Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

I read this book in a day, oh my god, it was stinkin’ amazing. I tried to read this when I was around 8 or so, but it mentioned puberty and womanhood and was like ‘nope not appropriate’ and returned it to the library. And it was one of those books that just hung around in my mind until one day, about a year or so ago, I saw this series and all Tamora Pierce’s following series on the shelf, looked for the first book, couldn’t, and kept looking for over a year. Until I was at a huge book sale, found it, bought it, read it, and here we are.

This book follows Alanna, a girl who’d rather be a knight instead of a lady as is expected. And since her brother hates idea of being a knight and loves magic, she chops her hair and they switch. Now, she has to hide who she is, keep up with the grueling training, defend herself from bullies, and prove herself as a page. So you have a strong, genderbendy, determined, magic wielding entity of awesome, who still has weaknesses and fears.

So, I would say read this book. There’s some, but minor, violence, some brief mention of what happens when you lay with a man, and Alanna dealing with puberty. The last might make some a little uncomfortable if they’re prepubescent or don’t have a uterus. But, all those parts are brief, and this is still an excellent book. 11+. 

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

This book broke my heart, and mended it back together. I may have teared up. That’s entirely possible. And that would have been okay. Cuz jeepers, what a book this was.

Grayson is a 12 year old who lives two lives – the one in public, a shy and timid boy, and the one she really is, the one when she’s home alone and can be a girl. And in this way, she lives. Until she auditions for Persephone in a school play, auditions for a girl part, and gets it. And rocks it.

This book has amazing character development, an amazing plot rife with social battles and at-home issues and bullying and transgender rights, and just everything. After she gets the part, it’s a long struggle between then and the play. But the way it’s done is amazing. I always recommend it to all friends looking for LGBT+ reads.

I think what I really like is not only the writing style and the plot and characterization, is how it’s middle grade so it’s written for and about tweens in a way that’s awesome. I would say the content is appropriate for sixth or fifth grade plus. It might be a nice introduction to transgender issues at an easy level, or at least awareness to what it is. I highly recommend.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I finally read this book, after being pretty horrified after watching the movie when it came out when I was younger. Well, my aunt and mother did tell me I was too young. But this book was pretty dang awesome. It’s a short, quick read but doesn’t feel lacking. And it was so good, my mother read it after me and loved it so much she wants to read more by him.

It follows a girl named Coraline and her otherworldly adventures with her other mother and what a life there would be like. Coraline, as a character, is just great. She’s imaginative, creative, and adventurous.

I would say upper middle grade for this one, maybe younger if you don’t mind spooks here and there and creepy other mothers with button eyes. Great role model for young kids though. 11+, I think. But not just for kids, mothers too enjoy this book. And, if you or your family or whoever likes this book, be sure to check out Neil Gaiman’s other sorta multi genre and age novel, The Graveyard Book.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

A lot of books I rate on this blog are books I really, really like. This book is no exception. I loved this book, evident by me reading it in just 2 days. This author has also penned the Shatter Me series, but I haven’t yet read those. What I can say is that her first middle grade book was well done.

It takes place in a magical world where color is everything and magic is ranked. People have to go on adventures for the greater good of their land, based on how awesome your magic is. The main character is a bit of an outcast, since unlike everyone else, she’s colorless. The only spot of color is the occasional red tint to her cheeks and her eyes.  She also has a magic that no one else has, and she doesn’t like to admit. Her dad’s missing, and a boy she knows named Oliver gets tasked with finding him. And he needs Alice’s help. This is where it really gets fun.

They travel all over a fantastical world out of their town of Ferenwood, into Furthermore. Here, they face many challenges and have to work together, which is difficult since Oliver and her do not get along well.

I liked this book a lot. I liked the uniqueness and whimsicalness and the relationships. I loved the adventure of it. In books like these, in middle grade fiction, I like adventure and friendship and a sense of wonder. I feel like this book emulates that.

This book would be great for middle grade kids. Probably 6th grade up, catch my drift? But I’m sure younger kids would like it too, though it is a bit longer than some, at around 400 pages. I know when I was younger, it would take a special book for me to read it, if it was on the longer side. I have a feeling that I would have liked this book, had it been out when I was younger.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

There’s a used book store near where I live, and that is where I got this book. My friend read the back, handed it to me, and said, “you should read this.” So, I picked it up and did. And I loved this book a lot, devouring it in a few days.

This book takes place in Britain at the beginning of World War II, and follows David. After the death of his mother, they move to a house of his father’s new wife in the country side. His room is basically a library, and he falls into the world of books, with struggling to death with his new step mother and half brother. Then, he starts seeing things. Then, he gets trapped in a magical world.

There are a lot of things nicely done in this book. The imagery is wonderful, and it blends and mixes fairy tales in a way that is new and I just really, really loved. This book is written for adults but in a way that appeals to them and teens. I made my mother read this and she said at first it felt a little young but then she fell in love with it.

There is fantasy violence, some dark themes, and other content similar. I would say 13+. I highly recommend.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

I had learned about this book on Goodreads and then immediately wanted to read it. Sadly, for the longest time I couldn’t find this book in my local library. But then one day, when I was in the library looking for whatever I was looking for (I have what I call, a selective memory where I can’t choose what I remember) and suddenly, the last name Hartinger stuck out in my mind. And then I found this book! I thought it was fate or book destiny that lead me too this book I had wanted to read for months.

Then I started the book.

This book follows Russel in his conservative high school where he’s the only gay kid, but then finds out he isn’t and then he and the other gay/lesbian/bi kids form a club called the Geography Club. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

I had a few issues with the writing style. It was simpler and used, in my opinion, too many exclamation points and the foreshadowing was terrible. And since it was written in a simple, easy to read style, it was shocking whenever bigger swears or more inappropriate matter was discussed. Also many parts of this seemed too coincidental. That kind of annoyed me.

This book made me laugh, made me nearly cry (something that’s rather hard to explain in a car ride with one’s parents), and ultimately in the end, broke my heart. There were good things in this book, and I will forever remember it.

The Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

I was on vacation in California when I read this book, and I absolutely loved it. This might be one of those ‘Grade Dropper’ books; a book so good that you spend all free time reading or thinking about it (sometimes causing my grades to dip a little bit). I whipped through this book, wanting to know how it ended yet wanting it to go on for ever. This book was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, a retelling I thought was done rather well. A few reasons being:

1.) The relationship between Romeo and Juliet is minor, and Romeo is seen as naive and spoiled

2.) The author made this book feel sometimes that it was from that time period, occasionally using archaic words

3.) Rachel Caine gave Benvolio, Mercutio, and Rosaline more of a back story (Mercutio’s was particular heart breaking)

4.) And lastly, the author made Benvolio (a character who I loved even before I read this book; he was always tied for favorite character with Mercutio) more badass

In this retelling, Benvolio is the Prince of Shadows, a thief who steals for revenge from the rich, wealthy, and arrogant. The book even opens with him stealing from Tybalt. The author also gives the characters more depth, and highlighted the whole family politics aspect of the play. With elements like a slow, growing romance between Rosaline and Benvolio, a crazy grandmother, fantastic sword fights, Mercutio’s character change, and the family politics, this book was just amazing.

The only thing negative I will have to say is on the occasional use of archaic words. If I didn’t get this book on my kindle (where I can look up a word by highlighting it) I believe that I probably would’ve been more confused at parts.

This book contained occasional vulgar humor, sword fights, and a hanging.