Tag Archives: realistic fiction

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 323 p. ISBN: 9780374304089.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Clara Shin loves her untethered L.A. life, where she lives with her young Korean Brazilian dad. But when a prom prank turns into a brawl, her punishment is the worst she can imagine: working all summer on her dad’s hot, cramped food truck, KoBra, instead of vacationing in Mexico with her mom. As if that weren’t bad enough, overachiever and perennial enemy Rose Carver must also work on the truck as punishment for her part in the scuffle. Clever strategies by Dad lead Clara and Rose to see each other less as adversaries and more as friends. Meanwhile, a Chinese boy named Hamlet expresses interest in Clara and helps her realize that perhaps her old self isn’t the one she wants to embrace going forward. Flip, hip narrator Clara may seem a tad unlikable at first, but readers can’t help but get caught up in her bumpy coming-of-age journey, applauding her increasing attachment to KoBra and her drive to help facilitate her dad’s dream of opening a restaurant. With massive amounts of humor, heart, and soul, this love letter to L.A. and its diversity is a celebration of friends, family, and food trucks.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A spirited teenager learns about the meaning of love, friendship, and family. When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer. Clara’s insouciant and rebellious demeanor hides profound feelings of rejection over her glamorous mother’s decision to leave the family when Clara was 4 to jaunt around the world as a social media influencer. Clara is most comfortable hanging out with a crowd of kids who are similarly rebellious and disengaged, but a budding romance with earnest Chinese heartthrob Hamlet Wong, who works in a neighboring food truck, and a developing friendship with Rose, who has never had a BFF, teach Clara that there’s an upside to taking risks and letting people get close. When Clara feels hurt by her father’s negative reaction to a well-intentioned surprise, she takes off on an adventure that ultimately opens her eyes to all the good things that await her back home. Clara’s personal growth during this summer of change is realistic and convincing. Snappy dialogue and an endearing cast of characters bring to life this richly-drawn portrait of multicultural LA. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Her website is www.maurenegoo.com

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We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss. May 8, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 408 p. ISBN: 9780062494276.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Luke and Toby have always had each other’s backs. But then one choice—or maybe it is a series of choices—sets them down an irrevocable path. We’ll Fly Away weaves together Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school with letters Luke writes to Toby later—from death row.

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2018)
When best friends Luke and Toby were kids, they tried to fix up a crop duster they found abandoned in the woods outside their rural North Carolina town, fantasizing it could one day fly them out of their troubled lives. When they got older, the plane became a hangout spot and refuge–when Toby’s dad beat him or Luke needed to escape the one-bedroom apartment he lived in with his neglectful mom and much younger brothers. Now that they’re high school seniors, the real escape plan is only a year away, when Toby will follow Luke to Iowa on a wrestling scholarship. Yet before readers learn any of this, the novel opens with Luke’s first letter to Toby from death row. With Luke’s letters as interludes, a third-person narrative flashes back to their senior year, focusing on a significant week in the boys’ lives. Everything fits together as readers start to understand the severity of Toby’s abuse, the depth of Luke’s loyalty (and stifled rage), and the complexities of their dynamic–especially once the boys’ respective love interests enter the scene. The outcome will surprise no one, which is, of course, the point: the reading experience is not about learning what put Luke in prison but when it will happen and how. Bliss stokes this tension, evoking the dread of death row and the claustrophobia of a dead-end town, a life you need to escape from. In this truly tragic story there is profundity at every turn, and readers up for heartbreak will come away understanding more about loyalty, empathy, and redemption. katrina Hedeen

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
From death row, a young man navigates prison and writes to his best friend in this powerful work of realistic fiction. A poignant story of loyalty, abuse, and poverty is woven throughout a narrative that alternates between flashbacks to Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school (presented from their perspectives in the third person) and the present-day experience of Luke’s incarceration (told in first person through his letters to Toby). This structure allows the novel to build a slow and gripping tension as it progresses, revealing the horrific events that led to Luke’s arrest only at the very end, as the other details of the boys’ lives naturally unfold. Both are seemingly white. The two struggle to guard their friendship fiercely even as Toby becomes sexually involved with a likable but troubled young woman and Luke falls for a different girl. The two have been lifelong friends, supporting each other through family struggles—Toby’s with a physically abusive father and Luke’s with a neglectful mother who leaves him playing a parental role to his two younger brothers. Readers will easily empathize with quiet, tightly controlled Luke, who’s college-bound on a wrestling scholarship, and goofy, self-effacing Toby. This compassionate and beautifully rendered novel packs an emotional punch. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.

His website is www.bryanbliss.com.

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We’ll Fly Away on Amazon

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How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand

How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand. April 3, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 304 p. ISBN: 9781492662020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

A new hilarious novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and Stranger Things Have Happened.

Rod’s life doesn’t suck. If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can turn the volume up as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band―believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: A different cousin. When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Rod is pretty satisfied with his life. Sure, his dad left, but he’s got a fun band and a great girlfriend. Then his mom announces that Rod’s cousin, Blake, is coming to stay for three months. Rod’s not thrilled about sharing his room for a semester, but he supposes it could be worse—and as soon as he picks up Blake from the airport, it is. Entitled, lazy Blake is a pain in the ass, but only to Rod; in front of everyone else, he’s completely charming. After a few days of this gaslighting, Rod’s starting to go a little crazy. But even if no one else believes it, he knows Blake is trying to take over his life, and Rod is about to start fighting back. Strand (Stranger Things Have Happened, 2017) imbues Rod’s downward spiral with plenty of wacky humor, and if Rod’s outbursts are a bit overly dramatic at times, readers will be too busy sympathizing with him to care. A family drama guaranteed to keep readers laughing.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Two cousins trapped under the same roof engage in psychological warfare.Rod may not be very popular or live in a big house, but he has a tight group of friends, an up-and-coming band, and a perfectly sweet girlfriend. His dad abandoned the family, but Rod is close to his mom, a waitress. All in all, plenty to be thankful for. However, when his wealthy cousin Blake’s parents go on a three-month around-the-world cruise, guess who shows up for an extended visit? Blake and Rod get off on the wrong foot, and the pair’s conflict quickly devolves into a battle of wills and mutual sabotage. As Blake, with his high-handed arrogance, systematically chips away at Rod’s sanity, readers will howl with laughter, cringing as the author twists the screws at perfectly placed intervals. The resolution is a tad disappointing, but Rod’s narration is amusing, with a playful awareness of literary convention that makes for a breezy read. The tertiary characters are thin, particularly Rod’s band mates (readers may have trouble telling them apart), but the book aims for laughs, and it earns them. All major characters are assumed white. A well-paced comedy that doesn’t quite stick the landing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

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How You Ruined My Life on Amazon

How You Ruined My Life on Goodreads

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Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. April 10, 2018. Disney-Hyperion, 361 p. ISBN: 9781484726020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Homophobic slurs, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 9-12. When Danny Cheng’s father loses his job, his parents’ carefully constructed life starts to break apart. His father settles into a depression, and his mother becomes more manic. Both worry constantly about money and Danny’s safety. At the same time, Danny has problems of his own. He keeps deep secrets from those closest to him—about how he might be responsible for the death of his friend, Sandra, one year before, and about his true feelings regarding his best friend, Harry. As Danny struggles to make sense of his parents’ strange behavior, he uncovers evidence of secret lives, of names abandoned, and of a sister he thought had died long ago. Using the metaphor of quantum entanglement—that objects brought together will continue to act in concert even if they are taken apart—Gilbert effortlessly times characters’ present actions with key revelations about their past. With grace and respect, Gilbert manages to address the existential quandaries of both second-generation American teens and their immigrant parents who must make profoundly life-changing choices to give their children the best life possible. The result is both exhilarating and tortuous—Gilbert methodically lays bare her characters’ secrets as if she was slowly pulling a cloth off a fine painting.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Family, art, love, duty, and longing collide in this painfully beautiful paean to the universal human need for connection. Cupertino, California, high school senior Danny Cheng has a tight circle of friends, adoring parents, and a full scholarship to his dream school, the Rhode Island School of Design. But lurking just beneath the surface are secrets and tensions that threaten to tear apart everything he holds dear. Closeted Danny has kept hidden his longtime attraction to his best friend, Harry Wong, who is in a serious relationship with Danny’s close friend Regina Chan. Some of his parents’ oddities also turn out to be more than just eccentricity; they are hiding something dark from their past. Danny knows he had an older sister who died in China, but little beyond that. He stumbles across a mysterious file of papers, but his parents refuse to explain. Meanwhile, some in Danny’s circle of school friends are struggling with demons of their own. Gilbert paints a vivid portrait of a largely Asian-American community, diverse in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, and religious faith. While the topics dealt with may be heavy, the book is suffused with the warmth of the characters’ love for one another. Imperfect in their human frailty and noble in their desire to do the best they can, they are universally recognizable and sympathetic. Exquisite, heartbreaking, unforgettable—and, ultimately, uplifting. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay Area.

Her website is www.kellyloygilbert.com

Teacher Resources

Picture Us in the Light Reading Group Guide

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Picture Us in the Light on Amazon

Picture Us in the Light on Goodreads

Picture Us in the Light Publisher Page

Class Action by Steven B. Frank

CLass Action by Steven B. Frank. April 3, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781328799203.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 720.

NO. MORE. HOMEWORK.

That’s what sixth grader Sam Warren tells his teacher while standing on top of his desk. He’s fed up with doing endless tasks from the time he gets home to the time he goes to sleep. Suspended for his protest, Sam decides to fight back. He recruits his elderly neighbor/retired attorney Mr. Kalman to help him file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all students in Los Angeles. Their argument? Homework is unconstitutional.

With a ragtag team—aspiring masterchef Alistair, numbers gal Catalina, sports whiz Jaesang, rebel big sister Sadie and her tech-savvy boyfriend Sean—Sam takes his case to federal court. He learns about the justice system, kids’ rights, and constitutional law. And he learns that no matter how many times you get knocked down, there’s always an appeal…until the nine justices have the last say.

Will Sam’s quest end in an epic fail, or will he be the hero who saves childhood for all time?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Sixth-grader Sam has had it with homework. He has a valid point; he has so much homework he has no time to play the piano or build a treehouse with his dad. His friends can’t pursue their interests in cooking, math, or sports, and his sister, Sadie, and her high-school friends constantly sacrifice sleep for their studies. Sam and Sadie recruit the widowed, retired attorney who lives across the street to file a class-action suit to abolish homework on behalf of all school-age children in Los Angeles. When their fight goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the scope of the suit spreads to all students in America. Sam and his friends learn about the legal system, including the Supreme Court decisions that have bearing on their cause. Frank, himself a middle-school teacher, gets his characters just right, and the ongoing focus on the issues surrounding homework keeps the narrative centered, even as the premise goes over the top. Sam makes a compelling case in this funny, engaging, and thought-provoking story.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“Twenty-five math problems, an endangered species report, and a language arts packet—action verbs versus linking, can you feel the joy?” To Sam Warren, doing homework is a Sisyphean task: “We come to school, we work all day, we go home, we work all night. Then we wake up and do it all over again.” He has no time for things he wants to do—have fun, play with friends, build a tree house with his father. What would any angry sixth grader do in such a situation? Take a case to the Supreme Court! With the help of his elderly retired-lawyer neighbor, Sam and his classmates put together a case that becomes Warren v. Board of Education. It is granted class-action status, and they’re off (in a very quick route) to the Supreme Court, where Sam’s older sister Sadie ends up arguing the case. Though hardly credible, it’s entertaining, and readers will learn much about constitutional law and specific cases having to do with the legal rights of students. There’s even a hint at a possible next volume in which the constitutionality of standardized testing will be challenged. Back matter includes a glossary of legal terms and a lengthy appendix listing the Supreme Court cases mentioned in the book. dean Schneider

About the Author

Steven Frank is the author of The Pen Commandments (Pantheon/Anchor Books), a guide to writing that Booklist called “funny, inspiring, personal, moving, and often hilarious.” His middle grade short fiction and plays have appeared Weekly Reader’s Writing and Read Magazines. He is also a beloved middle school teacher at Le Lycee Francais of Los Angeles, where his students often intentionally misbehave because he punishes them with fun writing assignments.

His website is www.stevenbfrank.com.

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Class Action on Amazon

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Class Action Publisher Page

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. April 24, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 343 p. ISBN: 9780062643803.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended

Part of Series: Creekwood (Book 2)

Sequel to: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda

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

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Leah Burke takes center stage in this sequel to Albertalli’s Morris Award–winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015). It’s senior year, and Leah’s friends can’t stop talking about college, prom, and long-distance relationships. Simon and Bram are as cute as ever, Leah’s got college lined up, and goofy Garrett obviously has a crush on her. But Leah can’t quite get into it. She feels like a third wheel (even at home, now that her mom is dating someone new); she doesn’t really care about prom; and when her friend and bandmate says something racist, Leah’s content to just break up the band and get on with her life. Plus, she’s nursing a wicked crush on her friend Abby, and she’s worried that if she does anything about it, she’ll blow up their whole friend group—let alone the fact that no one knows she’s bi. Albertalli has a fantastic ear for voice, and it’s beautifully on display in Leah’s funny, wry, and vulnerable first-person narrative. She gets to the core of Leah’s hang-ups about money, her body, her place among her friends, her reluctance to let anyone get too close, and her perfectionism without a trace of heavy-handedness, and she leavens the poignant emotional growth with snarky teen banter, hilarious mishaps, and swoonworthy (but never saccharine) romance. Everything Albertalli already did so well in Simon, she’s improved upon here, and fans of the first book will be utterly smitten with Leah.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Leah Burke is perched on the precipice of change in the final months of senior year, before everyone in her diverse friend group scatters off to become their college selves. Leah, Simon Spier’s best friend in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), takes center stage in this sequel. She knows she’s bisexual, but she’s only out to her mom, not her friends, not even to Simon, who is gay. Leah’s cynical and socially awkward but also confident in herself. She’s unapologetically fat. She’s a talented artist and a ripper on the drums. She’s also fierce when called for. When a white friend implies that their classmate Abby Suso only got accepted to her college because she is black, Leah, also white, calls out her bias directly (Abby is not present for this conversation), sparking a nuanced subplot on racism and white allyship. Mostly, though, senior year is characterized by Leah’s aching crush on Abby, the oh-so-beautiful and oh-so-straight girlfriend of Leah’s good friend Nick. When the prom-scene ending finally arrives, even the most Leah-worthy cynics will be rooting for her. With complex characters, authentic dialogue, and messy-but-beautiful friendships, this sequel is more than capable of standing on its own.   A subversive take on the coming-of-age romance that will leave readers feeling like witnesses to a very special moment in Leah’s life and filled with gratitude for sharing it. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Her website is www.beckyalbertalli.com.

Around the Web

Leah on the Offbeat on Amazon

Leah on the Offbeat on Goodreads

Leah on the Offbeat Publisher Page

A World Below by Wesley King

A World Below by Wesley King. March 6, 2018. Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481478229.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 670.

A class field trips turns into an underground quest for survival.

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Told from three different points of view, this fast-paced adventure novel explores how group dynamics change under dire circumstances. Do the students of Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. A field trip to Carlsbad Caverns takes a turn for the worse when an earthquake plunges Mr. Baker’s eighth-grade class into an icy underground river. Eric manages to crawl ashore quickly, but he’s separated from the group. Silvia finds herself uncomfortably in the lead of the rest of the class, and she urges them on to find Eric, who’s using the tips he learned from his favorite survival books to struggle through the caverns alone. Unbeknownst to the class, however, they’ve tumbled into a section of the caverns occupied by a community of people who took refuge in the caves generations ago and are so wary of surface dwellers, they’ll kill the intruders on sight. King’s at his best when describing the kids’ survival efforts and the unusual fictional flora and fauna they discover while they’re stranded. The plotline about the underground community is less successful, particularly the explanation of the origin of the kingdom, which is fairly clumsy. Still, readers who love survival thrillers might appreciate the kids’ high-stakes adventure in a fascinating location.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
King’s latest sends readers tumbling belowground in a quest for survival.Brown-skinned, biracial Eric and Latina classmate Silvia each bring their own metaphorical baggage into the limestone caverns below the New Mexico desert, beyond their daypacks filled with water bottles and snacks. When an earthquake sends them and their classmates tumbling into the unexplored abyss below the famous Carlsbad Caverns, they not only face a challenge to survive, but must also do battle with their inner demons. Meanwhile, King Carlos, of the mysterious underworld Midnight Realm, fears he is facing literal demons as the student intruders encroach upon his kingdom. After four generations underground, he and his people have thoroughly internalized his Hispanic great-grandfather’s warnings against the cruel race that lives above. Though oversized flora and fauna threaten at every turn, the true challenge for each of the three principal characters is to overcome their faulty beliefs about themselves and others. The narrative shifts focus among each as readers follow them through the subterranean landscape and on their own psychological journeys as well. For those both above- and belowground, healing from generations of exclusion and feelings of otherness is a consistent theme, which is, alas, quickly wrapped up and tied with a too-simple bow of forgiveness and inclusion. Careful readers will also wonder at both the paucity of Spanish surnames in this New Mexico school and the plot-driven choice of Carlos’ ancestors to speak English rather than Spanish when they took up residence below. Nevertheless, the quick-paced adventure and positive message of setting aside past hurts are sure to appeal. A multifaceted journey from darkness to light. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Wesley King lives in Ostrea Lake, Nova Scotia, in an old century home on the ocean, where he spends most of his time with his laptop and a cup of tea and relies on his far more capable wife to keep him alive.

His website is www.wesleykingauthor.com.

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A World Below on Amazon

A World Below on Goodreads

A World Below Publisher Page

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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Twelve Steps to Normal on Amazon

Twelve Steps to Normal on Goodreads

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Troublemakers by Catherine Barter

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter. April 1, 2018. Carolhoda Books, 360 p. ISBN: 9781512475494.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

When she was three, Alena’s activist mother died. She’s been raised by her half-brother and his boyfriend in East London, which is being targeted by a lone bomber. Alena desperately wants to know about her mother, but her brother won’t tell her anything.

Alena’s played by the rules all her life, but that’s over. When she starts digging up information herself and does something that costs her brother his job and puts the family in jeopardy, Alena discovers she can be a troublemaker–just like her mother.

Now she must figure out what sort of trouble she’s willing to get into to find out the truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Alena has lived with her brother, Danny, since she was three. She knows he and his boyfriend share secrets about Alena and Danny’s mother’s troubled life. But every time Lena tries to talk to Danny about it, he shuts her down. At 15, Lena feels old enough to handle the truth, and if Danny won’t give it to her, well, she’ll start making trouble herself by trying to dig up the real story. Her two friends, Ollie and Tegan, will be there to help her through the triumphs and sorrows that soon come, as Lena tries to navigate her confusing past and uncertain future with a frightening present—an unknown person called the East End Bomber is terrorizing her area of London. Barter’s debut displays impressive skill and authenticity in relating issues of family secrets and grief. Readers will connect with Lena on her dramatic, heartrending journey as she begins to suss out the ambiguity of other people’s choices and fateful decisions that happened long before she was born.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
A 15-year-old London girl struggles with family tensions against a backdrop of bombings, crime, and political skulduggery.Lena, whose mum died when she was only 3, has been lovingly raised by her brother, Danny (20 years her senior), and his partner, Nick. But Danny’s just gotten a job working for a law-and-order political candidate, and now there’s constant tension at home. There’s a bomber attacking East London supermarkets, and Danny’s boss—in statements Danny wrote for him—uses anti-crime language that Nick, who runs a hippie coffee shop that displays anti-establishment leaflets, despises. As the couple decide to separate to ease the tension in their relationship, Lena becomes increasingly curious about the mother she doesn’t remember, further infuriating her brother. Why is Danny so hostile toward their mother’s old friends? Real life is messy, Lena learns. As well as that: You don’t have to be political to be moral; good people sometimes do rotten things; doing right sometimes hurts the wrong people; and you don’t always get cinematic closure with the secrets of your past. Several secondary characters represent the multiculturalism of modern London; Lena and her family are assumed white. Amid a thoroughly contemporary story about terrorism, email leaks, and a divisive political climate, Lena’s coming-of-age is wonderfully individual and heartbreakingly real. (Realistic fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Catherine Barter grew up in Warwickshire, and then lived in Norwich for ten years, where she worked in a library, a bookshop, and for an organisation campaigning for the rights of garment workers. After gaining a PhD in American literature, she ditched academia for the lucrative world of independent bookselling. Currently she lives in East London and co-manages Housmans, a radical independent bookshop in King’s Cross.

Her website is catherine-barter.com

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Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher. April 3, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 250 p. ISBN: 9780062220066.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

When it comes to family, Annie is in the losers bracket. While her foster parents are great (mostly), her birth mom, Nancy, and her sister, Sheila, would not have been her first picks. And no matter how many times Annie tries to write them out of her life, she always gets sucked back into their drama. But when a family argument breaks out at one of Annie’s swim meets and her nephew goes missing, Annie can’t help but think this is her fault. With help from her friends, her foster brother, and her social service worker, Annie searches desperately for her missing nephew, determined to find him and finally get him into a safe home.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture, Aftermath of abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Annie Boots has had a self-described crazy life. Thanks to a highly dysfunctional family—an absent father and a mother who has a history of using—she has been in and out of the system since she was an infant. Now 17, she has been living with a foster family for eight years and, though her foster father forbids her to have anything to do with her biological family, Annie is ineluctably drawn to them and meets them clandestinely. Her good-for-nothing older sister has a 5-year-old son, Frankie, whom the sister isn’t sure she loves, and so Frankie often stays with Annie, who loves him dearly. When he disappears one day, Annie blames herself for having inadvertently brought her foster and biological families together, a meeting that does not go well and is the catalyst for Frankie’s running away and vanishing. Annie finds allies in Walter, her mother’s long-suffering boyfriend, and in her former caseworker, Wiz. She also finds supportive friendships in her library book club and in Leah, a champion swimmer. Crutcher has written another thoughtful book about kids in extremis; no one writes better about this subject, as he once again demonstrates. If it has a fault, it may be a tendency to preach, but it is still deeply felt and will speak to readers’ hearts as well as their minds. His many fans won’t want to miss it.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Annie Boots, a talented white teen athlete in long-term foster care, employs an innovative strategy to circumvent an order prohibiting contact with her birth family. The Howard family (Pop, Momma, and son, Marvin) meet Annie’s needs, but she refuses to sever contact with her half sister, Sheila, and their biological mother, Nancy. Annie knows they’re violent drug abusers but hopes to at least help protect Sheila’s disturbed 5-year-old son. She recalls her own miserable early years of repeatedly being removed from, then returned to, Nancy’s custody, skilled as she was at cheating on drug tests. The title references Annie’s practice of combining basketball tournaments with secret birth-family encounters, deliberately losing early games so that more must be played in order for the team to advance. Physical fitness, good looks, and intelligence signal worth in the story, while Annie’s mother and half sister are portrayed as sullen, slovenly, and criminally inclined, repeatedly betraying the children who trust them. One-dimensional characters deliver didactic pronouncements, among them Annie’s social worker—mood set to righteous indignation—who rails at a broken child protection system, its failures vaguely attributed to generations of irresponsible parents and incompetent dupes. At a time of growing income inequality and widespread drug addiction, the judgments rendered here appear harsh and simplistic. A portrait of a troubled family that falls short. (Fiction.14-18)

About the Author

Chris Crutcher grew up in Cascade, Idaho, and now lives in Spokane, Washington. He is the critically acclaimed author of six novels and a collection of short stories for teenagers, all chosen as ALA Best Books. In 2000, he was awarded the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution in writing for teens. Drawing on his experience as an athlete, teacher, family therapist, and child protection specialist, he unflinchingly writes about real and often-ignored issues that face teenagers today.

His website is www.chriscrutcher.com/

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Losers Bracket on Amazon

Losers Bracket on Goodreads

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