Tag Archives: interpersonal relations

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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Far From the Tree Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

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.

 

 

 

Around the Web

Tell Us Something True on Amazon

Tell Us Something True on Goodreads

Tell Us Something True on JLG

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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Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine.January 31, 2017. Philomel Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399546921.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A father and daughter reconnect after a life spent apart to find their mutual love of art isn’t the only thing they share.

Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.

Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mention of prostitution; Sexual themes

 

Video Book Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Iris is only truly happy when she’s watching fire. She’s certainly not happy spending time with her vain, indifferent mother or her fame-hungry stepdad. And she isn’t pleased to be dragged across the ocean to meet the father who abandoned her—even if he is dying. She quickly learns, however, the stories she was told about her dad might not be the whole truth. Iris and her father bond over a shared knowledge of art (he is an accomplished buyer), forging a connection beyond blood. Valentine (Me, the Missing, and the Dead, 2008) has composed a beautifully written exploration of the longing to know where one comes from, tempered by a fear of rejection. The story authentically captures both Iris’ exhilaration when she’s transfixed by a flame, and her pain and confusion as she forges a relationship with a man about whom she’s never heard a good word. This is a quiet, reflective novel that blooms into a thrilling mystery, and its complex family dynamics will appeal to fans of Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming (2016).

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2016)
In any family, not everything is as it seems, but in Iris’ family, this is a big problem.When white, 16-year-old Iris meets her father for the first time, he is dying. That doesn’t stop her from feeling ambivalent. She has no memories of him and has been told all her life by her mother that he left 12 years ago because he wasn’t interested in being a dad. She doesn’t even want to meet him, but her mother insists because of the potential for a valuable inheritance. Iris has had no experience with positive parenting role models. Her mother and stepfather are usually drunk, broke, or trying desperately to get the big break they refuse to admit isn’t coming. Iris’ best friend, Thurston, left home long ago, so no parents there. When her dad and his story turn out to be completely different from what she’s been told, it’s both confusing and amazing. But how much love can they manage in the time he has left? Valentine writes about family dysfunction, arson, and art with equal levels of beauty and lyricism, creating a vivid landscape of heartache and redemption. The plot dips forward and backward in time with clarity and precision, managing to avoid tripping even in narrative tight corners. A story about an ugly situation that explodes into beauty through cunning and resilience. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Jenny Valentine moved house every two years when she was growing up. She has just moved house again, probably not for the last time. She worked in a wholefood shop in Primrose Hill for fifteen years where she met many extraordinary people and sold more organic loaves than there are words in her first novel. She has also worked as a teaching assistant and a jewelry maker. She studied English Literature at Goldsmiths College, which almost put her off reading but not quite.

Jenny is married to a singer/songwriter and has two children.

Around the Web

Fire Color One on Amazon

Fire Color One on JLG

Fire Color One on Goodreads

 

A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

A Blind Guide to Normal  by Beth Vrabel. October 11, 2016. Sky Pony Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9781510702288.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 670.

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

Sequel to: A Blind Guide to Stinkville

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Death of a child

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (October 1, 2016)
Gr 4-6-Richie Ryder Randolf is used to being a big fish in a small pond. At the Addison School for the Blind, he’s hilarious, he’s smooth, and he’s popular enough to serve as a social mentor for others. Relocated to a middle school in suburban Washington, DC, for eighth grade while his scientist parents go on assignment, he’s flopping on the shore and gasping for air. Between navigating the challenges of his limited vision (he wears an artificial eye owing to complications from cancer) and being a social disaster, Ryder is seriously struggling-and he’s not the only one. His grandfather, who’s supposed to be taking care of Ryder while the boy’s parents are away, talks to his decades-dead wife, lives as if he’s still in the 1970s, and insists on calling the protagonist by his full name, Richie Ryder. Ryder’s parents are immersed in work to the point of benign neglect. In this sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville, Vrabel injects just the right goofy mix of hormones and pain into Ryder’s mounting rages, fervent emotional deflection techniques, and confusing romantic ups and downs and gives equal weight to the foibles and dramas of those around him. As any reader of middle grade fiction might expect, the title is a red herring-nobody’s normal, and everybody’s just trying their best. VERDICT A sweet, thoughtful, and funny read. Hand this to fans of Vrabel’s previous novels and those who enjoy a heartfelt tale without the typical saccharine coating.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
When Ryder graduates from the Addison School for the Blind, he and Artie—his artificial eye, courtesy of cancer—look forward to being normal, whatever that is. Wisecracking, white Ryder is forced to stay with his eccentric, equally sarcastic grandfather when his parents, both avid research biologists, accept new assignments. His arrival at Papuaville Middle School is a shock—to the teacher he causes to faint and the semibully he inadvertently provokes. Fortunately, crushing on white, tough-but-wounded Jocelyn and wielding his increasingly desperate sense of humor help him to withstand bullies, distant parents, and cringeworthy good intentions. Karate classes provide an outlet, humor, and further character development, and a surprise quilting class provides surprising insight. Readers may groan at Ryder’s jokes, but the pranks he pulls with his narration are great fun, calling out “very special episode” clichés and blindness stereotypes. But the “relentless positivity” trope is dismantled with care as Ryder interacts with equally vulnerable characters and sees his clowning for the defense mechanism it often is—and acknowledges the anger it’s masking. Like Alice of the preceding A Blind Guide to Stinkville (2015), Ryder and his family and friends all experience disorientation—this time from the shock of moving forward as well as away—and learn how to grieve in their own ways. As Ryder might say, Vrabel has an eye for sympathetic, offbeat characters—and a knack for feel-good resolutions. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

Her website is www.bethvrabel.com.

Around the Web

A Blind Guide to Normal on Amazon

A Blind Guide to Normal on JLG

A Blind Guide to Normal on Goodreads