Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (Harper Collins, 2011) --- Liesl has just lost her father and is locked up in the attic by her stepmother (and the Cinderella similarities end there). She's sick with grief and scared of never stepping foot outdoors again. Enter Po, a ghost who shows up in Liesl's room from the Other Side. The two form a sort of friendship and set out on a quest to return Liesl's father's ashes to the willow tree by the house they used to live in. All the while, Will, an apprentice's boy, makes a grievous error in delivering the most powerful magic ever, and is now on the run for fear of punishment. The two stories collide and produce something so wonderful I had to give it four purple crayons. :)
The Other Half of my Heart by Sundee T. Frazier (Delacorte, 2010) --- Minerva (Minnie) and Keira King are twin sisters, but you couldn't tell by looking at them. Minnie takes after their father, with her pale skin, freckles, and red hair, while Keira looks more like their mother, dark-skinned and dark-haired. Their differences don't mean much to the girls - at least not to Minnie, our narrator. When their maternal grandmother invites them to North Carolina for ten days during the summer to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen pageant (I mean, program), Keira is thrilled because it means performing and prancing (all things a diva like her enjoys) and getting in touch with their African-American roots. Minnie, on the other hand, is less than thrilled - not because she doesn't want to learn more about her black history, which she desperately does, but because she's so shy and timid. This is most definitely a book about identity - finding out who you are and who you want to be.
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Random House, 2012) --- Mmm, did I love this book! Miss Deza Malone has just finished the school year as the top student in her class, and she is flying high. She's living in 1930s Gary, Indiana, where times are tough for most folks, but all she can think about is how her teacher wants to personally tutor her next year and how she just got the most beautiful blue gingham dress as a gift. Her family is fantastic, with an alliterating father who affectionately calls her the Mighty Miss Malone because of her smarts and sassiness, a mother who always tries to do the right thing, and a brother who will always defend her honor. But it's the 1930s, and the Great Depression is making it hard for families to earn a living and stay together. So the story goes for the Malones too when Deza's father moves to Flint, Michigan to find a job, and the family later follows in hopes of reuniting with him.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, 2012) --- Wonder is one of those books that all the librarians think will win the Newbery Award in January. I'm not one of them. Not because it's not a good book. It's a great book! But it didn't hook me like it did the others. It's about a boy named August who has never been to a real school because of his severe facial deformities. He's had loads of operations and surgeries in his 10 year-old life, and he just hasn't had the time to go to regular school... until now. August is starting 5th grade at a private middle school, and for good reason, he is terrified. What if the kids make fun of him? What if he can't make friends? What if his teachers stare at him? What if the homework is too hard? Starting middle school is hard enough for a normal kid, but how hard will it be for someone who looks so different from everyone else?
Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur (Random House, 2011) --- Elise is just starting middle school and feeling a little different about the activities she and her best friend Franklin do. Playing pretend isn't "cool" in middle school, and Elise thinks she wants to fit in. She lives with her aunt and uncle - her mother died when she was born, and her dad died when she was very young - and she loves them like parents. But one day, when Elise is feeling ready to grow up and out of her childish ways, she discovers a key hanging in the barn, a key that has her name on it. When Elise finds the door that matches that key, she's thrown into a puzzle created by her father especially for her - one that will help her remember her past, take note of her present, and believe in her future. One key down, seven to go!
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Harper Teen, 2012) --- This is the second book in the Delirium trilogy, so I won't say too much about it in case you haven't read the first - which I absolutely loved. As it is with many sequels, this book's story was just eh for me, but what I did appreciate very much was Oliver's writing. She has such a pleasing way with words that I can't describe to you very well except to say that it tickles your heart and makes you sigh happily. Or maybe that's just me... I mean, really, look:
I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,Happy sigh.
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (Katherine Tegen Books, 2012) --- In this world, there is only a finite number of souls that are in existence. When one dies, it will eventually be reincarnated into a new body, but the soul is still the same and has all the memories of past lives. Interesting premise, I thought. And then we have the protagonist, Ana, who defies this order and is actually a Newsoul. Brand new to this world. Living amongst others who have had hundreds of lives and are all friends or at least friendly. She is utterly alone - and she is feared and despised because her new life meant that an old soul is now gone forever. I tried to like this book, I really did. But so much of it felt unoriginal to me - I swear there were Death Eaters in this book. Click the title to go to GoodReads where lots of people enjoyed this book and write about its merits. I'm just not one of them.
Thank you, Spring Break for letting me read so many books! What did you read?