Category Archives: Fiction

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. May 30, 2017. Simon Pulse, 380 p. ISBN: 9781481478687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. It’s not always as easy as boy meets girl. In the case of Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah, it’s more like boy is arranged to marry girl, and girl attacks boy with iced coffee. In her delightful debut, Menon tells the story of two Indian American teenagers, fresh from high school and eager for adulthood. While Rishi’s version of growing up involves happily following his parents’ life plan (giving up art for engineering and accepting an arranged marriage to Dimple), Dimple sees college as her chance to escape her immigrant parents’ stifling expectations (which include little more than wearing makeup and finding a suitable Indian husband). And yet, when Dimple and Rishi finally meet, they are both shocked to realize what it is they truly want—and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. While Menon’s portrayal of the struggles of Indian American teens is both nuanced and thoughtful, it is her ability to fuse a classic coming-of-age love story with the contemporary world of nerd culture, cons, and coding camp, that will melt the hearts of readers.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A clash of perspectives sparks this romantic comedy about two first-generation Indian-American teens whose parents set an arranged-marriage plan in motion, but it backfires big time—or maybe not? In the alternating voices of her two protagonists, Menon explores themes of culture and identity with insight and warmth. Seamlessly integrating Hindi language, she deftly captures the personalities of two seemingly opposite 18-year-olds from different parts of California and also from very different places regarding life choices and expectations. Insomnia Con, a competitive six-week summer program at San Francisco State focused on app development, is where this compelling, cinematic, and sometimes-madcap narrative unfolds. Dimple Shah lives and breathes coding and has what she thinks is a winning and potentially lifesaving concept. She chafes under her mother’s preoccupation with the Ideal Indian Husband and wants to be respected for her intellect and talent. Rishi Patel believes in destiny, tradition, and the “rich fabric of history,” arriving in San Francisco with his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. He plans to study computer science and engineering at MIT. But what about his passion for comic-book art? They are assigned to work together and sparks fly, but Dimple holds back. Readers will be caught up as Rishi and Dimple navigate their ever changing, swoonworthy connection, which plays out as the app competition and complicated social scene intensify. Heartwarming, empathetic, and often hilarious—a delightful read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Sandhya Menon, a New York Times and national Indie bestselling author writes books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). She lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Her website is www.sandhyamenon.com.

Around the Web

When Dimple Met Rishi on Amazon

When Dimple Met Rishi  on Goodreads

When Dimple Met Rishi  on JLG

When Dimple Met Rishi  Publisher Page

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. May 2, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 400 p. ISBN: 9781419723735.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate (Seven Ways We Lie, 2016), features a girl who isn’t sure of anything at all. Jordan Sun is a junior at her performing-arts boarding school, but her low voice and Chinese features keep her from getting cast. Jordan’s on scholarship—her family struggles financially because of her disabled father’s medical bills—and her parents are overly invested in her success. So when she fails yet again to get cast, she considers other options. A spot has opened in the Sharpshooters, an elite all-male a cappella group. It’s college-application gold, so Jordan dresses up like a guy, borrows her cousin’s name, and auditions. Crazier still, she gets in. Jordan Sun, contralto, becomes Julian Zhang, tenor, living a double life as she’s drawn into the world of the Sharpshooters and into what it’s like to be a boy. In some ways, pretending helps her become more sure of her identity: she’s questioned her sexuality before, but as she spends more time as Julian, it becomes increasingly clear that she’s bisexual. Conversely, as she grows more comfortable acting like a guy, the surer she is that she’s not actually a transgender boy: “I knew it innately. The struggle to fit into some narrow window of femininity didn’t exclude me from the club.” It’s a smart critique of gender roles—male and female—in today’s society (a particularly notable scene is one in which Jordan, as Julian, is told in no uncertain terms to “man up” by a respected teacher), and it’s all delightfully wrapped up in a fun, compelling package of high-school rivalries, confusing romances, and a classic Shakespearean case of mistaken identity.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Redgate deftly harmonizes a lighthearted plot with an exploration of privilege, identity, and personal agency. Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American high school junior from a working-poor family who feels a bit out of place at her prestigious, arts-focused boarding school in upstate New York. Though the school’s diversity policy is bringing in more students from minority backgrounds, most of her classmates are still wealthy and white. After continued rejection for roles in the theater department, Jordan decides to try her hand at something new and joins one of the school’s legendary a cappella groups: a traditionally all-male one. To audition, Jordan adopts the male persona of Julian, and when Julian is accepted to fill a tenor spot with the group, Jordan must slip into the role of her life. As a first-person narrator, Jordan is often dryly sarcastic, but it is her lyrical prose that brings depth and empathy to a story that could otherwise be another needless riff on the cross-dressing trope. “It’s too simple to hate the people who have doorways where you have walls,” she reflects. Wearing Julian’s identity causes Jordan to question her assumptions regarding femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Jordan ultimately shatters her own self-limiting expectations and in doing so encourages readers to do likewise. A heart song for all readers who have ever felt like strangers in their own skins. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Riley Redgate speaks exclusively in third person, so this works nicely. She loves horror films, apocalyptic thunderstorms, and the Atonement soundtrack. When writing author bios, she feels as if she is crafting some weirdly formal Tinder profile.

She plans someday to start a melodramatically epic rock band named Millennial Filth. Until then, she writes acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, also novels.

Her website is rileyredgate.com.

Around the Web

Noteworthy on Amazon

Noteworthy on Goodreads

Noteworthy on JLG

Noteworthy Publisher Page

Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber. March 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 281 p. ISBN: 9780545902144.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12 and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Both the literal and figurative senses of the word “spine” form the backbone of Gerber’s debut. The same day white seventh-grader Rachel Brooks starts in an important soccer game, she learns that her scoliosis has worsened, and she now needs to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. The author, who wore a brace herself, vividly conveys its constricting bulk. But her spine isn’t the only curve Rachel has to brace herself for. Her mother, whose own scoliosis required a spinal fusion, is rigid and unsympathetic as the brace affects Rachel’s soccer technique and jeopardizes her place on the team. Her classmates gossip, and though her friends and crush are generally supportive, the author nails their realistic discomfort at being bullied by association. Ultimately, her friends help her to adjust, and Rachel learns to assert herself. As Rachel grows a spine, her mother learns to bend, sympathetically revealing the fears she never addressed during her own treatment. Their disparate experiences give scoliosis—and their relationship—nuance as well as tension. The author doesn’t diminish Rachel’s difficulties, but at heart her story is uplifting; a brace can be a “built-in drum” to dance to. An author’s note provides a short list of scoliosis resources. Comparisons to Judy Blume’s Deenie (1973) might be inevitable, but Rachel stands admirably on her own. (Fiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Alyson Gerber wore a back brace for scoliosis from the age of eleven to thirteen, an experience that led directly to Braced. She received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and before that she taught elementary and middle school students in a supplementary education program. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Her website is www.alysongerber.com

Around the Web

Braced on Amazon

Braced  on Goodreads

Braced  on JLG

Braced  Publisher Page

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall  by Jennifer E. Smith. May 2, 2017. Delacorte Press, 417 p. ISBN: 9780399559396.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck–at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday–just when it seems they might be on the brink of something–she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Luck isn’t something that 18-year-old Alice is familiar with. When she was 9, her parents died just months apart from each other, and Alice moved to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle. Alice honors her parents by volunteering and dreaming of Stanford, though her longing to return to California is tempered by her close relationships with her cousin Leo and her best friend, Teddy, whom Alice secretly loves. On Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice jokingly buys him a lottery ticket—and he wins. Teddy, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his single, overworked mother, seems like the luckiest guy in the world. But as much as Alice wants to believe that this newfound wealth won’t change him, a rift grows between them. Smith, no stranger to romance (Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, 2015) crafts another thoughtful story about a girl on the brink of major change. Alice’s struggles are relatable, and her feelings for Teddy ring true. Particularly well-developed secondary characters put the finishing touches on this lucky find. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: When it comes to teen romance, Smith is quickly becoming one of the big dogs; an extensive marketing and publicity campaign will only increase the buzz.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything. Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune? Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

Windfall on Amazon

Windfall on Goodreads

Windfall on JLG

Windfall Publisher Page

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon. September 27, 2016. Month9Books, 263 p. ISBN: 9781944816926.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Skybright is plunged into the terrifying Underworld where demons are bred, while Stone, stripped of his immortal status, must find a way to close hell’s breach before more mortals die. Meanwhile, Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, is now wed to the strange and brutish Master Bei, and she finds herself trapped inside an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, Zhen Ni worries that Master Bei is not all he seems. As Skybright begins the dangerous work of freeing Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, nothing can prepare them for an encounter so dark that it threatens to overtake their very beings

Sequel to: Serpentine

Part of series: Serpentine (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Gore

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2016)
This thrilling sequel to Pon’s Serpentine (2015) begins soon after the Great Battle between mortals and demons, as Skybright and her compatriots struggle with the fallout and face the looming threat of a new breach to the underworld. Vivid sensory descriptions make the Chinese-inflected fantasy kingdom of Xia an immersive world. The mortal realm, the heavens, and the underworld are at once enchanting and terrifying, and at the story’s core are dynamic characters who resist confinement to archetypes. Torn away from her mortal life, Skybright grows to accept her nature as a serpent demon without rejecting her love for her friends. Zhen Ni, meanwhile, displays extraordinary cunning as she navigates her new duties as a wife while uncovering her husband’s dark plans. Kai Sen’s fierce determination to save Skybright and break the covenant makes him shed his dreamer personality to hone his magic. Stone, immortal intermediary to the gods, learns to respect and admire the mortals as he witnesses the strength of their will. The narration unfolds through their four points of view, shifting perspectives at key scenes rather than chapter by chapter. The resulting dramatic irony tests the characters’ integrity and their faith in one another. Still, they are impressively wise and compassionate, acting, when pressed, out of loyalty rather than bitterness. A brilliant second act that can be read alone. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

School Library Journal Xpress (November 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-This sequel to Serpentine begins nine days after the first volume’s conclusion. Skybright is forced to give up her life and follow Stone in order to save those she loves, and has no time to adjust. She is taken into the Underworld, where demons roam; thrown into portals to other realms; and summoned to the land of the gods. She goes through all of this only to learn that Stone has been stripped of most of his powers, the gateway to hell still needs to be closed, and if they fail, Stone will die. Skybright’s friends are not faring much better. Zhen Ni is made to marry the richest man of the land and quickly becomes concerned that he is not what he seems. Kai Sen is learning magic so that he may save Skybright from Stone. To survive, these characters from very different walks of life will need to learn to work together as a team. Pon excels at describing each scene so vividly that readers can truly picture the protagonist’s surroundings. A story of friendship, love, and duty that fantasy readers will relate to and enjoy. VERDICT Fans will love this sequel just as much as (or even more than) the first. Purchase where the first installment and rich fantasy are popular.-Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

About the Author

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent duology Serpentine and Sacrifice (Month9Books) were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. WANT (Simon Pulse), also a Junior Library Guild selection, is a near-future thriller set in Taipei. RUSE, the sequel, is slated for spring 2019. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.

Her website is cindypon.com.

Around the Web

Sacrifice on Amazon

Sacrifice on Goodreads

Sacrifice on JLG

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. March 14, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763688370.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9; Lexile: 660.

In an isolated society, one girl makes a discovery that will change everything — and learns that a single stone, once set in motion, can bring down a mountain.

Jena — strong, respected, reliable — is the leader of the line, a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, Jena’s years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Self-starvation, Self-injury

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Jena is the leader of her line of seven girls primed since birth to navigate natural mountain passageways and harvest the mica that fuels their community. The mountain is revered, and the Mothers lead the isolated village nestled in its basin. Digging passages is forbidden, so slim-framed girls are bound tightly from infancy to create lithe figures that might easily slip through rock crevices to gather the harvests. McKinlay’s middle-grade dystopia quietly builds a peaceful society, in which Jena is proud of her position and honors the word of the Mothers. When her adoptive mother goes into labor far too early, however, Jena suspects a plot to produce smaller girls to work the line. As she investigates her suspicions and recalls events from her childhood, cracks begin to appear in the Mothers’ stories. Tension twists through the narrative in the claustrophobic mountain passages, the polite yet oppressively controlled society, and Jena’s risky rebellion. Action is minimal, but detail-oriented readers who like stepping into a carefully crafted world will find plenty to ponder in this book’s pages.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
In an isolated mountain village, seven girls tunnel deep into the earth in order to provide for the well-being of all.Fourteen-year-old Jena is the leader of the line, a group of seven carefully trained girls who harvest mica from deep within the mountain. For their village, heat- and light-giving mica is life-sustaining, and if not collected with reverence for the mountain, terrible things can happen, such as the Rockfall that took many villagers’ lives generations ago. The Mothers, wise women who govern the village, carefully select the tiniest baby girls to be prepared for their futures as tunnelers. From birth, the chosen ones are wrapped tightly and fed very little in order to prevent them from becoming too large to fit the tight spaces that weave through the mountain. When Jena discovers the Mothers are inducing labor months early in order to birth smaller babies for training, she questions everything she was raised to believe. The novel simultaneously takes on dystopian and time-slip qualities, but it is of neither genre, and readers will appreciate being left to figure it out for themselves. Similarly, the villagers seem to be pale-skinned but are otherwise racially indeterminate. The prose flows gracefully, like rivulets down a mountainside. Like its classic predecessors, Nan Chauncy’s Tangara (1960) and Patricia Wrightson’s The Nargun and the Stars (1974), this Australian novel explores the ways in which identity is tied to the land one inhabits. A beautiful, sparkling gem. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Meg McKinlay is a children’s writer and poet living in Fremantle, Western Australia

She has published twelve books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her most recent publications are the chapter book Bella and the Wandering House and novel A Single Stone, which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction as well as a number of other awards.

A former academic, swimming teacher, Japanese interpreter and tour guide, Meg has accidentally lived her life in accordance with the song lyrics, “If you see a strange door to your left/then drop your things and run for it”, which is how she found herself wrangling words for a living. Meg has no plans to drop writing, though; she is always cooking up more books, with two new picture books scheduled for 2017, and more to follow.

Her website is www.megmckinlay.com.

Teacher Resources

A Single Stone Teaching Guide

Around the Web

A Single Stone on Amazon

A Single Stone on Goodreads

A Single Stone on JLG

A Single Stone Publisher Page

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. May 30, 2017. Delacorte Press, 368 p. ISBN: 9781524714697.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Suicide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. It’s a murder mystery, Breakfast Club–style: five students from different social spheres walk into detention. Only four walk out. Simon, the outcast at the helm of the high school’s brutal (and always true) gossip app has been murdered, and he had dirt on all four students in detention with him. Brainy good-girl Bronwyn knows she didn’t kill Simon, and she doesn’t think drug-dealing Nate, everyone’s favorite suspect, did either. Simon knew something that could ruin homecoming princess Addy’s perfect relationship, but Addy’s always been so timid. And baseball superstar Cooper has a secret, but it’s not what Simon said, and everyone knows Simon was never wrong. Trailed by suspicion, the four team up to clear their names—and find the real ­killer—even as proving their innocence becomes increasingly more difficult. Told in alternating perspectives among the four, this is a fast-paced thriller with twists that might surprise even the most hardened mystery reader. An engaging, enticing look at the pressures of high school and the things that cause a person to lose control.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Detention takes a dark turn when the student behind Bayview High’s infamous app About That dies from a peanut allergy—and every witness has a different reason for wanting him gone.Although McManus’ debut initially feels like a rehashing of The Breakfast Club, with five teens from disparate social circles brought together through detention, there is no bonding through library dance parties or atypical lipstick application. Instead, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy witness Simon collapse and ultimately die after taking a sip of water. When police discover the drink was laced with peanut oil—and that Simon was going to reveal life-ruining secrets about all four students on his gossip app the next day—they go from unfortunate witnesses to top murder suspects. With each teen (“brain,” “criminal,” “jock,” and “princess,” respectively; “walking teen-movie stereotypes,” as Simon says) narrating alternating chapters, the novel offers insights into common adolescent struggles—from the pressure to succeed to an alcoholic, out-of-work father—as well as an unlikely romance and opportunities for self-reflection as the investigation escalates. Although their suburban San Diego high school is a multicultural place, with the exception of Latina Bronwyn, the principal cast is white. Although the language and plot sometimes border on cliché, this fast-paced blend of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and classic John Hughes will leave readers racing to the finish as the try to unravel the mystery on their own. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. When she isn’t working or writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, McManus loves to travel with her son. One of Us Is Lying is her debut novel.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com.

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. April 11, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062348708.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 490.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old Molly has had 26, count ’em, 26 crushes and not one boyfriend. But wait, here comes number 27: sweet, adorable Reid. Could a relationship finally be in the offing? But what about flirtatious, hipster-cool Will? Doesn’t he count? Love sure is complicated, and for Molly, this annoying fact of life is exacerbated by her anxiety, hypersensitivity, doubts, and even self-hatred. At least partially responsible for all this Sturm und Drang is the fact that Molly is, as her grandmother indelicately puts it, zaftig. As Molly herself exasperatedly thinks, “chubby girls don’t get boyfriends.” But why shouldn’t she have the same kind of loving relationship with a boy that her twin sister, Cassie, has with a girl? In her second, relationship-rich novel, Albertalli has done an excellent job of creating in Molly a sympathetic, if occasionally exasperating, character. And her take on the agonies and ecstasies of adolescent love are spot-on, as she demonstrates, once again, that the heart, indeed, has its reasons the mind cannot know.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are inseparable despite being wildly different: Cassie’s breezy self-confidence and high energy seem to make dating easy, while quirky introvert Molly experiences intense crushes on boys but, certain that she will be rejected, never acts on them. When Cassie starts dating the sharp-witted, “fucking adorable” girl of her dreams, their relationship is serious enough that Molly worries she is losing her sister and starts to withdraw resentfully into herself, not wanting to “vag-block” her sister. Naturally, enter a crush: Molly’s new coworker Reid, who’s funny, sweet, and unapologetically uncool. Molly’s emotional arc bends toward finding the confidence and courage to be “uncareful” and open herself to love without knowing what will follow. Her narrative voice is astute and frequently humorous, as when she describes her feelings about Reid as “the halfway point between vomiting and becoming a sentient heart-eye emoji.” The girls’ mothers’ upcoming wedding—joyfully set in motion after the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage early in the novel—provides the perfect set piece for the escalation and resolution of many intersecting plot points and the themes of family, intimacy, individuality, and change. It also allows for the matter-of-fact introduction of a multiracial family (Molly, Cassie, and one of their mothers are white, while their other mother, younger brother, and beloved cousin are not). A perceptive dramedy that tackles substantial themes with warmth and subtlety.

About the Author

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Her website is www.beckyalbertalli.com.

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Restart by Gordon Korman

Restart by Gordon Korman. May 30, 2017. Scholastic Press, 243 p. ISBN: 9781338053777.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 730.

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Recovering after a fall, Chase regains consciousness in a hospital bed surrounded by complete strangers—including his mother and brother. After he returns to school, he struggles to regain what amnesia has erased, but what he learns isn’t reassuring. His two old buddies from the football team are bullies. The kids he wants to hang out with now, like those in the video club, were often their victims, and they’re understandably wary of the new Chase. If he regains his memory, will he become the jerk he was before? Chapter by chapter, the very readable first-person narration shifts among seven students, giving readers access to many points of view. Their reactions to the changes in Chase’s outlook vary according to their personalities and their prior relationships with him. The characters are well drawn, and the scenes in which Chase befriends an elderly veteran at an assisted facility are nicely integrated into the novel. A talented storyteller, Korman shows bullying, regret, and forgiveness from various perspectives and leaves readers with ideas to ponder.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Will a bully always be a bully? That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default. Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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