By April Genevieve Tucholke

51BMtJdkf0L._SX326_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains minor spoilers.)

"The first time I slept with Poppy, I cried," Midnight tells us in the first sentence of April Genevieve Tucholke's "Wink Poppy Midnight." That opening sets the tone for what's to come -- a story that many young readers seem to find wild, rebellious, and exciting, given its bestselling status, but that many adults are likely to see as a book about kids who are in way over their heads.

The book is named after its three main characters, who take turns narrating, providing us with very different views of what's going on. Midnight is a sensitive, imaginative boy who's desperately in love with Poppy, despite her cruel treatment of him and others. But when he and his father move out to the country, he sees it as his "first step to my freedom. My freedom from Poppy."
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By Sarah Rees Brennan

Wind_and_FireIn a future New York City, society is divided between Light and Dark, and people are treated accordingly. Those who live behind walls in the Dark part of the city are referred to as "the buried ones"; they are feared and disliked, but they're also necessary. The Lights and the Darks practice different kinds of magic, and each is dependent on the other for their very survival.

Lucie Manette is a Light magician, born in the Dark city. Her mother was murdered and her father arrested and tortured for violating the city's laws; Lucie decided that she would stop at nothing to get him out.

Now they both live in the Light city, where Lucie is widely admired as a symbol of freedom for what she did for her father, but all she feels about it is guilt and anguish. She can't fully enjoy her exciting new life with boyfriend Ethan, haunted as she is by memories of the past and by her father's shattered state. And then a new threat appears in the form of Ethan's doppelganger, Carwyn, and Lucie realizes that even what little safety and happiness she now has could be taken from her.
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By Neal Shusterman

download_15(This review contains spoilers.)

"I can't remember when this journey began," Caden Bosch tells us, near the start of Neal Shusterman's "Challenger Deep." "It's like I've always been here, except that I couldn't have been, because there was a before, just last week or last month or last year. I'm pretty certain that I'm still fifteen, though. Even if I've been on board this wooden relic of a ship for years, I'm still fifteen. Time is different here. It doesn't move forward; it sort of moves sideways, like a crab."

The journey that Caden is describing isn't exactly what it seems. Though he describes the ship in vivid detail, along with the captain, the crew, and even the captain's parrot, the truth is that none of it is real. Caden Bosch is in fact an ordinary American 15-year-old boy in an ordinary family, going to an ordinary school. But what's happening in his mind is anything but ordinary. Caden is suffering from severe mental illness, and his imaginary life on the ship is his mind's way of interpreting what's happening to him.
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By Kristen Britain

51rNq5PjmL._SX300_BO1204203200_If your teens love fantasy, adventure, and a strong female protagonist, then they're in for a “wild ride” with Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. (They'll get the joke when they read the books . . . let’s just say there’s magic involved.)

The series, which consists of five books and one more to be released this time next year, is an epic fantasy adventure based in a medieval world called Sacoridia. When our story begins in Book One, it’s been nearly two hundred years since the Long War, a period of chaos and violence. We’re in a time of relative peace and prosperity when we meet Karigan G’ladheon. But that peace is certainly short-lived for poor Karigan.

When she’s suspended from her private school for winning a fistfight with a pompous peer, Karigan runs away. She plans to embark on the small adventure of a few days’ walk home and never expects to encounter real peril.
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By Sharon Cameron

519Tou8JsgL._SX347_BO1204203200_Unfolding in the distant future, Sharon Cameron's "Rook" is set in a world that, many centuries ago, was all but destroyed by polar shifts. The world plummeted into another dark age and, as time passed and countries and cultures started to re-emerge, history began to repeat itself. The one main difference is that, in this new, old world, any advancements in technology are scorned, feared, and forbidden. The technology of “The Ancients” is blamed for the destruction of the world so many centuries ago, and considered dangerous.

Eighteen-year-old Sophia Bellamy lives with her brother, Tom, and their ailing father in The Commonwealth. In the land that used to be known as England, more and more members of the shrinking upper class are driven into poverty as land and business laws and taxes become increasingly stringent. Meanwhile, across the sea, the Sunken City -- once known as Paris -- is in the throes of political upheaval and revolution, the cliffs seeming to echo with the voices and sounds of the French Revolution from long ago.

As the world around her is falling apart, Sophia’s chance for a personal future of her choosing is also destroyed when her father arranges a marriage for her to René Hasard. His family fortune could save the Bellamys from ruin, but his arrogance and buffoonery prove endlessly exasperating for smart, pragmatic, and resourceful Sophia.

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By Sarah Dessen

51LmPXTOGYL._SX329_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

Sydney Stanford has always lived in her brother's shadow. For a long time, Peyton was the golden boy of the family -- handsome, athletic, fearless, good at anything he tried to do. Then the trouble started: Peyton started hanging out with a bad crowd, and began to get arrested for increasingly serious offenses. Still, Peyton was the sibling getting all the attention -- even though the nature of that attention was changing -- and Sydney still lived in his shadow.

Then came the news that Peyton had injured a young boy in a drunk driving accident. That was the arrest that finally earned him serious jail time.

Now Sydney is struggling to deal with a new reality, a new family dynamic, a new school, and new friends. When she meets schoolmates Layla and Mac Chatham, whose family owns a pizza restaurant near her school, Sydney finally feels she's found a place to belong and people who see her as she really is. Layla becomes a close and supportive friend, and Sydney soon develops a romantic interest in Mac. She will need every ounce of support that both of them can give her as she deals with the tough new challenges in her life -- and surprisingly, she will find that she has something to offer them, too.
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By Megan Morrison

61xxhMTMzEL._SY344_BO1204203200_Rapunzel lives a charmed life, high in her isolated tower. She has everything a girl could want: magic roses, beautiful clothes, and books full of stories that are all about her. Stories in which evil, lying princes try to lure her away from her home and into the frightening world beyond, but she resists them and is safe.

Yes, you read that right.

Megan Morrison's "Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel" (first in her Tyme series) is full of twists on the old story of the girl with the very long hair. And not just any old twists. Readers who think they've seen every conceivable twist there could be on a fairytale will be surprised and pleased to find that Morrison has somehow managed to come up with new and very enjoyable ones.
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By Robert Beatty

51VCI4uG2zL._SX331_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

In the dark of night, she creeps through the basement. She protects her territory, silently hiding in corners until her prey appears. When a rat is finally foolish enough to show itself, she pounces.

Serafina, the 12-year-old C.R.C. (Chief Rat Catcher) of the Biltmore Estate, secretly lives in the dark of the basement with her father, a workman at the house. But the sly and mysterious girl is not, despite her creeping, the most threatening creature in the manor. As Serafina begins to discover the dark and mystical nature of her birth, she witnesses the evil lurking in her territory: a man in a black cloak who is curiously linked with the disappearances of visiting children.

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By William Shakespeare

9781586174392“Romeo and Juliet,” perhaps the best-loved and most-performed of Shakespeare’s oeuvre—and certainly one of the most frequently taught in schools—has over the years exerted an enormous influence on literature, art, and music. Just this season, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced the launch of a project to translate 39 of William Shakespeare’s plays into modern English with the goal of making the plays more accessible to today’s audiences.

This creates a perfect opportunity for us to reconsider a work such as "Romeo and Juliet" and the value of Shakespeare in 21st-century America.
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By Neil Gaiman

61UppNNmK4L._SX345_BO1204203200_(This review contains major spoilers.)

Neil Gaiman is one of the most beloved and acclaimed fantasy writers working today, and the winner of several awards, including the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He has a gift for taking classic archetypes and tropes and putting a fresh spin on them, in beautifully written prose. "His style," as another BreakPoint writer has written, "is simple, straightforward, and enchanting."

So I had high hopes for Gaiman's most recent book "The Sleeper and the Spindle," a short fairytale retelling for grade 7 and up, illustrated by his frequent collaborator Chris Riddell. Unfortunately, my hopes were not destined to be fulfilled.
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By Richelle Mead

SoundlessWhat would it be like to suddenly be able to hear when you have been deaf from birth? To complicate matters further, what if you have grown up in a land of the deaf and among a people where the ability to hear has been lost for centuries? With no one to guide you, would sound even make sense to you? In Richelle Mead’s “Soundless,” this unexpected gift of hearing is just the first in a series of events that will challenge everything that Fei and her community believe about the world, but it also may be part of the key that will unlock their future.

Fei and her older sister Zhang Jing, like everyone they have ever known, are deaf. They are also part of an elite caste of artists who chronicle the life of their mountaintop village through calligraphy and the painting of daily scenes that are then hung in the center of town for all to see every morning.

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By Tony DiTerlizzi

Wondla(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

Imagine spending most of your childhood alone in an underground sanctuary with only a robot called “Muthr” as your teacher and companion. You have never seen another human, yet you have prepared to one day emerge, face the dangers of an outside world, and join with others of your kind.

But then imagine the unthinkable occurring: Your sanctuary is suddenly violated by an alien intruder; you barely escape to the outside world, and then you make the shocking discovery that nothing is like what the holographic programs have taught you. In fact, you may be the only person of your species alive on the planet, which may or may not be Earth.

This is how Tony DiTerlizzi’s highly engaging WondLa trilogy begins. But while this futuristic fairy tale may be vastly entertaining on the surface, its underlying worldview leaves much to be desired.
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