Tag Archives: friendship

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. February 14, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 234 p. ISBN: 9780525425892.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. It’s the winter break during Marin’s first year at college, and she is facing the holidays thousands of miles from her San Francisco home. Since her grandfather died the previous summer, Marin feels set adrift. Not only has she lost Gramps, her sole caretaker, but he’d been keeping secrets, and when she discovers the truth, it shatters everything she believed was true about her life. Engulfed in pain and feeling alone, she shuns her best friend Mabel’s numerous calls and texts. But Mabel flies cross-country, determined to help her friend deal with her grief. Marin is afraid that Mabel regrets the physical intimacy that had grown between the two girls while she was still in California, and braces herself for more heartache, but Mabel surprises her in more ways than one. With the most delicate and loving strokes in Marin’s first-person narrative, LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis. Images of the icy winter surrounding Marin in New York contrast sharply with her achingly vibrant memories of San Francisco. Raw and beautiful, this portrait of a girl searching for both herself and a sense of home will resonate with readers of LGBTQIA romances, particularly those with bisexual themes, and the poignant and affecting exploration of grief and betrayal will enchant fans of character-driven fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
“If only lonely were a more accurate word. It should sound much less pretty.” It’s December in New York, and college freshman Marin is in her dorm room, contemplating a solitary monthlong stay after everyone else has left for winter break. Her single respite will be a brief visit from her best friend, Mabel. Marin is dreading the stay for reasons that are revealed in flashbacks: she fled San Francisco without informing anyone after the sudden death of her beloved Gramps, who raised her. Over the course of three days, secrets about Gramps, Marin’s long-dead mother, and the girls’ complicated relationship are revealed in short, exquisite sentences that evoke myriad emotions with a minimum of words. “I must have shut grief out. Found it in books. Cried over fiction instead of the truth. The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods.…The truth was vast enough to drown in.” A surprise arrival at story’s end leads to a tearful resolution of Marin’s sorrow and a heartfelt renewal of her relationship with Mabel and her family. Mexican-American Mabel speaks Spanish, while an absence of markers indicates Marin is likely white. An elegantly crafted paean to the cleansing power of truth. (Fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Nina LaCour grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first job was at fourteen in an independent bookstore, and she has since worked in two others. She has tutored and taught in various places, from a juvenile hall to a private college. She now teaches English at an independent high school.

Nina lives in Oakland, California with her wife and their two cute cats.

Her website is www.ninalacour.com.

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We Are Okay on Amazon

We Are Okay on Goodreads

We Are Okay on JLG

We Are Okay Publisher Page

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams. March 14, 2017. Groundwood Books, 241 p. ISBN: 9781554989416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

The Guy decides to have a house party while his parents are out of town. The Girl is adjusting to life in a new country. The Artist has discovered that forgery is a lucrative business. And his Ex, mother of his baby, is just trying to make ends meet.

As Guy, a feckless high-school senior, plans the party of the year, Rafi worries about her mother, who is still grieving over the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother back in Bolivia and haunted by the specter of La Llorona, the weeping ghost who steals children.

Meanwhile, Rafi’s uncle is an art dealer involved in a scheme to steal one of the most famous paintings in the world, but he needs the forgery skills of Luke, a talented artist who has just split up with his girlfriend, Penny, who wants nothing more than to get him back to be a proper father to Joshie, the baby Rafi babysits.

Engaging, provocative, darkly humorous and fast-paced, with a shocking and near-tragic ending, when Rafi’s mother’s grief tips over into mental illness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Attempted infanticide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. The titular guy is a teenage guy named, well, Guy. The girl is Rafi, who lives with her single-parent mother, who has never recovered from the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother. The mother blames La Llorona, the weeping woman of Latin legend, for the death. The artist is Luke—and a successful artist, too. And the ex is Penny, the erstwhile partner of the artist and mother of their baby son. These characters are fleshed out through flashbacks, and then connections are established as the narrative moves from one to the next. Finally they all become involved in one way or another with the theft of an invaluable Picasso painting called—what else?—The Weeping Woman. Then what had started almost as a lark turns serious, even potentially tragic, and readers will find themselves in sudden suspense. Williams does an excellent job of making that transition and subsequently ginning up page-turning excitement. A sophisticated entertainment, this book has intrinsic appeal to adult readers as well as its primary teen target.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The lives of four young people intersect in unexpected ways as the result of a spectacular art heist in Melbourne. In August 1986, a valuable Picasso painting is stolen off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held for ransom. In alternating third-person chapters, readers learn that Luke, the talented young Artist with his star on the rise, is involved in a plot to steal the painting and return a forgery in its place. He also happens to be the Bastard Ex of Penny, a white 23-year-old trying to raise their baby, Joshie, on her own. Penny lives next door to Rafi, the Girl, a 17-year-old dealing with the eccentricities of her grieving mother, who never got over the drowning death of Rafi’s younger brother in their home country of Bolivia. And who is the Guy (his name as well as his role)? Guy is a white high school senior who unwittingly throws the biggest party of the year, which sets into motion a series of events that gets him mixed up with the lives of the Girl, the Artist, and the Ex. This fully realized cast of characters is rounded out by a supporting cast of sympathetic friends and family, all flawed in their own ways. Williams’ prose is wise, knowing, and sympathetic, her tag-team story moving along at a steady clip toward a heart-thumping climax and a satisfying denouement. A winning, offbeat romp for all ages. (Fiction. 15 & up)

About the Author

Gabrielle Williams has worked in advertising, recording studios and television. Her first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and was named a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth.

Her website is www.bookbookblogblog.com.

Around the Web

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Amazon

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Goodreads

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on JLG

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex Publisher Page

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. March7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481488754.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Part of Series: Chloe Snow’s Diary

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-10. As if starting high school wasn’t daunting enough, Chloe Snow has to do it without her free-spirited writer mother—who bolted to Mexico to find her “muse”—and alongside her religious best friend, Hannah, and Hannah’s judgmental, picture-perfect family. Fortunately, Chloe has a caring dad; a new best friend, Tristan; and the lead in the school’s musical! In the spirit of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, Chloe’s daily diary serves as the book’s format. Encompassing an overwhelming majority of Chloe’s record is her obsession with Mac, a senior boy with a girlfriend and Chloe’s secret hookup. Chloe, Hannah, and Tristan all have intense relationships with senior boys, which, aside from seeming a little improbable, starts to become how they define themselves. But despite Chloe’s dominating obsession with Mac, and the book’s abrupt ending, Chloe is refreshingly honest and unfiltered about very real issues facing high-school students: unsteady family dynamics, drinking at parties, balancing old and new friends, and the stigma of slut shaming.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The chronicles of Chloe Snow’s journey from self-absorbed high school freshman to slightly less self-absorbed sophomore.Fourteen-year-old Chloe is technology-addicted and obsessed with getting her first kiss. Her mom has trotted off to Mexico for four months to write, leaving Chloe and her dad behind, which she first presents with nonchalance in her diary. Many of Chloe’s relationships begin to change around the time she unexpectedly gets the lead in the school musical. It becomes clear that her mom is not coming back as promised. She becomes increasingly distant from her best friend in favor of a new one, and she develops a naively close relationship with a senior boy who has a girlfriend, which ultimately brings on a painful barrage of cyberbullying. When Chloe is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about her parents’ relationship, she is startled into seeing her own behavior more clearly as well. The narrative is told through Chloe’s diary, immersing readers in her singular perspective, though a few long passages are much too detailed to be credible as diary entries. What feels like token diversity among minor characters and Chloe’s passing acknowledgment of her own privilege as a straight, white, middle-class girl come across as superficial, though accurately reflective of life in many mostly white communities like hers. Awkwardness, drama, and a pinch of burgeoning self-awareness. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College and the creative writing MFA program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

 

Around the Web

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Amazon

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Goodreads

Confessions of a High School Disaster on JLG

Confessions of a High School Disaster Publisher Page

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies. November 1, 2016. Katherine Tegen Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062369888.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.1; Lexile: 730.

From the acclaimed author of The Lemonade War comes a new book starring two smart girls determined to liven up their town—one epic prank at a time.

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change.

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

Part of Series: Nothing but Trouble (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-7. Two things happen to Maggie the morning seventh grade begins. First, she meets Lena, the new girl who will become her best friend. Next, a practical joke fills the middle-school hallway with happy chaos: tennis balls bouncing, toy cars zooming, helium balloons floating upward, and a toy mouse parachuting down. Soon, “The mouse is in the house!” becomes the students’ rallying cry as the autocratic new principal tries and fails to stop an escalating series of hacks. That’s hack in the MIT sense: to carry out elaborate, creative pranks with precision, secrecy, and flair. Best known for The Lemonade War (2007) and its sequels, Davies brings the same strong sense of narrative along with a well-drawn, small-town setting and a number of believable, sometimes quirky characters. Throughout the book, Lena’s artistic outlook complements Maggie’s engineering bent. An appended activities section includes such related features as “Why Maggie Loves Sir Isaac Newton” and “How to Make a Dada Poem.” A flying start for a new series.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Sixth-grader and budding engineer Maggie Gallagher occupies her fertile mind and connects to the father who survives only in her head by planning and executing elaborate pranks at school. Maggie’s father pulled notorious pranks while in college at MIT. He died before she was born, leaving only a box of notebooks describing his hacks in meticulous detail. She re-creates them at Odawahaka Middle School using money earned from secretly selling her grandfather’s vintage car parts on the internet. Maggie dreams of nothing more than leaving her dysfunctional family and getting out of her dying small town until dadaist new student Lena Polachev chooses her as a friend. Together they become an unstoppable force against the school’s new dictatorial principal. The story is full of stylish and satisfying pranks, some chronicled step by step and others simply mentioned. Toy cars spill out of lockers, ping-pong balls rain down on the principal, school banners are reworded. Where Wildcats ruled, the Mouse is in the house, and what was simply funny becomes a revolution bringing much-needed change to a depressed, evidently all-white community. A vividly realized present-day setting, distinctive, believable characters, subversive humor, and a satisfying ending give this title solid kid appeal. With plenty of threads to hang sequels from, this series opener will make readers roar for more. (activities) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Jacqueline Davies is the talented author of both novels and picture books. Jacqueline lives in Needham, Massachusetts, with her three children.  She enjoys reading, travel, swimming, going to the movies, and hanging out with her friends.

Her website is www.jacquelinedavies.net.

Around the Web

Nothing but Trouble on Amazon

Nothing but Trouble on Goodreads

Nothing but Trouble on JLG

Nothing but Trouble Publisher Page

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassanadra Clare

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. August 30, 2016. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9780545522311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 740.

Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Sequel to: The Copper Gauntlet

Part of Series: Magisterium

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. This third return to the Magisterium series finds Call, the not-so-evil-after-all reincarnation of a dark overlord, headed back to school with his two best friends Aaron and Tamara. But all, it seems, is not well, as it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Call. The three conduct their own investigation into the would-be murderer, but they’re blocked at every step, and Call knows he can’t trust anyone. Except, of course, for Aaron and Tamara, right? The crew gets a year older with every book (Call is 14 now), and romantic subplots are starting to peek out even as the narrative grows more ominous. This installment is the third in a planned five-book series, and the plot seems to have stalled somewhat; despite uncertain loyalties and ambiguous characters, this lacks the punch of its predecessor, until the dark turn of an ending. Still, that cliff-hanger finale alone should be enough to get readers to sign up for book four.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Book 3 in the Magisterium series continues the escapades of 14-year-olds Call, Tamara, and Aaron as they pursue their Bronze Year studies at the Magisterium.Readers of Books 1 and 2 now know that white Callum Hunt has the soul of Constantine Madden, the deceased Enemy of Death, who had wreaked so much havoc on mages. Also in on the secret are Tamara, of Indian descent, and Aaron, white—Call’s best friends and fellow apprentices at the Magisterium, where they are in their third year of mage-studies. But, Call believes, no one else in the Magisterium knows. Ensuing events, however, seem to indicate that someone wants Call dead. Author-collaborators Black and Clare fail to make this third book as engrossing as the first two. The tension surrounding the question of whom Call can trust—could Aaron be trying to kill him?—never gets off the ground: Call stews improbably and shallowly, while astute readers will have figured out who the culprit is long before. Engrossing adventures abound but, alas, are frequently fueled by flimsy, contrived logic that does neither characters nor readers justice. The narrative repeatedly fills readers in on things that happened in the previous book, which reads as, well, filler, and there’s no significant movement forward plotwise until the ending setup for Book 4. Only unevenly entertaining and suffering from middle-book syndrome. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the Forest, and her new series which begins with The Cruel Prince in January 2018.

She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

 

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

Her website is www.cassandraclare.com.

Teacher Resources

Magisterium  series Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Bronze Key on Amazon

The Bronze Key on Goodreads

The Bronze Key on JLG

The Bronze Key Publisher Page

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost by Ally Condie. March 29, 2016. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399187193.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6; Lexile: 600.

It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 8))
Grades 4-7. Condie makes her middle-grade debut with a tender novel about a family coming to terms with a personal tragedy. The summer after Cedar loses her father and brother Ben in a car accident, her mother moves their family, now just three of them, to Iron Creek, Utah, home to the Summerlost Shakespeare Festival. Cedar finds an unexpected friend in Leo, a theater nerd obsessed with Lisette Chamberlain, a famous actress who made her start at Summerlost before dying young. In their time off work at Summerlost, Leo and Cedar run unauthorized Lisette Chamberlain tours while trying to piece together what really happened to her. The mystery of Lisette plays second fiddle to the novel’s centerpiece: the special friendship between Cedar and Leo, which helps Cedar deal with her grief. An aching sense of loss pervades the story, focusing more on Ben than on Cedar’s dad. Though it is never named in the story, readers will put together that Ben was on the autism spectrum. A nuanced portrait of grief deeply grounded in the middle-school mind-set.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2016)
A local theater festival sets the stage for YA author Condie’s (Matched and sequels) first middle-grade novel. Twelve-year-old Cedar Lee, her little brother Miles, and their mother settle into their new summer home in Iron Creek, “a small town in a high desert.” Cedar’s father and other brother, Ben, were killed in a car accident the previous summer, leaving the Lee family shaken. The strain of putting on a brave face leads Cedar to seek out distraction at Iron Creek’s theater festival; there she befriends the enthusiastic Leo, who gets her a festival job and introduces her to the legends surrounding Lisette Chamberlain, a famous local actress who died under mysterious circumstances. The friends begin giving unofficial tours about Lisette’s life — Leo looking to fund a trip to England, Cedar looking for relief from her family’s stress and from thinking about the objects showing up on her windowsill, which she thinks Ben’s ghost could be leaving. While Cedar and Leo’s investigation into Lisette’s past is compelling enough, the book’s strongest impact comes from the characters’ personal struggles: Leo has trouble fitting in with his family, and Cedar’s guilt about her impatience with Ben, who was developmentally disabled, casts another shadow over her grief. Condie focuses on the miscommunications that trouble all relationships, with honest interactions that keep the story feeling authentic right up to the thoughtful conclusion. sarah berman

About the Author

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Her website is www.allysoncondie.com.

 

Around the Web

Summerlost on Amazon

Summerlost on Goodreads

Summerlost on JLG

Summerlost Publisher Page

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold. September 20, 2016. Viking Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780451470782.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Smoking

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Following his acclaimed debut, Mosquitoland (2015), Arnold offers a heartfelt tale that entwines ferocity with quirk, loss with first love, and beauty with asymmetry. Told almost exclusively through flashbacks, the book begins inside the Hackensack Police Department, where teens Vic and Madeline (“Mad”) are being individually questioned about a murder. The story, however, begins eight days before, when Vic is taken in by the ragtag Kids of Appetite (KOA), who help Vic in his quest to scatter his beloved father’s ashes. Vic—who has Moebius syndrome—gains a sense of belonging within this diverse and unusual group, but it is Mad who truly captures his attention. Arnold alternates between Vic’s and Mad’s perspectives as they recall the days leading to their interrogation. Bloodthirsty readers drawn to the murder element, be warned. This novel is for “heart-thinkers.” Darkness and complexity swirl beneath the surface, as each KOA member copes with personal traumas. At times it feels like Arnold has too many balls in the air, but philosophical teens drawn to themes of belonging will revel in his latest.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2016)
In Hackensack, New Jersey, a teen grieving the death of his father flees home, urn containing his dad’s ashes in hand, and stumbles upon the best friends of his life. Sixteen-year-old Vic Bennuci’s late father left him with an appreciation for asymmetry, which both informs his love of abstract art and helps him cope with the often cruel ways the world reacts to his face: the white boy has Moebius syndrome and can’t smile or blink. Readers are introduced to him and this gripping novel’s other narrator—quiet, tough, blonde, white Mad, a lover of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, whose home life is a nightmare of abuse—as they’re being separately interviewed by the police about their friend Baz, who is accused of murder. Baz and his brother, Nzuzi, are Congolese refugees who lived in foster care in the United States following the deaths of the rest of their family, and they, along with foulmouthed white, 11-year-old Coco, round out this intelligent and funny group. Vic and Mad are beautifully realized characters. The others are not as fully developed but are deeply sympathetic nonetheless. Their coalescence into an informal found family is both natural and believable. This tale of kids dealing with horrific situations is at times almost fantastical in its romanticism and is realized through the employ of spot-on pacing and lovely wordsmithing. Sophisticated teen readers will love this. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite and Mosquitoland. Previous jobs include freelance musician, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. Also pesto. He believes fiercely in pesto.

His website is www.davidarnoldbooks.com.

Around the Web

Kids of Appetite on Amazon

Kids of Appetite on Goodreads

Kids of Appetite on JLG

Kids of Appetite Publisher Page

You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner. March 7, 2017. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780399551420.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Graffiti

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 8-10. Julia does graffiti art to elevate the spaces and people around her. She won’t stop, even when a piece obscuring a slur about her friend Jordyn on the wall of Kingston School for the Deaf gets Julia expelled, and Jordyn doesn’t even care. At public high school, Julia gains an interpreter who tattles on Julia to both of her moms, the unwanted adoration of a bubbly girl she dubs YP (for Yoga Pants), the ire of just about everyone else, and an insatiable urge to continue her risky art form. When YP persists in her efforts at friendship, Julia begins to let her guard down, bringing YP into her world of tagging and eventually learning that YP has some secrets of her own. Julia’s motivations are complex, and the intersectionality of her character is appealingly realistic. Gardner brings together Deaf culture, discrimination, sexuality, friendship, body image, trust, betrayal, and even a potential Banksy spotting for this fresh novel, brightened by black-and-white illustrations from Julia’s notebooks.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
A deaf, Indian-American teen with a flair for graffiti learns how to make her mark. With two deaf moms, a deaf school, and Jordyn, her deaf best friend, Julia Prasad has always been unapologetically deaf. But when she paints graffiti over a slur about Jordyn and is expelled, she’s thrust into the chaos of mainstream high school with a patronizing interpreter, clueless teachers, and persistent bullying. Spoken dialogue is broken by blank lines, representing the words she realistically can’t lip-read. Graffiti, despite its illegality, is her only outlet besides art class. Julia’s cynical wit is augmented by illustrations of her work, which reveals the parts of her personality that English and her rebellious exterior can’t express. ASL signs emphasize her points. When she discovers that her work is being altered, she enters a risky graffiti war as she looks for the culprit. Meanwhile, she befriends “Yoga Pants,” an overeager white girl, in spite of herself. Several red herrings later, the culprit forces her to evaluate the differences between art and vandalism and between listening and hearing. Eating disorders, racism, and homophobia are mentioned in passing. In scenes that smack of wish fulfillment, iconic street artist Banksy makes a cameo appearance. Julia’s strong voice and multifaceted background offer an eye-catching glimpse of graffiti culture while introducing deaf culture. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.

Her website is heywhitney.com.

Around the Web

You’re Welcome Universe on Amazon

You’re Welcome Universe on Goodreads

You’re Welcome Universe on JLG

You’re Welcome Universe Publisher Page

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by David Wiesner. March 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9780544815124.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.5; Lexile: 460.

In this graphic novel, a young mermaid, called Fish Girl, living in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Napoli and Wiesner transport readers under the sea, introducing them to a modern-day heroine who longs to be part of their world.In this riveting graphic novel adaptation of the famous Andersen fairy tale, the nameless mermaid character is part of an aquatic exhibit run by a man who plays the part of Neptune the sea god. Napoli and Wiesner use the form’s sparse dialogue to deftly reimagine the fairy tale’s essential elements, from the heartbreaking divide between land and sea to the indomitable heroine who is willing to risk everything to cross that barrier and follow her heart—in this case, catalyzed by her growing friendship with a human girl who visits her regularly in the aquarium. The shrewd interpretation of the tale’s sexual politics is its most striking feature. The mermaid becomes an Everygirl who discovers that her identity and personhood are subordinated to a man whose sinister charm barely conceals his marginalizing view of her as profitable merchandise. Given current events, the image of a falsely benevolent Neptune who systematically chips away at the mermaid’s self-worth feels eerily apt, rendering the mermaid’s desire for a life on land all the more poignant. Wiesner’s artwork aptly conveys the narrative’s tone, but the muted color palette makes his illustrations feel oddly inert. The mermaid, her human friend, and Neptune all have fair skin. A thought-provoking work that is not to be missed. (Graphic fantasy. 10-16)

Publishers Weekly (December 19, 2016)
In Wiesner and Napoli’s unsettling tale of self-discovery, a young mermaid who stars in a boardwalk aquarium show begins to question her circumstances after a human girl offers her friendship. Though she can’t talk and has never been outside, Mira-as her new friend Livia christens her-slowly realizes that the show’s domineering owner, Neptune, may not be as benevolent or godlike as he seems. “The scientists will take you to a lab,” he threatens, warning her against being seen. “They’ll cut you open.” With Livia’s encouragement, help from her fellow sea creatures, and her own extra-human powers, Mira delivers herself from her captor. Napoli (Dark Shimmer) and Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) create a plot that crackles, and Wiesner’s graceful, classically proportioned artwork makes the story’s fantastical elements clear and believable. But Neptune’s catalog of classic psychological abuse seems to belong to an edgier tale. Livia’s goofy presence counterbalances the menace (“This is a cheese and lettuce sandwich,” she explains to Mira, holding up a drawing), and Mira’s sidekick-a huge, brooding octopus-offers her the love that Neptune withholds. Ages 10-12. (Mar.)

About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children’s and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

She lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is www.donnajonapoli.com.

About the Illustrator

During David Wiesner’s formative years, the last images he saw before closing his eyes at night were the books, rockets, elephant heads, clocks, and magnifying glasses that decorated the wallpaper of his room. Perhaps it was this decor which awakened his creativity and gave it the dreamlike, imaginative quality so often found in his work.

As a child growing up in suburban New Jersey, Wiesner re-created his world daily in his imagination. His home and his neighborhood became anything from a faraway planet to a prehistoric jungle. When the everyday play stopped, he would follow his imaginary playmates into the pages of books, wandering among dinosaurs in the World Book Encyclopedia. The images before him generated a love of detail, an admiration for the creative process, and a curiosity about the hand behind the drawings.

David Wiesner has illustrated more than twenty award-winning books for young readers. Two of the picture books he both wrote and illustrated became instant classics when they won the prestigious Caldecott Medal: Tuesday in 1992 and The Three Pigs in 2002. Two of his other titles, Sector 7 and Free Fall, are Caldecott Honor Books.  Flotsam, his most recent work, was a New York Times bestseller and was recently named winner of the 2007 Caldecott Medal, making Wiesner only the second person in the award’s long history to have won three times.

Wiesner lives with his wife and their son and daughter in the Philadelphia area, where he continues to create dreamlike and inventive images for books.

His website is www.davidwiesner.com.

Around the Web

Fish Girl on Amazon

Fish Girl on Goodreads

Fish Girl on JLG

Fish Girl Publisher Page

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley. May 10, 2016. Dial Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780525428183.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. After a panic attack in eighth grade, during which he stripped to his underwear and plopped himself in the school fountain, Solomon hasn’t left his house. Ever. Lisa never forgot that day, however, and when she sets out to write a college essay on her personal experience with mental illness, she believes (ethics be damned) curing Solomon will be the perfect, scholarship-worthy topic. Enlisting the help of her boyfriend, Clark, Lisa inserts herself into Solomon’s world, building a friendship while covertly observing him. But as she gets to know Solomon better, especially as he develops a crush on Clark, she realizes how her ulterior motives could threaten his progress. Printz Award–winning Whaley (Where Things Come Back, 2011) alternates between Lisa’s and Solomon’s perspectives, and in their witty, bantering conversations, he teases out a sensitive examination of friendship and mental illness. Solomon, after all, is far more than his anxiety, and intelligent Lisa is nearly blinded by her own certainty. With plenty of geekery, charming repartee, and fairly realistic teen drama, this will have wide appeal among readers of contemporary fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2016)
A teen with her sights set on a scholarship for a psychology undergraduate program befriends a boy with agoraphobia in order to write an essay about the experience in this novel from Printz Medal winner Whaley. Sixteen-year-old Solomon last left his house back in seventh grade, when, one day during a particularly horrible anxiety attack, he shed his clothing and climbed into a fountain at school. His former classmate Lisa, ambitious to a fault (“You’re like Lady Macbeth without the murder” says her boyfriend, Clark), has long wondered what became of him and angles her way into his life. She begins to visit Solomon daily and is surprised at how funny and easygoing he is, eventually bringing into the fold a reluctant Clark, who quickly bonds with him. In part because Solomon has earlier come out as gay to her, this eventually piques Lisa’s jealousy and sets the stage for a heartbreaking clash among the three. Chapters alternate between Sol’s and Lisa’s third-person narrations and brim over with warm, witty, authentic dialogue. Solomon’s descriptions of his anxiety are achingly real, and the adoration his family has for him, even as they fear he will never leave the house in their white, wealthy suburban neighborhood again, is poignant. Readers will easily come to care about these bright, wonderfully nerdy, flawed characters. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

John Corey Whaley grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories. He has a B.A. in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education. He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction (which sometimes includes zombies…). He taught public school for five years and spent much of that time daydreaming about being a full-time writer…and dodging his students’ crafty projectiles. He is terrible at most sports, but is an occasional kayaker and bongo player. He is obsessed with movies, music, and traveling to new places. He is an incredibly picky eater and has never been punched in the face, though he has come quite close. One time, when he was a kid, he had a curse put on him by a strange woman in the arcade section of a Wal-Mart. His favorite word is defenestration. His favorite color is green. His favorite smell is books. He currently splits his time between Louisiana and Los Angeles.

His website is www.johncoreywhaley.com.

Around the Web

Highly Illogical Behavior on Amazon

Highly Illogical Behavior on JLG

Highly Illogical Behavior on Goodreads

Highly Illogical Behavior on TeachingBooks