Tag Archives: realistic fiction

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

Class Action on Goodreads

Class Action Publisher Page

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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.

Around the Web

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.

Around the Web

Twelve Steps to Normal on Amazon

Twelve Steps to Normal on Goodreads

Twelve Steps to Normal Publisher Page

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

Around the Web

Troublemakers on Amazon

Troublemakers on Goodreads

Troublemakers Publisher Page

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/

Around the Web

Losers Bracket on Amazon

Losers Bracket on Goodreads

Losers Bracket Publisher Page

Lights, Camera, Disaster by Erin M. Dionne

Light, Camera, Disaster by Erin M. Dionne. March 27, 2018. Arthur A. Levine Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781338134087.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.1; Lexile: 630.

Hester Greene loves making movies. With her camera in hand, she can focus, make decisions, and have the control she lacks in life, where her executive function disorder (think extreme ADHD plus anxiety) sabotages her every move.

But middle school is not a movie, and if her last-ditch attempt to save her language-arts grade–and her chance to pass eighth grade, period–doesn’t work, Hess could lose her friends, her year, even her camera. It will take more than a cool training montage to get her life together, but by thinking outside the frame, she just might craft a whole new ending.

Written partially in script form, with STOP/PAUSE/PLAY/REWIND moments throughout, this laugh-out-loud story will speak to any budding filmmaker, or unintentional troublemaker, in every act of their lives.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. Hester is a hot mess. An eighth-grader with executive function disorder, she just can’t seem to get it together, despite the support of her family and her school counselor. Papers, her locker, and her schedule are impossibly hard to manage. She excels, though, at filming things, and her video camera seems like an extension of her arm and brain. When a tough English teacher threatens to hold her back, her parents take the camera away, and without it, Hester spirals further, finding herself distanced from friends and classmates. An encounter with an immigrant girl who lends her graphic novels, and the encouragement of a documentary filmmaker open new paths for her. A bit disjointed at times, the book will nevertheless hit home with readers who can empathize with Hester’s disorganization. Things look up as Hester learns to play to her interests, and her film about her classmates strikes a chord—making the point that kids are much more than their classwork and grades.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A middle schooler struggles with executive function disorder in this thoughtful middle-grade novel.Hester loves filmmaking more than anything else. Not only is it her passion—she carries her video camera everywhere—but it also makes the most sense to her. Her executive function disorder makes traditional schoolwork difficult despite dedicated strategies at school and home. Luckily, her best friends, white Max and Indian-American Nev, have always been supportive and understanding. Hess loves collaborating with them on filmmaking projects, and she can’t wait to show their spy film at the middle school talent show. However, she struggles to balance all of her commitments—in addition to difficult schoolwork and the trio’s movie, she’s working on an extra-credit film project. In serious danger of failing eighth grade and thus unable to participate in the talent show, Hess feels her world spinning further out of control. Ashamed and devastated, she finds solace and support in the kindness of a few teachers, her supportive parents, and a graphic novel–loving ELL student who wears a hijab and has emigrated from the Middle East. The book’s hopeful finale is tidy and clichéd but undeniably satisfying. Through Hester’s thoughtful first-person narration, structured with “fast forward,” “pause,” and “resume play” asides, Dionne creates a flawed, lovable, sympathetic character who, thanks to her support network, is ultimately able to become “the director of [her] own story.” Readers will root for and relate to Hester. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Erin Dionne’s latest book for tweens is Lights, Camera, Disaster (Scholastic 2018). She’s the author of 5 other books for young readers, including the 2014 Edgar Award finalist Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking (Dial 2013). Her first picture book, Captain’s Log: Snowbound, will be released in 2018 from Charlesbridge Publishers. She teaches at Montserrat College of Art and lives outside of Boston with her husband, two children, and a very indignant dog.

Her website is www.erindionne.com

Around the Web

Lights, Camera, Disaster on Amazon

Lights, Camera, Disaster on Goodreads

Lights, Camera, Disaster Publisher Page

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix. April 10, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 393 p. ISBN: 9781481417648.  Int Lvl: YA.

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. When the father of rich, athletic 14-year-old Avery Armisted invites 16-year-old Kayla Butts, an old childhood friend, on their summer trip to Spain, Avery could not be less thrilled. But for Kayla, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, taking her far from her small-town life, where her closest friends are the geriatrics at the nursing home where her dad, an injured veteran, lives. Once in Spain, the girls are rocked by the revelation that 14 years ago, Kayla’s mother was the gestational carrier for Avery when her biological mother couldn’t become pregnant. Short chapters alternate between the girls’ points of view as they reel from the exposure of the long-held family secret. Madrid constitutes a worthy backdrop for this summer of self-discovery and questioning, as Kayla and Avery sort out their own histories amid a growing understanding of the larger world. Despite probing some of the same themes as Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree (2017), Haddix’s story doesn’t carry quite the same emotional heft. Still, it shines a light on surrogacy, a topic rarely discussed in YA fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
For two American teens, a summer trip to Europe turns out to be far more complicated than they ever expected.Avery doesn’t want to go to Spain with her dad—she’ll fall behind in soccer and he’ll just be working all the time. When she finds out that he’s already chosen a “friend” to accompany her—Kayla, an older girl she used to play with as a little kid—the summer feels even more doomed. But for Kayla, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, a huge gift her family could never afford. In Spain, the two white girls struggle to find their places among the locals and their language class friends as a jaw-dropping revelation changes their relationship forever. It takes a near tragedy to make them realize that while they might not have chosen this path, how they move forward is their choice. Through chapters told in alternating points of view, Haddix offers a fully realized portrayal of teen girls dealing with the vagaries of their parents’ lives. Spain forms a vivid backdrop to the girls’ confusion and revelations, and Avery and Kayla are each so completely sympathetic that it’s hard to choose whom to root for when they’re at war. The trip to Spain you wouldn’t wish on anyone, except in the form of this terrific book. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

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The Summer of Broken Things on Amazon

The Summer of Broken Things on Goodreads

The Summer of Broken Things Publisher Page

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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I Have Lost My Way on Amazon

I Have Lost My Way on Goodreads

I Have Lost My Way Publisher Page

 

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. March 6, 2018. HarperTeen, 357 p. ISBN: 9780062662804.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drug dealing, Marijuana, Corporal punishment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. This coming-of-age story from the streets of Harlem centers on Xiomara Barista, a teenage poet seeking to express herself. X has loved writing down her thoughts from an early age. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to share them with her family, due to her mother’s strict dedication to making sure X is focused on being a good Catholic girl. When X starts questioning her faith and realizes her brother is hiding his own secrets from their mother, she starts figuring out how she can stand up for herself and her beliefs. The story, though centered around the family drama, explores other poignant themes facing girls today, diving into human sexuality, the psychological impacts of going through an early puberty, and how girls have to fend off advances from men—as well as the slut-shaming stigma that simultaneously can come from women. Ultimately, though, this is a powerful, heartwarming tale of a girl not afraid to reach out and figure out her place in the world.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Elizabeth Acevedo is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel.

She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.. Her website is www.acevedowrites.com.

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The Poet X on Amazon

The Poet X  on Goodreads

The Poet X  Publisher Page