Sepetys, Ruth. Salt to the Sea. (5 stars)
In January, 1945, Hitler was nearing defeat, Stalin and the Russian tropps were brutalizing everything in their path. Four teens, along with thousands of others, set off from Prussia, Poland, Lithuania, and Germany--four countries that are a few being overrun by Russian troops--to escape to safer places across the Baltic Sea. The four and some of their companions are boarded on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a luxury ship that has been stripped to carry nearly 10 times its usual capacity. Their saving grace of a ship, however, becomes the victim of Russian cruelty.
Based upon historical events and accounts from the author's family and acquaintances via acquaintances via interviews and research. Powerful, personal testimony of the brutal civilian casualities of war. Heart-rending.
Reynolds, Jason. All American Boys. (5 stars)
When Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, the policeman who responds to the scene beats him mercilessly. The problems: Rashad is black. The policeman is white. And the witness, unknown to anyone, is the best friend of the policeman's brother.
A well-told story that deals with questions that are too common today. Told from multiple viewpoints, the story gives insight to questions and problems that the news doesn't give you. A great story that will make you think.
Niven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places. (3 stars; for me, it seemed to drag more than develop)
Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the school bell tower. Honestly, they are never sure who saved whom, but they develop a relationship that takes them across the state of Indiana in search of its "natural wonders," and they both hope for healing for each other.
Told in alternating voices.
Ritter, William. Jackaby. (5 stars; adventurous and HILARIOUS)
Abigail Rook stumbles upon R. F. Jackaby as she is looking for a job upon her arrival in New England in 1892. Jackaby is an odd ball in the area. He swears supernatural beings exist, and he swears even more that they cause a lot of the problems the people of the area experience. Abigail wonders if she has bitten off more than she can chew when she accompanies Jackaby on his quest to find a serial killer he is convinced is not human. Can she handle the taunts she receives just by being with him? More than that, will she be able to survive the danger?
I think this book is a good combination of Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It kept me guessing, and it made me laugh because of the unusual situations and the characters' takes on them.
Levy, Michelle. Not After Everything. (3 stars; drawn out; too stereotypical of sex-crazed guys and psychopathic fathers who are in pain and girls who are Goth, but not really, and girls who dote over the tragic figure of guys who deal with death and abuse.)
Tyler is left alone with his dog to deal with his father and therapists after his mother commits suicide in their bathroom (where he finds her). He lets go of his dreams of football and academic scholarships to Stanford, and he focuses on his grief, his "sympathetic" girlfriend, and mere survival. He finds a job to support himself, and he finds Jordyn--the girl he never expected to meet.
This book contains a lot of angst, and it focuses a lot of its energy on the idea that boys find comfort in sex during tragic times. I felt it was a shallow attempt to bring a character to life who has to deal with a situation many teens have to deal with today.