The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Here’s the author’s website, but I did not find any book trailers.This is a fan-made video trailer.

Summary from goodreads.com: Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .)

Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut.

Personal Reaction: Mature content similar to Stuck in Neutral‘s obsession with female anatomy, but with a sign language Hardy Boys (and Nancy Drew-ish cameo) twist. It was very dark, yet engrossing.

Any Cautions: I read Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator (also by Berk) a few years ago. My summary notes for that title are – HS only. I laughed, but this book is packed full of penis humor and “that’s what your mother said” jokes. This book has similar YA humor. HS math teacher’s physical relationship with football captain and his posting of trophy snapshots from his conquests online should be taken into consideration for recommendations.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Bullying, hearing impaired history/education, coal mining

Connections to other books: I like the smart/witty characters with a snarky attitude. Try Berk’s other books or Neutral by Trueman mentioned above. John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines or The Boxer and the Spy by Parker, are good, too. For middle grades, go with Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by Grisham, I,Q by Smith or The Last Thing I Remember by Klavan (completely awesome). Non-fiction companions: Signing Illustrated and Growing Up in Coal Country.

Items to display with book: “Deaf child in area” sign, a box  of Hamburger Helper? I have never heard of a texting device called a Crony, but if you can find one (I guess any kind of tablet will do) or a photo, it would be cool; or, a printout of a text conversation from book. Fake beard & moustache, dark glasses. Private notebook.  Lump of coal. Map of (northeastern) Pennsylvania. Football helmet. Fake Facebook page for Leigha or Purple. Stuffed black dog. Pack of fanned out playing cards (party invitations), especially face cards.

Food items connected to story: Anything will do, served on a cafeteria tray for that extra touch – pizza, fried ravioli, ice cream, hamburgers, broccoli casserole

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Here’s the author’s website (which includes a link about half way down on the right if you’d like to read the first 100 pages of the book) The book video trailer is posted by the publisher and there are several fan-made videos and an author interview online as well.

Summary: (from Goodreads.com) In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Personal Reaction: My 12yo nephew and I had great discussions trying to decide which faction we would want to join and why! These conversations took place after I had finished the book, but it could also have been fun to compare choices made at the same time as the day of choosing in the book and then if you would change your mind when the book is over.

Any Cautions: explicit violence in the Dauntless faction (similar to The Hunger Games by Collins)

Curriculum or discussion topics: utopia/dystopia scenarios; character traits – esp. courage/bravery versus recklessness

Connections to other books: Highly reminiscent of The Giver by Lowry and Matched by Condie, dystopias where a certain day of the year brings such change and things are never what they seem. Have a book on display that would appeal to someone in each faction along with the realia below: (BASIC EXAMPLES) Dauntless – Striking, Grappling, and Ground Fighting, Erudite – How Things Work Encyclopedia, Abnegation – Conflict Resolution Smarts: How to Communicate, Negotiate, Compromise, and More, Candor – The First Honest Book about Lies, Amity – Meditation

Items to display with book: (something to represent each faction) Dauntless – rubber knife, Abnegation – grey robe or mirror with grey cloth over it, Erudite – brain model, Candor – lie detector or test, Amity – pastoral scene (gardening, painting, etc.)

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex

Here’s the author’s website  which includes three videos (2 “Vampire Hunters” shorts and one infomercial for “Re-Vamp”). I did not find any book trailers online, but this video is a Skype interview with the author about writing the book.

Summary: Doug is turned into a vampire by another newbie vampire crazed with bloodlust. That vampire is hot, Doug is not and is now worried about spending all eternity as a dweeb. While trying to find a balance to his new life without hurting anyone, his best friend Jay tries to help him sift through the myths. Meanwhile, Sejal is a new guest student from India who is trying to forget an incident from her previous addiction to the Internet and make a new, “good” life for herself in the States. Doug becomes obsessed with Sejal. Doug is tracked by the production crew of a reality tv show “Vampire Hunters.” Things go wrong.

Personal Reaction: The good – I had no idea that the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was still captivating the teen set after all these years. There’s typical adolescent obsession with who-likes-whom and it is not much of an issue whether the couples are hetero- or homosexual. There are dead and undead with various orientations. The bad – I thought maybe I might be able to like Doug’s character… but then I never really did, so it’s hard for me to praise the story. I was practically wanting to reach into the book and beat him with a stick for being so slow in the bloodmobile. He has constant foot-in-mouth disease when it comes to treating Jay with true friendship. I actually liked Sejal’s storyline more than Doug’s.

Any Cautions: The f-word is used (not often, but enough), a few instances of underage drinking.

Curriculum or discussion topics: online & offline bullying, LGBT lit, internet addiction

Items to display with book: vampire fangs, Rocky Horror poster, vlog/blog example, civil war soldier photo, stuffed bat or wolf, fake tv commercial or print ad for “Vampire Hunters,” and theater bulletin for “West Side Story”

Food items connected to story: pizza, any red liquid beverage will do (V-8, dark punch, etc.)

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz, but first Raven’s Gate!

Amazing, amazing, amazing conclusion to the Power of Five / Gatekeepers series. There is an author video on his website about his research for the book and this is a video of the author talking about the plot of Oblivion on the publisher’s YouTube channel.

If you haven’t read them all, I do NOT recommend that you jump to the end with this book! Start at the beginning with Raven’s Gate. I read it years ago and knew: AWESOME. You can read the first chapter of book 1 on Horowitz’s website. It’s dark and demonic and delicious.

Summaries from author’s website –

Book 1 – Raven’s Gate:

Matt has always known he has unusual powers. Raised in foster care, he is sent to Yorkshire on a rehabilitation programme, only to find himself in the midst of sinister goings-on. Matt investigates and uncovers a terrible secret – eight guardians are protecting the world from the evil ones, beings banished long ago by five children. But devil worshippers want to let the evil ones back in…

Book 2 – Evil Star:

After his experiences at Raven’s Gate, fourteen-year-old Matt Freeman thinks his days of battling evil are over. But soon he is pulled into another horrifying adventure when he discovers a second gate exists. Matt and his friend Richard travel to Peru and, assisted by a secret organization known as the Nexus, follow a series of clues to the gate’s whereabouts. But there is a traitor in the Nexus…

Book 3 – Nightrise:

Fourteen-year-old twins Scott and Jamie Tyler have never known who they are or where they came from, but they have always known that they possess extraordinary powers. When Scott is kidnapped by the sinister Nightrise Corporation and Jamie is framed for murder, they realise that they must use those powers if they are going to survive…

Book 4 – Necropolis:

The outlook for the future of mankind has never been bleaker. The sinister corporation known as Nightrise is gathering strength and the long suppressed Old Ones are poised to unleash their dark powers on an unsuspecting world. Matt and his fellow Gatekeepers have no choice but to commit themselves to a dangerous path, knowing that their course might save the planet – or spell their doom…

Book 5 – Oblivion:

We find the Five scattered in a hostile and dangerous world and struggling to re-group. The earth has almost been destroyed by the forces of darkness. Those who have survived are barely human, drifting in a world ruled by famine, terrorism and war. Any last hope now rests with five extraordinary teenagers: the Gatekeepers. The Five must find each other and make a final stand against Chaos, King of the Old Ones … but Chaos is everywhere. He calls to them from Antarctica, where he is gathering his forces, preparing for a last battle in the frozen wasteland of Oblivion. And one of the Five has turned traitor. The others know that without him they cannot win…

Personal Reaction: I have waited so long for this finale. You should read them all.

Any Cautions: This series is full of demon-worshipping murderers, monsters and zombies. It can be VERY disturbing. Book 5 tested my faith in humanity and I did cry for Matt. I do not recommend this to sensitive souls. In fact, I might not recommend to any student younger than a mature seventh grader.

Connections to other books: Similar fiction –  Super Human series by Michael Carroll; The Abhorsen Chronicles (Abhorsen Trilogy) by Garth Nix; The Demonata Series by Darren Shan; the Midnighters series from Scott Westerfeld; nonfiction choices about the places where the kids have been in this book or throughout the series – England, Brazil, Peru, Dubai, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Naples, London, Nevada – or choices that investigate telekenesis, mind reading, healing, etc.

Items to display with book: Put the whole series on display. Zombie & demon figurines – or you could have an art contest for those students who have read the series to create or find online what they picture in their heads when they think of the Old Ones and Chaos.

Fight Game by Kate Wild

Author’s myspace account hosts a book trailer, but the website it references has been disabled. It was posted in 2007 and, as far as I know, there are no plans for a movie.

Summary: Freedom Smith is a gypsy boy who can’t stay out of trouble. (There’s a mystery about him – he remembers being kidnapped, stuck with a needle, and returned to his home without anyone being the wiser.) In his latest scrape, he is accused of murder and is offered the chance to escape punishment if he will help the authorities (a secret group called Phoenix) infiltrate an underground fight club run by an evil man named Darkus Knight. Darkus would love for Freedom to fight in his illegal and profitable gambling fight club.

Personal Reaction: This book was brought to my attention by an 8th grade boy who never read much, but could not get enough of this series. That’s a winner of a recommendation for me, so I knew I had to find out what it was about.  Whatever you do, do NOT listen to the audiobook! It just ruined the whole thing for me and I could barely get through it without laughing. The male narrator does an admirable job on Freedom, but everything else is hideous (Java, Ant, Darkus – awful). I started this book in July 2012 and just kept stopping my listening because it irritated me so much.

I think kids could probably get over the silliness of some of the details in order to enjoy the story. I would have appreciated it more if it was only about Freedom and the fight club. I think Darkus could have been a menacing figure without bringing in all the gene-splicing, altar worshipping, zombie brainwashing. The dark side of human nature works just fine in fiction without the extra fantastical stuff.

Connections to other books: Like a fighter with a heart? Try The Contender by Lipsyte  or The Boxer and the Spy *mature content by Parker (boxing), or The Last Thing I Remember by Klavan (karate). Or, learn self-defense moves with nonfiction: Self-Defense for Women by Soo-Warr and Krav Maga and Self-Defense by Byers are just a few of the titles available on fighting and mixed martial arts. I suppose if the gene-splicing subtext strikes your fancy, you could try DNA and RNA (Understanding Genetics) by Hall. I am not aware of any books about gypsy/traveller culture, but there is information available online.

Items to display with book: backpack, trailer/caravan model, old sneakers, monopoly money, boxing ring model, hoodie sweeatshirt

Food items connected to story: Because it took me so long to listen to this audiobook, all I can remember was that Freedom was a sucker for spicy foods. A popular location from the book is a local ice-cream parlor which served Knickerbocker Glories.