Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Why I love this book: So I love scary books, but I don't often find ones that really drag me in and keep my attention. On top of me liking scary books, my middle schoolers really like scary books and I'm constantly trying to find good Middle Grade Horror that I can add to the shelves for them. Ghost Girl manages to fit the bill for both me and my students. This is a really well written horror story, there were moments in the book that I found myself holding my breath or wincing as I read because I wasn't sure what was going to happen next or of the characters I was becoming attached to were going to all make it out unscathed. The suspense was top notch.
Without giving anything away, (because you really need to go read this one, and I don't want to ruin it) Malinenko does something that I really, really liked. Essentially there are some things in the book, that if you read horror, or watch horror, or just even have an interest in the supernatural you might pick up on as an adult- certains names or little actions that are going to make you go "oh no". Kids reading might not pick up on them, in fact it might be the first time they are encountering some of these things, but Malinenko manages to balance these little clues with keeping other things completely under wraps, so that like the kids in the story, the reader knows something is wrong, you might even reason out what is happening, but there are enough knots to untangle that you are never 100% sure where you're going to end up. That ability to leave breadcrumbs without giving away the whole sandwich is really well done in Ghost Girl.
I loved this book, I read the whole thing in basically one sitting, and I can not wait to get it in the hands of my students this fall.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Release Date: May 4, 2009
**This Review will contain spoilers- proceed at your own risk.**
Why I love this book: I first read this book probably 10 years ago, back when I helped run the book club on TwilightMoms, and this book has stuck with me all that time. Written from the perspective of Gemma, who is writing about her kidnapping and subsequent experience with her kidnapper Ty in the Australian Outback. This book is unflinching. There is no doubt that Ty is the bad guy here. As the book unfolds we come to realize just how lost Ty is, and how long he has been that way. His fixation on Gemma as the means to his happiness and the lengths he was willing to go to in order to make her a part of his life are horrific.... and yet... because we are getting the story from Gemma's perspective we are also allowed to see Ty through her eyes and see how, with nowhere else to turn, you might turn to the only person available, even if that person just stole you away from everything you've ever known.
I'm hesitant to use the term relationship here, but there is something, not romantic (even if Ty hopes it some day will be), but also something more then just kidnapper and kidnappee. Ty, for all his numerous faults, truly believes he has saved Gemma and that he can protect her. Indeed, when push comes to shove, he is willing to give everything up to save her. And as for Gemma, she is scared of Ty (as well she should be), but as she learns more about Ty, she begins to understand why he is the way he is, and with that comes a level of empathy that from the outside is inexplicable.
In the end Gemma learns that Stockholm Syndrome is a powerful thing and her throughts and feelings about who she is, who Ty is and who they are related to eachother are a very tangled mess to unravel. What is most impressive to me, is that through Gemma and in getting the story from her perspective, we as readers also walk away with complicated feelings about who Ty is. Ty is the bad guy here, there is no other interpretation, but somewhere beneath the things he did, is a kid who was thrown away and left behind and you can't help but wonder if he ever stood a chance at all.
The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Why I love this book: I'm not sure I can adequately describe everything I love about this book. At the heart of the story is Sky who has some secret plans to ask his crush to prom, but when the plans get leaked in an absolutely horrifically homophobic manner Sky's whole world gets twisted around. He doesn't know who to trust and doesn't know what to do next. I think the thing that I really appreciated about The Sky Blues is that it is unflinching in looking at all the things that can go right and all the things that can go wrong in high school... and how none of it, the good and the bad, is eternal. We see Sky deal with some absolutely awful bullying and harrassment, but we also get to see his friends and his community rally around him to show that Sky is more then what his bully wants to portray him as and in doing so they also make it clear that his school isn't only the worst things that happen in it, and that they can pull together to make the best parts overpower the worst.
In the end I think The Sky Blues is full of hope and that's something I think a lot of kids need to see and hear. It can be bad, but the good can outshine the bad.
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