Long Way Down

long way down.jpgLong Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z+
Lexile: 1090L

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.

Pages: 321

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Skink—No Surrender

skink.jpgSkink—No Surrender
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z+
Lexile: 770L

When your cousin goes missing under suspicious circumstances, who do you call? There’s only one man for the job: a half-crazed, half-feral, one-eyed ex-governor named Skink. Skink joins 14-year-old Richard on a breakneck chase across Florida, undaunted by lightning storms, poisonous snakes, flying bullets, and giant gators. There are a million places cousin Malley could be, a million unpleasant fates that might have befallen her, but one thing is certain: in the Florida swamp, justice is best served wild.

Pages: 290

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The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

duel.jpgThe Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
Author: Judith St. George
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z
Lexile: 1040L

In curiously parallel lives, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were both orphaned at an early age. Both were brilliant students who attended college–one at Princeton, the other at Columbia–and studied law. Both were young staff officers under General George Washington, and both became war heroes. Politics beckoned them, and each served in the newly formed government of the fledgling nation. Why, then, did these two face each other at dawn in a duel that ended with death for one and harsh criticism for the other?

Pages: 112

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Ready Player One

Ready Player One2.jpgReady Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z
Lexile: 970L

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Pages: 400

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What Girls are Made Of

what girls.jpgWhat Girls are Made Of
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z
Lexile: 900L

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she’s worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are.

Pages: 208

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Sabriel

sabriel 2.jpgSabriel
Author: Garth Nix
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z
Lexile: 890L

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny…

Pages: 336

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Ramona Blue

ramona blue.jpgRamona Blue
Author: Julie Murphy
Grade: 8
F&P Level: Z
Lexile: HL780L

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi.

But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke.

Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Pages: 432

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