When a mass shooting breaks out at a Portland mall, the people inside have three choices — run, hide, or fight back… And, since there are several shooters armed with semi-automatic weapons, the wrong choice will likely lead to death. When Amina decided to shut herself into the store where she worked, hoping that the metal security gate would provide enough protection, she didn’t close herself in alone. There were six teens inside, and they would all have to work together to try and get out alive.
It’s a diverse group of teens, so I thought of this as kind of like The Breakfast Club written as a thriller. And, I have to admit… Although I loved how this story kept me on the edge of my seat, I am not sure I will be able to go into a shopping mall for a while. (I thought No Safetly in Numbers was traumatizing at the time, but this is so much more realistic and terrifying.)
Cliff Hubbard was probably the biggest loser in his school, both literally and figuratively speaking. He was 6’6″, 250 pounds, and had a physique that earned him the nickname Neanderthal. And, ever since his brother Shane killed himself, his life at home had become increasingly terrible as well. So, how did he end up getting a girlfriend and becoming friends with the über cool and extremely popular quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman? Well, it all started when Aaron met God. After awaking from a coma, which resulted from a drunken boating accident, Aaron Zimmerman claimed that he had met God and that God had entrusted him with a list of tasks to complete in order to make Happy Valley High School a better place. And The List, as it was often called, apparently required the assistance of Cliff Hubbard.
While I don’t think there are a ton of teens out there who will suddenly be called upon by God with specific lists of ways to make their own schools suck less, I think it is entirely possible that this book could inspire greatness. And although the circumstances of HVHS might not align exactly with the circumstances of every high school, readers can certainly draw some parallels between The List and the ways they could reach out and help out people in their own schools and communities. I highly recommend that Nerdfighters who want to end Worldsuck check this book out when it’s published in May.
Nell has always been an overachiever. Whether training hard so her team could advance to and win the state volleyball championship or studying hard to become her class valedictorian, Nell has always given her all. And that was why she couldn’t stand Jackson Hart. He never seemed to try nearly as hard, but he always got what he wanted. Jackson was the captain of his baseball team, one of the most popular guys at school, AND he was beating her by a fraction of a percentage in the class rankings. Not only that, but Jackson came from money, and she only attended their elite prep school because her mother was the principal. Talk about opposites! But, as the saying goes, opposites attract. Nell had always been frustrated by the fact that no one else could seem to see past his charming exterior to recognize the slime ball that he was inside. Until even she started to fall for his charms. And she fell hard… But then she began to suspect that their relationship might be just another of Jackson’s games. And, if it *was* a game, Nell was determined to win.
This book was a great read on so many levels. It touched on honesty — between friends, between family members, and with one’s own self. It addressed what can happen when competition is taken beyond a healthy level. And it explored how perfectionism and toxic relationships (familial and dating) can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your #ToBeRead list so you can be sure to check it out when it’s released at the end of January.
Jessie thought that she and Chris needed a break. Just for a week. Just to get a little perspective before graduation. Chris seemed to think they should get married right away, but she thought he was wrong. Why? Because Chris was being scouted for a full-ride baseball scholarship and could likely end up playing in the big leagues. She thought that she would just weigh him down, regardless of how often he told her that she would only make his life complete. And she was pretty sure her own college and career aspirations would not work out if she followed Chris off to college, since his school didn’t have the environmental conservation major she had her heart set on. Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she could truly offer him since she thought of her upbringing as “white trash” and was embarrassed to even bring him into her home, which was dangerously full of her mom’s hoarding piles.
When Chris disappeared, though, Jessie had to find the courage to speak out about the secrets Chris had been keeping and to dig deeper. She knew that Chris had been jumped a few weeks prior, by some other local baseball players who accused him of only getting a scholarship because he was black. Even though she told the police about how they had used hate speech while they attacked him, and that she was concerned that those same guys were involved in his disappearance (since he was running in that same area when he disappeared), the police seemed content to think he ran away. After all, those other guys came from good families and had an alibi for the night in question…
Every week, Chris had written Jessie a love letter. As she struggled to work through her emotions and to try and figure out what happened to Chris, she decided to write him a letter of her own — but she insisted that it was NOT a love letter. If he wanted a love letter, he would need to come back to her. This book would make a great conversation starter about racism, mental health, friendships/relationships, communication, and more.
I am NOT the kind of person who enjoys spoilers, and I *never* flip to the end of the story to sneak a peek… but I somehow really enjoy stories that start out telling you how things are going to end and then go back to the beginning to show you how it all went down. I had forgotten the synopsis of this story when I started reading, and it started out innocently enough. Ben was talking about how he and Rose came to be a couple — with her basically picking him and telling him she was going to be his girlfriend. A little abnormal, but not scandalously so. I am a sucker for love stories, although I was pretty sure the title meant they had broken up, but then it became clear something had happened to Rose. She had died in some tragic way, and Ben’s story was going to tell the reader how it happened. What I wasn’t prepared for, nevertheless, was when Ben ended the first chapter asking, “So why’d I kill her?” Say WHAT?!?
I was recently talking with a colleague about Nancy Pearl’s “four doorways” into the book — characters, language, setting, and story — and I think this book had all four but story was my primary doorway. I was sucked right in because I just had to know more about Ben and what could compel him to kill the girl he claimed to love, let alone claim that he wasn’t sorry, felt absolutely no guilt, and was not looking for absolution. I especially liked how we got to glimpse into Ben’s past to see how he had been shaped by both the injury and tragedy of his childhood to become the young man he was when this story took place. If you are a fan of mysteries that don’t follow a typical crime show formula, you should check this one out.
The concept of a “soul mate” has been around for practically forever, but something strange started happening a few years ago. No one knows why, but people started getting names on their chests. Not like a tattoo, per se, since they didn’t choose the name and/or do it themselves. Names just started appearing. Signatures, actually. Though no one knows why or how this started happening, many people honestly believe that the signature belongs to the person they are Meant To Be with (their MTB). People believe in this phenomenon so much, in fact, that there are even services to help you scan in your signature and your MTB’s signature so that you can find each other more quickly. And I guess that is great if you believe in the whole MTB thing, but what if you don’t?
Agatha isn’t so sure about the whole MTB thing. In fact, she prefers to use the term “Empties” (MTs) instead of MTBs. She was probably a little jaded by the fact that her high school boyfriend immediately dumped her and went in search of his MTB when a signature appeared on his chest, but it is more than that. She just doesn’t know how she feels about love and relationships in general. Is there really such a thing as fate and destiny? Could it possibly be that easy to find the person who is right for her? Sadly, her MTB has a very common name, so she doesn’t exactly have an easy time searching for him online to find out more of what he might be like. And then, to complicate things just a bit more, she starts to fall for a guy at work. This witty coming-of-age story is a great blend of humor, romance, and magical realism. Just an FYI, though — based on the mature content, some people might be more comfortable labeling this New Adult rather than YA.
Sadie was more than prepared for a boring summer. Her best friend was going away to work at a summer camp and she was going to work at a farm stand selling fruits, veggies, and $12 chunks of cheese to “citiots” who were on their way from NYC to the Hamptons. Then, something completely random happened. When a drunk and belligerent man pulled in to the farm stand, Sadie became a bit of a hero. Rather than let him drive away with his toddler screaming and crying in the back seat, Sadie physically stopped him from leaving. It wasn’t all that simple, though. As she struggled to take away his keys, she actually had her head smashed off a toolbox and ended up with a major concussion and a terrible scar to show for her efforts. Video of her daring deed went viral and she was nominated for an award at a “homegrown heroes” luncheon that honored local teens.
Though they would have been unlikely to come together on their own, these teens felt an instant connection and decided to start hanging out as a group. Before long, they were working together to take down internet trolls while leaving care packages for the people who had been bullied. I don’t want to give away too much, but I think it’s fair to say that their good deeds soon escalated with the help of a generous benefactor. Though I was glad to see a book featuring brave and generous characters from a wide variety of backgrounds (both ethnic and socio-economic), I have concerns about the dangerous situations into which these teens placed themselves and can only hope that readers will know better than to emulate those particular acts of heroism.