This Appearing House by Ally Malinenko
Release Date: August 16, 2022
Why I love this book: Ally Malinenko is one of my favorite authors- her book Ghost Girl nailed middle grade horror perfectly and my students took it out consistently all year. So I was extremely excited to read This Appearing House. This book is absolutely everything I hoped for and then even more.
First- the horror. This book again hits middle grade horror perfectly. Parts of it are absolutely terrifying. I’m going to avoid spoilers here, but suffice it to say- the house is sufficiently scary, and there is at least one scene that will probably give me nightmares. Main character Jac faces it all and finds a way through and it is a fantastically scary journey.
Second- this book is about so much more then a scary book about a house of horrors. The scariest things are in Jac’s head as she deals with possibility of her cancer returning. This is a kid who has been through the worst, she has come out the other side, but the specter of disease is always right behind her, and that too is a scary journey.
Malinenko finds the perfect balance here- and kids (and adults) will be better for having read this book. My students need to see that they can face scary things. I really can not wait to hand this one to my students in the fall.
Jumper by Melanie Crowder
Release Date: June 21, 2022
Why I loved this book: Approximately 25 years ago, when I was a teenager, I saw my first article about smoke jumpers. I was ona road trip to Yellowstone and the idea of someone jumping out of a plane to fight fire was captivating. I was in Yellowstone shortly after the fire in 1988, I've seen how quickly a fire can rip through the wilderness, and the devestation that it leaves in its wake. I've also studied land management, attended innumerable ranger talks about how you have to do your best to prepare with controled burns and cleaning out the underbrush when you can, about why fire is actually good for the forest, and why you have to be ready to protect the buildings and people if the fire rages to close. To say I've been interested in wilderness fires for decades sounds odd, but there's something about how the fires move and especially the people who choose to step in front of them and try to contain them, is interesting. So when I saw this book up for review I knew I had to grab it if I could. Jumper didn't disappoint at all.
Focusing primarily on Bianca, a girl fresh out of high school who has dreamed of being a smoke jumper for what seems like her whole life, and due to several factors she is getting her chance way earlier then anticipated. Is she ready? yes. She has prepared forever, but she also has one giant thing that can hold her back, and that is her diabetes. It's hard to manage and she knows she can't disclose it to her trainers because they will send her packing, so while she knows mentally she can do this thing, she also knows that at any moment her body might betray her.
The story starts towards the end, we know immediately that something has gone horrible wrong. Bianca seems like she's had a close call with a fire, she's being interrograted about something, and she's both angry and sad... but at the outset we have no idea what's happened. This was a GREAT intro, in my mind I immediately began thinking about what I thought the issue was, all throughout the story I felt the pieces coming together as Bianca made her way through her smoke jumper training with her best friend Jason and the other Rookies. I felt like the story was leading us one way as she dealt with other recruits, her trainers, and her disease. And then... then I was wrong. Whatever I thought was going to happen to land Bianca covered in smoke, angry and being questioned, was not even close to what actually happened and the story is so much better for it.
I'm not going to give the twist away, but it works just right. It hits you in the gut and then sets you up for everything that comes in the last part of the book perfectly.
What I like best about this book is that you can tell how much research went into it to make it feel real. The author's note at the back makes it clear that while its highly unlikely a teenager would ever make smoke jumper, everything else about the training and things that the smoke jumpers experience has been researches so that those aspects of the story are spot on. I love research, truly, so I always appreciate when you can tell an author put the work in to really nail it. All that care makes it so easy to fall into the story and be invested in where Bianca is and where she's going. I would read 100 more books following Bianca as she becomes the smoke jumper she always wanted to be.
The Clackity by Lora Senf
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Why I love this book: Have you ever read a book that you loved so much that you have a hard time actually forming sentances? Maybe that's just me. At least it is me for this book. The Clackity is actual perfection. I am deeply in love with this strange, beautiful, terrifying, hopeful book.
Evie lives in a haunted town, her house has burnt down, her parents are missing and considered dead, and now her Aunt has taken a huge risk and been taken into an alternate realm and it's up to Ecie to face the darkness, face her fears and save her Aunt.
Senf completely nails the balance on this story and it perfectly hits that middle grade horror note. It's scary, there are moments where we aren't sure if Evie will be able to get past what scares her, but it is also full of so many acts of bravery (both physical and mental) that I know will inspire kids to believe they can do the hard things.
As a small addition... I have never read a book that I wanted to become a TV series so badly. My middle schoolers are always looking for the next show to get obsessed with and they also love horror. This book is almost perfectly suited to be a series... each week with Evie tackling a new challenge. I want to see it, how do we make this happen??
I can not wait to add this book to my shelves next year.
Home of the ramblings of an avid reader. In my spare time I also run, ride, teach, go on adventures and get into shenanigans.
Find me here: