Since several of our teachers are requiring mystery, horror or suspense books for November, I was glad of Neil Gaiman's latest. It has a little of all of these elements.
When Nobody Owens is a toddler, his family is murdered by a mysterious man named Jack, and he escapes the same fate by wandering out of the house. He ends up in a graveyard, where he is adopted by the spirits there. They teach him and care for him, and a man named Silas takes care of his physical needs like clothing and food. Bod grows up to be an inquisitive and compassionate boy who can also fend off ghouls when needed. (But I'm sorry; "the 33rd president of the United States" shows up as a ghoul. Really? Harry Truman? My great uncle Jim was fishing buddies with Truman. What was wrong with the man?) The mystery surrounding his family's murder is resolved quite nicely, and there are lots of creepy supernatural moments. The only question is-- should I buy one or maybe two copies?
Sherri Winston's The Kayla Chronicles was pretty good, but hit a little hard on the "girl power issue". Kayle is a bit geeky, but loves to dance, and her equally geeky best friend challenges her to try out for the prestigious dance team at school so they can prove that the dance team doesn't take on flat chested girls; of course, Kayla gets on the team. I appreciated that it showed a strong, suburban African-American girl, but there were a lot of gratuitous health class issues (Kayla accidentally goes into the boys' locker room and gets an eyeful), so I am still thinking about it.
The winner for the year for gratuitous crude language as well as strangest, most off putting character names has got to be Jeremy Jackson's Life at These Speeds. Ninth grader brought it home because it was the story of an 8th grade track runner who goes home from a meet with his parents, and the van carrying the rest of the team goes off a bridge and kills everyone. He transfers (and the other district waives tuition-- this would not happen) to another school, doesn't want to run track, and does. Interesting premise, poor execution. Really too bad.