82. Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2008 Teen Buckeye Book Award, second place. Not just a charming coming-of-age story, but a pretty good look at how grueling and tough life on a farm can be. D.J., who lives on a dairy farm with her family, is reluctantly drafted by a coach and family friend to help train her rival school's quarterback. Their resulting interactions have their ups and downs: D.J. is quiet, preferring to work in the background, while Brian is used to getting his own way and is far more outspoken. Communication -- or lack thereof -- is a big issue in this story, with this silent family. The summer changes everything for D.J. as she slowly unpeels the various secrets and wishes of her family, discovers something about her best friend and realizes after all the training that she wants to try something for herself: try out for her school's football team. The story is told from D.J.'s point of view, and the readers get to meet a funny, smart girl who's a bit overwhelmed at times with what is expected of her.
83. Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan. 2009 Alex Award. It's hard to believe reading this that "Mudbound" is Jordan's first novel. It skillfully weaves an interesting story, told from several different points of view. From the very first chapter, we realize something bad has happened -- the not-so-accidental death of the father-in-law of a married couple. The rest of the story goes back in time, leading the reader through the events that lead to the murder. The cast of characters -- from Laura and her husband Henry, to Henry's brother Jamie, to the sharecroppers on the Mississippi farm -- are well rounded. All of them have their flaws -- some of them quite deep -- but all of them, even the bigoted father-in-law, have moments of redemtion and humanity. Although in the case of the father-in-law, those moments are very brief. The story is hard to read at times due to the overt rascism expressed, even by the more "tolerant" characters, but this seems reflective of the time: during and just after World War II. Trouble starts when Henry decides to buy a farm in Mississippi. His wife Laura, a city-bred genteel lady, struggles to adjust to living in a house that can be most kindly described as crudely provincial. Tensions heighten when Jaime and Ronsel, the oldest son of a black sharecropping family on the farm, return from overseas. Both of them had experienced the more tolerant Europe, and Ronsel especially has a hard time adjusting to the racism in his community, and his parents' attitude of just putting up with it. The friendship that develops between Jaime and Ronsel starts a chain of events which leads to tragedy.
84. Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow. 2009 Alex Award. A werewolf story, with a few twists. One, the story is written (very effectively) in free verse. This makes for a powerfully told and rapid-paced read. There are a lot of interlacing stories, along with an intriguing mystery. First, there's the gentle dogcatcher Anthony who befriends a girl -- who happens to be a werewolf. There is Lark, the leader of one pack of werewolves who is trying to discover -- through intrigue and a network of undercover spies -- how many other packs there are and how big a threat they are. Then there's the mysterious small man, who is accompanied by a larger guy who is often referred to as The Samoan. Peabody, a detective, is trying desperately to connect all the clues -- the strange things with the dog pound, the dog sightings and the list of deaths. This is a dark, grim story with, at best, a bittersweet ending.
85. The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula, by Mark Dawidziak. I love vampire lore, and this book was a lot of fun. It concentrates a lot on the various vampire movies, using Brahm Stoker's famous novel as the centerpoint. The book includes information on the author, the various movies and actors who have portrayed various incarnations of the blood-sucking count, comics, television and more. The writing style is very conversational and full of dry humor (not to mention the occassional pun, all in good humor). A great source for vampire fans.