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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.


Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Teen Books That Have Something to Say

In Search of Mockingbird


In Search of Mockingbird
by Loretta Ellsworth
Henry Holt,(April 2007)
ISBN-10: 0805072365
ISBN-13: 9780805072365

My rating:

I stare down at the cover of my book. It's been over a year since I first found Mockingbird in the attic. Since then I've read it cover to cover at least six times, some sections more often. I study the penciled notes in the margins where passages are marked and comments made, each pencil mark as important to me as the words in the book itself. I look up and realize they're still staring at me.
--In Search of Mockingbird, Loretta Ellsworth, p. 5.

Sixteen-year-old Erin's mother is dead, and one of her only connections to her mother is a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that her mother scribbled notes in, and a letter that she wrote to Harper Lee, the reclusive author of the book. Erin is desperate for connection and answers, and finally, after a fight with her father, she heads out on a bus to find Harper Lee, and, she hopes, some answers.

In Search of Mockingbird is an uplifting, enjoyable read about a strong girl protagonist. What makes this book especially uplifting is that throughout the story, strangers on the bus help Erin and encourage her in different ways to reach her goal. So many people end up supporting her, and this is moving and encouraging, and gives the reader the sense that the world isn't a bad place, that there are a lot of good people in the world, and that people can reach out and help others. This brings a lightness to the story, to what could otherwise be a painful read.

Erin does not just passively accept help; she herself helps the key people who help her, helping them resolve their own emotional issues in a satisfying, real way. This serves to balance Erin and her situation out, and to make her more likable. However, Erin's own resolution of her emotional issues did not feel believable to me, and this was a little disappointing.

There is a lightness to this book, even with the themes. Erin's pain and the death of her mother is not focused on in great depth; instead, the focus is on the search, and what happens along the way, all the human connections that are made. Ellsworth realistically hints at some of the dangers that a teen travelling alone or running away would face, but Erin manages to escape them. The passengers' attitude toward Erin changes over time, and through Sedushia's and Epp's influence, and this makes the change believable. Ellsworth creates an almost euphoric state when Erin's fellow travelers and even the driver help her through major barriers close to the end of the book, such as the police looking for her.

Erin and two of the people she met and interacted closely with on the bus, Sedushia and Epp, are the most full and believable characters. Sedushia and Epp both have strong, unique mannerisms, habits, and backgrounds that help them feel like someone you could actually meet on the street or that you might know. Both Sedushia and Epp are clearly protective of Erin and feel a responsibility to look out for her, even though they both have their own problems and quirks, and this is refreshing. Erin herself is a likable character, helping others even as she's running away, caring for them. She's also intelligent, resourceful, observant, and passionate, and her perceptions of others change over time (thus influencing the reader, as well). I would have liked to see Erin worry more about her dad; this may have helped me believe in the resolution more at the end. Ellsworth makes it easy to care about Erin, Sedushia, and Epp, by creating characters with depth and heart, characters who try to do the right thing but still have faults.

Ellsworth uses many closely observed, vivid, and unique details to show characters and setting through Erin's eyes, which helps the story come more alive. This feels believable since Erin wants to be a writer and thinks that observation will help her become that. Ellsworth also shows a strong understanding of body language that rings true, and the way that people sometimes say one thing with their words and a different thing with their bodies.

Although there's some tension in the beginning between Erin and her family, it did not feel fully explored or real, but rather tacked on to help us believe in the reason for Erin's search for Harper Lee. I would have liked Erin's father and brother to have more depth and greater interaction with Erin.

Small bits of foreshadowing are nicely built up to help make the actions and reactions that occur believable, including how quickly Sedushia seems to accept Erin's story, when Erin is clearly nervous. Backstory is nicely sprinkled throughout the story, giving the reader a little more as we go along, which helps paint a more believable picture, and gives Erin some added depth. Ellsworth also brings in some strong positive messages into the story, such as the importance of following your dreams, and knowing that it's never too late to do what you need to do or to connect with someone you love.

There's a lot of dialogue and low-level tension running throughout the book, and this helps the story move quickly, as does the ongoing question of whether or not Erin will achieve her goal or find the answers she's looking for. Different aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird are brought in throughout the story, so the thread is never lost.

I did not believe in Erin's emotional motivation, not for her to leave in the first place to hunt down Harper Lee, or, once she was so close to her goal, to abandon her search. I did not see her work through her own emotional issues about her mother or the reason for her search; it was like a sudden leap was made without bringing the reader along. This made me feel dissatisfied with the story, since Erin's search for Harper Lee was a large part of the book. In addition, the ending felt too pat and neatly tied up; I didn't believe in the patched up father-daughter relationship, though this may be because the father never seemed like a full, real character, and there wasn't enough interaction between Erin and her father to give a real sense of their relationship or to make the reader believe in it. Still, these things did not take away from me enjoying Erin's journey, or my belief in her and the people she met on the bus. And there was enough uplifting feeling from those scenes to pull me through.

This book swept me up in the story and only spit me out a few times; it was a fantastic read--uplifting, feel-good, and written with depth. Recommended!

-Added August 12, 2007

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