Tag Archives: interpersonal relations

There There by Tommy Orange

There There by Tommy Orange. June 5, 2018. Knopf, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525520375.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking—Tommy Orange’s first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen, and it introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career.

There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.

Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force. Tommy Orange writes of the plight of the urban Native American, the Native American in the city, in a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. An unforgettable debut, destined to become required reading in schools and universities across the country

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Explicit discussion of defecation

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
The at-first disconnected characters from whose perspectives Orange voices his symphonic debut are united by the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow. Some have been working on the event for months; some will sneak in with only good intentions, while others are plotting to steal the sizable cash prizes. Creative interludes from an omniscient narrator describe, for example, the names of First Nations people or what it means to be an Urban Indian: “We ride buses, trains, and cars across, over, and under concrete plains. Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.” Opal recalls occupying Alcatraz as a child with her family; today she raises her sister’s grandchildren as her own after their unspeakable loss. With grant support, Dene endeavors to complete the oral-history project his deceased uncle couldn’t, recording the stories of Indians living in Oakland. In his thirties, with his white mother’s blessing, Edwin reaches out to the Native father he never met. While anticipation of the powwow provides a baseline of suspense, the path Orange lights through these and his novel’s many other stories thrills on its own. Engrossing at its most granular, in characters’ thoughts and fleeting moments, There There introduces an exciting voice.

Library Journal (April 1, 2018)
DEBUT Orange’s visceral first novel, set in past and present-day Oakland, weaves more than ten plot lines involving the lives of Native Americans. All intersect in a crescendo of violence at the Oakland Powwow. Tony Loneman starts off the narrative with an honest discussion of his fetal alcohol syndrome, which he calls “the Drome.” He also features in the conclusion piloting a drone. Video artist Dene Oxendene records stories while Orvil Red Feather is a dancer. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield and her sister -Jacquie Red Feather are most central to the novel. Jacquie and Opal were part of the historic occupation of Alcatraz-where Jacquie became pregnant-eventually giving up her daughter for a blind adoption. A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters; from Jacquie as a substance abuse counselor ten days sober to the plight of Blue, the daughter she gave up, escaping from an abusive relationship. -VERDICT This book provides a broad sweep of lives of Native American people in Oakland and beyond. Echoes of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets meets the unflinching candor of Sherman Alexie’s oeuvre; highly recommended.

About the Author

Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.

 

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Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell

Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell. March 13, 2018. Razorbill, 320 p. ISBN: 9780448494265.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she’s been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it’s time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey–and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks’s dark past come to light, Audrey can’t help but wonder if there’s danger in the pull she feels–both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Marijuana, Arson, Animal abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. The morning she’s evacuated from her Orange County home to escape an approaching fire, Audrey Harper is already nearing the brink of collapse. After what seemed like the perfect summer romance with her boyfriend, mysterious, brooding Brooks, the autumn has left her with too many questions about who Brooks really is—and who she’d be without him. Unfolding over the course of a single day, the narrative manages to mix the ticking-clock tension of the approaching, unforgivable fire with flashbacks that pull back the curtain on a mystery without slowing the pace. First-time author Ezell has perfectly captured the disquieting feeling inherent to the dawning realization of an undesirable truth. She avoids assigning Audrey’s multilayered pain a neat set of labels or causes, allowing the character space to explore them. This is a gripping novel about finding out who you are under the worst circumstances, and still maintaining hope that your new sense of self will carry you through to better times.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
The Sunday morning after she loses her virginity, white 16-year-old Audrey Harper is home alone when the evacuation order arrives.A wildfire rages in the nearby canyons, and it’s spreading, moving toward the gated Orange County community where she lives with her mother, father, and 13-year-old sister. Audrey’s boyfriend, Brooks, a volunteer firefighter, is creepily euphoric about the prospect of fire; he seems to look forward to it. As Audrey acts to save some of her family’s most cherished belongings, including her sister’s secret pet kitten, and to find a safe place to wait out the fires, she reflects on her sometimes-rocky relationship with Brooks. The story is deftly punctuated with flashbacks of the past several months—from Audrey’s meet-cute with Brooks to falling in love to their ill-fated three-month “anniversary”—showcasing events leading up to the present. As the story moves forward, and the fire moves closer to home, Audrey discovers Brooks hasn’t told her the whole truth about his past. Is he the tortured soul he’s led her to believe he is, or is he a manipulative liar? Clues throughout hint at the fire’s origins; observant readers will have it figured out in no time. Audrey is aware that her gated community is “painfully whitewashed and lacking in diversity”; to that end, characters are assumed white. A decently entertaining story of love, loss, and hope. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

A Southern California native, Heather Ezell was evacuated for a fire at the age of three and subsequently grew up with an obsessive fear of wildfires. She has been chasing reprieve from California’s heat ever since–from the Rocky Mountains to Interior Alaska. Heather graduated from Colorado College with a degree in English literature and creative writing, and she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest where she writes, practices amateur ballet in the forest, and obsesses over the weather.

Her website is www.heatherezell.com

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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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I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman. March 27, 2018. Viking Books for Young Readers, 258 p. ISBN: 9780425290774.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

A fateful accident draws three strangers together over the course of a single day:

Freya who has lost her voice while recording her debut album.
Harun who is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved.
Nathaniel who has just arrived in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose.

As the day progresses, their secrets start to unravel and they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

An emotionally cathartic story of losing love, finding love, and discovering the person you are meant to be, I Have Lost My Way is bestselling author Gayle Forman at her finest.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Homophobic language

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. Freya sacrificed family for her music career, and now, just as she’s poised to make it big, she loses her singing voice completely. Harun, caught between the boy he loves and the family he doesn’t want to disappoint, prepares for a trip that could force him into a life he doesn’t want. And Nathaniel, self-contained and used to having only his father in his life, arrives in New York with almost nothing. When a chance encounter throws the three together, none of them will leave unchanged. Forman’s (If I Stay, 2009) latest is a mature, quiet examination of loss. The bulk of the narrative takes place over the course of just one day, with intermittent flashbacks giving depth to the characters. During that day, the three, who come from varying, diverse backgrounds and families, face their individual demons and try to find the paths they’ve lost. Tightly woven and, in places, heartbreaking, this is a masterful exploration of human emotion that will appeal to adults as well as older teens.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
A chance meeting leads to intimate connections for three struggling nineteen-year-olds in Forman’s (If I Stay, rev. 7/09; I Was Here, rev. 1/15) latest novel. Freya is an up-and-coming singer who has lost her voice, to her controlling manager’s chagrin. Harun is a college student with a broken heart and an impossible decision to make: tell his devout Muslim family he is gay, or travel to Pakistan and bring home a bride. Nathaniel just flew into the city, and he’s hiding the true reason for his visit. After colliding in a three-way meet-cute—Freya falls from a Central Park pedestrian bridge and lands on Nathaniel, with Harun stepping in as a helpful bystander—the teens each privately feel drawn to one another; their day, like their relationships, unfolds organically as they each find opportunities to take control of their lives, with the others providing quiet support. Narration flits among the teens’ perspectives; this keeps the pace lively, but some more abrupt shifts are disorienting. Intermittent flashback chapters deepen the characters’ compelling backstories. A precipitously tense conclusion offers no easy answers for Freya, Harun, or Nathaniel, instead providing a stirring reminder of the great risks of isolation and the immense solace and power that community—even with virtual strangers—can bring. jessica tackett macdonald

About the Author

Gayle Forman is an award-winning internationally bestselling author. Her books include Just One Day, Just One Year, I Was Here, Where She Went and If I Stay, which was made into a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz.

Her newest novel, Leave Me, is her first one starring adults. (She refuses to say it’s an adult novel because she knows plenty of adults read YA and vice-versa).

Gayle lives with her husband and daughters in Brooklyn.  Her website is www.gayleforman.com.

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Release by Patrick Ness

Release by Patrick Ness. September 19, 2017. HarperTeen, 279 p. ISBN: 9780062403193.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart.  At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Sexual harassment, Homophobic slurs, Homophobia

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Ness follows seventeen-year-old Adam through one eventful day. A goodbye party is planned for his ex-boyfriend Enzo, but first there’s a revelation from Adam’s pious brother, a threatening encounter with Adam’s lecherous male boss, a much more positive encounter with his current boyfriend Linus, and a confrontation with his evangelical minister father. Meanwhile, in occasional interspersed passages, the ghost of recently murdered classmate Katherine wanders the town. The book is full of references to Mrs. Dalloway and to Virginia Woolf (“Adam would have to get the flowers himself”; Katherine is drowned with weighted pockets), and its author’s note cites its debt to that book and to Judy Blume’s Forever. Release echoes the latter’s frankness about teen sexuality, as well as the gravity Forever gives to teen concerns: only Katherine needs to let go of her earthly life, but Adam needs to let go of things, too, and Ness treats these as equally important. The voice here is more grounded than Mrs. Dalloway’s, and most of the book is closer to realism than Ness’s in-some-ways-similar More Than This (rev. 11/13), but this book’s self-awareness lends its events a dreamlike feel. Though it functions as an accessible, standalone coming-of-age story, awareness of its influences makes for a layered reading experience. shoshana flax

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
An extraordinary, ordinary day in the life of Adam Thorn.Seventeen-year-old, tall, white, blond, evangelical-raised Adam begins his day buying chrysanthemums for his overbearing, guilt-inducing mother. From the get-go, some readers may recognize one of many deliberate, well-placed Virginia Woolf references throughout the narrative. He goes on a long run. He has lunch with his bright, smart-alecky best friend, Angela Darlington, who was born in Korea and adopted by her white parents. In a particularly uncomfortable scene, he is sexually harassed by his boss. He also partakes in a 30-plus–page act of intimacy that leaves little to the imagination with his new boyfriend, Linus, also white. The scene is fairly educational, but it’s also full of laughter, true intimacy, discomfort, mixed feelings, and more that elevate it far beyond pure physicality. Meanwhile, in parallel vignettes, the ghost of a murdered teenage girl armed with more Woolf references eerily haunts the streets and lake where she was killed. Her story permeates the entire narrative and adds a supernatural, creepy context to the otherwise small town. What makes these scenes rise about the mundane is Ness’ ability to drop highly charged emotion bombs in the least expected places and infuse each of them with poignant memories, sharp emotions, and beautifully rendered scenes that are so moving it may cause readers to pause and reflect. Literary, illuminating, and stunningly told. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking TrilogyThe Crash of HenningtonTopics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award.

Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London. His website is www.patrickness.com

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What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard. June 6, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 400 p. ISBN: 9780374304638.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size 0 obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Debut author Ballard details exactly what 16-year-old Elizabeth loses as she strives for perfection and eventually learns to accept herself. Elizabeth has achieved her ultimate goal, being a size zero, by starving herself. Yet her achievement results in her being placed in a psychiatric facility and forced to lose what she’s come to think of as her “perfect” size. Puzzling packages soon start arriving for Elizabeth that bring out painful memories, and she wonders how, or if, she will survive anorexia to return to her normal life. Ballard’s tender novel is one of recovery and acceptance. She enters into the complex world of teenagers and the sensitive issues they deal with on a daily basis, clearly depicting how teens can succumb to medical conditions such as anorexia. Deliberate pacing makes the story a little difficult to get into during the first few chapters, but readers will gradually fall deeper and deeper into the story. A heartfelt account that shows a lot of promise from a new author.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
A young woman struggles with anorexia in this debut. High school junior Elizabeth has dropped to a dangerous 90 pounds before being sent to Wallingfield Psychiatric Facility by her worried parents. She’s unsure what to expect and is somewhat ambivalent about her treatment—she doesn’t want to get better if it means that she has to gain weight. However, as this engrossing and heartfelt novel progresses, Elizabeth finds that the enforced, monitored meals and various therapy groups at Wallingfield are at once sources of shame, frustration, and hope. Vivid descriptions of the panic and visceral disgust she experiences at the prospect of eating juxtapose well with the account of her progress as she begins to confront just how profound the effect her mother’s disordered relationship with food and body image has had on her. That some of this account is noticeably expository finds compensation in Elizabeth’s well-developed character. Elizabeth develops supportive friendships with several girls at the center, and a romantic subplot with a boy she knows from school adds an appealing layer to the first-person, confessional narrative. The ethnicities of the main characters are not specified, though mention is made of a friend of Elizabeth’s standing out as the only Indian student at school, suggesting that the community is predominantly white. Readers will root for the novel’s likable main character and gain some understanding of the complexity of her illness at the same time. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Alexandra Ballard has worked as a magazine editor, middle-school English teacher, freelance writer, and cake maker. She holds master’s from both Columbia (journalism) and Fordham (education) and spent ten years in the classroom, beginning in the Bronx and ending up in the hills of Berkeley, California, with her husband and two daughters. What I Lost is Alexandra Ballard’s debut novel.

Her website is www.alexandraballard.com.

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Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree: Young Adult Edition: How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us by Andrew Solomon. July 25, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481440905.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

From New York Times bestselling author Andrew Solomon comes a stunning, poignant, and affecting young adult edition of his award-winning masterpiece, Far From the Tree, which explores the impact of extreme differences between parents and children.

The old adage says that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, meaning that children usually resemble their parents. But what happens when the apples fall somewhere else—sometimes a couple of orchards away, sometimes on the other side of the world?

In this young adult edition, Andrew Solomon profiles how families accommodate children who have a variety of differences: families of people who are deaf, who are dwarfs, who have Down syndrome, who have autism, who have schizophrenia, who have multiple severe disabilities, who are prodigies, who commit crimes, and more.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far From the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life. The New York Times calls the adult edition a “wise and beautiful” volume, that “will shake up your preconceptions and leave you in a better place.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism, Homophobia, Psychological trauma, Physical abuse, Sexual assault and abuse, Clinical discussion of sexual abuse, Self-harming

 

Book Trailers

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
How do parents react when a child is far different from themselves—and how do those children cope with difference?This young-readers’ edition of the original 2012 tome is far shorter but follows an identical format. In the first and last chapters, the author speaks of his own life journey as a gay Jew; in between he tells of families encountering the following differences: deaf, dwarfs, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, and transgender. He speaks with sensitivity about children who find community—or not—with others like themselves. He discusses such deeply philosophical and ethical questions as whether cochlear implants at birth are leading to the genocide of the Deaf community and whether parents of “pillow angels”—severely disabled children—should agree to medically stunt their children’s growth so the children can always be moved by loving arms instead of cranelike equipment. He argues that many children born “far from the tree” eventually find acceptance and even celebration among their families—but also despairs for those who deal with schizophrenia and those conceived by rape. Readers are not spared distressing details: a severely autistic child smears himself with excrement, then flings it at his parents; a family pet is killed gruesomely as a warning to a lesbian couple and their transgender child; there’s a substantial list of parents convicted of killing their children—and who are given light or even nonexistent jail sentences. Less mature teens—or those with low self-esteem—may well profit from confining their reading to the eloquent, encouraging first and last chapters. Virtually every teenager struggles with difference and identity; at its best, this book will help its readers understand and embrace intersectionality. (notes, further reading) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Andrew Solomon writes about politics, culture, and health. He lives in New York and London. He has written for many publications–such as the New York TimesThe New Yorker and Artforum–on topics including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, Libyan politics, and deaf culture. He is also a Contributing Writer for Travel and Leisure. In 2008, he was awarded the Humanitarian Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry for his contributions to the field of mental health. He has a staff appointment as a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell Medical School (Weill-Cornell Medical College).

His website is andrewsolomon.com

Teacher Resources

Far From the Tree Reading Guide

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Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend

Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend. March 8, 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 p. ISBN: 9780374302306.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…

Dumped by her best friend, Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”

Deserted by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.

Trapped in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.

Stuck at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all?

With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Attempted suicide; Allusion to self-harm

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 12))
Grades 7-10. Anna, the 13-year-old protagonist of Friend’s bittersweet story, thinks her life is falling apart. It’s bad enough her best friend, Dani, doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Anna also has to deal with her mother’s recent suicide attempt. Now, while her mother is in the hospital, Anna has to live with her father, his new (and young) wife, and their baby, Jane. At school, she sits at the outcasts’ table during lunch. Eventually, however, she finds her own place there and at her father’s house, where she realizes that her stepmother, Marnie, is genuinely nice. Anna is a gem of a character—funny, wise, and clever. Friend has a finely tuned ear for language, which is nicely reflected in Anna’s first-person narrative, where she is usually circumspect in her speech but sarcastic and sharp in her thoughts. Her transformation is sympathetic, convincing, and compelling as she takes the time she needs to heal from her own adversity and accept that life isn’t going to be perfect. Readers will revel in her journey.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2016)
Middle school bitchiness is elevated to high art in this poignant tale of a girl dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide attempt. Anna is so “been there, done that” it defies her mere 13 years on Earth. After a lifetime of dealing with her flaky mom’s emotional highs and lows and her distant dad’s remarriage to the beautiful Marnie, Anna has learned how to shut people out and shut down her own emotions. However, the loss of her one-time best friend, Danielle, to the popular set proves to be one body blow too many. Friend’s sixth novel (My Life in Black and White, 2012; Lush, 2010) and first for middle-grade readers reverberates with honest eighth-grade emotion. Anna’s first-person delivery is wry, sad, heartbreaking, in-your-face, and raw. She captures the utterly helpless feeling of a child trying to deal with the very grown-up problem of a parent’s mental illness, with a father who doesn’t communicate well and a life that isn’t going how it should. Friend balances heartache with humor, creating in Anna a memorable, funny, and genuine girl and serving up middle school angst with a teen edge. While her cast isn’t particularly diverse, they are memorable; as so many protagonists have done before, Anna learns that sitting with the weirdos is a whole lot more fun than toeing the mean-girl line. An upper-middle-grade winner. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Natasha Friend was born to an English professor father and a poet/actress mother. She was raised in a house without a television. At the time, she thought this was the worst form of child abuse. Now, she understands the method to her parents’ madness: they wanted her to be a reader.

Spending most of her childhood at the Hamilton Public Library, Natasha found her mecca, the young-adult section, and her hero, Judy Blume. She, too, wanted to write stories about girls who felt alone. Girls whose parents were screw-ups. Girls with spunk and spirit and resolve.

Natasha began dictating stories to her father, who typed them up on his 1930’s Remington typewriter. Most involved rainbows, unicorns, and poor orphan girls discovering treasure.

She knew she was supposed to be a writer in seventh grade, when a sweet boy gave her a love poem and she felt compelled to correct it for syntax and rhyme scheme.

Today, Natasha is the award-winning author of Perfect, Lush, Bounce, For Keeps, and My Life in Black and White.

When she isn’t writing, she is building forts and making chocolate-chip pancakes.

Natasha lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband, three children, and dog, Beckett.

Her website is www.natashafriend.com.

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Where You’ll Find Me on Amazon

Where You’ll Find Me on Goodreads

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Where You’ll Find Me Publisher Page

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt. June 14, 2016. Wendy Lamb Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780375990663.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. River is thrown into a tailspin when his girlfriend, Penny, breaks up with him. Life was easy with Penny: he was so madly in love, he just followed Penny’s agenda. He never even learned to drive—why bother when Penny had a car? When Penny decides she needs someone with a little more, well, drive, readers might sympathize with her. But so, too, will they feel charmed by River’s spot-on narration, blunt self-appraisal, and wry commentary on high school and family life. Floundering and heartbroken—and now walking everywhere—River wanders in on a “Second Chance” session, a storefront support group that, it turns out, serves students with addiction issues. But the kids there intrigue him, especially a girl named Daphne, and River makes up a story to justify joining their group. A fairly contrived plot twist ramps up the action later, but this is more than a lively rom-com with smart dialogue. Reinhardt constructs a character who, haltingly, rebuilds himself in believable ways as he confronts family trauma, lost love, and growing up.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2016)
In an ill-advised effort to set his life straight, 17-year-old River Dean fakes a weed addiction and joins a support group for teens. Senior year takes a sour turn for the white teen. Penny Brockaway ends their relationship during a boat trip for his lack of self-reflection. “You just follow along and do what you think you’re supposed to.” Wandering Los Angeles in a post-breakup daze, River stumbles across a sign: A Second Chance. It refers him to a self-help group, where addictions range from shoplifting to Molly. Believing it’ll benefit him in his case with Penny, River feigns an addiction to enlist in the group. “I was taking action. I was doing something.” Readers may often find it hard to accept or even like River. Though an absent-father subplot unearths some pathos, his manipulation of the group, obsession with Penny, and obliviousness to his own privilege crush any goodwill. Aside from the loss of Penny, River attempts to reconcile with his estranged friends, whom he’s previously neglected. On top of that, he must get his driver’s license, since “everybody knows that nobody walks in LA.” As he explores a new relationship with a girl from the support group and remakes his life, he finds it difficult to balance his lies. “Penny was right about me. I didn’t think about things,” he realizes, a valuable epiphany that nevertheless exposes the story’s weakness. The novel ends in a buoyant mood, perhaps not entirely earned. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dana Reinhardt is originally from Los Angeles but currently lives in San Francisco, California with her husband and two daughters.  Tell Us Something True is her eighth novel.

Her website is www.danareinhardt.net.

 

 

 

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Tell Us Something True on Amazon

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Tell Us Something True Publisher Page

Swarm by Scott Westerfield

Swarm by Scott Westerfield. September 27, 2016. Simon Pulse, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481443395.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes.

These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers, and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground.

But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister.

Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him.

Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

Sequel to: Zeroes

Part of series: Zeroes

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Online))
Grades 8-11. The Zeroes, a group of six superpowered teen friends, discover that they aren’t the only ones with talent when a new guy, who can meld a crowd into a deadly killing machine, comes to town with murder on his mind. One of the Zeroes, Kelsie, aka Mob, is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she becomes just like this malevolent stranger, but the more immediate issue is how to stop him. In their sequel to Zeroes (2015), Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan offer readers a story marked by nonstop action, a little romance, and a few dismemberment scenes. Reading the first book isn’t essential, but helps in instances like knowing that Bellwether is also “Glorious Leader,” since the latter becomes his moniker in the second book. This is standard but solidly written teen-superhero fare, although the final chapters stand apart for their moving treatment of the forgotten Zero, Anon, and for the cliff-hanger ending that will make trilogy fans itch for the third book.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
After the disastrous events of Zeroes (rev. 11/15), the diverse team of supernaturally gifted teens has set up the aptly named Petri Dish, a nightclub/social experiment where they can test and eventually master their powers in relative safety. It’s the perfect place, since many of the Zeroes’ abilities — such as leader Nate’s influence on the emotions of a crowd — depend upon connecting energetically to a large group of people. Perfect, that is, until two superpowered strangers wreak havoc at the Dish with their own crowd-manipulating abilities. Wanting to prevent any more chaos, the Zeroes track down the strangers, only to learn of a much bigger threat. Now that readers know the main players, their powers, and their abilities’ pitfalls, this second volume accelerates the pace and ups the stakes of the first book. Lots of action sequences, including a handful of truly scary scenes that would be right at home in a zombie flick, add to the suspense. (Spoiler: you really don’t want to encounter a “swarm.”) But it’s not nonstop near-escapes and explosions. The authors develop the teens’ platonic and romantic interpersonal dynamics (including one blossoming same-sex relationship), and it’s these connections that both endanger the Zeroes and, ultimately, save them. A cliffhanger ending will leave fans eagerly awaiting the Zeroes’ next adventure.

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

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Swarm  on Amazon

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