Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
SciFi. Michael has always known he is unique because of his ability to shock people--literally. Turns out he's not. Popular cheerleader Taylor reveals her secret and along with his best friend Ostin (his mother couldn't spell Austin), they start investigating their history. Turns out badly for them. They end up at the Elgen Academy with other electric kids but there is an evil plan for world domination (of course). This is a quick read with lots of impossible choices, but enough hope to keep us reading. First in a series. YA for violence and references to hotness. (not really too bad--could be OK for 5th grades) Good.

My life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
in the style of Wimpy Kid or other illustrated short novels. Derek Fallon just doesn't like to read and everyone is after him to do his summer reading list. His only relief is his notebook where he illustrates his vocabulary words and eventually tells his own story. This series is not a silly as Wimpy Kid, and has some pretty serious moments. Maybe more like Middle School by Patterson. Valuable due to its easier reading level. 3rd+ Good.

Once by Morris Gleitzman
Felix is ten. He knows his parents must be looking for him after so long in the Catholic orphanage. So this naive Jewish boy runs away into Nazi occupied Poland to find his family. He understands so little, but manages to continue to survive. This is a painful read. The sequel could have been part of this book (both are short), but they pack more power in their brevity. The point-of-view is spot on. Compare to Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Excellent YA.

Then by Morris Gleitzman
Best if read immediately after Once. Felix has joined up in a family of sorts with 6 year old Zelda who is feisty. They manage to evade the Nazis and Polish Jew-haters until they are protected by local farm woman Genia who also hates Nazis. More depth of understanding as Felix himself matures and has to make decisions no 10 year old should face. Heartwrenching but realistic. also Excellent YA

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli
Being twins is special, but Jake and Lily have something more than special. They are "entangled" in a unique way. But as summer rolls around Jake makes friends with a club of boys headed by Bump Stubbins . Lily hates Bump. This story is classic Spinelli. Full of thoughts about respect, self-awareness, and life in general. Poppy, their hippie grandpa, enters and offers gentle encouragement and deep love and trust. Excellent. 3rd+
"Eyes might not speak louder than mouths, but they speak deeper, the terrible name: Jake? Jake?" "I've never been hated before. It's like sunburn on my heart." (p250).

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Another catastrophic disaster book a la Life As We Knew It. Kaelyn, typical 16 year old, is going about her humdrum life when a deadly virus starts sweeping her town which just happens to be on an isolated island. Quickly the government quarantines them--no one leaves and no one comes on the island. This read pretty well until at some point I lost my suspension of disbelief. The island is totally cutoff from any communication with the mainland. Really? in this day of world-wide communication? Implausible. And the government just lets them fend for themselves for the most part. Really? in this day of government control? To ice the cake, I hated the ending. Lots of loose strings. And the, wait! I almost gave it away. Meh. Not awful. The title was the best thought. YA for hot smooches. and dead bodies.

Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larking Reed
Set along the Severn River near Annapolis, this is a great ghost story/mystery. "I was almost sixteen the first time my grandmother died." Sarah thinks she is just returning to Amber House, the 300 year old home that has been owned only by her family, to attend her grandmother's funeral. But she starts experiencing views into the past. The cast of characters includes a senator's son who is model-worthy, an African-American teen who is strangely linked to her past and future, her autistic brother, and various people from the last 300 years. The very end of this becomes a bit confusing due to the concept of "everwhen" which allows for changes in history's outcome. The setting resonates with me of course having grown up in "old" Maryland. This was very good. YA for references to abuse, but this is probably OK for 5th graders.

Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen (Book Two) by Richard Paul Evans
This one was just as good if you like books that read like a TV show or movie. The last few chapters are life and death and close calls. And leave us hanging again, of course. Michael is searching for his mother who is held hostage by Dr Hatch. Evil sociopath is too kind. It was a bit heavy in the middle when Hatch is training his new stormtroopers. In fact the awfulness of Hatch's methods are made that much worse by the similarities to the Nazis, Chinese and Stalin's methods. Pretty disturbing. YA for extreme violence and torture. Good


What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
Book One of The Hybrid Chronicles. This is a unique concept with people being born with two identities or spirits in one body. In the US they encourage "settling" until the dominant soul is the only remaining one. Hybrids are illegal. Addie and Eva have perfected acting like a settled teenager, but Eva is still alive in their body. This plot is not overly complicated but the concept of an inner duo of identities is fairly sophisticated. Creepy scientists and weird history abounds. YA for intensity and minor romance. Very good.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
With a continually commenting narrator (which concurrently builds suspense and adds humor, thus relieving anxiety) we follow the gruesome stories of Hansel and Gretel as they flee home (having been beheaded and then revived!!), through a series of a half dozen of the original Grimm fairy tales. And Grimm they are. Lots of blood and child-eating antagonists. There are surprisingly moving moments too.
"Yes, just like that. There is a certain kind of pain that can change you. Even the strongest sword, when placed in a raging fire, will soften and bend and change its form. So it was with Hansel. The fire of guilt and shame was just that hot.
Trust me on this one. I know this from personal experience. I hope that you never will, but, since you're a person, and therefore prone to making horrible, soul-splitting mistakes, you probably will one day know what this kind of guilt and shame feels like. And when that time comes, I hope you have the strength, as Hansel had, to take advantage of the fire and reshape your own sword." p.122
There are several occasions of pause for consideration of forgiveness, etc. The most common theme was "under-standing"--standing beneath, supporting, bearing their pains and troubles on my shoulders.
The plot was deliciously intricate and the book closed with great satisfaction. But wait, there's a second book! Mature fifth graders. Excellent.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Meghan Chase sees things occasionally that don't make sense, as does her step-brother. And there is the mystery of her father's literal disappearance when she was younger. Then her brother is switched with a Changling and her best friend tells her what she needs to know to rescue him--she must enter the faery world and face her true father. Lots of chasing and battles. Creepy creatures and gorgeous prince faeries. Interesting twist on what is endangering Nevernever kingdom life. This was better than Tithe for middle school. Not my top ten though. Good YA for violence and romance and occasional language.

BZRK by Michael Grant
Why did I want to read this. I can hardly stand finishing the Gone series after the last one. It's like picking up Stephen King and thinking "Oh, this one won't be so scary..." So creepy. And violent. This is a war between the Armstrong brothers (Crazy!) who want to bring the world to peace by making everyone think the same using mechanical bots, and BZRK who has micro biots who can invade your brain, but also drive their hosts (controllers) crazy. The characters are interesting, and the microbiology is interesting. But I have to read some chapters sideways --you know. I can't look straight at the action. YA for icky junk and talk of sex. Yes, it's well written. I just don't like the content.

Reached by Ally Condie
Following Matched and Crossed this is the finale of the story of Cassia, Ky and Xander--Peot, Pilot and Physic. It wraps up well, but it seemed to get bogged down in who caused the Plague, who had what cure, what was really going on, etc. I did like the slow remembering of the red garden day due to the clues from Cassie's grandfather. Maybe the fact that I'm lying in bed with a virus didn't make this particularly appealing. Ugh. Plague. It was OK. YA for romance and plaguey stuff.


Ruins by Orson Scott Card
Sequel to Pathfinder. On the planet of Garden, a small group of five seek to save their planet. Rigg sees paths of everyone who has ever walked the planet and with his childhood friend Umbo can travel back and forth in time. Rescued royal daughter Param who is Rigg's sister, follows along with her time-slicing abilities, but is immature and fearful after being raised by an evil Queen. Then there are two soldiers, the older and wiser Loaf and the scholar-soldier Olivenko. The five find themselves in a deserted realm beyond the Wall they know. Until they meet Vadesh. OK, this is slow in plot but thick in thought. With possible time-traveling, the implications become so complicated it becomes almost impossible to follow. There is a lot of bickering in the group--almost off-putting at points. but Loaf literally becomes an anchor. I liked this but feel slightly fuzzy at this point. What just happened?? The world is not saved so I assume there will be a third. This would have compared to CS Lewis' scifi, except it's not. YA for maturity of philosophy.