“Sway” by Kat Spears

The Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less:  Jesse Alderman is the hook up man at Wakefield High, the guy who can get you anything–for a price.  But when a big shot jock wants a shot at dating school hottie Bridget Smalley, Jesse’s real troubles begin.  He ingratiates himself into her life and becomes good friends with her brother Pete who suffers from cerebral palsy.  But as Jesse gets closer to Bridget and Pete, demons from his past begin to surface.  The walls begin to close in on him as he understands that simply being smooth and untouchable is not enough.

My Take:  Well, I just loved this book.  Jesse Alderman is such a jerk-ass and an intriguing character at the same time that I couldn’t put this book down.  More than anything, he is convincing.  Spears has a talent for writing humorous, caustic dialogue that simply rings true.

I also appreciated that she has written a frustrated love story that is palatable for boys.  Bereft of any hint of sentimental romance, this book features wounded characters that struggle for hints of humanity in the Darwinian jungle that is high school.  I can certainly understand why this book was starred by Kirkus and School Library Journal.  I would rank “Sway” as one of the best Young Adult books that I have ever read.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, Kat Spears has worked as a “bartender, museum director, housekeeper, park ranger, business manager, and painter.” She has also worked as a gift shop attendant at St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry made his famous “Liberty or Death” speech in 1775.

Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

The Plot In 5 Sentences:  After Emily and Navin’s dad perishes in a horrible accident, their mother moves them to a spooky, rural house once owned by their grandfather.  The children soon discover his old workshop as well as an amulet that Emily ties around her neck.   That night, when a creature kidnaps their mom, the children chase after them and stumble into a strange world.  There they learn that the amulet has magical powers and that they have been charged with using it to gain power over this weird place known as Alledia.  With this knowledge, Emily and Navin embark on a dangerous adventure to find their mother.

My Take:  This is a highly requested item in my library, so I felt compelled to read it.  I was not disappointed.  The plot is unencumbered and the pace is brisk.  Kibuishi’s art is eye catching when necessary, but shorn of detail when the narrative speeds forward.  Children will appreciate the fully realized fantasy world and the dangers that lurk there.   I think that I’ll be reading the second in the series.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Kibuishi will design the covers for the rerelease of the Harry Potter series.

The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

The Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less:  Polly lives in a bustling house full of children and loves to read and think about ghosts.  Ruby has the opposite problem in that she feels abandoned by her family but has the unwanted power of seeing the dead.  By accident one day, the girls discover that they are neighbors and that their attics connect.  As they began to secretly visit each other through the attics, they began to learn about the tragic past of Ruby’s family.   An aunt that passed away years before begins to visit the girls and brings with her a frightening message.

My Take:  This was great children’s book to read in the fall.  I appreciated the rotating narration between the two girls and also how the author kept us in suspense as to whether Ruby was actually a ghost or not.  I did feel that the book bogged down in certain places, but overall I would recommend this to children looking for a ghost book.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Charis Cotter lives in Newfoundland and has an abiding interest in ghosts.