Bruiser by Neal Shusterman


Bruiser by Neal Shusterman 

About:  Shusterman says that he wanted to write about an empath and thus Bruiser was born.  The blurb in Smith’s on-line catalog states “Inexplicable events start to occur when sixteen-year-old twins Tennyson and Brontë befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast, aptly nicknamed Bruiser, and his little brother, Cody.”

Roben says:  First of all, you should know that this book is told from four different perspectives – Tennyson, Brontë, Brewster, and Cody. The story starts out like a typical realistic fiction.  Brontë likes stray dog type boys and her latest project – and love interest – is Brewster.  Tennyson objects since Brewster a.k.a. Bruiser has been voted Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty. Tennyson and Brontë squabble.  Their parents’ marriage teeters on the brink of divorce.  Tennyson threatens Brewster.  Tennyson stalks Brewster, follows him home, and ends up being his friend. But what neither Tennyson nor Brontë realize is that Brewster is – different.  REALLY different.  Or maybe special is a better way to describe Brewster’s gifts.  But you’ll have to read the book in order to figure out exactly what they are.

Never read a book with four different narrators?  Give it a try – each character’s “voice” is written in a different style.  Tennyson writes in first person past tense, Brontë in first person, present.  Brewster’s chapters are in free verse and Cody’s are stream of consciousness. This book is definitely thought provoking in a Twilight Zone/Stephen King kind of way (and I’m thinking more along the lines of “Green Mile” for the King comparison… ) If that’s your thing, then check out Bruiser. Even though it addresses sensitive topics like child abuse and complicated divorce, this is a book that I would recommend for 8th grade and up.

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My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

sister-rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

 About: When his father’s business takes the family to New York City, a seventeen-year-old Australian boy must balance his desire to protect his ten-year-old sister, a diagnosed psychopath, from the world with the desperate need to protect the world from her.

Anna’s Thoughts: This is such a great read! I was not expecting so much diversity among the characters (different ethnicities, a girl with two mothers, and a psychopath to name a few) but I absolutely loved it! Che is a very believable protagonist with normal teenage boy problems like acne, girlfriend issues, and always being hungry… oh, and his sister is a psychopath but no one else seems to know or recognize that little fact. Her antics make for a very unique story.


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Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

poorPoor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

About: When Sadie is offered a full scholarship to play lacrosse at an exclusive Virginia prep school she jumps at the chance. Although sad to leave her father alone at their modest home in Oregon she is aware this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for admission to an Ivy League college. Worried she will be an outcast among the rich upper class girls of Keating Hall she is thrilled when she is selected as an initiate in Keating’s elite, secret society.  As part of the circle she makes fabulous connections, hangs with the popular girls, attends exclusive parties and meets gorgeous, wealthy guys. The extraordinary perks are almost enough to make her forget her mandatory involvement in the eerie rituals of the secret society and the never-to-be-mentioned disappearance of one of last year’s initiates. Almost.

Debbie’s Thoughts: The book is a little cliché-smart, poor girl vs. evil, rich girl. But the mystery is great and there are many gray areas to be pondered concerning who is good? who is bad? and what did you learn from the experience?

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A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

tasteWhat a treat! Ofilia, Debbie, and Lauren all read and reviewed:

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby 

About: In 1888 seventeen-year-old Evelyn Fallow, herself disfigured by the phosphorus in the match factory where she worked, has been hired as a maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man– but when the Jack the Ripper murders begin she and Merrick find themselves haunted by the ghosts of the slain women, and Evelyn is caught up in the mystery of Jack’s identity.

Murder, ghosts, deformities, oh my! When Evelyn is left disfigured by an accident, she has no one to turn and nowhere to live. However, when an opening as a maid for the Elephant Man presents itself, she quickly takes on the job in order to provide for herself. As the story evolves, Evelyn develops a strong relationship with him, and the two bond over the challenges they face daily considering their abnormal appearances. When murders begin plaguing the city, ghosts of the victims visit the duo and it is up to them to avenge their deaths.

Ofilia’s Thoughts: Let me start by saying I am not usually a fan of historical fiction especially when it has an actual historical figure as a character. Often times in these types of books, it feels like someone is trying to force you to learn something. Thankfully, that is not the case with this book. Yes, Joseph Merrick (AKA the Elephant Man) was an actual person and this book includes factual details about his life. Those facts and details do not impede the progress of the story though. Kirby does an excellent job filling you in, but keeps the narrative going and what a story! Firstly, the setting is a character in and of itself. Nineteenth Century London was dirty, rancid and dangerous especially for the poor. Our protagonist, Evelyn, is not only poor, but she is disfigured thanks to her work in a match factory. (This is also something that was common at the time and horrible!) Then you add the gruesome details of the Jack the Ripper murders, vengeful ghosts and the cast of suspicious characters that surround Merrick all with their own motives and you’ve got a fantastic story.

Debbie’s Thoughts: 17 year old Evelyn Fallow is permanently disfigured. Her jaw eaten away by poisonous phosphorus used to make matches in the match factories of 1888 London.  Hoping to hide away from the world and train as a nurse she seeks employment at London Hospital. She is disappointed to learn she is too young for nurse training. Additionally, she is informed, she will never be nurse material as her disfigurement would upset the hospital’s patients. However, she is offered other employment as maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man; a permanent resident of London Hospital. With no money or family Evelyn accepts the position and learns to love and respect the kind and gentle Mr. Merrick.

As the story of Evelyn and Joseph Merrick unfolds the horrific Jack the Ripper murders begin and Mr. Merrick is visited nightly by the ghosts of the murdered women. Unnerved by these visits his health declines and Evelyn realized she must unmask Jack the Ripper in order to save her friend.

Lauren’s Thoughts: Let’s face it, I love a good monster story/murder mystery. While I don’t especially like period-writing (I often get tangled up in the language), I found myself fully immersed in this novel because of it. Kirby has a knack for detail that had me wanting more. Before, I hadn’t known a whole lot about the Elephant Man either, which added another interesting element to the story, so to learn about the tragedy of Joseph Merrick’s life while also getting the juicy details of the murders happening across the city was a treat. I could not put this book down and hated when I had to, you know, get back to work and stop reading. Any fans of historical fiction or thrillers should enjoy this masterpiece. A word of caution, though, there are moments of gruesome details that may make you queasy.


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Maresi, Book 1 in the Red Abbey Chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff

maresiMaresi, Book 1 in the Red Abbey Chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff

What It’s About: Maresi’s world is one that many would envy. She is a Novice at the Red Abbey, a refuge for women and girls.  Situated on an island surrounded by rough and unpredictable seas, the Abbey is a sanctuary for those who need to escape – from hunger, abuse, ignorance… At the Abbey, the young girls discover and develop their talents. Some are teachers; others are cooks or builders; while others – like Maresi – thirst after knowledge and books. They are all devoted to the Moon and the trinity of beings that make up the Moon- Maiden, Mother, and Crone. And, just like the Moon, their lives have a predictable rhythm. Until Jai, a new Novice, arrives on the island. It is obvious that Jai has suffered unspeakable trauma. And it is acknowledged by the Mother that she has brought unwelcome danger to the Abbey and its residents.  Will Maresi be able to defend her beloved Abbey and her friends?
Roben’s Thoughts – I thoroughly enjoyed this Fantasy saga! The author has created an intricate world filled with magic and beauty.  I was intrigued by the different plot threads running through the story. While ultimately it is Maresi’s narrative of events, Jai’s story is inextricably woven with hers. The third strand is the story of the First Sisters who founded the Abbey.  A “woven story” is very appropriate for this tale since the Abbey’s main source of silver is from a special red fabric that is dyed and woven on the island by the Sisters and Novices.

There is definitely darkness and violence in this book but ultimately there is light and hope. Book 2 in the series is Naondel, which is the name of the ship that carried the First Sisters to the island (scheduled for publication in January, 2018.)

I would give Maresi to readers who enjoy strong female characters, uplifting stories, and are looking for something different than formulaic dystopian stories.

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3 Books Hailey Wants You to Read

Smith Public Library teen, Hailey Bellamy, wants you to read these books! Check out her reviews, and check out these titles at the Smith Public Library!

All You Get Is Me
by Yvonne Prinz
 A very relate-able story about a girl whose dad suddenly moves them out of the city and becomes a farmer. But when she’s caught between her dad’s beliefs on human rights and an L.A. boy she’s falling for.
A cute romance that is insightful on rural life and will leave you wanting more.
Cammie is anything but normal attending a secret school for spies.. But once she begins to fall in love with a normal boy who thinks she’s a normal girl, she wants to be anything but. This book is clever, smart, and very realistic with a cheesy yet entertaining romance.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Leonard, who lives like an outsider and is trying to find a way back into humanity will kill himself on his birthday. A wonderful and moving story about finding your way in the purpose of life and finding yourself in the world.
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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Reviewed by Kelsey

About: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Kelsey’s Thoughts: I am a huge, huge fan of Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, written for adults under the name V.E. Schwab, and this was the first young adult novel I have read by her. And I have to say, it didn’t catch me quite the way A Darker Shade of Magic did. That being said, I still finished This Savage Song in a day and burned through it, needing to know what happened next. I just felt very disconnected from Kate and August, whereas normally her characters have leapt right off the page at me. Maybe I shouldn’t be comparing the two series, but it’s almost impossible not to when Schwab has set her own bar so high. However, let me reiterate, I still very much enjoyed This Savage Song. The world Schwab builds for her characters to inhabit is magnificent and threatening, and I will absolutely be picking up the second installment when it is released.  If you enjoy this one, I promise that her other books are just as good (better, in my opinion) and are worth checking out as well.

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