Tag Archives: grief

That Night by Amy Giles

The Night by Amy Giles. October 23, 2018. HarperTeen, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062495778.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

An evocative story by acclaimed author Amy Giles about tragedy, love, and learning to heal.

The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways.

As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together.

But what does it mean to love after an unspeakable tragedy?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Suicide, Underage drinking, Gun violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. One year after a mass shooting, Jessica and Lucas, along with their families, deal with the aftermath of the event that changed their worlds forever. Shy and withdrawn Jessica struggles to recover from the loss of her brother, while also caring for her grieving mother. Angry and anxious, Lucas turns to boxing in order to release his frustrations at being a survivor and losing his brother. Jessica’s and Lucas’ paths cross, and together they form a bond that is characterized by love, healing, and moving forward. Giles’ novel is one of surviving terrible losses and of healing. As in her previous novel, Now Is Everything (2017), Giles writes from the perspective of young adults trying survive the unexpected. Told in alternating perspectives from Jessica and Lucas, the mass shooting is not the main focus; rather, the lives of those affected by the mass shooting and its aftermath take center stage. Readers will find the latest from Giles a pleasing read.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Two teens who survived a mass shooting find love as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives in the wake of loss and tragedy. It has been a year since a shooting at a movie theater left 18 people dead. Lucas survived but lost his brother, a star football player. Jess survived, but her brother didn’t, and her mother has been debilitated by grief. Lucas tries to make sense of his survival by keeping a daily record of his random acts of kindness. Therapy helps, and boxing releases a lot of the negative energy, but he still suffers from panic attacks and avoids talking about his feelings with his parents. Jess finds a job to help with the overdue bills that keep piling up since her mom stopped working, but she can’t convince her mother to spend a full day out of bed, and she occasionally depends on weed to get her through her toughest moments. When Jess and Lucas meet at work they are wary of each other, but over time they become close, helping each other through feelings of shame, guilt, and ambivalence about living normal lives after their losses. This sensitive portrayal of the complications of journeying through grief is convincing and moving. Little physical description of the main characters, combined with the awkwardness with which the diversity of very minor characters is made known, accentuates the white default. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Amy Giles is a young adult author. She lives on an Island that is Long with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog.

Her website is www.amygiles.net

 

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Blue Bird by Akemi Dawn Bowman. September 11, 2018. Simon Pulse, 375 p. ISBN: 9781481487757.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-12. For Rumi Seto, creating music with her younger sister, Lea, was everything. But when Lea dies in a car accident, Rumi’s life is over, too. Beset by survivor’s guilt, she is plagued by the knowledge that Lea was the outgoing, perfect daughter who was closest to their mamo (mother). When Mamo sends Rumi to live with Aunt Ani in Hawaii, Rumi plunges into bottomless grief, constantly reminding herself that Mamo abandoned her because she loved Lea more. Rumi also mourns the loss of music and feels unable to recapture what she had with Lea, until she meets the two “boys” next door: lovable teen surfer Kai Yamada, who offers easygoing friendship, and gruff 80-year-old George Watanabe, who understands the pain that consumes her. Strengthened by their honest and individual outlooks on life, Rumi plumbs her courage to complete her and Lea’s unfinished song and find the will to live again. Rumi’s narration, fueled by raw and intense emotions, will leave readers breathless. Memories of Lea are smartly unfurled, allowing fascinating glimpses into the sisters’ bond. Bowman, whose Starfish (2017) was a Morris Award finalist, proves again that she isn’t afraid to dive headlong into challenging issues, such as asexuality, grief, resentment, and forgiveness. This beautiful story sparkles as its complex characters dare to find footholds in the seemingly inescapable dark.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2018)
Music helps a Washington state teenager overcome guilt and grief after the death of her beloved younger sister. After a car accident that takes the life of Rumi Seto’s younger sister, Lea, Rumi feels guilt about surviving and is certain that her mother wishes Rumi had died instead. With her mother checked out and blank with sorrow, an angry, hardened Rumi is sent to stay with her Aunty Ani in Hawaii, where she meets a host of local characters, including Kai, a charismatic half-Korean/half-Japanese boy. Rumi also spends some time with Mr. Watanabe, her aunt’s gruff elderly neighbor, who has dealt with his own tragedy. Eventually, as Rumi is able to find her way back to the music she and Lea had shared and write the song that she believes she owes her sister, she becomes able to fully grieve. She also makes a discovery that helps reconcile her with her mother. Rumi’s mother is half-Japanese/half-Hawaiian, and her estranged father is white. Accurately reflecting the setting, the book is populated with a host of hapa (biracial) and Asian- and Pacific Islander–American characters. One subplot follows Rumi as she becomes comfortable with her aromantic and asexual feelings. Convincing local details and dialogue, masterful writing, and an emotionally cathartic climax make this book shine. A strikingly moving book about teenage grief. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. She is also a Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in Scotland with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix.

Her website is www.akemidawnbowman.com

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. March 20, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 462 p. ISBN: 9780316463997.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Leigh shatters after her mother’s suicide—who wouldn’t?—but when a huge, beautiful red bird appears and calls her name in her mother’s voice, she doesn’t think she’s hallucinating; she’s sure the bird is actually her mother, and not “some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap.” When the bird brings Leigh a box of letters and photos from her mother’s childhood in Taiwan, she convinces her white father to take her to Taipei to meet her mother’s estranged parents for the first time. There she digs into her family’s past, visiting her mother’s favorite places and keeping an eye out for the bird, which grows ever more elusive the longer Leigh searches. In Leigh’s strong, painterly voice and with evocative, fantastical elements, Pan movingly explores grief and loss, as well as Leigh’s meaningful search for connection to her secretive mother and her exploration of the many facets of her identity. Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother’s life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it’s the result of her mother’s lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan’s deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“My mother is a bird,” declares Leigh, a mixed-raced (hun-xie) Taiwanese American teen. She has seen her mother reincarnated as a large red bird and knows that Mom is trying to guide Leigh in understanding the reasons for her tragic suicide. (Leigh also must contend with the crushing guilt of kissing her best friend, Axel, on the day Mom died.) Leigh travels to Taipei to stay with her maternal grandparents, with whom she can barely communicate. There she embarks on a fervent and grief-stricken odyssey riddled with insomnia and confusion, piecing together her mother’s past by lighting magical incense sticks that allow her to witness fragments of others’ memories. Pan portrays Leigh as a talented visual artist, telling her story with a vividness punctuated by a host of highly specific hues: a “cerise punch” to the gut, “viridian spiraling” thoughts, a heart “bursting with manganese blue and new gamboges yellow and quinacridone rose.” Some readers might be put off by the abundant imagery, but it—along with the threads of Taiwanese mysticism and her mingling of ghosts (gui) with the living—creates a hypnotic narrative. roxanne hsu Feldman

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi, and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology.

Her website is exrpan.com.

Teacher Resources

The Astonishing Color of After Discussion Questions

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The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro. March 6, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 349 p. ISBN: 9780062398970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken.

Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for.

Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her.

Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time.

Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.

Sequel to: The Last of August

Part of series: Charlotte Holmes (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Mention of sexual assault and rape

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August. She’s also the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Her website is http://brittanycavallaro.com.

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The Case for Jamie on Amazon

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Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn. March 13, 2018. jimmy patterson, 384 p. ISBN: 9780316471602.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

James Patterson presents this emotionally resonant novel that shows that while some broken things can’t be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired and made even stronger.

Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend…

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.”
When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Kira’s life changed eight months ago when her alcoholic father went to rehab, and she moved from her small Texas hometown to stay with her aunt. She left behind her dance team, close friends, and a boyfriend. Now it’s time to return, and she’s nervous. Is her father sober for good? Will she and Jay resume their relationship? When Kira discovers her father has opened their home to three friends from rehab, and Jay is now dating one of her best friends, she is furious and plans her own “12 steps” to the life she once had. Although Kira’s path is often predictable—denial, anger, grief, and understanding take turns leading her through emotional growth—Penn nicely captures the all-consuming emotions of a teen wrestling life into some sort of order. A comfortable new romance and an unexpected death provide comfort and catharsis. Penn’s note to the reader explains that she too had a father who suffered from alcoholism, and it’s this loving, compassionate hindsight that will speak honestly to readers in the same situation.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
The 12 steps to sobriety are tough; the 12 steps to repairing high school friendships are also difficult. After a year away, Kira is returning home to small-town Cedarville, Texas, to once again live with her recovering-alcoholic father in the house they once shared with Kira’s late grandmother. The white teen’s re-entry stumbles immediately when she learns that some of her father’s fellow rehab patients are staying there too. Kira also needs to work on rekindling friendships with her friends, as she avoided contact with them after she left. Then there’s Jay, Kira’s ex-boyfriend, who has moved on in Kira’s absence to friend Whitney. What’s a girl to do? In Kira’s case, the answer is to create her own 12-step program to return to a normal life. Penn creates a realistic character in Kira, one who finely balances the rational thoughts of a child of addiction with the emotional struggles of a high school student. Kira’s journey should speak to many teenage readers, even those who do not have firsthand experience with addiction or addicts. All of the characters (there are some people of color among Kira’s friends) are captured with a sophisticated eye and create a well-rounded story. Latino Alex—a friend-turned–love-interest—may be too good to be true, but readers will probably easily forgive that. An author’s note offers resources. A smart recommendation for readers looking to escape into a substantive world of personal discovery. (foreword) (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Farrah Penn was born and raised in a suburb in Texas that was far from the big city, but close enough to What-A-Burger. She now resides in Los Angeles, CA with her gremlin dog and succulents. When she’s not writing books, she’s writing things for BuzzFeed or sending texts containing too many emojis. 12 Steps to Normal is her first novel.

Her website is www.farrahpenn.com.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

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.

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Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. September 19, 2017. Kathy Dawson Books, 453 p. ISBN: 9780803741492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Jane receives an invitation to attend a gala at the island mansion Tu Reviens, she accepts—not because she wants to go, but because her adored (and recently deceased) Aunt Magnolia made her promise to visit Tu Reviens if she ever got the chance. Bizarre personages and events fill the palatial home, including art theft, kidnapping, a secret organization, flirtations, and seemingly impossible twists of fate, all of which the impetuous Jane faces with a devoted basset hound sidekick. It’s the story’s structure, however, that’s most noteworthy, as Cashore (Graceling, 2008) applies the concept of a multiverse to Tu Reviens, following Jane down five possible paths during her stay. Yet, it’s not until the second half of the book, where things go increasingly off the rails, that the story truly blossoms. Art forms a constant backdrop to the narrative, and in all versions of Jane’s story, she finds respite from her grief and uncertain future through artistic expression. Creation, compassion, and choice repeatedly emerge as themes in this ambitious, mind-expanding novel.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When her guardian, Aunt Magnolia, dies, Jane is left untethered and financially insecure. Then Kiran, an old acquaintance, invites Jane to Tu Reviens (“you return”), Kiran’s family’s island mansion. Aunt Magnolia had told Jane unequivocally that “if you’re invited to Tu Reviens, go.” So Jane ends up at the exotic mansion, a place where staffers are not what they say they are, and the wealthy patriarch is a depressive recluse. What’s going on? Jane wonders, watching the household prepare for a gala party and noting the priceless Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Brancusi works on display. Then the story splits into five alternate scenarios. As Jane follows first one inhabitant and then four others in parallel narratives, she moves from the romantic confection the novel first seems to multiverses of surreality, science fiction, art theft, and Espions sans Frontieres (Spies Without Borders). The clues to the story’s fantastical nature are playful and sly. As scenarios multiply, the story becomes light on character development and rather plot-heavy, but Cashore’s glee, wit, and inventiveness are unflagging. With its references to works ranging from Doctor Who to Rebecca to Winnie-the-Pooh, this is pleasantly peculiar and unpredictable. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Kristin Cashore grew up in northeast Pennsylvania and has a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She lives in the Boston area. Her epic fantasy novels set in the Graceling Realm—GracelingFire, and Bitterblue—are all New York Times bestsellers and have won many awards and much high praise, including picks as ALA Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors Choice, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition, Graceling was shortlisted for the William C. Morris Debut Award and Fire is an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner.

Her website is kristincashore.blogspot.com

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Jane, Unlimited on Goodreads

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Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno. July 25, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062493095.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

24 dares. 3 weeks. Take the leap.

Lottie Reaves is not a risk taker. She plays it safe and avoids all the ways she might get hurt. But when her beloved aunt Helen dies of cancer, Lottie’s fears about life and death start spiraling out of control.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. She knew how magical writing could be, and that words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves one writing project just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions that are supposed to get Lottie to take a leap and—for once in her life—really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series, Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice—one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

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

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Cautious, predictable Lottie has always had a plan for her life, but it gets thrown to the wind when her beloved and wild Aunt Helen passes away and leaves her 24 letters containing instructions that lead to secrets, love, and self-discovery. Aunt Helen isn’t just the source of entertaining summers and happy memories; she’s also the best-selling author of the most popular children’s books of all time, the Alvin Hatter series. Spurred on by tasks as harmless as “don’t be afraid to let yourself cry” and as reckless as “do something you’re not supposed to do,” Lottie discovers her aunt’s extraordinary secret past that inspired her books, and she rushes headfirst into a love that comes with major strings attached. Scattered with insightful excerpts from the Alvin Hatter series, Leno’s (The Lost & Found, 2016) latest novel borrows some narrative inspiration from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013) and a little magic from Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting (1975) to create a truly captivating tale about grief and the affirming power of self-examination.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
When Lottie’s favorite aunt dies, she leaves behind a wave of grief—and a mysterious series of letters.High school senior Lottie Reaves isn’t the only one mourning her beloved aunt Helen after she succumbs to cancer—Helen is the record-selling author of the Alvin Hatter series, which follows the adventures of two immortal siblings and has achieved J.K. Rowling–level fame. But it turns out that Aunt Helen had a surprise in store for Lottie—24 letters with a sequence of challenges to help her get through her grief and fight her anxious tendencies…as well as a secret she’s never revealed. As Lottie completes the missions with her best friend, Em, younger brother, Abe, and mysterious not-quite-boyfriend Sam, she learns more about her aunt, herself, and the natures of life, death, and time than she ever expected. Excerpts from Alvin Hatter books give readers a taste of the books that captured the world, and diversity is seamlessly integrated throughout the book— mixed-race Lottie has a Peruvian mom and a white dad, and her white best friend is a lesbian with an unaccepting mother. Lottie’s anxieties are discussed in a gentle yet candid manner, and her close-knit relationship with her family members is refreshing and realistic. A charming and sophisticated take on handling grief with a mystical twist ending that is sure to engage teens nostalgic for the magic of reading Harry Potter or Tuck Everlasting for the first time. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Katrina Leno is the author of Everything All at Once, The Lost & Found, The Half Life of Molly Pierce, and Summer of Salt. In real life, she lives in Los Angeles. But in her head, she lives on an imaginary island off the coast of New England where it sometimes rains a lot.

Her website is www.katrinaleno.com

Around the Web

Everything All at Once on Amazon

Everything All at Once on Goodreads

Everything All at Once on JLG

Everything All at Once Publisher Page

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne. July 18, 2017. Super Genius, 98 p. ISBN: 9781545805275.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

16-year-old Wendy Davies crashes her car into a lake on a late summer night in New England with her two younger brothers in the backseat. When she wakes in the hospital, she is told that her youngest brother, Michael, is dead. Wendy — a once rational teenager – shocks her family by insisting that Michael is alive and in the custody of a mysterious flying boy. Placed in a new school, Wendy negotiates fantasy and reality as students and adults around her resemble characters from Neverland. Given a sketchbook by her therapist, Wendy starts to draw. But is The Wendy Project merely her safe space, or a portal between worlds?

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
In this heart-wrenching graphic novel, a teen girl responsible for her younger brother’s death must decide to accept the harsh reality or lose herself in escapist denial. One fateful evening, Wendy Davies’ car goes off the road. Her brothers, John and Michael, were inside, and Michael doesn’t survive the wreck. After the crash, Wendy is sent to therapy to help her process her feelings and is instructed to draw her emotions. She envisions that Peter Pan has taken Michael to Neverland and begins seeing parallels in her everyday life. As Wendy becomes more enmeshed in her reveries, her grasp on reality becomes ever more tenuous. Will she be able to leave her daydreams behind and see the accident for what it was? Through a dreamlike and elegiac lens, Osborne and Fish conjure a visually striking portrait of mourning and acceptance. Wendy’s reality is evinced through black-and-white sketches, transitioning to a glorious wash of watercolors when her imagination takes over. While undeniably breathtaking in its style, the narrative of this slender volume occasionally falters. Its secondary characters—such as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and their real-world counterparts—are intriguing but not as well developed as Wendy, and though Wendy’s plight is moving, it resolves itself a bit too tidily. However, readers should easily overcome these quibbles due to the sheer emotional impact of this beautifully tragic story and its gravitas. An ethereal and haunting exploration of grief and death. (Graphic fiction. 12-adult)

Library Journal – web only (November 18, 2016)
Here, Peter Pan’s Wendy Darling is reimagined as a 16-year-old who survives a car accident that renders one of her brothers mute and the other missing. Is that brother’s body lost to the watery crash site, or did Wendy really see him fly away with a mysterious figure? As Wendy struggles at a new high school, the people in her life begin to resemble Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and other J.M. Barrie characters. Wendy’s therapist prescribes drawing in a sketchbook as a coping mechanism, but the journal takes on a life of its own, one that may let Wendy shape her circumstances in more ways than one. Osborne sensitively scripts this tragic scenario-which has an especially satisfying conclusion-and Fish’s (Archie Comics) well-matched artwork often fittingly resembles that of a talented teenager, with color skillfully used to denote Wendy’s visions intruding into reality. Verdict This unexpected gem stands out among latter-day versions of Peter Pan thanks to its embrace of genuine emotion and psychological gravity. Highly recommended to all graphic novel and fantasy fans, and especially to YA readers. Some disturbing content; suitable for all but the youngest.-J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

About the Author

Melissa Jane Osborne is an actor and writer who has worked with Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Samuel French Festival, NYFringe, Playwright’s Horizon’s Theatre School, and Stella Adler Studio of which she is an alum. Her work in new media spans from the Internet sensation The Burg to creating the first interactive scripted iPhone game Campus Crush for the Episode App, which has spawned multiple sequels and become an international teen sensation with over 6 million views per month. Her short film OMA is currently in production starring Lynn Cohen (The Hunger Games). She is a member of NYC’s FAB Women and Los Angeles’s IAMA Theatre Co. When Melissa was a kid, she broke four puppet theater kits from telling stories too hard. Now that she’s an adult, she hopes to break even more.

Around the Web

The Wendy Project on Amazon

The Wendy Project on Goodreads

The Wendy Project on JLG

The Wendy Project Publisher Page

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale. May 30, 20176. HarperCollins, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062656742.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 640.

A heartfelt and voice-driven novel with just a touch of magic, Emily Gale’s The Other Side of Summer is perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead.

Ever since her brother Floyd died, Summer’s world has been falling apart. Her mom is a ghost of her former self, her older sister is angry all the time, and her dad wants to move the family to Australia. It seems like the only thing unchanged in their lives is Floyd’s guitar, which was returned to the family perfectly unharmed by the bombing that killed him.

Once Summer arrives in Australia, she feels even further away from Floyd than before. Until she works up the courage to play his guitar. When she plays, something amazing—perhaps even magical—happens. Summer starts to feel less alone. But even with a little magic on her side, only Summer will be able to find her way through her grief to whatever the other side may bring.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Terrorism

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
Summer’s family is blown apart when her brother, Floyd, is killed in a bombing in London, and their anguish surges anew when Floyd’s cherished guitar is delivered to their house afterward.In a prescient moment, Summer says the instrument is “a sign of a different, unexpected ending.” With it, Summer hears Floyd’s voice; it also draws the spirit of a boy named Gabe. As Summer struggles to get to the other side of her grief, she narrates her trajectory in three parts over the course of 18 months that include a move from England to Australia. Part 1 represents loss. Summer’s agony is tangible and her descriptions, searing. Her dad’s face is “as unreadable as an old gravestone;” her mum, suffering depression, is a “whispery ghost.” In Australia, the family starts to heal. It’s there that Gabe appears to Summer. She can’t tell if he is a ghost or from the realm of dreams or how she can help him. This mystery propels the action in Part 2. Summer’s discoveries not only allow her to aid Gabe, but also to reconstruct important moments in Floyd’s last days. The reason for the bombing is not explained, nor is there an easy path through sorrow, but Part 3 brings resolution. Summer’s family is white, but the full cast appears to be multiethnic. A bittersweet, hopeful coming-of-age story complicated by loss, saved by love, that ends with a song. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (May 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-When 13-year-old Summer’s brother Floyd dies in a bombing, her family members have difficulty coping. Her mom is depressed and barely leaves her bedroom, her older sister Wren is dark and angry, and her dad wants to move the family from London to Melbourne, Australia. Summer, her dad, and her sister make the move to Australia while her mom stays behind. Summer feels alone, angry, and even further removed from her memories of her brother until she discovers sheet music of Floyd’s and works up the courage to play his Ibanez Artwood guitar, his prized possession, which was returned to the family unharmed after the accident. When Summer is near the guitar, she can speak to her brother in her head. When she begins to play, a mysterious boy named Gabe appears. Summer’s efforts to figure out Gabe’s story, and his possible connection with her brother, bring her mourning family together. Gale realistically portrays how grief impacts each member of a family differently and explores the challenges of losing someone and struggling to find them again in a new and different way. VERDICT Fans of Rebecca Stead will gravitate to this heartfelt and beautiful tale that fits perfectly in the gray area between middle grade and young adult.-Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

About the Author

Emily Gale is a book-nerd who has worked in the children’s & YA book industry for nearly twenty years. In London she worked as an editor for Penguin and Egmont, and later as a freelance manuscript consultant and pre-school book writer. In Melbourne she’s worked with literary agent Sheila Drummond, finding new children’s and YA authors; she has reviewed for Bookseller and Publisher, been a judge in the YA category of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and spent several happy years at independent bookshop Readings as a children’s buyer, during which time she was instrumental in establishing the Readings Children’s Book Prize.

Her website is www.emilygalebooks.com

Around the Web

The Other Side of Summer on Amazon

The Other Side of Summer on Goodreads

The Other Side of Summer on JLG

The Other Side of Summer Publisher Page