First, many thanks to Mark Peter Hughes, who e mailed and offered to send me a copy of The Crack in the Sky since my funding was cut this year! I know that authors have to pay for copies of their own books, so my students and I really appreciate this!
This year, murder mysteries have been the big thing that everyone is asking for. They are surprisingly hard to find for middle grades-- most mysteries concern someone's cat going missing or something equally as juvenile. At first I was a little concerned, until I remembered that a huge amount of adult fiction is murder mysteries. Here are a couple of new titles, as well as old favorites from my library.
Smith, Alexander Gordon. Lockdown: Escape from the Furnace.
This is a Scholastic choice for the new young adult cart for the book fair, so I wanted to make sure I read it. Alex, who is not the best kid in the world, is framed for the murder of his best friend while trying to rob a house. He is sent to the Furnace Penitentiary for life, since even children under 18 can now be incarcerated for certain crimes after a horrific slaughter. Life in the Furnace is brutal-- Alex is made to chip stone all day, there are frighteningly vicious dogs on the prowl, and every so often, the screams of an inmate being taken away reverberate through the jail. Yes, this has violence, but Alex is trying to do the right thing and survive, and I liked this more than I thought I would. This might be a good one for students who liked The Hunger Games, and Solitary comes out on December 12. I want to know why Alex and the other inmates were framed!
Fahy, Thomas. The Unspoken.
This has a good premise-- children who escaped from a brutal cult by setting fire to the complex after the leader killed their parents are being killed. Told from the point of view of Allison, it follows her attempts to come to terms with her past and try to survive the current situation. While this was well-written and intriguing, it is more of a high school book. The print is painfully small (seriously, this can make or break a suggestion), there is more introspection than action, and there are some mature themes and language. If I were getting mysteries for high school students, I would buy it.
MacHale, D.J. Morpheus Road: The Light
Did not get very far on this book, but was really enjoying it, which surprised me because I have no recollection of the Pendragon plots even though I read all the books (which have recently become hugely popular in my library). It's included today because it fits the theme. The trailer (on Amazon) was really cool: "Do you like ghost stories? Try living one." If I had an LCD projector in the library, I could show things like that.
In fact, I'm going to have a student competition where students have to come up with a one sentence book talk. This is because I had one boy in line who wanted a mystery, and another boy was just returning Teri Fields My Father's Son. I said "Hey, you describe it!" and Weston said "This dude's dad is a serial killer...but maybe he's not." The other boy checked it out. So much for long plot summaries!
Here are some other popular murder mysteries in my library:
Avi. Wolf Rider: A Tale of Terror
Bennett, Jay. The Executioner
Bowler, Tim. Blade: Playing Dead
Brooks, Kevin. Road of the Dead
Carter, Dean Vincent. The Hand of the Devil
Cooney, Caroline B. Wanted!
Cormier, Robert. The Rag and Bone Shop
Duncan, Lois. Killing Mr. Griffin
Ferguson, Alane. Overkill,The Christopher Killer (series)
Ford, John C. The Morgue and Me
Harazin, S.A. Blood Brothers
Holm, Jennifer. The Creek
McNamee, Graham. Acceleration
Michaels, Rune. Genesis Alpha
Morgenroth, Kate. Jude.
Nixon, Joan Lowery. Any of her mysteries!
Plum-Ucci, Carol. The Body of Christopher Creed
Reiss, Kathryn. Blackthorn Winter
Richards, E.E. The Devil's Footsteps
Roberts, Willo Davis. Nightmare
Simmons, Michael. Finding Lubchenko.
Sorrells, Walter. Fake ID, First Shot
Werlin, Nancy. The Killer's Cousin