The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
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Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.
Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
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Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Suzanne Collins continues the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire, the second novel of the phenomenal Hunger Games trilogy.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)
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High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
Alex Award 2007

The Lover’s Dictionary (David Levithan)

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How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
Alex Award 2012

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. Alex Award 2012

Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward)

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A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.
As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family---motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce---pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real. Alex Award 2012

The Lock Artist (Steve Hamilton)

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Marked by tragedy, traumatized at the age of eight, Michael, now eighteen, is no ordinary young man. Besides not uttering a single word in ten years, he discovers the one thing he can somehow do better than anyone else. Whether it's a locked door without a key, a padlock with no combination, or even an eight-hundred pound safe ... he can open them all.

It's an unforgivable talent. A talent that will make young Michael a hot commodity with the wrong people and, whether he likes it or not, push him ever close to a life of crime. Until he finally sees his chance to escape, and with one desperate gamble risks everything to come back home to the only person he ever loved, and to unlock the secret that has kept him silent for so long.

Steve Hamilton steps away from his Edgar Award-winning Alex McKnight series to introduce a unique new character, unlike anyone you've ever seen in the world of crime fiction.
2011 Edgar Award for Best Novel2011 Alex Award

Finding Nouf (Zoe Farraris)


In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman. Thus begins a novel that offers rare insight into the inner workings of a country in which women must wear the abaya in public or risk denunciation by the religious police; where ancient beliefs, taboos, and customs frequently clash with a fast-moving, technology-driven modern world.
The missing woman is Nouf Shrawi, one of several sheltered teenaged daughters of a powerful local family. Hired to track her and her potential abductor is Nayir, a solitary, pious desert guide of dubious origin, and a friend of the family. As Nayir uncovers clues that only serve to deepen the mystery behind Nouf's disappearance, he teams up with Katya, a liberated Saudi woman who is engaged to one of Nouf's brothers.
As they move closer to the truth, the pair's detective work unveils layers of secrets. In a land of prayers, purity, and patriarchy, the dreams of mere mortals often go unrealized, and the consequences of misbehavior for both men and women are disastrous. The final revelation of the truth forces Nayir to confront his own attitudes about women and society and in his deepening relationship with Katya, to face up to his own long-denied yearnings for love and intimacy.
Alex Award 2009

Big Girl Small: A Novel (Rachel DeWoskin)
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Judy Lohden is your above-average sixteen-year-old—sarcastic and vulnerable, talented and uncertain, full of big dreams for a big future. With a singing voice that can shake an auditorium, she should be the star of Darcy Academy, the local performing arts high school. So why is a girl this promising hiding out in a seedy motel room on the edge of town?
The fact that the national media is on her trail after a controversy that might bring down the whole school could have something to do with it. And that scandal has something—but not everything—to do with the fact that Judy is three feet nine inches tall.
Rachel DeWoskin (the author) remembers everything about high school: the auditions (painful), the parents (hovering), the dissection projects (compelling), the friends (outcasts), the boys (crushable), and the girls (complicated), and she lays it all out with a wit and wistfulness that is half Holden Caulfield, half Lee Fiora, Prep’s ironic heroine. Big Girl Small is a scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.
Alex Award 2012

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba)

This immensely engaging tale relates how an enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity--and a future--to his family.
Alex Award 2010

The Good Soldiers (David Finkel)
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It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. Among those listening were the young, optimistic army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them. Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad, and almost every grueling step of the way.
What was the true story of the surge? And was it really a success? Those are the questions he grapples with in his remarkable report from the front lines. Combining the action of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. And in telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale—not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

Alex Award 2011

Stitches (David Small)

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die. In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.
Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.
Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

Alex Award 2010
2009 National Book Award Finalist

American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China (Matthew Polly)american shaolin.jpg

Bill Bryson meets Bruce Lee in this raucously funny story of one scrawny American’s quest to become a kung fu master at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple. Growing up a ninety-pound weakling tormented by bullies in the schoolyards of Kansas, young Matthew Polly dreamed of one day journeying to the Shaolin Temple in China to become the toughest fighter in the world, like Caine in his favorite 1970s TV series, Kung Fu. While in college, Matthew decided the time had come to pursue this quixotic dream before it was too late. Much to the dismay of his parents, he dropped out of Princeton to spend two years training with the legendary sect of monks who invented kung fu and Zen Buddhism.
Laced with humor and illuminated by cultural insight, American Shaolin is an unforgettable coming-of-age tale of one young man’s journey into the ancient art of kung fu—and a funny and poignant portrait of a rapidly changing China.

Alex Award 2008

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard (Liz Murray)breaking night.jpg
In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.
Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls’ home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.
When Liz’s mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman’s indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.

Alex Award 2011

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)stiff.jpg

Oddly compelling and often hilarious, Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens (Brooke Hauser)new kids.jpg

Some walked across deserts and mountains to get here. Others flew in on planes. One arrived after escaping in a suitcase. And some won’t say how they got here. These are “the new kids”: new to America and all the routines and rituals of an American high school, from lonely first days to prom. They attend International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, which is like most high schools in some ways—its halls are filled with students gossiping, joking, flirting, and pushing the limits of the school’s dress code—but all of the students are recent immigrants learning English. Together, they come from more than forty-five countries and speak more than twenty-eight languages .A singular work of narrative journalism, The New Kids chronicles a year in the life of a remarkable group of these teenage newcomers—a multicultural mosaic that embodies what is truly amazing about America. Hauser’s unforgettable portraits include Jessica, kicked out of her father’s home just days after arriving from China; Ngawang, who spent twenty-four hours folded up in a small suitcase to escape from Tibet; Mohamed, a diamond miner’s son from Sierra Leone whose arrival in New York City is shrouded in mystery; Yasmeen, a recently orphaned Yemeni girl who is torn between pursuing college and marrying so that she can take care of her younger siblings; and Chit Su, a Burmese refugee who is the only person to speak her language in the entire school. The students in this modern-day Babel deal with enormous obstacles: traumas and wars in their countries of origin that haunt them, and pressures from their cultures to marry or drop out and go to work. They aren’t just jostling for their places in the high school pecking order—they are carving out new lives for themselves in America. The New Kids is immersion reporting at its most compelling as Brooke Hauser takes us deep inside the dramas of five International High School students who are at once ordinary and extraordinary in their separate paths to the American Dream. Readers will be rooting for these kids long after reading the stories of where they came from, how they got here, and where they are going next.

The Kids are All Right: A Memoir (Diana Welch, Amanda Welch, Liz Welch, Dan Welch)kids alright.jpg

“Perfect is boring.”
Well, 1983 certainly wasn’t boring for the Welch family. Somehow, between their handsome father’s mysterious death, their glamorous soap-opera-star mother’s cancer diagnosis, and a phalanx of lawyers intent on bankruptcy proceedings, the four Welch siblings managed to handle each new heartbreaking misfortune in the same way they dealt with the unexpected arrival of the forgotten-about Chilean exchange student–together.
All that changed with the death of their mother. While nineteen-year-old Amanda was legally on her own, the three younger siblings–Liz, sixteen; Dan, fourteen; and Diana, eight–were each dispatched to a different set of family friends. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, Amanda headed for college in New York City and immersed herself in an ’80s world of alternative music and drugs. Liz, living with the couple for whom she babysat, followed in Amanda’s footsteps until high school graduation when she took a job in Norway as a nanny. Mischievous, rebellious Dan, bounced from guardian to boarding school and back again, getting deeper into trouble and drugs. And Diana, the red-haired baby of the family, was given a new life and identity and told to forget her past. But Diana’s siblings refused to forget her–or let her go.
Told in the alternating voices of the four siblings, their poignant, harrowing story of un¬breakable bonds unfolds with ferocious emotion. Despite the Welch children’s wrenching loss and subsequent separation, they retained the resilience and humor that both their mother and father endowed them with–growing up as lost souls, taking disastrous turns along the way, but eventually coming out right side up. The kids are not only all right; they’re back together.

Alex Award 2010