“Leverage” by Joshua C. Cohen

Dutton Books, 2011

After being abused by his caretaker in a foster home, Kurt has another chance to remake himself. Due to his immense size from all the weight lifting he has done, he is recruited for his new school’s football team. Carrying scars inflicted on him, both inside and out, make Kurt a loner.

Danny is a tiny gymnast, always picked on for his size but determined to win a scholarship for his sport. He and his teammates band together against three members of the football team who have made it their goal in life to constantly bully them and all small, weak students.

Told in alternating voices, “Leverage” recounts the brutalizing and subsequent suicide of a student due to the combination of steroids, natural meanness, and the invincibility given the football team by parents and the school community. Both Kurt and Danny are impacted by the conflict on their teams, and join together to make a difference in an environment where no one else has dared to do so.

A good read for mature High Schoolers.

“Firestorm” by Joan Hiatt Harlow

Simon & Schuster, 2010

This book has many similarities to Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” except that the Oliver-like orphan is female, as well as the Fagin-type leader of an all female gang of thieves.

The author went into details about the hard life of orphans in the 1870’s which allows readers to have the opportunity to understand what life was like for orphaned children in the past. Perhaps it may lead them to feel a deeper appreciation for what they have in the 21st century. The Afterword was also a good source of information about the Great Chicago Fire.

I didn’t like that it was supposed to have been set during the Great Chicago Fire, yet almost three quarters of the book passed before anything even resembling this historical event began to take place.

This is a good read for middle schoolers and more mature elementary school readers.

“El Regreso” by Norah McClintock

Orca Book Publishers, 2011; Language: Spanish

This Spanish translation of “Back” by McClintock accurately portrays how continuous thoughts of revenge, along with a mob mentality, chase away all reason and blur choices between right and wrong. It invites class discussion, and will stay with readers long after the last sentence has been read.

As told through the voices and points of view of numerous neighbors, Eden rescues Jojo’s pregnant girlfriend Shana after Jojo tries to throw her off a porch for not obeying him and getting rid of their baby as he’d demanded. Because Eden also went against his wishes, Jojo assaults and puts him into a coma. After serving only 2 of a 5-year sentence, Jojo returns home to his old neighborhood where he is expected to return to his old ways but, surprisingly, stays close to home lovingly caring for his sick mother.

Ardell, Eden’s brother, has spent the intervening years vowing revenge, and is going to make sure Jojo pays for putting his brother into a coma, especially when Eden later dies. He spends days spying on Jojo with his friends, making sure neighborhood stores don’t sell to him and preparing his move. Despite assaulting Jojo’s old girlfriend, and threatening to hurt her child, the neighbors band behind him. Only Shana believes Jojo has changed. Everyone believes Jojo needs to pay for what he did to Eden, and all manage to look the other way when Ardell makes his final move. All, that is, except for one person who chooses to make a difference.

Good for a High School Spanish class, or for High Schoolers who enjoy reading books in Spanish.

“Belles” by Jen Calonita

Little Brown & Company, 2012

I enjoyed Izzie’s attitude because despite being raised in a poor neighborhood by her grandmother after her mother dies and being taken in by her rich uncle when her grandmother is put into a nursing home, Izzie never falters. She sticks with her beliefs of who she is and what she stands for, and is not ashamed of where she grew up despite being surrounded by rich, snooty teens who think nothing of reminding her she can never really be one of their crowd. Izzie doesn’t want to be part of the in-crowd, which is refreshing since there are too many other characters in the book who do.

However, I thought it was too typically much like many other books when it came to the attitudes of Rich School Kids versus Poor School Kids.

Good for High Schoolers who like reading Chick Lit.

Hello fellow readers!

Welcome to my new blog “Should I Read it or Not?” I will be reviewing all sorts of books, from Middle School to Young Adult. My favorite reads are YA, so you will mostly find those reviewed here.

With all this YA and Middle School book reading, I sometimes get a chance to actually read an Adult book. So, if that happens, you’ll find reviews for them here too!

Have fun, and remember there’s a whole wide world of books out there. Remember to ask yourself “Should I Read it or Not?”