Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students

Philippe, Ben. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager. Balzer + Bray, 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062824110. 367p.  Gr. 9-12 P8 Q8  

This book has it all: romance, real-life struggles, inspiration, and LOTS of humor.  It’s also written from the refreshing perspective of Norris Kaplan, a Black French Canadian immigrant to the US.  (Note that the author is writing from his own cultural perspective.) Norris keeps a journal of his smart-alecky observations of the Texas high schoolers he encounters, labeling them as jocks, loners, cheerleaders, et al.  In spite of his reluctance to get involved with and make friends of kids at his new school, he does, and finds out that the labels become real people and real friends.  All goes well until his journal gets discovered and his world falls apart.  It’s up to Norris to figure out how to put it all back together. Genre: Realistic Fiction.


De Becerra, Katya.  What the Woods Keep. Imprint, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN:  978-1250124258. 384p. Gr YA P8Q9 

This book is fast-paced, vivid, intriguing, ominous, and other-worldly.  It deals with lots of difficult topics, like disappearances, grief, mental illness and more.  Even though it was creepy and supernatural, the characters were very real and made me feel like they might walk out of my neighborhood; it was scary and so good!  Genres: paranormal/horror.





Lemon, Sarah Nicole. Valley Girls. Harry N. Abrams, 2018. $18.99.  ISBN 978-1419729645. 400p. Gr 10+  P8 Q7 

This is a strong story, showing a teenage girl pushing through adversity.  It reminded me a lot of Cheryl Strayed’s novel, Wild, in that the protagonist is struggling to reform herself from drug abuse and low self-esteem by having a wilderness experience that challenges her.  Even though this book has a lot of technical jargon about rock climbing, there’s a glossary in the back of the book that helps explain it. Genre: realistic fiction.




London, Alex.  Black Wings Beating. (Skybound Saga, book 1).   Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN:  978-0374306823. 432p.  Gr 7-12  P6Q8 

This well-written book takes place in an alternate universe where those who are expert falconers rise to the top of society.  The plot centers on two siblings who are trying to capture a famous eagle and tame it.  However, more of the story has to do with the siblings’ abusive upbringing, and how they overcome their past.  It’s the first of a trilogy, and I am looking forward to reading more! Genre: Fantasy.



Westerfeld, Scott.  Spill Zone, book 1. Illustrated by Alex Puvilland.  First Second, 2017. $22.99.  ISBN: 978-1596439368. 224p. Gr 9-12. P8Q8

The Spill Zone is an area that resulted from a chemical spill that led to the destruction of a city and death of many of the residents, including the main character’s parents.  There’s a lot of criminal activity, suspense, and weird stuff; it reminds me a lot of The Hunger Games, but there’s a lot of F-bombs, so probably not good for younger kids.  Genre: Fantasy-SciFi/graphic novel.




Hamilton, Alwyn.  Hero at the Fall. (Rebel of the Sands, book 3). Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.99.  ISBN: 978-0451477866. 480p.  Gr 7-12  P6Q7

This book is the exciting conclusion to the Rebel of the Sands trilogy, set in a mythical desert world.  This action-packed fantasy centers around a strong female character and contains enough weirdness, suspense, and romance to please everyone.  Nope, it’s not a stand-alone book; readers are advised to check out the first two books before tackling this one, as the characters and setting are too complex for a stand-alone. Genre: Fantasy




Fowley-Doyle, Moïra.  Spellbook of the Lost and Found.  Kathy Dawson Books, 2017. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-0525429494.  368p. Gr 9-12.  P6Q8

Set in Ireland, this book is a narrative about spellcasting, drinking, and wild adventures told from 6 different points of view. It’s pretty twisted and hard to follow at times, but overall a likeable book for mature high-schoolers.  Genre: Paranormal/mystery.





McKinney, L.L. A Blade so Black. Imprint, 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1250153906. 384p. Gr 10-12.  P7Q9    

This is an amazing mix of fantasy, humor, and magic that also happens to be an urban, Black version of Alice in Wonderland.  There’s a strong female lead character, obviously, and a cast of “villians” that hover between the real, racist world and Wonderland.  It’s really great fanfiction stuff!  Genre: Fantasy



Alexander, Kwame.  Rebound. (Crossover series.) HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. $16.99.  ISBN: 978-0544868137.  Gr 7-9  P8Q8 

This series is absolutely awesome, it should be in every library!  The characters are so real and lovable, and even though there’s a “message” here about overcoming difficulties, it’s not preachy at all.  I think younger kids will really be able to relate to this and it’s very easy to read. Genre: Realistic Fiction



Howard, Greg.  Social Intercourse. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.99.  ISBN: 978-1481497817.  Gr 9-12.  P5Q8 

This was a fun book to read. You couldn’t predict what was going to happen from one page to the next.  This was partly because the book is first-person narration from two completely different viewpoints: Jaxon, a star football player and Beckett, his sassy gay friend, against the backdrop of southern, religious conservatism.  That story might sound really clichéd, but Jaxon has 2 moms and Beck is the “man” of his broken family. When the parents of the boys start dating each other, things get complicated, and they unite in trying to undermine that union, afraid that their families will be torn apart. In the middle of all this, the boys discover they are attracted to each other and fall in love.  There are gay sex scenes in this book, so it might not appeal to every reader.  There are also instances where the characters have to confront homophobia in their ultra-conservative community.  I think this book is thought-provoking and sweet.  Genre: LBGQT Romance

Desir, Christa.  Four-Letter Word. Simon Pulse, 2019. $19.99.  ISBN: 978-1481497374. 416p. Gr 9-12.  P6Q5 

This is a story about a group of kids who get involved with a nasty game called Gestapo, which pits them against each other and challenges them to do some amoral things.  This book should’ve been exciting, but I found parts of it confusing, dry, and hard-to-relate to.  Though the leading character is really well-developed and believable, the rest of the kids are dimensionless and flat. Genre: Mystery/thriller/Romance



Thomas, Kara.  The Cheerleaders. Delacorte Press, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1524718329.  384p. Gr 9-12.  P8Q8 

This book is incredibly suspenseful, shocking, and tear-jerking.  I didn’t know, from page to page, what emotion I was going to feel, it was such a roller-coaster.  The characters were very real, which made it even scarier to me.  It deals with so many difficult topics: drug use, abuse, crime, suicide, grief, sex – which makes the story more relevant to what teens go through all the time.  It also made me feel more vulnerable, as a girl – maybe more paranoid about what I don’t always see. Genre: Mystery/Horror


March 2019 Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students.


Picture Books reviewed by ECEL (Special Needs) Students

Larsen, Andrew. The Bagel King. Illustrated by Sandy Nichols.  Kids Can Press, 2018. $16.99.  ISBN: 978-1771385749. 32p. Gr PK-2 ECEL Popularity: 10 

Zaida was an old man who would pick up bagels every morning and deliver them to his friends, including a little boy named Eli.  One day Zaida fell and had to rest for 2 weeks.  So Eli took it upon himself to make a bagel delivery to Zaida.   Zaida was so happy, he named Eli the Bagel King. It’s a really cute story, and I loved the pictures.


Piedra, Tony. The Greatest Adventure. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1338134193. 40p.  Gr PK-2  ECEL Popularity: 10  

Eliot loved adventures, but at the end of the day, his mom called him home and his adventures ended.   His Grandpa came to visit and told him about his adventures on his boat through the jungle and over the seas.  I loved the adventures Eliot and his grandpa went on through the city.


Lippert, Tonya.  Goodbye, School. Illustrated by Tracy Bishop.  Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1433830297. 32p. Gr PK-2  ECEL Popularity: 10 

Franny went to her last day of school and decided to say goodbye, instead of being sad.  She went to all her favorite places in the school and said goodbye and remembered the good times she had there.   It was a very cute story, and we loved the pictures.  It reminded us of all the times we have had to say goodbye and change schools.



Olivero, Jessie.  The Remember Balloons.  Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1481489157. 48p. Gr K-4  ECEL Popularity: 10 

James had only a couple of balloons. Each balloon held a special memory that happened in his life.  James noticed his mom and dad had more balloons than him and his grandpa had even more.  As grandpa got older he would share his memories with James, losing his balloons and giving James more.  It was a very cute story, we loved the idea of balloons as memories.

MacFarlane, Rachael.  Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate.  Illustrated by Spencer Laudiero.  Imprint, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN:  978-1250138576. 32p.  PK-1 ECEL Popularity: 10 

Eleanor is a girl who loves to play princess but she also loves to dress up as a pirate or a superhero, and it’s ok.  The pictures are really funny and the book sends a great message to kids that it’s ok to be whatever you want to be.



Heapy, Teresa.  Loved to Bits.  Illustrated by Katie Cleminson.  Roaring Book Press, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1250186942. 32p.  Gr PK-1  ECEL Popularity: 10 

A little boy had a teddy bear that went on all sorts of adventures with him.  After the teddy lost both arms and legs and even one eye, the boy’s mom asked if she could mend it, but the boy said no, because the teddy bear was the perfect size now.  It was a cute story, with fun pictures.



Woollvin, Bethan.  Hansel & Gretel.  Peachtree Publishing, 2018. $16.95.  ISBN: 978-1682630730. 32p.  G. K-3  ECEL Popularity: 10 

Willow was a good witch who lived in a gingerbread house.  Naughty twins named Hansel and Gretel started eating her house.  Willow didn’t get mad, instead she made them a feast.  After dinner, the twins got into Willow’s spell book.  They locked Willow in the oven when she asked them not to play with her magic.  Soon the house exploded with magic and Willow got upset and put the twins into a cookpot.  Because Willow wasn’t always a good witch.  Fun book!


Hellman, Blake Liliane.  Something Smells!  Illustrated by Steven Henry.   Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1481488648.  48p. Gr PK-3 ECEL Popularity: 10

Elliott woke up to a smell.  He couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.  He checked all over his house.  Finally, at the end of the day his mom made him take a bath and the smell was gone.



Burgerman, Jon.   How to Eat Pizza. Dial Books, 2018. $16.99.   ISBN: 978-0735228856.  32p. Gr PK-1  ECEL Popularity: 10 

The story starts by asking if we know how to eat pizza.   We choose the biggest slice and that slice of pizza is telling us all the reasons we shouldn’t eat it.   The text and pictures were very funny and easy to read.



Dubé, Pierrette.  The Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon.  Illustrated by Orbie.  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1534414723.  40p. Gr PrK-1  ECEL Popularity: 6

Rosie the pig wants to learn to ride a bike but doesn’t know how.  Many of the animals help her learn.  She learns to ride and takes off into the moonlight.




March 2019 Picture Book reviews by ECEL (Special Needs) Students.

Picture Books reviewed by NHS Cubby Preschool (PK-K) Students

Teague, Mark. Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries. Orchard Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 978-0545914314. 40p. PK-3. Cubby Preschool popularity: 10

A boy named Jack traded a cow for some magic beans, which he planted and grew.   The beans were huge and they had a big harvest. Jack and his mother had beans for every meal, in many different ways.  They got tired of beans, and so did the rest of their village.  Bullies made fun of “bean boy Jack” and Jack decided to do something.  He climbed the beanstalk and met the giant.  The giant also hated beans, and his wife (who got tired of hearing Jack and her husband complain) suggested they plant something else.  They plant potatoes and the whole town comes over for a meal of French fries.  We loved the pictures and the twist in this story. The giants were so funny!


Rundell, Katherine.  One Christmas Wish.  Bloomsbury, 2017. $10.66. ISBN: 978-1408885734. 64p. PK-3. Cubby Preschool popularity: 10

Theodore got a present on Christmas Eve that had four decorations on it:  a rocking horse, a robin, a tin soldier with a drum, and an angel.  The boy’s mom and dad left and the toys woke up and said they came to keep him company.  They went on a fun adventure.



Furman, M.E.  A World of Cookies for Santa. Illustrated by Susan Gal.  HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0544226203.  48p. PK-3. Cubby Preschool popularity: 10

This book tells about different countries and their traditions for Santa at Christmastime.  It’s very easy to read and we loved the cookie recipes it came with: yummy!


Mann, Jennifer K.  Josie’s Lost Tooth.  Candlewick, 2018. $16.99.  ISBN: 978-0763696948. 40p. PK-2. Cubby Preschool popularity: 9

Josie was ahead in her class: the first one to read a book, first one to climb the monkeybars.  BUT she was the only one in her class who didn’t lose a tooth.  She tried a lot of different ways to lose the tooth and nothing worked.  She finally gave up and then she tripped and fell and her tooth popped out into the grass. She couldn’t find it.  So she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy and told her how she lost her tooth. It all works out in the end!  I could relate to this book because I haven’t lost a tooth yet, either!

Woolard, Elli.  The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight.  Illustrated by Benji Davies.   Henry Holt and Co., 2018. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1250150202.  32p. PK-2.  Cubby Preschool popularity: 10 

A young knight was told he needed to find a dragon and cook it up and eat it to become a real knight.   A young dragon was told knights were bad and not to interact with them.  One day the knight went swimming and took off his armor. Meanwhile a dragon came by and both became friends, not knowing who they were IRL.  When they finally figured it out they decided to stay friends and not hurt each other.  We thought this book was very funny and the pictures are great.



March 2019 Picture Book reviews by NHS Cubby Preschool (PK-K) Students.

Book reviews: Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students

Young Adult and Adult Fiction Books reviewed by NHS Students, December 2018.


Carter, T.E. I Stop Somewhere.  Feiwel & Friends, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1250124647.  320 p. Gr.10-adult. P7 Q6

This book was really disturbing, but not because it was some warped horror tale, but because it’s all too true: it’s about rape culture in our society and how acceptable it is.   I really had a hard time reading this because I felt like I was the main character, experiencing all the same raw emotions she was.  I wish the book had a more positive ending, but that’s life.  I don’t know that I could recommend this to others, because it really is pretty disturbing.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Popoola, Olumide. When We Speak of Nothing. Cassava Republic Press, 2018. $15.95. ISBN 978-1911115458. 256p. Gr. 11-adult. P5Q8    

This novel is tough to read because the dialog and political settings (London and Nigeria) may be so unfamiliar to most high school kids.  However, the topics: police brutality, prejudice, gender bias, pollution, and sexual questioning are universal and current.  It deals with harsh reality (a murder and subsequent riot) as well as myths and is very interesting.  It actually reminded me of Ellen Hopkins’ works, in how direct the prose is, but it is far broader and more interesting.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Ribay, Randy.  After the Shot Drops. $17.99. ISBN 978-1328702272.  336 p.  Gr. 9-12.  P8Q6

This book is about basketball and friendship.  That sounds pretty basic, but this is one complicated story, with betrayal, hard luck, violence, and love all playing major roles.  It’s told from the alternating perspective of 2 boys, which sounds weird, but it works and the book’s fast pace really keeps the reader interested.  Genre: Realistic fiction (sports.)


Hutton, Keely. Soldier Boy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. $10.50. ISBN 9780374305635. 336p.  Gr.9-12. P7Q7

Every other chapter in this book is the true story of a child soldier in Uganda in 1989, Ricky Anywar.  He was kidnapped, then trained, armed, and forced to kill for Kony’s army.  Through interviews, Ricky actually helped the author write the other chapters in this book, which covers the life of a fictional (but typical) boy named Samuel, who faces the same violence that Ricky did.   It’s hard to read at times, since it is so brutal, but it’s an important message that all high school students should hear. Genre: Historical fiction.

Lawson, Richard. All We Can Do Is Wait. Razorbill, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780448494111. 288p. Gr 7-10. P7Q

This book is about grief, disaster, and love and how reality can change so quickly.  There’s enough romance thrown in to make it appealing, even when it’s depressing as heck.  Even though the reading level is pretty young, the plot is really complex and the character development is strong.  The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, it felt rushed and incomplete.  Genre: Realistic fiction.


Hurwitz, Gregg. The Rains. Tor Teen, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 978-0765382689. 368p. Gr. 10+. P6Q7

A very violent, intense zombie novel, The Rains is good because the characters are so real.  The whole thing is fast-paced and you feel like you are reading a movie script. Genre: Horror/Paranormal.


Choi, Mary H.K.  Emergency Contact. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 978-1534408968. 400p. Gr.9-12. P6Q6

The writing in this book reminds me of a buffet in a really good restaurant, but right before it closes and there’s only a tiny bit of deliciousness left in each bowl.  There’s a few cute phrases, adorable characters, angsty young adults, a rape, eating disorder musings, and cultural dysphoria – but it’s not really “filling” and the book falls a bit short of being anything more than a touchy-feely romance novel.  Not saying it isn’t good, but it could’ve been GREAT.  Maybe there will be a sequel? Genre: Romance.


Broadway, Alice. Ink (Skin, book 1.) Scholastic Press, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1338196993. 336p. Gr. 9-12. P7Q7

Starting with an amazing cover, this book (written during NaNoWriMo, which is so cool, as I am writing now, too) kicks off a promising trilogy.  The story is about a young girl who learns her late father’s history is tainted with a serious crime. Since all personal history is revealed via tattoos on their skin, there’s no hiding secrets and she has to deal with the consequences.  It sounds predictable, but there are so many twists to the story that it really makes it interesting.  Can’t wait to read the next installment!  Genre: Dystopian.


Rutledge, A.B. Miles Away from You. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1328852335. 272p. Gr.10+. P5Q7

Miles is a pansexual son of lesbian mothers who falls for a transsexual girl, and both of them run an online LGBQT advocacy group.  If that isn’t complicated enough, the girl tries to commit suicide, falls into a coma, and her intolerant religious parents put her on life support. Miles must come to grips with who he is and what he can do to be true to himself.  Not sure many high school kids would understand the situations or complexity of this dark story, but it’s well-written.  Genre: Realistic Fiction/LBGTQ


Nijkamp, Marieke (ed.) Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 9780374306502. 310p. Gr. 9-12. P5Q8

This is a selection of many different genres of stories, ranging from romance to science-fiction, by 12 different authors.  The settings and perspectives of each character in the stories are very different, but the common thread is that all of them are disabled.  I found it to be positive and affirming and I think other teens will, too.


Day, Anna. The Fandom. Chicken House, 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1338232707. 416p. Gr.11+ P7Q7

I really liked this book; I got pulled into the characters right away.  It is so easy to relate to their joy and their pain, and I found myself crying a lot while I was reading this.  It has a lot of violence, and there’s a scene where they infiltrate a brothel.  Probably for mature readers only!

Book reviews: Picture Books reviewed by ECEL (Special Needs) Students

Thanks to the Newport High students in the Education for Community Employment and Life group and library staff for these reviews.

December 2018 Picture Book reviews by ECEL (Special Needs) Students:


Kheiriyeh, Rashin. Saffron Ice Cream. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. $17.60. ISBN 978-1338150520. Unpaged. PK-3. ECEL popularity: 8.

Rashin had to move from Iran to Brooklyn. She had to leave behind friends and everything she knew, including her favorite ice cream. Her family and friends went on a picnic at the beach on Coney Island. She tried a new ice cream and made a new friend.  There was no curtain on the beach in America, so she could swim with her whole family.  I liked this book; it was interesting and believable.  The book talked about different places and the beach/ocean, and had colorful illustrations.  It made us laugh out loud at times.

Taylor, Sean. I Am Actually a Penguin. Illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek. Templar, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 978-1536202786. Unpaged. PK-1 ECEL Popularity: 9. 

A little girl liked to dress up. She got a penguin costume and wore it everywhere.  She believed she was a penguin and when her parents made her take the costume off to go to school she found an alligator costume to wear, instead. This was a very fun book that was easy to read.


Foster, Travis. Take a Hike, Miles and Spike!  Illustrated by Ethan Long. Chronicle Books, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 978-1452164717. Unpaged. K-3. ECEL popularity: 9.

This book is about 2 friends who are heading somewhere and saying goodbye to all their friends. I really liked this book, it makes fun use of words and has very cute illustrations.

Shories, Pat. Squeak the Mouse Likes his House. Holiday House, 2018 $15.99. ISBN 978-0823439447. Unpaged. PK-3. ECEL popularity: 9. 

Squeak the mouse tells us he likes his house and the toys, fresh water, books, and free snacks that are in his house.  The book is very cute, I liked how the book was written from the mouse’s perspective.


Murray, Dianna. One Snowy Day. Illustrated by Diana Toledano. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 978-1492645863. Unpaged. PK-1. ECEL Popularity: 8.

Puppy wakes up and goes through his day, including playing outside with all the kids.  The book counts to 10 and back, so it helps really young kids learn how to count. It’s a cute book that rhymes and is fun to read.

Fergus, Maureen. The Reptile Club. Illustrated by Elina Ellis. Kids Can Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 978-1771386555. Unpaged. PK-2. ECEL Popularity: 10.

Rory started a new school and there were lots of clubs to join. None of the clubs interested Rory, so he decided to start one of his own, called the Reptile Club.  None of the kids wanted to join right away, but 3 reptiles (an alligator, anaconda, and a gecko) came to the meeting.  Once the kids saw the reptiles at the meeting, they all wanted to join them.  This book was really funny and really easy to read, the pictures made us all laugh out loud.


Boldt, Mike. Attack of the 50-Foot Fluffy.  Margaret K. McElderry, 2018. $17.99. ISBN. 978-1481448871. Unpaged. PK-3. ECEL Popularity: 6

This is the story of how different emotions run through us.  Claire’s “bad day” started with not having the “right” breakfast cereal.  Her best friend, Fluffy is a big stuffed rabbit and when Claire is in a bad mood, so is Fluffy.  As the day gets worse, Fluffy starts having a fit, and they both have a hard time getting control of their anger.  Somehow, they do and it all turns out ok.  It’s a little preachy at times, but maybe younger kids will get the message, because it is easy to read and the pictures are great.