Clark, Catherine. Meanicures.
Madison, Olivia and Taylor used to be friends with Kayley, Cassidy, and Alexis. The latter group becomes popular and starts being mean to the former, sabotaging their morning announcements, making fun of their clothes and disinviting them to parties. When Madison's group decides to burn all of their memorabilia in a "ritual", Kayley's groups starts to suffer, and Madison's group starts to be just as mean to them. In the end, all of the girls get together for a Girls' Night Out at a local beauty salon and make amends.
Strengths: Friendships change so radically in middle school, and this is a very realistic description of what happens when they do. However, the social hierarchy and meanness is dealt with in a more constructive way than something like The Clique.
Weaknesses: It was hard to keep so many characters straight. I would have preferred a group of three friends who isolated one girl.
Lynch, Chris. Hothouse.
D.J. and Russell's firefighter fathers were both killed in a horrific fire that left a former school teacher surviving but hospitalized. The town honors the men as heroes and treats the families well... until it is discovered that both men had high levels of drugs in their systems. The town turns, and the boys must make peace with the loss of their fathers again.
Strengths: For high school students, this would be a great book. It examines the relationship of fathers and sons, expectations that families have, and the grieving process. Lynch can write convincingly on a variety of levels, from Cyberia to Slot Machine to novels like this.
Weaknesses: Too slow and introspective for my age group, and too much beer is consumed.