Magonia– Maria Dahvana Headley
This is the story of Aza Ray Boyle a girl with a mysterious lung disease that should have killed her as a toddler. She is about to turn 16. This book has squall whales causing clouds and rain storms, birds that sing from inside a host’s lung and body snatchers. The ships Aza sees in the sky and the strange birds that visit her lawn as she continues to weaken are attributed to hallucinations caused by all the medications keeping her alive. Her best and only friend, Jason Kerwin- boy genius, is the only one who can bring Aza back from the dead and of course, save the world.
I don’t usually read science fiction or fantasy but I enjoyed this book. It has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars (which I haven’t read yet but both of my daughters declare the best book ever) but only the first third of the book focused on a dying girl. The rest takes place in the fantastical world of Magonia.
No Safety in Numbers- Dayna Lorentz
A bomb is found at a local mall spreading a bio-hazard throughout the ventilation system and all the weekend shoppers are quarantined for an indefinite period of time inside the building. When people start dying from the mysterious disease all hell breaks loose. This book focuses on an eclectic mix of teenagers trapped among the thousands of other people in the shopping center. This story concludes unsatisfactorily with the words “End of Book One.” I think middle school students that enjoy action and adventure books may like this book but I did not, although I had high hopes from the beginning pages. I didn’t connect with the characters and the things that happened during the quarantine didn’t work for me, perhaps because I’ve read so many other thrillers and spy novels featuring terrorist plots.
Under a Painted Sky- Stacey Lee
I saw this book recommended on a couple of different websites before I found it at the library. I’ll add my recommendation to the pile. Orphans Samantha, a Chinese girl, and Annamae, a runaway slave, head out together on the Oregon Trail in 1849. They flee St. Joe, Missouri for California after Samantha kills a white man who was trying to rape her. They disguise themselves as boys to avoid the lawmen and other dangers of the frontier and end up traveling west with three boys also headed to California to take part in the Gold Rush. Along the way Sam and Andy, as they are known on the trail, face obstacles to their disguise and their journey. At one point in the book I found myself wondering how many times the group could encounter the same bad guys in the vast expanse of the Wild West, but overall the book is well-written, a grand adventure, and a good representation of the time period.
Pointing With Lips– Dana Lone Hill
This is a realistic look into the life of one woman and her family during one week on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Written by a self-described “rez chick” this book is authentic in both voice, place and action. If you are unfamiliar with this area and the reservations in particular, this is a good book to start with. It gives a modern view of rez life that is neither romanticized nor overly pessimistic, just real. If you are familiar with the places and people that are described in this book, you will recognize the truth of this story. This book manages to be both heartbreaking and humorous at the same time, while you praise and condemn the characters from page to page.