American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

americanbornchineseAmerican Born Chinese is a graphic novel that is made of 3 different and distinct stories.

The first is that of the Monkey King. It is from a Chinese legend about a monkey god who wants to prove to the other gods in heaven that he is more than just a monkey. Unfortunately, his pride gets the better of him.

The second is about a Chinese American boy named Jin Wang. When we first meet him, he is a young boy who has just arrived at a new school where he is the only Chinese-American kid. He has to deal with racism and loneliness at first as he tries to fit in.

The third is about a popular kid named Danny. Once a year, he gets a visit from his extremely embarrassing Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee is a character made up of a shocking exaggerated set of negative Chinese stereotypes. Danny is so embarrassed when he visits that he has changed high schools every year after his cousin visits.

Though these three stories seem really unrelated at first, they come together in surprising ways by the end of the book.




Dread Locks by Neal Shusterman

dreadlocksPeter Baer is a rich, spoiled brat who is used to getting everything he wants. And right now what he wants is the new girl in school. Tara has moved here from England and everyone wants to get to know her. She is beautiful and her hair is in long, golden dreadlocks. She never takes off her sunglasses. She is a mystery. But those who get close to her come down with a mysterious illness. They start moving as if they weigh 2 tons, their skin and even their eyes turn a grayish color and they start eating dirt and kitty litter.

One morning, Peter finds Tara in his room. She wants him to be her boyfriend, her companion. Not for a few months or years. They will be together forever. Because is immortal and he will be too. But at what price?



The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

themonstrumologistWe all know monsters don’t really exist, right? Frankenstein, werewolves, vampires are just figments of your imagination. In The Monstumologist, it is 1888. After Will Henry’s parents are killed in a house fire, he goes to live with Dr. Warthop, an eccentric scientist who takes on the boy as an assistant. Dr. Warthop is a Monstrumologist, a scientist who studies monsters. Nighttime visitors with strange business dealings aren’t uncommon in the doctor’s house, but one night a frightened man brings the doctor the body of a young woman who died while being eaten by a monster.

Attached to her is the dead monster. It is an Anthropophagus, a headless creature with impossibly strong arms and legs, eyes on its shoulders and incredibly sharp teeth and strong jaws that sit right in the middle of its chest. They can rip a person apart in seconds.

The arrival of the creature in New England is quite alarming, not only because of its mere existence, but because if there is one in the area, there is a colony. They must be stopped before they kill the whole town, the state, the country.



Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

stupidfastFelton Reinstein has never had what you might call a normal life. He has always been a scrawny, goofy, socially awkward kid. His younger brother is a nerdy piano prodigy with no friends and his crazy hippie mom is a school crossing guard. His dad commited suicide when Felton was 8 years old and Felton was the one who discovered the body in the garage. To make all of this even worse, he lives in a small rural Wisconsin town where everyone knows everyone else’s name and business. He is kind of a weird kid, so when someone nicknames him “squirrel nut,” it sticks.

But then one summer right in the middle of high school, everything changed for him. Felton went through a huge growth spurt, grew hair in all kinds of places (don’t ask) and he got stupid fast, fast like a donkey. The football team recruits him, he gets more friends than he has have ever had (that is more than one or two) and he gets a beautiful girl to fall in love with him. And the only time people call him “squirrel nut” now is to cheer him on.

But it also the summer that his mom goes off of the deep end, his brother gets even weirder and his relationship with his best friend Gus starts going down the drain. Football, girlfriend, screwed up family and friendships. Why can’t this stuff ever be easy?



The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

thecontenderIt’s the 1960’s in Harlem, New York. Alfred Brooks is seventeen, a high school dropout, and in real danger of going nowhere in his life. He works at Epstein’s, a neighborhood grocery store, as a stock clerk. It’s probably good enough that he avoids the gang of punks down the street who smoke weed, get drunk, steal cars…

Then one night while looking for his best friend James, Alfred makes a mistake that will change everything. You see, James has been hanging around the same gang Alfred has been trying to avoid. Alfred lets it slip that the owners of Epstein’s grocery leave large amounts of cash in the store over the weekend. The robbery was his fault. James getting caught by the cops is his fault.

He doesn’t know how he ended up at Donateli’s Gym. Henry, the kid from the neighborhood is always talking about the Gym. About the boxers training there. How Alfred should come by sometime. Alfred makes his way up the narrow, dark stairs of the gym. Yes, he tells Mr. Donateli, he wants to train to be a boxer. Yes, he wants to see if he can do it. He wants to see if has what it takes in the ring…to be a contender.



Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

ashes17 year Alex is hiking in the mountains when, in the course of a few minutes, civilization as we know it comes to an end. It probably wouldn’t have mattered too much to her anyway. Both of her parents were dead and she had a brain tumor that would kill her in the next few months. What changed everything was an Electromagnetic Pulse that fried all electronics within its reach.

Alex had stopped on the trail to talk to a bratty eight year old girl named Ellie and her grandfather when it happened. The grandfather’s pacemaker was destroyed in the blast, killing him instantly. Alex got a massive nosebleed and, strangely enough, regained her sense of smell, a sense that the brain cancer treatment had taken away from her.

Now on their own, they soon discover something even worse than a world without electronics. The brains of most people, except for children and the elderly, have been altered by  the blast. The change has turned them into mindless cannibals with a single focus — feed on human flesh.

Now Alex and Ellie must find a way to survive the wilderness, avoid being eaten or being killed by other survivors who are only out for themselves.



Monster by Walter Dean Myers

monsterSteve Harmon is a monster. He is on trial for taking part in a robbery where the storeowner was killed. Steve knew the other guys being accused of the crime and one of the other guys (in order to get a reduced sentence) has testified that Steve was at the scene of the crime. If he is convicted, he could get 25 years to life in prison.

But is Steve really the monster that the prosecution says he is? Or is he just a good kid who is hanging out with the wrong people? The real answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no question.

Read Steve’s story, laid out in a screenplay and journal entries written by Steve himself.



No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin

nochoirboy“Are you the sum total of your worst acts?” -Bryan Stevenson, lawyer for death row inmates (explain quote)

Susan Kuklin went to death rows in prisons in Alabama and Texas to interview men who were convicted of murder and sent to death row all before the age of 18.

Our society has called these people monsters, the worst of the worst.

16 year old Roy killed his friend.
14 year old Mark and his brothers killed a couple who were going to testify against them in another case.
17 year old Nanon and some friends killed a guy in a cocaine deal gone wrong.

Are they really monsters?

They have been in prison for years now. One is an talented artist, another a poet. Nanon has written and published three books. They are on Amazon. I checked.

Also, there are interviews with two families–one family tells the story of the son and brother who was arrested at 17 year for murder and later executed on death row. Another family, grieving the death of their son and brother talk about their own complicated reactions to grief. His dad even speaks out against the death penalty and runs a vctim rights group.

The details of the stories are sometimes too hard to hear. The murders, life in prison, the grief of the victims…but you might agree at the end that they are more than the sum total of their worst acts…



Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirlsCassie called Lia 33 times the night that she died, alone and drunk in a cheap hotel room. Lia never picked up the phone.

They hadn’t talked in 6 months, having been inseparable since they met in elementary school, but then they had been recently drifting apart. They had a lot in common, but especially their desire to be thin, to stop the pain they felt in their lives by controlling the calories they ate, by cutting their skin so they didn’t have to feel the emotional pain they felt all of the time.

At 18, Lia is 5’5″ tall and 91 pounds. She wants to get to 85 pounds…and then 75…and then…who knows? Her doctors, therapists and family can’t get her to stop this obsession, especially now that Cassie is dead.

The voices in her head, and Cassie herself (is she a ghost or just a hallucination?) taunt her and tell her she is fat…stupid…ugly…Cassie wants Lia to join her, to be a Wintergirl stuck somewhere between life and death. And Lia just might. It is only a matter of time.



Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

robopocalypseThe time is a little bit in the future from now. No one notices when it happens. Machines start to malfunction in a series of seemingly unrelated incidents that only make sense later.

A domestic robot, the kind that we have built to do domestic chores, goes into a frozen yogurt shop to get its owner some yogurt. All of a sudden, the robot starts to go crazy and tries to murder the store employees.

In another incident, a smart doll (think talking dolls like we have now, but smarter) that belongs to the daughter of a senator, starts to seem more self-aware and menacing than a little girl’s doll ever should.

And so it goes, around the world until zero hour.

When zero hour arrives, all of our technology—our computer networks, smart cars, robots, our power grids, our aircraft guidance systems and anything else with a computer in it (which by then is most things, comes alive.

All of our machines unite with one goal. Kill all human beings.

Behind it all is on powerful artificially intelligent computer named ARCOS, a computer program that has decided that humankind is obsolete. Starting now.


Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

162086[1]Meredith’s dad was well liked by everyone in town, a little league baseball coach that could do no wrong. And then she accused her dad of molesting her. His own daughter!

He was sent to prison for nine years.

It should have been more.

Her mother, lonely and desperate, didn’t believe her and never forgave her little girl.

Now three years later, he is coming home.
Out on good behavior.

Her mother has welcomed him back into their house.

Now Meredith knows he will molest more kids and will try to get revenge on her.

But she has a plan.

She will be the sacrificial lamb. She will stop him before he can hurt anyone else.

If it doesn’t destroy her first.



Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

shiverGrace has been watching the yellow-eyed wolf outside her window ever since she was a little girl. And from the edge of the woods near her house, he watched her too. He was her wolf. She only saw him in the winter, but when it was warm again, he vanished.

When one of the boys in her high school is killed by a pack of wolves, a group of men in town vow to find and kill the pack. Grace decides to act and stop them. And she does. But when she gets home, there is a crumpled form on her porch leaning up against her back door.

It was her yellow eyed wolf. And then it wasn’t. The wolf turned into a boy right before her eyes—a boy with yellow eyes. He is covered with blood from a wound in his neck. She did what she could to get him out of sight and to stop the bleeding.

His name is Sam. They start spending every moment together and fall in love. But little does Grace know, time is running out and she may lose him forever.