April 1st 2014 by Clarion Books
Three high school students have secrets they don’t want anyone to know—but someone does. That someone is blackmailing Eric, Shelley, and Fatima into bullying a student at each of their schools, ordering them to dump macaroni and cheese on the people and videotape it, as well as other things. For a long time, we don’t know what they have done that they want hidden, although clues are dropped, not do we know what motivates the person blackmailing them. After the three meet in an antibullying program, they band together to try to locate the perpetrator, find out what is motivating her, and figure out a way to make her stop.
Strengths: This was the rare book that handled bullying in an interesting and new way, and I especially liked the inclusion of Fatima, a Muslim character. I especially enjoyed the description of her in a head scarf, and another characters observation that she looked like she should have an accent but didn’t. Her religion is part of the story, but not her defining characteristic. Some important cautionary lessons in this book, as well.
Weaknesses: The way that the information about the three students being blackmailed was presented was very confusing. I think that middle grade readers would be quickly lost. Some of the content of the book makes it more young adult, but it would be appropriate for middle grade. Also a bit slow paced for my demographic, although I can see older students finding this to be very interesting.
October 15th 2013 by Simon Spotlight
A huge storm comes through Stellamar and luckily doesn’t do much damage there, although the nearby school where Mason goes is damaged and he and several other students from that community end up at Sara’s school. This is great, because both Sara and her friend Lily have their crushes going to their school. Sara has been seeing one particular ghost, Duggan, around, and her great-grandmother says that he often manifests when storms hit, but this time, he has a message for Sara. She and Lily try everything, including a Ouija board, to get Duggan to deliver the message, and he finally does, laying the foundation for book ten.
Strengths: These are so ridiculously addictive that I just dropped four of them off with a neighbor girl who was one of my library helpers because our public library only has the first couple in the series. I couldn’t get this book from any of my vendors, so ended up ordering it off half.com! The mix of ghosts, great best friend, and hot crushes makes these irresistible. There’s always a huge list of reserves on them.
Weaknesses: This one wasn’t the best of the series, and although it shed a little light on the plot as a whole, I didn’t have to read it in order to go on. Try telling your average middle school student “Oh, don’t worry about book 10. Just go on to the next one’” and see how successful that is!