Tag Archives: grief

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 Goodreads

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We Are Okay Publisher Page

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. January 3, 2017. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 978375931994.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 550.

Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s excercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder; Suicide; Shoplifting

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. Most people would hate to call the Hancock County Prison home, but 12-year-old tomboy Cammie O’Reilly wouldn’t have it any other way. As the warden’s daughter, she lives in an apartment above the prison entrance with her father and has a commanding presence that’s earned her the nickname Little Warden. Set in 1959, just before Cammie turns 13 and enters junior high, this is a story about facing hard truths and growing up. In the background swirl issues of race, treatment of prisoners, and the arrival of a high-profile murderer, but Cammie’s mounting anger over her mother’s tragic death takes center stage. Spinelli’s latest gives readers an interesting, often heartbreaking glimpse into the 1950s and the timeless need for a parent’s love. Narrated by Cammie as an adult, the carefully constructed story seems a little too neat and purposeful at times, but readers will love the details of having a prison compound for a home and adore the many secondary characters who help keep Cammie’s head above water during her desperate search for happiness.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
It’s 1959, and Camille, a lively, determined, self-described tomboy, is twelve. She lives in a suite inside a prison where her father is the warden. Spinelli makes the most of this distinctive setting as Camille becomes a kind of mascot or pet for the female inmates, has access to historical criminal records, and gains status at school when it is presumed she has inside information on crime and criminals. The driver of the story is Camille’s hunger for a mother to substitute for her own, who died in an accident when Camille was just a baby. It’s a busy, multi-strand plot, including a mystery from the past, Cammie’s growing friendship with a family from the wrong side of the tracks, a framing story involving Cassie as a grandmother looking back (“But now, more than half a century laterâ禔), a friend who gets to appear on Bandstand, and a re-spin of the plot in diary form from the housekeeper/mother-substitute’s point of view. Spinelli’s gift for humorous chaos and his trademark magic realism touches are showcased here, and it is exhilarating to read about kids with so much freedom, but Cammie and her female friends don’t always ring true. For example, discussing Cammie’s flat chest, they come up with three solutions: stuffing her sweater with a pair of socks, holding her breath to make her breasts pop out, and refraining from going to the bathroom for the same effect. This is a good joke, but it sounds more like one a boy might make. Without a convincing main character, the complicated narrative structure doesn’t cohere. sarah ellis

About the Author

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania.

Her website is www.jerryspinelli.com.

Teacher Resources

The Warden’s Daughter Teaching Guide

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The Warden’s Daughter on Amazon

The Warden’s Daughter on Goodreads

The Warden’s Daughter on JLG

The Warden’s Daughter Publisher Page

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. January17, 2017. Soho Teen, 304 p. ISBN: 9781616956929.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Discussion of abortion

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. After Griffin and Theo break up, after Theo moves to California for college, and even after Theo finds a new boyfriend in Jackson, Griffin continues to believe that they’ll end up together. Then Theo drowns, and all that’s left for Griffin is their fugitive history together. Griffin’s affecting account of that history is told partly in flashbacks that are simultaneously elegiac and melancholy. The present, meanwhile, finds him bereft, grieving but discovering, perhaps, a weird sort of comfort in continuing to speak to Theo, reliving their past while sharing what is happening in the here and now. But will Griffin, who is so stuck in the past, find a future? Silvera’s splendid sophomore novel is filled with tantalizing questions about lies and honesty, love and loss, and past and present, with answers gradually metered out through Griffin’s growth as well as that of the other characters populating this beautifully realized, character-driven work of literary fiction. Silvera leaves his readers enriched and challenged, inviting them to join Griffin in questioning the meaning of life and love. In those questions, they will find an unsparing honesty that brings closure to the novel and to Griffin’s quest to let go of the past and embrace the future.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old Griffin loses Theo, his best friend and first love, twice: first when the young men break up, and again, as the book opens, when Theo drowns. Dual timelines carry readers simultaneously through Griffin and Theo’s sweet, finely drawn romance (and its inevitable dissolution) and Griffin’s heartbreaking journey through the grieving process, marked by disorientation, resentment, and an unlikely (and unhealthy) relationship with Theo’s hated subsequent boyfriend, Jackson. Both narratives are informed by Griffin’s struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, which is neither minimized nor sensationalized but chronicled matter-of-factly as part of his life. Silvera’s prose is raw and lyrical, a good fit for Griffin’s intensity, and the minutiae of both romance and grief are closely observed and deeply felt. The mysteries of what lies in between the two timelines–for instance, how Griffin became estranged from another friend–keep the pace moving. Griffin and Theo’s breakup is messy, realistic, and painful, overshadowed but not subsumed by the subsequent pain of Theo’s death, and readers will identify with Griffin’s confusion and denial in response to both. Griffin himself is an indelible character who will linger in readers’ sympathies after the last page is turned. claire e. gross

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

Teacher Resources

History Is All You Left Me Reading Guide

Around the Web

History Is All You Left Me on Amazon

History Is All You Left Me on Goodreads

History Is All You Left Me on JLG

History Is All You Left Me 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

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach. February 23, 2016. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781481418805.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

“I’ve got some questions for you. Was this story written about me?”

I shrugged.

“Yes or no?”

I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty. It brought a bloom to her pale cheeks and made sharp shelves of her cheekbones.

“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.

I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote I can’t on my palm.

Then, in tiny letters below it, I finished the thought: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

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

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Best-selling author Wallach’s sophomore effort puts an atypical twist on the standard boy-meets-girl equation. Skipping school on Halloween, mute high-school senior Parker Santé meets silver-haired Zelda Toth at the luxurious Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Zelda totes a stack of $100 bills, claims to be immortal, and plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. The two make a deal: she’ll spend her money on Parker as long as he promises to apply to and attend college. What follows is an adventurous, epiphany-filled three days that test their handshake agreement. Although Wallach’s zippy writing is terrifically clever, “dumb, not stupid” Parker’s musings do not always cohere completely into a story. Zelda’s manic-pixie-dream-girl qualities become especially exaggerated by Parker’s seeming ease with her eventual decision. Still, Wallach offers much for teen readers to ponder: immortality, the future, how we make peace with the death of loved ones, and the choices we make with the time we have on this earth.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2016)
Two introspective teens — one silent and one possibly immortal — share a life- changing weekend in this contemporary, fantastical romance. Parker Sante, seventeen, has psychogenic aphonia; he stopped talking after his father died five years ago. He resists treatment and communicates via notebook, deliberately distancing himself from his peers and his future. Then he meets Zelda — a mysterious, silver-haired girl who says she’s lived for centuries. She’s on her way to finally end it all by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, but first she invites Parker to help spend her life savings; smitten, he accepts. Parker recounts their adventures with a whip-smart, sardonic narrative voice in this fast-paced romp around an atmospheric San Francisco, interspersed with Parker’s fantasy short stories and sustained by a steady course of philosophic (and flirtatious) banter. While Parker tries to unravel the truth about Zelda’s wild claim, Zelda is on a mission to help Parker shed his apathy so he can enjoy the pleasures life has to offer. A romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy? Absolutely, but the pair’s ample chemistry and illuminating conversations about what makes life worth living make both their fast-burning romance and Parker’s eventual transformation feel organic and well earned. jessica tackett macdonald

About the Author

Tommy Wallach is a novelist, screenwriter, and musician from Seattle, WA. He currently lives in Brooklyn, like everybody else. His first novel, “We All Looked Up,” is a NYTimes bestseller, the rights for which have sold in over a dozen countries. His second novel is “Thanks for the Trouble,” which Tommy adapted for film under the aegis of Anonymous Content (Spotlight, Revenant, Mr. Robot).

Tommy is also a musician, and has recorded with Decca Records and performed at the Guggenheim Museum. He released a full-length companion album of original songs to go with his first novel, which is available wherever fine music is sold (i.e. the internet).

His website is www.tommywallach.com.

Around the Web

Thanks for the Trouble on Amazon

Thanks for the Trouble on JLG

Thanks for the Trouble on Goodreads