Ms. Bartels Recommends
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I finished Atkinson's recent novel, Transcription, a few months ago, and though I liked it, I wanted to love it the way I have some of her earlier novels that are set before, during, and after WWII. She does a masterful job of talking about the impact of WWII on England in her novels. Even though Life After Life is a few years old at this point, it is a novel I frequently recommend to students, especially those who have the same obsession that I have with WWI and WWII. The structure of the novel – think "Groundhog Day," but much darker – leaves the reader wondering which story of Ursula's life is true – are all of them true? Or none of them?
If you like Life After Life, pick up A God in Ruins, the story of Ursula's brother, Teddy – "would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century."
"On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can - will she?" ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
More Than This by Patrick Ness
I love Patrick Ness and have had this one on my to-read pile for a few years. I haven't figured out how to describe this book without giving too much away. The book begins with a boy drowning in the ocean. When he comes to, he's trying to make sense of where he is – a place familiar yet unfamiliar. Is he in heaven or hell? Is he alive or dead? The entire book leaves the reader with more questions than answers. You're always trying to figure out what is real and what isn't. Is the narrator telling the truth? If he is, does he even know the truth? I would recommend this book to kids who like movies like "The Matrix" and I think it will also appeal to dystopian fans even though this isn't a typical dystopian book. This is a great companion to The Knife of Never Letting Go, also by Patrick Ness.
"Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife? From the acclaimed author of the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for months, so I was expecting a lot when I sat down to read it. The start of the book is slow, as Kya spends most of her time alone and not much happens. However, the pace picks up midway through as more characters are introduced. Even though some readers will see the ending coming from a mile away, Where the Crawdads Sing turns out to be an engrossing and satisfying page-turner. Adding to the novel's appeal is Owens's descriptive writing, which makes readers feel like they, too, live in a shack in the North Carolina marsh. Owens paints Kya as a believable and sympathetic character who will win readers over in this suspenseful coming-of-age story.
"Kya Clark is the 'Marsh Girl' of Barkley Cove on the North Carolina coast. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist, she took life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. Drawn to two young men from town who were intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opened herself to a new and startling world – until the unthinkable happens. When Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Matlin Recommends
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
At this point, it's not much of a secret that I'm more than a bit fascinated by both compelling nonfiction and true crime. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is an exemplar of both. Beyond the horrifying details of the Golden State Killer's crimes and uncanny ability to stay at large, more interesting stories also unfold. One is McNamara's own story of how she first became interested in tracing a cold case and how the Golden State Killer infiltrated every part of her life, even into her daughter's playroom. I couldn't help but wonder what it is that makes me, someone who can't read horror fiction or watch horror films (too scary), so incredibly fascinated with true crime. Equally interesting is McNamara's exploration into how blogs, Reddit, home genetic testing kits, and more have changed the way crime can be investigated. This is a book I know I'll come back to more than once.
"For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called 'the Golden State Killer.' Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman's obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic – one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 10+