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Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom

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Grades 2-5If you thought Justin had a worrisome and difficult third-grade year, just wait until you read about his summer at Camp GoldenBrook.After third-grade, Justin is determined to stop worrying so much - until he finds out he's going to a camp that is probably going to kill him - if his flip-flops don't do the job first.Fans of Alvin Ho or the Wimpy Kid series will love Justin's humorous attempts at bravery, and find Justin to be a welcome friend.
Looking For Alaska

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Miles Halter has never had many friends (ok, any friends). Fascinated with "last words," Miles is a bookworm, a smart boy, and looking for friendship as well as a "Great Perhaps", ships himself off from Florida to boarding school in Alabama. He immediately finds close friends in his roommate (The Colonel), and Alaska, a spunky, beautiful, mysterious girl. After a normal new-student prank played on Miles by the Weekend Warriors (rich jocks at the school who spend their weekends at mommy and daddy's) goes too far, The Colonel, Miles, and Alaska plan to retaliate.It's easy to say this book revolves around a prank war, and it's easy to say it's just another boarding school book where a character dies. But Green's characters are so much more real than that, so much deeper, that reviewing - even SUMMARIZING this book has taken a few weeks for me to tackle. Definitely a placeholder in contemporary young adult fiction, this novel is absolutely compelling and ultimately satisfying in every way.
Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles

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In a complicated post-WWIV world ravaged by a fatal, uncurable disease, Earth is separated into independently ruled Commonwealths, completely separated from the Lunars, a somewhat new species spawned from previous moon colonization. Cinder is a second-class citizen at best. She's indentured to her step-mother, and a gifted mechanic, but a cyborg. Over 36% robotic, Cinder relies on a robotic hand, foot, nervous system, and more - to stay alive. Despite this supposed (and mostly unknown) handicap, however, Cinder is the best mechanic in New Bejing, a reputation that brings the Royal Prince himself to her door with a broken android in need of quick - and quiet - repair.When Cinder's younger step-sister Peony catches letumosis, the fatal disease that killed Cinder's father and ravaged Earth, everything changes. Furious, Cinder's step-mother sells her cyborg ward into voluntary testing for a letumosis cure - a grim fate, until Cinder's body rejects letumosis and it is discovered that she has a natural immunity. Dr. Erland, letumosis researcher in the royal palace, begins working with Cinder to develop a cure, but their testing reveals dangerous secrets about Cinder's past. In the meantime, Cinder's repairs on the Prince's android cause it to divulge another secret - relating to the relations between the Earth and the Lunars.When the Emperor himself succumbs to letumosis, the Lunar Queen declares that she will visit the Earth herself to comfort the Prince during his time of mourning - but with recent information Cinder has learned from the Prince's android... it is clear the Queen's motives are anything but comforting.In a creative, complex sci-fi retelling of the classic Cinderella story with a hint of Anastasia, Meyer creates memorable characters while simultaneously posing difficult questions - what does it mean to be human? What is the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good? When is the sequel coming out?
Anna Dressed in Blood

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Grades 7+Cas, teenage ghost killer, moves to a new town to pursue a tip he's gotten on a murdurous ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood. Cute, personable guy that he is, he quickly gets in with the popular crowd - his plan is to learn as much as he can about Anna - and who tells urban legends better than high schoolers?Cas doesn't really expect Anna to be any more formidable of a ghost than anything else he's thought. But, of course, Anna is different.Creepy, spooky, gory... you won't soon forget Anna or her dress of blood.
Killer Koalas from Outer Space and Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff that Will Make Your Brain Explode!

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This book will make you laugh out loud and is so hilarious it forces you to read it aloud to anyone within earshot.
I Am a SEAL Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier

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Teens may definitely enjoy it, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Very interesting, though.
The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

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Superhero kids may enjoy this exciting tale... I didn't.
The Fault in Our Stars

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Hazel has always been terminal, despite a wonder drug that is successfully prolonging her death and allowing her to continue going to a parent-mandated group therapy meeting. Then she meets Augustus Waters, a one-legged, rugged, cute, smart, funny, and cancer-remissed boy. The two quickly fall in love, despite Hazel's reluctance to hurt Augustus through her inevitable demise. Their initial bond occurs over Hazel's favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. The novel, about another cancerous teen, ends in the middle of a sentence, and the non-conclusion has always plagued Hazel. Augustus, ever-resourceful boyfriend, locates and communicates with the off-grid author, and the couple receive an invitation to visit Amsterdam and discuss the book's ending. Hazel, having spent her Make-A-Wish on a trip to Disneyland (much to Augustus' dismay), laments her inability to pay for such a trip, but her loving boyfriend has not spent his Wish yet, and uses it on a trip to Amsterdam to meet the author. It does not go well. Shortly afterward, Hazel learns that Augustus' cancer has returned in full force, and he has an extremely short time to live. Though thoroughly predictable [to apparently everyone but me], John Green has written a poignant novel about a pair of old-soul teenagers far wiser than their years. Filled with laughs, tears, and smiles, this highly literary novel is not one to miss.
Rotters

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After his mother is struck by a bus and killed, 16 year old straight-A student Joey Crouch boards a bus to Bloughton, Iowa, to live with his estranged father Ken Harnett. Known in town as the Garbageman, Harnett is neither an idea father nor roommate. His small house is unkempt, full of newspaper stacks and a strong odor; Harnett himself disappears for days at a time, leaving Joey with no food or money. After discovering a safe full of putrid jewels in his father’s closet, Joey follows Harnett one night, stowing away in the bed of his pickup with a disposable camera. Forgetting about the consequence of a flash late at night, Joey snaps a photo: “Everything was illuminated in one instant of motionless clarity: individual blades of tall grass, bugs caught in the air like thrown pebbles, the mirrored surface of the truck, my father, his stunned expression, the handheld wire cutter, the sparkle of multiple jeweled rings, and, clenched in my father’s fist, wearing these rings, a severed human hand. … My father is a grave robber.”Unlike most teens who catch a parent red-handed robbing a grave, Joey wants nothing more than to join his father. Though initially hesitant and refusing, Harnett begins to train Joey in the art of digging – burying Joey’s homework assignments or shoes deep beneath the earth hours before the start of school, lecturing on the art and history of grave robbing as Joey digs.Obviously not a hot topic in contemporary literature for any age, Kraus writes about grave robbing a little too realistically for comfort – all the while providing mystery, intrigue, and the intricate exploration of a powerful connection between father and son. At times, this subterranean novel is graphic, horrific, and downright gooey, but Kraus’ unforgettable writing strengthens the allure of this dark, multilayered world of bullies young and old, live and dead, and of fathers and sons, in a way that keeps the pages turning.
Marcelo in the Real World

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Marcelo, a high school junior with a somewhat undefined precise location on the autism spectrum, is wildly looking forward to spending his summer working with the ponies at his school, Paterson. He will be the stable man for the school, and in the fall will be promoted to training the ponies to work with all types of disabled students. Marcelo is really looking forward to his summer and senior year at Paterson.But his father, Arturo, has other plans. Arturo wants Marcelo to work at Arthuro's law firm, in the mail room - and Arturo wants Marcelo to switch to public school in the fall. Marcelo is not given much choice about working at the law firm, but he is told that if he spends three summer months working at his father's law firm - in the "real world" - Arturo will let him choose whether to return to Paterson or continue at public school.For Marcelo, three months in the "real world" sounds incredibly difficult as he does not know all the rules of living in that world. But working at the law firm is what Marcelo will have to do to ensure his return to Paterson, and so he accepts his father's offer.As Marcelo's summer progresses, he begins to become more comfortable interacting with others, but when he uncovers a disturbing photograph relating to one of his father's big cases, Marcelo is unsure how to proceed. I think the latter half of this book would be a good story even if Marcelo wasn't on the spectrum - the ethical dilemma he grapples with, though not necessarily realistic for children, is well-written and tense. I initially began this book on audio, and became very attached to Marcelo very quickly, however, like with most audiobooks, I was frustrated at how slowly the narrator was reading, and I ultimately finished it in print. (Ok, ultimately... meaning after 30 pages of the audiobook, I switched to the print version.)
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