Mustang Books - 7th & 8th Grade

The Mustang Book Award reading incentive program encourages students to read professionally
reviewed books that will hopefully spark an interest in reading and inspire them to read more.

book cover: Amal UnboundAmal Unbound
by Aisha Saeed

Parents need to know that Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound is the story of a feisty poetry loving 12-year-old girl who lives in rural Pakistan with her family. When her mother becomes depressed after giving birth to a daughter instead of a son, Amal’s father decides she should leave school to care for her younger sisters and the new baby. This is a hard blow for Amal, but she never gives up on her plans to go to college and become a teacher. Then, in an instant, it looks like her dreams for her future are truly over. Amal dares to talk back to the son of a powerful local landlord and he retaliates by calling in a debt her father owes his family. When her father can't raise the money, Amal is sent to work as a servant in his home until the debt can be repaid. Told simply but powerfully the story puts a relatable face on the practice of indentured servitude, the often devalued place girls have in many cultures, and the power of education to change their lives.

 


book cover: The Benefits of Being an OctopusThe Benefits of Being an Octopus
by Ann Braden

Some people can do their homework. Some get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses. Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

 


book cover: Between the LinesBetween the Lines
by Nikki Grimes

Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward's class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it's about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.

 


book cover: Forget MeForget Me
by K.A. Harrington

Morgan never minded her boyfriend Flynn's private nature. She found it mysterious and alluring. But now he's dead, and she can't move on. Hoping for some closure, Morgan uploads her only picture of Flynn to the social media site FriendShare along with a note to say good-bye. But she's shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as Evan Murphy. She's never heard of Evan. A quick search reveals that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Same eyes, nose, jawline. Only this boy is very much alive. Digging through layers of secrets, Morgan questions everything she thought she knew about her town, her boyfriend, and even her parents' involvement in this massive web of lies. Forget Me is a heart-pounding novel that draws you in and keeps you guessing until the very end.

 


book cover: Friends for LifeFriends for Life
by Andrew Norriss

When Jessica sits on a bench beside a quiet boy named Francis, she is shocked when he offers her tea. This is because Francis is the first person who has been able to see or hear her in the year since she died. Francis’s interest in fashion has made him a pariah at school, so any friend—even a ghost—is welcome. The two immediately bond and get another surprise when Andi, a new student whose aggressive tendencies have isolated her, can see Jessica, too. Three becomes four when Roland, an outcast because of his weight, also sees Jessica. The question of why Jessica has lingered on Earth remains, and the novel shifts from a gentle friendship story to one about depression and suicide as the truth becomes clear. Norriss has written a sensitive novel that illustrates how easy it is to feel alone, the ways differences can be isolating, and the power of friendship and connection. This memorable story will leave readers thinking about how small actions can have a significant impact.

 


book cover: Game ChangerGame Changer
by Tommy Greenwald

Teddy Youngblood is in a coma, hospitalized after a head injury during football practice.  A rising freshman, he was attending a summer camp for the championship Walthorne High School team.  Told entirely in texts, newspaper stories, and transcripts of (one-sided) conversations from visiting family and friends, the narrative gradually reveals that there was more to Teddy’s injury than just an unfortunate accident.  Older players are trying to hush up what happened that day, and younger players, wracked with guilt, are trying to decide whether or not to tell the truth to their parents and friends. As the details slowly come to light, readers will have to decide what the difference is between right and wrong, and whether turning a blind eye to bullying can be just as dangerous as participating in it.

 


book cover: The Girl in the Locked RoomThe Girl in the Locked Room
by Mary Downing Hahn

Ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present.

A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules's parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can't stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier? Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.

 


book cover: GrenadeGrenade
by Alan Gratz

Two boys. Two grenades.

The day the Americans land on Okinawa during World War II, the Japanese Army pulls Hideki Kaneshiro and all the other boys out of middle school and gives them each two grenades. One grenade, they tell Hideki, is to kill an American soldier. The other grenade is to kill himself.

Ray Majors is a newly-minted Marine from Nebraska, hitting the beach on Okinawa for his first action of World War II. He left home to get away from his father, who came back from World War I a broken, angry man. A monster. But how can Ray survive the Typhoon of Steel that is the Battle of Okinawa without becoming a monster himself? Hideki and Ray are destined to meet—and when they do, both their lives are changed forever.

 


book cover: Hot New ThingHot New Thing
by Laura Langston

Lily is discovered by a big-name director when she's auditioning for a role in a toothpaste commercial. He wants her for his new movie, which is great except for the fact that it's shooting in Los Angeles and Lily lives in Vancouver. With the help of her grandmother, she convinces her parents to let her go to LA with her agent as a chaperone. But when she gets there, she finds out that if she wants to be more than the flavor of the week, she's going to have to pay a price that may be way too high.

 


book cover: Lifeboat 12Lifeboat 12
by Susan Hood

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada. Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong. Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

 


book cover: The Lonely DeadThe Lonely Dead
by April Henry

A killer is on the loose, and only one girl has the power to find him. But in this genre-bending young-adult thriller, she must first manage to avoid becoming a target herself. For Adele, the dead aren’t really dead. She can see them and even talk to them. But she’s spent years denying her gift. When she encounters her ex-best friend, Tori, in a shallow grave in the woods and realizes that Tori is actually dead, that gift turns into a curse. Without an alibi, Adele becomes the prime suspect in Tori’s murder. She must work with Tori’s ghost to find the real killer. But  what if the killer finds Adele first? In The Lonely Dead, master mystery writer April Henry adds a chilling paranormal twist to this incredibly suspenseful young adult novel.

 


book cover: NyxiaNyxia
by Scott Reintgen

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

 


book cover: No Fixed AddressNo Fixed Address
by Susin Nielsen

Twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old Felix Knutsson has a knack for trivia. His favorite game show is "Who What Where When"; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix’s mom, Astrid, is loving but can’t seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can’t tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he’ll be taken away from her and put in foster care. As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of "Who What Where When", and he’s determined to earn a spot on the show. Winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don’t turn out the way he expects.

Susin Nielsen deftly combines humor, heartbreak, and hope in this moving story about people who slip through the cracks in society, and about the power of friendship and community to make all the difference.

 


book cover: One for SorrowOne for Sorrow
by Mary Downing Hahn

Against the ominous backdrop of the influenza epidemic of 1918, Annie, a new girl at school, is claimed as best friend by Elsie, a classmate who is a tattletale, a liar, and a thief. Soon Annie makes other friends and finds herself joining them in teasing and tormenting Elsie. Elsie dies from influenza, but then she returns to reclaim Annie's friendship and punish all the girls who bullied her. Young readers who revel in spooky stories will relish this chilling tale of a girl haunted by a vengeful ghost.

 


book cover: Tracker's CanyonTracker's Canyon
by Pam Withers

Thanks to his dad’s coaching, sixteen-year-old Tristan is one of the best climbers and trackers in his community. He can read footprints and bushes like they’re security-camera footage, and fearlessly descend rock faces and waterfalls. So when his father disappears, leaving his mother too grief-stricken to function, the young canyoneer’s life goes into freefall. Left in the hands of a well-meaning but incompetent uncle and a space-cadet housekeeper, Tristan finds life a struggle no matter how hard he works. Finding himself near the end of his rope at home, the teen decides to set off into Swallow Canyon in search of his father—only to realize that someone seems to be out to get him. Now the question is who’s stalking whom, and are Tristan’s skills up to the dangerous game playing out in the deep, shadowy ravine?

 


book cover: UnderhandUnderhand
by M.J. McIsaac

Fifteen-year-old Nick Carver is tired of living in his older brother's shadow. Markus is the lacrosse team hero, love interest of Nick's longtime crush and now the recipient of a prestigious scholarship from the Philston Weiks Academy. When a mistake at provincials’ results in Markus's goal being discounted, rumors start going around school that he cheated. Suddenly, Philston Weiks is "rethinking" Markus's scholarship offer. They've also invited other players, including Nick, to try out for Markus's spot. Nick is flattered but conflicted. He's pretty sure his brother didn't cheat. But can he prove it? And if he does, will he ruin his one chance to finally be in the spotlight?

 


book cover: ScreenshotScreenshot
by Donna Cooner

Skye's social media game is always on point. Until her best friend, Asha, films an embarrassing video of Skye at a sleepover and posts it online. But Asha quickly deletes the post, so everything's okay. Right? Then Skye gets an anonymous message. Someone has texted her a screenshot from the video. This person threatens to share the shocking photo online... unless Skye does whatever they say. Skye's perfect image—and privacy—are suddenly in jeopardy. What will Skye do to keep the screenshot under wraps? And who is trying to ruin her life?

 


book cover: Sink or SwimSink or Swim
by Steve Watkins

It's been a month since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. America is officially at war with Germany and Japan, and everyone wants to do their part. In twelve-year-old Colton's case, that means stepping up at home once his older brother, Danny, ships out with the navy. But before Danny leaves for boot camp, the brothers are fishing on the Atlantic Ocean when Danny's boat is capsized by a Nazi U-boat, nearly killing him. When more U-boats start attacking the next day, Colton realizes just how close the enemy is to American shores. With Danny's life in the balance, Colton does the only thing he can think of to help his family and his country: He steals his brother's enlisting papers and joins up instead. Colton's bold decision leads to a deadly journey. Even if he can keep his age a secret and survive boot camp, he'll have to face Hitler's ruthless submarines. But the longer he's on the seas, the less sure Colton is that he and his shipmates can stop such a relentless enemy...

 


book cover: The War BelowThe War Below
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

The Nazis took Luka from his home in Ukraine and forced him into a labor camp. Now, Luka has smuggled himself out even though he left behind his dearest friend, Lida. Someday, he vows, he'll find her again. But first, he must survive. Racing through the mountains, Luka evades capture by both Nazis and Soviet agents. When he meets the underground Ukrainian Insurgent Army, he knows that is where he belongs: fighting Nazis and Soviets alike. But the desperate rescues and guerilla raids put Luka back in the line of fire. Can he persevere long enough to find Lida again or make it back home where his father must be waiting for him?

 


book cover: WhenWhen
by Victoria Laurie

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one. Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie. Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?