Brian, Kate. The Book of Spells: A Private Prequel
When Eliza is sent to The Billings School for Girls in 1915, she is glad to be away from her overbearing mother, and plans to read what she like and dress how she pleases. She finds a friend in Catherine, who also likes to read, but runs a bit afoul of Theresa Billings when she sets her eye on Theresa’s fiancé. But there are other things afoot at the school—the girls find a Book of Spells, establish a coven, and start to learn magic. They have fun with this for a while, until one of the outings into the woods leads to tragedy. Magic isn’t as good an idea as the girls originally thought.
Strengths: Love Kate Brian’s realistic novels like Lucky T and The Princess and the Pauper, so this was a little different. It will be popular with the girls who like paranormal romances. The cover is similar to others in this genre, so it will be picked up quickly.
Weaknesses: Since this is a prequel, I got the distinct impression that I was somehow missing something. Think I read a Private novel, but can’t really remember.
Howe, James, ed. 13: Thirteen Stories that Capture the Agony and the Ecstasy of Being Thirteen.
A variety of authors and experiences are represented in this compilation. Meg Cabot discusses friends who grow apart as the grow older. Alex Sanchez explores what it is like to be attracted to another boy. Carolyn Mackler relates the tale of a girl who sets off a frenzy in her school by stealing a picture out of someone’s locker. All of the story revolve around the concept of personal identity, and how difficult it is to be 13.
Strengths: It was interesting to read the biographical notes and see pictures of all of the authors at 13. The stories should make students feel that really, there are so many different types of 13-year-olds that any way they are is okay.
Weaknesses: Short story collections are a tough sell. This was sent over to my school from the high school, where they thought it was too young. Even the Sanchez story is okay for middle school.