Balog, Cyn. Sleepless.
Julia is trying to recover from the death of her smart aleck boyfriend, Griffin. Eron is finishing up his hundred year stint as a Sleepbringer, recently assigned to Julia, and will be able to return to being human after Griffin replaces him. The bad news? Griffin isn't as accepting of his death and new job as a Sandman as Eron was, and he is trying to stay with Julia in any way he can. Julia continues to go to work, practice for her driver's license test, and hangs out with Bret, Griffin's best friend who is a little too interested in her. When Eron becomes human for limited amounts of time, he seeks out Julia, which angers Griffin and jeopardizes Eron's chances at becoming human. Will Julia be able to understand who Eron has been, and will Griffin be able to let her go?
Strengths: Balog's work is very readable, which surprises me since I have slogged through so many paranormal romances. Like this author's Fairy Tale, this is a nice twist on the genre, and adds the realistic note of people moving on from their "one true love". Fairy Tale has circulated nicely, and I'll be purchasing Starstruck when it comes out in July.
Weaknesses: This is almost too old for middle school, but luckily Balog doesn't throw the characters in bed together. I guess it was all the talk of the sandmen "seducing" the women to sleep that just made me worry that something would be coming that never did.
Langan, Paul. Brothers in Arms.
Martin Luna is not keen on school, so when his mother moves from their old neighborhood after Martin's 8-year-old brother is killed, he's not wild about going to Bluford High. Still grieving, he has little patience for putting up with a snotty football player, turning in his English assignments, or making it to detention. He's rather run back to his old neighborhood and hang out with his friend, Frankie, who has vowed to find the people who shot Martin's brother. After a while, however, Martin begins to realize that the way he is living is probably what caused his brother's death, and he decides to accept the help from the people in his life who care.
Strengths: The Bluford books are short and simple, and some of my students love them. I appreciate that the characters change, but it's not depicted as something easy.
Weaknesses: Since these are short, there's not a lot of depth in secondary characters.