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By Joanne Bischof

51htPiby5tL._SX318_BO1204203200_Eighteen-year-old Riley Kane leads a quiet life in a small, obscure town, and he's just fine with that. If he really wanted to, he could have the fame and fortune that go with being the son of a prominent athlete -- but he doesn't want to. After a rough childhood and adolescence, Riley has found faith, peace, and a decent job at a feed store, and he just wants to be left alone to savor them. But all that changes when he reconnects with Becca, a girl he knew long ago when they were children in Sunday school.

Becca's life couldn't be more different from Riley's -- she's a sweet, innocent girl from a large homeschooled family -- but it's not long before he's completely smitten. When she and her family suddenly have to leave town to be with Becca's father, who's been in a bad accident out in New Mexico, Riley is devastated.

But he soon figures out a way that he can see her again and take her family some much-needed supplies. All it will take is a big favor from his dad . . . whom Riley hasn't seen or spoken to in many years.
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By Rae Carson

Walk_on_Earth_a_Stranger(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

History, magic, and adventure come together in “Walk on Earth a Stranger,” the first installment in The Gold Seer Trilogy by Rae Carson. The novel opens in rural Georgia at the onset of the California gold rush in 1849 and introduces us to 15-year-old Leah Westfall. The pragmatic and resourceful daughter of gold prospectors, Leah has managed to become a skilled hunter and capable farmer, all while going to school. But a strong work ethic and uncommon maturity are not the only characteristics that set her apart. Leah possesses a secret power: Much like a water diviner, she is able to detect the presence of gold, whether it’s buried below her feet or in the pockets of those around her.

Leah’s parents instructed her never to tell anyone what she can do. While she understands the importance of such secrecy, the true gravity of her circumstances becomes tragically clear when her parents are murdered. When their killer then attempts to kidnap Leah, to take her to California and exploit her powers, she is forced to run for her life.
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By April Genevieve Tucholke

51BMtJdkf0L._SX326_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains minor spoilers.)

"The first time I slept with Poppy, I cried," Midnight tells us in the first sentence of April Genevieve Tucholke's "Wink Poppy Midnight." That opening sets the tone for what's to come -- a story that many young readers seem to find wild, rebellious, and exciting, given its bestselling status, but that many adults are likely to see as a book about kids who are in way over their heads.

The book is named after its three main characters, who take turns narrating, providing us with very different views of what's going on. Midnight is a sensitive, imaginative boy who's desperately in love with Poppy, despite her cruel treatment of him and others. But when he and his father move out to the country, he sees it as his "first step to my freedom. My freedom from Poppy."
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By Sarah Rees Brennan

Wind_and_FireIn a future New York City, society is divided between Light and Dark, and people are treated accordingly. Those who live behind walls in the Dark part of the city are referred to as "the buried ones"; they are feared and disliked, but they're also necessary. The Lights and the Darks practice different kinds of magic, and each is dependent on the other for their very survival.

Lucie Manette is a Light magician, born in the Dark city. Her mother was murdered and her father arrested and tortured for violating the city's laws; Lucie decided that she would stop at nothing to get him out.

Now they both live in the Light city, where Lucie is widely admired as a symbol of freedom for what she did for her father, but all she feels about it is guilt and anguish. She can't fully enjoy her exciting new life with boyfriend Ethan, haunted as she is by memories of the past and by her father's shattered state. And then a new threat appears in the form of Ethan's doppelganger, Carwyn, and Lucie realizes that even what little safety and happiness she now has could be taken from her.
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By Neal Shusterman

download_15(This review contains spoilers.)

"I can't remember when this journey began," Caden Bosch tells us, near the start of Neal Shusterman's "Challenger Deep." "It's like I've always been here, except that I couldn't have been, because there was a before, just last week or last month or last year. I'm pretty certain that I'm still fifteen, though. Even if I've been on board this wooden relic of a ship for years, I'm still fifteen. Time is different here. It doesn't move forward; it sort of moves sideways, like a crab."

The journey that Caden is describing isn't exactly what it seems. Though he describes the ship in vivid detail, along with the captain, the crew, and even the captain's parrot, the truth is that none of it is real. Caden Bosch is in fact an ordinary American 15-year-old boy in an ordinary family, going to an ordinary school. But what's happening in his mind is anything but ordinary. Caden is suffering from severe mental illness, and his imaginary life on the ship is his mind's way of interpreting what's happening to him.
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By Kristen Britain

51rNq5PjmL._SX300_BO1204203200_If your teens love fantasy, adventure, and a strong female protagonist, then they're in for a “wild ride” with Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. (They'll get the joke when they read the books . . . let’s just say there’s magic involved.)

The series, which consists of five books and one more to be released this time next year, is an epic fantasy adventure based in a medieval world called Sacoridia. When our story begins in Book One, it’s been nearly two hundred years since the Long War, a period of chaos and violence. We’re in a time of relative peace and prosperity when we meet Karigan G’ladheon. But that peace is certainly short-lived for poor Karigan.

When she’s suspended from her private school for winning a fistfight with a pompous peer, Karigan runs away. She plans to embark on the small adventure of a few days’ walk home and never expects to encounter real peril.
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By Sharon Cameron

519Tou8JsgL._SX347_BO1204203200_Unfolding in the distant future, Sharon Cameron's "Rook" is set in a world that, many centuries ago, was all but destroyed by polar shifts. The world plummeted into another dark age and, as time passed and countries and cultures started to re-emerge, history began to repeat itself. The one main difference is that, in this new, old world, any advancements in technology are scorned, feared, and forbidden. The technology of “The Ancients” is blamed for the destruction of the world so many centuries ago, and considered dangerous.

Eighteen-year-old Sophia Bellamy lives with her brother, Tom, and their ailing father in The Commonwealth. In the land that used to be known as England, more and more members of the shrinking upper class are driven into poverty as land and business laws and taxes become increasingly stringent. Meanwhile, across the sea, the Sunken City -- once known as Paris -- is in the throes of political upheaval and revolution, the cliffs seeming to echo with the voices and sounds of the French Revolution from long ago.

As the world around her is falling apart, Sophia’s chance for a personal future of her choosing is also destroyed when her father arranges a marriage for her to René Hasard. His family fortune could save the Bellamys from ruin, but his arrogance and buffoonery prove endlessly exasperating for smart, pragmatic, and resourceful Sophia.

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By Sarah Dessen

51LmPXTOGYL._SX329_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

Sydney Stanford has always lived in her brother's shadow. For a long time, Peyton was the golden boy of the family -- handsome, athletic, fearless, good at anything he tried to do. Then the trouble started: Peyton started hanging out with a bad crowd, and began to get arrested for increasingly serious offenses. Still, Peyton was the sibling getting all the attention -- even though the nature of that attention was changing -- and Sydney still lived in his shadow.

Then came the news that Peyton had injured a young boy in a drunk driving accident. That was the arrest that finally earned him serious jail time.

Now Sydney is struggling to deal with a new reality, a new family dynamic, a new school, and new friends. When she meets schoolmates Layla and Mac Chatham, whose family owns a pizza restaurant near her school, Sydney finally feels she's found a place to belong and people who see her as she really is. Layla becomes a close and supportive friend, and Sydney soon develops a romantic interest in Mac. She will need every ounce of support that both of them can give her as she deals with the tough new challenges in her life -- and surprisingly, she will find that she has something to offer them, too.
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By Megan Morrison

61xxhMTMzEL._SY344_BO1204203200_Rapunzel lives a charmed life, high in her isolated tower. She has everything a girl could want: magic roses, beautiful clothes, and books full of stories that are all about her. Stories in which evil, lying princes try to lure her away from her home and into the frightening world beyond, but she resists them and is safe.

Yes, you read that right.

Megan Morrison's "Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel" (first in her Tyme series) is full of twists on the old story of the girl with the very long hair. And not just any old twists. Readers who think they've seen every conceivable twist there could be on a fairytale will be surprised and pleased to find that Morrison has somehow managed to come up with new and very enjoyable ones.
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By Robert Beatty

51VCI4uG2zL._SX331_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

In the dark of night, she creeps through the basement. She protects her territory, silently hiding in corners until her prey appears. When a rat is finally foolish enough to show itself, she pounces.

Serafina, the 12-year-old C.R.C. (Chief Rat Catcher) of the Biltmore Estate, secretly lives in the dark of the basement with her father, a workman at the house. But the sly and mysterious girl is not, despite her creeping, the most threatening creature in the manor. As Serafina begins to discover the dark and mystical nature of her birth, she witnesses the evil lurking in her territory: a man in a black cloak who is curiously linked with the disappearances of visiting children.

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By William Shakespeare

9781586174392“Romeo and Juliet,” perhaps the best-loved and most-performed of Shakespeare’s oeuvre—and certainly one of the most frequently taught in schools—has over the years exerted an enormous influence on literature, art, and music. Just this season, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced the launch of a project to translate 39 of William Shakespeare’s plays into modern English with the goal of making the plays more accessible to today’s audiences.

This creates a perfect opportunity for us to reconsider a work such as "Romeo and Juliet" and the value of Shakespeare in 21st-century America.
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By Neil Gaiman

61UppNNmK4L._SX345_BO1204203200_(This review contains major spoilers.)

Neil Gaiman is one of the most beloved and acclaimed fantasy writers working today, and the winner of several awards, including the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He has a gift for taking classic archetypes and tropes and putting a fresh spin on them, in beautifully written prose. "His style," as another BreakPoint writer has written, "is simple, straightforward, and enchanting."

So I had high hopes for Gaiman's most recent book "The Sleeper and the Spindle," a short fairytale retelling for grade 7 and up, illustrated by his frequent collaborator Chris Riddell. Unfortunately, my hopes were not destined to be fulfilled.
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