Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School
Book Award
2007 - 2008 School Year
 

Winner

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer YA MEY and MEY
Grade 9 Up–Headstrong, sun-loving, 17-year-old Bella declines her mom's invitation to move to Florida, and instead reluctantly opts to move to her dad's cabin in the dreary, rainy town of Forks, WA. She becomes intrigued with Edward Cullen, a distant, stylish, and disarmingly handsome senior, who is also a vampire. When he reveals that his specific clan hunts wildlife instead of humans, Bella deduces that she is safe from his blood-sucking instincts and therefore free to fall hopelessly in love with him. The feeling is mutual, and the resulting volatile romance smolders as they attempt to hide Edward's identity from her family and the rest of the school. Meyer adds an eerie new twist to the mismatched, star-crossed lovers theme: predator falls for prey, human falls for vampire. This tension strips away any pretense readers may have about the everyday teen romance novel, and kissing, touching, and talking take on an entirely new meaning when one small mistake could be life-threatening. Bella and Edward's struggle to make their relationship work becomes a struggle for survival, especially when vampires from an outside clan infiltrate the Cullen territory and head straight for her. As a result, the novel's danger-factor skyrockets as the excitement of secret love and hushed affection morphs into a terrifying race to stay alive. Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it.


Nominees

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson YA JOH
Grade 8-10–This whirlwind adventure begins as Ginny, 17, reads a letter from her free-spirited, unpredictable Aunt Peg, who has recently passed away. She is given several destinations, four rules, and the instruction to open one envelope upon her arrival at each place. Thus begins a rapid tour of Europe as the teen struggles to accomplish the tasks established by her aunt. The motivation: Ginny wants to understand the woman's wanderlust and, possibly, she just wants a connection to her beloved relative. Throughout her adventures in Rome, Paris, Greece, England, and the Netherlands, the teen collects pieces of Peg's past and learns more about her rapid departure. She also learns much about herself. The reason Ginny is sent to meet certain people is not always clear; sometimes she (and readers) wonder about the point of the exercise. Overall, though, the novel drives home the importance of family, love, and the value of connections that you make with people. It is a quick read that will interest high school girls.

Birdwing by Rafe Martin YA MAR
Grade 6-10–This fantasy continues the Grimms' tale of The Six Swans, in which six brothers are turned into swans. Through the great sacrifice of their sister, the spell is broken, but the youngest is left with a swan's wing. Ardwin is torn between his life as a prince and his yearning to take to the skies and rejoin his avian companions. Believing his father will force him to replace his wing with a mechanical arm and marry a rival king's daughter, he flees. His friends Stephen and Skye (on whom he has a secret crush) accompany him. Feeling betrayed after finding them together as a couple, Ardwin goes his own way, hoping that by switching horses with Stephen, he'll elude his father's pursuers. His adventures have only begun as he seeks out the swans he once knew, is attacked by a lion, and rescued by the same wizard who designed the mechanical arm. He also meets the wizard's automatons, his enchantress stepmother, an unusual horse, and a goose girl who is not who she thinks she is. In true fairy-tale fashion, all's well in the end and Ardwin wisely realizes that his wing is a blessing, not a curse. Like all fairy tales, there are lots of plot twists and turns and perhaps that contributes to the sometimes meandering narrative. Overall, this is a well-realized, but unexceptional story.

Can’t Get There From Here by Todd Strasser YA STR
Gr. 7-12. She calls herself Maybe. Thrown out by her abusive mom, she struggles to survive on the streets of New York with homeless teens who become a family in the asphalt jungle. They try to care for one another, but it doesn't help much. They beg and forage for food. Maybe knows some of them work as prostitutes and deal drugs. One or two do find loving homes, but most will die--from AIDS, violence, exposure, suicide. Without sentimentality or exploitation, Maybe's disturbing first-person narrative lets readers know exactly what it's like to live without shelter, huddling in nests of rags, newspapers, and plastic bags. In one vivid chapter, Maybe and her friend enjoy hot-water luxury in the library bathroom, until a brutal security guard makes the nude girls clean the place before throwing them out. Some adults are kind, including a librarian, and with his help, Maybe might make it in a youth home. Maybe. A story about people that we pretend don't exist; Strasser makes us know them.

Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton YA STR
Grade 8 Up–Chanda, 16, remembers the good times, when she lived with both parents on a cattle post in sub-Saharan Africa and even later on when her family moved to Bonang. Her family's troubles began after her father was killed in the diamond mines. Her first stepfather abused her; the second died of a stroke; the third is a drunken philanderer. Although Chanda lives in a world in which illness and death have become commonplace, it is not one in which AIDS can be mentioned. The horror and desperation of families facing this disease is brought home when her latest stepfather's sister dumps the dying man in front of their shantytown house. Before Chanda can get help from the hospital caseworker, he disappears and the wagon that brought him is burned. Her mother leaves to visit her family on the cattle post and Chanda is forced to give up her dream of further education to care for her younger sister and brother. Slowly she comes to realize that her mother has AIDS, and that she might be infected herself. But Chanda's education serves her well as she faces the disease head-on. In a sad but satisfying ending, she rescues her mother so that she can die at home and she and her siblings get themselves tested. Smart and determined, Chanda is a character whom readers come to care for and believe in, in spite of her almost impossible situation. The details of sub-Saharan African life are convincing and smoothly woven into this moving story of poverty and courage, but the real insight for readers will be the appalling treatment of the AIDS victims. Strong language and frank description are appropriate to the subject matter.

Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks YA FRE
Grade 9 Up–After skipping out of an SAT prep class, juniors Leo, Daisy, Max, and Jane agree to meet regularly at Jane's apartment for their own study group. They all work hard, seem to improve their test-taking skills, and forge friendships in the process. Soon, Max reveals to best friend Daisy that he wants more than friendship from her. Daisy, however, falls hard for Leo, who appears to fall back but doesn't know how to be devoted in a relationship, especially when he is drinking. Jane is the rich, beautiful wallflower whom Max could ask out if the idea occurred to him. After the SAT, a senior high scorer confesses that she was paid to take the exam for someone else. The whole school is in an uproar as the senior refuses to disclose the cheater's name. When two members of the study group are among the suspects, things begin to unravel. The extreme preoccupation with the SAT and getting into good colleges becomes somewhat weighty during the course of the novel and some of the plot elements test believability. However, because it is, for the most part, insightfully told from the various viewpoints of the four main characters in short, quick-moving segments with true-to-life dialogue, the story is redeemed. Readers will wonder what will happen to the friends as they embark on senior year at the conclusion.

Daniel, Half Human and the Good Nazi by Davie Chotjewitz YA CHO
At the dawn of Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933 and a period of the most brutal, aggressive anti-Semitism the world has ever seen, two boys swear eternal brotherhood by slitting their wrists and mingling their blood. Having experienced so much together, even a night in jail after painting a swastika on a wall in the hated Communist section of Hamburg, Daniel and Armin had become the best of friends.
But then, with the scar on his wrist still healing, Daniel receives some life-altering news: He is half-Jewish, and as such, half-hated by a growing number of neighbors, teachers, and friends. Quickly, he decides to keep his identity a secret, conspiring with Armin to join the Hitler Youth -- but only one of them can, and will, join, with terrible consequences.

Dark Angel by David Klass YA KLA
Gr. 8-11. Seventeen-year-old Jeff lives with his parents in a small New Jersey town, living a regular life despite his family's great secret. No one there knows that Jeff has an older brother serving a life sentence for premeditated murder. When that sentence is reversed on technicalities just five-and-a-half years in, the carefully kept family secret is released from prison and brought home to begin a new life--one that marks the end of Jeff's normal teen years. Despite outward appearances, despite his parents' great faith in their God and the essential goodness of all human beings, Jeff is certain something is fundamentally wrong with his brother. Klass tackles large issues here with varying degrees of subtlety, thoroughness, and success: unconditional love, religious faith, scientific theories of human behavior, family bonds, friendship, prejudice, fear, and the very essences of good and evil. Though readers may find the ex-convict overblown and many supporting characters little more than markers for message delivery, Jeff is both interesting and sympathetic.

Every Man for Himself: Ten Short Stories about Being a Guy, Nancy Mercado, ed. YA EVE
Gr. 10-12. For this collection, 10 new and established male authors of YA fiction were asked to write a short story exploring aspects of young manhood. Walter Dean Myers presents a supercool dude who places an ad inviting girls to apply for a date to the prom with him and meets his match in the no-nonsense, winning applicant. David Lubar's central character is a high-school student with multiple piercings, who comes to realize that his beautiful girlfriend has chosen him mainly to shock her parents. Craig Thompson contributes a graphic short story about the difficulties of fitting into the ever important adolescent groups and then finding the even more important girlfriend. David Levithan writes an insightful story of a young gay dancer who brings a male date to his little brother's Bar Mitzvah. The stories are by turns insightful, funny, and entertaining, and many readers, boys and girls alike, will welcome the glimpses into various male experiences.

Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, The by Rick Yancey YA YAN
Grade 6-8–Astonishingly tall 15-year-old Alfred is plunged into a world of adventure, assassination, and Arthurian legend when he agrees to help his uncle filch an ancient sword from the office of a CEO who just happens to be a descendent of the Knights of the Round Table. Of course the sword turns out to be none other than Excalibur, and the guy Alfred swiped it for is Mogart, a knight-gone-bad who hopes to use its magical powers to take over the world. Enter Bennacio, another descendant of the Round Table, who then takes Alfred under his wing on a quest across the Atlantic to rescue the sword from Mogart. The descriptions of minor bits of blood and gore leave much to the imagination and will make Kropp especially appealing to fans of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider books, Geoffrey Huntington's Sorcerers of the Nightwing and even Darren Shan's The Saga of Darren Shan series. True to its action-adventure genre, the story is lighthearted, entertaining, occasionally half-witted, but by and large fun.

Fade to Black by Alex Flinn YA FLI
Gr. 7-10. Flinn, author of Breathing Underwater (2001) and Nothing to Lose (2004), takes aim at bullying once again. This time HIV-positive Alejandro Crusan, a Florida high-school junior, is the target. After being attacked in his car by a baseball bat-wielding teenager, Alex is hospitalized while recovering from his injuries. Clinton Cole, prejudiced and afraid of catching AIDS, hates Alex and is responsible for tormenting him on several previous occasions. Now he claims he's innocent. However, Daria, a teen with Down syndrome, saw Clinton at the scene of the attack; she also witnessed one of the earlier assaults. The teens alternate telling their stories and sharing their secrets, as Alex struggles with the truth about the attack and about the origin of his HIV-positive status. Daria's narration unfolds in free verse, a form that effectively shows both her halting, repetitive speech and the disparity between her inner thoughts and her ability to communicate them. Teens will enjoy ferreting out the reality from the conflicting narratives and arguing about the sensitive issues raised along the way.

Fall of a Kingdom (Farsala Trilogy Book 1) by Hilari Bell YA BEL
Gr. 6-10. Here's a rousing start to a new series, The Book of Sorahb, from the author of A Matter of Profit (2001) and The Goblin Wood (2003). Steeped in Persian mythology, the story is set in Farsala, a peaceful land now targeted for invasion by the Hrum, who have already conquered 28 other countries. As the enemy advances, routing the overconfident Farsalan army, three young people caught up in the fray move inexorably toward new futures in which they will play leading roles in the outcome and aftermath of the war. They are Soraya, the spoiled daughter of the Farsalan army's high commander; Jiaan, the high commander's peasant-born bastard son; and Kavi, an itinerant peddler and sometime con artist. Intrigue builds upon intrigue, with a history of Farsala woven into the story's main events. Once again Bell proves a master at crafting distinctive societies and characters, and readers will eagerly await the promised future installments.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger YA HAR
Gr. 7-12. Russel is gay, and he knows he better keep it secret, or he'll be a total outcast in his small-town high school. But then he discovers that there are others like him--including Min, his longtime best friend, and her lesbian lover, as well as gorgeous, popular jock star Kevin. Seven of them form a support group (the "Geography Club" is their cover-up name), and for a short time, life is blissful. Russel has friends with whom he can be himself, and he also makes love with Kevin. Then things fall apart. Russel refuses to have sex with a girl, and word gets out that he's gay. Kevin can't come out, so he and Russel break up. Things are settled a little too neatly in the end, but there's no sermonizing. With honest talk of love and cruelty, friendship and betrayal, it's Russel's realistic, funny, contemporary narrative that makes this first novel special. The dialogue is right on; so is the high-school cafeteria; so is the prejudice.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak YA ZUS
Grade 9 Up - Nineteen-year-old cabbie Ed Kennedy has little in life to be proud of: his dad died of alcoholism, and he and his mom have few prospects for success. He has little to do except share a run-down apartment with his faithful yet smelly dog, drive his taxi, and play cards and drink with his amiable yet similarly washed-up friends. Then, after he stops a bank robbery, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages marked in code on playing cards in the mail, and almost immediately his life begins to swerve off its beaten-down path. Usually the messages instruct him to be at a certain address at a certain time. So with nothing to lose, Ed embarks on a series of missions as random as a toss of dice: sometimes daredevil, sometimes heartwarmingly safe. He rescues a woman from nightly rape by her husband. He brings a congregation to an abandoned parish. The ease with which he achieves results vacillates between facile and dangerous, and Ed's search for meaning drives him to complete every task. But the true driving force behind the novel itself is readers' knowledge that behind every turn looms the unknown presence - either good or evil - of the person or persons sending the messages. Zusak's characters, styling, and conversations are believably unpretentious, well conceived, and appropriately raw. Together, these key elements fuse into an enigmatically dark, almost film-noir atmosphere where unknowingly lost Ed Kennedy stumbles onto a mystery - or series of mysteries - that could very well make or break his life.

Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres 921 SCHEERES, J., Sch
Journalist Scheeres offers a frank and compelling portrait of growing up as a white girl with two adopted black brothers in 1970s rural Indiana, and of her later stay with one of them at a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. The book takes its title from a homemade sign that Scheeres and the brother closest to her in age and temperament, David, spot one day on a road in the Hoosier countryside, proclaiming, "This here is: JESUS LAND." And while religion is omnipresent both at their school and in the home of their devout parents, the two rarely find themselves the beneficiaries of anything resembling Christian love. One of the elements that make Scheeres's book so successful is her distanced, uncritical tone in relaying deeply personal and clearly painful events from her life. She powerfully renders episodes like her attempted rape at the hands of three boys, the harsh beatings administered to David by her father and the ceaseless racial taunting by schoolmates; her lack of perceivable malice or vindictiveness prevents readers from feeling coerced into sympathy. The same can be said for Scheeres's description of their Dominican school, where humiliation and physical punishment are meant to redeem the allegedly misguided pupils. Tinged with sadness yet pervaded by a sense of triumph, Scheeres's book is a crisply written and earnest examination of the meaning of family and Christian values, and announces the author as a writer to watch.

Restless: A Ghost’s Story by Rich Wallace YA WAL
Grade 9 Up-Herbie, 17, has taken on a lot in the last few weeks of summer. He has decided that he's going to participate in two sports in the fall, football and cross-country. He is out late one night running through a graveyard when he senses someone following him. This feeling stays with him for the rest of his run and makes him more than a little uneasy but also a little intrigued. He begins to make this route a routine, and each time the presence becomes more intense. One evening, a ghost of a young man materializes out of thin air and touches him. Afterward, Herbie begins to sense and, on occasion, see other spirits, including that of his older brother, Frank, who has been dead for 10 years. Herbie, Frank, and the ghost of Eamon, the original spirit he encountered, are intertwined in a search for an understanding of one another's experiences in life and in death and how to move on from them. This story is a bit tricky to follow. The narrator is revealed, eventually, as the spirit of Frank but his first-person account seems to complicate the telling. The jumps among the three story lines can be abrupt but shouldn't be a problem for fans of ghost or fantasy stories. Herbie is a smart, likable, and compassionate protagonist. Otherworldly encounters are popular with teens, and this one should appeal to thoughtful readers who won't be overwhelmed by the complexity of the plot or the sophistication of the writing.

Runner by Carl Deuker YA DEU
Grade 7 Up–When his alcoholic Gulf War veteran father is fired from the first steady job he has held in years, Chance Taylor is understandably glum. He has no idea where they'll get the money to pay the moorage fees for the run-down sailboat they call home. Since his parents' divorce, Chance has tried to keep a low profile in school, and his only pleasure is running by himself along the Seattle waterfront. When a marina office employee offers to pay him $250 a week to pick up occasional packages at a tree along his running route, Chance is deeply suspicious of what they may contain but desperate enough to accept this opportunity to pay the bills. As this new job gradually becomes more dangerous and more clearly illegal, Chance's father is able to rise above his personal problems to help extricate his son. In a gripping climax complete with SWAT teams swarming throughout the marina as Coast Guard patrol boats close in on terrorists, Chance is afforded a final glimpse of the heroic man his father once was. Writing in a fast-paced, action-packed, but at the same time reflective style, Deuker uses fewer sports scenes than in his previous novels, and instead uses running as a hook to entice readers into a perceptive coming-of-age novel. A subplot involving Chance's friendship with a wealthy female classmate whose father was a close high school friend of Chance's father is nicely integrated into this timely, compelling story.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta YA MAR
Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting—but not particularly accommodating to—girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself. Ages 12-up.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar YA LUB
Sixteen-year-old Francesca's compelling voice will carry readers along during a transitional year in her family and school life. The narrator's vivacious mother falls into a deep depression soon after the teen narrator starts "Year Eleven" at St. Sebastian's, a Sydney boys' school now accepting—but not particularly accommodating to—girls (a teacher refers to the class as "gentlemen"; Francesca describes being outnumbered 750 to 30, as "either living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist"). Slowly, she begins to put down roots at her school, bonding with the girls from St. Stella's (her former school) whom she had considered misfits, and with some unlikely guys. She even finds herself falling for Will, whom she originally called "a stick-in-the-mud moron with no personality." Francesca also lets out her own personality, which she had kept hidden at St. Stella's because of her conceited friends. Her mother's illness takes its toll, though. Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) beautifully depicts the pain experienced by Francesca's whole family (at a wedding without her mother, Francesca observes while dancing with both her father and brother that even "combined, we feel like an amputee"), and Francesca's anger towards her father starts to escalate ("You think you can fix everything by forgetting about it but you just make things worse," she tells him). Readers will applaud the realistic complexity in the relationships here, the genuine love between the characters, as well as Francesca's ultimate decision to save herself. Ages 12-up.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach 611 ROA
"Uproariously funny" doesn't seem a likely description for a book on cadavers. However, Roach, a Salon and Reader's Digest columnist, has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty. From her opening lines ("The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back"), it is clear that she's taking a unique approach to issues surrounding death. Roach delves into the many productive uses to which cadavers have been put, from medical experimentation to applications in transportation safety research (in a chapter archly called "Dead Man Driving") to work by forensic scientists quantifying rates of decay under a wide array of bizarre circumstances. There are also chapters on cannibalism, including an aside on dumplings allegedly filled with human remains from a Chinese crematorium, methods of disposal (burial, cremation, composting) and "beating-heart" cadavers used in organ transplants. Roach has a fabulous eye and a wonderful voice as she describes such macabre situations as a plastic surgery seminar with doctors practicing face-lifts on decapitated human heads and her trip to China in search of the cannibalistic dumpling makers. Even Roach's digressions and footnotes are captivating, helping to make the book impossible to put down.


True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas YA DOU
Grade 9 Up–This tell-all journal-style story is nearly as amusing and compelling as Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries and Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson series (both HarperCollins), but the subject matter and language are for a more mature audience. Morgan Carter, Hollywood child-star-rehab-has-been, is sent to Fort Wayne, IN. In the guise of Claudia Miller, high school junior transfer student, she is in the custody of a recently divorced, close family friend. Morgan/Claudia's journal entries slowly reveal the painful details of her life: hitting rock-bottom after nearly dying from a drug overdose, rehab in a cushy facility, and being raped by a costar. Her banishment is intended to provide time and space for her to stay clean and sober to lead up to a triumphant comeback. Struggling with school life, she meets a somewhat geeky, yet likable group of students. She also learns how to shop, dress, and act like a normal teenager. As Morgan's feelings for her new friends grow, she finds herself having to keep careful note of who knows what–fact or fiction–about her prior life. At times, Morgan's mind and voice seem too adult–even considering a Hollywood upbringing. Not all teen readers will get the irony and movie references, but this engaging read with a promised sequel will be popular nonetheless.

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon BUC
The novel consists of letters passing between Natasha and Antonio, young lovers separated by distance and later by time and personal growth. When Antonio is sent to an upstate prison for killing his father, he must adjust to a different kind of life, and Natasha must continue hers without her first love. The story is compelling, especially since it's told from such personal points of view.

Wreath for Emmett Till, A by Marilyn Nelson J 811 NEL
In 1955, people all over the United States knew that Emmett Louis Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral, and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention. Award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement. This martyr's wreath, woven from a little-known but sophisticated form of poetry, challenges us to speak out against modern-day injustices, to "speak what we see."