Tag Archives: coming of age

Release by Patrick Ness

Release by Patrick Ness. September 19, 2017. HarperTeen, 279 p. ISBN: 9780062403193.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart.  At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Sexual harassment, Homophobic slurs, Homophobia

 

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Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Ness follows seventeen-year-old Adam through one eventful day. A goodbye party is planned for his ex-boyfriend Enzo, but first there’s a revelation from Adam’s pious brother, a threatening encounter with Adam’s lecherous male boss, a much more positive encounter with his current boyfriend Linus, and a confrontation with his evangelical minister father. Meanwhile, in occasional interspersed passages, the ghost of recently murdered classmate Katherine wanders the town. The book is full of references to Mrs. Dalloway and to Virginia Woolf (“Adam would have to get the flowers himself”; Katherine is drowned with weighted pockets), and its author’s note cites its debt to that book and to Judy Blume’s Forever. Release echoes the latter’s frankness about teen sexuality, as well as the gravity Forever gives to teen concerns: only Katherine needs to let go of her earthly life, but Adam needs to let go of things, too, and Ness treats these as equally important. The voice here is more grounded than Mrs. Dalloway’s, and most of the book is closer to realism than Ness’s in-some-ways-similar More Than This (rev. 11/13), but this book’s self-awareness lends its events a dreamlike feel. Though it functions as an accessible, standalone coming-of-age story, awareness of its influences makes for a layered reading experience. shoshana flax

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
An extraordinary, ordinary day in the life of Adam Thorn.Seventeen-year-old, tall, white, blond, evangelical-raised Adam begins his day buying chrysanthemums for his overbearing, guilt-inducing mother. From the get-go, some readers may recognize one of many deliberate, well-placed Virginia Woolf references throughout the narrative. He goes on a long run. He has lunch with his bright, smart-alecky best friend, Angela Darlington, who was born in Korea and adopted by her white parents. In a particularly uncomfortable scene, he is sexually harassed by his boss. He also partakes in a 30-plus–page act of intimacy that leaves little to the imagination with his new boyfriend, Linus, also white. The scene is fairly educational, but it’s also full of laughter, true intimacy, discomfort, mixed feelings, and more that elevate it far beyond pure physicality. Meanwhile, in parallel vignettes, the ghost of a murdered teenage girl armed with more Woolf references eerily haunts the streets and lake where she was killed. Her story permeates the entire narrative and adds a supernatural, creepy context to the otherwise small town. What makes these scenes rise about the mundane is Ness’ ability to drop highly charged emotion bombs in the least expected places and infuse each of them with poignant memories, sharp emotions, and beautifully rendered scenes that are so moving it may cause readers to pause and reflect. Literary, illuminating, and stunningly told. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking TrilogyThe Crash of HenningtonTopics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award.

Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London. His website is www.patrickness.com

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. October 10, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 286 p. ISBN: 9780525555360.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

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Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. It’s here: the eagerly awaited new novel by John Green, and—not to milk the suspense—it’s superb. High-school junior Aza has an obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”), which can be fatal. Her fear has become obsession, plaguing her with “intrusives,” thoughts that take over her mind, making her feel that she is not the author of her own life. She does, however, have a life: her father is dead; her mother is a teacher; her best friends are Mychal, a gifted artist, and Daisy, a well-known Star Wars fan-fiction author. To their trio is added Davis, whom Aza had known when they were 11. Davis’ billionaire father has decamped, pursued by the police, leaving Davis and his younger brother parentless (their mother is dead) and very much on their own. How will the friends cope with all this? And how will Aza cope with her own problems? Green, a master of deeply felt material, handles all of this with aplomb. With its attention to ideas and trademark introspection, it’s a challenging but richly rewarding read. It is also the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Nerdfighter Green’s latest takes readers through Indianapolis and the human biome.Aza Holmes doesn’t feel like herself. But “if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun…?” When a local billionaire—and the father of her childhood friend, a white boy named Davis—disappears, Aza (who seems to be white) and her BFF, Daisy Ramirez (who is cued as Latina), plot to find him and claim the reward, amid rumors of corruption and an underexplored side plot about semi-immortal reptiles. The story revolves around anxious Aza’s dissociation from her body and life. Daisy chatters about Star Wars fan fiction (and calls Aza “Holmesy” ad nauseam), and Davis monologues about astronomy, while Aza obsesses over infection, the ever present, self-inflicted wound on her finger, and whether she’s “just a deeply flawed line of reasoning.” The thin but neatly constructed plot feels a bit like an excuse for Green to flex his philosophical muscles; teenagers questioning the mysteries of consciousness can identify with Aza, while others might wish that something—anything—really happens. The exploration of Aza’s life-threatening compulsions will resonate deeply with some, titillate others, and possibly trigger those in between. Aza would claim that opinions about this book are unfairly influenced by “the gut-brain informational cycle,” which makes it hard to say what anyone else will think—but this is the new John Green; people will read this, or not, regardless of someone else’s gut flora. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers  and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is johngreenbooks.com

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. August 15, 2017. Big Mouth House, 432 p. ISBN: 9781618731203.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border ― unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and ― best of all as far as Elliot is concerned ― mermaids.

“What’s your name?”
Serene.”
Serena?” Elliot asked.
Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

In Other Lands is the exhilarating new book from beloved and bestselling author Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world ― even if it means giving up your phone.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Four years in the life of an unloved English schoolboy who’s invited to a secret magical school and learns that even in fantasyland, real life is messier than books.If Elliot’s story seems familiar, the impression fades quickly. Ginger-haired, white Elliot, an undersized nonpracticing Jew, is a total brat. When the 13-year-old crosses into the Borderlands and sees he’s more intelligent than most of the other kids—and adults—he’s quick to say so. He doesn’t form a circle of friends so much as an alliance of distrustful mutual advantage. With Luke Sunborn, a flaxen-haired, blue-eyed, white golden boy, Elliot tutors Serene, an ethereally beautiful elf with “pearl-pale” skin, who’s determined to excel twice as much as any other student. Elliot’s initial interest in Serene is despicable; he aims to fake friendship until she grows to love him. But over the course of four years training among child soldiers, Elliot, unsurprisingly, grows up. His slow development into a genuinely kind person is entirely satisfying, as is his awakening to his own bisexuality and to the colonialism, sexism, and racism of Borderlands society. Only one human character, the beautifully and sparingly drawn Capt. Woodsinger, appears to be a person of color. A stellar, if dense and lengthy, coming-of-age novel; those with the patience to sit through our hero’s entire adolescence will find it a wholly rewarding journey. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (August 7, 2017)
Elliot Schafer is a small-for-his-age 13-year-old who is prone to being bullied-largely due to his personality, which slots somewhere between insufferable know-it-all and sarcastic jackass. When Elliot’s class travels to a “random field in Devon, England” for a supposed scholarship test, he instead winds up in a strange world known as the Borderlands, which are filled with elves, mermaids, and other creatures. So begins Brennan’s hilarious, irreverent, and multilayered coming-of-age fantasy, set over several years. Elliot quickly befriends (and falls for) Serene, a fierce elven warrior, and arranges a reluctant truce with Luke Sunborn, the son of one of the Borderland’s founding families. All three-along with every young person there-are training in war or as councilors, charged with protecting the fragile barrier with the human world. Amid shifting relationships, the threat of war, and substantial growth among the characters, Elliot’s razor-edged wit and general inability to keep his mouth shut make for blissfully entertaining reading. Smart explorations of gender stereotypes, fluid sexuality, and awkward romance only add to the depth and delight of this glittering contemporary fantasy. Ages 13-up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary.

About the Author

Sarah Rees Brennan is Irish and currently lives in Dublin. For a short stint, she lived in New York and became involved with a wide circle of writers who encouraged and supported her, including Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. She has developed a wide audience through her popular blog, mistful.livejournal.com, where she writes movie parodies, book reviews and some stories.

Her website is sarahreesbrennan.com

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Grit by Gillian French

Grit by Gillian French. May 16, 2017. HarperTeen, 304  p. ISBN: 9780062642554.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

It’s summer in rural Maine; when seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss isn’t raking berries with her sister, Mags, and cousin, Nell, during the day, she’s drinking and swimming with the boys in the quarry by night. She knows how to have a good time, just like anyone else, but when you’ve been designated the town slut, every move you make seems to further solidify your “trashy girl” reputation.

But the fun is what’s been keeping Darcy’s mind off the things she can’t forget: a disturbing secret she shares with Nell, the mysterious disappearance of her ex-best friend, and that hazy Fourth of July party that ended with Darcy drunk, on her back, wondering how she let it get this far.

Then someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel, almost laughable gesture that can only be the work of someone with a score to settle. Everything Darcy has been trying to keep down comes bubbling to the surface in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racial slur, Inappropriate student-teacher relationship

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Feisty Darcy Prentiss is drawn to wild times. She’ll grab at any kind of dare, chug any kind of liquor, and kiss any kind of boy just to alleviate the tedium of small-town life. The summer before her senior year, Darcy joins her sister, Mags, and her cousin, Nell, raking blueberries on a local farm. There’s plenty of tension in the air, as Darcy keeps an eye on her nemesis, Shea Gaines. Only Darcy and Shea know what actually went down between them, and Darcy’s not telling. Then there’s renewed interest in Darcy’s ex–best friend, Rhiannon, missing without a trace since the summer before. Is Darcy keeping mute on something she knows about this as well? And there’s something else Darcy is hiding to protect Nell, who is beautiful but simple-minded. Any of these secrets could explode and rip Darcy’s life apart, but debut novelist French reveals them slowly, stretching the suspense to the very end. French sets the story in a palpably stifling small town, and her unapologetic main character is resplendent with her untamed sharp tongue, an overdose of stubborn courage, and a taste for hot sex. Keen plotting, evocative writing, and dynamic characterization make French a writer to watch.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A girl with a reputation grapples with the secrets of last summer.The summer before her senior year, white teen Darcy Prentiss, her sister Mags, and their cognitively disabled cousin Nell harvest blueberries alongside the seasonal Latino migrants in the eastern Maine heat, working hard to save money. But trouble keeps finding Darcy; she has a reputation, and she’s used to rumors swirling around her. It’s not just rumors about boys, although a white boy named Shea needles endlessly about a mistake she made with him last Fourth of July—there’s also Rhiannon, her ex-friend, who went missing last summer. A police officer starts coming around, suspicious of Darcy’s every move. Though Darcy doesn’t know what happened to Rhiannon, she harbors a different secret about the night the girl went missing, one that could tear apart her family if it got out. Darcy juggles her self-appointed task of defending her cousin, the watchful eye of the law, and Shea’s escalating harassment, all while falling for a fellow white blueberry harvester and begrudgingly participating in the town’s Bay Festival pageant. She’s tough and a fierce protector of what she holds dear, but something has to give. Small-town claustrophobia makes it difficult to define who she is for herself, but rumors, secrets, and even trauma are no match for Darcy’s grit. The mysteries of the previous summer weave together beautifully, and the fallout is achingly real. Gorgeously written and helmed by a protagonist with an indelibly fierce heart. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Gillian French is the author of three novels for teens: Grit, The Door to January, and The Lies They Tell. Her short fiction has appeared in Odd Tree Press Quarterly, EMP Publishing’s anthology Creepy Campfire Stories (for Grownups): Tales of Extreme Horror, Sanitarium Magazine, and The Realm Beyond. She holds a BA in English from the University of Maine, and lives in her native state of Maine with her husband and sons, where she’s perpetually at work on her next novel.

Her website is gillianfrench.com

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Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin

Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin. April 4, 2017. Henry Holt & Co., 288 p. ISBN: 9781627797641.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 970.

The story of two girls and the wild year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat is quickly drawn into Marlena’s orbit and as she catalogues a litany of firsts―first drink, first cigarette, first kiss, first pill―Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try again to move on, even as the memory of Marlena calls her back.

Told in a haunting dialogue between past and present, Marlena is an unforgettable story of the friendships that shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Underage drinking

 

Video Review

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
In her impressive debut novel, Buntin displays a remarkable control of tone and narrative arc. In a keenly observed study of teenage character, narrator Catherine, 15, is miserable in the ramshackle house her newly divorced mother has bought in the dismal town of Silver Lake in northern Michigan. When she meets Marlena, her glamorous 17-year-old next-door neighbor, Cat is smitten with the euphoria of having a best friend. Buntin is particularly sensitive to the misery of adolescent angst, and Cat’s growing happiness in Marlena’s friendship runs like an electric wire through the narrative. Marlena is dangerous, however: she runs with a bad crowd, and her father cooks meth. From the beginning, we know that Marlena is irresistible, reckless, and brave; she’s a mother substitute for her forlorn younger brother-musically talented, beautiful, and doomed to die young. It’s only later that Cat understands that Marlena is the needy one in their relationship. Her bravado hides desperation; she fears she’ll never get out of Silver Lake, that she has no future, and that “there were kids like us all over rural America.” Almost 20 years later, living in New York with her husband and working at a good job, Cat is still damaged by losing Marlena. Crippled by “the pain at the utter core of me,” she takes refuge in alcohol and memories. The novel is poignant and unforgettable, a sustained eulogy for Marlena’s “glow… that lives in lost things, that sets apart the gone forever.” Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Apr.)

School Library Journal (July 1, 2017)
When Catherine was a teenager, she moved to the small, economically depressed town of Silver Lake, MN, following her mom’s divorce. Now in her 30s, Catherine is still haunted by her past. Even a good job and a great husband can’t compensate for a pain that won’t fade completely and a powerful drinking problem that arose as a result of her best friend’s death by drowning. Catherine is consumed by the memory of a girl who made having nothing seem like everything. As chapters deftly alternate between the protagonist’s adult life and her adolescence, readers encounter teenage Cat: angry at her dad and unappreciative of her mom’s efforts, the 15-year-old is primed for reinvention. A bookish girl on partial scholarship at a private high school, Cat meets Marlena, a force of nature: blonde, sexy, and unapologetically brash and worldly. Cat is soon ditching school to hang out with her friend, who’s looked down on by many: Marlena is the daughter of a menacing meth cook who is not above trading his daughter’s sexual favors to a drug partner. Drinking, pills, smoking, sex-all the staples of Marlena’s life, once glamorous to Cat, become routine as Marlena’s sketchy friends and dangerous behavior affect both girls. This searing work from debut author Buntin adroitly captures the dark side of friendship and the turmoil of young adulthood. VERDICT Hand this unflinching tale to savvy teens starting to look beyond Ellen Hopkins or to readers who appreciate gritty fare, such as E.R. Frank’s Dime.-Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

About the Author

Julie Buntin is from northern Michigan. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Electric Literature, and One Teen Story, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Marymount Manhattan College, and is the director of writing programs at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Marlena is her debut novel.

Her website is www.juliebuntin.com.

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Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. March 28, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763689957.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What if you found out your life has been threaded with secrets — ones that rocked you to your core? An affecting page-turner written in a brave, memorable language all its own.

Some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud. But if you bottle them up, you might burst. So here’s my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.

Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. She and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five, but she’s fourteen now and has never been sure why they left England in the first place. She loves her international school, adores her friend Comet, and is protective of her little brother, Hercule. But it’s hard to feel carefree when her mom never leaves the apartment — ordering groceries online and blasting music in her room — and her dad has a dead-end job as a car mechanic. Then one day Sophie makes a startling discovery, a discovery that unlocks the mystery of who she really is. This is a novel about identity and confusion and about feeling so utterly freaked out that you can’t put it into words. But it’s also about hope. And trust. And the belief that, somehow, everything will be OK. Sophie Someone is a tale of good intentions, bad choices, and betrayal — and ultimately, a compelling story of forgiveness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 6-9. Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to put something into words, particularly if the experience is traumatic. For 14-year-old Sophie, a recent discovery about her past sets her world reeling, and in an effort to make sense of it—and of who she is—she puts her pen to paper to tell her story in her own language. English-born Sophie and her parents moved to Brussels when she was five, which, according to her father, is where his family is from. But as the years pass, clues and memories surface that make Sophie begin to doubt her parents’ story. When a school letter arrives asking for copies of Sophie’s passport and birth certificate, her parents can’t satisfactorily explain why they don’t have them. Convinced that her parents are keeping a secret, Sophie starts digging for the truth, growing increasingly angry and confused the more she finds out. Long weaves an inventively written and entrancing story filled with good intentions, poor decisions, meaningful friendships, and complicated but loving family relationships. It takes something of a leap of faith on the reader’s part, as Sophie’s peculiar writing style seems somewhat nonsensical at first glance; however, those who persevere will quickly understand her true meanings. The result is an original narrative that zigs and zags in inspired ways, with a sympathetic heroine leading the way.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for most of her life; now 14, she’s beginning to wonder about the odd things her parents say when they’re fighting, not to mention certain hazy and mysterious childhood memories that don’t add up. Her mother is a rap-loving recluse and her father a garage mechanic who claims a Belgian ancestry. Yet despite giving Sophie’s younger brother the uber-Belgian name Hercule Tintin, both parents seem thoroughly English. Still, Brussels is such a cosmopolitan city that a white, sort-of English, sort-of Belgian girl with a black best friend from the Democratic Republic of the Congo flies under the radar at her international school. Poking around online one day, Sophie uncovers a clue that begins the unraveling of all the lies she’s been told. Or, as Sophie puts it in her cryptic yet strangely comprehensible way, “You probably think I lost my helix.…[C]hasing off to a foreign country to meet a pigeon I’ve just met on the Introvert isn’t anything I’d normally do. But this wasn’t a normal situation.” Sophie and her circle of family and friends are sympathetic and appealing in all their flawed humanity. Her peculiar way of speech soon reads as clearly as plain English and perfectly mirrors her internal turmoil as she navigates her parents’ shift from just mambo and don to people with a past she never imagined—which, to some extent, is a transformation every young person will understand. A creative and memorable story about secrets, lies, and moving on. (Fiction. 11 & up)

About the Author

Hayley Long is the author of several award-winning books for teenagers, including What’s Up with Jody Barton? and the Lottie Biggs books. She also works as an English teacher. Hayley Long lives in England.

Her website is hayleylongwriter.blogspot.co.uk.

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Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. March 8, 2016. Candlewick, 320 p. ISBN: 9780763674670.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.

Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.

And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?

Award-winning author Meg Medina transports readers to a time when New York seemed about to explode, with temperatures and tempers running high, to discover how one young woman faces her fears as everything self-destructs around her.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs; Domestic abuse; Racism; Murder

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1977 in New York, and almost-18-year-old Nora is about to graduate high school and is saving up for her own place. Of course, it’s not as easy as just moving out. Her Cuban immigrant mother, who only speaks Spanish, relies on her to navigate everyday life. Meanwhile, she coddles Nora’s firebug younger brother, Hector, whose short temper is getting more violent by the day. No matter what Nora tells her mother, she does nothing about Hector and faults Nora for his delinquency, and, before long, his terrifying, uncontrollable rages become too scary to handle on her own. Medina artfully links Nora’s escalating domestic turmoil with the infamous summer of 1977, marked by blackouts, sweltering heat, racial tensions, arson, and the Son of Sam killings, all of which simmer menacingly in the background. Medina weaves historical context throughout Nora’s first-person narrative, expertly cultivating a rich sense of atmosphere while still keeping her characters sharply in the foreground. Nora herself is wonderfully multifaceted—hardened by responsibility, delighted by disco, crazy about the handsome boy at her job, and, all the while, stalwart and determined to make her life on her own terms. Powerfully moving, this stellar piece of historical fiction emphasizes the timeless concerns of family loyalty and personal strength while highlighting important issues that still resonate today.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2016)
This vividly evoked coming-of-age story is set against actual events in 1977 New York City, when tensions rose throughout a city enduring an oppressive heat wave, culminating in the historic blackout of July 13th. Seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez faces an insecure future after graduation. The very real fear of an at-large serial killer is magnified by the violence at home, where her brother Hector’s increasingly volatile behavior is dismissed by her mother as merely hormones. College seems impossible: Nora’s mother barely scrapes by with her unstable (and decreasing) factory hours. Nora helps out financially with her job at Sal’s Deli but also manages to stash away some cash in hopes of someday getting away. For now, she escapes by hanging out with best friend Kathleen, going to the movies, and planning a big night out to celebrate their eighteenth birthdays. Nora even starts to fall for Pablo, the sweet new stock boy at Sal’s (and “a stone-cold Latin fox,” according to Kathleen), but the looming fear of a killer targeting young couples and the weight of her family’s secrets make her pull away. Nora is an empathetic character, and Medina depicts her troubled family and their diverse Queens neighborhood with realistic, everyday detail. Numerous references to New York’s budget crisis, arson wave, and “Son of Sam” newspaper articles deliberately ground the story in a real time and place, while an ample sprinkling of seventies disco and funk song references creates a brighter soundtrack for the dreams and romance of teenage girls, hinting at a hopeful future for Nora. lauren adams

About the Author

Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult fiction.

She is a two-time Pura Belpré award winner, receiving the 2016 honor distinction for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 medal for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

 

Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls.

In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or diversity in children’s literature.

She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.

Her website is megmedina.com.

Teacher Resources

Burn Baby Burn Discussion Guide

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Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt. June 14, 2016. Wendy Lamb Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780375990663.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. River is thrown into a tailspin when his girlfriend, Penny, breaks up with him. Life was easy with Penny: he was so madly in love, he just followed Penny’s agenda. He never even learned to drive—why bother when Penny had a car? When Penny decides she needs someone with a little more, well, drive, readers might sympathize with her. But so, too, will they feel charmed by River’s spot-on narration, blunt self-appraisal, and wry commentary on high school and family life. Floundering and heartbroken—and now walking everywhere—River wanders in on a “Second Chance” session, a storefront support group that, it turns out, serves students with addiction issues. But the kids there intrigue him, especially a girl named Daphne, and River makes up a story to justify joining their group. A fairly contrived plot twist ramps up the action later, but this is more than a lively rom-com with smart dialogue. Reinhardt constructs a character who, haltingly, rebuilds himself in believable ways as he confronts family trauma, lost love, and growing up.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2016)
In an ill-advised effort to set his life straight, 17-year-old River Dean fakes a weed addiction and joins a support group for teens. Senior year takes a sour turn for the white teen. Penny Brockaway ends their relationship during a boat trip for his lack of self-reflection. “You just follow along and do what you think you’re supposed to.” Wandering Los Angeles in a post-breakup daze, River stumbles across a sign: A Second Chance. It refers him to a self-help group, where addictions range from shoplifting to Molly. Believing it’ll benefit him in his case with Penny, River feigns an addiction to enlist in the group. “I was taking action. I was doing something.” Readers may often find it hard to accept or even like River. Though an absent-father subplot unearths some pathos, his manipulation of the group, obsession with Penny, and obliviousness to his own privilege crush any goodwill. Aside from the loss of Penny, River attempts to reconcile with his estranged friends, whom he’s previously neglected. On top of that, he must get his driver’s license, since “everybody knows that nobody walks in LA.” As he explores a new relationship with a girl from the support group and remakes his life, he finds it difficult to balance his lies. “Penny was right about me. I didn’t think about things,” he realizes, a valuable epiphany that nevertheless exposes the story’s weakness. The novel ends in a buoyant mood, perhaps not entirely earned. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dana Reinhardt is originally from Los Angeles but currently lives in San Francisco, California with her husband and two daughters.  Tell Us Something True is her eighth novel.

Her website is www.danareinhardt.net.

 

 

 

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Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. March 22, 2016. Dial Books, 247 p. ISBN: 9780803740488.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Bullying

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 12))
Grades 10-12. Poppy is the villain: the beautiful, cruel queen of the neighborhood. Midnight is the hero: the thoughtful boy next door who has loved Poppy most of his life, until moving two miles down the road breaks her spell on him. And Wink is the mystery: the odd, unreadable girl who talks in riddles and is obsessed with fairy tales (or so it seems). But there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and the three teenagers’ fates—and the roles they play in one another’s stories—are far more entwined and complicated than they seem at first glance. In airy, atmospheric prose, Tucholke has constructed an ethereal story where nothing ever feels quite real. Eerie, dark, and unusually sensual, this mystery–love story is similar in tone to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (2014) and will appeal especially to older readers who are looking for surprising plot twists, a creepy fairy-tale vibe, ambiguous narrators, and a world where nothing is ever really what it seems.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2016)
Balancing between possibly paranormal and just plain disturbing, Tucholke walks a fine, spine-chilling line. Dark-haired, awkward (but soon to be gorgeous) Midnight is in love with Poppy, the beautiful, blonde, high school queen with a cruel streak a mile wide. Poppy is in love with Leaf Bell, an older boy who can see “right through the pretty” to the “ugly on the inside.” A self-described bully, Poppy is “built for winning and getting what I wanted and not for trying to be better.” Determined that, if her life is to be one of “desperation, then it would be loud, not quiet,” she is frustrated by Leaf’s indifference. Dreamy Wink is Leaf’s younger sister and a neighborhood oddball–the girl with the tarot card- and tea leaf-reading mother, a freckled dreamer who maybe reads a little too much. But Wink knows every story needs a Hero and a Villain and revolves around three essentials: revenge, justice, and love. Populating her gothic narrative with a mostly white cast, Tucholke writes in three alternating voices, presenting an eerie, tangled story with plenty of questions: Who can be trusted? Who–or what–pulls the strings? High on teen drama and with plenty of trauma–mostly emotional, with a little physical thrown in–the book keeps readers wondering. Nicely constructed and planned, with unexpected twists to intrigue and entertain. Bottom line? Beware of girls who read books…. (Suspense. 12 & up)

About the Author

April Genevieve Tucholke is the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Between the Spark and the Burn, and Wink Poppy Midnight. She also curated the horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. She has received five starred reviews and her novels have been chosen for the Junior Library Guild, Kids’ Indie Next picks, and YALSA Teens Top Ten. When she’s not writing, April likes walking in the woods with her two cheerful dogs, exploring abandoned houses, and drinking expensive coffee. She has lived in many places around the world, and currently resides in Oregon with her husband.

Her website is www.apriltucholke.com.

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Balcony on the Moon by Ibtisam Barakat

Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat. October 25, 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 p. ISBN: 9780374302511.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 970.

Picking up where Tasting the Sky left off, Balcony on the Moon follows Ibtisam Barakat through her childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981 and chronicles her desire to be a writer. Ibtisam finds inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and from an adult who encourages her to keep at it, but the most surprising turn of all for Ibtisam happens when her mother decides that she would like to seek out an education, too. This memoir is a touching, at times funny, and enlightening look at the not often depicted daily life in a politically tumultuous area.

Sequel to: Tasting the Sky

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; War; Suicidal thoughts

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (August 29, 2016)
In this companion memoir to Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood (2007), Barakat continues her tale of growing up in Palestine from 1972-1981, a politically turbulent time. As a high school student, Barakat reminds herself that while she “cannot do anything about Iraq and Iran, the American hostages, Lebanon, the civil war and the Palestinian camps,” she can study for her exams. Themes of equal rights and education for girls become especially poignant as Barakat’s mother acknowledges that leaving school for marriage felt “worse than death” and decides to resume her high school studies. Divided into five parts correlating with the family’s five homes, the book captures Barakat’s growing understanding of the complex dynamics in her parents’ marriage, her outrage at gender-based restrictions, and her determination not to live a life like that of her mother. When her willingness to question and explore opens doors for her, Barakat receives encouragement and support from surprising sources, validating her sister’s statement that “being Palestinian teaches you to be ready for any destiny.” This is a compelling personal history, brimming with humor, wisdom, and empathy. Ages 12-up.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2016)
This intense memoir paints a dark picture of growing up in Israeli-occupied Palestine, where “we are made to live with no land, no country, no rights, no safety, and no respect for our dignity.” The author, a poet, picks up in 1971, where her earlier memoir, Tasting the Sky (2007), left off. She recounts her years from second grade through high school, dividing the book into five sections based on their different homes in Palestine. Told in a first-person, present-tense voice, the episodic narrative deftly combines personal and political events. Evocative details convey her family’s everyday life, in which her father’s despair looms large. A memorable chapter recounts his threat to kill himself by crashing his truck; the whole family insists on accompanying him on the ride. As she grows older, Barakat feels embattled as a Palestinian surrounded by soldiers and hampered as a girl by societal restrictions. Starting in seventh grade, she connects to the larger world through pen pals and then through an eminent magazine editor who encourages her writing. A top student, Barakat grows in knowledge and also compassion, evident when she tutors her strong-willed mother, who returns to high school. A pervasive sense of loss informs much of her childhood, with a growing realization that no promising future exists for her or her siblings in Palestine. A poetic, deeply felt coming-of-age story. (resources) (Memoir. 12 & up)

About the Author

Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American bi-lingual author, poet, artist, translator, and educator. She was born in Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem. Barakat received her Bachelor’s degree from Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah in the West Bank.

Her website is www.ibtisambarakat.com

 

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