line:

Genre: I'm Not Sure.

Status: Available at your public library. Visit http://darlington-lib.org/ and search the online catalog.

January 25, 2018

Throwback Thursday Edition!

This novel is another one of my favorites . . . In fact, my seniors in English V had to read this! When I first passed out this book the first day of the second nine weeks, one of my students said, "It's thicker than the Bible!"

Let me begin by telling you that Howard Roark is the man that every guy wants to be. He is an architect who was dismissed from school because he would not conform. He refuses to conform--even when it is in his economical best interest. He refuses to be anything other than being an individual. He is the kind of man who others seek to destroy because he lives up to his full potential. Howard is tested at every turn, but he never falters. If you are looking for a novel that illustrates what it takes to be a courageous individual, this novel is exactly what you need.

Favorite Line: 'A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose' (24).

Genre: Classics

Status: Available in print.

January 18, 2018

Throwback Thursday Edition!

This novel is one of my favorites . . . In fact, my sophomores in English II had to read this!

Jude's life is not easy. His mom left when he was a baby. His dad is a drug dealer. When we first meet Jude, he is being interviewed by a detective because his dad was just murdered. In fact, Jude saw who did it, but thirty minutes after the fact, Jude keeps silent about what really happened. So, can his life get any worse? Yes, in fact, it does.

1st Favorite Line: "The old man looked at him. 'Do your own time, brother,' he said" (194).

2nd Favorite Line: "He found the difference between learning enough to get by and and learning enough to understand was the difference between thought and action" (248).

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.

January 14, 2018

This is the fourth and last book in William Ritter's Jackaby series, and I do believe that it is the best. Jackaby and Abigail are battling the magical creatures who want to rule the human world, and they are up against the Dire King--the most formidable opponent they have faced. Jackaby's sight is needed to separate the two worlds, but he needs the help of Abigail, Jenny, Charlie, Mayor Spade, and others to mend the veil between the two worlds. With humor, suspense, a nod to the challenges of being different in America in the 21st century, and magic to spare, this is a fitting conclusion for the eccentric detective and his competent assistant.

1st Favorite Line: 'Real love is when you let another person make you better. You don't lose yourself in love--you find yourself there' (340-341).

2nd Favorite Line: 'It is for the sake of our humanity that I stand against you' (54).

Genre: Supernatural

Status: Available in print and online @ https://www.mackinvia.com/.

January 13, 2018

In this fifth and final book in the Mike & Riel series, Mike just cannot find peace; his best friend has been murdered. Mike was supposed to offer Sal moral support for his driving test, but Mike left his girlfriend's book at home, so instead of going with Sal, he went home. By the time Mike makes it back to school, Sal has been murdered in an alley. Who did it, and why?

Favorite Line: "But just because you know something probably hasn't happened yet, that doesn't stop you from wishing that it had" (214).

Genre: Mystery

Status: Available in print and online @ https://www.mackinvia.com/.

January 10, 2018

Henri Montague has just been expelled from Eton, but his father has the grand idea to send Henri on the Grand Tour so that Henri has a chance to live wildly before it is time to settle and learn how to run the family estate. Accompanied by his bear-leader, best friend, and sister, Henri knows the rules to which he is to adhere, but he still manages to find himself at the center of embarrassing scandals. This spoiled protagonist learns much about his family, his friend, and himself. A truly delightful read full of humor.

Favorite Line: "I understand less than half the words in that sentence, but God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends" (257).

Genre: Historical Fiction

Status: Available in print.

January 08, 2018

This is the first in a series, and it is not for the faint of heart. Cassie is a Natural who understands serial killers. Cassie's ability was, ironically, refined by her mother--the victim of a homicide. And, it is her mother's murder that spurs Cassie to catch a killer who is fixated with her and her mother. With the help of other Naturals, Cassie is able to crack a case, but will she be the victor or the victim when the case closes?

Favorite Line: 'Anything happens to her . . . this family---we know how to dispose of a body' (44).

Genre: Mystery

Status: Available in print.

January 07, 2018

Ryan is about love. She loves her dad. She loves the Chicago Cubs. She loves the last day of school. When her dad dies, her connection to him is severed. Ryan pulls away from her mom and sister, and she pulls away from her friends. On the first day of Opening Season, Ryan skips school and encounters Nick. Like Ryan and the Cubs, Nick is hoping that this season is his comeback season. Should he and Ryan and the Cubs hope that this season is better than the last one?

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Status: Available in print.