11. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Five) (381 pages) Kronus' forces are massing for the final attack on Mount Olympus (The Empire State Building). Will Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and the other demigods be able to overcome the in-fighting and mysterious prophecies and save both Olympus and all of Western Civilization? The fantastic young adult series concludes with the exciting, page-turning action, refreshing and original humor, and, most importantly, the clever reworking/reimagining of Greek mythology in the modern world, that made the series so fantastic and justifiably popular. (I cannot tell you the joy I have that an entire generation of children are growing up knowing the equivalent of a college course in Greek mythology.) A wonderful hero tale, with the spirit and universal meaning of classical literature, complete with clever twists, surprises, and themes (particularly the definitions of family, where abandoned children demand respect and acknowledgement from their godly parents). A brilliant conclusion to an original, clever, and entertaining series. Grade: A
12. The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (210 pages) Ten-year-old Kenny has a weird family: a mom from the south, a silly father, a sweet little sister, and a juvenile delinquent older brother, Byron. When Byron seems out of control, the Watsons pack up their car for a trip down south to their grandmother's house. But they are also on a crash-course with history and the tragic events of the Civil Rights movement. Greater historical themes take a back seat to the personal story of a close family, which is a bit refreshing, especially when the ending hits the readers, shocking them in its impact, just as it did in reality, fifty years ago. Characters are real and fully developed, absolutely loveable and hilarious. Might be a difficult read for younger students due to some of the obscurity/allegorical nature of the writing, as well as dated slang, but definitely a worthwhile and engaging young adult novel. Grade: A-
"He's not real life. None of these people are. They're all just the way they are because I turned their world into a theme park."
13. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones (517 pages) Mr. Chesney's tourist tours of Derk's world wreck havoc and destruction as they turn it into a magical, fantastical theme park. This year, Derk is chosen to play the role of the Dark Lord that will be defeated by the tours. Derk's family of griffins and children, his charming country home, and even his wife, must all transform into the essence of evil. But will Derk succeed in playing the Dark Lord, or in vanquishing Mr. Chesney's destructive powers? Clever, hilarious, and deeply refreshing fantasy satire, showing both the humanity of fantasy and the ridiculousness of formulaic fantasy novels, is typical of the brilliant Diana Wynne Jones. This book is just pure magic. Beautifully imaginative, full of a very real, very human, and very charming cast of characters, Jones' novel is once again some of the most brilliant, clever, and original writing of the genre. Though it might be tedious for young readers (little action and lots of time dealing with preparations), and though not on par with Howl's Moving Castle or Deep Secret, Dark Lord of Derkholm, as all Diana Wynne Jones books, is simply genius. Grade: A-
14. The Golden Goblet by Eliose Jarvis McGraw (248 pages) Taking place ancient Egypt, this young adult novel concerns a young boy, Ranofer, who longs to be a goldsmith. His older half-brother is a tomb robber. This incredibly slow-moving, predictable, and clumsily written (far-advanced vocabulary for the age group, and full of dated language), is mind-numbingly boring, with flat, two-dimensional characters and a standard, uninteresting, predictable, didactic plot. An incredibly weak historical novel for young readers that has little to offer them, particularly in our contemporary literate world that produces so much brilliant, engaging, and deep young adult literature that even rivals adult literature. Grade: D
15. Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton (122 pages) Rusty-James desperately looks up to his cool, older brother, Motorcycle Boy. But, no matter how tough he acts, no matter how many fights he gets into, he doesn't ever seem to obtain Motorcycle Boy's charm, grace, or adoration. Hinton weaves a deeply complex look into the psychology of a troubled young man. In fact, this is probably her most complex novel, and definitely one for older readers, not necessarily because of the material, but because of the intensity and density of the material. Rusty-James is far from a likeable character, but he--and his voice--are fascinating and engaging, even heart-wrenching. Grade: A-
2011 Page Total: 3585