The Fugitive

In The Fugitive, Theo Boone’s class trip to Washington DC goes from normal to interesting in a matter of minutes after he spots the most wanted man in Stratten County: Pete Duffy. Duffy had gone to court in the past for murdering his wife but had escaped due to a mistrial. Theo spots him on their trip and trails the fugitive before talking to his uncle and getting the FBI involved.

The rest of the story takes place in Strattenburg, the same city where Duffy was originally tried. Theo works with his friends, his two lawyer parents, and the FBI to figure out a way to make sure Pete doesn’t get away this time. The only person who saw Duffy is an illegal immigrant, who is scared of what might happen if he shows up in court. Theo has to convince the witness of the need for justice in spite of his fear because nobody else witnessed the crime, and the trial is resting on his testimony. Also, Theo himself also has to get over his fears of Pete Duffy’s accomplices who are known to be violent and brutal, just like the criminal in question. And he has to do all of this while managing his time with school, his friends, and his family.

The Fugitive is aimed at a younger audience but still contains a few adult themes, especially violence and even murder. Grisham doesn’t go into extreme detail when describing these events, but his choice to include a violent crime paints a more believable story. Theo’s story is an exciting thriller but also manages to include the less-exciting parts of crime that take place in the courtroom, such as having to repeat a trial multiple times due to legal errors like a late witness. After tracking down a notorious fugitive, it’s ironic that the only thing keeping him from imprisonment is a mistrial. Boone and the other characters acknowledge this, and much of the story consists of them creating a strong enough case to put Duffy behind bars.

An important lesson that the book conveys is an appreciation for laws and justice. As much as Theo or anyone else would like to just imprison Duffy because they know what he did, doing so without enough evidence would be a violation of due process. In addition, Theo and his parents do a number of good deeds for society, including volunteering at a homeless shelter, opening up free law practices, and just practicing law.

Theodore Boone provides a funny and relatable character for younger audiences. Besides helping capture one of the FBI’s most wanted, Theo is pretty much an ordinary kid. His character design in addition to the enticing thriller that John Grisham has written results in a captivating crime novel that isn’t filled with violence and gore. Theodore Boone: The Fugitive is an excellent read for any aspiring detective.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A character recounts how John Wilkes Booth “shot the president once in the back of the head.”
  • Pete Duffy was “accused of murdering his wife.”
  • Theo’s uncle Ike tells the story of Joel Furniss, “the first boy from Stratten County to be killed in Vietnam.”
  • Bobby Escobar “saw Pete Duffy sneak into his home at the exact time his wife was killed. And he found the golf gloves Duffy was wearing when he strangled his wife.”
  • Mr. Tweel, a farmer, explains how “About an hour after I get rid of the boys, after I get their names and address, I go back down to the goat pen to check on things. That’s when I saw that Becky was dead.”
  • As evidence, “a large photo was displayed on the screen, and the jurors got another look at Myra Duffy as she was found on the carpet. She was wearing a pretty dress; her high heels were still on her feet. . . the next one was a close-up of her neck, and the detective noticed a redness and slight puffiness on both sides of her neck. He immediately suspected strangulation.”
  • As Theo is marched down the hall by two officers, he compares it to “a man being led to the electric chair, or the gas chamber, or the firing squad.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Ike “was sipping on beer and listening to old Motown tunes” when Theo talked to him.
  • Bobby Escobar “likes to drink beer and brings it home.”

Language

  • “Two bozos—Jimbo Nance and Duck DeFoe dropped water balloons from a fifth-floor hotel room.”
  • “Woody and a couple of other clowns booed and hissed as Theo sprinted from the room.”
  • Judge Gantry says to Theo, “Nice work, Theo. Now get your butt back to school.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The bailiff asks, “May God bless this Court,” before proceeding with Pete Duffy’s trial.

by Dylan Chilcoat

 

#Prettyboy Must Die

After his first failed mission, Peter Smith goes undercover at an exclusive school in Colorado. Peter is supposed to be keeping a low profile. When Peter goes out for a late-night run, a classmate snaps a picture of him and posts the caption “See Prettyboy run.” When the picture becomes a viral sensation, Peter knows he’s in trouble. Before the end of the day, Peter’s school is under attack as a terrorist wants revenge. This former-foster-kid turned CIA operative will have to use all of his skills and training to stay alive.

Told from Peter’s point of view, #Prettyboy Must Die starts out with action and intrigue. However, right from the start the plot is over the top and unrealistic. The action continues throughout the story, but there are too many scenes where Peter and his friends unrealistically knock out an adult, professional, or mobster.

Having the story told from Peter’s point of view did not necessarily improve the story’s appeal as he is arrogant and doesn’t believe that others can be an asset. Peter doesn’t think girls can be accomplished and smart, which is shown several times, including when he thinks the hacker cannot be a girl because she is pretty. Girls are portrayed in a negative light once again when a group of girls don’t worry about the danger they face; they just want a picture of #prettyboy.

#Prettyboy Must Die is not a serious spy book, but it is a fast-paced story that leaves the reader wondering who can be trusted. For those looking for an easy-to-read, fun story, #Prettyboy Must Die is a good choice. Even though the violence is not described in detail and is appropriate for younger readers, there is a wide range of profanity that is used often. If you loved Aly Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, you may want to leave #Prettyboy Must Die on the shelf.

Sexual Content

  • Katie changes her clothing in front of Peter. He thinks, “It takes me a second to realize I probably shouldn’t be staring like I’ve just seen the promised land . . . But I can’t help but comment because, you know, Katie. Half-naked. ‘Hey girl, as much as I’d like to, this probably isn’t a good time.’”
  • Peter thinks about a date with Katie, “. . . I remember our one date, our first kiss, and I want to kiss her again. . .” Later in the story, he asks Katie, “Are you sure you didn’t know who I was when I asked you out? Because the way you kissed me. . . I mean, after the movie, in your car—”
  • When Katie sees a black SUV and realizes it has come to pick her up, she kisses Peter. “. . . I damn near forget about Sveta, Rogers, and the entire universe. I hold her like it will be the last time. She kisses me again like it’s only a preview of more to come.”

Violence

  • The CIA raids an arms dealer’s hideout and a man is killed. “Marchuk Sr. is now on the floor three feet inside the house, knocked that far back by the shot that has to have killed him instantly.” The raid is described over four pages. During the raid, Peter is shot.
  • When a classroom is taken hostage, the chemistry teacher tries to tackle Bad Guy #2. The bad guy puts the teacher in a “choke hold. Before I can even process what’s happening, the bad guy is already done with Mr. Valaquez, who he lets slump to the floor, unconscious. Or worse.”
  • Someone kicks one of the bad guys. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where, considering all the moaning.”
  • A bad guy hits a school employee and Peter hears “the sound of a fist hitting bone.” Later in the story, Peter sees a teacher who is hiding, and “I throw a left hook across his face and knock him the hell out. . . I’m pissed he’s in here hiding out instead of heading back to his class. . .”
  • When Peter tricks a bad guy into coming into a classroom. “That’s when I land the steel baton against his pterion, the weakest point on the skull, immediately incapacitating him. Or possibly killing him.” He takes out two other bad guys in the same way.
  • Katie is captured and a bad guy beats her. “. . . Officer Andrews is holding Katie by one arm, or more like holding her up.” Peter is tied to a chair and when he struggles “he hauls off and lands a right cross that feels like a sledgehammer against my face.” Later, as the bad guy is talking to Peter, he hits him in the face. Katie saves the day with, “A brutal kick to his junk . . . she hooks her foot around his ankle, sweeps his legs out from under him, then straddles his back. I’m certain it’s an image I won’t soon forget—girl of my dreams on top of the guy who wants to kill me.”
  • When the bad guy begins to recover from “the ball-kick she (Katie) gave him and is starting to squirm . . . she grabs Marchuk’s hair and slams his face into the floor, knocking him out.”
  • Peter attacks a bad guy. “. . . I land my fist against the side of his head. . .and kick him in the jewels. That brings him to his knees, but I know it won’t be for long.”
  • Peter and Katie go after a bad guy and he threatens to shoot them, but Peter shoots first. “When the bullet hits his left knee, he goes down before he can get off a single round. I hear the sound of metal against bone. Maglite against skull.”
  • Someone tries to use a drone to kill Peter and Katie. “Just as Katie takes off running, I hear a car come over the ridge, followed by a loud thump. I turn back in time to see Sveta on the car’s hood, her phone flying through the air. . . The car screeches to a stop and Sveta slides off and onto the ground, moaning. For a brief moment, I regret that she’s still alive.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A character said, “My layabout son takes nothing seriously, is only concerned about spending my money on women and drink.”
  • Peter gives the principal tickets to the game. After the game, the principal tells Peter, “I damn near went broke on stadium beer, but that’s what I get for celebrating a little too hard.” Later in the story, he tells Peter, “I’d been sick all morning, hungover. . .”
  • When Peter overhears someone say bank robbers are in the school, he thinks, “the average bank robber does so on impulse and out of desperation, usually some loser meth-head needing a hit.”
  • Katie injects several bad guys with carfentanil, a drug that is “ten thousand times stronger than morphine, so it acts quickly, and it only takes a drop or two.”
  • Peter and his friend are captured, and “then the crazy chick starts singing a kid’s chant to figure out which one of us she will shoot first.” Before she can shoot them, “Katie falls through the ceiling and onto the psycho’s back.”
  • When a bad guy crushes a boy’s hand, Katie fires her gun, but the bullet accidently hits Peter. Peter wants to know why he isn’t dead and Katie tells him, “It doesn’t shoot bullets. It was supposed to shoot nerve gas. . .”

Language

  • Profanity is used often and includes: ass, asshole, damn, dickhead, fucking, goddamn, hell, and pissed off.
  • When a teacher sees three incapacitated bad guys, he said, “Jesus H. Christ—are those terrorists?” Then he asks Peter, “Who the hell are you?”
  • “Oh My God” is used as an exclamation several times. For example, a girl says, “Oh my God. I sit two rows over from him in calculus. . . How did I not notice how hot he is?”
  • Peter sees a classmate and thinks, “I see Carlisle’s resident douche.”
  • When a teacher is looking for a bug, Peter thinks, “Despite the crazy that is happening all around us, watching The Douche have a near breakdown is fucking hilarious.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Backward Glass

For as long as anyone can remember, a skipping song has warned children about the dangers of Prince Harming. “Lover sweet, bloody feet, running down the silver street. Leave tomorrow if you’re called—truth and wisdom in the walls. Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming’s hungers fed.”

When Kenny moves to a new town, he is shocked when his father finds a dead baby hidden in the wall of the carriage house. But what shocks him more is the note that is found with the baby. “Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him. Clive is dead all over again.”

Kenny embarks on a journey through different time periods with the help of his newfound friend Luka and a time travel mirror. The two teens hope to save the baby and figure out how the skipping song is related to the child’s death. They soon discover that Prince Harming is not just a fairy tale character, but a living man who is out to kill Kenny and anyone else that stands in his way.

Backward Glass is an interesting story. However, there are many different characters in different time periods, which makes keeping track of people and events a little difficult. In the end, all of the pieces of the story fall into place to give the reader a satisfying ending.

Sexual Content 

  • Kenny tells about his father’s first kiss. “Ten years old, and he chased her into a scrap yard and kissed her and she tripped him.”
  • When Kenny is saying goodbye to a girl from another time period she, “stepped forward, grabbed my shoulders, and kissed me square on the mouth. It was awkward, and it wasn’t a long kiss like you see in the movies, and maybe that’s all I’m going to tell you about it because maybe it’s none of your business. It was good, though.”

Violence 

  • Kenny and his father find a dead baby hidden in the wall, “like someone killed it and hid it there. With a note asking me for help.”
  • As Kenny and Luka step out of the time travel mirror, a man holds a gun and threatens to kill Kenny. Luka “reached for the gun, now pointed toward the ceiling, and covered both of the men’s hands in her own, but from one of them—I couldn’t tell which—came a sharp kick to her midsection that sent her flying to crack her head on the cement floor of the basement.” The two men precede to fight over the gun. Then Kenny is shot. The shooter says he had to kill Kenny because Kenny killed his wife. This fight scene continues for several pages.
  • Kenny is jumped by several teenagers. “I fought back like I had nothing to lose . . . When Boyd Fenton broke my nose, I stepped back, pulled it as straight as I could and asked if he was done yet.” In the end, another boy arrives and helps Kenny fight off his tormentors.
  • Wald carries a “wild man” who is tied up and gagged. The man breaks free and tries to hurt Kenny. “He thrashed frantically, trying to hit me in any way he could. His head slammed against mine, and some part of him dug into my stomach.”
  • When Kenny’s father was younger a man attacked him. “He twisted Brain’s arm, checking his lunge, and brought a quick fist down onto the side of his head, slamming him back against the corner of a brick. Brain slumped.”
  • Kenny pushes a woman into the mirror. However, he knows that this means she will die because the mirror in the other time period is under water. “I reached for her, but all I could feel was water and pain.”
  • A man goes back in time with the intent to kill his infant self. “All I need to do is never live. I kill the baby and its’ no crime. It’s suicide.” Later in the story, the man is holding his baby self when someone tries to grab the baby from him. The man, “gave her a push with his foot, sending her flying into a large chest.” Later the man, “began to topple back . . . cradling the baby, instinctively bringing it close as he fell . . . Little Curtis and his older self lay spread out on the floor, their hands close enough to exchange bright flashes. Both were convulsing slightly.”
  • A young boy tries to take a girl into the time travel mirror. “When she couldn’t pass in, he grew angry and smashed her head repeatedly into its unbreakable surface. She never recovered completely.”

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • One of the characters smokes a cigarette.
  • One of the characters gets stuck in a time period that is not his own when, “fed too much beer at a year-end celebration by a stranger . . . he came back to the mirror too late and found himself trapped ten years in his own past.”
  • Kenny talks about a vacant house that kids, “had been going there to drink or make out for a couple of years.”

Language 

  • When Kenny’s father finds a dead baby hide behind a wall he says, “Oh Christ, Oh Christ. Oh, Jesus, Kenny, look at the little thing.”
  • When Luka’s mother thinks she is on the phone, her mother yells, “Hell’s the matter with you?”
  • A character talks about how he found, “that goddamn diary when I was nine years old.”
  • When discussing time travel, a character says, “Christ. Time travel—and I wanted to sell comic books. Go on H.G. Wells. Take it. Save the baby. Maybe there’s a reason the damn mirror didn’t open up for me.”
  • Kenny tells a teen named Chuck that his sister will marry a Goldstein. Chuck replies, “You saying my sister’s going to marry a Jew?” When Kenny asks if he cares, Chuck replies, “Nah, but it don’t matter how welcome I am in the family, none of them better try cutting part of my pee-pee off.”
  • Holy crap and hell are occasionally.

Supernatural 

  • None

Spiritual Content 

  • Two characters discuss the rules of time travel and how people cannot get in contact with their other self. “It’s like you can’t mess up time,” Luka said. “Keisha says it’s God, but I asked her where exactly the time-travel mirrors come into the Bible. Melissa says it’s fate, but I don’t even think it’s’ that.”

Endangered: A Death on a Deadline Mystery

Hayley isn’t a typical teenage girl. Rather than caring about prom or worrying about not getting her high school diploma, she spends her time working for her father’s newspaper.

While listening to a police scanner, she gets her first big scoop. Her hope is to discover whose blood is splattered all over a remote cabin. But instead of looking for clues, Hayley’s father forces her to participate in a research project to earn credits she needs to graduate high school.

Instead of investigating a possible murder, Hayley finds herself stuck on a boat doing research with only Ms. Cameron, a biology teacher, and Ernest, a social outcast, for company. Hayley and her group find the rare turtle they’re hunting for, but with it they find people illegally hunting it. When Hayley and Ernest try to protect the turtle, they find their lives are in danger. Now Hayley has two mysteries to deal with-and twice the danger.

Endangered: A Death on a Deadline Mystery is an enjoyable book. While the ending is no surprise, the story is engaging and interesting. Even though the bad guy is predictable, the ending is still satisfying and will make the reader smile.

Hayley is a loveable, realistic character the reader can bond with. Hayley has abandonment issues because her mother left her as a baby. She doesn’t do the “dating scene” because she’s not sure how to handle guys. She doesn’t have a normal family life. But when it comes to reporting, she is assertive and sure of herself.

Between the mystery, the hunt for an elusive turtle, and Hayley’s personal story, the book has a lot to love. Even though the story revolves around a possible death, the violence is not detailed or graphic. However, there are many references to drugs and alcohol that may be inappropriate for younger readers.

Sexual Content

  • Hayley is at work and wonders about her friends who attended prom. She was, “checking Facebook every ten minutes to see which of my friends were making out, breaking up, or getting hammered.”
  • When talking about a Herpetofaunal research project, Hayley thinks, “It sounded like a sexually transmitted disease.”
  • Hayley tells a boy she isn’t into the dating scene because, “You go to a club, or a party, and you’re out there dancing, and suddenly a guy you don’t even know comes up behind you and starts groping you. When did that become socially acceptable?” Later in the same scene, she says, “The point is, that’s what guys always say: ‘What’s the problem, baby? Why are you so uptight? It doesn’t mean anything.’ And then they expect you to have sex with them because, if it doesn’t mean anything, why should you say no. . . . And maybe it does mean something. The point is, why do guys think that they get to decide if it’s meaningful or not? When they’re not even the ones who are going to get pregnant if something goes wrong.”
  • When talking about when a girl really likes a guy, Hayley says, “Because then you sleep with him, and you put your heart into it, and half the time he doesn’t really care, he’s just using you.”
  • Hayley thinks about her father not being at home when she was little. “Dad was out chasing stories and whatever else grown men chase when they don’t have a wife at home . . . he never brought a girlfriend home. But he was late often enough. Let’s just say, it wouldn’t have surprised me.”
  • While Hayley is drinking at a bar, one of the men she is with leans toward her. “His hand, warm and heavy, landed on my thigh. I felt a throb go through my body—a throb I didn’t want to feel, not for Trevor. A burning sensation flushed from my legs through my pelvis, my breast, my neck, my lips…My body wanted to throw itself at Trevor-Forever.” Trevor kisses Hayley’s earlobe and then her lips. Drunk and upset, Hayley runs, grabs a cab, and goes home.
  • Ernest’s mother left him when he was eight. When Hayley sees Ernest’s father’s green lawn Hayley thinks, “Given the way his wife had left him for a life of probiotic lesbian farming, he probably felt sweet revenge every time he blasted a dandelion.”
  • When Alex’s thigh touches Hayley’s thigh, “a warmth spread through my leg that was more than just body heat.”
  • When Alex touches Hayley’s hand she thinks, “Every part of him I saw, I wanted to touch: the short, soft hairs at the nape of his neck, the stubble on the line of his jaw, the hair that fell in a fringe over his left eyebrow, the muscles that rippled in two long, smooth ridges down his back, on either side of his spine. I wanted to trace those ridges from the curve of his shoulders down to his hips…”
  • Alex kisses Hayley. “He cupped my cheek with his hand. His lips touched mine with a warmth that made my heart roll over and surrender.”

Violence

  • Hayley goes to the scene of a crime where “some cops had found a blood-splattered shack.” The story revolves around Haley trying solve the crime.
  • At one point Hayley thinks that the crime could have happened when a fight broke out because “someone was drunk or high or something.”
  • Hayley and Ernest get into a fight over a drill. They, “went tussling over the sand like a deranged parody of a teenage beach movie…I twisted my body to keep his pelvis away; the last thing I wanted was to feel Ernest’s groin pressed against mine.” Hayley then bites Ernest, who lets go of her.
  • Ernest and Hayley are scuba diving when they see a fishing boat trying to illegally catch a turtle. While Ernest is trying to cut the net to free the turtle, someone shoots at him. “Fragments of shot pelted through the froth. A red cloud tinted the water . . .His other arm dangled limp at his side, a ribbon of red streaming out from a spot a few inches below his shoulder.”
  • Hayley talks about covering stories about “near-fatal bar stabbings” and “drunk-driving accidents.” She said her father’s philosophy was that “if I saw the stupid tragedies that people got into with drugs and alcohol abuse, I’d be smart enough to avoid them.”
  • A woman describes how Tyler was killed. “I can hear Snake telling Gill how he just killed some kid down at the cabin…he just wanted to beat him up, teach him a lesson, and now the kid’s dead, and he needs to get rid of the body before the cops find out.”
  • An illegal exchange was taking place when two people accidently walk in. Snake is shot before he can kill anyone. “There on the flagstones beside the pickup truck, lay the drug dealer Snake. He was face-up on the ground and a dark stain spread over his chest. A handgun lay on the ground beside his outstretched arm as though it had been flung from his grasp as he fell.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Part of the story revolves around Hayley’s emotional issues because her mother was a drunken party girl and she, “couldn’t wait to get back to the party scene once I was born.”
  • When Hayley talks to two boys who saw the scene of the crime, the boys tell her, “we were kinda drinking.”
  • Tyler Dervish wanted to be part of the popular crowd, so he decided to sell drugs. One of the cops asks if Tyler sold, “E? Oxy? Coke? Weed?”
  • Hayley talks about being in a band with a couple of friends. The band fell apart when her friends, “discovered the joys of getting trashed after our gigs on vodka and party drugs.”
  • A fisherman said his grandfather, “made more money running rum. Prohibition times, it was.” He then goes on to explain how his grandfather got away with selling liquor during that time period.
  • While on a boat, Hayley thinks, “the wrong wave and it would throw us at the rockface, like a drunk smashing a beer bottle against the wall in a bar fight.”
  • Hayley goes to a bar to meet a young cop and his friend. The guys have a pitcher of beer and Hayley has a mixed drink. When one of the guys starts flirting with her, she flirts back. “The alcohol had apparently cut off my rational mind from the instinctual part of my brain.”
  • Hayley’s friend says, “I need a joint.” Hayley replies, “You need to get off that shit.” Hayley notices this friend has a mark on her arm that could be from a drug needle.
  • When going to the bad side of town, Hayley sees, “used condoms lay in the dirt beneath them. There were probably needles in there, too, but I didn’t stop to check.”

Language

  • As Hayley is trying to get information from a young cop she gives him a smile like, “Hey, I get it, my editor’s just as hard-ass as your partner.”
  • An angry fisherman tells Hayley, “You write this in your goddamn newspaper.” Later on in the story, the same fisherman uses the word “goddamn” again.
  • After getting drunk and flirting with Trevor, Hayley thinks, “Why did I have to go and make an ass of myself last night?”
  • When two boys found the crime scene they were scared “shitless.”
  • A woman calls her boyfriend a “bastard.”
  • When a fisherman tells someone that a turtle shouldn’t be taken out of the ocean, the man replies, “God, another fucking tree-hugger.”
  • Snake tells someone, “You heard him lady. Get the fuck inside!”
  • Profanity is used throughout the book, occasionally in Hayley’s thoughts, but mostly when the characters are in a stressful situation. The profanity includes holy shit, hell, shit, bullshit, goddamn, and bastard.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

No True Echo

In a strange twist of events that he doesn’t understand, Eddie relives the same day over and over. The first time Eddie lived through the day, his mother died when he was an infant and his only plan was to spend his school break climbing trees with his best friend and trying to find a way to talk to the new girl. As Eddie continues to relive the same day, he is also attempting to figure out what is causing the strange occurrence, why the new girl keeps asking about his dead mother, and if there is a way he can change the day’s events.

As Eddie navigates his unexpected time-travel, Eddie tries to figure out who he can trust. And in the end, he must decide if telling the truth is the right thing to do, even if it means losing someone he loves.

No True Echo weaves a gripping story that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. The story revolves around Eddie (and others) being shot which adds suspense and intrigue. The shooting scenes are described with little detail which allows the reader to imagine as much or as little as they like.

However, what really drives the story is the characters. The story is told from Eddie’s point of view as well as a police officer’s point of view which adds depth to the storyline. The adults are not portrayed as perfect, but with problems of their own. Eddie’s best friend Angus adds humor. The new girl Scarlett adds suspense and a bit of romance. The interactions between the characters are realistic and emotional. In the end, the story shows that the connections people make are what really matter in life.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Eddie is shot several times, but it is not described in detail. The first time Eddie is shot, he jumps in front of a girl to protect her. “All I knew was the agony of the bullet ripping into my chest. And the shock. And the fear.”
  • Another time Eddie is shot, he “shut my eyes in agony as the bullet tore through my body, but the pain vanished as though it had never been there.” Later when discussing the shooting, he is told that “he (the shooter) knew that the timeline would be destroyed anyways, so I’m not sure that counts (as murder). He also knew I would save you.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Eddie’s mom has a “large glass of wine” with dinner.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • In this time period, people can time travel by going back into their younger bodies. At one point in the story, Eddie travels into his infant body so he can watch his mother’s death in order to determine if her car accident was an accident or a murder.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Watched

Jesse’s life has been destroyed by a man he has never met. He doesn’t know what this man looks like, or what his name is. He only knows that his screen name is King. King makes a living blackmailing people, mostly kids, into committing sexual acts on camera. Jesse is one of those kids. And every time he tries to escape, the noose gets tighter.

Miranda used to work for King, until the guilt became so great that she defied his orders. Not one to take no for an answer, King has devoted himself to ruining Miranda’s life. King has posted nude pictures of Miranda all over the web and had her mom attacked. The horrors keep coming and coming, and Miranda believes taking her life is the only way of escape.

Both Jesse and Miranda are helpless in King’s net—until they meet each other. Together, they might have a shot of taking King down. But what will be the cost?

Watched is a well-written book with constant suspense. Written to educate on the dangers of virtual blackmail and cyberbullying, this book does not shy away from the sexual aspects of pornography, pedophilia, and the children that supply such people with their perverse desires. While Watched explores an important aspect of our world, this book is not suitable for anyone under the age of eighteen.

The Prologue starts with, “You don’t know what it feels like to hold a life in your hands, but I do. There’s nothing like it. Better than sex, it’s a rush that leaves you panting, wanting more . . . Your life will never be the same—you might die or you might keep living, but your life will always be mine.” This is a book with extreme adult content and should be read with caution.

Sexual Content

  • Jesse sees a fire and talks about pyromaniacs. “Some guys think fire is sexy . . . these guys are hanging out, staring, licking their lips, one hand shoved deep down the front pocket of their jeans.”
  • “Firemen talk like that, like fires are women, like conquering a fire is better than sex.”
  • There is mention of the sexual acts Jesse is forced to perform. “No one would ever believe what he was doing at three in the morning . . . she tried hard not to notice what was actually happening, what the Tokyo perv was making the kid so . . . ”
  • King asks Jesse to recruit a younger kid. He tells Jesse, “You’re getting too old for most of my clients. Unless they see you with other boys. Younger boys . . . I want you to have some fun. Like your uncle does with you.”
  • It is mentioned several times that Jesse has been sexually abused by his uncle. After a while Jesse realizes that “my uncle is still standing there, truly believing I wanted everything that’s happened to me these past few years, that I asked for, that I even . . . liked it.”
  • Miranda tells Jesse that King had been, “posting naked pictures of [her] all over [her] school’s website, sending them to [her] dad’s boss.”
  • King posted Miranda’s mother’s picture and information online, “along with a rape fantasy. Five thousand dollars to the man who made it come true and posted a video of it.” Because of this, she is attacked twice.
  • Jesse thinks about Miranda. “I want to be with her in real life, see her face, touch her hair, touch every part of her.”
  • Jesse’s uncle said he was taking him camping, but they “ended up in a slimy motel . . . he brought with him a bunch of kinky stuff . . . and the things he did to me that night . . . Even now, three years later, my insides drop out of me just thinking of it. Couldn’t walk after. Spent the next day on the floor of the bathroom, naked except for a blanket.”
  • Jesse’s uncle’s, “hand slides down my shoulder . . . he tugs on my belt with his other hand . . . he leans in, his gaze on my lips, hungry for more than dinner.”
  • Jesse thinks about what his uncle wants. “I realize what he feels for me goes far beyond sex, more like obsession.”
  • Miranda and Jesse kiss. “Our lips touch. The kiss is better than anything I could ever dream of.”

Violence

  • Jesse, the protagonist, sets small fires for fun. Setting fires gives him a sense of control.
  • Jesse remembers a video they watched in health class about cutting. “She said seeing her blood was like wrapping a chain around her heart, anchoring her to the real world . . . only by tearing into her own flesh, allowing the blood to escape, could she release the pain building up inside.”
  • King has someone with a knife follow Jesse’s little sister, in order to get Jesse to obey him. Jesse realizes, “He really will kill Janey or Mom, just to prove to me that he can—and he’ll get away with it.”
  • Jesse steals a “snub-nosed .38 revolver” from his uncle’s toolbox because “It’s time for me to man up . . . What other choice do I have?”
  • Miranda writes a suicide note, planning to kill herself before her next birthday. She had previously tried to kill herself twice. “They’d said she was lucky they found her before all the pills had gotten into her system. Miranda had decided adults had a warped idea of what lucky really was . . . That night was the second time she’d tried to end it all. A razor blade that time.”
  • Miranda talks about revenge porn, where “guys vote on the hottest or cruelest or most disgusting . . . the baby porn and the torture porn.”
  • Miranda wishes Jesse will kill King. “I even fantasized that I could make you kill him. For me. How sick and twisted is that . . . I’m a pathetic, selfish bitch.”
  • Jesse realizes that his uncle is an arsonist.
  • Jesse thinks about his uncle. “Punching him, pummeling him, pounding him into the ground would be so much easier and feel so much better. I fantasize about it, but I can never do it.”
  • When Jesse decides to confront his uncle, he thinks about needing, “tinder. Because if this goes wrong, I’ll need to get rid of the evidence.”
  • When Jesse confronts his uncle he, “slide[s] the snub-nosed revolver from my back pocket and jam[s] it under his chin, forcing his head back . . . I jam the gun up harder, and he makes a little squeaking noise like a rat with its leg caught in a trap. Tough choice. Chew your leg off or wait to see who comes to get you . . . [I] smash my foot into his face so hard his nose gushes blood.”
  • Jesse threatens to start fire to the house with his uncle locked in the garage.
  • A man with a knife tries to kidnap Jesse. “He takes my hand and twists it back hard . . . the pain is excruciating, lightning blazing up my arm.”
  • The remains of Jesse’s father are found buried on his uncle’s property. At first, Jesse is wanted for murder, but later his uncle confesses to having killed him.
  • Jesse’s uncle breaks into Miranda’s apartment, kidnapping Miranda and her mother. “‘Please,’ her mother begged, her words choked with blood from her split lip and broken nose . . . He jabbed the gun hard into Miranda’s temple, forced her forward.”
  • Miranda creates a suicide countdown to get publicity for her plan to take down King.
  • King kills a bystander who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. “King shot him in the chest. The sound echoed like thunder as she stood, stunned, the acrid scent of gunpowder mixed with blood filling her nostrils.”
  • Miranda gets ahold of King’s weapon and considers killing him with it. Jesse talks her out of it.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Jesse sees some drug dealers making sales and wonders why they even bother to hide, since, “no one seems to care.”
  • Jesse thinks about a girl who used to cut herself, then was locked up and fed drugs that, “turned her into a zombie telling other kids don’t worry; be happy.”
  • The first time Jesse built a fire he, “soaked it in a bottle of . . . booze—Old Grand-Dad, it tasted awful, burned all the way down . . . the booze must have been high test because the whole thing went up.”
  • When Miranda asks him if he is okay to drive, Jesse says, “I’m not drunk. Not high.”

Language

  • Profanity such as hell, shit, and damn is used frequently.
  • God, bastard, and bitch are used a few times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Jesse describes the fires he sets, he says, “But I know them. I am their God, their Creator, their Master.”
  • Jesse and Miranda discuss the morality of telling the truth versus hiding behind a lie. If they continue to lie, the perverts will, “keep doing this to other kids. They’ll think it’s okay to ruin our lives, to hurt us like we’re nothing more than dirt on the bottom of their shoes.”

by Morgan Lynn

We Were Liars

Cadence is a Sinclair. A member of the beautiful, blonde American dynasty. No one is depressed, addicted, or a criminal. No one is greedy or drunk. They are the perfect family that spends every summer on their private island, Beechwood. The oldest of the Sinclair grandchildren and their best friend call themselves the liars. The four of them—Cadence, Mirren, Johnny, and Gat—are inseparable every summer. They share secrets, go on forbidden adventures, and uncover mysteries of their family as they grow up together in a world of money and privilege.

But the Sinclairs aren’t perfect. The aunts always fight over their inheritance and drink away their sorrows. Grandad is beginning to lose his mind and can’t cope with the loss of his beloved wife. Cadence herself can’t remember summer fifteen after she wakes up in a hospital with traumatic brain injuries and burns.

Cadence struggles to retain her memories as she returns to the island after two years of absence. Everything seems the same as it always was, but the closer she looks, the more she realizes how much the world she once knew has changed. As Cadence tries to put together the pieces of memories that led to her accident, she discovers that the secrets of summer fifteen might have been better left as they were.

We Were Liars is a gripping novel that will leave readers restless to uncover the truth. Suspenseful and surprising, this book is well worth the read as it is fast-paced and entertaining. The characters are realistic and ask questions that teen readers may also be pondering such as the existence of trust between family members and the necessity of faith. However, the intertwining timelines may be difficult to grasp for some readers, and the story contains some mature content that is not appropriate for younger audiences.

Lockhart’s writing style is also unique and takes some getting used to. The story is told from Cadence’s point of view, and the descriptions make it sometimes difficult to differentiate between imagination and reality.  Careful reading is necessary to determine if the event actually happened to Cadence or if it is a figurative description of her inner emotions.

 Sexual Content

  • Cadence’s parents get divorced because “my father ran off with some woman he loved more than us.”
  • Aunt Carrie’s husband left her with four children to care for, including a baby.
  • When the liars are having a conversation, Johnny asks, “Can’t we talk about sex or murder?”
  • Gat and Cadence fall in love. There are several kissing scenes throughout the novel, but they are never long and their relationship never goes beyond making out. “He touched my face. Ran his hands down my neck and along my collarbone. . . Our kiss was electric and soft, and tentative, and certain, terrifying and exactly right.”
  • Cadence and Gat are anxious to be near one another and often make physical contact. “He touched me whenever he could . . . As long as no one was looking, I ran my finger along Gat’s cheekbones, down his back.”
  • Mirren mentions her boyfriend during a conversation with Cadence. “I have a boyfriend named Drake Loggerhead. . . We have had sexual intercourse quite a number of times, but always with protection.” Their relationship is never described again and later in the story, it is revealed that Mirren made him up.
  • When Cadence and Gat are mad at each other, she longs to be with him. “I reach out and touch him. Just the feel of his forearm beneath the thin cotton of his shirt makes me ache to kiss him again.”

Violence

  • Cadence often describes events in her life figuratively and descriptively. When her father leaves, she says, “Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed.”
  • When Cadence discovers that Gat has a girlfriend, she punches the shower wall in anger.
  • Cadence often describes her emotional pain as blood dripping from her body. Although she is not actually bleeding, this description conveys the pain she feels inside. No one notices except her beloved Gat. “When blood dripped on my bare feet and poured over the book I was reading, he was kind. He wrapped my wrists in soft white gauze.” Her pain is described in this manner multiple times.
  • As a result of her brain injuries, Cadence feels immense pain that is sometimes depicted in disturbing detail. Her pain is often compared to violent situations in an attempt to help the reader understand what she is going She describes her pain as “a truck is rolling over the bones of my neck and head. The vertebrae break, the brains pop and ooze.” In another instance, a witch, “swings the statue again and hits above my right ear, smashing my skull. Blow after blow she lands, until tiny flakes of bone litter the bed and mingle with chipped bits of her once-beautiful goose.”
  • Aunt Carrie smacks Aunt Bess across the mouth as they are arguing over their inheritance.
  • The liars steal some of Grandma Tipper’s favorite expensive collectibles and smash them to pieces on a dock. They then wipe them away into the sea.
  • Near the conclusion of the novel, the liars decide to burn the Clairmont house (the largest house on the island) down to the ground as they are angry with all that it represents. The burning does not go as planned and several characters die in the fire. Their deaths are not described.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Cadence is anxious, she “drank wine I snuck from the Clairmont pantry. I spun violently into the sky, raging and banging stars from their moorings, swirling and vomiting.” She and the other liars sneak wine from pantries and other places several times throughout the novel.
  • Cadence takes medication to help her deal with pain. If she does not take the prescription medication, she suffers pain so unbearable that it makes her question her will to live. Although the drugs are habit-forming, she claims that she does not have an addiction.
  • The aunts often discuss wine and have chats during cocktail hour. They are also frequently drunk.
  • Cadence’s younger cousins often ask if she is a drug addict. One of them adapts the motto, “Drugs are not your friend.”
  • When making a joke to her aunts, Cadence says, “Nothing wrong with me that a Percocet and a couple slugs of vodka doesn’t cure.”
  • Cadence says that she is “high on Percocet half the time.”

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently throughout the novel. Profanity includes: damn, God, fucking, good lord, ass, hell, stupid-ass, asshole, assface, bullshit, fuck, shitty, fuckload, and fucked up. The cursing intensifies when the liars get older.
  • Shut up is used several times in a conversation.
  • When attempting to recall her incident, Cadence says, “I suppose that I was raped or attacked or some godforsaken something.”
  • Gat discusses some of Grandad’s negative tendencies and behaviors with the liars. “The point is, Harris doesn’t like Ed’s color. He’s a racist bastard, and so was Tipper.”

Supernatural

  • When thinking about her feelings towards Gat, Cadence says, “I am not talking about fate. I don’t believe in destiny or soul mates or the supernatural.”
  • Cuddletown, one of the cottages on the island, is haunted, as the ghosts of the deceased liars remain there to help Cadence remember the events of summer fifteen.
  • Bonnie has an obsession with vampires and insists that they are real.

Spiritual

  • Cadence and Gat have a conversation on whether or not God exists. When Gat asks, “Do you believe in God?” Cadence responds, “Halfway . . . When things are bad, I’ll pray or imagine someone watching over me, listening . . . But the rest of the time, I’m trudging along in my everyday life.” After listening, Gat asserts that he no longer believes in God after witnessing the horrors of poverty in India.
  • One of Cadence’s aunts says, “Thank God you’re here.”
  • The liars think setting the fire on Clairmont is a semi-spiritual act. They see it as a form of purification as they cleanse their family of its past. Gat refers to the burning as “playing God.”

by Morgan Filgas

No Good Deed

Ellie Hudson is on her way to the Olympics. All she has to do to qualify is participate in a competition in Nottingham. However, a gold medal quickly becomes the least of her concerns when she gets lost below Nottingham Castle and ends up in medieval England.

Frantic to get home (and wondering if she’s suffering from a psychotic breakdown), Ellie is found by a knight in shining armor—literally. Her passport, iPhone, and modern education aren’t exactly useful for surviving in medieval England. Her archery skills on the other hand…might just help her face down a tyrant, join a band of outlaws, and help feed a kindly group of nuns. While the final resolution leaves something to be desired, this is a delightful tale written in a light and enjoyable tone that will leave readers waiting breathlessly for Connolly’s next tale.

Sexual Content

  • When Eleanor makes a comment about James’s body, her friend says, “If you’re defrocking a cleric, little Robbin, you’re a bigger sinner than any of us.”
  • When James puts his arm around Eleanor, she gets distracted. “It was distracting when I’d been trying to keep my thoughts closer to the center of the friend zone.”
  • While at a party, a man doesn’t recognize Eleanor and she assumes it “because his eyes never got any higher than my chest.”
  • While at a party, Eleanor is “checked out” by a man.

Violence

  • Soldiers try to capture Eleanor. As she runs, they shoot arrows at her. When she is caught, she notices a head on a spike, which causes her to jump into the river around the castle to avoid the same fate.
  • When soldiers capture Eleanor, “A soldier’s big hand shoved me between the shoulder blades.”  Eleanor then describes her condition. “My body ached, I had new bruises on my arms and shoulders, my wrists were rubbed raw.”
  • Eleanor is sentenced for her crimes. Someone explains that the sentence, “means the accused is weighed and lowered into a pond, where God will judge his innocence.”
  • In order to prove her innocence, Eleanor is forced to shoot a turnip off of her friend’s head.  The sheriff tells a soldier, “cut that archer’s throat if she deliberately misses again.” Eleanor is able to hit the turnip and save herself.
  • When Eleanor goes into the forest to get an arrow, two men taunt her. One of the men tries to hit her with his staff. “Gigantor gave a pissed-off kind of roar—I barely managed to duck as the big man swung his staff at my head. The unyielding wood came close enough to part my hair.”  When Eleanor ends up in the river, the men think she is dead. She then gets the upper hand and is able to defeat them. No one is seriously injured.
  • The sheriff’s soldiers go into the covenant and destroy the tables of food the nuns had prepared for the poor. They also take the nuns’ goats.  Eleanor thinks, “I hoped all three of them got head-butted in the nuts.”
  • In order to get the nuns’ goats back, Eleanor gets into a fight with two men. One of the men was hit with a rock and knocked out. The other man was hit with a quiver. “The blunt hit Will in the ass, which had to hurt like hell.”
  • Trying to save the nuns’ goats, Eleanor gets stopped by a Lord. When he threatens to take the goats, Eleanor shoots his horse and the Lord falls to the ground. Eleanor ties him up.
  • The sheriff was planning on chopping off a twelve-year-old’s head for treason, until Eleanor intervenes.
  • Eleanor shoots a would-be assassin and saves a life.
  • The prince makes a doctor drink from a glass vial. The vial most likely contained poison.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Mead is mentioned.

Language

  • Profanity is scattered often throughout the book. Most of the profanity is in the main character’s thoughts and speech. Profanity includes “asshole, hell, dammit, badass, pissed, jackass, shit, son of a bitch.”
  • When soldiers try to capture Eleanor, she “ran like hell.” As she begins to run, she goes through horse manure but figures she was already “in deep shit” so a little more wouldn’t hurt.
  • When the soldiers falsely accuse Eleanor, she thinks, “Those lying bastards.”
  • When Eleanor tricks the sheriff, she thinks, “Holy Crap. That actually worked.”
  • After getting ill, Eleanor wakes up in a convent, but thinks she is in a hospital. “Then I moved my head. God, I must have one hell of a concussion, because I’d had the weirdest dream about church bells and ministering angels.”
  • Several times Eleanor calls someone a “jackass.”
  • When Eleanor hits a man who attacked her she thinks, “Payback’s a bitch.”
  • Eleanor describes the chief forester as having a “don’t-dick-with-me-attitude.” Later she tells him, “your boss is a rat bastard.”
  • One of the characters says his name is Fitzhugh. Then he explains that “The ‘Fitz’ is the Norman way of saying ‘bastard of.’”
  • When Eleanor attacks a Lord, he yells, “Give me your name, you treacherous cur, so I can dig up the graves of your mother and father and piss on their bones.”

Supernatural

  • Eleanor goes through a dark tunnel and when she comes out the other side, she is suddenly in the fifteenth century. No explanation is given for how she mysteriously traveled back in time.

Spiritual Content

  • After getting out of a difficult situation, Eleanor thinks, “I’d asked the universe for a lot today, but I sent up one more prayer: Please don’t let the place be too far.”

 

Bet Your Life

Jess Tennant wants to stay out of trouble, but when Seb is found on the side of the road with serious injuries, she is pulled into the drama. At the request of Seb’s younger sister, Jess tries to find out what really happened to Seb, but the more Jess discovers, the more complicated Seb’s story becomes.

In Bet Your Life Jess enters the party world of the popular rich kids. However, she soon learns that the party scene isn’t glamourous, but dangerous. As Jess learns about Seb, she finds that most people think he had it coming and nobody wants the truth to come out.

Bet Your Life explores the topic of rape. Although the rapes are not described in detail, bits and pieces of the victims’ experiences are uncovered. One of the girls talks about how the police would not believe her story because she could not remember exactly what happened. Even though Jess knows that Seb was drugging girls, she decides not to tell anyone with the hope that being beat up and left for dead will cause him to change his ways.

Unlike the first book in the series, How to Fall, the second installment of the Jess tenant series contains more sexual content and the kissing scenes are described in more detail. The sexual content may be disturbing for some teens.

Sexual Content

  • Ryan unexpectedly kisses Jessie on the mouth. “My lips were parted and it was startlingly intimate, even if it was quick.”
  • Jess watches Will and thinks, “I wanted to run my hand across his broad shoulders and down his back. I wanted him to turn around and press his body against mine. I wanted to remind myself what it was like to kiss him. . .”
  • Will and Jess kiss several times.  In one scene, Will sneaks into Jess’s house and surprises her. “I slipped my arms around his neck and he stepped between my knees, closing the distance between us . . . and then we were kissing and it made the room spin as if we were on a carousel. . . he dropped kisses down my neck. He trailed his fingers along my spine and I felt it in the pit of my stomach . . . He pulled the material off my right shoulder and leaned in to kiss my collarbone.”
  • Jess discovers that a boy was drugging girls and then having sex with them.  In one scene, a girl wakes up and is unable to move. The boy strokes her face and then she passes out.  Jess finds the boy’s cell phone which has pictures of some of the victims. “The lighting in the picture was terrible, but I could see a girl lying on her back on a rumpled bed, one arm over her face. She was topless. I was also fairly sure she was unconscious.”
  • While looking at a boy’s cell phone, Jess discovers pictures of him and his step-mom. “. . . in the picture he’d taken of the two of them kissing. And he was pretty obviously naked too, so it didn’t take a genius to work out what was going on.”
  • A girl went to the police to report that she had been raped, but the officer said, “no jury would ever take me seriously, especially when I don’t’ know where it happened or even what happened.”
  • A boy tells Jess that he was drugging girls so he could have sex with them. When she said it was rape, he replied, “There were no consequences for her. She didn’t even know it had happened, and neither did anyone else. I wore a condom. I was respectful. I didn’t take pictures or video. I didn’t make fun of them.”

Violence

  • At a party, Ryan and Will fight, presumably over Jess. The fight takes place over several pages and neither is hurt badly. When Ryan is hit in the mouth and begins to bleed, the fight ends.
  • Someone drugs Jess, locks her in a pool house, and then sets it on fire. She is able to escape without being seriously injured. However, the person who set the fire ends up dying.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Jess goes to a party where alcohol is served.

Language

  • When talking about a boy who was beat up, someone said, “There’s no justice in half killing someone because they’re a dick.”
  • Profanity is used rarely. Profanity used includes damn and ass.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Hide and Seek

Unapologetically curious—that’s Jess Tennant. So when her classmate, Gilly Poynter disappears, Jess decides she must investigate. With only Gilly’s diary as a clue, Jess finds out that Gilly’s home life wasn’t happy, and her social life was a mess. As Jess tries to find out what happened to Gilly, she discovers that the police and her boyfriend want her to keep clear of the case. But Jess is convinced that she can help find Gilly and unlock the secrets that want to remain hidden.

Although most of Hide and Seek revolves around the mystery of Gilly’s disappearance, it also delves into the complicated relationships between people. Jess’s boyfriend is back in town for Christmas break, but instead of spending time together, they are arguing. To add conflict to the story, Jess’s dad is in town trying to win over his ex-wife, which Jess is hoping doesn’t happen.

Jess Tennant is a charismatic character who has the reader running with her from the start. Hide and Seek contains mystery, suspense, and complicated relationships that keep the reader guessing. The characters in the book are complicated and real.

For teens who like mysteries, Hide and Seek tells a good story without adding graphic images of sex and violence. Instead, the author creates interesting characters that drive the action and keep the reader interesting.

Sexual Content

  • One of the characters is seen kissing his girlfriend. “She grabbed hold of him and kissed him back, pressing her body into his. One of his hands slid down her back, his fingers spreading, digging into her flesh.”
  • Jess’s boyfriend’s father lectures her on, “taking the appropriate precautions.” Jess is upset by the talk because, “it wasn’t even relevant, currently. We hadn’t. We hadn’t even talked about it.”
  • Jess kisses her boyfriend several times throughout the book. In one scene, “his mouth tasted of cinnamon and his hand was warm on my neck. His thumb stroked the skin just under my ear and I shut my eyes, lost in him.” Another time, Jess “found myself pinned against the wall. He kissed me, hard, and my heart took off, fluttering in my chest like a hummingbird.”
  • In her diary, Gilly described having sex with someone in the disabled toilet near the staff room. “We ended up on the floor . . . And it felt amazing. . . But the main thing is that it felt RIGHT.” Later it is revealed that the person Gilly had sex with was her history teacher.
  • When Jess was trying to figure out who Gill had sex with, another character goes through a list of possible people. Jess “thought of quite a large group she’d left out. The girls.”
  • Nessa talks about how her parents think she is a lesbian, but she hasn’t made up her mind yet. Later someone defends Nessa asking, “Why do you care if Nessa likes girls anyway? Why does it threaten you?”
  • The teacher kisses Gilly twice. He “turned his head and kissed her, his tongue probing her mouth.”

Violence

  • At a party, a group of girls confronts Gilly. One girl grabbed onto Gilly’s wrist. Then Gilly grips her glass so hard that it breaks. “Liquid started to seep between her fingers—wine mixed with oozing red blood that trickled down the backs of her hands and slid along her forearm, branching out as if her veins were suddenly, shockingly, on the outside of her body.”
  • Jess sees blood in Gilly’s trash can and assumes it was cutting. “I knew plenty of girls who did it, slashing their skin to ribbons in neat lines down arms or thighs, because physical pain was better than the emotional kind.”
  • A girl attacks another character. “Nessa grabbed him by the throat . . . Max was choking, his face red, and Nessa let go . . . I couldn’t tell if it was planned or not, but her knee collided with his nose. He jerked his head back, and a spray of blood splattered the fake snow . . .”
  • Two of the boys fight and the description lasts for several pages. “It wasn’t a pretty fight. It was punching and shoving and gouging eyes. It was a kick to the thigh that wrung a string of curses from Will.” Will’s father shows up and breaks up the fight.
  • Gilly and the teacher tie Jess to a latter and then lock her in a house that is about to be crushed by incoming waves.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Jess goes to a party where alcohol is served.
  • Jess goes to talk to Gilly’s mother who was acting strange. “I didn’t know if she’d been drinking or if she’d taken something, but there was no way she was sober.” Later Jess discovers that Gilly’s mother had been drugged.
  • Jess used to live in North London, “where you could buy pretty much any drug you wanted just outside the train station.”
  • One of the character’s wife is ill. He tells Jess that she, “just stays in her room, popping pills and waiting for the end.”
  • Gilly wrote in her diary that she wished she were like everyone else, “getting drunk, having fun.”

Language

  • Hell is used several times. For example, when Jess thinks someone is spying on her, she asks, “What the hell are you doing?”
  • When Will’s father breaks up a fight, he asks, “Do you want to tell me why you and this idiot are hitting seven kinds of crap out of each other?”
  • When Jess is asking too many questions, she is told to “piss off.”
  • One of the characters calls someone a “twisted little dyke” and later someone refers to another character as a “dick.”
  • In her diary, Gilly uses, “Oh my God, OMFG, and F*****G.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

How to Fall

Fraya is gone, but Jess is determined to discover how Fraya ended up dead at the bottom of a cliff. However, everyone just wants Jess to stop asking questions. After all, Fraya is dead and nothing will bring her back. Despite the obstacles, Jess is determined to follow the leads and find out if Fraya’s death was a suicide, like some believed, or if there was something more sinister at play.

How to Fall is an action-packed story that will have the reader on the edge of their seat to find out what will happen next. As Jess tries to unravel the secrets to Fraya’s death, she meets Ryan and Will. Both boys hate each other, and both want Jess as their own. This budding love triangle is expertly weaved into the story without taking over the mystery of Fraya.

Teens will relate to Jess because she is a likable character who isn’t afraid of the popular mean girls or being an outcast. Jess’s confidence in herself is refreshing in a character. Even though Jess is sure of herself, she doesn’t come across as smug. The romance and language are teen-appropriate and, although there is profanity, it is used sporadically. How to Fall is an enjoyable book that shows how bullying can quickly spiral out of control.

Sexual Content

  • Jess is going out with a boy, so she can find out what he knows about her cousin’s death.  Her friend tells her to wear “Skanky jeans” so the boy talks to her.
  • Someone started gossiping about Jess’s cousin Freya and telling people she was a “slut.”
  • At the end of the story, a boy kisses Jess. “I had spent days imagining what it would be like to kiss him, but I hadn’t even come close. He kissed me like it was the start of something, or the end, and I couldn’t work out which it was, but I didn’t want to ask.”
  • Someone tells Jess that a boy likes “dirty girls.”
  • Jess goes to a party with a boy and he kisses her. “He pressed his body against mine, and with the kiosk behind me I had nowhere to go, but I didn’t have enough air to complain.”
  • A policeman gives Jess a ride home. Before she can get out of the car, he grabs her arm.  “Slowly, deliberately, he stroked my wrist with his thumb, trialing it across the veins where the blood ran close to the surface. . .” He then wipes off her smeared lipstick. “Before I could stop him he drew his thumb along my lower lip, staring into my eyes the whole time.”

Violence

  • Natasha is upset that Jess has been spending time with Natasha’s ex-boyfriend. They argue and Natasha grabs Jess. “Before I could move, Natasha shot out a hand and grabbed a handful of my hair.” Natasha then tries to throw her over a cliff, but is stopped.
  • A character retells a story about when he and a friend were being bullied. Eventually, his friend was attacked and broke an arm.
  • A group of girls was bullying Freya. One day at school, “a whole group of girls cornered Freya and held her down so Natasha could cut off her ponytail.”
  • The story begins with Fraya running and falling off a cliff. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers that Fraya had been bullied, which eventually lead to her death.
  • Someone tries to kill Jess by throwing her off a cliff.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A character retells a story about a boy that was “smoking dope.”

Language

  • Jess and another girl were arguing. The other girl tells Jess, “Don’t think you can do better than me at being a bitch.” Several times throughout the book someone is called a bitch.
  • Jess’s friend surprises her. Jess says, “God, Will, you scared the crap out of me.”
  • Someone tells Jess, “Don’t tell anyone, but I am shit-scared of heights.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dreamland

Odea can walk people’s dreams. But walking in other’s dreams can be dangerous. Her mother has taught her the rules—never interfere, never be seen, and never walk the same person’s dream more than once.

Odea doesn’t understand her mother’s rules, or why her mother covers every mirror. Odea doesn’t understand her mother’s need to surround herself with clocks. And she definitely doesn’t understand why her mother keeps them on the move. Even though she doesn’t understand her mother, Odea has never questioned her mother’s reasons.

Until Connor moves next door. In the effort to get to know Connor, Odea begins walking his dreams.  But then, a series of events occur that makes Odea question everything. Her mother disappears, a mysterious boy begins to follow Odea in the dream world, and monsters begin chasing her. Odea isn’t sure who she can trust in the dream world or her own.

Dreamland pulls the reader into Odea’s story right from the start. Odea and her friend Gollum are both loveable outcasts, whose interactions are entertaining and endearing. However, it’s not just the characterization in Dreamland that pulls the reader into the story. Anderson creates a story that is believable, interesting, and full of suspense. There are multiple plots that run throughout the book; however, they are weaved together perfectly to make the story both easy to read and entertaining. In the end, the mystery of Odea’s mother is solved in a satisfying manner. Dreamland will captivate teenagers without the use of descriptive violence or sex scenes.

Sexual Content

  • The narrator thinks about a rumor in which a girl’s, “sole form of exercise came from. . . showing off various parts of her anatomy to different horny senior boys beneath the bleachers . . .”
  • Odea comes upon a boy who is swimming naked in a pond. “Then it hit her: he was swimming naked. He was naked right then. Which meant she was having a conversation with a naked boy.”
  • Odea dreams about a boy and thinks about the fact that she has never kissed anyone, but would like to. Then Odea’s enemy appears in the dream, “Her hair shimmered in the sun and her boobs floated like overturned cups on the water. Then they were kissing . . . She could hear the suction sound of their lips and the lapping of their tongues and the whisper of his fingers on her back and shoulders.”
  • Odea wonders if her, “real father was horrible, a criminal or a drug addict or someone who trafficked kiddie port.”
  • Conner and Odea kiss. “They moved together, finding each other through the soft pressure of their tongues. She brought her hands to his head; she leaned into him; she wanted to taste him and become him and be carried in these seconds forever.”

Violence

  • Odea throws some picture frames at her mother. “Her mom screamed. The glass shattered. The frame thudded to the ground. ‘God, Dea.’ Now her mom was shouting. ‘Jesus. You nearly gave me a heart attack.’” After a brief argument, Odea’s mom slaps her.
  • Part of the story revolves around the death of Connor’s mother and brother. The kids at school think that “He killed his mom. His brother, too. Beat his mom’s brains out, then shot his brother in the head the day before Christmas. He was, like, seven.”
  • Odea goes into Connor’s dream, where he sees men kill his mother and one-year-old brother.  Connor also tells Odea about the night they died. “The first shot didn’t kill her. It wasn’t meant to kill her . . . I heard my mom say please and no. I was so scared I couldn’t move. Couldn’t even hide . . . Then I heard . . . a crack. We found out later that it was her skull. He took the lamp from the bedside table and just hammered her head in . . . They shot Jake in the middle of the forehead. Execution-style.”
  • In a dream, two men “with a face like a hole and long, black fingers,” chase Odea. “As the men reached out their liquid fingers to her and unhinged their jaws, roaring, as if to swallow her whole—as she felt their wet breath on her throat and neck, their eager, tasting tongues, black as rot—a narrow opening was revealed . . .” Odea is able to escape.
  • After Odea’s mom disappears, the police begin following her. Odea is driving, trying to lose the police, when the faceless men from the dream world appear. “She screamed and wrenched the wheel to the right. The car jumped the gutter and plunged into the field. . . She bit down on her tongue and tasted blood. Then the black arms of the tree reached out to embrace her and she moved into the dark.”
  • A reporter tells Connor and Odea a story. “When I was three, my mom was killed by an intruder. Shot three times, point-blank range. Nearly took her head off . . . She worked as a stripper to keep the lights on and everybody knew it. . . Some junkie busted in, shot my mom, snatched the money, and ran.”
  • While in the psychiatric hospital, Odea sees, “a quick glimpse of naked skin—a man and woman together.” Then as she is walking with Connor, she thinks, “of the vision she’d seen in the gap between the curtains and wondered what it would be like. With Connor.”
  • While in a motel room, Odea “heard a headboard knocking against the wall and the sound of a woman moaning. She could feel her whole body blush.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • After two mean girls confront Odea, they leave, “asses bumping right to left, the smell of booze trailing them.”
  • Odea is put in a psychiatric hospital because the police think Odea tried to commit suicide. While there, the nurses give her medication.
  • Odea remembers a time when her mom let her drink eggnog that had too much rum it.

Language

  • Profanity is used infrequently throughout the book. “Fuck” is used several times. Other profanity includes: ass, shit, and damn it.
  • Bitch is used once.
  • Gollum calls someone “an evil hell spawn.”
  • The narrator calls her cat an “asshole.”
  • Odea calls her car a “piece of shit.”
  • Odea remembers a time when a boy called her mom “a whore. She gives it out in the parking lot of the Quick-E-Lube.”
  • When Odea asks about the death of his mother and brother, Connor said, “fuck you.”
  • In the hospital, Odea’s nurse’s name was Donna Sue. Odea thinks it, “seemed like a name she might have made up to keep her patients at ease while she was busy sticking needles in their arms and probing their asses.”

Supernatural

  • Odea can travel to other people’s dreams. “Then there was a parting, as of a curtain, and Dea felt a soft sucking pressure on her skin and suddenly she had skin again, and ribs and lungs expanding inside of them. She came out of the dark like surfacing after being underwater and she was in. She’d made it. She was in Connor’s dream.”
  • In an effort to help Connor remember the night of his mother’s death, Odea goes into Connor’s mind while he is awake.
  • Odea uses a mirror to travel to the dream world where her mother is being held captive.

Spiritual Content

  • Connor tells Odea that he doesn’t believe in God or heaven. She then thinks, “She didn’t know whether she believed in God.”

The Girl with the Wrong Name

Her memory is gone. All that is left from The Night in Question is the scar. Because of that one night, Theo is hiding from life. She spends her summer at a café secretly filming random people. That all changes when the same boy begins coming in every day at the same time. Theo tries to remain an observer, but soon she is caught up in the boy’s story.

The boy, Andy, is desperate to find Sarah, a girl who promised to meet him at the café but never showed. Andy is convinced that something bad has happened to Sarah. Caught up in Andy’s love for the mystery girl, Theo embarks on a quest to help Andy find Sarah. However, as she encounters others she is warned to stay away from Andy. In a desperate attempt to find Sarah, Theo realizes that some people will do anything to keep their secrets hidden forever.

The Girl with the Wrong Name follows Theo’s journey. The story is told from Theo’s point of view, which adds mystery and suspense. It is clear from the beginning that Theo is not completely emotionally stable, however, this does not diminish her likeability. Theo’s concerned for Sarah’s wellbeing is real which allows the reader to also feel concern for the missing girl.

The story is fast-paced and interesting. Since the story is told from Theo’s point of view, the reader doesn’t fully understand the other character’s reactions; however, instead of being confusing, this adds to the story’s suspense. The book has several surprises which are revealed and a sweet conclusion. In the end, the book gives a clear message about the dangers of keeping secrets.

Although the story’s recommended reading age is 14+, there is mature sex that some readers are not ready for. The ending, while interesting, may be disturbing, especially to those who have not read more mature content.

Sexual Content

  • One of the characters is described as “smelling like sex.” Theo thinks, “That’s disgusting. Not to mention impossible. ‘What could sex possibly smell like?’ I’d ask. ‘Cigarettes and cheap vodka? Latex and Axe body spray? Prom corsages and shame.’ But now I swore I could actually smell it. Like sarin gas permeating the entire room. Toxic and sticky. Acrid and humid. Warm, pubescent bodies in a can.”
  • Thoe’s friend is “superglued . . . via her ass to the crotch of Mike ‘Me Like’ DeMonaco.” Later a friend explains the friend’s behavior. “We’ve all been slaves to the same social structure since at least junior high, right? Mike could never hook up with a girl like Lou because the Sharks would have given him shit. Same for Lou . . . imagine what you would have done to her if she’d ever confessed her scorching pelvic desire for a dude who endorses butt chugging.”
  • One of the characters meets a girl, falls in love with her, and has sex with her all in one day. The sex is never described. However, Theo tells the boy that the girl disappeared because, “she’s drowning so deep in embarrassment, she can barely breathe. Not because she feels like a slut, but because she’s one hundred percent certain that you think she’s a slut.”
  • Theo writes “A Declaration of Romantic Intent” for her friend to give to a boy. She playfully writes, “I really, really, really, really want to have vigorous sexual intercourse with you, preferably in the back of a smelly taxi, or perhaps in one of those pee-stained bathroom stalls in the boys’ locker room or the girl’s locker room, if you think that is hotter. I’m cool either way.”

Violence

  • When Theo confronts a woman at a party, two men grab her and take her into the restroom.  They have an argument. A girl interrupts and takes Theo outside.
  • Theo goes to a wedding and then flees. As she leaves, someone follows her so he can talk to her. As he tries to help her, “I whirl and kick him, barefoot, in the crotch. As he doubles over, I sprint down the street.”
  • Theo finds a video of her sister’s death. After her sister secretly marries, the two go into a room to have sex. When the girl is eager to consummate the marriage, the boy gets angry and yells, “Jesus. . . Have you done this before? Do not fucking lie to me. . . Are you PURE? Or are you a slut? Because if you want it like a slut, I can do that.” He then jumps on top of her and hits her until she is unconscious. As they struggled, candles are scattered and the room catches fire. The boy leaves the girl, who dies in the blaze.
  • Years later when the above boy grows up, a similar situation arises. After he marries another girl, he gets upset and wants to know “Are you pure?” He attacks the girl. Theo races in trying to stop the man. The woman had, “blood on her chest, blood on her bare stomach. She was only wearing panties and a camisole.” During the struggle, the man was killed.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Theo takes Lezapro to help her deal with stress. In one scene she thinks, “So now it’s just me and my dear frenemy Lexapro. Sometimes I just call him ‘Lex.’ He halfheartedly wards off my depression and anxiety all day, but then keeps me awake all night so I can dream up more depressing and anxious scenarios for him to ward off come dawn. It’s the neurotic circle of life!”
  • Theo goes to a club and “Douchey-but-Harmless” asks to buy her a drink. Theo asks for water. Later, he takes her into the bathroom and, “pulls out a small plastic baggie filled with white powder.” Theo freaks and is kicked out of the club.
  • Theo goes to a bridesmaid party that she wasn’t invited to. While there she drank campaign. “The champagne hits my tongue with a sweet, delectable fizz, and I down the first glass without thinking.” After three glasses, she thinks, “I need to stop; I’m not here to get shit-faced.”

Language

  • Profanity is scattered liberally throughout the book. The profanity used includes WTF, shit, ass, asshole, dumbass, pissed, fuck, hell, and crap.
  • When Theo walks into a restaurant, she was “bitch-slapped by a foul odor.”
  • When Theo sees her friend sitting on a guy’s lap, she asks someone, “Okay, what the hell is going on with Lou?”
  • Theo tells her friend, “Jesus, I was at the Trout this afternoon, remember I saw the whole thing.” Her friend replies, “Oh, God, was I that obvious.” Jesus and God’s name are used in this manner several times in the story.
  • Theo meets a friend a day after the appointed time. She thinks, “After all, I’d risked serious injury to surprise him with my heroic return from Alienating New York Bitchhood.”
  • While in a bathroom stall with a boy, Theo tells him, “Open the goddamn door.” When she tries to get out, he drops his stash of drugs and growls, “What the fuck?”
  • A man shows up at a woman’s shelter and begins yelling, “BITCH, GET YOUR SHANK ASS DOOWN HERE, GODDAMIT!”

Supernatural

  • None

 

Spiritual Content

  • None

Alex Rider: Never Say Die

Alex is now living in San Francisco, trying to recover from the tragic death of his caregiver, Jack Starbright. Alex was forced to watch Jack’s murder at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA.  With Jack gone, Alex struggles to find his place. When he gets an unexpected and cryptic email, he’s sure it’s from Jack. In an attempt to prove that Jack is alive, Alex boards a flight to Egypt and begins searching for clues to Jack’s whereabouts.

Alex’s story jumps from Egypt to France to Wales. As Alex searches for Jack, he comes face to face with twin brothers, who plan to kidnap the children of the wealthiest citizens of the world. Soon Alex is caught up in a tangle of intrigue that may lead to his death.

Packed with action, unexpected twists, and a mystery, Never Say Die will catch readers’ interest from the very first page. Alex is a strong character, who uses his brains to get out of difficult situations. The story descriptions will carry the reader into Alex’s world—a world that is often filled with fear. The evil twins and the people who help them are vicious criminals who have no problem murdering anyone that is perceived as a threat. Their willingness to kill and the violent descriptions of the creative ways they murder may cause some readers to have nightmares. Anthony Horowitz tells an engaging story that deals with terrorists, murder, and kidnapping.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A woman kills two pilots by using tetrodotoxin. It “is extremely fast-acting, shutting down a person’s nervous system in minutes. Brad struggled to his feet but died before he was halfway there . . . Sergeant Brad Perkins stared up at her with empty eyes.”
  • Later in the story, the same woman tries to poison Alex. “The deadly poison, tetrodotoxin, shot silently across the room and penetrated his jacket. Alex jerked backward, his shoulders slamming into the door. . . Slowly, he slid down to the floor and lay still.” Luckily, the poisonous dart only hits his wallet. Alex and the woman scuffle. “She was strangling him. The pupils were dancing in her eyes, and her lips were stretched in a smile as she used her weight to press him down, her hands gripping tighter and tighter.” Alex is able to grab a bedside light. “With the very last of his strength, he swung it into the side of the woman’s head. He felt metal connect with bone . . . Dragana keeled over and lay still.”
  • Alex has nightmares about his past when two men tied him to a chair and force him watch a video of “the person he most loves” die. “The car drove out of the fort and into the desert. And then, as it had done the night before and every night after . . .it blew up.”
  • Alex stops two boys from harassing a young boy. The boys retaliate. “Colin swung the knife, aiming for Alex’s chest . . . Alex took hold of his wrist with one hand and his elbow with the other . . . Colin’s hand with the knife rushed past him.” The knife accidentally “sliced across Clayton’s arm.” Colin then tries to hit Alex, who avoids the punch. “Alex was standing next to a lamppost. Colin’s fist slammed into the metal. Alex actually heard his fingers break.”
  • A man tries to capture Alex. The man with a gun tries to get out of a car when “Alex kicked out, slamming the door. The man shouted and fell back . . .” Alex is able to escape.
  • A group of men try to kill Alex. During the scene, which takes place over approximately six pages, Alex is forced to defend himself. One man is knocked unconscious when Alex drops a cannonball “on the side of his head.” Alex makes a cactus bomb and throws it at a man, hitting him in the face.  “It didn’t bounce off. . . Instead it stuck there, with at least a dozen spikes piercing his lips, his cheeks, the side of his nose and one of his eyes, each barb injecting its poison into his nervous system.” One of the men tries to stab Alex, but the man is shot. “. . . His hand became a splash of red and the knife spun away. A second shot, and he was thrown onto his back. Alex knew at once that he wouldn’t be getting up again.”
  • In order to escape from bad men, Alex makes a trap that causes an explosion. The men “both screamed and reeled backwards, crashing into each other. The whole of the bald man’s head seemed to catch fire for a few seconds . . . The other man had thrown himself down. He was rolling over and over on the carpet, his clothes blazing.” As Alex tries to escape, one of the men shoots a woman.
  • Two brothers have their father killed. “. . . Carlo was gunned down in his Jacuzzi by his own bodyguard . . . With Carlo gone, the brothers took control of the family, and the next few years were bloodier and more violent than any that had gone before.”
  • The two brothers go to the hospital to kill a woman by using a trick. “It was one of their favorite tricks, and they would take turns—one watching, one doing the actual work. The wire went straight up her nose and into the medulla oblongata, the nerve mass located at the lower base of the brain . . . she was dead before she knew what had happened.”
  • Two brothers catch Alex spying and tie him to a chair, “his hands tied behind him, the rope so tight that it was cutting into his flesh.” The brothers intend to kill him by using “cement shoes.” A man padlocks a cement block around Alex’s ankle and throws him into the ocean. Alex is saved by a scuba diver.
  • In an attempt to escape, Alex attacks a man with a nail. Alex “smiled with satisfaction as the point drove into Stallone’s neck. Stallone howled and fell back, blood spurting out between his fingers.”
  • The two brothers give a woman cyanide. “She had suddenly become very still. In fact she was staring at the ceiling with empty eyes. Her tongue was sticking out of the corner of her mouth. Her face had gone mauve.”
  • The two brothers kidnap a van full of children and hold them for ransom. When the parents try to negotiate, the brothers discuss killing one of the children. “The important thing is to make sure it’s one of the poorer children. We don’t want to upset any of the billionaires.”
  • When attempting to save the children, a woman takes out one of the bad guys. She hits him with a chisel. “But it was the wooden handle that slammed into his skull, and with a grunt, he fell to one side . . . He was out cold.”
  • As Alex and his friend lead the children to safety, the bad guys try to recapture them. The scene takes place over about a chapter and a half. A security guard dies saving Alex’s life. “Alex saw spatters of blood appear across Philby’s back, forming hideous red stains that spread through his shirt.” During the escape, Alex sets fire to a structure. “Several of the guards had been caught in the blaze. He had heard them screaming.”
  • During the escape scene, Alex puts a thermos in a train’s chimney causing an explosion. The brothers “didn’t even know it had happened. They simply felt a jolt as if some gigantic gust of wind, coming out of nowhere, had hit the Midnight Flyer on its side.” They crash into the face of a mountain. One of the men on the train knows he is going to die. “His face, already badly burned, distorted one last time in sheer terror as the steam locomotive smashed into a solid wall of rock.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the character’s “career had ended following a drunken fight with another pilot. She was twice his size, but even so, she had put him into the hospital. In fact, he was still there.”
  • A character had “drunk too much wine. The third bottle was definitely a mistake, and she had felt quite giddy as she had climbed into the taxi. . .”
  • Two of the characters help in their father’s business. “Even as teenagers, they loved the idea of becoming gangsters and had actually helped their father on occasion—for example, carry drugs inside their teddy bears on international flights.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone is the son of two well-respected lawyers in the town of Strattenburg. He aspires to be a lawyer himself. In fact, he prides himself on providing legal advice to classmates, and even some adults. But when a murder is committed and the trial commences in the otherwise peaceful town, Theo discovers that there is a witness to the crime that no one knows about. But the witness, an illegal immigrant, is hesitant to come forward. Theo must decide how to carefully work around the delicate issue that could result in someone getting away with murder.

This pre-teen novel has a well-developed and interesting plot. While there is mention of a murder, there are few gory details, making it pre-teen friendly. There are many positive role models in the book, including lawyers, judges, policemen, and teachers. Theodore explains the basics of the judicial system in a way that young readers can easily understand. Although an illegal immigrant is one of the main characters in the book, there are very few political influences that affect his treatment. There are several references to drugs and alcohol, but in no instances are they glorified. Overall, this book is educational, exciting, and well-suited for pre-teens.

Sexual Content

  • Theodore lacks any romantic interest for his friend, April. “It wasn’t a romance; they were too young for that. Theo did not know of a single thirteen-year-old boy in his class who admitted to having a girlfriend. Just the opposite. They wanted nothing to do with them. And the girls felt the same way. Theo had been warned that things would change, and dramatically, but that seemed unlikely.”
  • Because girls and boys were split into different classes, there was flirting in the hallways. “There was some awkward flirting between the rooms as the boys mixed with the girls. During classes, they were ‘gender separated,’ according to a new policy adopted by the smart people in charge of educating all the children in town. The genders were free to mingle at all other times.”
  • Theo has a romantic interest in a woman who works as a court clerk. “Jenny, the beautiful, was waiting. ‘Well, hello, Theo,’ she said with a big smile as she looked up from her computer at the long counter. ‘Hello, Jenny,’ he said. She was very pretty and young and Theo was in love. He would marry Jenny tomorrow if he could, but his age and her husband complicated things. Plus, she was pregnant, and this bothered Theo, though he mentioned it to no one.”
  • The narrator mentions the prettiest, most popular girl in Theo’s class; “The most popular girl in the eighth grade was a curly-haired brunette named Hallie. She was very cute and outgoing and loved to flirt.”
  • When Hallie tells Theo to call her, Theo gives an excuse related to her flirtatiousness; ‘“Why don’t you call me sometime?’ she asked. Why? Now that was a good question. Probably because he assumed she was too busy talking to all the other boys. She changed boyfriends every month. He’d never even thought of calling her. ‘I’ll do that,’ he said. But he knew he wouldn’t. He wasn’t exactly looking for a girlfriend, and besides, April would be devastated if he began chasing a flirt like Hallie.”

 

Violence

  • Theo has a hatred for April’s parents because they treat April poorly. “He despised her parents for the way they treated her. He despised them for the chaos of their lives, for their neglect of April, for their cruelty to her.”
  • Murder is mentioned frequently throughout the book. ‘“About eighty percent of those indicted for murder eventually plead guilty, because they are in fact guilty. The other twenty percent go to trial, and ninety percent of those are found guilty. So, it’s rare for a murder defendant to be found not guilty.”’
  • Theo considers the likelihood that Mr. Duffy will commit another murder. “Why would the real killer be a security risk if he showed up to watch the trial? What’s he gonna do? Kill somebody else? In open court? In front of dozens of witnesses?”
  • Ike, Theo’s uncle, gives him details on how the murder was committed. “’He choked her?’ Theo had read every newspaper story about the murder and knew the cause of death. ‘That’s the theory. She died of strangulation. The prosecutor will claim that Mr. Duffy choked her, then ransacked the house, took her jewelry, tried to make it look as if she had walked in on a burglar.’”
  • In the prosecutor’s opening statement, he says how the body was found. “When the body was found, the front door of their home was unlocked and slightly open.”
  • In the prosecutor’s opening statement, he mentions what Mrs. Duffy’s dead body looked like. “The cause of death was strangulation. With the approval of Judge Gantry, Mr. Hogan stepped to a projector, hit a button, and a large color photo appeared on the screen opposite the jury. It showed Mrs. Duffy lying on the carpeted floor, well-dressed, seemingly untouched, her high-heeled shoes still on her feet… Apparently she was ready to leave the house when she was attacked and killed.”
  • The prosecutor gives further, more detailed information as to how Mrs. Duffy was killed. “An autopsy revealed the true cause of death. The person who killed Mrs. Duffy grabbed her from behind and pressed firmly on her carotid artery. Mr. Hogan placed his fingers on his own carotid artery, on the right side of his neck. ‘Ten seconds of firm pressure in just the right place and you lose consciousness,’ he said, then waited while everyone else waited to see if he might just collapse himself right there in open court. He did not. He continued, ‘Once Mrs. Duffy passed out, her killer kept pressing, firmer and firmer, and sixty seconds later she was dead. There are no signs of a struggle—no broken fingernails, no scratches, nothing. Why? Because Mrs. Duffy knew the man who killed her.”’
  • The narrator mentions Mrs. Duffy’s time of death. “The autopsy placed her time of death around eleven forty-five.”
  • The prosecutor reiterates that Mr. Duffy did in fact kill his wife. “The mere fact that a good lawyer kept saying that Mr. Duffy killed his wife made his theory sound believable.”
  • The prosecutor mentions Mrs. Duffy’s death once more at the end of his opening statement. ‘“This was a cold-blooded murder, ladies and gentlemen. Perfectly planned and carefully executed. Not a hitch. No witnesses, no evidence left behind. Nothing but a lovely young woman brutally chocked to death.’”
  • In pet court, someone demands to have a snake destroyed. ‘“Can’t you order it destroyed?’ ‘You want the death penalty for Herman?’ ‘Why not? There are children in our building.’ ‘Seems kind of harsh,’ Judge Yeck said. It was obvious he was not going to order the death of Herman.”
  • In pet court, Judge Yeck threatens to destroy all of the defendant’s pet snakes if they escape again. ‘“If Herman escapes again, or if your snakes are caught outside of your apartment, then I have no choice but to order them destroyed. All of them. Clear enough?'”
  • In pet court, tempers fly and a pet snake is threatened. “‘I swear I’ll kill him. Should’ve killed him this time, but I wasn’t thinking. And, I didn’t have an ax.'”
  • Theo thinks about the blood, or lack thereof, at the murder scene. “There was no blood at the scene, right? So there would be no traces of blood on the gloves.”
  • Theo thinks about hair possibly being the proof that he needs to prove Mr. Duffy’s guilt. “A strand of hair would be even more proof that her husband killed her.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Mr. Boone smokes. “Mr. Boone smoked a pipe, and preferred to do so with the windows closed and the ceiling fan off so that their air was thick with the rich aroma of whatever flavored tobacco he happened to favor that day. The smoke didn’t bother Theo either, though he did worry about his father’s health.”
  • April’s parents were arrested on drug charges. “Both her parents had been arrested on drug charges, though neither had served time.”
  • Theo’s father mentions the consequences that would result from him missing school to watch the trial and makes a reference to alcohol. ‘“I will not bail you out of jail. You’ll sit there for days with common drunks and gang members.”’
  • Theo mentions how dangerous the neighborhood is where his friend’s brother lives. “The Quarry was a rough part of town where the lower income people lived. Strattenburg was a safe city, but there was an occasional shooting or a drug bust, and these always seemed to happen around The Quarry.”
  • Theo’s uncle has a drinking problem. “Ike drank too much, and this unfortunate habit made for slow mornings. Over the years, Theo had heard adults whispering about Ike’s drinking. Elsa had once asked Vince a question dealing with Ike, and Vince replied with a curt, ‘maybe if he’s sober.’”
  • Theo jokingly asks his uncle for a beer; “Ike opened a small refrigerator on the floor behind his desk. ‘I have Budweiser and Sprite.’ ‘Budweiser,’ Theo said. Ike gave him a Sprite and popped the top of a can of Bud for himself.”
  • Theo’s classmate, Woody, has a brother who was arrested for drug possession and distribution. “‘What’s the charge?’ ‘Drugs. Possession of pot, maybe distribution.’ ‘There’s a big difference between possession and distribution.’ ‘Can you help us?’ ‘I doubt it. How old is he?’ ‘Seventeen.’ Theo knew the brother by reputation, and it was not a good one. ‘First offense?’ Theo asked, though he suspected the answer was no. ‘He got busted for possession last year, his first. Slap on the wrist.’ ‘Your parents need to hire a lawyer, Woody. It’s that simple.’ ‘Nothing’s simple. My parents don’t have the money, and if they did they wouldn’t spend it on a lawyer. There’s a war in my house, Theo. Kids against parents, and nobody’s taking prisoners. My stepfather has been fighting with my brother over the drug thing, and he’s promised a thousand times he will not get involved when the cops bust him.’”
  • Theo is watching the trial from a secret spot when he sees someone smoking. “Theo froze and got a whiff of something burning. The man was smoking a cigarette, which was against the rules because they were still inside the building. He blew a huge cloud, then stepped onto the landing. It was Omar Cheepe, visible now with his massive slick head and black eyes. He looked up at Theo, said nothing, then turned and walked away. Theo did not know if he had been followed, or if the stairwell was one of Omar’s smoking places. There were cigarettes everywhere. Maybe others sneaked down there for a smoke.”
  • A group of teenagers is seen smoking. “A gang of young teenagers loitered about, all smoking and trying to look tough.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • God is mentioned at the beginning of the trial. ‘“Let all who have matters come forth. May God bless this court.”’
  • Theo’s friend, Julio, tells Theo how his cousin prays for his family; ‘“He finished his lunch and was saying his prayers for his family when the man came out of the same door.”’
  • Once again, Julio’s cousin is said to pray for his family. ‘“Our man liked to sneak away from the others, eat by himself, say his prayers, and look at a photo of his family back home.”’

The Accused

Pete Duffy’s murder trial is about to begin; however, when Duffy disappears the night before his trial, the town wonders where Duffy went. Theo was hoping to follow Duffy’s trial, but when strange men begin following him and the police accuse him of robbery, Theo becomes consumed with finding out who has it in for him.

Because Theodore tells his own story, the reader has the opportunity to feel Theo’s confusion and fear, which helps to build suspense. As the story progresses, the suspense is created in a way that will allow younger readers to be interested but not frightened.

The Accused has surprises, humor, and positive adult-child relationships. The story is easy to read and the engaging mystery will appeal to both younger and older readers. Although this book is part of the Theodore Boone series, The Accused can be enjoyed without having read the previous books in the series.

The only downside is Theo’s Uncle Ike, who convinces Theo to steal the password to his parents’ case files. Afterward, Theo feels guilty and wants to tell his parents. However, Ike convinces him not to because it’s not dishonest to not tell. Ike continues rationalizing dishonesty by saying, “We all have our little secrets, and as long as they’re harmless, who really cares? With time, the secrets often go away and things don’t matter anymore.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The plot discusses the trial of Pete Duffy who is accused of murder. Some boys in Theo’s class discuss the disappearance of Pete Duffy. “Another had Pete Duffy murdered by drug lords.”
  • Someone throws a rock through a window and almost hits Theo.
  • Several boys at school get into a fight, including Theo. “Woody lunged with a right hook that landed perfectly on Baxter’s face. Baxter, to his credit, managed to land a solid punch before both boys locked each other in death grips and tumbled to the floor.”
  • Ike tells a story about when he was younger and was being bullied. He filled his lunch pail with rocks. “He was about to punch me when I suddenly swung the lunch box and hit him in the face. Hard. I mean it was a nasty blow that cut a gash in his cheekbone. He screamed and fell down and I whacked him a few more times in the head.” At the end of the story, Ike says, “I should have used my fists and nothing else.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Theo’s uncle drinks beer. “Theo knew he drank too much . . . Two or three times he had picked up on comments that suggested Ike Boone struggled with the bottle, and Theo assumed this was true. However, he had never witnessed it.”
  • Theo thinks about “Spike Hock, a kid who lived one block away and was caught selling drugs in the ninth grade and spent eighteen very unpleasant months in a juvenile detention center. . .”
  • Theo thinks about a family because the sister was “arrested for drugs.”
  • A boy in the story “was caught with marijuana and went through Youth Court.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • At church, the pastor’s sermon expands on the eighth commandment. The pastor talks about how it is wrong to steal, including “stealing time away from God, family, friends. Stealing the gift of good health by pursuing bad habits. Stealing from the future by missing opportunities in the present.”

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