Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne


This series is great! I read all three of them in a row, and I loved them all. I could not stop reading. This series is about a group of kids, who are on their way to school when a huge hailstorm comes. Baseball sized hail comes smashing into their bus. The bus driver, and a few kids die. The remaining kids escape into a big grocery/department store (Costco!). They have everything they need there. But then, poisonous gas comes, if exposed, some get blisters, or turn crazy. The kids have to seal the outside off so no gas gets in. Over the series, many problems come and the kids have to survive. They can’t live like this forever…

I recommend this book for grades: 9th-11th

Other 2 books:

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Scythe By: Neal Shusterman


This book was amazing! It took a bit to get into but after that It was really really good! This book is set in the future, where nobody dies. Because nobody is dying, the world  would become overpopulated, so people called Scythes, are sent to glean (kill) people. A boy named Rowan, and a girl named Citra, are chosen as apprentices to a Scythe named Scythe Faraday. Neither of them want to be a Scythe, they think it is horrible and wrong to glean, but it is not an option. The book is about their time as apprentices, but suddenly, Scythe Faraday goes missing and they are sent to live with other scythes who are not so humble or friendly as Scythe Faraday.

There is a new book that just came out that I can’t wait to read.

I recommend this book for grades: 6th-9th

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Mom Says:

I love this book! Such lovely nature writing. The story is full of lovable characters and great nuggets of humor.

It’s not a middle grade or YA book but there is nothing inappropriate about it.

The story centers around Weylyn Grey (what a great name) who lost his family and then lived in the forest with wolves. He has an unusual connection to nature and weather that comes into play in unusual ways as he tries to assimilate into the “civilized” world.

Reviewers call this whimsical and magical, mythical and mystical. And I have to agree.

My only critique would be that I wanted more of the characters I loved (alas, Duane and Rosie…)

The author is local and a rockstar here in Columbus!

Recommended for 8th grade and up (even though this is not a YA book, per se)

81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy

Mom Says:

I really enjoyed this nonfiction account of Leon Crane, of the US Army Air Force, whose plane went down in the Alaskan wilderness. It’s a story of perseverance, survival and a bit of luck. I learned a lot about the WWII effort in Alaska (I had no idea!) and the history of the gold rush and how Alaska was “created”.

This will appeal to readers who love stories of adventure, war or aviation.

It’s written for a general audience but I could definitely recommend it to middle and high school students.

Recommended for 6th grade and up

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

8136985.jpgMaya says: I really did not like this book. It was a very short book, but it took me a while to read because it was very slow and boring. It is an American classic and my mom wanted me to read it but I was not a fan of it. There is some swearing and it is in old fashioned language and the ending was not great at all. This book is about 2 men, George and Lennie. Lennie is special needs, and he always stays with George. Lennie and George were kicked out of the last ranch due to an incident Lennie caused, so now they have to find a new ranch to work at. When they make it to another job, they meet new friends there, but they also meet some not so nice people. The book is about George and Lennie’s experience working there. One good thing about the book is that it really shows what life was like back then for migrant workers.

I recommend this book for grades: 9th-12th

Mom says: I read this in between high school and college because I liked the movie with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise so much. I liked it well enough at that time. But reading now, as an older adult interested in the American past and literature, I liked it so much more (and it is a very quick read:). I’m glad Maya got through it. Even though she didn’t enjoy reading it I think she understood it’s value and got something from it. She was able to get a sense of the harsh lifestyle of the time and could empathize with the tragic results that took place among the characters.

I recommend this book for grades: 9th to adult

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown


Mom says:    This is a novel told in verse. It takes a few pages to get used you to but then you don’t even realize except you are flying through the pages.

The subject of the story is a family’s journey across the America from Illinois to California in 1846. The main character is from the Graves family who was part of the wagon train of the famous Donner Party who tragically got stranded in the mountains during an early winter and had to struggle to survive.

If you know the story of The Donner Party, you know what comes next. But Brown treats it very well through the eyes of Mary Ann Graves.

Maya asked me why I wanted to read a story like this (and said ‘no way’ when I told her she should read it). Good question, one I had to think about before finally answering: I like to read about bravery, I like to read about average people who persevere and fight to survive. I like to read about how much the human body and spirit can endure and the strength of mind, the will it takes to survive.

This was a beautifully written story and one that I hope will inspire young people to look for more books on The Donner Party and their covered wagon migration across our country before the time of cars, electronics and microwaves, when books were prized possessions and when girls wore dresses and petticoats while fetching water from the well or river to help their mother cook.

Recommended for grades 6 to 9


See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Mom Says:

This is the story of a boy named Alex who is 11 but “the responsibility age of 13”. His hero is Carl Sagan and he is obsessed with anything space related–which I loved. He goes on a journey where he meets adults who stop their lives to help him along the way. The entire book is told in the “voice recordings” on his IPod he plans to send into space so aliens can learn about life on earth(I hear the audio version is amazing). Because of the audio diary format, we are mostly in his head and I feel it was mostly telling and it limited our knowledge of what might really have been going on at times or what others were thinking.

All in all, it was worth reading but not my favorite of recent.

(And for those of you excited about the dog on the cover…he’s gone for 1/2 the book:(

Recommended for 5th to 8th grade