2017 High School Nutmeg Nominees

High School Nominees (Grades 9-12)


Mosquitoland by David Arnold

“Top-notch” —USA Today
“Illuminating” —Washington Post
“A breath of fresh air” —Entertainment Weekly
“Memorable” —People

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Mary “Mim” Malone, using money from her stepmother’s coffee-can savings, defiantly boards a bus from “Mosquitoland” (as she calls Mississippi) to visit her mom in Ohio. A bus wreck, a threatening encounter, a chance meet up under a bridge, a cute boy who makes her heart thump: Mim describes it all. The story skips back and forth in time, and Mim, while unflinchingly honest, sees it from her single point of view. And, she reminds readers, she is currently blind in one eye. Debut author Arnold introduces quirky and mostly believable characters, though a few seem over the top, such as the veterinarian who treats Mim’s human companion. Narrator Phoebe Strole manages an array of voices, including Mim’s English-accented mother, and Walt, a socially naïve Rubik’s cube genius. VERDICT Listeners will appreciate Mim’s wisdom, wit, and ability to produce snappy comebacks in awkward situations. Mim’s sly, keenly observant narrative will appeal to fans of A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (Little, Brown, 2014) and John Corey Whaley’s Noggin (S. & S., 2014).—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.




Queen of The Tearling

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

A #1 Indie Next Pick and LibraryReads Selection

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Although the setting resembles medieval times, this story takes place far in the future. Following a mysterious cataclysmic event referred to as the Crossing, humans now exist without modern technology and have reverted back to feudalism. At the story’s opening, Kelsea, the rightful Queen of the Tearling, turns 19 (the age of ascension) and is escorted by the Queen’s Guard from her forest home to claim her throne. Raised, educated, and protected by an elderly couple since birth, Kelsea possesses much book intelligence but lacks practical political knowledge. Nevertheless, she is everything one desires in a leader—she is strong, decisive, just, and possesses an inner strength that allows her to face any challenge placed in front of her. However, her challenges seem insurmountable and include the need to abolish the slave lottery that plagues her people. In an impressive start to a series, Johansen expertly incorporates magic necklaces, political intrigue, questions of honor, well-drawn characters, and a bit of mystery into a compelling and empowering story. As much is (understandably) left unexplained, it will be interesting to see where future installments take this series. –Kerri Price –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Kortya

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Koryta, a widely praised veteran of cross-genre tales, has upped his game with this stand-alone’s seamless blend of western-wilderness thriller and mainstream crime fiction, with a prickly dab of horror. Ethan Serbin, an elite survival-skills instructor during his Air Force career, now runs a similar program for troubled teens in the Montana wilderness. Without warning, a former student reappears, pleading with Ethan to take on a special student. Jace Wilson witnessed the terrifyingly calculating Blackwell brothers committing murder, and he’s in hiding until he can testify. In Ethan’s camp, the former student reasons, Jace will be off the grid and protected by one of the few men certain to help him survive. Ethan agrees, and once the teens arrive that summer with Jace hidden among them, it’s not long before the brothers come for him, flaunting their mystifying ability to manipulate the authorities attempting to keep Jace’s location secret. Unmatched in weapons and brutality, Jace; Ethan; his wife, Allison; and a young fire watcher named Hannah Faber battle to survive a raging wildfire and the murderous intent of a creepy pair of killers rivaling the deadly preacher in The Night of the Hunter. A must-read for fans of C. J. Box and Nevada Barr. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Combine Koryta’s existing fan base, the current vogue for wilderness thrillers, and an aggressive marketing campaign, and you get a novel certain to attract a whole lot of eager readers. –Christine Tran –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.




A Death-Struck Year

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

A School Library Journal Starred Review
A Georgia Peach Book Award Finalist 2015-2016
A 2014 ABC Best Books for Children Selection
VOYA’s Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2014
A 2014 ‘Indies Introduce New Voices’ Selection
A Spring 2014 Kids’ Indie Next Pick

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Cleo Berry frets over an uncertain future devoid of plans, dreams, and ambitions. However, when the Spanish influenza strikes her hometown of Portland, Oregon, she does not hesitate to volunteer for the American Red Cross. Lucier’s vividly accurate description of the 1918 pandemic will make readers tremble over the teen’s fate, wondering whether she will be next on the list of victims. Cleo faces the ultimate dilemma: Given a choice between herself and others, who will she choose in the face of calamity? The pace of the writing is swift, and the author spares little in her account of those afflicted and others who sacrificed their own lives to help save them: loved ones and strangers burying individuals on their own without burial societies, members of the Red Cross going door-to-door in search of the sick, and young people dying as easily as their elders from the disease. This first-person narrative is as much Cleo’s coming-of-age story as it is a full historical account of the pandemic. The novel’s strong voice intimately places readers directly into the dramatic plot right up to climactic ending. Nothing is sugarcoated, making this a difficult pick for the squeamish, who may not easily tolerate the abundant flow of blood and raging fever throughout. The mood of almost hopeless desperation that mounts toward the second half of the book cannot be readily shaken off.
How it went down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race. How It Went Down reads very much like Julius Lester’s Day of Tears (Hyperion, 2005) in a modern setting and for an older audience. With a great hook and relatable characters, this will be popular for fans of realistic fiction. The unique storytelling style and thematic relevance will make it a potentially intriguing pick for classroom discussion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I'll give you the sun
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award
Winner of a 2015 Stonewall Honor
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2014
A TIME Top Ten Young Adult Book of 2014
Boston Globe Best Young Adult Novel of 2014
Huffington Post Top 12 Young Adult Book of 2014
A 2014 Cybil Award Finalist
A 2015 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Book
A 2015 Topo Ten Rainbow List Selection
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A 2014 Booklist Edtior’s Choice Book
A Bustle.com Top 25 Young Adult Novel of 2014

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—A resplendent novel from the author of The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial, 2010). Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. Jude’s takes are peppered with entries from her bible of superstitions and conversations with her grandmother’s ghost, and Noah continuously imagines portraits (complete with appropriately artsy titles) to cope with his emotions. In the intervening years, a terrible tragedy has torn their family apart, and the chasm between the siblings grows ever wider. Vibrant imagery and lyrical prose propel readers forward as the twins experience first love, loss, betrayal, acceptance, and forgiveness. Art and wonder fill each page, and threads of magical realism lend whimsy to the narrative. Readers will forgive convenient coincidences because of the characters’ in-depth development and the swoon-worthy romances. The novel’s evocative exploration of sexuality, grief, and sibling relationships will ring true with teens. For fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (St. Martin’s, 2013) and Melina Marchetta’s realistic fiction. See author Q&A, p. 152.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
Gabi, a Girl In Pieces
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014

Named to School Library Journal Best Books of 2014

Winner of the 2015 Morris Award for Debut YA Fiction

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez has a lot to deal with during her senior year. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant; her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his house for coming out to his strict parents; her meth addict dad is trying to quit, again; and her super religious Tía Bertha is constantly putting a damper on Gabi’s love life. In lyrical diary entries peppered with the burgeoning poet’s writing, Spanglish, and phone conversations, Quintero gives voice to a complex, not always likable but totally believable teen who struggles to figure out her own place in the world. Believing she’s not Mexican enough for her family and not white enough for Berkeley, Gabi still meets every challenge head-on with vulgar humor and raw honesty. In moments, the diary format may come across as clunky, but the choppy delivery feels purposeful. While the narrative is chock-full of issues, they never bog down the story, interwoven with the usual teen trials, from underwhelming first dates to an unabashed treatment of sex, religion, and family strife. The teen isn’t all snark; there’s still a naiveté about whether her father will ever kick his addiction to meth, especially evident in her heartfelt letters to him. When tragedy strikes, readers will mourn with Gabi and connect with her fears about college acceptance and her first sexual experience. A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero’s work ranks with Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) and Junot Diaz’s Drown (Riverhead, 1996) as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Jackaby by William Ritter

“Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” —Chicago Tribune

From the Back Cover

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–seem adamant to deny.
challenger deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

National Book Award and Golden Kite Award Winner

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he’s part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. There he’s paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman’s latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. Shusterman based the novel on his son’s mental illness, and Brendan’s input regarding his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care makes the novel ring true. Teens, especially fans of the author’s other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Sway by Kat Spears

A YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Teen con man Jesse “Sway” Alderman sells drugs, term papers, and pretty much anything other students want. He likes to think he’s above needing friends, but in truth, he feels dead inside ever since his mother overdosed on pills and booze. When Ken Foster, captain of the football team, hires him to learn about Bridget Smalley so he can get her to go out with him, it sets in motion a chain of events that turn Sway’s life upside down. He becomes friends with Bridget’s younger brother who has cerebral palsy, discovers he has a conscience, and falls in love with Bridget. How he sorts all this out makes for a very engrossing story. Narrator Nick Podehl’s pace and different voices are perfect, pulling the listener into the story smoothly and quickly. While the language is pretty rough and there are violent moments, neither should be deal breakers for libraries. The quality of the story transcends both. Teens who like edgy love stories will devour this debut.—John R. Clark, Hartland Public Library, ME –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.