April 30


EXILE by Kevin Emerson – Review by Jillian Heise

I admit…this was supposed to be a new book review, but turned into more of an Ode to EXILE by sharing my reading journey with it in its release week. You’ll have to forgive me; I’ve been waiting five months to be able to share this one with all of you, and now that everyone can read it, I’m not sure what to say other than: Teachers of YA readers, please go get this book to hand to your students as soon as you can!



Have you ever read one of those books that just clicks with you? The one where you are so engrossed that by the end you wonder what happened to the last several hours? One of those that when you read the last page and close the book, you think, that is going to be a favorite of the year…and I’m going to booktalk and put into lots of kids’ hands?


Well, Kevin Emerson’s EXILE was one of those kinds of books for me.

Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to host Kevin for a school visit last year, and was excited to see him again at NCTE in Boston last fall. I didn’t know at that time that he had a new book coming out, but as we were chatting, he told me about it and I just knew I wanted to read it (because of how good it sounded, not only because it was Kevin). Happily, he was able to get me an advanced copy of the book, which immediately moved to the top of my TBR list.

Anybody else out here a plane reader? Wait, you’re all Nerdy Book Club members, of course you are! So, you know I had to read EXILE on my next flight for Thanksgiving.

You could sense my excitement about it as I was starting to read while waiting to board the plane:

Jillian Exile Tweet

I couldn’t stop reading, which was a good thing as I finished just as the plane landed. You can see by my triple tweets after landing when I could turn my phone on again that I was basking in the afterglow of fabulous bookishness and couldn’t wait to share it.

Jillian Exile Triple tweet

My thoughts I put on goodreads to try to sum up my feelings for this book:

Five stars…lots of love…and all the awesomeness. Just trust me and go get this book the minute you can…and then put it into students’ hands. Love, love, love this book! Strong voice and awesome story. It’s not even 2014 and I’m already calling this as one of my top favorites of the year – no question. A phenomenal book (that students are loving too). A totally different type of book from Kevin that is SO good. The music, the romance, the mystery, the attitude, the rocking out…it all hits just the right notes.


I booktalked EXILE to my students before we left for the holiday break, and had a waiting list ready to go upon our return after I finished it. Every one of those students who was on the list and read it, confirmed that they also loved it. They recommended that teachers give it to students who like contemporary romance books or students who are in bands or love rock music. So this is not only teacher, but also student approved. Teachers of my generation will enjoy the nostalgia of the fictitious band at the center of the book’s mystery which will remind them of certain bands from their YA years and the feelings of trying to figure it all out at that age; students will fall for the authentically engaging writing, rocking out, romance, and feeling of wanting to find that place you belong and that group who will accept you as one of them.


Find time to read EXILE soon – put on some rocking background music (perhaps Kevin Emerson’s soundtrack for the book, did you know he’s also a musician?) and read on. And, yes, there will be a sequel – thank goodness!


Jillian Heise is a National Board Certified middle school language arts teacher allowing her to discuss thoughts about books with real teen readers, and all-around awesome 7th & 8th graders, every day of the school year. Her students are used to her sharing her reading life, book recommendations, appreciation for rockstar authors, and love of fictional characters with them. Heise Reads & Recommends is her blog where she shares her book recommendations beyond her classroom walls. Jillian is a self-admitted book pusher with towering TBR stacks and does not feel the need for a program to change that. On Twitter, she is @heisereads and is always happy to recommend a book to any reader in need.