Gateway Nominees 2011-12


by Amy Efaw

Fifteen-year-old Devon Davenport lies on the sofa mindlessly watching morning TV. She is in physical pain, and her only recourse is to mentally disconnect. Suddenly her life turns upside down and she is left wondering what happened. Why is she being charged with attempted murder? Through a series of conversations with her court-appointed attorney, Devon begins to uncover deep-seated resentments and awaken to the fact that she had been pregnant, has given birth to a baby, and thrown the infant into a Dumpster. Devon begins as an unsympathetic character who grows, giving readers a better understanding of her choices.

Fat Cat

by Robin Brande

Rotund brainiac Catherine "Cat" Locke, a junior, becomes her own science-fair project "guinea pig," trying to live a prehistoric lifestyle for seven months. Out for revenge on former best friend/crush and detested rival Matt McKinney, she gives up cars, phones, TV, computers, and processed foods in her determination to win this year's competition. Cat's slimmed-down body attracts several boys' attention, and she expands her project to observe the effects on herself and others, coached in the social graces

by her beautiful, brilliant girlfriend Amanda. Delightful character depth and humorous plot twists make this a satisfying read as Cat confronts the real issues separating her from Matt. Brande precisely captures the different psyches of teenage guys and girls, weaving fitness, friendship, and forgiveness around the scientific method.

Flash Burnout

by L.K. Madigan

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who's a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him. When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa's long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake's participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad's birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue). In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have

by Allen Zadoff

Andy, an overweight high school sophomore, is bullied by his peers, overprotected

by his mother, and ignored by his type-A, absent father. As the school year begins, his friend Eytan has plans for the pair to shine as representatives of Estonia at the model UN meetings, but Andy has his eye on new girl April. When he is recruited as center for the football team, everything changes. For the first time, he experiences parties, girls-including April-and popularity. Initially bogged down by the teen's self-deprecating comments and jokes, the plot begins to develop as Andy describes his new experiences with humor and wit. He is realistic as he shovels food into his mouth to assuage pain and embarrassment, struggles to maintain his friendship with Eytan after abandoning Estonia, and allows himself to be manipulated by teammates.

Hate List

by Jennifer Brown

At the end of their junior year, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend pulls a gun in the Commons, leaving six students and a teacher dead and many others wounded. Valerie is hit

by a bullet in the leg trying to stop him, just before he ends his own life. Until that point, Valerie had no idea that the "hate list" that she and Nick created would be used to target victims in a vengeful shooting spree. For her, the list of tormentors was a way to ease the pain of being bullied and an outlet against the constant fighting between her parents. Although the police investigation reveals that Valerie had nothing to do with the actual shootings, many people in her community, including her parents, have a hard time believing that she is not at fault, too. With the help of a patient and insightful therapist, Valerie bravely returns to school after the summer to face the challenges before her. Told

by Valerie in then-and-now chapters, with a few "excerpts" from local newspaper articles added for perspective, this is a startling, powerful, and poignant account of the incidents leading up to, immediately following, and continuing through the teen's senior year of realization and recovery. Valerie is stronger than she knows-a beautifully drawn character who has suffered pain, guilt, and incredible stress as she heals from the shooting, the loss of a troubled boyfriend she deeply loved, and difficult family circumstances.

Hold Still

by Nina LaCour

After losing her best friend, Ingrid, to suicide, Caitlin is completely immobilized. Unable to function, and refusing to visit a therapist, she begins the long journey to wellness alone. During this year of heart-wrenching, raw emotion, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal, which not only reveals her descent into irreversible depression, but also serves as Caitlin's vehicle for renewed hope in the future. The book is written with honesty, revealing one's pain after the loss of a loved one. Caitlin learns, with the help of new friends and her parents, that there is life after Ingrid.

If I Grow Up

by Todd Strasser

For DeShawn, joining a gang seems like a terrible decision-why would he want to work for a pittance running drugs when the inevitable consequences are jail or an early death? A bright boy, he does well in school and tries his best to obey the grandmother who has raised him since his mother's accidental death in gang crossfire. But as DeShawn enters adolescence, the lure of the streets becomes a stronger force, pulling him away from his seemingly meaningless academics and toward the glamour of life in the Douglass Disciples, his housing project's premier gang. He knows he's risking his life, but DeShawn sees no other hope for supporting his pregnant girlfriend and growing family without the fast money life as a Disciple can provide. But when he finds himself entangled in a series of political struggles and murderous schemes within his own crew, the wisdom of his choice becomes less clear, and the danger of imminent death or life in prison looms closer than ever.

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam.

King of the Screwups

by K. L. Going

High-school senior Liam is a talented, straight athlete who is as gorgeous as his mother, a former supermodel, and has inherited her interest in clothes: "I love fashion. And girls.' A mediocre student, he constantly disappoints his dad, an angry, sometimes verbally abusive executive who kicks Liam out of the house after one too many perceived transgressions. Against his homophobic dad's wishes, Liam moves in with his gay, cross-dressing, trailer-dwelling uncle, Aunt Pete. Determined to meet his father's expectations, Liam joins the AV club at his new school and actively tries to fight his natural status as "Mr. Popularity'; but once again, everything goes awry. Liam's parents occasionally feel more like caricatures than fully developed characters, but Liam and Aunt Pete are true originals, and Going balances her strong messages of self-discovery and acceptance with compassionate, bittersweet scenes that highlight the soul-sapping futility of trying to please unappeasable adults.


by Louanne Johnson

High school junior Eddie Corazon and his Mexican-American family live in a crime-infested town in New Mexico where kids are often pressed into service as drug runners if found on the streets alone. Eddie has his older cousin to look out for him, and he tells of the day when he was eight, and felt so proud to ride along with Enrique, drinking beer and smoking. But when Enrique stopped the car, knocked on a door, and shot the man who opened it in the face, young Eddie messed his pants, "smelling the stink of hopelessness that hung around my life." Eddie is now in an alternative high school and brandishing his role as juvenile delinquent until he meets Lupe, a bright girl with dreams of college. Keeping her as his girlfriend is the impetus for change, but poignant memoirs of a caring former teacher and the book The Four Agreements play a major role in Eddie's transformation into a reflective honor student. In the end, the future appears hopeful for the teen, though his change is a bit too didactic as he writes, "you can open a book and follow the words to some new place."

Purple Heart

by Patricia McCormick

When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero. There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together. Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad-Justin, Wolf, and Charlene-the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.


by Maggie Stiefvater

Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf-the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen. When a teen is killed by wolves, a hunting party decides to retaliate. Grace races through the woods and discovers a wounded boy shivering on her back porch. One look at his yellow eyes and she knows that this is her wolf in human form. Fate has finally brought Sam and Grace together, and as their love grows and intensifies, so does the reality of what awaits them. It is only a matter of time before the winter cold changes him back into a wolf, and this time he might stay that way forever. Told from alternating points of view, the narrative takes a classic Romeo & Julietplot and transforms it into a paranormal romance that is beautiful and moving.

The Chosen One

by Carol Lynch Williams

In this thriller, 13-year-old Kyra lives in an isolated polygamist cult. Life in the compound is as dry as the surrounding desert, more confining than the chain-link fence on its perimeter. But Kyra finds small freedoms despite the tightly controlled communal environment and is able to slip outside to wander the desert. There she chances upon a friendly book-mobile driver who opens the world of children's literature to her. Kyra even begins a flirtation with her classmate, Joshua, a dangerous sin for which they will both pay dearly. The brutal leader, Prophet Childs, has plans for Kyra and will brook no disobedience. He assigns her to be the seventh wife of her own 60-year-old uncle. Repelled, she resists. She and Joshua are badly beaten and she is told that other young people have been killed for taking a similarly defiant stand. Kyra's loving father is powerless to help her and counsels her to accept her fate, but she cannot.

The Morgue and Me

by John C. Ford

The summer before Christopher Newell is set to start college, he gets a job in the morgue because it's his life's goal to become a spy and working there should teach him about forensic pathology, if nothing else. Instead he discovers a murder cover-up that points to town officials and close friends. As he works to discover whodunit, the plot thickens with bribery, blackmail, murder, and revenge. With everyone suspect, and danger deepening, it seems that the only person Christopher can trust is Tina McIntyre, an insanely hot, brazen reporter who wants to boost her career with a killer story. Together they might discover the truth, but at what cost?

We Were Here

by Matt de la Pena

Miguel struggles to forgive himself for a tragic event that changed his life and his family forever. He willingly accepts his one-year sentence to a juvenile detention center and the requirement that he keep a journal. De La Peña uses the conceit of the journal to tell the story in Miguel's words. At the center, Miguel befriends Rondell, a mentally challenged teen prone to violent outbursts, and Mong, a troubled boy with myriad physical and emotional problems. Mong organizes an escape, and with little apparent thought, Miguel and Rondell agree to join him. The boys' convoluted travels take them up and down the California coast and are recorded in Miguel's journal, along with his personal journey of self-discovery. It is frustrating that the salient event, the one that led to Miguel's incarceration, is kept from readers, and most other characters, until the end of the book. Once the truth of what happened is exposed, it is difficult to comprehend the callousness shown to Miguel by other family members; in fact, readers may question why he was imprisoned at all. The premise of juvenile delinquents on the run, camping out, and trying to survive and to find themselves will appeal to teens, but the story is just too drawn out to hold the interest of most of them.

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