Gateway Nominees 2012-13

A Dog's Purpose

by W. Bruce Cameron

Like cats, dogs have multiple lives. At least, Bailey, the canine narrator of this first novel, has more than one. Bailey's first life is spent as a feral puppy who learns to trust humans after living with a loving but slightly dotty woman who owns too many dogs to suit the county. Bailey is removed by animal control, and his next life brings him to young Ethan, the human Bailey will love and search for through all his subsequent lives, first as part of K-9 Search and Rescue and then as a dumped and mistreated mutt. Through all these lives, Bailey contemplates his purpose in a voice full of curiosity and humor. He ruminates on the usefulness of cats ("none") and the strange natures of humans ("Am I a good dog or a bad dog? They can't decide"). This quickly paced, touching novel will charm all animal fans, especially those who loved Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain (2009) and Vicki Myron's Dewey (2008), the best-selling saga of a library cat. - Kaite Mediatore Stover; Booklist review

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

by Morgan Matson

After Amy's father dies in a car crash, everything that this California girl took for granted changes overnight. Her twin brother Charlie is shipped off to rehab in North Carolina. Her mother accepts a teaching position in Connecticut, leaving Amy home alone to finish her junior year of high school. Then her mom arranges to get Amy to Connecticut via a cross-country drive with a family friend, 19-year-old Roger. The pair quickly ditches the pre-planned itinerary in favor of more spontaneous detours to Yosemite, Colorado, and Graceland. Amy's mother is predictably furious and cuts off her credit card, leaving the teens on a shoestring budget. Along the way Amy gradually opens up to Roger about her father's accident and her repressed feelings about it. During a stop in Louisville, Roger finds closure with the girl who recently dumped him, leaving him available for a relationship with Amy. The theme of her emotional journey meshes well with the realistically rendered physical journey across the U.S. Playlists, pages from a travel scrapbook, well-drawn supporting characters, and unique regional details enhance the narrative. Flashback chapters shed light on Amy's life before her father's death, without breaking the steady pacing. One sexual situation is discreetly described. Overall, this is an emotionally rewarding road novel with a satisfying, if not totally surprising, conclusion. It's similar in theme and tone to Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever (Viking, 2004). - Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA; School Library Journal review

Before I Fall

by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston has worked her way up the popularity ladder; now a senior, she and her three best friends rule their school. On Cupid Day, Sam expects to receive Valentine roses and to party with her friends. The last thing she expects is that she will die, but in the final moments of her life, as she hears "a horrible, screeching sound-metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two," everything turns to nothing. Only, it is not the end for Sam. She wakes up to start the same day over again, and again; in fact, she relives it seven times. At first, being dead has its advantages, as she realizes that nothing worse can happen to her. She first conducts herself with reckless abandon. It is difficult to feel pity for Sam; she is snobbish, obnoxious, a cheater, and just plain mean. However, her gradual and complete transformation is so convincing that when she finally puts others before herself in order to save another life, it is moving and cathartic. The deepening relationship between Sam and Kent, her childhood friend, is sensitively described and the most complex and compelling relationship in the story. Although somewhat predictable, the plot drives forward and teens will want to see where Sam's choices lead. Fans of Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere (Farrar, 2005) will enjoy this almost-afterlife imagining - Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City; School Library Journal review

Blank Confession

by Pete Hautman

This simple, engaging story opens with Shayne Blank sitting in a police station, about to give a murder confession. Hautman effectively employs flashback sequences and alternating narratives to enlighten readers as to the sequence of events that led to Shayne's dramatic revelation. When high school junior Mikey Martin finds himself the target of a sadistic bully, he gains an unlikely ally in the quiet and mysterious new kid, Shayne. Quirky, with a tendency to let his mouth get him in trouble, Mikey masks his insecurities by wearing suits to school and exuding false bravado. His troubles start when he throws away a bag of drugs forced on him for safekeeping by his sister's drug-dealing boyfriend. Consequently, Mikey is threatened with bodily injury unless he pays Jon $500 (the arbitrary replacement fee for the drugs). Shayne offers to help Mikey sort out his situation; unfortunately, Jon is an intransigent bully who refuses to listen to reason, resulting in several confrontations between him and Shayne that culminate in a violent showdown with shocking consequences. Hautman does a commendable job of handling tough issues such as bullying, domestic violence, and drug abuse, and he infuses tense situations with humor. In spite of a conclusion that feels too neat and somewhat forced, Blank Confession's deft and timely exploration of bullying will find an eager audience among teens searching for gripping, realistic fiction. Steer readers who appreciated Michael Harmon's Brutal (Knopf, 2009) and Courtney Summers's Some Girls Are (St. Martin's, 2010) to this novel. - Lalitha Nataraj, Chula Vista Public Library, CA; School Library Journal review

Chasing Brooklyn

by Lisa Schroeder

A year after Brooklyn's boyfriend, Lucca, was killed in an automobile accident, Gabe, the boy who was driving the car, commits suicide and, soon thereafter, begins haunting Brooklyn's dreams. At the same time, Lucca starts showing up in the reveries of his older brother, Nico. Both spirits are persistent and demanding, but what is it, exactly, that they want? Readers of this verse novel will figure that out long before Brooklyn and Nico do, but the first-person point of view, which switches back and forth between the two teens, successfully builds suspense and foreboding in this highly readable romance-cum-ghost-story. The text could use fresher imagery (does the sky have to be a canvas, and clouds, cotton balls?), but the plot is well structured and the characters are appealing. Schroeder's I Heart You, You Haunt Me (2009) was a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult readers, and this one offers promise of being the same. Grades 8-12. - Michael Cart; Booklist review

Five Flavors of Dumb

by Antony John

When in a rush of uncommon bravado high school senior Piper offers to manage Dumb, her school's most popular student rock band, her family thinks it must be a joke. A retiring student and member of the chess team, Piper is neither the stereotypical band manager nor a typical teen: she is profoundly hearing impaired. After she discovers that her parents have spent the majority of her college money to treat her infant sister's deafness with cochlear implants, Piper's quest to get Dumb a paying gig leads her to consider her managerial role as a potential source of income. John's novel is written with a reverence for popular music-particularly the work of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain-and a respect for its ambitious teen characters. Although Piper's hearing is a characterizing detail that could have been used solely to add a type of politically incorrect and screwball humor to the story, her abilities are seen as assets: while lip reading allows her access to public conversation, she is not above using sign language to obscure her intentions. The parallel attention to Piper's hearing family and the strain her parents' decision to treat her sister with cochlear implants adds to the greater story and informs the novel's direction and ending in a satisfying way. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this rock-and-roll novel joins the ranks of Randy Powell's equally thoughtful Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star (Farrar, 2003) and Blake Nelson's Rock Star Superstar (Viking, 2004). - Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston; School Library Journal review.

Matched

by Ally Condie

In a story that is at once evocative of Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), George Orwell's 1984, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Condie introduces readers to the "perfect" Society. Cassia Reyes is a model student, daughter, and citizen. How could she not be when the Society has everything planned and functioning perfectly? All of her needs are met: food, shelter, education, career training, and even her future husband are selected

by officials who know what is best for each individual

by studying statistical data and probable odds. She even knows when she will die, on her 80th birthday, just as the Society dictates. At her Match Banquet she is paired with Xander, her best friend and certainly her soul mate. But when a computer error shows her the face of Ky, an Aberration, instead of Xander, cracks begin to appear in the Society's facade of perfection. A series of events also shakes her dedication to Xander and puts her future in jeopardy. Cassia exhibits some characteristics of Winston Smith and Lenina Crowne in her silent rebellion against societal control and in her illicit friendship with Ky but ultimately, and more satisfyingly, she is more like Lowry's Jonas. Her awakening and development are realistically portrayed, and supporting characters like Cassia's parents and her grandfather add depth to the story. The biggest flaw is that the story is not finished. Fans of the Giver will devour this book and impatiently demand the next installment. - Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA; School Library Journal review.

Revolution

by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi Alpers's younger brother died two years ago and his death has torn her family apart. She's on antidepressants and is about to flunk out of her prep school. Her mother spends all day painting portraits of her lost son and her father has all but disappeared, focusing on his Nobel Prize-winning genetics work. He reappears suddenly at the beginning of winter break to institutionalize his wife and whisk Andi off to Paris with him. There he will be conducting genetic tests on a heart rumored to belong to the last dauphin of France. He hopes that Andi will be able to put in some serious work on her senior thesis regarding mysterious 18th-century guitarist Amadé Malherbeau. In Paris, Andi finds a lost diary of Alexandrine Paradis, companion to the dauphin, and meets Virgil, a hot Tunisian-French world-beat hip-hop artist. Donnelly's story of Andi's present life with her intriguing research and growing connection to Virgil overshadowed by depression is layered with Alexandrine's quest, first to advance herself and later to somehow save the prince from the terrors of the French Revolution. While teens may search in vain for the music of the apparently fictional Malherbeau, many will have their interest piqued

by the connections Donnelly makes between classical musicians and modern artists from Led Zeppelin to Radiohead. Revolution is a sumptuous feast of a novel, rich in mood, character, and emotion. With multiple hooks, it should appeal to a wide range of readers. - Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI; School Library Journal review.

Rot and Ruin

by Jonathan Maberry

At first glance, this appears to be a retelling of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009) but with a male protagonist. But Maberry's vision of a zombie-infested future has more action, more violence, and more emotional depth. Benny Imura was a ba

by when the zombie apocalypse happened. His first memory is of his mother handing him to his older half brother as she is being dragged down

by his zombie-fied father. He resents Tom for leaving his mother, for running away. To Benny, Tom is a coward. To everyone else in their fenced-in town, Tom is the toughest, bravest zombie killer in California. As Benny approaches his 15th birthday, he must find a job or forfeit half of his food rations. After losing half a dozen jobs, he reluctantly agrees to work as Tom's apprentice in the "Family Business." When they travel out into the Rot and Ruin, he witnesses things that change his opinion of his brother and forever alter his perception of the world. He also learns that flesh-eating zombies aren't the scariest or most dangerous monsters around. As with all zombie stories, this one requires a fairly large suspension of disbelief, but once the brothers enter the Rot and Ruin, readers become too wrapped up in the plot to dwell on some lapses of logic. The relationship between Benny and Tom becomes surprisingly complex and satisfying, as does the romantic subplot between Benny and his friend Nix. The length of the book may intimidate some reluctant readers but the striking cover, compelling action, and brutal violence will draw them in and keep them reading. - Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA; School Library Journal review.

Rules of Attraction

by Simone Elkeles

In this sequel to Perfect Chemistry (Walker, 2009), Elkeles once again delivers a steamy page-turner bound to make teens swoon. After getting involved with a dangerous gang in Mexico, Carlos Fuentes is sent to live in Colorado with his older brother, Alex. Unwilling to straighten up and abide by Alex's rules, he soon gets into trouble when he is framed for narcotics possession by a drug lord with powerful gang ties. Carlos avoids expulsion from high school by living with Alex's former instructor, Professor Westford, and his family, and attending an after-school program for at-risk teens. Romance ensues when tough-talking, authority-flouting Carlos finds himself inexplicably drawn to Kiara, the professor's studious, outdoorsy, and vintage-car-loving daughter. Unfortunately, love is complicated, because while Carlos wants to be with Kiara, he is also struggling to extricate himself from the grasp of the drug lord who framed him. After he is seriously beaten up, he, Alex, and Professor Westford concoct a plan to bring the drug lord to justice. As in Perfect Chemistry, the brothers' dialogue is infused with plenty of Spanish, but it's clear in context. The ending is somewhat contrived and rushed, and minor characters are not as well developed. However, the passion between Carlos and Kiara, who tell their story in alternating narratives, is compelling enough to engage teens, especially those who were taken with Alex and Brittany's romance in the previous book. - Lalitha Nataraj, Chula Vista Public Library, CA; School Library Journal review

Sea

by Heidi Kling

Sienna is afraid-of airplanes, of the ocean, of life. She has had these fears for three years, ever since her mother's plane disappeared over the ocean while on a humanitarian aid trip in Thailand. On her 15th birthday, she gets the worst present she can imagine: a plane ticket to accompany her dad and two other doctors on a two-week trip to an Indonesian orphanage-one housing children and young adults who are survivors of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Sienna doesn't want to go, and the cultural differences and deprivations do not make her any happier once there. On her first night, during a welcoming program hosted

by the orphans, she meets Deni, a 17-year-old from Aceh, the tsunami's epicenter. Their relationship develops quickly and leads to actions and decisions that are ill-considered and dangerous-both in a Muslim culture and during a state of civil unrest. Sienna loses her fears much faster than one would expect, and her return home to a friendship that is evolving into a romance, so soon after she was in love with another boy whose life was filled with tragedy, makes her seem emotionally shallow. Teens who like relationship novels will overlook these flaws, but the book is definitely an additional purchase. - Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL; School Library Journal review

Ship Breaker

by Paolo Bacigalupi

A fast-paced postapocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. Nailer works light crew; his dirty, dangerous job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. After a brutal hurricane passes over, Nailer and his friend Pima stumble upon the wreck of a luxurious clipper ship. It's filled with valuable goods-a "Lucky Strike" that could make them rich, if only they can find a safe way to cash it in. Amid the wreckage, a girl barely clings to life. If they help her, she tells them, she can show them a world of privilege that they have never known. But can they trust her? And if so, can they keep the girl safe from Nailer's drug-addicted father? Exciting and sometimes violent, this book will appeal to older fans of Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series (S & S) and similar action-oriented science fiction. - Hayden Bass, Seattle Public Library, WA; School Library Journal review

Sorta Like a Rockstar

by Matthew Quick

Surreptitiously living in Hello Yellow, the school bus her mother drives as a part-time job, Amber Appleton is an upbeat Catholic who spreads joy and happiness while keeping her own difficulties at home very quiet. Her dog, Billy Big Boy, is her companion whenever possible. Routinely, Amber teaches ESL to the KDFC, dubbed the Korean Divas for Christ, with Father Chee on the piano; visits Private Jackson, a Vietnam veteran and haiku specialist; and regularly stops at a nursing home where Old Man Linder backs her corner in her ongoing war of insults with Joan of Old, a Nietzschean cantankerous grump who inevitably smiles in the face of Amber's upbeat humor. The teen and her friends comprise the Franks Freaks Force Federation, ostensibly a school marketing club, but really a place for them to gather. AA's unending optimism in the face of difficult circumstances is well depicted with snappy dialogue and inner musings. When real tragedy hits and Amber is unable to cope, the stark difference between the Amber of the past and the present is delivered in extensive white space and short paragraphs. Amber feels blank. Her reemergence is abrupt, but like a musical, it provides the feel-good ending that rolls on until every bow is tied, every bad guy is given a dose of the Amber spirit, and all of the people in her life are brought together. This book is the answer to all those angst-ridden and painfully grim novels in the shortcut lingo of short attention-span theater. Hugely enjoyable. - Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO; School Library Journal review.

Split

by Swati Avasthi

After Jace Witherspoon is kicked out

by his abusive father, he seeks refuge in Albuquerque with his older brother, whom he hasn't seen in six years. Their mother, also a victim of her husband's abuse, promises to leave him and join her children on Thanksgiving. Jace counts down the days while trying to start a new life and rebuild his relationship with Christian, but he's haunted

by a terrible secret and the people he left behind. This gripping story is especially noteworthy because Jace is a victim who has also become an abuser: he hit his girlfriend during an argument the night he left Chicago. He is quick-tempered, proud, and charming, like his father. In contrast, Christian is more like their mother: restrained, deliberate, and humble. Their father's abuse has made Christian emotionally distant, but Jace's presence forces him to open up and confront his guilt about leaving his sibling behind. The brothers' growing relationship, as they turn to each other to escape from their father's shadow, is touching. Jace's narration is raw and intimate, dramatic and poetic; readers will feel his internal struggle keenly. The rest of the characters aren't as richly or skillfully drawn, however, and the plot occasionally lacks subtlety. The book contains graphic depictions of physical abuse, as well as adult language and underage drinking. - Erin Carrillo, formerly at Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL; School Library Journal review.

The Sky is Everywhere

by Jandy Nelson

When her older sister dies from an arrhythmia, 17-year-old Lennie finds that people are awkward around her, including her best friend. While dealing with her conflicted feelings toward her sister's boyfriend, her anguish over Bailey's unexpected death, and her sudden curiosity about sex, Lennie must also cope with her unresolved feelings about her mother, who left when Lennie was an infant. Debut author Nelson expertly and movingly chronicles the myriad, roller-coaster emotions that follow a tragedy, including Lennie's reluctance to box up her sister's belongings and her guilt over bursts of happiness. The portrayal of the teen's state of mind is believable, as are the romanticizing of her absent mother and the brief scenes of underage drinking and sexual exploration. Chapters are typically anchored by brief snippets of Lennie's writings. This is a heartfelt and appealing tale. Girls who gobble up romantic and/or weep-over fiction will undoubtedly flock to this realistic, sometimes funny, and heartbreaking story. - Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA; School Library Journal review.

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