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By Amy Christine Parker

GatedEver since she was a little girl, Lyla Hamilton has lived in the Community. She and her parents do their best to obey the teachings of Pioneer, their leader. Pioneer has drilled into them that the world is going to end very soon, but that everyone who follows him will be saved from the destruction. Yet when a visit from the outside world triggers a crisis of faith in Lyla, she begins to realize that the real danger, to herself and to everyone she loves, has been inside the Community all along.

"Gated" by Amy Christine Parker offers a well-researched and deeply sobering look at life inside a religious cult. As Lyla recounts how she and her family came to be involved in Pioneer's Community, it's all too easy to understand the mindset that allowed them to be sucked in. Read More >
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By David Baldacci

The_FinisherAre heroes born or made? Do our parents’ position in society and belief system determine how much we will achieve in life and what faith we will embrace? Should we blindly accept what our culture teaches us as gospel, or do we have the right and responsibility to challenge its doctrines and think for ourselves? These are just some of the thought-provoking questions raised in “The Finisher,” bestselling author David Baldacci’s enjoyable, first full-fledged fantasy novel for middle-grade readers.

Baldacci, predominantly a suspense novelist for adults, whose more than 110 million books in print have been translated into 45 languages in 80 countries, is merely the latest in an ever-lengthening line of successful writers who are penning dystopian works for the burgeoning youth market. With “The Finisher” he proves that he is more than capable of switching genres as he spins a tale that is both well-written and intriguing.

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By Laurice E. Molinari

9780310735557Vero has never been a normal child, but it’s not until he’s 12 years old that he realizes just how different he is. From the odd way he came into his family, to his overwhelming desire to fly as a kid, to the strange creatures he keeps seeing, Vero knows something about him is strange.

After two terrifying creatures throw him off a building, Vero finally learns the truth—he’s a guardian angel, and he’s about to become a guardian angel-in-training.

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By Lauren Kate

16070143Every day we make hundreds, perhaps thousands, of decisions. Most don’t really matter much and are on the order of what we should eat for breakfast, or whether the black shirt or green shirt would look better with a certain pair of pants. Some, such as where to go to college or who to marry, can be life-changing.

But what would it be like to know that the future of the world depended on your choice, that your decision to either save or take a life could possibly cause or prevent an apocalypse? Such is Ander’s dilemma when he chooses to follow his heart over his training by saving Eureka from drowning in “Teardrop,” the first book in a riveting new series by bestselling author Lauren Kate.

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By Jay Asher

2813153(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

“Do not take me for granted . . . again.”

Clay Jensen can’t believe it. It’s Hannah Baker’s voice, coming out of the old stereo in his garage. But Hannah Baker is dead. One day she didn’t show up at school, and then the word began to leak out: Hannah had killed herself.

But now Clay is finding out that she did one last thing before she died. She recorded her story on cassette tapes, and mailed them to a classmate. Her instructions are clear: “Rule number one: You listen. Number two: You pass it on.” In all, 13 people are scheduled to receive Hannah’s tapes: 12 students and one teacher. Thirteen people who affected her life in different, ineradicable ways. And none of them, after listening to her story, will be the same.

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By K. B. Hoyle

The_SixC. S. Lewis began writing his most famous series, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” in 1949. Since then, they’ve been translated into 47 languages, selling over 100 million copies, and several have been adapted for the big screen. These seven heavily allegorical books about children transported to a magical realm of talking animals, mythical creatures, and high adventure are not only the British author’s best known works but have also set the bar for all subsequent Christian fantasy novels.

While several authors have attempted to write similar epics, and have even had their worlds compared to Narnia by hopeful publicists, none have ever come close to capturing the feel of Lewis’s books. The Gateway Chronicles miss that mark, as well, but they are still possibly the most worthy contenders to date, in terms of atmosphere and sheer readability.

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By Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

RoomiesTwo months before starting their freshman year at UC Berkeley, Elizabeth "EB" Logan and Lauren Cole are notified that they'll be rooming together. EB is excited and eager to make friends with her roommate-to-be. But Lauren is deeply disappointed; as the oldest of six children (with a large age gap between her and her siblings), she'd been hoping against hope that at college, she could finally have a room of her own.

As you might expect, their e-mail correspondence doesn't exactly get off on the right foot. But before long, these two very different girls -- the protagonists of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando's new novel, "Roomies" -- have begun to develop a genuine friendship. Read More >
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By Jonathan Stroud

StaircaseNo one is sure how or why the Problem began, but in the last 50 years, it has spread all over England. The spirits of the dead—whether recent or long passed—have risen and are making trouble for the living. Through a liberal use of iron, silver, salt, and curfews, the living have adapted and learned to survive the ghost-ridden nights. But the battle wages on, and it is a battle fought by children.

Only the young are able to sense, see, and hear ghosts, and children with exceptional ability are trained as psychic agents. These agents are mostly nocturnal, and their job is to enter haunted houses, confront hostile spirits, and neutralize their Source—the object that anchors the ghost to our world. But as they age, their gifts fade—if they’re lucky enough to survive that long—and soon younger agents must take their place.

The Screaming Staircase is the first in a new series by Jonathan Stroud, author of the stunning Bartimaeus trilogy. Like the Bartimaeus books, this new series—Lockwood and Co.—is set in an alternate England and packs a triple threat of excellence: a rich, detailed fantasy world; smart, capable characters you can love; and writing that is both atmospheric and funny.

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By Pearl S. Buck

Buck_The_MotherYou can almost feel the sting of smoke in your eyes as Mother feeds bits of grass and twigs to start a fire under a cauldron to cook the family meal. Having made it through the rough winter months, the family has to carefully ration the amount of grass they use to start the fire that warms the farmhouse and cooks the food. It’s almost mind-boggling for modern readers to comprehend the arduous life of subsistence farmers until they get a glimpse of it reading Pearl S. Buck’s classic “The Mother.”

The story is set in set in China early in the 1930s, on the cusp of the start of Communism. Readers are introduced to a typical rural Chinese family of six (husband and wife, mother-in-law, and three children). We also get to see a sliver of community life. Buck weaves a tale of betrayal and survival, seen through the eyes of the Mother.

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By Sarah Dessen

The_Moon_and_MoreIt’s her last summer before leaving for college, and Emaline knows everything is going to change. She just didn’t expect it to change this much.

In Sarah Dessen’s “The Moon and More,” Emaline has lived her entire life in Colby, a small beach town on a coastal island. It’s a resort town, swamped with tourists every summer, and the locals have a strong Us vs. Them mentality when it comes to outsiders.

Emaline works for the family real estate company, which manages several beachfront rental properties. Her days consist of checking in new guests, and delivering extra towels and VIP platters of fruit and cheese. The last summer before college is already heavy with the burden of change, but Emaline's summer is made extra-complicated by the arrival of her biological father and half-brother for a summer-long stay. Then she breaks up with her boyfriend of three years, Luke, and shortly after begins a relationship with Theo, a New Yorker who is definitely Not From Here.

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By Amanda Grace

The_Truth_about_You_and_MeMaddie Hawkins, the 16-year-old protagonist of Amanda Grace's "The Truth about You and Me," is smart for her age. Really smart. And as she tells us, "Smart girls aren't supposed to do stupid things."

So when Maddie starts taking college courses as part of a program for advanced high school students, no one foresees what's going to happen.

Maddie falls hard for her biology professor, Bennett Cartwright -- but it's not just an ordinary crush. Since this is college, Bennett is easily deceived into thinking that Maddie is 18. Though he's aware that romance with a student of any age is unethical, he finds it all too easy to start crossing lines. Read More >
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By Rebecca Stead

200px-When_you_reach_meWhen I reach you, the note says, I will not be myself.

When 12-year-old Miranda starts finding notes in her belongings—notes that predict the future—it turns her world upside down. The notes want her to write a letter that tells the story of an event that has yet to happen. One of the notes says, I am coming to save your friend's life. This one scares Miranda the most.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which won the 2010 Newbery Medal, is a story of friendship and time travel. Before the notes began to arrive, Miranda was a normal sixth grader in 1970s New York. She lives in a small apartment with her single mother and walks to and from school every day with her best friend, Sal, who lives in the same building. Her mother works at a law firm as a legal aide, so Miranda is a latchkey kid, and she has learned how to take care of herself on the streets of New York.

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