Flanagan's The Battle for Skandia was filled with action and adventure, and the part that I liked best was when the leaders from "enemy" countries band together to defeat a common enemy. Great, great stuff. The Sorcerer of the North wasn't as filled with fighting, which was a nice change. We get to see Will in his first posting, a little older and calmer. He then has to head up to Macindaw to investigate strange goings on. I really want to get The Siege of Macindaw, because we are left right in the most exciting part of the story... the books just ends! Still, it's always a good sign when I can't wait to get the next book in a series. If you don't have this series for your middle school library, get it right away.
Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty was very good, but more of a high school book. Girl spends summer in the same place she has her whole life, but things are changing. Bittersweet, charming, but middle school girls are not quite at this point yet. The same is true of the excellent After by Amy Efaw. Devon is a straight A, soccer playing good girl who has a baby and abandons it in the trash. She is then arrested and put through the legal system. What I liked about this was that it really seemed to get inside Devon's head-- the denial, the confusion, the surprise. Too much detail for middle school students, but really essential for a high school library.
Books I just couldn't get into: Bryant's Kaleidoscope Eyes, mainly because it is a novel in verse that reads like prose cut up into short lines, a pet peeve of mine. Berg's Hollywood and Maine, because the 70s setting didn't work for me. Thompson's Pyscho Major Syndrome was again too old, Gill's Soul Enchilada had a bizarre voice, and Parker's Chasing the Bear: a young Spenser novel was told in super short chapters broken up by Spenser sitting on a park bench with his psychiatrist girlfriend. Ruined the suspense/action of it all. Then, there was the horrible, horrible adult memoir by Nathan Rabin, The Big Rewind. Wow. Apparently, he's famous for writing and being on television shows, and yes, his youth was messed up, but that still doesn't excuse the level of vulgarities he uses. Great cover, horrible book.