CLP Teens Blog


maggot moon

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Maggot Moon is an intense what-if dystopian nightmare. Although it’s never explicitly said, 15-year old Standish Treadwell seems to be living in post-WWII if the Nazis had won the war. Standish lives in Zone 7 where the un-pure are forced to live, barely. Starving Zone 7 residents occasionally disappear after which the government refuses to acknowledge that they ever existed. Standish’s parents disappeared after moving to Zone 7. He knows they existed even if the government won’t admit it.

“Standish Treadwell. Can’t read, can’t write. Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.”

Standish is dyslexic (as is the author, Sally Gardner), and his eyes are two different colors: one blue, one brown. Although these two features alone make him an undesirable, he lives in Zone 7 for reasons that precede him. Another family comes to live with Standish and his grandfather, and they have a son, Hector, in the same grade as Standish. They go to school together where the strong minded Hector protects Standish from cruel beatings. Until Hector and his family vanish one day with no explanation.

Now Standish has no one to protect him at school at gets regular beatings from students and his teacher. One day when he’s being beaten by his teacher, Standish decides he’s had enough and punches Mr. Gunnell right in the jaw and off his feet. One small young boy who laughs too hard at the teacher’s misfortune gets the full force of Mr. Gunnell’s wrath as he beats the small boy to death in front of the rest of the class.

Standish knows he’s done for so he comes up with a crazy plan that just might allow him, his grandfather, and the tongue less moon man hiding in their cellar to escape Zone 7. His risky master plan involves finding Hector, a fake moon landing and mass graves.

Maggot Moon has 100 incredibly short chapters and is infused with illustrations of rats, maggots and flies in an almost flipbook fashion. The story isn’t told chronologically – the past, present and future are all mixed together. Even though some of the beatings are sickeningly intense, this book is poetic and haunting and highly recommended.


Reviewed by Annica-West End


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Rampart by Diana Peterfreund

A book about kick-butt girls devoting their lives to hunt giant killer unicorns definitely seems like a great read. But did Rampant by Diana Peterfreund really meet all the standards?

I’ll admit it, I took a gamble reading this book. The reviews were a mixed bag of devoted fans demanding a third book and people complaining that they had wasted their time. What did get me hooked was the promise of a main character who was a strong, independent heroine. Unfortunately, this was not that kind of book. Drop the idea of strong female leads living lives full of danger and replace it with a story about a whiny girl dating a “dreamy” boy she knows nothing about.

Meet Astrid, a girl with some serious romance issues and deep emotional turmoil. Most of the book was just Astrid running around complaining about her ancestor, Alexander the Great, (don’t worry, we’ll get to him) and secretly dating a “bad boy”. Giovanni, the boyfriend, had barely any development or interesting qualities. He just was there to occasionally offer advice or take Astrid out to dinner. Giovanni (and most of the other characters) were more plot devices than anything else. At least 80% of these characters were flat, cliché, and boring.

My biggest problem with this book was the history the author invented. Alexander the Great (long story short) had the goddess Diana show up at his birth. In order to avenge the deaths of her followers who were killed by unicorns, she blessed him with the ability to find and kill the giant killer unicorns. Great gift, right? Every one of his female ancestors would possess the gift as long as she reminded a virgin. Of course, Astrid and all of her friends at unicorn hunting school are somehow descended from this man, who had no heirs. Let’s not forget that Diana is also a Roman goddess in Alexander’s homeland of Macedonia, and ancient Greek kingdom. Whoops. Research, it matter.

Other than the weird historical side plots, the book was generally bland and boring plot. The writer did an OK job piecing this mess together, but I found the pacing made some parts hard to read over. Most of the book was just Astrid sitting with her cousin Philippa complaining about unicorn hunting while she could be spending her days exploring Rome. Did I mention unicorn school is located next to the Coliseum? And that’s she’s basically allowed to do whatever she wants when she’s not training?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. If you are looking for a teen romance novel with the slightest dash of fantasy, be my guest and try it. But if you are like me, and expecting a book about girls that are more interested in adventure than finding their man, I don’t recommend it.


Happy reading,

Laurel, CLP-Sheraden teen



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Takedown by Allison Van Diepen.

Darren took the fall for Diamond Tony after the cops busted a huge drug deal. He didn’t tell the police who the kingpin was because that’s the code—no snitching, even if it means two years in juvie. Now, two years later, Darren’s out. He’s back living with his mom, sister, and little brother who he loves more than anything in the world. He’s doing well in high school, and he’s even getting close with the girl of his dreams!

Yet Darren is dealing drugs again. He’s gotten back in with Diamond Tony’s gang and is quickly moving up the ranks. The other dealers respect Darren for not snitching and even coming back after what happened. His friends wonder why Darren is back to selling drugs again—though his mom doesn’t hesitate to take the money he offers her each week.

By all appearances, Darren is about to become a trusted executive in Diamond Tony’s drug ring. Yet Darren has a secret: he’s working with the police to bring Tony down. Darren knows he’s playing with fire, but he won’t stop until he brings Tony down—or dies trying.

Reviewed by Amy, CLP-Lawrenceville


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James Dashner’s new series The Mortality Doctrine begins with this intense, fast-paced thriller set in a technologically advanced future.  Video games have progressed to the point where, if you can afford it, you can buy a “coffin” where you plug into the VirtNet and actually exist in the game.  You can hang out with your Virt friends, be completely physically and mentally immersed in any game and live out your gaming fantasies. If you die in a game, no big deal.  But when someone starts trapping gamers in the VirtNet, death becomes a very real thing.

No one knows why Kaine is trapping people, but the trapped players are starting to pop up everywhere and disturb the VirtNet.  The government hires Michael, an amazing gamer who spends most of his time in the VirtNet, to solve the mystery with his VirtNet friends Bryson and Sarah.  When they agreed to take on this task they had no idea just how dangerous it would be. Michael, Bryson and Sarah goof around a lot and even though they get into potentially deadly situations they still manage to crack jokes.  The Eye of Minds isn’t all fun and games though.  From page one it’s a super fast paced thriller that won’t disappoint readers looking for an adventurous ride through virtual reality.


Reviewed by Annica –CLP-West End

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fake id

Fake ID by Lamar Giles

     When Nick Pearson shows up in the tiny town of Stephon, Virginia, not of his own accord, a chain of events that coincide with his family’s arrival began to happen.  It started out pretty normal, Boy eyes Jock’s girlfriend and promptly receives his welcome to the New High School in the form of a beat down.  Eli rescues Nick from a pretty terrible start by befriending him.  As it turns out Zak the jock’s girlfriend is Eli’s sister, Reya.  Nick finds his new best buddy of a week dead in the journalism room with his wrists cut; an apparent suicide. But even though he hasn’t known Eli long, he knows there is more to the story than his friend’s “suicide”.  Eli was working on a project that he called Whispertown.

Eli was going to let Nick in on the secrets. It is hard to tell secrets when you’re dead, but, not impossible.  Eli left evidence and Nick seemingly is the only one who can put the puzzle pieces together.  He doesn’t know who to trust and, no one in the town trusts anyone.  The dead boy is hiding secrets, the town mayor is a crook and Nick’s father is up to his ears in trouble.  Nick is not even Nick. In fact, his name is Tony Bordeaux. He and his family are in the WitSec program.  WitSec is similar to Witness Protection Program.  Tony’s father has blown it so much that this is their last placement.  It happens to be their fourth location and his federal agent, Bertram, has assured him, the Feds will no longer assist them if there is any more trouble. ‘Nick’ has a dead student; a flash drive full of evidence and a father who can’t seem to stay out of trouble and that’s not even the half of it.  Read FAKE ID by Lamar Giles if you want an adrenaline rushed Read.


Reviewed by Andrea, CLP-Homewood


jasper jones

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey is both a mystery and a coming of age story set in 1965.  In Corrigan, a small mining town in Western Australia, Jasper Jones is public enemy number one.  Jasper’s mother is dead and his father hasn’t been sober enough to look after him in years.  If being an orphan isn’t bad enough, Jasper’s mother was of Australian Aboriginal descent giving Corrigan even more reason to suspect and fear him.  By contrast, Charlie Bucktin is a bookish 13 year old looking for a way to fit in at school and home.

Then one early summer night Jasper wakes Charlie and beckons him to follow.  Even though he’s scared and a little confused about what Jasper could need him for, Charlie wants to please Jasper who’s a few years older.  After a trek into a part of the forest where Charlie’s never been before, they finally stop in a lonely hollow.  As they stand in there catching their breath Charlie almost doesn’t notice the beaten, hanging body of Laura Wishart.  Now he knows why Jasper has brought him here…

Throughout the hot summer Jasper and Charlie search for clues about what happened to Laura.  As they search they learn a lot about their small town, its prejudice, and its cruelty, but most importantly they learn to trust each other.


Reviewed by Brooke, CLP-Southside

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promise me

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

Reyna just can’t seem to catch a break. Reyna’s mother passed away when she was younger. Reyna’s father was in a tragic accident, which he is still recovering from. In addition to this, she is being forced to abandon her only friends, because she has to go to a different high school. Leaving your friends behind is a difficult task for anyone. In a nutshell, Reyna’s would tell you her life “sucks”.

The first day at her new school, Reyna is completely alone. That is until she meets Olive, an outcast who possesses the in your face, harsh, and headstrong personality, which Reyna is really not to fond of. Being that Olive is her only friend at this new school, so what is she supposed to do?

Reyna and Olive are both dealing with their own insecurities and personal turmoil’s. Reyna an Olive soon confide in one another, but Reyna isn’t prepared for or ready to accept what Olive has to share. Olive is gay, the first lesbian Reyna has ever met, and Reyna doesn’t know how to handle it, ultimately shunning Olive.

Issues related to friendship, betrayal, loneliness, bullying, sexual identity, and suicide are honestly and realistically explored in Promise Me Something. To find out how Reyna and Olive navigate and overcome these issues, be sure to read Promise Me Something.

Reviewed by Tim CLP-Allegheny

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just one year

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

In this stand-alone companion to Just One Day, we find out what happened to Willem from his perspective. In Just One Day, Lulu wakes up to discover Willem GONE. Understandably, she’s upset and heartbroken. Did he abandon her? Did something horrible happen to him? In Just One Year, we hear Willem’s story to find out what actually happened to Willem on the day of his disappearance and after.

Willem wakes up to find himself in the hospital with no idea where he is or how he got there. The watch on his wrist is not his – though it jogs his memory of the previous day. He slowly pieces together the details of yesterday, remembering that he spent the most amazing day of his life with Lulu in Paris – though he doesn’t know her real name or how to contact her.

Willem spends the next year drifting through different countries and experiences, but nothing seems to fill the hole in his life. Though he tries to distract himself, Willem cannot stop thinking about Lulu. He contacts the tour group company she used for her trip – no luck. He even visits the Mexican village that Lulu mentioned that she visits every year with her family for the holidays – even more disappointment. Without knowing her real name, Willem believes he will never see Lulu again. To make things worse, he begins to question the day they spent together. Will he ever see Lulu again? If he does, will she be as incredible as he has built her up to be in his head? Will Willem ever find whatever it is he is looking for to fill the hole in his heart?

Reviewed by Amy-CLP-Lawrenceville

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The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

In the last decade the truth about the rampant sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has reached every corner of the globe. But at Christmas in 2001 another headline was echoing across the country. Hijacked planes had recently been driven off course finding the world trade center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. In the environment of chaos and fear that followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 Aiden Donovan is struggling to come to terms with his own tragedy.

Aiden’s family life is crumbling around him. His mother seems to care more about her impressing their wealthy community than spending time with her teenage son. His father, well he hasn’t bothered to look up from his new life in Europe for long enough to check in on his son. And the one person, Father Greg, who Aiden really thought he could trust, has hurt him the most. To cope, Aiden is trying to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol but things are coming to ahead weather he’s ready or not.

The people in Aiden’s life who should be supporting him have all betrayed him, but even as he feels he is completely alone he begins to forge unexpected friendships that might just help him through.

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely is a book filled with beautiful prose about survival and overcoming tragedy.

Reviewed by: Brooke, CLP-South Side


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picture me gone

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Mia and her father are supposed to be traveling from their home in London to visit her father’s life-long best friend, Matthew, and his family in New York State. When Matthew goes missing just days before their trip, Mia’s father simply changes their mission. Instead of catching up with an old friend, they’ll be searching for him. Mia’s strange ability to piece together a room’s virtually imperceptible clues and read someone’s unspoken feelings makes her the perfect travel companion.

When she arrives in New York, Mia begins to put the puzzle of Matthew’s life back together. The cherished dog he left behind, an emotionally-detached wife and the details of a car accident that killed Matthew’s first son all begin to paint an unhappy picture of Matthew’s life. As Mia and her father travel further into a snowy New York in an attempt to follow Matthew’s trail, both Mia and the reader begin to feel stranded in a complicated world filled with “adult” problems. Thankfully, Mia’s talent for reading people, her supportive family and her carefully considerate personality prepare her for the betrayal she uncovers—one that hits close to home and makes her question the safe world her parents have created for her.

Reviewed by Erin, CLP-Allegheny


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