“Ball don’t lie” Matt de la Peña

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Ember (Random House). 280 pp.

BallDon'tLiePeople say a skinny white dude can’t ball, but Sticky don’t pay them no mind. He don’t talk much, but lets his mad balling skills do the talking. Once he steps onto the scuffed boards of Lincoln Rec with his boys and a ball, the world disappears. Balling takes him to a place where no one else can go.

Though shuffled from foster home to foster home all his life, and afflicted with a severe case of OCD, seventeen-year-old Sticky has one thing going for him – he can ball. He’s spent years perfecting his shots and, despite setbacks in his personal life, basketball has always been there for him. Sticky’s dreams of playing college ball and making it into the NBA are threatened on the day he makes the worst decision of his life.

“Ball don’t lie” is raw. It’s honest. It’s gritty. It’s a Broadway play waiting to be cast. It’s waiting for you.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older, especially reluctant readers.


“Projekt 1065: A novel of World War II” Alan Gratz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Scholastic. 309 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

projekt1065In 1938 Michael O’Shaunessey moved to Berlin, Germany with his parents when his father was named Irish Ambassador. Over the 6 years of living there he’d seen the Nazi Party became stronger, changing its people for the worse. It is now 1943, and things have gotten bad as Jews and other dissenters are being taken to concentration camps. Michael had never known his parents were spies for the Allies but now, at the age of 13, he found himself working with them.

When a British RAF pilot was shot down over the city, Michael and his parents discovered the Nazis had been secretly building a plane with engines instead of propellers, which could fly faster than any country’s planes and would turn the tide of the war towards Germany.

Accidentally finding the plane’s blueprints accelerated Michael’s spy role within the ranks of the Hitler Youth. As things heat up, it soon becomes evident that Michael and his parents are in grave danger. Michael will have to do all he can to make sure the Nazis don’t succeed in their plan for world domination before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed reading “Projekt 1065.” Its short, cliffhanger, fast paced chapters make it a great choice for reluctant readers, while its storyline is very interesting.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


“There’s a name for this feeling: Stories/Hay un nombre para lo que siento: Cuentos” Diane Gonzales Betrand

Rated 4 stars **** Piñata Books (Arte Público Press) 72 p. (Includes “Ideas for Conversation,” and “Ideas for Writing”)

TheresANameForThisFeelingIn these 10 short stories, readers are introduced to various characters trying to find their way through circumstances life has thrown at them.

These stories span the range of teen feelings and, though short, are ones to which readers will be able to relate. There is an emotion and a story for every reader, making “There’s a name for this feeling” an excellent choice for your reluctant reader as well as for any tween or teen.

Recommended for readers aged 12-16.

“Bridge (The Alternative)” Patrick Jones

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. To be published September 1, 2014. Darby Creek (Lerner Publishing). Includes Spanish to English glossary and Author’s Note.

BridgeAll eighteen-year-old Jose wanted to do was graduate high school and go to college but, at his alternative high school, these simple goals have eluded him for five years. His parents are undocumented immigrants who don’t know English, his mom works two jobs, and his dad had worked 10-hour days until he fell off a roof due to a negligent foreman and suffered brain damage. With his father unable to work, Jose works two jobs to make ends meet. In addition, as the only English speaker in the household, he is often called upon to translate for them which makes him miss school.

Falling asleep in class from working nights, missing school due to family translation appointments, staying home to take care of his Aunt’s kids, while dropping out several times to work full-time have kept Jose from his graduation and college goals. He works hard to keep family issues from interfering with school work, but each day’s problems seems to make his goals more impossible to reach.

Luckily he has understanding teachers, but even they are beginning to get frustrated. They know he is hiding something, as he never quite answers their pointed questions about his life, but Jose can never let them know about the secret he’s carried for 10 years. This secret is his reason for working hard, but the guilt is weighing on him each year that he remains silent.

Can Jose, an American citizen born to undocumented, non-English speaking parents break out of the cycle of poverty? Will he finally confess the guilt that has eaten at him for 10 years and be able to move on with his life? Patrick Jones’ no-holds barred story of a young boy and his inner motivation to rise above his circumstances when everything is conspiring to bring him down will keep readers turning pages to find out whether or not Jose will succeed.

Recommended for reluctant readers, especially boys, aged 14 and older.

“The Giant” Jonathan Mary-Todd

Rated 3 stars *** Bare Knuckle series. Published March 1, 2014. ARC. Darby Creek Publishing.

TheGiantMr. Chilton rescued Luc from his hard life in Quebec four years earlier. Luc is not sure, but thinks he might be sixteen or seventeen years old. He doesn’t talk much and likes to see Mr. Chilton happy, so has become their breadwinner in his new life in The Bowery. It’s now 1874. Every day he boxes in a nearby bar while Mr. Chilton pockets (or drinks) his winnings then they head to a flophouse for the night.

Luc doesn’t like violence, but is content with this life and routine until Mr. Hardt shows up with a couple of kangaroos, one of which is a baby. Luc’s tender heart breaks when he sees how the adult kangaroo is pushed to fight and is ultimately killed. He doesn’t want the same thing to happen to the joey, so decides to kidnap it.

Unfortunately Luc barely speaks English and doesn’t know where to go. The only thing he knows how to do is fight, but will that be enough to help him and his baby kangaroo survive the mean streets of The Bowery and stay ahead of Mr. Chilton and Mr. Hardt?

“The Giant” is a quick read for reluctant readers, especially boys, and is recommended for ages 11-16.

“Dead Silence” Norah McClintock

Rated 4 stars **** Mike & Riel book #5. Published March 1, 2014. ARC Darby Creek Publishing.

DeadSilenceHigh school will never be the same. Those were Mike’s thoughts the day his best friend Sal was killed. He blames himself for not being there for Sal that fateful day and is angry at everyone especially Teddy, the school bully, and his gang. In his mind Mike has already solved the case, and Teddy is guilty. All he needs to do is to convince the police.

As Mike begins to digs into what happened on the day of the murder, he starts to find out things he didn’t really know about his best friend. It doesn’t take long before Mike’s questions carry over to his own relationship with Sal and his behavior towards others. No one is more shocked than Mike when the true murderer is uncovered.

Despite “Dead Silence” being the fifth in a series, it is not necessary to have read the other books, as it stands alone on its own merits. There are references to past books, which may make the reader want to read them, which is not a bad idea.

Recommended for ages 13-16, especially reluctant readers.