When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

whenyoureachmeThere is so much going on in this book that it’s hard to summarize cleverly and succinctly. So, for this one, I’m going to try a list of facts to see if I can convey the flavor of this intriguing novel:
1. Miranda, a sixth-grader, knows the streets of her Manhattan neighborhood like the back of her hand, including which corners to avoid, when to cross the street, and where the crazy homeless man stands every afternoon.
2. One day Sal, her best friend, gets punched in the stomach for no reason by some random kid they don’t even know.
3. Now, for some reason, Sal won’t talk to Miranda anymore, so she has to walk home from school alone.
4. Soon after this, Miranda’s apartment is broken into. The spare key is missing from its secret spot. Yet nothing seems to be missing. Strange…
5. Then, Miranda finds a mysterious note from somebody who says he wants to save her friend’s life. What? Even weirder, the notes keep coming, and they seem to be predicting events before they even happen.
6. Could somebody be trying to reach her from the future? And is Sal ever going to speak to her again? After all, it wasn’t Miranda’s fault he got punched!

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

jenna-fox.jpgJenna Fox just woke up from a long sleep — from an eighteen-month coma. The house in which she finds herself is unfamiliar. The adults who say they’re her parents are strangers. So is the girl in the mirror. Jenna Fox. A girl with amnesia. A girl who can remember all the details of the French Revolution, but not whether or not she has a best friend. As time passes, details begin to return to Jenna’s bewildered mind. But they don’t make any sense. Where, for example, is the scar on her chin that used to be there? And why is she two inches shorter than she was before the accident? Who — or what — is she? Jenna Fox. A girl struggling to uncover the truth in a world where some people adore her — but many despise her.

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

otherside.jpgAt first this might seem like yet another story with a creepy, overbearing government  controlling the minds and lives of its citizens (think The Giver, The Declaration, The White Mountains, The Matrix), but The Other Side of the Island is full of original language, plot twists, and an impressive, believable cast of characters. In the eighteenth year of Enclosure, way after the flood, a girl named Honor moves with her parents to the Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea. There, she learns about Earth Mother and her glorious plan to regulate the weather and maintain peace among her people. Earth Mother is even building an enclosure over the land so that no more storms can decimate the population as they did during the great flood.

But as always in this sort of novel, there’s a group of secret resistance fighters who don’t want Earth Mother to control them; they don’t trust her and they don’t believe she really has their best interests at heart. Among these fighters are Honor’s parents who, to her horror, refuse to follow the strict rules of this society and even have a second child when only one per family is permitted. To compensate, Honor tries to be the perfect student and citizen, earning all A’s in school and obeying every command her teachers make. Unfortunately, Honor’s efforts to fit in aren’t enough to save her parents. One day when she comes home from school, the house is empty. Her parents are gone. And people who disappear on Island 365 don’t ever come back.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

lifeasweknewit.JPGHoly cow. I finally finished this book. I’ve started it about ten times, recommended it to students, and put it on the summer reading list, but until yesterday, I hadn’t read the whole thing through. That’s because it’s always checked out. It’s super popular among kids and it’s received fantastic reviews from all the critics. I can see why. This book is suspenseful and dark and scary and emotional. In case you don’t know, the plot goes like this: an asteroid hits the moon, pushing it out of its orbit and closer to Earth; as a result, cities are leveled by tsunamis and earthquakes, the climate changes, and the air becomes sooty from thousands of volcanic eruptions. People are dying from starvation and disease. It’s extremely grim. In rural Pennsylvania, Miranda and her family grow increasingly isolated, rationing their food, and boiling snow for water. This winter threatens to be the coldest in history, and there’s no oil. Will anyone survive?

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes survival stories, but be prepared — this is one bleak story! Also, keep a lookout for the companion to this novel, The Dead and the Gone. It’s the same series of events from the perspective of a boy living in Manhattan.

Cherry Heaven by L.J. Adlington

cherry-heaven.JPGKat and Tanka J are starting over. With their adopted parents, the sisters move from the war-torn Five Cities to the New Frontier, where the people live in peace and harmony. In the new frontier, it doesn’t matter whether your family is Atsumisi, Mazzini, or Galresi because everyone is equal. Everyone has a chance at happiness. Everyone gets along. It’s the perfect society.

But Kat and Tanka aren’t the only people making big life changes. In a nearby factory, another girl is planning her escape. For five years, she’s been held in secret captivity as a slave for the Blue Mountain Water corporation. The directors of the New Frontier would rather kill this girl than allow her to escape and reveal what she knows. But she’s going to try. She has no choice.

Three very different girls, each growing more desperate by the minute; a secret too horrific to carry alone; and a man on a mission to bury the truth.

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

DeclarationIt’s the year 2140. Scientists have developed a “miracle-drug” called Longevity that allows people to live forever — with a catch. To receive Longevity, you must sign the “Declaration” and agree never to have any children; otherwise, the world will become overpopulated and its food sources will disappear.

14-year old Anna should never have been born. Her parents broke the law when they had her. Now, they are in prison, and Anna is a resident of Grange Hall, a home for illegal “surplus” children who are training to be servents and to spend their short lives making up for the sin of their very existence. “Surplus” children never receive medical care because they are not meant to be alive in the first place. If they get sick, the adults will let them die.

When a new boy named Peter, another teenage Surplus, arrives at Grange Hall, Anna is forced to question everything she has ever been taught. Peter has spent his life in the outside world, hiding from the police and meeting with other outlaws who believe that Longevity is bad and that being young is not a crime. He encourages Anna to run away from Grange Hall with him, but the life he describes sounds dangerous and unreal. Can she trust him? And if not, how can she ever forget about him?

The Triple Chocolate Brownie Genius by Deborah Sherman

triple chocolateMichael is an underachiever and proud of it. He may be lazy, but he’s VERY popular. In fact, Michael was recently voted student council president of the J.R. Wilcott Middle School. Then, one day, the unthinkable happens: Michael’s father, a computer programmer, accidentally leaves a computer chip on the kitchen counter, Michael’s mother accidentally stirs the chip into her triple-chocolate brownie batter, and Michael accidentally eats it! As luck would have it, the computer chip was loaded with education information, all of which Michael absorbs. Suddenly, he becomes his own worst nightmare: a know-it-all! In class, his hand flies up to answer every question. He receives A+ after A+ on all his assignments. But what about his image as the lazy cool kid? What about all his friends? How can Michael save his reputation now that he’s become a genius?