The Good Son by Pierre-Jacques Ober

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

This cinematic book brilliantly tells the story of one French solider from the First World War using staged miniatures. The dramatic photography makes the stationary figures seem so dynamic, bringing all scenes–whether city or country, melancholy or violent–to life. Ober’s writing is spare but strong, pairing expertly with the scenes to convey a powerful message.

I was amazed to read in the afterward that Ober painted only preexisting models and miniatures. As he tells it, “the story was drawn from them instead of them being used to suit the purpose of a pre-written story.”

And what a story they told!

Located in Teen Graphic Novels (TEEN GRAPHIC OBER)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

My heart is full of this book.

With short chapters and short sentences, The Fountains of Silence is so fast to read that you don’t realize how deep you are in the story until you come up for air. Multiple points of view weave seemingly unrelated threads of story in and out until the end, revealing a cohesive tapestry that will bring tears to your eyes.

Set in 1950s Madrid, the story centers upon the mutual attraction between Daniel, the teenage son of a Texas oil tycoon, and Ana, a vibrant housekeeper at a Spanish luxury hotel catering to rich Americans. Their relationship is constantly constricted by a tangle of secrets and the cultural oppression of the Franco dictatorship, now in its 18th year.

Ruta Sepetys has always excelled at the research aspect of her historical novels, and this book is no exception. The setting is so rich it is practically a character itself–you can feel the dry Spanish heat on your face and opulent hotel linens beneath your fingers.

With storytelling so sophisticated, yet lacking any content inappropriate for younger readers, I’d hand this gem to any teen or adult–that is, if I could get my fingers to let go of it.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC SEPETYS)

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

Following up her smash hit, Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi’s writing still flows off the page. However, I prefer the original to the sequel. The book picks up right where the cliffhanger of the last one left off: Magic is back in the kingdom of Orisha, thanks to the herculean efforts of gifted Magi Zelie and disgraced princess Amari. Unfortunately, their efforts have not only given magic back to the Magi but also to the corrupted nobility as well. Although the story is magnetic and the pace relentless, I found myself lost in a swirl of plot points that I couldn’t figure a way out of. Although I devoured the first third and eagerly finished the book, the middle third of the book is a bit muddled. Regardless, I will be seeing the series through when the third and final book is released.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC ADEYEMI BK.2)

Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

In this terrifyingly believable apocalypse, California has run out of water and suburban teenager Alyssa and her little brother Garrett find themselves on a journey of survival. Their experiences range from that first bewildering trip to Costco to find that cases of water are completely sold out, through their neighbors shift from civility to violence practically overnight, and finally to–well, I’m not going to tell you where they end up but it is quite far from “Gee, how weird that Costco is out of water.”

Alyssa and Garrett end up joining forces with some pretty unlikely companions (like that old saying, “apocalypses make strange bedfellows”…or something like that) who range in age from 10-20 and come from all different economic and family situations. Narration alternates between our handful of main characters, and also includes quick snapshots of what other people are experiencing, painting a very broad picture of a crisis of this scope with extremely engaging and straightforward writing.

As you read, you can’t help but ask yourself what you would do in these situations, and the answers become far more uncomfortable than you would have thought possible when you casually started this book with a tall glass of ice water by your side.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC SHUSTERMAN)

Beastars Vol.1 by Paru Itagaki

Reviewed by Jess H (Library Staff)

At a high school where the students are literally divided into predators and prey, friendships maintain the fragile peace. Who among them will become a Beastar – a hero destined to lead in a society naturally rife with mistrust?”

If you’ve seen Zootopia, you know the basic set up for Beastars: every character is an anthropomorphic animal and there’s some animosity between carnivores and herbivores. Unlike the Disney movie, Beastars opens with a murder. Cherryton Academy student Tem, an alpaca, was murdered, and the prime suspect is our protagonist, Legoshi, a grey wolf.

Beastars offers an interesting look at prejudice and the relationships that transcend judgement and bias. The art and characters are striking and distinctive. Beastars is an exciting read full of intrigue and drama. With the upcoming Netflix adaptation, now is the perfect time to pick up volume one. I recommend this series for older teens and adults.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Reviewed by Holly (Library Staff)

This book took me on a journey back to High School. The main character is a home schooled girl that is attending public school for the first time. The author describes a convergence of two opposing forces, a free spirited youngster and a conventional high school. At first the originality of the girl named Stargirl was refreshing and embraced by many. Then things change. Remembering how important it was to be popular was a common chord in this book. Stargirl also experiences her first love. This book is a quick pleasant read for anyone wanting to escape the adult world and be transported to a simpler time. I read the book because I heard it was being made into a movie. The movie is due to hit theaters in the Spring of 2020. The main character is being played by Grace Vanderwaal, a former winner of America’s Got Talent.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC SPINELLI)

The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynne Barnes

Reviewed by Jen Bremer (Library Staff)

Mysteries, lost children, mischief, and DOGS! This book has it all. I read it a single night and stayed up WAY past bedtime to do so. Teens Kira, Jude, and Free have learned Search and Rescue at the hands of one of the best and their mettle is about to be tested like never before. Kira was once a lost child in the forest, but upon being rescued after weeks on her own she has learned to survive and thrive in the “real world.” Yet part of her remains back in woods and that terrifies Kira. Jude is a forceful optimistic, often using it to hide his pain of not knowing who his father really is. Free is reckless and loving and fiercely protective – a free spirit who just wants to be needed and wanted. And they all work with their K9s in Search and Rescue. The dogs – Saskia, Pad, NATO, Dutchess, and Silver are beautifully written characters and help drive the story along.

Those who love a good mystery with a twisting ending and a slew of cute puppers will definitely love this book.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC BARNES)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Reviewed by Jen Bremer (Library Staff)

Where do fairytales come from? What if fairytales were real? Fans of magical realism and fairytales will absolutely love The Hazel Wood. Main character, Alice Proserpine’s, world explodes when the “bad luck” that has plagued her and her mother ups its game and her mother disappears. The only clue is the title page to one of her reclusive grandmother’s strange and frightening fairytales. What unfolds is a magically twisted adventure full of lyricism and the unexpected.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s truly a beautiful story of self discovery and resilience. It reminded me a lot of the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. The sequel to The Hazel Wood comes out in January 2020 and I cannot wait to get on the holds list!

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC ALBERT)

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury

Reviewed by Kelsey (Library Staff)

What begins as the story of forbidden crushes quickly becomes one full of tension and religious conflict. Told from three distinct points of view; Tariq, a Muslim boy with dreams of leaving India to attend Oxford; Anupreet, a Sikh girl, whose recent facial scar is an everyday reminder of the violence that permeates her life; and Margaret, an English girl, temporarily living in India with her parents while her father determines the line that will divide India in two. The upcoming partition of India has tensions between Muslims and Sikhs at an explosive level. Forced to decide whether to follow the expectations of their families and society, or do what they think is right, each character has tough decisions to make. When an old acquaintance draws Tariq unknowingly into the violence between the Sikhs and Muslims, the three teens must decide if their differences are too great to overcome, or if they will help each other in the end.

This fictional portrayal of an important time in India’s history gives readers a look at the adversity faced by those living in India during this volatile period. Though the love triangle comes into play throughout the story, the real draw of this book is Bradbury’s descriptive writing that takes us into the mind of each character and gives us a brief glimpse of what it was like to be a teenager living on the edge of danger. A great read that I recommend for teens ages 14 and up.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Mike by Andrew Norriss

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

In this quick novel (barely over 200 pages), teenage tennis prodigy Floyd feels like his life is going just fine until a boy named Mike begins harassing him. Even more unsettling is that no one but Floyd can even see Mike.

This psychological and thought-provoking exploration of finding the path that is right for you, no matter what anyone else says, is strange but poignant and it made me wish I had a Mike of my own to set me on the right path. But then I realized I already have one. We all do.

It’s just up to each of us to learn to listen to them.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC NORRISS)