Purple Heart

by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy is 18-years-old and serving in the U.S.Army. At the beginning of the novel, we learn that he has sustained a brain injury during combat and is slowly regaining consciousness in a military hospital in Iraq. He also finds that he has been awarded a Purple Heart. The story unravels as Private Duffy attempts to piece together the hazy details of what he has been through. Flashbacks of a young Iraqi boy being killed, stray dogs, and blowing trash are the few memories that he has of the lapsed time, and Matt can’t shake the terrible feeling that he may have had something to do with the boy’s death.

Eventually he is sent back into combat with his fellow soldiers but things are not the same. Still struggling with his fractured memories and having doubts about his ability to go on, it is clear that war has profoundly affected the young Private. Fast-paced, relevant, and suspenseful, Purple Heart is a great choice for reluctant readers. McCormick’s story is realistic without being violent or gratuitous and avoids being political, instead focusing on the physical and emotional effects of war.


by Crissa-Jean Chappell

Winter brings the arrival of the “snowbirds,” the Old Order Amish who journey to Florida on buses from the north. Lucy has spent every winter for as long as she can remember with her best friend Alice. This winter, Alice is in the middle of “Rumspringa,” a time when Amish teens experiment with forbidden modern temptations, in order to get them out of their system. Lucy’s particular sect does not allow for Rumspringa, and she feels the distance growing between them. Lucy struggles to understand and tries to give Alice her freedom, but one night after a party, Alice disappears. Lucy feels guilty for not keeping a closer eye on her friend, especially since she had been secretly spending time with an older boy named Faron, who has been shunned from his Old Order family. Lucy struggles with balancing finding herself while obeying her father. She begins to question whether Amish life is for her, and wonders if perhaps Alice simply ran away.

This is a unique story offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of young girls in Amish communities -- illustrating that although their lives are different, the struggles and temptations of adolescence remain the same.

Saint Death

by Marcus Sedgwick

Issues of class, race and power collide in this powerful and timely debut. Arturo is a teen living in the impoverished Mexican town of Anapra, struggling to make ends meet. The possibility of life in America is distant and foreign to Arturo and others like him. After years of absence, Faustino reappears with a desperate plea to his old friend -- he needs money to send his pregnant girlfriend Eva illegally across the border to create a better life for their unborn child.

Reluctantly, Arturo agrees to gamble his life, literally, in a high stakes game of Calavera with some of Mexico’s deadliest gang leaders. Filled with danger, tests of loyalty, and familial bonds, this gritty novel explores the painful realities of many immigrants south of the United States border. Powerful, fast-paced, and heartbreaking, this is a must read.