“The Stone Girl” Alyssa B. Sheinmel

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). On sale August 28, 2012. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books). 215 pp.

All her life, Sethie has known what she’s wanted to do, then has gone out and done it. She’s gotten all A’s at school, scored over 2000 on her SAT’s, written all her college essays, sent out her college applications, made Shaw her boyfriend, and is awaiting graduation from high school in a few months.

One of the most important accomplishments she’s achieved is paying attention to her weight. She is tired of feeling all the fat accumulate between her thighs, on her belly and all over her body so, just as she’s challenged herself to be perfect in other areas of her life, Sethie is applying perfection to herself. She has managed to get her weight down to 111 pounds, but finds even that to be too fat. Having recently discovered how to throw up her food, she is ecstatic.

When Sethie finds out Shaw, the love of her life, doesn’t want to be with her anymore her world crashes down around her. Since she can’t control how he feels, Sethie feels there is only one thing she can control: her weight. As she continues to get skinnier and skinnier, her health declines, and other physical problems begin to manifest themselves. Without help, it will just be a matter of time before Sethie really turns into the stone girl she already feels she’s become.

“The Stone Girl” casts an uncompromising view at the world of the Anorexic and Bulimic teenager, colored through the experiences of the author who’d also had similar problems when she was a teen. High school teens who read “The Stone Girl” will not only be educated on what to look for in their friends who may be suffering from similar weight loss illnesses, but may also recognize themselves within its pages and seek the help they need.


“Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the never-ending search for a cure” Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published July 10, 2012. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 144 pp. (includes Bibliography, Source Notes and Picture Credits).

Jim Murphy and his wife Alison Blank have created an important, compelling, non-fiction narrative of the “Scourge to the Earth,” otherwise known as Tuberculosis. Using historical background, as well as photographs and other primary source documents, the story of Tuberculosis and its affect on humans as far back as 500,000 years ago is documented.

Also included are the many ways those suffering from Tuberculosis, also known as Consumption, sought cures. Details of the important advances made in medicine are unveiled, including the discovery of important antibiotics and drug therapies. Unfortunately, even in the year 2012, there is no cure for Tuberculosis, and it still rages unchecked in many nations of the world.

Murphy and Blank’s interesting and informative work will help students in both elementary and middle schools to better understand the disease, and the roles they can play in keeping it at bay.

“A world away” Nancy Grossman

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published July 17, 2012. Hyperion Books (Disney Book Group). 396 pp.

Eliza Miller is Amish, and being part of the Amish world is all she’s ever known. Now that she’s turned 16, she wants to explore the life of the English (non Amish) during her “rumspringa.” During “rumspringa” teens her age are allowed to run a bit wild, with the hope that once they’ve sown their wild oats they’ll return to the ways of the Amish forever. Eliza jumps at the opportunity to move 3 hours away to become a nanny in an English household, and her parents reluctantly give their consent.

While living among the English, Eliza finds a new and exciting world that quickly makes her former Amish life seem dull and boring. Typical teenage behavior such as using a computer, talking on a telephone, watching a movie, dancing, wearing jeans, or trying on makeup are all new to her. Along with discovering new adventures every day, Eliza finds herself falling in love with an English teenager named Josh, and quickly finds herself losing her Amish ways and becoming more English every day.

However, along with the joys of discovery come the pain of loss. Eliza finds herself caught with a foot in both worlds, and will have to decide for herself if starting fresh in her new world is worth losing all she’s ever known in her old one.

“A world away” is  a breath of fresh air in the world of teen fiction. Eliza’s journey to find herself allows teens to see their own world from the perspective of someone who has never lived in it, while also showcasing a different lifestyle with which they may not be familiar. The Amish may seem foreign to English teens who are not of their culture but, after reading “A world away,” high schoolers will have a better understanding of the two cultures and see how teens in both the English and Amish worlds have much in common with each other.

“Summer of the Mariposas” Guadalupe Garcia McCall

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). On sale October 1, 2012. Tu Books (Lee & Low). 352 pp.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a new author, recently winning the Pura Belpré and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Awards for her debut novel “Under the Mesquite.” I absolutely loved that book, and was excited to receive the ARC for her newest book in the mail from Lee & Low.

According to the book jacket summary, “Summer of the Mariposas” is supposed to be a Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey.” However, since I’d never read “The Odyssey,” any symbolism relating to it was completely lost on me. Thus, any reader who has not read this ancient Greek poem should not feel as if they are “missing out” on anything, but should do as I did and read the book for its own merits.

Ever since their father abandoned them over a year ago, Odilia and her four sisters have felt a void in their lives. Their mother has buried herself in her work, and the girls are left to fend for themselves. To give themselves a sense of togetherness, they created a type of 3 Musketeers pact, in which they stick together through good and bad as the Cinco Hermanitas (Five Sisters.) When they find a dead man in their favorite swimming hole near the U.S./Mexico border, it is decided that they need to bring the man home to his family in Mexico for a proper burial, find the grandmother they haven’t seen in 10 years, and figure out what happened to their father.

Thus begins the fantastical elements of “Summer of the Mariposas,” in which the girls meet all sorts of folkloric Mexican characters like La Llorona (who becomes their guide,) Chupacabra and others in their magical journey through Mexico to return the dead man to his family, meet their grandmother, and return home again. As they successfully make it through trial after trial, the sisters learn the true meanings of love and compassion, not only for each other, but for those around them. Their faith in the miracles performed by the Aztec goddess Tonantzin sustains them throughout their journey, uplifts them when they learn the truth about their father, and allows them to blossom with new life – just like the mariposas (butterflies) that surround them throughout their journey.

“Summer of the Mariposas” is filled with references to the ancient Aztec culture, allowing readers to gain insight into Mexican legends, its culture, and its people. The Author’s Note and Glossary give more information to middle and high school readers who will enjoy the adventures in “Summer of the Mariposas.”

“Amelia Anne is dead and gone” Kat Rosenfield

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published July 5, 2012. Dutton Books (Penguin Group). 277 pp.

“Amelia Anne is dead and gone” started out a bit on the slow side, as details of life in the sleepy town of Bridgeton seemed to overpower whatever theme the author was trying to get across to her readers. Now that she’s graduated high school, Becca is ready and willing to put into effect the plan she’s had for years, to leave her boring life in Bridgeton behind and head off to college. She plans to be part of the group of residents who never return. Unfortunately her love for James, her high school dropout boyfriend, and something that happened that final summer, threaten to keep her plans from coming to fruition.

Interspersed with Becca’s love for James is the constant torment of wondering what happened to Amelia Anne, found murdered on the side of the highway near Bridgeton. Becca is obsessed with the thought that just as something happened to Amelia Anne, who dared to live a dream, so something might happen to her if she leaves Bridgeton to live her own dreams. She allows the death of a stranger to become the death of her own dreams.

Rosenfield tosses in several chapters where readers glimpse Amelia Anne’s life, love and hopes for the future, which give insight into how she wound up in Bridgeton and who murdered her. She also keeps readers guessing as to who could have committed this crime, alternately changing tactics just as readers think they know who did it. The intensity of Amelia Anne’s desire to get out of her own trapped world and live her own life is held in stark contrast to Becca’s dwindling plans for her own future.

“Amelia Anne is dead and gone” is rather deep, and will take a bit of plowing through before readers get to its “meat.” Mature High schoolers in 11th-12th grades, as well as adults, may appreciate it.

“The little woods” McCormick Templeman

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published July 10. 2012. Random House Children’s Books. 324 pp.

Cally’s sister disappeared over 10 years ago, while on a visit to a friend’s house. Both of their bodies were never found…

Cally is now a junior in high school, and has decided to transfer to St. Bede’s. Her sister had disappeared in the woods adjoining the school, and Cally feels if she’s near the area she can figure out what happened that fateful night. Upon arrival, another mystery is presented when she discovers Iris, a fellow student, had disappeared from the school just a few months before her arrival. Cally wonders if the three disappearances are related, and searches for clues.

While trying to investigate this new disappearance, Cally finds romance where she least expected to find it. However, with her fellow students and teachers acting strange and secretive, love has to take a back seat to the craziness in her life. Cally knows something is going on at St. Bede’s, but can’t seem to put her finger on what it could be. It seems that someone, or something, is going to great lengths to make sure its secrets stay hidden forever.

High schoolers will enjoy the strangeness of this mystery interwoven with romance and forbidden activities that only elite high school boarding schools seem to generate.

“Red heart tattoo” Lurlene McDaniel

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). On sale July 24, 2012. Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books). 216 pp.

Morgan has been elected Senior Class President and, along with her star soccer and football boyfriend Trent, reside as the untouchable Queen and King Bees of Edison High. Rough and tough Roth is barely making it through high school, but knows a good thing when he sees it – Morgan. He’s had a crush on her for years, and doesn’t care what Trent thinks about it. Kelli, Morgan’s best friend, is supposed to be riding high. She has been dating Mark, star football player, for awhile now and has plans for their future together. Unfortunately, Mark doesn’t see their future in the same way she does.

All of these seemingly important aspects of high school life become trivial on a typically normal day right before Thanksgiving. When someone sets off a bomb in school, nothing is normal anymore. Nine students are killed instantly, scores injured, and one blinded.

McDaniel takes the extraordinary event of this horrific day to explore emotions felt by the victims, their families and the town. Survivors struggle to understand why such an event would happen to them, managing to find ways to go on and live their lives anew. These struggles are contrasted with the mindset of those who caused the explosion.

Red heart tattoo” is a powerful read for students in grades 9-12, and will offer them much food for thought.