Tag Archives: family problems

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. January 15, 2019. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9781481465809.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Discrimination, Mild language, Racism, Adult alcohol abuse

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 4-8. Her dad is an alcoholic with a gambling problem who never pays the rent, so her family keeps getting evicted from their homes. But that’s not the only reason Genesis hates herself. Mostly it’s because she is dark-skinned, and she wishes she were lighter. Genesis tries multiple ways to lighten her skin and help her family, both with disappointing results. Only after she learns to appreciate herself for who she is does everything else starts to fall into place. The “year in the life” style of this story gives readers an opportunity to look into someone’s day-to-day, observing experiences that might be quite different from or similar to their own. This lengthy debut includes many common tropes—the inspirational teacher, the group of best friends, the mean girls—but its final message is powerful and challenges Genesis to define her life on her own terms, not society’s. Genesis comes out stronger in the end, and the reader who sticks with her story will hopefully feel the same.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2018)
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life. She’s had to move several times because her family keeps getting evicted thanks to her alcoholic, gambling father, who defaults on the rent. Genesis hates her circumstances, and even more, she hates the skin she’s in. Dark-skinned like her father—who takes no pride in their resemblance, especially when he’s drunk and mean—Genesis wants nothing more than to look like her light-skinned mother. With kids calling her names (Charcoal, Eggplant, Blackie) and a chiding grandmother who spouts backward colorist ideologies, it’s no wonder. Genesis desperately wants to be accepted, even causing herself physical pain to change the look of her skin and hair in order to attain it. But Genesis has a talent that demands that she stand out. With the help of her chorus teacher, Genesis discovers a way to navigate the pain she carries. With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey. Along the way she references accomplished black activists, athletes, artists, and, notably, musicians such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James, all in a way that feels natural and appropriate. This book may bring readers to tears as they root for Genesis to finally have the acceptance she craves—but from herself rather than anyone else. It’s a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Alicia Williams is a graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University. An oral storyteller in the African-American tradition, she is also a kindergarten teacher who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel.

Teacher Resources

Genesis Begins Again Reading Guide

Genesis Begins Again on Common Sense Media

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No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett

No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett. February 5, 2019. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780553538687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

Our entire lives are online, but what if the boy you love actually lives there? For fans of Adam Silvera comes a story about the future of relationships.

Eden has always had two loves: her best friend, Lacey, and her crush, Will. And then, almost simultaneously, she loses them both. Will to a car accident and Lacey to the inevitable growing up and growing apart.

Devastated by the holes they have left in her life, Eden finds solace in an unlikely place. Before he died, Will set up an account with In Good Company, a service that uploads voices and emails and creates a digital companion that can be called anytime, day or night. It couldn’t come at a better time because, after losing Lacey–the hardest thing Eden has had to deal with–who else can she confide all her secrets to? Who is Eden without Lacey?

As Eden falls deeper into her relationship with “Will,” she hardly notices as her real life blooms around her. There is a new job, new friends. Then there is Oliver. He’s Lacey’s twin, so has always been off-limits to her, until now. He may be real, but to have him, will Eden be able to say goodbye to Will?

Sarah Everett deftly captures the heartbreak of losing your best friend and discovering love in the unlikeliest of places.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Eighteen-year-old Eden’s life is all about change. Lacey, her best friend, is inexplicably distancing herself, canceling their summer plans to work as camp counselors and, instead, starting to hang with a different crowd. And then there’s Will, whom Eden has loved for four years—Will, who died in a car crash. It seems impossible to cope with the loss of both her best friend and the object of her affection. But then she discovers a high-tech outfit called In Good Company, which offers a chance to communicate with Will or at least those parts of him that he had uploaded into a complex computer program. Eden becomes obsessed with talking by phone to the disembodied voice of the simulated Will, running the risk of losing contact with real life and with Oliver, who loves her. Everett has written a not-unfamiliar love story, but what makes it unusual is her invention of In Good Company. Its service is not altogether plausible but will appeal to techies; the rest of us will stick around for the romance.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
A teen struggles with loneliness during the summer after high school. Sheridan “Eden” Paulsen is terrified of change. Her best friend, Lacey, deserts her for a new group of friends, she discovers her mother cheating on her father, and she has no one to talk to. But then she calls longtime unrequited love Will, who will be there “whenever [her] heart desires.” The catch? Will Mason died two weeks before graduation. Before his accidental death, Will signed up to be a Cognitive Donor with In Good Company, a phone service that allows people to talk to a Companion—a highly artificially intelligent facsimile of the deceased. Keeping her phone on as she moves through her summer, Eden takes Will with her everywhere she goes: to work, out with co-workers, and as she completes her summer to-do list, the pre-college list she and Lacey were supposed to tackle together. As summer wears on, Eden falls in love with Will despite knowing he’s not real. Narrator Eden’s position as the uncertain middle daughter in a family of achievers who know who they are and what they want will resonate with readers who are also unsure of their own paths. The speculative aspect of the Companion blends seamlessly with the realism. Eden and Will are black, Eden has a black co-worker, and everyone else is assumed white. Readers developing a sense of self will be in good company here. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Sarah Everett grew up in enchanted forests, desert islands, and inside a magical wardrobe. She speaks two Nigerian languages and a small amount of Afrikaans, and was also president of her high school’s Japanese club (which was only slightly less nerdy than it sounds). She now lives in Alberta, Canada, where she moonlights as a graduate student and writes young-adult novels. She believes in chocolate, daydreaming, and good mistakes. When she’s not writing, Sarah is probably nose-deep in a book, bemoaning her nonexistent sense of direction or engaging in some “car-aoke” while she tries to find her way home.

Her website is www.saraheverettbooks.com

Around the Web

No One Here Is Lonely on Amazon

No One Here Is Lonely on Barnes and Noble

No One Here Is Lonely on Goodreads

No One Here Is Lonely on LibraryThing

No One Here Is Lonely Publisher Page

Someone I Used to Know by Patty Blount

Someone I Used to Know by Patty Blount. August 7, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 384 p. ISBN: 9781492632818.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 630.

From the award-winning author of Some Boys comes an unflinching examination of rape culture that delves into a family torn apart by sexual assault.

It’s been two years since the night that changed Ashley’s life. Two years since she was raped by her brother’s teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.

It’s been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister’s life.

When it all comes to head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Rape, Sexual assault, Strong language, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. As a freshman, Ashley was raped by one of her brother’s teammates during a traditional, but unconventional, “scavenger hunt.” “Sex with a virgin” was the top point-getter on Victor’s card, so he targeted Derek’s little sister. Now, two years after a trial in which Derek lobbied the court to give Victor a light sentence because it was just a game—and “justice” acquiesced—​Ashley continues to experience myriad debilitating triggers. Away at college, Derek struggles with his role in the ordeal and as a participant in a toxic culture he hadn’t realized he was part of. Through alternating points of view, Ashley and Derek work separately to heal themselves as their relationship and family crumbles and to influence and educate others. By not concentrating on the act itself, Blount effectively uses Ashley’s reactions, introspection, and victim-impact statement to carry the story’s emotional load. Despite being pedagogic, the book clearly emphasizes that rape culture’s pervasiveness can only be mitigated by reexamining society at large. Realistic and relevant.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
Blount’s (The Way It Hurts, 2017, etc.) latest, a loose sequel to Some Boys (2014), again looks at the aftermath of rape, this time with a focus on secondary survivors. Told with flashbacks through the alternating perspectives of a brother and sister two years after one of his teammates raped her to gain points in a scavenger hunt, this sometimes-didactic all-tell, no-show story has a clear purpose and ultimately hits some genuine emotional notes. High school junior Ashley is a fierce survivor who turns to blogging and activism to fight her anxiety attacks; her older brother, college freshman Derek, joins a men’s anti-rape group and finally gets it. Romance plays a significant role in character growth, and while the stated authorial intent was to show the effect of Ashley’s rape on the whole family, the novel mostly plays out as two parallel narratives which pull together into a family drama only at the end. Characterization and polish take a back seat to message, and some of the dialogue is weak. However, the messaging in Derek’s story is important: Toxic masculinity creates rape culture, and nice boys who do nothing to stop it are part of th

About the Author

Patty Blount grew up quiet and a bit invisible in Queens, NY, but found her voice in books. Today, she writes smart and strong characters willing to fight for what’s right. She’s the award-winning author of edgy, realistic, gut-wrenching contemporary and young adult romance. Still a bit introverted, she gets lost often, eats way too much chocolate, and tends to develop mad, passionate crushes on fictional characters. Let’s be real; Patty’s not nearly as cool as her characters, but she is a solid supporter of women’s rights and loves delivering school presentations.

Her website is www.pattyblount.com

Teacher Resources

Rape Crisis Resources

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Someone I Used to Know on Amazon

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Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald

Game Canger by Tommy Greenwald. September 11, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 304 p. ISBN: 9781419731433.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.1.

Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood is in a coma fighting for his life after an unspecified football injury at training camp. His family and friends flock to his bedside to support his recovery—and to discuss the events leading up to the tragic accident. Was this an inevitable result of playing a violent sport, or was something more sinister happening on the field that day?

Told in an innovative, multimedia format combining dialogue, texts, newspaper articles, transcripts, an online forum, and Teddy’s inner thoughts, Game Changer explores the joyous thrills and terrifying risks of America’s most popular sport.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Freshman football player Teddy Youngblood, 13, is seriously injured during a practice session before the upcoming football season. Teddy’s family, friends, and neighbors are distraught about it—it may be Teddy’s favorite sport, but it just put him into a coma. Soon, rumors begin circulating around town that Teddy’s accident was not an accident; rather, there is something suspicious afoot. Worried, Teddy’s family and friends clamor to find the truth behind the accident. Greenwald’s latest takes a fresh approach, telling the story through multiple characters and an almost free-verse style that combines inner thoughts, texts, social media feeds, newspaper articles, interview transcripts, and dialogue. Example: “Can you squeeze my hand? / Oh man / Oh man that’s perfect / Great job, Ted / Look at that.” The format presents no barrier for readers, who will rapidly adapt. Reminiscent of Mike Lupica’s Lone Stars (2017), Greenwald’s novel entertains while exposing readers to the potential risks and consequences inherent in the sport of football. Overall, a strong entry into Greenwald’s bibliography and an interesting, innovative read.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
A young athlete lies in a coma while his family and community try to determine the cause of his injury. Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood collapsed following an intense football practice. At first, the focus is on his injury and the concerns of his family and friends for his recovery. Counselors are brought in to help them with the trauma. The coach’s daughter, Camille, makes a social media page to encourage positive thoughts, but some of the posters hint that something other than a tough hit at practice caused his injury. The doctors encourage family and friends to talk to Teddy, and readers learn much through these comments. Teddy’s family is at odds. His mother, who lives apart, did not want her son to play football, while his dad supported his sports involvement. Also interspersed are Teddy’s thoughts as he lies in the hospital: “This is what life is / Life is football / Football is life.” This nontraditional narrative, using conversations, interview transcripts, text messages, hospital reports, and other documents, skillfully peels back the elements of the mystery. The issues of football’s violence are presented, but the book’s real strength is the depiction of the culture behind it. There are few descriptions to indicate the ethnic makeup of the characters (Teddy’s eyes are described as blue), implying the white default. The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual storytelling technique sets it apart from most sport fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Tommy Greenwald is the author of the Crimebiters! series, about a group of friends and a (possibly) superhero crime-fighting vampire dog, and the Charlie Joe Jackson books, a middle-grade series about the most reluctant reader ever born.

Tommy is also the Co-Founder of Spotco Advertising, a theatrical and entertainment advertising agency in New York City, and the lyricist and co-bookwriter (with Andrew Lippa) of JOHN & JEN, a 1995 musical which was revived off-Broadway in 2015.

His website is tommygreenwald.com/

Around the Web

Game Changer on Amazon

Game Changer on Barnes & Noble

Game Changer on Goodreads

Game Changer Publisher Page

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss. May 8, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 408 p. ISBN: 9780062494276.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Luke and Toby have always had each other’s backs. But then one choice—or maybe it is a series of choices—sets them down an irrevocable path. We’ll Fly Away weaves together Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school with letters Luke writes to Toby later—from death row.

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2018)
When best friends Luke and Toby were kids, they tried to fix up a crop duster they found abandoned in the woods outside their rural North Carolina town, fantasizing it could one day fly them out of their troubled lives. When they got older, the plane became a hangout spot and refuge–when Toby’s dad beat him or Luke needed to escape the one-bedroom apartment he lived in with his neglectful mom and much younger brothers. Now that they’re high school seniors, the real escape plan is only a year away, when Toby will follow Luke to Iowa on a wrestling scholarship. Yet before readers learn any of this, the novel opens with Luke’s first letter to Toby from death row. With Luke’s letters as interludes, a third-person narrative flashes back to their senior year, focusing on a significant week in the boys’ lives. Everything fits together as readers start to understand the severity of Toby’s abuse, the depth of Luke’s loyalty (and stifled rage), and the complexities of their dynamic–especially once the boys’ respective love interests enter the scene. The outcome will surprise no one, which is, of course, the point: the reading experience is not about learning what put Luke in prison but when it will happen and how. Bliss stokes this tension, evoking the dread of death row and the claustrophobia of a dead-end town, a life you need to escape from. In this truly tragic story there is profundity at every turn, and readers up for heartbreak will come away understanding more about loyalty, empathy, and redemption. katrina Hedeen

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
From death row, a young man navigates prison and writes to his best friend in this powerful work of realistic fiction. A poignant story of loyalty, abuse, and poverty is woven throughout a narrative that alternates between flashbacks to Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school (presented from their perspectives in the third person) and the present-day experience of Luke’s incarceration (told in first person through his letters to Toby). This structure allows the novel to build a slow and gripping tension as it progresses, revealing the horrific events that led to Luke’s arrest only at the very end, as the other details of the boys’ lives naturally unfold. Both are seemingly white. The two struggle to guard their friendship fiercely even as Toby becomes sexually involved with a likable but troubled young woman and Luke falls for a different girl. The two have been lifelong friends, supporting each other through family struggles—Toby’s with a physically abusive father and Luke’s with a neglectful mother who leaves him playing a parental role to his two younger brothers. Readers will easily empathize with quiet, tightly controlled Luke, who’s college-bound on a wrestling scholarship, and goofy, self-effacing Toby. This compassionate and beautifully rendered novel packs an emotional punch. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.

His website is www.bryanbliss.com.

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We’ll Fly Away on Amazon

We’ll Fly Away on Goodreads

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Deep Water: A Story of Survival by Watt Key

Deep Water: A Story of Survival  by Watt Key. April 17, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 p. ISBN: 9780374306540.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 720.

A middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.

It’s the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don’t feel right, don’t go down.

So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie’s age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie’s instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she’s in over her head.

And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished–along with Julie’s father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It’s only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it’s up to her to save them all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-7. When 12-year-old Julie is descending more than 100 feet below the ocean’s surface, all she can think about is how to complete the dive safely—not how miserable her father, owner of a small diving business, has been since her mother left him to move to Atlanta. But when Julie must lead a dive with two reckless clients whose expensive equipment is as untested as they are, she encounters a nightmare more harrowing than any of her problems on land. This scenario closely matches the events of Key’s Terror at Bottle Creek (2016), this time starring a female protagonist. Julie is a tough, smart, and resilient lead, although her narration does not come across as believably 12. Classmate and client Shane is Julie’s forgettable companion for an oceanic ordeal that Key treats with his signature compelling detail and suspense. Readers hungry for an epic tale of grueling odds will also find lessons in bravery, resourcefulness, and practical survival advice. Just try to stop yourself from committing Julie’s shark-repelling strategies to memory.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
Twelve-year-old Julie supervises an important dive for her father’s scuba-diving business, but she soon learns that when you play against Mother Nature it is for keeps.During the school year, Julie lives with her mother in Atlanta, but her summers are spent with her father in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Unfortunately, although her mother’s law career is taking off, her father’s dive business is struggling. When a wealthy businessman and his arrogant son, Shane, demand to see the artificial reef her father owns, the money is just too important to turn down. Her father, a diabetic, decides Julie should run the dive, so when the anchor pulls, leaving the three of them lost at sea, it is up to Julie to do what she can to save them all. But sharks, hypothermia, dehydration, and exposure might prove more than she can handle. Inspired by a diving accident the author himself experienced, this is a gritty look at what can happen when everything goes wrong. Julie is arrogant and fearful, but she’s also strong and quick-thinking. Shane likewise evolves during the ordeal, but it is the beautiful, terrible, and dangerous Mother Nature who steals the show. Julie is depicted as white on the cover, and the book seems to adhere to the white default. A nail-biting survival tale. (Adventure. 10-14)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

Around the Web

Deep Water on Amazon

Deep Water on Goodreads

Deep Water Publisher Page

Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher. April 3, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 250 p. ISBN: 9780062220066.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

When it comes to family, Annie is in the losers bracket. While her foster parents are great (mostly), her birth mom, Nancy, and her sister, Sheila, would not have been her first picks. And no matter how many times Annie tries to write them out of her life, she always gets sucked back into their drama. But when a family argument breaks out at one of Annie’s swim meets and her nephew goes missing, Annie can’t help but think this is her fault. With help from her friends, her foster brother, and her social service worker, Annie searches desperately for her missing nephew, determined to find him and finally get him into a safe home.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture, Aftermath of abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Annie Boots has had a self-described crazy life. Thanks to a highly dysfunctional family—an absent father and a mother who has a history of using—she has been in and out of the system since she was an infant. Now 17, she has been living with a foster family for eight years and, though her foster father forbids her to have anything to do with her biological family, Annie is ineluctably drawn to them and meets them clandestinely. Her good-for-nothing older sister has a 5-year-old son, Frankie, whom the sister isn’t sure she loves, and so Frankie often stays with Annie, who loves him dearly. When he disappears one day, Annie blames herself for having inadvertently brought her foster and biological families together, a meeting that does not go well and is the catalyst for Frankie’s running away and vanishing. Annie finds allies in Walter, her mother’s long-suffering boyfriend, and in her former caseworker, Wiz. She also finds supportive friendships in her library book club and in Leah, a champion swimmer. Crutcher has written another thoughtful book about kids in extremis; no one writes better about this subject, as he once again demonstrates. If it has a fault, it may be a tendency to preach, but it is still deeply felt and will speak to readers’ hearts as well as their minds. His many fans won’t want to miss it.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Annie Boots, a talented white teen athlete in long-term foster care, employs an innovative strategy to circumvent an order prohibiting contact with her birth family. The Howard family (Pop, Momma, and son, Marvin) meet Annie’s needs, but she refuses to sever contact with her half sister, Sheila, and their biological mother, Nancy. Annie knows they’re violent drug abusers but hopes to at least help protect Sheila’s disturbed 5-year-old son. She recalls her own miserable early years of repeatedly being removed from, then returned to, Nancy’s custody, skilled as she was at cheating on drug tests. The title references Annie’s practice of combining basketball tournaments with secret birth-family encounters, deliberately losing early games so that more must be played in order for the team to advance. Physical fitness, good looks, and intelligence signal worth in the story, while Annie’s mother and half sister are portrayed as sullen, slovenly, and criminally inclined, repeatedly betraying the children who trust them. One-dimensional characters deliver didactic pronouncements, among them Annie’s social worker—mood set to righteous indignation—who rails at a broken child protection system, its failures vaguely attributed to generations of irresponsible parents and incompetent dupes. At a time of growing income inequality and widespread drug addiction, the judgments rendered here appear harsh and simplistic. A portrait of a troubled family that falls short. (Fiction.14-18)

About the Author

Chris Crutcher grew up in Cascade, Idaho, and now lives in Spokane, Washington. He is the critically acclaimed author of six novels and a collection of short stories for teenagers, all chosen as ALA Best Books. In 2000, he was awarded the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution in writing for teens. Drawing on his experience as an athlete, teacher, family therapist, and child protection specialist, he unflinchingly writes about real and often-ignored issues that face teenagers today.

His website is www.chriscrutcher.com/

Around the Web

Losers Bracket on Amazon

Losers Bracket on Goodreads

Losers Bracket Publisher Page

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West. December 26, 2017. HarperTeen, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062675774.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.

But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-10. Artistically gifted Abby has two goals the summer before senior year: getting accepted into the prestigious art show at the museum where she works, and getting best friend (actually secret crush) Cooper to realize he likes her as more than a friend. Expect a rocky road and stinging rejection on both fronts before Abby digs in and tries harder. Told her paintings have insufficient depth and “heart,” she, with the help of her mom and grandpa, composes an intriguing list of life experiences to enrich her artistic sensibilities: face a fear, learn a stranger’s story, and try five things she’s never done before, for starters. The list is a clever plot device to drive the story forward, and it offers surprises along the way. Readers will be touched by West’s handling of the mother-daughter relationship, especially given Abby’s mom’s anxiety and agoraphobia, while the list, of course, tells all of us a thing or two about busting up routines and grabbing unexpected returns.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A year ago, Abby confessed her love to her best friend, Cooper—and it didn’t go well. Abby tried to laugh it off. Each pretends it never happened, but Abby’s feelings are unchanged. She’s doubly blindsided when her other passion, art, hits a roadblock. Her paintings are rejected for inclusion in an art museum show, deemed technically proficient but lacking in heart. Determined to turn that around, and with family brainstorming support, she creates a to-do list of activities to deepen her emotional expression, enlisting Cooper’s intermittent participation. They watch a mountain sunrise, read books outside their comfort zones, audition for a musical, and more. Abby makes friends, including classmate and sculptor Elliot Garcia, and her work shows progress. Abby worries about her mother’s agoraphobia; it’s worsened during her father’s long deployments overseas, especially since the family moved off-base, away from supportive military families. A refreshing departure from teen-literature tropes, Abby’s no brainy polymath acing AP English (the book she chooses is A Tale of Two Cities) and destined for Stanford. However, plotting is shaky: subplots go nowhere; outcomes negate what came before. Cooper’s friendly, romantic disinterest in Abby feels very real—its explanation and resolution, less so. Most characters are white or appear so by default. Elliot Garcia has dark, curly hair and a Spanish last name but lacks ethnic assignment. Abby’s friends Rachel, who’s black, and Justin, who’s Latinx, are minor characters. Abby’s likable, but her romantic passivity and hijacked artistic endeavors send a disempowering message. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the FenceThe Fill-in BoyfriendP.S. I Like YouLucky in Love, and By Your Side. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Her website is www.kasiewest.com

Around the Web

Love, Life, and the List on Amazon

Love, Life, and the List on Goodreads

Love, Life, and the List Publisher Page

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Patina by Jason Reynolds. August29, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 233 p. ISBN: 9781481450188.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6; Lexile: 710.

Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Sequel to: Ghost

Part of Series: Track (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. When Patina “Patty” Jones, the fastest girl on the Defenders track team, comes in second place in a race—a fact she finds unacceptable—her rage is so intense that she mentally checks out. In an effort to make her into a team player, Coach assigns her to the 4×800 relay race and makes the relay team do hokey things like waltz in practice to “learn each others’ rhythms.” Pfft. Meanwhile, Patty feels completely out of place at her rich-girl academy. And then there’s the really hard stuff. Like how her father died, how her mother “got the sugar” (diabetes) and it took her legs, and now Patty and her little sister live with their aunt Emily and uncle Tony. Reynolds’ again displays his knack for capturing authentic voice in both Patty’s inner monologues and the spoken dialogue. The plot races as fast as the track runners in it, and—without ever feeling like a book about “issues”—it deftly tackles topics like isolation, diverse family makeup, living with illness, losing a parent, transcending socioeconomic and racial barriers, and—perhaps best of all—what it’s like for a tween to love their little sister more than all the cupcakes in the world. The second entry in the four-book Track series, this serves as a complete, complex, and sparkling stand-alone novel.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
Back for the second leg of the Track series relay, the Defenders team has passed the baton to title character Patina, nicknamed Patty. First introduced to readers in Ghost (rev. 11/16), Patty has been forced to grow up quickly. After her father dies suddenly, Patty’s role in raising her younger sister Maddy grows larger as their mother gets ill and ultimately becomes a double amputee due to complications from diabetes. While moving in with their godparents, who have adopted them both, has relieved some of the pressure, Patty is not always certain how to relinquish her role as caregiver. She takes it upon herself to braid Maddy’s hair (as opposed to letting their adoptive mother, Momly, do it) because “ain’t no rule book for white people to know how to work with black hair.” Patty pushes Ma in her wheelchair to and from church on Sundays. She does all the work on her group project at school, and angrily counts her second-place ribbon at a track meet as “fake.” At some point, Momly reminds her, “Folks who try to do everything are usually avoiding one thing.” Those words ring true when an almost-tragedy strikes the household and Patty is forced to face the “thing”–the loss she feels at the death of her father–and start to trust others. For his first book featuring a female protagonist, Reynolds has done an excellent job of providing insights into the life of an African American middle schooler. Track scenes (and drama) are interspersed with home and school scenes (and drama); and as the new girl at an elite academy, Patty’s interactions with her vapid “hair-flipper” classmates, especially, are both humorous and authentic. eboni njoku

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Around the Web

Patina on Amazon

Patina on Goodreads

Patina on JLG

Patina Publisher Page

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco. September 19, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 326 p. ISBN: 9780385754026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 880.

Rosie’s led a charmed life with her loving dad, who runs the town donut shop. It’s true her mother abandoned them when Rosie was just a baby, but her dad’s all she’s ever needed. But now that her father’s had a stroke, Rosie lives with her tough-as-nails grandfather. And her beloved dog, Gloaty Gus, has just gone missing.

Rosie’s determined to find him. With the help of a new friend and her own determination, she’ll follow the trail anywhere . . . no matter where it leads. If she doesn’t drive the whole world crazy in the meantime.

Kimberly Newton Fusco’s tender story brings to life a feisty, unsinkable, unstoppable, unforgettable girl who knows she’s a fighter . . . if she can only figure out who’s already on her side.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
Could Rosie’s life be much worse?While still a baby, she was abandoned by her emotionally distant mother to the care of Rosie’s father, so she could “make something of herself.” He and her “big lug” of a dog, Augustus, were all a girl could need. But a year ago, her father suffered a disabling stroke, and her mother returned home just long enough to give her dog away. In the far-from-tender care of her grumpy, bewildered, but loving paternal grandfather—and under the threat of being taken away by her mother—Rosie has spent the past year desperately searching for her dog, thinking of little else. Her gripping, animated narrative—she’s given to employing medieval-style curses she and her papa have invented—is spun out across a dismal landscape of struggling but colorful and richly developed (though mostly default white) characters. There’s Phillippe, neglected by his mentally unstable mother, constantly hiding within a giant overcoat, and now in Mrs. Salvatore’s loud but tender foster care; Cynthia, another neglected child, who can rarely stop talking; a mute, outsider woman, Swanson, who has an undeservedly fearsome reputation; and Mr. Peterson, a teacher who could make all the difference if Rosie would let him. Ultimately, it’s Rosie’s heart and determined spirit that see her through to a hopeful, well-deserved resolution. God’s bones! Magnificent. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 3-5-Rosie has had a very difficult year. That’s what her fifth grade teacher writes in the comment section of her report card, and it’s true. Until now, Rosie has lived a charmed existence with her doughnut shop-owning, book-loving father and her very bad (but very lovable) dog, Augustus. But then one terrible day, her father has a stroke and Rosie is forced to live with her tough-as-nails, anchovy-eating grandfather. Things become even more unbearable when her estranged mother makes a quick trip from California to get Rosie’s life in order-and gives away Rosie’s beloved Augustus and won’t reveal where she sent him. As Rosie embarks on a relentless quest in search of her BFF, she encounters obstacles (her prickly grandpa, her rickety and dangerous bicycle, and the swirling grit that blows through the sandpit-ridden town where she lives), with little help from others. But Rosie won’t quit, and her journey takes her to unexpected places. Readers’ hearts will ache along with Rosie’s as she struggles to find not only her dog but also love and belonging in her harsh surroundings. The slow pace may test readers’ patience. But where the novel may lag in plot, it makes up for in character, with a fleet of unforgettable personalities who both guide and thwart Rosie. VERDICT This heartfelt tale with a rewarding ending will appeal to young fans of Kate DiCamillo, Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Jennifer Holm. Recommended for libraries serving middle grade readers.-Laura Lintz, Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, NY

About the Author

Kimberly Newton Fusco is the author of three other novels, Tending to Grace, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, and Beholding Bee, which garnered many accolades. Before becoming a novelist, she was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Ms. Fusco lives in Foster, Rhode Island, with her family.  Her website is www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com

Around the Web

Chasing Augustus on Amazon

Chasing Augustus on Goodreads

Chasing Augustus on JLG

Chasing Augustus Publisher Page