Hawkins, Rachel. Hex Hall.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when Sophie tries a spell to get a boy interested in one of her friends, it ends with her being sent to Hecate Hall, an exclusive boarding school for the witches, fae, shape shifters and the occasional (underprivileged) vampire who mess up and bring attention to the fact that they are magic. Her roommate, Jenna, is a vampire who is suspected in the blood-draining death of Holly, a dark witch. Sophie has been raised by a mortal mother and had no idea that she herself is a dark witch whose father is the head of the Council, a body who runs Hex Hall and tries to protect the young magic makers from themselves and evil forces such as the Eye of God. Complicating matters is the fact that Sophie's father has made a lot of people angry, and the very hot Archer Cross, a Warlock who is dating Elodie, Sophie's nemesis. When other witches are attacked, Sophie tries to find out what is going wrong so Jenna won't be blamed. After befriending the ghost of her great grandmother and taking magic instruction for her, things come to a surprising climax, and Sophie learns that there are even more facts about her family that she didn't know.
This absolutely, positively tickled me. I was wary at first-- a magic boarding school attended by student who doesn't fully grasp her magic past? Set in the south? But, oh, the funny lines and the snarky attitude of Sophie are a delight. Hard to quote my favorite line, but "...this room looked like it had been decorated by the unholy love child of Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake." (page 33) was the first one that made me snort out loud. There is a sequel in the offing, and I cannot wait. My students will love it as well.
Volponi, Paul. Riker's High.
Martin made a mistake and ended up at Riker's Island. His public defender is dragging her feet and can't manage to straighten out his legal snafu and get him back to his family, and while making one court date that gets postponed, he finds himself in the middle of a knife fight and ends up with a very bad scar on his face. At least he now gets to go to a program that is less restrictive and allows him to study for his GED. Every step is fraught with the opportunity for a poor choice, but Martin is determined to get back to his family and resume his life.
Volponi is such an adept writer with such interesting things to say that I always read his books, but frequently come to the same conclusion-- I just can't support the language in a middle school setting. Yes, I know that a story about a hard-core juvenile detention school would not be realistic if the students said "gee willikers", but I've had 6th graders bring me books with "damn" in them and whisper to me that the books have bad language. I thought the racial message in Black and White was so well done and important that I do have that book in the collection. Yes, I know that I can't be held responsible for every word in every book, and I am still debating this. Would kids read it? Yes. Is the use of the f-bomb overly offensive or gratuitous. No. But I'm still thinking. Argh.