“The book of Laney” Myfanwy Collins

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Ebook. Published May 17, 2015. Lacewing Books. (Includes Reference materials.)

TheBookOfLaneyWest and his best friend Mark hated high school, and planned revenge for all the times jocks ignored or made fun of them. After spending time researching terrorists, both homegrown and abroad, they were ready to make their mark on the world. Using knives, machetes and homemade bombs, they worked their way through a school bus filled with high school kids, and forever changed Laney’s world.

With West and her mother now dead, joining the father she’d never known, fifteen-year-old Laney is sent to live with her grandmother, Meme, in the woods of upstate New York in a place upon which civilization has not dared to encroach. Meme is not an exceptionally friendly woman, but she and Laney soon come to an understanding. It is with her help that Laney learns to put herself in the shoes of those who have gone before and to rely on nature for her needs. She also learns to quiet her own mind and regain the glimmer of a path for her life, which West had taken in his quest for revenge.

“The book of Laney” gave great insight into the minds of terrorists like West and Mark, as the author used real diary entries from homegrown terrorists to help readers understand why people would behave in such an horrific way. The life which Laney now found herself living, and how she saw herself after the murders, were all realistic topics.

However, I felt the book lost its attempt at being believable when Laney’s paranormal visions become its highlight. It would have been better if the author had found a realistic way to help Laney find a way to cope with her issues without having to resort to make believe. Struggling teens who may have looked to this book for insight into their own situations will not find solace through the paranormal.

I would have given the book a higher rating if the author had stayed true to the book’s premise of a young girl learning to cope with life after facing death one too many times, instead of letting it deteriorate into these visions. In addition the cover is very “blah,” and would have been lovely if it had looked like the beautiful Adirondack woods into which Laney poured so much of her heart and soul.

Because of having a major issue with this hugely unrealistic topic in the midst of realistic ones I can’t recommend this book, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.



“Finding Jake” Bryan Reardon

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published February 24, 2015. William Morrow (HarperCollins).

FindingJakeWhen Simon’s son Jake was born, he became a stay-at-home dad so his attorney wife Rachel could continue working. When his daughter Laney joined the family Simon’s life became fuller as he strove to be a good dad, take care of the household, deal with his feelings of insecurity and help his children become productive citizens.

Over the years, Simon obsesses about Jake’s withdrawal from the neighborhood kids’ play dates, sensing Jake’s need to be quiet and alone, but silently wishing he were as outgoing as Laney. With Rachel spending more and more time at the office, and Simon working hard with the children, they became as two ships passing in the night.

All changed the day Simon got a phone call that there had been a shooting at the high school. Afraid for Jake and Laney, he races to the school with all the other parents only to find out there had been a massacre and Jake is missing. As more and more children get taken away from the scene, Simon waits in the parent holding area holding Jake up to the light and thinking about his son.

As he recalls Jake’s growing up years, he wonders if there was anything he could have done to make a difference in what had just happened. Is Jake guilty of such a crime? Could Jake have partnered with his withdrawn friend, who Simon disliked from the beginning, to create such a horror at school? Fear, hope, dismay, anger, terror and determination course through Simon’s mind as he grapples with the events of the past and present. His steadfastness culminates in the goal of doing what no police officer has been able to do: find Jake. Perhaps then he can get answers to the questions gnawing at his mind causing him to doubt everything he’d once held dear.

This amazing book had me spellbound from the moment I started to read. Though told from the point of view of an adult, the subject matter is definitely one that needs to be discussed with high school students so as to help students see reasons why teenagers decide to become mass murderers at school and, perhaps, help to avoid future occurrences.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including adults.

“Brutal Youth” Anthony Breznican

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2014. Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin’s Press).

BrutalYouthPeter Davidek was an 8th grader visiting St. Michael’s high school when the unthinkable happened. A bullied student went crazy, attacking both faculty and staff by throwing bottles at them from the roof of the building. He and another 8th grader, Noah Stein, intervened and saved the life of a student who had been hit on the head.

Now a freshman at St. Michael’s, Peter and Stein meet Lorelai Paskal, a girl so eager to forget her sad middle school and home life that she’s willing to do anything to be noticed. The three of them quickly become friends as they strive to stand together against the bullying culture where seniors are allowed to “haze” freshmen with the faculty’s blessing.

As the bullying worsens, Peter, Stein and Lorelai find themselves changing. Peter’s parents bully him everyday, causing him to do things he would have never done in the past. Stein is hiding a secret from his father, who seems to resent his son, while Lorelai’s mother beats her for no reason. When Stein falls hard for Lorelai, he doesn’t realize her desire to be popular will come with a price he shouldn’t have to pay.

Breznican’s realistic depiction of bullying and family life leaves his readers to wonder if “Brutal Youth” was based on actual events and, if so, make plans to avoid being a student at St. Michael’s.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.


“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.