Tag Archives: coming of age

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper. August 14, 2018. Viking, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399564543.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A poignant, surreal, and fearlessly honest look at growing up on one of the most secretive weapons installations on earth, by a young woman who came of age with missiles

The China Lake missile range is located in a huge stretch of the Mojave Desert, about the size of the state of Delaware. It was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper’s parents, her sister, and–when she needed summer jobs–herself. Her dad designed the Sidewinder, which was ultimately used catastrophically in Vietnam. When her mom got tired of being a stay-at-home mom, she went to work on the Tomahawk. Once, when a missile nose needed to be taken offsite for final testing, her mother loaded it into the trunk of the family car, and set off down a Los Angeles freeway. Traffic was heavy, and so she stopped off at the mall, leaving the missile in the parking lot.

Piper sketches in the belief systems–from Amway’s get-rich schemes to propaganda in The Rocketeer to evangelism, along with fears of a Lemurian takeover and Charles Manson–that governed their lives. Her memoir is also a search for the truth of the past and what really brought her parents to China Lake with two young daughters, a story that reaches back to her father’s World War II flights with contraband across Europe. Finally, it recounts the crossroads moment in a young woman’s life when she finally found a way out of a culture of secrets and fear, and out of the desert.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
For designing and detonating missiles, China Lake was perfect—a desert wasteland within driving distance of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. But for Piper’s family, life at the military base was full of secrets and challenges, as she reveals in this fascinating memoir. The family moved there when Piper was a girl, so that her father, a WWII veteran, could work on the Sidewinder missile. Eventually, they all got into the missile business, her mother helping create circuit boards after taking a class for housewives and Piper herself working as a clerk in the summers. War surrounded them at China Lake, where streets were named after admirals, ships, and combat zones. But Piper was not allowed to know much of what went on there, even the work her own parents were doing, and years later she returned in search of answers. Here she offers an incredible view of a little-known community, from WWII all the way through 9/11, and examines how her family navigated life in a town built for war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
A smart, self-aware memoir of life in a Cold War outpost.If you’re a government agency, there are three reasons to hide your activities from public view: because they really need to be kept secret, because the activities are fundamentally useless, or because “you want to rip the money bag open and get out a shovel, because there is no accountability whatsoever.” So an official told Piper (Literature and Geography/Univ. of Missouri; The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos, 2014, etc.) in what amounts to a mantra for all of China Lake, a test facility in the hottest, most forbidding part of the Mojave Desert. The author writes of a childhood spent in a household headed by two project workers at China Lake. It was a world of missiles and launches and secrets in a time when the world seemed to be falling to bits—there was Vietnam, for one thing, and then the Manson family zipping around in the nearby desert in their dune buggies (“The Mansons even shopped at our 7-Eleven in Ridgecrest, where Christine and I bought our candy”). By Piper’s account, it was a preternaturally strange place in a strange time punctuated by Amway rallies and enlivened with unhealthy spats of interoffice politics. But interesting things happened there, too, including experiments to turn the weather into a weapon, to say nothing of the business of turning hardscrabble China Lake, a place of prewar brothels and hermits, into a place suitable for straight-arrow military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families. Piper’s account moves among the personal and the universal, with fine small coming-of-age moments. The narrative threatens to unravel a little when, following her father’s death, Piper acts on clues he left behind to follow his footsteps in other arenas of the Cold War, but she pulls everything into an effective—and affecting—whole meant to “ensure that history was not erased.” A little-known corner of the Atomic Age comes into focus through Piper’s skilled storytelling.

About the Author

Karen Piper is the award-winning author of The Price of Thirst, Left in the Dust, and Cartographic Fictions. She has received the Sierra Nature Writing Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award and fellowships from the Huntington, Carnegie Mellon, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently a professor of literature and geography at the University of Missouri.

Her website is www.karenpiper.com.

Around the Web

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Amazon

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Barnes and Noble

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles on Goodreads

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles Publisher Page

Advertisements

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. April 10, 2018. Disney-Hyperion, 361 p. ISBN: 9781484726020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Homophobic slurs, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 9-12. When Danny Cheng’s father loses his job, his parents’ carefully constructed life starts to break apart. His father settles into a depression, and his mother becomes more manic. Both worry constantly about money and Danny’s safety. At the same time, Danny has problems of his own. He keeps deep secrets from those closest to him—about how he might be responsible for the death of his friend, Sandra, one year before, and about his true feelings regarding his best friend, Harry. As Danny struggles to make sense of his parents’ strange behavior, he uncovers evidence of secret lives, of names abandoned, and of a sister he thought had died long ago. Using the metaphor of quantum entanglement—that objects brought together will continue to act in concert even if they are taken apart—Gilbert effortlessly times characters’ present actions with key revelations about their past. With grace and respect, Gilbert manages to address the existential quandaries of both second-generation American teens and their immigrant parents who must make profoundly life-changing choices to give their children the best life possible. The result is both exhilarating and tortuous—Gilbert methodically lays bare her characters’ secrets as if she was slowly pulling a cloth off a fine painting.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Family, art, love, duty, and longing collide in this painfully beautiful paean to the universal human need for connection. Cupertino, California, high school senior Danny Cheng has a tight circle of friends, adoring parents, and a full scholarship to his dream school, the Rhode Island School of Design. But lurking just beneath the surface are secrets and tensions that threaten to tear apart everything he holds dear. Closeted Danny has kept hidden his longtime attraction to his best friend, Harry Wong, who is in a serious relationship with Danny’s close friend Regina Chan. Some of his parents’ oddities also turn out to be more than just eccentricity; they are hiding something dark from their past. Danny knows he had an older sister who died in China, but little beyond that. He stumbles across a mysterious file of papers, but his parents refuse to explain. Meanwhile, some in Danny’s circle of school friends are struggling with demons of their own. Gilbert paints a vivid portrait of a largely Asian-American community, diverse in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, and religious faith. While the topics dealt with may be heavy, the book is suffused with the warmth of the characters’ love for one another. Imperfect in their human frailty and noble in their desire to do the best they can, they are universally recognizable and sympathetic. Exquisite, heartbreaking, unforgettable—and, ultimately, uplifting. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay Area.

Her website is www.kellyloygilbert.com

Teacher Resources

Picture Us in the Light Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Picture Us in the Light on Amazon

Picture Us in the Light on Goodreads

Picture Us in the Light Publisher Page

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury. March 20, 2018. William Morrow, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062741998.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Hunting, Inhumane treatment of animals, Recollection of a sexual assault, Murder, Two instances of strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Tracy lives to hunt, sometimes spending days in the Alaska wilderness with nothing but her wits and her knife. Ever since her mother died, her father has kept her on a tight leash, especially when it comes to training for the upcoming Iditarod. Tracy’s preternatural drive to hunt is insatiable, however, so she sneaks out regularly, which is where she is when the stranger attacks her. She fights back, waking up with a bruised head and bloody hands, but she’s convinced he’ll return to finish what he started. When her father takes on a hired hand, Tracy’s careful secrets start to unravel, and she discovers disturbing truths about her desperate need to hunt. Though the pacing can be haphazard and Tracy’s folksy, first-person narration doesn’t always ring true, debut author Bradbury cultivates vivid atmosphere with visceral action and a dynamic cast of characters. Tracy’s unsettling compulsion for hunting takes a magic-realist turn early on, which might disappoint fans of straightforward survival thrillers, but patient readers who like earthy, genre-blending, coming-of-age stories should be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An Alaskan teenager on the cusp of adulthood is drawn to the feral life.Although the folksy and stubbornly ungrammatical voice of Bradbury’s first-person narrator, Tracy Petrikoff, takes some getting used to, it conveys a visceral sense of her world. In the nearly two years since her mother’s death, a month before Tracy’s 16th birthday, her home life has been thrown into disarray. Now nearing 18, Tracy hopes to enter her first adult Iditarod. But her father, Bill, a champion musher, has given up the sport and is deaf to Tracy’s pleas to let her train. Younger brother Scott has retreated into his books and photography. Other than tending the fleet of sled dogs her family still maintains, she is officially grounded—she’s been expelled from school for fighting. However, Tracy easily evades her father’s halfhearted discipline to set woodland traps. Her catches—martens, minks, hares, and squirrels—provide meat for the family and pelts to sell in the nearby village. Furthermore, trusty hunting blade in hand, Tracy gains essential strength from drinking the blood of her prey while also temporarily mind-melding with victims. One day in the woods, a strange man slams Tracy against a tree root and she blacks out. When the man, Tom Hatch, shows up at her home, bleeding from a stab wound, Tracy assumes she inflicted it. Returning to the scene of her supposed crime, Tracy finds a backpack containing wads of cash, enough to enter the Iditarod. Jesse Goodwin, a young drifter, appears, taking on the role of hired factotum. Tracy and Jesse develop a special bond after she learns Jesse was fleeing Hatch. However, Jesse is not what he seems. The ingredients of a thriller with surreal elements are all in place, as Tracy suspects that Hatch has recovered and may be seeking revenge. From here the plot veers off in directions that are not only unexpected, but at time beggar belief. Still, readers will warm to the unconventional persona Bradbury has crafted for Tracy, that of wilderness savant. A strange and soulful debut.

About the Author

Jamey Bradbury’s work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters.

She moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2002 but kept leaving to join the Peace Corps, work in Vermont, and go to graduate school. The important part, though, is that she came back. If you’re ever in Anchorage, she recommends Spenard Roadhouse for drinks, Bear Tooth Theater Pub for movies and burritos, and Eagle and Symphony Lakes for hiking. She hails originally from Illinois.

Her website is www.jameybradbury.com

Around the Web

The Wild Inside on Amazon

The Wild Inside on Goodreads

The Wild Inside Publisher Page

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter. April 1, 2018. Carolhoda Books, 360 p. ISBN: 9781512475494.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

When she was three, Alena’s activist mother died. She’s been raised by her half-brother and his boyfriend in East London, which is being targeted by a lone bomber. Alena desperately wants to know about her mother, but her brother won’t tell her anything.

Alena’s played by the rules all her life, but that’s over. When she starts digging up information herself and does something that costs her brother his job and puts the family in jeopardy, Alena discovers she can be a troublemaker–just like her mother.

Now she must figure out what sort of trouble she’s willing to get into to find out the truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Alena has lived with her brother, Danny, since she was three. She knows he and his boyfriend share secrets about Alena and Danny’s mother’s troubled life. But every time Lena tries to talk to Danny about it, he shuts her down. At 15, Lena feels old enough to handle the truth, and if Danny won’t give it to her, well, she’ll start making trouble herself by trying to dig up the real story. Her two friends, Ollie and Tegan, will be there to help her through the triumphs and sorrows that soon come, as Lena tries to navigate her confusing past and uncertain future with a frightening present—an unknown person called the East End Bomber is terrorizing her area of London. Barter’s debut displays impressive skill and authenticity in relating issues of family secrets and grief. Readers will connect with Lena on her dramatic, heartrending journey as she begins to suss out the ambiguity of other people’s choices and fateful decisions that happened long before she was born.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
A 15-year-old London girl struggles with family tensions against a backdrop of bombings, crime, and political skulduggery.Lena, whose mum died when she was only 3, has been lovingly raised by her brother, Danny (20 years her senior), and his partner, Nick. But Danny’s just gotten a job working for a law-and-order political candidate, and now there’s constant tension at home. There’s a bomber attacking East London supermarkets, and Danny’s boss—in statements Danny wrote for him—uses anti-crime language that Nick, who runs a hippie coffee shop that displays anti-establishment leaflets, despises. As the couple decide to separate to ease the tension in their relationship, Lena becomes increasingly curious about the mother she doesn’t remember, further infuriating her brother. Why is Danny so hostile toward their mother’s old friends? Real life is messy, Lena learns. As well as that: You don’t have to be political to be moral; good people sometimes do rotten things; doing right sometimes hurts the wrong people; and you don’t always get cinematic closure with the secrets of your past. Several secondary characters represent the multiculturalism of modern London; Lena and her family are assumed white. Amid a thoroughly contemporary story about terrorism, email leaks, and a divisive political climate, Lena’s coming-of-age is wonderfully individual and heartbreakingly real. (Realistic fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Catherine Barter grew up in Warwickshire, and then lived in Norwich for ten years, where she worked in a library, a bookshop, and for an organisation campaigning for the rights of garment workers. After gaining a PhD in American literature, she ditched academia for the lucrative world of independent bookselling. Currently she lives in East London and co-manages Housmans, a radical independent bookshop in King’s Cross.

Her website is catherine-barter.com

Around the Web

Troublemakers on Amazon

Troublemakers on Goodreads

Troublemakers Publisher Page

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala. March 6, 2018. Harper, 215 p. ISBN: 9780061284922.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 960.

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, a revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.

In the tradition of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s AmericanahSpeak No Evilexplores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people. As heart-wrenching and timely as his breakout debut, Beasts of No Nation, Uzodinma Iweala’s new novel cuts to the core of our humanity and leaves us reeling in its wake.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Anti-gay attitudes and conversion therapy

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
When Harvard-bound, Washington, D.C., prep-school senior Niru’s parents discover the gay-dating app his best friend, Meredith, downloaded for him on his phone, everything blows up in his face like he knew it would. Although his Nigerian parents are fiercely loving, they are but bound by their faith, his father especially so, to reject Niru’s queerness and seek religious therapy for his “condition,” both locally and in their ancestral home. In his third book, Iweala—author of the multiple-award-winning novel Beasts of No Nation (2005) and Our Kind of People (2012), a nonfiction book about people living with AIDS in Nigeria—delivers with immediate poignancy Niru’s struggles between rejecting his parents’ constrictions and yearning for them; between embracing his sexuality and believing there’s a cure for it, and that it should be cured at all. Through Niru’s narration, which forms the bulk of the book, he, his parents, and his brother, who’s away at college but a constant presence in Niru’s thoughts, become full and realistically nuanced characters. A later shift in narration allows a different and perhaps more complete picture of Niru, which Iweala also handles elegantly. Portraying cross-generational and -cultural misunderstandings with anything but simplicity, Iweala tells an essential American story.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
Iweala’s second novel, after Beasts of No Nation (2005), is a coming-of-age tale about immigrant identity and sexuality in America.Niru, an ambitious teenager, is in his senior year at a private high school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Driven by his demanding Nigerian parents, he strives for success in both sports and academics. As he prepares to attend Harvard next year, trains to impress his track coach, and struggles to make a space for himself among his mostly white peers, he deftly reconciles his conflicting identities as the son of wealthy Nigerian immigrants and as an American teenager. There’s turmoil rippling beneath his life’s surface, though. When his closest friend, the attractive Meredith, tries to hook up with him, he panics and admits to himself that he’s attracted to men. Meredith excitedly tries to help him embrace his sexuality, but Niru’s impulses are unacceptable to his conservative Christian parents. After discovering flirtatious conversations with men on the boy’s phone, Niru’s father, Obi, takes him back to Nigeria to “cure” his son of what he considers “sinful nonsense.” The scenes of Niru’s clashes with his father are the most affecting moments in the novel: by depicting the fervor and violence of Obi’s anger about Niru’s queerness, Iweala does a stunning job of depicting the danger that many black youth face in trying to honor their sexual identities. Despite trying to suppress his desires and simplify his family life, Niru meets the seductive Damien. The two begin a tentative and tender relationship, but this is not a triumphant novel about Niru’s embracing his sexual identity. Instead, Iweala gives us a novel of keen insight into the mental and emotional turmoil that attends an adolescent’s discovery of his sexuality. Unfortunately, the book seems to lose steam toward its conclusion. Niru’s relationship with Damien is not explored as fully as it could be, while the implications of his parents’ pressure aren’t entirely untangled. The novel resolves with the sudden and disjunctive insertion of another character’s perspective, sabotaging the development of Niru’s own subjectivity. This is a deeply felt and perceptive novel that does not fulfill its promise.

About the Author

Uzodinma Iweala is the acclaimed author of Beasts of No Nation, which received the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions 2006 Fiction Award, and the 2006 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2007, Iweala was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.

A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Around the Web

Speak No Evil on Amazon

Speak No Evil on Goodreads

Speak No Evil Publisher Page

When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram-Donahue

When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram-Donahue. March 20, 2018. Calkins Creek, 288 p. ISBN: 9781629797236.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 730.

Set in the summer of 1939, this historical novel for readers aged 10-14 tells the story of a young girl who finds the strength to defy the social norms of her community when a dangerous man poses a threat to a friend. Twelve-year-old Angie Wallace and her friends embark on a quest to “love thy neighbor,” which includes newcomer Jefferson Clement. But soon the girls begin to suspect that he’s a dangerous man, even if the adults refuse to see it. Like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, the characters in this book must explore the nature of truth and justice as Angie struggles to stand up for what she knows is right.

It’s the calm before the storm of World War II in 1939 in small-town Messina, California. Angie Wallace and her friends have set out on a mission to “love thy neighbor”–even if that means inviting weird Dodie Crumper to join in their summer plans. But as they move through their neighborly to-do list, the girls can’t help but notice that there’s something strange about the sudden return of Jefferson Clement. He might be well-dressed and respected, yet with each interaction they become more aware of his dark intentions, especially when it comes to young girls. The adults in town either don’t notice or ignore the danger he poses, but when Angie is the only witness to a terrible accident, she must make a choice that calls into question everything she understands about truth and justice. With a setting that blossoms to life from the first page, When the Crickets Stopped Singing is the story of a transformative summer in a young girl’s life, when the idylls of childhood collide with the perils of the world beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Predatory behavior, Allusions to sexual abuse of a child, Alcohol, Parental neglect

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Angie, Geraldine, and Reba Lu should be having a summer of fun, filled with church picnics and the Fourth of July celebration in their small California town. It’s 1939, and the three 12-year-olds even embark on a good-works project, widening their circle of friendship and offering support to people who could use it. Meanwhile, war looms in Europe, and another, more immediate threat clouds this patina of innocence. A mysterious neighbor has returned to town, and the girls begin to suspect his interest in them is not appropriate. For one thing, they spot Jefferson Clement focusing binoculars on them when they sunbathe. Then there are hints from acquaintances that Clement’s attentions are menacing. The plot ramps up dramatically when Angie witnesses a confrontation between Clement and her new friend Dodie, before Dodie is severely injured in a fall. Angie’s fear about testifying about what she saw speaks volumes about the difficulty of reporting sexual abuse. This well-plotted, nongraphic, non-message-driven treatment of an important topic is sure to spark discussions.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
In a small and apparently all-white town, Angelina and her friends face a sinister danger. It’s a roasting hot summer in 1939, and Angelina is troubled by news of Hitler as newscasters wonder when America might become involved. It’s a time of fresh-squeezed lemonade, telephone switchboards, and church picnics. Twelve-year-old Angelina, her best friend, Geraldine, and the new preacher’s daughter, Reba Lu, hatch a plan to curry favor with God by making a list of sinners to befriend and save. The list includes some eccentric characters, including Miss Emma, who’s a bit “tetched,” rarely leaves her room, and wears a live snake around her neck. Also on the list is Jefferson Clement, who has just returned to town after a yearslong absence. Except for his wife and Angelina’s mother, most folks seem happy to see Clement and his red carnation boutonniere. One night, among other troubling events, someone tries to sneak into the girls’ backyard tent as they sleep. Angelina is nearly certain she knows who it is. The atmospheric story unfolds through Angelina’s increasingly discerning voice, which illuminates how intensely afraid the girls are to tell the adults. In lingering, evocative prose, this story is demonstratively reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, including a stifling courtroom inquiry of the town scapegoat and a girl’s loss of innocence. The afterword includes discussion suggestions. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Marilyn Cram Donahue is the author of Straight Along a Crooked Road and its sequel The Valley in Between, as well as sixteen other books for children. She is also a regular school speaker and author-in-residence at writing retreats.

She lives in Highland, California. Her website is marilyncramdonahue.com

Around the Web

When the Crickets Stopped Singing on Amazon

When the Crickets Stopped Singing on Goodreads

When the Crickets Stopped Singing Publisher Page

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson. February 6, 2018. Razorbill, 277 p. ISBN: 9780448494111.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Marijuana, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. In the wake of a bridge collapse, several Boston-area teens find themselves at a hospital to hope—and mostly wait—for word on their loved ones. Alexa and her brother, Jason, consider life without their parents. Scott regrets the way things ended with his girlfriend. Skyler tries to summon the strength of her older sister, Kate. And Morgan, already touched by death, reaches out to bring them all together. What results is a remarkable story that explores growing up through the lens of mortality, told through multiple points of view and featuring flashbacks that allow readers to gain insights into each character. Lawson is adept at gripping the reader while eschewing typical tropes of YA literature (e.g., romantic entanglements and social drama). Rather, the spotlight is on the relationships the teens have with loved ones, the relationships they begin with each other, and the insights gleaned from a harrowing experience. Young readers looking for a change of pace will be rewarded by this quiet yet powerful meditation on life and death.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A lot can happen in the hospital waiting room in the wake of a tragedy. When Boston’s Tobin Bridge collapses into the Mystic River, it takes nearly 200 drivers and passengers with it. A third-person omniscient narrator alternates through the perspectives of five teen characters—strangers who are connected to the victims—as they wait with hundreds of others at the hospital for news about the incident. Siblings Jason and Alexa are “well-to-do New England WASPs” from Back Bay whose lives have already been transformed after the death of a close friend—closeted Jason’s secret boyfriend. Cambodian-American Skyler, who is raised by her grandparents, is mixed up in an abusive relationship with an upperclassman. Scott and Morgan, who are both white, have their own secret back stories. Vanity Fair film critic Lawson’s teen fiction debut is a careful exploration of the rippling effects of tragedy. Alternating viewpoints give multiple sides of the same story, while flashbacks give the important contexts of the characters’ lives before the accident. Boston-savvy readers will know and appreciate all the local references. But the promising premise doesn’t quite deliver and is spoiled by a too-tidy conclusion. Patient readers will fall for the characters; others will wonder if it’s worth the wait—even with lives on the line. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Richard Lawson is the film critic for Vanity Fair and a co-host of V.F.‘s Little Gold Men podcast. He has written for The GuardianThe Atlantic Wire, Gawker, and Out magazine, and has contributed to the Dinner Party Download radio show.

Though currently living in New York City, Richard was born and raised in Boston. Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

All We Can Do Is Wait on Amazon

All We Can Do Is Wait on Goodreads

All We Can Do Is Wait Publisher Page

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 152 p. ISBN: 9781620104507.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 300.

What happens when you can finally get everything you ever wanted?

Willow Sparks and her best friend Georgia Pratt are at the bottom of the social ladder at Twin Pines High School, just trying to get through each day relatively unscathed. But when Willow finds a mysterious book that allows her to literally change her life, it feels like her luck is finally turning. As she becomes more and more popular with each entry into the book, her old life, including her friendship with Georgia, seems miles away. Yet as Willow will discover, every action has a reaction, and the future has unusual—even dangerous—ways of protecting itself

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Bullying

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Relentlessly bullied by the popular clique, the titular protagonist discovers an unexpected way to change her future.Plagued with tragically uncool hair and unfortunate acne, Willow Sparks certainly is not a member of the popular crowd. However, her two best friends, Georgia and Gary, are loyal, and together the trio navigates the social atrocities of their high school. While at her job at the local library, Willow finds herself cornered by her mean-girl nemeses and, after a violent episode, unearths a secret library within the library that’s filled with unusual books. She finds a mysterious tome bearing her name that allows her to write her own future—but with devastating effects. While the semi-Faustian trope certainly is not new, O’Connor’s graphic-novel spin on it is fun and captivating. Her art is expressive and deftly captures all the angst and action through a cinematic lens. However, as Willow’s self-conceived plans unravel, the plotting goes with it, leaving the strong beginning floundering through a hasty resolution. While Willow is fully fleshed out, the secondary characters—including best friend Georgia and Willow’s librarian boss—are frustratingly not as well-developed. Despite these quibbles, O’Connor’s offering is an enjoyable and quick dip into the dark side of wish fulfillment. Main character Willow is white, as is Gary, and Georgia is Asian. An intriguing and incisive plot that starts promisingly but ultimately falls flat. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Publishers Weekly (November 20, 2017)
Willow Sparks just wants to get through high school without students in popular cliques harassing her and teachers embarrassing her. After bullies show up at the library where she works and push her down a flight of stairs, she discovers a secret underground wing-and a book with her name on it. By writing in the book, she can reshape her future, and soon she’s ditching her best friends Georgia and Gary to hang out with the cool kids. The pale lavender-gray coloring of O’Connor’s two-tone cartooning fits the eerie, brooding atmosphere of this magic-inflected cautionary tale. But although O’Connor’s talents as an artist aren’t in question-the torments that Willow and her friends face in gym class, school bathrooms, and elsewhere feel painfully real-the overall story is rushed and too-tidily resolved. Even considering the influence of the magical book, the speed with which Willow drops her friends is jarring, and their own subplots get short shrift (Georgia is moving out of town, and Gary is nervously starting to come out to family and friends). It’s an intriguing story that doesn’t have enough space to reach its full potential. Ages 13-up. (Feb.)

About the Author

Tara is a cartoonist currently residing in the New Jersey wilderness. When she’s not drawing comics, she’s teaching them. She drinks way too much tea and coffee, and on any given day there’s a 90% chance that every meal she had was cereal.

 

Around the Web

The Altered History of Willow Sparks on Amazon

The Altered History of Willow Sparks on Goodreads

The Altered History of Willow Sparks Publisher Page

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

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

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

Around the Web

Release on Amazon

Release on Goodreads

Release on JLG

Release Publisher Page

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

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

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

Around the Web

Turtles All the Way Down on Amazon

Turtles All the Way Down on Goodreads

Turtles All the Way Down on JLG

Turtles All the Way Down Publisher Page