Swap’d

After her Click’d catastrophe, Allie Navarro is determined to redeem herself. So when the class gets an assignment to create a mobile game from recycled code, Allie pairs up with Courtney, her best friend from CodeGirls camp, to create the perfect app: Swap’d. After all, kids buy, sell, and trade stuff at school all the time, including candy, clothes, video games, and slime. So why not make a fiercely competitive, totally anonymous, beat-the-clock game out of it?

Once Swap’d is in full swing, Allie is certain that it’s the answer to all her problems. She’s making quick cash to help Courtney buy that really expensive plane ticket to come to visit her. It’s giving her an excuse to have an actual conversation with her super-secret crush. And it looks like she might finally beat her archenemy-turned-friend, Nathan. She’s thought of everything. Or has she?

Allie’s story picks up where Click’d left off. Similar to Click’d, Allie’s new app leads to a situation where Allie has to make tough decisions. Allie and her friends come up with a scheme to get Marcus’ attention: auction off Spanish tutoring in the hopes that Marcus will bid. During the bidding process, Allie ensures that Marcus wins by shutting down the auction several seconds before the end time. Then, when Allie finds out that selling items on campus is illegal, she has to decide whether to shut down Swap’d or wait until she has enough money to help purchase Courtney’s plane ticket.

Swap’d mostly revolves around Allie’s new app, the items that are being sold, and the need to make money. For the most part, Allie is a likable character, but her ability to create a complex app in a short amount of time is unrealistic. When it comes to her coding skills, she’s a little too perfect.

One positive aspect of Swap’d is the positive adult interactions. Allie’s computer teacher, Ms. Slade, praises Allie for making the right decision. In addition, Allie confides in Ms. Slade, who helps Allie come up with a solution. Allie collects the items that were sold and returns them. She also has to give the money back to who it belongs to.

Middle school readers will enjoy reading about Allie’s friend group and her crush. Throughout the story, some of Allie’s conversations appear in texting style with green quote bubbles. Some of the items for sale and the users’ avatars also appear in green. The fun format, the friendships, and a surprising twist will appeal to readers. Readers looking for a similar book should also check out the Girls Who Code Series by Stacia Deutsch.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation twice.
  • Allie’s friend calls her a chicken twice. For example, when Allie won’t talk to a boy she likes, her friend calls her a chicken.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Emmy in the Key of Code

Twelve-year-old Emmy is the only one in her family who can’t make music to save her life. And now that her dad’s symphony job has uprooted her to a new city and school, everything seems even more off-key than usual.

Until a computer class changes her tune and Emmy discovers that her coding skills can really sing. Now life is starting to seem a little more upbeat, especially when computer wiz Abigail is around to share tips and tricks with. But can Emmy hold on to her newfound confidence with bad news and big secrets just around the corner? Or will her new life come to a screeching halt?

In Emmy in the Key of Code, Emmy’s uncertainty and her desire to belong takes center stage. Unlike her musically gifted parents, Emmy is fearful of being on stage and her singing isn’t beautiful. Even though Emmy loves music, she knows her voice isn’t stage-worthy. To make matters worse, Emmy moves to San Francisco, which is completely different than Wisconsin. Her clothes are all wrong, she’s unable to talk to others, and she goes through each school day alone. She doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere.

Emmy’s mother is an opera singer and her father plays the piano. Their musical influence on Emmy comes across both in her love of music as well as her speech. For example, Emmy describes her computer teacher as follows: “The teacher crescendos in / with a smile painted candy-apple red. / A color so joyful / so allegro / so dolce and vivace / that it spills into the rest of her face. . .” In addition, Emmy refers to musical pieces such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Readers who are unfamiliar with the musical terminology may become frustrated.

Emmy’s computer class and her teacher Ms. Delaney have a huge impact on Emmy’s life. To show this connection, some of the lines use coding symbols such as brackets, colons, and quotation marks. To make the coding vocabulary understandable, some pages explain what the code means. To highlight the JavaScript, the words are typed in a lighter font. Emmy also explains coding by comparing it to music.

Emmy’s story is told in a combination of poetry, JavaScript, music, and narrative. Like Emmy’s emotions, some of the text’s words appear broken up, jumbled, faded, and with other graphic elements that help convey Emmy’s emotions. Emmy, who is extremely likable, has a relatable conflict of a new town and not fitting in. In the end, Emmy and her friend Abagail both learn the importance of being “a girl who today / made the decision / to listen to what she loves.”

Readers will relate to Emmy’s desire for friendship and belonging. Lucido’s beautiful writing comes alive and teaches that programming is for everyone. In the end, Emmy discovers that her love of music and coding can blend to make something truly beautiful. Readers who love books about smart girls who can code should add Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Jerk is used three times. For example, Abigail asks why Francis is “such a jerk all the time.”
  • Abigail’s friends meet her outside of the computer class. One girl says, “I hate thinking of you in a class / with all these weirdos.”
  • A student asks Mrs. Delaney, “Why did you leave your fancy job / to come teach idiots / like me: }”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Payback

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, the notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber in greater danger.

Eli and Tori get sucked into even bigger conspiracies as they hunt down Project Osiris’s most closely guarded secrets—including the question of who Eli’s DNA comes from? With a surprising new ally and another cross-country adventure, the four will have to work together to overcome the worst parts of themselves if they are going to end Project Osiris once and for all.

Payback, the fast-paced final installment in the Mastermind Series, shows what happened to all the other Osiris clones. The beginning of the book focuses on Malik, Tori, Amber, and Eli. Malik and Amber spend time with the criminal that Malik was cloned from; until Malik finally realizes that he is not the same as the criminal who shares his DNA. On the other hand, Eli makes a surprising discovery about the person he was cloned from.

While Payback has several surprising twists, some of the plot is redundant and the events don’t shed much light on the characters. Despite this, there is enough action and suspense to keep readers interested. However, because of the backstory, readers must read the Mastermind books in order in order to enjoy Payback.

The books’ narrative repeatedly talks about how the characters were excellent at criminal behavior because their DNA came from criminal masterminds. However, the conclusion contradicts these statements by claiming that the characters’ DNA does not determine their behavior. The conclusion also leaves many questions unanswered, which may frustrate readers. Instead of having a solid conclusion, the book ends without tying up all of the plot threads.

One surprising aspect of the Masterminds Series is the unexpected pockets of humor. Even though the characters are often in danger and running from their enemies, readers will find themselves laughing out loud because of the characters’ interactions. While the series has some flaws, the unique premise, the interesting characters, and the plot twists will keep readers turning the pages. Readers looking for another fast-paced adventure should add the Wizard for Hire Series by Obert Skye to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While helping someone load groceries into their car, someone tries to nab Tori. Tori “reaches into the grocery bag, pulls out a glass jar of pickles, and swings it at her attacker, catching him full in the face. He staggers back, dazed, his sunglasses askew.” Tori is able to escape.
  • Amber begins working at a soup kitchen. A police officer comes in looking for a man who is eating there. When the policeman shoves the man, Amber gets angry. “The big tray of mashed potatoes is in my hands before I even realize what I’m doing. I heave it over the plastic sneeze guard, raining the entire load down on the advancing cop.” Then she runs away.
  • Eli thinks he is a clone of the Crossword Killer who killed nine people. “The lives he took were not in pursuit of any goal, regardless of how horrible or lawless. He killed for the sake of killing.”
  • Someone binds Tori to a chair. Eli tries to fight her attackers. “I pick up the nearest object—a floor lamp—and swing it at them. . . The bigger one grabs it and hauls me in like a fish on a line . . . Powerful arms imprison me, and soon I find myself duct-taped too, my arms locked behind my back.”
  • An adult tells Eli and his friends about a younger brother that went to jail for “petty theft. He was killed by another inmate.”
  • While the kids were trying to steal a boat, a fisherman tries to stop them. “. . . A metal toolbox swings up and around, catching him on the side of the head with a sickening thunk. He drops like a stone. . .”
  • Malik tries to get Robbie, another Osiris clone, to go with him. Robbie refuses, and Malik tries to “tackle him and hold him underwater for a few seconds. . . I pull him, choking and gasping, out of the drink.” Robbie freaks out and “he pounds his fists against my [Malik] chest and face.”
  • The Purples try to nab the kids. As the Purples get closer “the metal pole of a large beach umbrella swings out of nowhere, catching the two Purples full in the face. Both men drop to the beach, unconscious.”
  • C.J. Rackoff also tries to stop the kids, but Malik rams “his head full force into Rackoff’s jaw.”
  • Eli’s “father” points a pistol at him. Right before he is about to shoot, “Hector slams into my one-time father from the side, jarring his gun arm. With a sharp crack, the shot goes off.” The bullet hits a huge aquarium, and a rush of water and fish come pouring out. Afterward, “the ginormous manta ray [takes] up half the lobby floor. That’s when I notice a pair of feet sticking out from under it.”
  • During the struggle, Hector is injured. “Hammerstrom’s [Eli’s father’s] bullet must have grazed him, because he’s got an angry red line stretching from the corner of his mouth to his left ear.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • The kids worry that Dr. Bruder from Project Osiris will give them a drug. Dr. Bruder has “fancy pills designed to make us kids forget things Osiris doesn’t want us to remember.”

Language

  • There is minimal name calling, such as idiot, jerk, morons, nitwit, slimeball, doofus, loser, and bonehead.
  • Both “oh my God” and “OMG” are used as an exclamation one time.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • While trying to steal clothes, Tori sneaks onto a balcony. On an adjacent balcony a woman comes out and Tori prays “that the woman goes back inside before it occurs to her to glance to the right.”
  • Eli’s father tries to kill him. When he’s uninjured, one of the adults says, “thank God!”

All About Stephen Hawking

From an early age, Stephen Hawkings dreamed of making the study of the universe accessible to everyone. Diagnosed with ALS at the age of twenty-one, he overcame the challenges of ALS to become an expert on black holes and the origin of the universe.

Stephen realized his boyhood dream of educating people about the universe. While his disease broke down his body, Hawkings’ mind remained strong. He advanced our knowledge of black holes by discovering Hawking radiation, the energy emitted by black holes. Speaking through a computer, Hawkings continued trying to help people understand the universe around them. Stephen has also dedicated his life to several causes such as making buildings accessible to wheelchairs.

All About Stephen Hawkings begins with how Stephen’s parents met and how World War II affected their lives. The story takes a winding road that often quickly switches topics, and includes Stephen’s personal life, his goals, his accomplishments, and information on his wife, Jane. The many topics covered in the story may cause some confusion.

Stephen’s story comes alive both through the text as well as black and white illustrations. The simple illustrations appear every one to three pages. Both the oversized text and the frequent illustrations will appeal to readers. The text explains the meaning of some of the more difficult vocabulary words and there is also a glossary of terms at the end of the book. It also contains a timeline of both Stephen’s life and of world events.

All About Stephen Hawkings would be a great book to use for research about Stephen Hawkings’ life. Anyone who is interested in science will also enjoy the book. The quickly changing topics and the difficult vocabulary make the book best for strong readers. All About Stephen Hawkings will encourage readers to follow their dreams.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • At one point, some people thought that “Stephen’s wife, Elaine, was hurting Stephen.” One of Stephen’s children called the police. “The police asked Stephen’s nurses how he was getting hurt. . . [Elaine] was accused of breaking one of the bones in his arm, cutting him on the cheek, and leaving him out in the hot sun for so long that he got heat stroke and a sunburn.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The book occasionally mentions someone going to church. For example, Stephen’s wife “continued to go to church on Sundays, though Stephen wouldn’t go with her.”

Jinxed

Lacey Chu has always dreamed of working as an engineer for MONCHA, the biggest tech firm in the world and the company behind the baku, which is a customizable “pet” with all the capabilities of a smartphone. But when Lacey is rejected by the elite academy that promises that future, she’s crushed.

One night, Lacey comes across the broken form of a highly advanced baku. After Lacey repairs it, the cat-shaped baku she calls Jinx opens its eyes and somehow gets her into her dream school. But Jinx is different than any other baku she’s ever seen. . . he seems real.

As Lacy settles into life at school, competing with the best students in a battle of the bakus that tests her abilities, she learns that Jinx is part of a dangerous secret. Can Lacey hold on to Jinx and her dreams of a future?

Lacey has always been focused on academics, but being successful at Profectus is not going to be easy. When she learns that she has been chosen as part of a baku battling team, Lacey is determined to make friends. Lacey was prepared for Profectus’s academic pressures, but Lacey wasn’t prepared for the challenges of having a baku that has its own opinion and agenda. Lacey soon learns that some of the students will stop at nothing to make it to the top of the class.

Lacey’s world is unique, fascinating, and full of unexpected surprises. Everyone in Lacey’s world depends on their baku, and each baku has the ability to make its owner happy. Whether it’s playing an upbeat song, helping instruct a recipe, or giving directions, each baku is essential for day-to-day life. However, Lacey’s baku, Jinx, is different. He doesn’t follow commands and often leads Lacey into trouble. The interactions between Lacey and Jinx create suspense as well as show Jinx’s unique personality.

Jinxed is an action-packed story that keeps the readers guessing until the very end. Although some of the characters are predictable—the mean kid, the rich cute boy, and the best friend who feels left out—the story never feels cliché. Instead, Lacey’s world gives the reader a realistic view of the future, where everyone is connected to a device 24/7. The end of the story will leave the reader with many unanswered questions, which might frustrate some readers.

Through Lacey’s experiences, the readers will learn important lessons about choosing your own path; it doesn’t matter where you come from, your choices and decisions make you who you are. The message that Jinxed portrays is clear: loving someone doesn’t give you the right to decide what’s best for them.

 Sexual Content

  • Lacey gives Tobias a handshake and “he clasps my hand. I don’t know if he feels it too. A spark. A moment where electricity leaps from my hand to his, where all the neurons in my palm seem to light up. It takes my breath away.”
  • When Tobias winks at Lacey, she feels butterflies in her stomach and feels “my face burning bright red.”
  • After Tobias grabbed Lacey’s hand, her “palm doesn’t stop tingling for the rest of the weekend.”
  • When Tobias holds Lacey’s hand, her “heart pounds, my brain is unable to compute that Tobias Washington is holding my hand.”

Violence

  • A woman holding a “creature” runs from someone with a pulse gun. “She ducked and the shot flew over her head, obliterating the trunk of a beech tree in front of her. . . The next shot hit her shoulder, and she wasn’t sure who screamed louder: her or the creature.” The creature falls over a cliff into a ravine, then “the men turned back to her, gun barrels leveling at her head. She closed her eyes and accepted the inevitable.” The two-and-a-half-page scene ends without saying what happened to the woman or the creature.
  • The school allows teams to battle their bakus. During the battles, some of the bakus are destroyed and cannot be fixed. During a battle, Tobias immediately makes a hit on Dorian’s snarling wolf baku, his eagle stretching his talons out, wing spread wide to keep him hovering—and to enable a quick getaway from the wolf’s surprisingly high jump.” During the battle, one of the girls is upset because she thinks her baku is destroyed and cannot be repaired.
  • When a boy is being rude, Jinx scratches the boy’s hand, which “beads with blood.”
  • During another baku battle, “The cloud leopard is lightning fast, rounding on poor Jupiter with barely a delay. . . Frost swipes out with a sharp paw and part of Jupiter’s surface paneling is torn.” When it looks like Jupiter will be completely torn apart, Jinx jumps into the fight. “The boar falters, twitching and convulsing, as something is destroying him from the inside out.”
  • When Lacey’s baku is stolen, Lacey and her friends go to get it back from Carter. Carter’s panther baku “leap past their bakus and aim their attacks at the people themselves. . . While Tobias is distracted by my screams, he sends hunter up to bring Aero down. There’s a sickening crunch of metal against metal, as Hunter’s tusk pierces Aero’s belly.” Lacey is able to pin Carter to the ground.” Lacey and her friends are able to free Jinx. Tobias has “one arm around Ashley, who is bleeding from a scratch along her hairline, and another arm supporting River, who is getting shakily to his feet.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Jerk is used multiple times. For example, a boy from school is mean to Lacey. Lacey’s friends say, “He’s a jerk. Forget about him.”
  • Lacey’s friend tells her, “You’ve worked hard all friggin’ year. You’re allowed to take a break and relax.”
  • “Holy baku” is used as an exclamation once.
  • Heck is used four times. When Jinx scratches a boy, the boy says, “What the heck?”
  • Darn is used twice. For example, when a teacher tells Lacey that she’s late for class, Lacey thinks, “Darn.”
  • Oh my god is used as an exclamation three times. God is used as an exclamation once.
  • While working on a baku, Jinx’s “paw brushes against a smashed-up printed circuit board—if one of the bakus is missing that, they’re going to be seriously screwed.”
  • When a team captain thinks an opponent isn’t going to show up, he says the girl is a coward.
  • Jinx refers to an opposing team captain, saying “only idiots could have broken what you fixed. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past them to be idiots, but. . .”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Lacey and her friend Zora run into a mean boy from school. The boy is rude to Lacey. “Zora doesn’t immediately follow, and I whisper a silent prayer for her to drop it. . .”
  • When Lacey tells her friend that she found her baku, “she responds almost right away with a series of ‘Praise the Lord’ emojis.”
  • Jinx plays loud music and draws attention to Lacey. When the music stops, she thinks, “Thank god.”

The Sonic Breach

Tom gets to take all sorts of cool classes at the Swift Academy of Science and Technology, but robotics may be the one excites him the most. His teacher is holding a battling robot tournament, and Tom and his friends have to build a machine that will come out on top.

With the final battle coming up, Tom and his friends need as much time as possible to refine their masterpiece. But the rest of their teachers have been giving so many pop quizzes that they can barely focus in class, never mind concentrate on the tournament. Naturally, everyone is frustrated with the trend. . . until a mysterious new phone app appears. If students get pop quizzes during first period, they can warn everyone else about it by getting their phones to emit a high-pitched sound—a mosquito alarm—that adults can’t hear.

Tom is unsure about the whole thing, but it technically isn’t cheating, right? But when someone changes the app to break all the rules, the ethics aren’t debatable anymore. The longer the perpetrator remains unknown, the more harshly teachers treat all the students, and the pressure won’t stop until Tom and his friends track down the person behind the app takeover.

Like the first book in the series, The Sonic Breach incorporates mystery and technology. However, unlike The Drone Pursuit, The Sonic Breach doesn’t have as much interaction between Tom and his friends, which takes some of the enjoyment out of the story. Book two is also told from Tom’s point of view, and the story has an easy-to-read, conversational tone which allows the readers to understand Tom’s thinking process.

As Tom and his friends solve the mystery of who hacked the Pop Chop app, the readers will learn the importance of perseverance and helping others. At one point, Tom thinks, “Mistakes are ways to learn, overcome, and move forward. I would much rather have had our robot fail during a sparring match than during the final battle. This way we can learn from our design mistakes and make it better than it was before.”

The cover of The Sonic Breach shows two students battling their robots. However, the battle bots take backstage to the moral question of using a new app—Pop Chop. The story focuses on Tom’s moral dilemma: is using Pop Chop a form of cheating? Although the topic is relevant to students, readers may quickly become bored with the lack of action. In the end, Tom and his friends discover who hacked the Pop Chop app, but the mystery’s solution is unrealistic and comes too easily.

Readers looking for non-stop action and an in-depth mystery may want to leave The Sonic Breach on the shelf. However, readers who enjoyed the first Tom Swift book and are interested in technology will find The Sonic Breach entertaining. Tom Swift is an intelligent, likable character who models good communication skills. Plus, parents will appreciate the story’s positive relationships and messages.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Tom and his friends build a robot that says the phrase, “Get to za Choppa.” The phrase comes from an Arnold Schwarznegger movie, and the kids at the school often repeat it. One of the students “was creative with his altered Arnold phrase, ‘Get to the crappa.’”
  • When a news crew shows up at the Swift Academy, the reporter walks over to the fencing team. A student wonders why the reporter is covering the fencing team when there “are two perfectly good robots over there beating the crap out of each other.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Girl Gone Viral

Girl Gone Viral focuses on Opal Hopper, a bright, technology-loving student who attends a prestigious high school in the future. Social media has become even more ever-present, and the biggest trend is virtual reality. Opal Hopper’s father was a Silicon Valley tech engineer who disappeared mysteriously when she was a girl. She’s determined to win a contest where the prize is a meeting with Howie Mendelsohn, a powerful and reclusive tech mogul who she believes will have answers about her father’s disappearance.

For their contest entry, Opal and her friends make a WAVE, which is a VR performance that functionally resembles a live YouTube video. They go viral for using the audience’s biometric feedback data to reveal that a universally reviled celebrity has more sympathizers than anyone realizes. They call their show “Behind the Scenes” and, despite losing the contest, continue to make videos in the hopes of becoming famous enough to meet Howie Mendelsohn. As their following grows, Opal is exposed to the lives of famous Silicon Valley innovators and has to make decisions about the type of public figure she wants to be.

In the middle of all the drama and stress, the book begins to focus on the US presidential elections. Opal and her friends are shocked to find that a fringe presidential candidate from the “Luddite Party” has won the election. As the name suggests, Luddites want to revert America to its pre-information technology state. Politically savvy readers will recognize the characters’ reactions to the election, as they directly parallel the reactions to America’s November 2016 presidential election. Opal finds that many of her friends and acquaintances hold Luddite sympathies, and she is forced to ask difficult questions: Is there something dehumanizing about information technology? Is there something real life can give her that a computer can’t? These questions form some of the central themes of the book.

The beginning of this book may be difficult for some readers to dig into as the narrative is quick to introduce its multiple fictional technologies. The excitement of social media, technology, and celebrity worship is difficult to portray in a novel, and the story often falters in holding the reader’s attention. Multiple minor characters revolve in and out of the story and these characters become difficult to keep track of. Some readers may find that the slow pacing doesn’t hold their attention, but readers who enjoy political commentary and speculative fiction may find the world-building and details intriguing.

The main character is nuanced and real. She is well-written, but readers may dislike her for her ambition and for the difficult decisions she makes. The story captures the current concerns around Silicon Valley: its reclusive moguls, its high-speed technology, the strain it takes on mental health, and the concern that electronics can’t replace human contact. Readers will recognize their own fears in the book’s treatment of all-consuming social media crazes and out-of-control entrepreneurship.

The most intriguing commentary is the political allegory that takes the name of the “Luddite Party,” a fringe political party whose platform centers around rejecting technology. While Opal is purely pro-technology, many people around her have doubts. The book never gives a defining stance on the matter, and the reader is left to decide for themselves whether a world without human contact is a good thing or not.

Sexual Content

  • In their first year of high school, Opal and Shane had a “drunken awkward kiss.”
  • During her early web broadcasts, Opal is sexually harassed by internet trolls: “Even her boobs are trembling. B or C cup??… Anyone have a tape-measure?”
  • During a virtual web show, a guy “rushes up on stage and gropes” Opal. Even though the entire performance is electronic and virtual, she is shaken and uncomfortable.
  • The characters have access to the biometric feedback of their web show’s viewers. Moyo tells Opal that “There’s a small pool of viewers, mostly men, whose eyes blink rapidly during your performance, their faces shake, and their headsets are zoomed into your—”.
  • Opal’s boyfriend Moyo is the main love interest in the book. In one scene, they are “curled up in his bed, half dressed, half wrapped up in his white sheets.” The book never goes into more detail about their activity.
  • While discussing strategies to gain more viewers for her web show, a Silicon Valley mogul tells Opal to be more open and vulnerable with her audience. He does so by telling her: “Sex sells. I’m not saying you need to get naked or anything. . .Open up a bit more.” Opal ends up telling her audience of millions about her relationship with Moyo.
  • Enthusiastic fans sweep the characters up in what Opal can only describe as a “fangasm” (portmanteau of fan and orgasm).
  • Opal buys a piece of technology called “FondrFoil” for her and her boyfriend to use. It is a technology that allows long-distance couples to simulate physical intimacy. “Slowly, I curve my hand around Moyo’s ribs, squeezing them between his body and my mattress until I land on the small of his back. It’s warm, like real skin. Soft. It gives perfectly. Moyo’s trembling, and naturally I go in to kiss him, but that’s not part of the experience. So instead, I pull him in closer.” They don’t go farther than that, and eventually give up on the technology.

Violence

  • Opal is afraid that her friend Shawn will attempt suicide after having been rejected from his top-choice college. After being unable to find him on campus, she and her friend rush to the nearest train station in fear that he’s thrown himself in front of a train.
  • The Luddite Party “shocks children with electricity for spending too much time on their phones,” which is a pretty clear and clumsy allusion to conversion therapy.
  • Suicide is discussed sometimes, but never in-depth. It’s mentioned in passing that a student at Opal’s school once took his own life after being rejected from an Ivy League.
  • Amber, a character Opal contacts in the hope of finding answers about her dad, reveals that her father committed suicide.
  • A prevailing theory around Opal’s father’s disappearance is that he may have taken his own life. The characters frequently discuss how the high-stakes world of Silicon Valley is extremely damaging to one’s mental health.
  • When Opal finally discovers what happened to her dad, she sees a virtual-reality recreation of his death. A man “rams my dad in the face with his elbow, and I hear a crack as the back of [his] skull smashes into the moss-covered rock.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Opal and her friends sneak off campus multiple times to drink alcohol. Opal is scared that her friend Shane may have an alcohol problem.
  • There’s a rumor “that theater department stores booze underneath the soundboard,” which Opal remembers when some students act drunk during a school dance.
  • While experiencing Internet fame, Moyo says, “I think this is what drugs feel like.”
  • A character is described as “drunk on fame.”

Language

  • The characters occasionally say “fuck” during tense moments. Shane says, “I’m fucked” when he doesn’t get into college; Opal occasionally says “what the fuck?” There are twenty-two usages of “fuck” in the book; however, none are sexual in nature.
  • “Freaking” is used four times.
  • “Shit” is used multiple times per chapter.
  • Opal says, “I keep getting screwed by this company,” and, “Karma finds another way to screw you over.”
  • Opal’s classmates note that she is “such a bitch,” and Opal describes this gossip by saying, “I’m the girl our classmates are bitching about.” She also affectionately refers to her friend once as a “son of a bitch.”
  • “Damn” and “goddamn” are both used infrequently.
  • Characters occasionally say “Jesus Christ” or “for Christ’s sake.”
  • Characters say “Oh my God,” “thank God,” “God knows,” “for the love of God,” and “dear God.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Opal’s family celebrates Christmas, but she remarks that her father was Jewish.
  • Howie Mendelsohn references the Bible story of Ahab and Jezebel.

by Caroline Galdi

The Drone Pursuit

When your dad funds the Swift Academy of Science and Technology, you’re bound to have a bunch of tech at your disposal. So, no one bats an eye when Tom and his best friend, Noah, test their new virtual reality drone before class. At the academy, once class starts and the drone is parked, their brainiac friends launch into farfetched discussions about the curriculum. When they watch a documentary about the FBI’s most wanted hackers from the eighties, they quickly start speculating that the academy custodian is one of them.

At first, Tom dismisses the idea as another one of his friends’ conspiracy theories. But using their new drone, he spies the custodian acting suspiciously around the school. As Tom and his friends search for evidence that the custodian is the missing hacker, the signs become impossible to ignore when Tom gets threatening messages that warn him away from investigating. When someone releases a virus in the school servers, all bets are off as the adjoining servers at the tech giant Swift Enterprises come under fire. Can Tom and his friends uncover the true culprit before it’s too late?

Although Tom and his friends are not well-developed characters, they are likable kids who aren’t afraid to geek out over technology. As they sneak around trying to discover if the school janitor is a famous hacker in hiding, they cause some innocent havoc—spilled soda in the cafeteria, a drone racing through the halls, and hiding in a closet. Told from Tom’s point of view, the story has an easy-to-read, conversational tone which allows the readers to understand Tom’s motive for keeping the adults in his life in the dark.

Tom’s father only makes a brief appearance in the story; however, Tom’s father makes Tom a priority and doesn’t let work get in the way of spending time with his son. When Tom’s father discovers Tom’s secret sleuthing, he lets Tom know that he “could always come to him about anything; that it won’t matter how crazy or outlandish my theories may seem.” Even though Tom’s father is extremely wealthy, Tom doesn’t try to use his father’s wealth to get out of trouble. Instead, Tom and his friends serve their punishment without arguing or complaining.

The Drone Pursuit incorporates mystery, action, technology, and a touch of humor into an easy-to-read story that younger readers will enjoy. Even though the inventions are not amazing, younger readers will like the fast-paced, entertaining story. Readers who are not ready for the Alex Rider Series or the Theodore Boon Series will find The Drone Pursuit to be the perfect alternative.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A man tries to knock a drone down with a broom. When the drone backed into a corner, “the man regained his balance and began stabbing at the drone.” The drone gets away.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Someone gives a teacher some type of poison. The person “hacked a dating app so she could be matched with Mr. Jenkins. They went on a date and she slipped something into his food.”

Language

  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Coding Mission

Ms. Gillian has set up The Makerspace in the library so students can work together on projects. A group of students built a diorama of a labyrinth, complete with the Minotaur and the Greek hero Theseus. A group of students decides they want to make a code to help Theseus find his way out of the labyrinth. What better way to try out the code than use Ms. Gillian’s magic book to take them into the center of the labyrinth? Will the students be able to write a code that leads them out of the labyrinth before the Minotaur finds them?

A Coding Mission, a graphic novel, has a diverse cast of characters that aren’t afraid of showing that they are smart. The story weaves together coding and Greek mythology. The kids, with the librarian’s help, use trial and error to design a code to help them find the way out of the labyrinth. The code is illustrated on a device, so readers can get a general idea of what code looks like.

The full-color drawings are interesting, detailed, and have both white text bubbles that show the characters’ dialogue as well as black boxes for the narration. Words that readers may be unfamiliar with are in bold text, with a glossary in the back of the book. The back of the book also contains directions for making a maze and using an algorithm to solve the maze.

The story has a lot of positives aspects—it teaches vocabulary, introduces a Greek myth, and has wonderful illustrations. Each page contains six or fewer easy-to-read sentences, and the plot moves at a fast pace. For those who want to learn more about coding, the book includes a list of further resources. However, because the story is so short, the characters and the plot are not well developed. More advanced readers will quickly become bored with the Adventures in Makerspace series. However, for readers who are just transitioning to chapter books or are reluctant readers, A Coding Mission will give them a simple, entertaining story that will help them build reading skills.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When the librarian opens an old book, the librarian and the students poof and enter a labyrinth.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Burning Blue

Nicole has it all. She’s rich, beautiful, and popular. When unknown assailant splashes acid onto Nicole’s face, her tragedy is splashed over the national news. As Nicole tries to come to terms with her disfigurement, the reporters follow her trying to get a gruesome picture of her wounds.

Jay has always been a loner. Because of an embarrassing epileptic seizure he had during an assembly, his classmates treat him like a freak. When he sees Nicole’s damaged face, he decides to find out who did it. As he begins to dig for clues, he discovers that Nicole is surprisingly down-to-earth. Jay uses his hacking skills to try to uncover the truth, but this leads him into danger. He realizes that everyone is a suspect—teachers, friends, and even Nicole herself. Can Jay find the assailant before there is another attack?

After a chance meeting in the school counselor’s office, Jay and Nicole form a fragile relationship. Both are trying to deal with an event that has changed the way their classmates see them. Both are trying to figure out how to deal with a difficult situation. The author highlights that people who face trauma do not bounce back immediately. Instead, they need time and therapy to heal their wounds.

Readers will be able to relate to Jay, who not only has a troubled relationship with his father, but also struggles with fitting in with his peers and allows his fear of being embarrassed to control his choices. Because Jay has been the target of other’s mean comments and has faced difficulty because of his epilepsy, Jay has empathy for others. Jay’s hacking abilities give the story an interesting twist. As Jay hunts for clues, the reader will want to continue turning the pages to find out what happens next.

There is never a dull moment in Burning Blue, which has elements of romance, teenage anguish, and high school drama. The wide cast of possible suspects allows the readers to question each person’s motives. The ending contains several surprises and will leave the reader questioning the nature of evil. Teens looking for an action-packed mystery will want to grab Burning Blue. Besides being a highly entertaining story, Burning Blue highlights that appearances can be deceptive. After you’ve read Burning Blue, you may want to check out Griffin’s book Adrift, which is another packed story.

Sexual Content

  • Nicole’s boyfriend was usually a gentleman, but one “afternoon he was jacked up on too many Red Bulls or whatever, desperate. He wouldn’t let her go. He kept saying, ‘One last kiss.’”
  • When the police were interviewing people, Jay thinks the police “were looking for someone who hated Nicole, not somebody who was trying to bone her.”
  • Jay hacks into someone’s social media and sees a text that says, “Somebody should blow her boyfriend and post the video on her fb.”
  • After Nicole’s face is burned, a girl stops and stares “like she’d stumbled onto a rape in progress.”
  • Some boys invite a girl to a party with “the intention of having her pull the train.” Jay takes the girl outside “with the intention of walking her home. She was smashed, tackled me onto the hood of this Mercedes sedan, rammed her tongue down my throat.” Then she pukes. This girl was the “only girl I (Jay) had ever kissed. I mean, I’d gotten hand jobs before from this chick in my building who was a year older than I was, but when you kiss a girl on the mouth, even if it’s only for three seconds and she pukes after, that’s kind of serious in my book.”
  • Jay sees a custodian’s email. “Somebody named Isabella1801 had emailed what she wanted to do with him that night. No whips or chains, but it was borderline hard-core.”
  • A girl likes to take her friends’ phones and send texts. Someone explains, “You’d check your Sent folder and see you’d just zipped the dude an invitation to give him a blow job.”
  • Someone asked Jay if he’d “boned her (Nicole) yet?”
  • Jay kisses Nicole. “I put my hands on her face as I leaned in and kissed her. I kissed her checks, her eyes, her mouth. In time, we stopped trembling, and the cold was gone from us. . .”

Violence

  • Someone squirts acid on Nicole’s face. She screamed as she was “trying to wipe off the acid made the situation worse. She burned her hands.”
  • Jay pinned someone in a wrestling match. Afterwards, the boy got his friends together for revenge. “After practice the guys stuffed up the sink and held my head under the water until Dave came in. He shoved everyone back. . .”
  • A reporter was trying to take pictures of Nicole and wouldn’t leave her alone. Jay “grabbed his camera and smashed it on the pavement.”
  • Someone attacked Jay. He “ran, but she kicked my foot from behind. She smashed my head face-first into musty green mini-golf carpet. I felt her knee in my back and something smooth, cold and heavy behind my ear. Metal, the nose of a pistol.” The police appear and help Jay.
  • While in a car, a boy grabs Jay. “The arm was around my neck, and the chokehold was tightening. . .My neck was pinned to the edge of the seat back. . .I was fading out. . . I was sure they were going to kill me, and I panicked. With images of that childhood car crash blinding me, I drove my feet into and through the back of the driver’s seat.” The car crashed. Jay ends up in the hospital and one person was seriously injured.
  • A girl was having sex with David. She’s angry that he “let me such your dick no problem, but you’re embarrassed to be seen in public with me.” She thinks his dad would say she is a “low-class whore.”
  • Nicole’s mom “poured the oil onto herself.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • There is a rumor that one of the boys was “willing to do anything to win, including possibly giving himself steroid-induced testicular cancer.”
  • Jay takes anticonvulsant medication for his epilepsy.
  • After Nicole is burned, she is given pain medication, but sometimes she flushes it down the toilet because it makes her feel numb. She also takes Xanax to help her sleep. Later in the story, she takes Prozac.
  • Jays dad was drinking “a bottle of red wine, the second one.” It is implied that Jay’s dad has a drinking problem and has gotten a DUI before.
  • A reporter “liked to buy the cops ending their eight-to-fours a pony beer or two.”
  • Jay takes an adult friend “a six of Becks.”
  • Jay didn’t want Nicole to see his apartment because, “once in a while people hung out in the lot and smoked weed and drank and yelled and fought.”
  • An adult tells Jay that he’ll give him twenty bucks if he got a haircut. Jay jokes, “Might just blow it on meth too.”
  • When a girl had “a few too many drinks” and puked in the bathroom, Nicole helped her out.
  • Jay’s dad calls to check on him, and Jay says, “I’m just mainlining a little heroin.” Jay was upset that when his dad called he had been drinking.
  • When Jay called a friend, she said she was drinking “straight vodka.” Later she tells Jay that, “If you were really thankful, you’d get me the Budweiser.” Jay recommends she go to rehab.
  • Jay, his mother, and father went to a party. Jay’s mother and father had been drinking. His mom drove even though she’d “had a few.” The car hit black ice and crashed. His mother died.
  • After a car accident, Jay is given pain killers.

Language

  • Crap is used often.
  • Profanity is used occasionally and includes ass, bitch, damn, hell, piss, and shit.
  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation six times. “Goddamn” is used once.
  • When Jay breaks a reporter’s camera, the man yells, “fuck you.”
  • Jay calls a guy a “douche.” Later, someone calls someone a douche bag.
  • Dick is used three times. Jay asked Nicole if her dad was “being a dick about money.”
  • Jay says he needs to act tough or he’d get his “ass kicked.”
  • Jay thinks, “I was going to catch the son of a bitch who burned Nicole Castro.”
  • Someone said Nicole’s father was a “bona fide prick.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Wild Robot

ROZZUM unit 7134, more frequently referred to as Roz, is the sole surviving robot of a shipwreck that lost nearly two hundred other robots. The island Roz is stranded on is devoid of any human life, but there are a wide variety of wild animals who all see Roz as a monster. Eventually, Roz begins to blend in with the animals, and she even learns how to speak like them. Roz soon becomes a part of the island.

The harmony Roz and the animals enjoy does not last very long. A ship spots Roz, and three “RECO” robots are deployed to bring her back to society. The RECO units will use force to get Roz to leave, but she wants to stay with the animals she has grown so attached to. In addition to raising a gosling, surviving winter, and almost becoming an animal, Roz now has to survive an encounter with her own kind.

The Wild Robot is, at first glance, a seemingly lighthearted book about a robot learning to live alongside animals. Even though Roz has many human qualities, she is not entirely relatable due to her robotic nature. However, readers will relate to Roz being in a new environment and not knowing what to do.  Like many people, Roz must adapt and overcome obstacles. Through her struggles, Roz receives help from the animals on the island and learns the value of friendship. They endure numerous hardships together, including death and violence between animals. Death is presented in the book, but the characters die in relatively tame ways and learn to cope with the loss of their friends and even parents in a healthy way.

Even though the story focus on a robot, it provides themes that can easily be related to the real world. The Wild Robot explores the difficulties of integrating into a new setting, as well as an adopted family between a robot and a gosling. Roz and the animals have to trust each other when outsiders threaten their home, and they become closer as a result. The Wild Robot creates an environment of diverse characters that cooperate for a common good.

The Wild Robot tells its story through short chapters that describe events at a rapid pace. With short sentences, chapters, and simple vocabulary, the book is very easy to read. The pictures in the book are sprinkled throughout the chapters, and they are drawn in a cute comic style depicting the events that Roz and the animals experience.

Peter Brown has created a story of an outsider overcoming prejudice, and he has done so in both a tranquil and thrilling way. The Wild Robot introduces characters who are not humans but think and act like humans. Although the story isn’t full of excitement, Brown keeps the reader’s attention through beautiful descriptions of the island, diverse characters, and a unique plot, ultimately creating a powerful story. Instead of having a happy ending, the conclusion is open-ended which allows the reader to come to their own conclusions as to what Roz will do. Roz’s next adventure continues in the second book in the series, The Wild Robot Escapes.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • There is no violence between humans, but there are multiple instances of violence occurring with robots described in a human way. For example, during a shipwreck, “Robot limbs and torsos were flung onto ledges. A robot head splashed into a tide pool. A robot foot skittered into the waves.”
  • The protagonist of the story observes “vultures hunched over carcasses.”
  • A fox recounts his attack of a porcupine, “I didn’t think that porcupine could see me in the bushes, but when I went for his throat, suddenly there were quills in my face.”
  • The main character falls into a goose nest, leaving “two dead geese and four smashed eggs among the carnage.”
  • Again, the main character is a robot with human attributes but still faces violence. Two bears “slashed at Roz’s body” at one point.
  • In the aftermath of a harsh winter, Roz finds “A frozen mouse. A frozen bird. A frozen deer,” as well as several other animals that have frozen to death.
  • After the snow from the aforementioned winter melts away, the frozen creatures become visible, and “their corpses were slowly revealed.”
  • A farmer with a rifle shoots a goose, described from the animals’ perspective as “a bright beam of light [shooting] out from the rifle, and Longneck slumped to the floor.”
  • A goose is “plucked by her foot and flung to the ground” by a robot.
  • A rifle is pulled apart, and a “blinding explosion” results in “Roz’s arms and legs… completely blown off.”
  • Geese surround a rifle and pick it up, then use it to shoot a robot, creating “a beam of light” that left the robot’s chest “glowing brilliant orange… melting and oozing down his front.”
  • An opossum “rolled onto her back, stuck out her tongue, and died,” although it was only faking its death.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • There are numerous instances of animals defecating, such as a robin “splatter[ing] her droppings across the robot’s face.”
  • Roz is called a “monster” and a “creature” by the animals multiple times.
  • Mr. Beaver is called “rude and stubborn.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Dylan Chilcoat

Team BFF: Race to the Finish!

Sophia and her friends are BFFs. Together they work on coding projects, eat cookies, and have impromptu dance parties. They are excited to participate in their first robot hackathon, where they hope to show off their coding skills. But when Sophia’s parents need her to babysit instead of attending the hackathon, everything may change. Without Sophia, the team will be disqualified. When Sofia tells her friends, will they have her back or will it destroy their friendship?

The second installment of the Girls Who Code Series focuses on Sophia’s struggle with balancing home responsibilities with her coding club responsibilities. Readers will be able to relate to Sophia’s struggle to tell her friends bad news—she won’t be able to participate in the hackathon. The friends in the story not only brainstorm how to build a robot, they also show the importance of helping each other. The diverse cast of characters are young girls who have a variety of interests (cooking, drama, and fashion), but come together because of their love of coding.

Team BFF, Race to the Finish is told from Sophia’s point of view, which allows the reader to understand Sophia’s feelings of not being noticed by her family. The reader will get a small glimpse into the life of a large, Hispanic family. Sophia’s family not only makes traditional Spanish food but also uses Spanish in their everyday interactions.

Sophia is also struggling to understand her feelings for a boy. She has a crush, but is tongue-tied every time she sees the boy. As Sophia and the boy interact, she wonders how to navigate a boy-girl relationship. Team BFF, Race to the Finish is an easy-to-read story that shows smart girls in everyday situations. Sophia’s struggle is an interesting story that is highly relatable and will capture many readers’ interest.

Sexual Content

  • Sophia has a crush on a boy and when they talk, Sophia talked even though “butterflies in my stomach were zooming around like crazy. . . It was silly to feel weird around him.”
  • While walking with Sophia, Sammy “reached for my hand. I let him take it, even though it was a sweaty mess—but his was too.”

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Spotlight on Coding Club!

Erin loves being on stage. When the school announces an upcoming talent show, Erin knows she can come up with a winning performance. Erin also agrees to help the coding club with developing an app to help score the contestants. Erin knows she’s taking on a lot, but she’s determined to distract herself. Erin doesn’t want to think about her father’s deployment and staying busy is her solution.

With operation distraction in full force, Erin’s anxiety gets the best of her. She wants to pretend that everything is okay, but her stress levels keep increasing. Her friends from the coding club have always been there for her, but Erin doesn’t want to tell them what’s really going on in her life. Will Erin be able to handle the pressure? If she tells her friends the truth, will they still like her?

The fourth installment of the Girls Who Code series has the same lovable characters but is told from Erin’s point of view, which allows the story to focus on a new conflict. Readers will get a look at Erin’s thought process as she tries to use humor to diffuse stressful situations. Erin tries to hide her true feelings from her friends. Readers will relate to Erin’s struggle with anxiety and her fear of telling others. The story makes it clear that having anxiety should not be viewed as an embarrassment. Erin is told, “I think it’s really cool that you talked to a therapist about this. Getting professional help was definitely the mature way to handle it.”

Spotlight on Coding Club uses texting bubbles, emojis, and simple vocabulary, which makes the story easy to read and assessable to younger readers. The fourth book in the series focuses less on the girls’ friendship and more on Erin’s personal struggle. Although Erin’s struggle is real, the story contains less action than previous books. Along with Erin’s personal struggle, Maya struggles with asking a girl on a date. Although dating is a topic many preteens are interested in, Maya’s romantic interests seemed forced and added little to the plot. In the end, Spotlight on Coding Club teaches a valuable lesson about friendship and anxiety but lacks action and suspense.

Sexual Content

  • There is a short conversation about Maya asking another girl out on a date. Later in the story, Maya asks the girl to the movies and it is “definitely a date.”

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh my god” is used as an exclamation three times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Out of Remote Control

The Data Set finds a time-altering remote control. In the hopes of discovering if their project for the science fair works, they hit the button and travel into the future. But from there everything goes wrong. When Laura drops the remote control, the kids are taken on a crazy adventure. Is there any way they can reset the remote control? Will they be stuck in an alternative universe forever?

Out of Remote Control takes the reader on a wildly fun adventure. As the kids jump into television shows, younger readers will enjoy the funny pictures of Dr. Bunsen as he plays the role of villain in every show. Each short chapter jumps to a new place. In an attempt to outrun danger, the kids keep hitting the buttons on the remote control, and they jump into new situations.

The kids work together to try to figure out how to return home. The funny black-and-white illustrations appear on every page and help beginning readers follow the plot. The illustrations add humor, but also help break up the text so new readers do not become overwhelmed with the number of words on the page. As the seventh installment of the series, Out of Remote Control doesn’t continue the plot from previous books and can be read as a singleton.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The kids jump into an old western television show. When they arrive, they are on a train that is being held up by bandits. “The kids raced from train car to train car, with the bandits right behind them.” The kids are saved when they hit pause on the remote control.
  • The remote sends the kids into a shark show. When the kids swim away from the sharks, “the narrator laughed loudly, ‘SHARKS KNOW THAT THEIR PREY OFTEN HIDES BEHIND ROCKS.’” The kids hit a button on the remote and jump to a new channel.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The kids find a remote control that can take them back in time or jump them into the future. The remote control takes the kids into television shows where they become the characters.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Invasion of the Insects

The Data Set kids accidently shrink themselves. Now they are the size of a bug. When a dragonfly grabs Laura and flies her out the window, her friends come to the rescue. Now they’re lost in the backyard with a bunch of creepy crawlers. How will they ever make it back to Dr. Bunsen’s lab? Can the bug-sized kids work together to solve this problem?

When an argument breaks out between two of the kids, they soon learn the importance of working out their differences. The kid-appropriate message is clear: no argument should be allowed to end a friendship. The story includes a few fun insect facts and this bug knowledge helps the Data Set come up with a solution to their problem.

An entertaining book with a diverse cast of characters, Invasion of the Insects is a perfect book for beginning readers. The interesting, imperfect kids use their brainpower to solve problems. Invasion of the Insects has the right amount of action and conflict to keep readers engaged. With easy-to-read vocabulary, short sentences, and illustrations on almost every page, the story will build a reader’s confidence. The sixth installment of The Data Set series can be enjoyed without reading the previous books.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A spider web traps the kids, and a spider almost eats them.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Laura accidentally hits a machine in Dr. Bunsen’s lab. The machine zapped her, and “the room whirled around her. Everything in the lab was growing bigger and bigger!” Laura becomes the size of a bug. Later the other members of the Data Set also are shrunk.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Friendship Code

Lucy is excited to join the new coding club at school. She wants to learn how to code so she can create an app to help her uncle who has cancer. But once coding club begins, Lucy is frustrated because she isn’t learning as quickly as she wants. To make the situation worse, Lucy is put in a group with several girls she barely knows.

Lucy finds a cryptic coding message taped to her locker. She needs help translating the messages and the only people who can help are the girls from her coding club. As Lucy tries to discover who is sending the secret messages, she learns that coding and friendship take time, dedication, and some laughs.

The Friendship Code is the first book in the Girls Who Code series. The Friendship Code is an easy-to-read, enjoyable story. Readers will relate to Lucy as she struggles to make new friends.  Like many girls, Lucy is fearful that others will judge her based on her appearance, and she struggles to fix a friendship that ended because of a misunderstanding. At the end of the story, Lucy learns the importance of friends helping each other.

Sexual Content

  • None

 

Violence

  • None

 

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

 

Language

  • None

 

Supernatural

  • None

 

Spiritual Content

  • None

Lights, Music, Code!

The winter dance is right around the corner. Maya and her BFFs are in charge of coding a light display for dance. They are hoping to use their coding club skills to create a super cool display. The only problem is that Maya’s friends don’t listen to any of her ideas and don’t appreciate her efforts.

Then Maya’s old friend, Nicole, moves to town. Nicole listens to her and is always on her side—unlike Maya’s coding friends. But when Maya starts spending more time with Nicole, problems arise. Maya needs to learn that friendship—like coding—is about being honest with your friends. Will Maya learn the value of friendship before she loses her friends from coding club?

Although Lights, Music, Code is the third book in the Girls Who Code series, readers do not need to have read the previous books in order to enjoy the story. Lights, Music, Code is written from Maya’s point of view, making the story both entertaining and easy to read. Maya and her friends show that girls can care about both fashion and coding.

As Maya and her friends prepare for the dance, they discuss boys and how to act at a school dance in kid-friendly terms. Maya struggles with many common issues, including not feeling appreciated, not wanting to ask for help, and not agreeing with her mother. Lights, Music, Code entertains as it teaches valuable lessons through Maya’s struggles.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Maya’s friends kill a troll king in a video game. Her friend “brought him (the troll king) to his knees with the Unwielding Dagger. Then Nicole sliced his head off.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Nicole calls Maya’s mother a witch.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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