Tag Archives: realistic fiction

In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien

In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien. June 27, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780545905749.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 700.

North Korea is known as the most repressive country on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she really belongs. Then her dad is arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

An exciting adventure that offers a rare glimpse into a compelling, complicated nation, In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable novel of courage and survival.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Harsh realities of life under the North Korean regime

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 5-8. Mia and her brother, Simon, are on the run in North Korea. That’s dangerous enough on its own, but they’re also in possession of a cell phone containing pictures of atrocities in a North Korean labor camp. They’re not sure where it came from, or why their father was taken by North Korean police, but they know they must get out of the country, fast. Relying on their own quick thinking, Mia’s knowledge of Korean language and culture, and a handful of kind strangers, they embark on a harrowing journey from Pyongyang through the mountainous forests to the China border. O’Brien weaves plenty of information about the country through the story, and interspersed sections describing the experiences of some of the North Koreans they meet on their trip add depth. Mia, who was adopted from South Korea by a white American family, offers some thought-provoking insight into the experience of interracial adoption. This fast-paced and tense survivalist thriller, made all the more compelling for its fascinating setting, should find broad appeal.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
A family holiday goes badly awry, leaving two siblings racing for freedom in a totalitarian nation armed with little more than an outdated guidebook and a few packets of airline peanuts. Adopted from South Korea as an infant by a white Connecticut family, 12-year-old Mia has grown up feeling conspicuously different from her family and peers. To help heal the rift from a serious fight with her older brother, Simon, and to encourage Mia to connect with her cultural roots, the teens travel with their father to North Korea, a country he knows well as a foreign aid worker. Mundane sightseeing gives way to danger following Mia’s discovery of a cellphone containing shocking photos from a prison camp and her father’s abduction by authorities. Simon and Mia embark on a daring cross-country journey in an effort to reach safety and alert authorities to their father’s plight. The action is punctuated by short profiles of individual (fictional) North Koreans, tantalizingly pulling back the veil of secrecy, but readers are soon plunged back into a thrilling and immersive experience reminiscent of the best spy and wilderness adventure stories. Character development is not sacrificed to action, as the siblings mature in their relationship, gaining insight into family and racial dynamics, culture, and identity. Opening information from the fictional tour agency gives readers enough background about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully understand the peril the family is in. An author’s note illuminates O’Brien’s strong personal ties to Korea and gives suggestions for further reading. A riveting work that will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Thriller. 9-13)

About the Author

Anne Sibley O’Brien grew up in South Korea as the bilingual and bicultural daughter of medical missionaries. She has written or illustrated thirty-five picture books, and frequently speaks in classrooms across the country and in international schools around the world. In the Shadow of the Sun is her first novel. Anne lives on Peaks Island in Maine.

Her website is www.annesibleyobrien.com

Teacher Resources

 

Around the Web

In the Shadow of the Sun on Amazon

In the Shadow of the Sun on Goodreads

In the Shadow of the Sun on JLG

In the Shadow of the Sun Publisher Page

Advertisements

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. May 9, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 492 p. ISBN: 9780062418357.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture, Homophobia, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Julie Murphy (Dumplin’, 2015) knows a thing or two about navigating the worlds of girls on the brink of self-discovery. In Ramona Blue, that girl is Ramona Leroux, over six feet tall and sporting blue hair. She’s also one of only two out lesbians in her little town of Eulogy, Mississippi, where she lives with her father and sister in the FEMA trailer they never left after Hurricane Katrina. Her sister, Hattie, recently pregnant, jokes that Ramona can do whatever she wants with her future, but Ramona has no such illusions. “My sport—” she thinks, “the special skill I’ve developed my whole life—is surviving.” Because of this pragmatism, Ramona has never doubted herself. It’s not easy being gay in Eulogy, but it’s a label she owns proudly, until her childhood friend Freddie moves back to town. Freddie’s a straight guy, African American, and well off, but a love of swimming connects the two. Freddie talks Ramona into spending time at the pool, and as she falls more in love with the sport, she realizes she’s falling in love with him, too, questioning everything she knows about herself—everything she’s fought to make her town and family accept. Murphy mines Ramona’s inner workings with particular skill. Ramona’s often-fraught relationships with her family are carefully, lovingly crafted, and her connection with Hattie is an especially important one. Her growing feelings for Freddie come slowly and organically, never feeling contrived. For many teens, Ramona will be a worthy companion as they undergo their own emotional journeys.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In Murphy’s (Dumplin’, 2015, etc.) third novel, a teenage girl navigates the complexities of romance and identity.Ramona “Blue” Leroux—6 foot 3, white, blue-haired, and gay—has always known who she is and where she is (or isn’t) going. Living in a trailer in post-Katrina Eulogy, Mississippi, Ramona does her best to save and provide for her dad, older sister, Hattie, and soon-to-be niece. One of only three queer kids in town, she’s always been sure she’s attracted to women, and Ramona feels lucky that her coming-out experience was nothing more than “a blip.” But this year, everything is changing. She’s losing her sister to the coming baby and to Hattie’s irresponsible, irritating baby-daddy, who has squeezed into their trailer. Her summer fling with closeted, white out-of-towner Grace may not withstand distance. And then Ramona’s black childhood best friend, Freddie, unexpectedly moves back to Eulogy, and, as they reconnect through their shared history and a passion for swimming, she is surprised to find her desires and feelings for Freddie growing deeper. Ramona’s first-person narration is tender and compelling, and the love she feels for the diverse cast of secondary characters is palpable. Murphy beautifully incorporates conversations about identity and diversity—including the policing of Freddie’s black body, heteronormative expectations, and diverse sexualities (Ramona’s white friend Ruth identifies herself explicitly as homoromantic demisexual)—with nuance and care. An exquisite, thoughtful exploration of the ties that bind and the fluidity of relationships, sexuality, and life. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library.

Her website is www.juliemurphywrites.com

 

Around the Web

Ramona Blue on Amazon

Ramona Blue on Goodreads

Ramona Blue on JLG

Ramona Blue Publisher Page

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. May 30, 2017. HarperCollins, 385 p. ISBN: 9780062290137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds meets Nimona in this novel about art, fandom, and finding the courage to be yourself. Features illustrations by the author throughout. Perfect for readers of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, this is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Made You Up.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Suicide

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Eliza’s eponymous monsters are twofold: they are the stars of her viral webcomic, but they are also the anxiety and depression that keep her identity as the webcomic’s creator shielded behind a wall of anonymity. As LadyConstellation, she has written and illustrated Monstrous Sea, inspiring a devoted online fandom worldwide. At school, however, she’s just cripplingly shy Eliza Mirk: an average student who prefers a digital social life to a real one. She meets her match when Monstrous Sea fan-fiction writer Wallace transfers to her school and is too shy to even speak out loud. Through simple, tender notes passed back and forth, the two form a fast bond. But Eliza keeps her identity as LadyConstellation a secret even from Wallace, a decision that could cost her his trust forever. In her sophomore novel, Zappia (Made You Up, 2015) gracefully examines Eliza’s complicated struggle with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, as she recognizes, “The thought is still there, but the seriousness of it comes and goes.” In addition to a vibrant fictional fandom akin to the Simon Snow following in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013), this is peppered with detailed illustrations from Eliza’s webcomic, drawn by Zappia herself. A fervent celebration of online fandom, sure to leave readers craving an actual Monstrous Sea comic.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Creator of an astonishingly successful webcomic—or a nonentity of a high school senior?Eliza Mirk is an anxiety-plagued weirdo, shuffling silently through the corridors of her Indiana high school without a single friend. She’s also beloved LadyConstellation, creator of the comic Monstrous Sea, “a combination of the Final Fantasy video games and the Faust Legend.” On the Monstrous Sea forums, she’s the queen to millions of passionate fans; in school she’s “Creepy Don’t-Touch-Her-You’ll-Get-Rabies Eliza.” Eliza’s parents, athletes with no understanding of the internet age, mishandle their beloved—but frighteningly baffling—daughter. Though terrified by human interaction, Eliza finds her voice long enough to defend a new student who’s being mocked for writing Monstrous Sea fanfiction. Wallace and Eliza develop an intense, if unusual, friendship: Wallace’s selective mutism means the majority of their conversations are carried on in writing. Eliza, meanwhile, wonders if she can reveal her online identity to Wallace, one of the most well-known fans of Monstrous Sea, without destroying his feelings for her. The deepening relationship of these two white teens, interspersed with pages from the comic and Wallace’s fanfiction prose retelling of it, exposes the raw, self-absorbed pain of mental illness amid the helplessness many high schoolers experience. A wrenching depiction of depression and anxiety, respectful to fandom, online-only friendships, and the benefits and dangers of internet fame. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana. When she is not writing, she’s drawing her characters, reading, or playing video games. She is also the author of Made You Up and Eliza Mirk’s favorite, The Children of Hypnos, a biweekly serial novel posted on Tumblr and Wattpad.

Her website is www.francescazappia.com

 

Around the Web

Eliza and Her Monsters on Amazon

Eliza and Her Monsters on Goodreads

Eliza and Her Monsters on JLG

Eliza and Her Monsters Publisher Page

Grit by Gillian French

Grit by Gillian French. May 16, 2017. HarperTeen, 304  p. ISBN: 9780062642554.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

It’s summer in rural Maine; when seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss isn’t raking berries with her sister, Mags, and cousin, Nell, during the day, she’s drinking and swimming with the boys in the quarry by night. She knows how to have a good time, just like anyone else, but when you’ve been designated the town slut, every move you make seems to further solidify your “trashy girl” reputation.

But the fun is what’s been keeping Darcy’s mind off the things she can’t forget: a disturbing secret she shares with Nell, the mysterious disappearance of her ex-best friend, and that hazy Fourth of July party that ended with Darcy drunk, on her back, wondering how she let it get this far.

Then someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel, almost laughable gesture that can only be the work of someone with a score to settle. Everything Darcy has been trying to keep down comes bubbling to the surface in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racial slur, Inappropriate student-teacher relationship

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Feisty Darcy Prentiss is drawn to wild times. She’ll grab at any kind of dare, chug any kind of liquor, and kiss any kind of boy just to alleviate the tedium of small-town life. The summer before her senior year, Darcy joins her sister, Mags, and her cousin, Nell, raking blueberries on a local farm. There’s plenty of tension in the air, as Darcy keeps an eye on her nemesis, Shea Gaines. Only Darcy and Shea know what actually went down between them, and Darcy’s not telling. Then there’s renewed interest in Darcy’s ex–best friend, Rhiannon, missing without a trace since the summer before. Is Darcy keeping mute on something she knows about this as well? And there’s something else Darcy is hiding to protect Nell, who is beautiful but simple-minded. Any of these secrets could explode and rip Darcy’s life apart, but debut novelist French reveals them slowly, stretching the suspense to the very end. French sets the story in a palpably stifling small town, and her unapologetic main character is resplendent with her untamed sharp tongue, an overdose of stubborn courage, and a taste for hot sex. Keen plotting, evocative writing, and dynamic characterization make French a writer to watch.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A girl with a reputation grapples with the secrets of last summer.The summer before her senior year, white teen Darcy Prentiss, her sister Mags, and their cognitively disabled cousin Nell harvest blueberries alongside the seasonal Latino migrants in the eastern Maine heat, working hard to save money. But trouble keeps finding Darcy; she has a reputation, and she’s used to rumors swirling around her. It’s not just rumors about boys, although a white boy named Shea needles endlessly about a mistake she made with him last Fourth of July—there’s also Rhiannon, her ex-friend, who went missing last summer. A police officer starts coming around, suspicious of Darcy’s every move. Though Darcy doesn’t know what happened to Rhiannon, she harbors a different secret about the night the girl went missing, one that could tear apart her family if it got out. Darcy juggles her self-appointed task of defending her cousin, the watchful eye of the law, and Shea’s escalating harassment, all while falling for a fellow white blueberry harvester and begrudgingly participating in the town’s Bay Festival pageant. She’s tough and a fierce protector of what she holds dear, but something has to give. Small-town claustrophobia makes it difficult to define who she is for herself, but rumors, secrets, and even trauma are no match for Darcy’s grit. The mysteries of the previous summer weave together beautifully, and the fallout is achingly real. Gorgeously written and helmed by a protagonist with an indelibly fierce heart. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Gillian French is the author of three novels for teens: Grit, The Door to January, and The Lies They Tell. Her short fiction has appeared in Odd Tree Press Quarterly, EMP Publishing’s anthology Creepy Campfire Stories (for Grownups): Tales of Extreme Horror, Sanitarium Magazine, and The Realm Beyond. She holds a BA in English from the University of Maine, and lives in her native state of Maine with her husband and sons, where she’s perpetually at work on her next novel.

Her website is gillianfrench.com

Around the Web

Grit on Amazon

Grit on Goodreads

Grit on JLG

Grit Publisher Page

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais. July 25, 2017. Blink, 352 p. ISBN: 9780310759058.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything – including her life – to keep Archer safe.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. As Hadley Jamison mourns a classmate who committed suicide, a man calling himself Death offers her a unique opportunity: go back 27 days into the past to prevent Archer Morales from taking his life. Hadley is suddenly jerked backward in time and finds that her mission is far from simple—Archer’s anger toward the world pushes her away. Even more treacherous is Hadley’s discovery that Death isn’t the only eternal being with its eyes on her. Gervais transitions her hit Wattpad story into a fleshed-out novel, managing to retain the energy that earned it more than two million readers. The book’s centerpiece is plucky Hadley herself. Despite all efforts to thwart her, Hadley remains resolute in her mission to save a stranger from an untimely death. In doing so, she must confront how her own seemingly perfect family is far more dysfunctional than she’d like to believe. This is a fun, quick, yet emotional read that readers will have a hard time putting down.

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Sixteen-year-old Hadley Jamison is strangely troubled by the suicide of one of her classmates. Though she knew Archer only from sitting next to him in English class two years earlier, she wonders whether she could have done anything to keep the quiet, surly boy from killing himself. After Archer’s funeral, a man known as Death approaches Hadley and offers her the opportunity to go back in time 27 days to save Archer. Hadley accepts, and over the next several weeks, she forces her company on Archer, convincing him to tutor her in geometry and working at his family’s coffee shop. She becomes close with his family, soon spending all her free time with them, in stark contrast to her usual routine of evenings alone in her Upper East Side apartment. Slowly, Hadley learns the truth about what led Archer to commit suicide. Her stubborn refusal to leave him alone seems noble in the context of a lifesaving mission but in reality would be disturbing. Repeated violations of personal boundaries should not be romanticized. The message that one teenager should take on total responsibility for preventing another’s suicide is also troubling. VERDICT Fast-paced and filled with romance, this would likely appeal to some reluctant readers. However, the immature writing style, the clumsy and heavy-handed delivery, a tone that is too light for the subject matter, and unhealthy messages for teenagers should make librarians pause before adding this to their collections.-Liz Overberg, Zionsville Community High School, IN

About the Author

Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais has been writing for as long as she can remember. In 2011, she began posting her work on Wattpad.com and has been active on the site ever since. If she’s not writing, she can be found re-reading Harry Potter, watching Supernatural, or trying to win the affection of her two cats, Kovu and Rocket.

 

Around the Web

In 27 Days on Amazon

In 27 Days on Goodreads

In 27 Days on JLG

In 27 Days Publisher Page

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. May 9, 2017. Scholastic Press, 400 p. ISBN: 9781338118667.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting, Strong language, Drugs, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed author and Islamophobia expert Abdel-Fattah pens another timely story. As a child, Mina came to Australia by boat, a Muslim refugee escaping turmoil in her native Afghanistan. Now, as a teen, she enters an elite preparatory school on the other side of Sydney, on scholarship. Michael, a natural-born Australian citizen, hasn’t spent too much time second-guessing his parents’ involvement in a local anti-immigrant group, until he sees Mina, and his unquestioning trust in his parents begins to fray. Told in chapters alternating between Mina and Michael, this mature, nuanced novel explores the forces that feed anti-immigrant sentiment and the hypocrisy that festers in hateful beliefs. There are no easy answers here, and, indeed, several uncomfortable moments as Michael resists his parents’ deeply held beliefs. Though a novel like this could easily become didactic, Abdel-Fattah expertly sidesteps heavy-handed lessons, instead deeply rooting the story in the experiences of these two teenagers, rendering their story, encompassing romance, a testament to friendship, and a powerful call to action, in utterly real and sympathetic terms. Though the setting is Australia, readers will find direct parallels to current situations in the U.S., and given the fallout of the 2016 election, this book could not be more necessary. Deserving of wide readership and discussion.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
An Afghani-Australian teen named Mina earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school and meets Michael, whose family opposes allowing Muslim refugees and immigrants into the country. Dual points of view are presented in this moving and intelligent contemporary novel set in Australia. Eleventh-grader Mina is smart and self-possessed—her mother and stepfather (her biological father was murdered in Afghanistan) have moved their business and home across Sydney in order for her to attend Victoria College. She’s determined to excel there, even though being surrounded by such privilege is a culture shock for her. When she meets white Michael, the two are drawn to each other even though his close-knit, activist family espouses a political viewpoint that, though they insist it is merely pragmatic, is unquestionably Islamophobic. Tackling hard topics head-on, Abdel-Fattah explores them fully and with nuance. True-to-life dialogue and realistic teen social dynamics both deepen the tension and provide levity. While Mina and Michael’s attraction seems at first unlikely, the pair’s warmth wins out, and readers will be swept up in their love story and will come away with a clearer understanding of how bias permeates the lives of those targeted by it. A meditation on a timely subject that never forgets to put its characters and their stories first. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an award-winning author, former attorney, and an expert on Islamaphobia in Australia. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Does My Head Look Big In This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me, as well as the middle-grade novel Where the Streets Had a Name. Ms. Abdel-Fattah lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and their children.

Her website is www.randaabdelfattah.com

Around the Web

The Lines We Cross on Amazon

The Lines We Cross on Goodreads

The Lines We Cross on JLG

The Lines We Cross Publisher Page

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

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.

 

Around the Web

Stranger Things Have Happened on Amazon

Stranger Things Have Happened on Goodreads

Stranger Things Have Happened on JLG

Stranger Things Have Happened Publisher Page

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. February 28, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 444 p. ISBN: 9780062498533.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Racially motivated shooting, Discussion of racist jokes, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two very different worlds: one is her home in a poor black urban neighborhood; the other is the tony suburban prep school she attends and the white boy she dates there. Her bifurcated life changes dramatically when she is the only witness to the unprovoked police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil and is challenged to speak out—though with trepidation—about the injustices being done in the event’s wake. As the case becomes national news, violence erupts in her neighborhood, and Starr finds herself and her family caught in the middle. Difficulties are exacerbated by their encounters with the local drug lord for whom Khalil was dealing to earn money for his impoverished family. If there is to be hope for change, Starr comes to realize, it must be through the exercise of her voice, even if it puts her and her family in harm’s way. Thomas’ debut, both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed, dramatic examination of the complexities of race in America, invites deep thoughts about our social fabric, ethics, morality, and justice. Beautifully written in Starr’s authentic first-person voice, this is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insightfully examines two worlds in collision. An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school. Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family. This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

Her website is www.angiethomas.com

Teacher Resources

The Hate U Give Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Hate U Give on Amazon

The Hate U Give on Goodreads

The Hate U Give on JLG

The Hate U Give Publisher Page

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle. May 16, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9781481472227.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild sexual themes, Murder, Domestic violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. When Eddie Carr was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the family dairy folded, the family barn burned to the ground, and the family name, too, suffered irreparable damage. In fact, five decades later, 12-year-old Terri, Eddie’s great-granddaughter, is still paying the price, living at the west end of Quicksand Pond with her abusive, alcoholic father. But Jessie Kettel, a vacationing outsider, hasn’t heard the rumors. And when a mysterious old raft appears at the water’s edge, the two girls work to repair it, developing a profound, if precarious, friendship. As town gossip and the Kettel family’s judgment simmers in the background—and long-misunderstood local Henrietta Cutting staggers into the foreground—Jessie comes to a most unsettling conclusion: the closer she gets to Terri, the closer she could be to unknowable danger. Deftly navigating a diverse array of socioeconomic statuses and the discriminatory nature of the justice system, Newbery Honor Book author Lisle crafts a stirring story that raises crucial questions about the assumptions we make, the distances we keep, and the vulnerable voices we often fail to hear. As Lisle details Terri’s determination to cease a vicious cycle, Henrietta’s resolve to remedy an unjust past, and Jessie’s aching ambivalence between the cautionary advice of others and her own hard-won revelations, readers are sure to listen. Striking, enigmatic, and haunting all around.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A summer beside Quicksand Pond on Rhode Island’s coast transforms a reluctant 12-year-old white girl. When Jessie arrives at her family’s rental cottage, she’s in “a separatist mood.” Immediately drawn to the pond, Jessie’s content to stand, “breathing in the place, listening and watching.” Discovering an abandoned raft, Jessie explores on her own until she encounters Terri, also white, a local outcast with an abusive, dead-end father. Bonding quickly, Jessie and Terri spend quiet days on the raft. Terri tells Jessie about the boys who disappeared in the pond and the family murdered years before whose surviving child, Henrietta, is now an elderly woman still living in the big house by the pond. Indeed, Henrietta stealthily watches Terri and Jessie using the raft she built as a child. When Terri’s suspected of stealing Jessie’s father’s laptop, Jessie adamantly defends her friend, but after Terri’s blamed for setting a fire in Henrietta’s garage, where the girls had borrowed some tools to repair the raft, Jessie’s support for Terri wavers. Unfolding slowly in simple, quiet prose, this sensitive, compelling story alternates between Jessie’s present experiences and Henrietta’s befuddled memories until they collide in a disturbing, pivotal climax. A suspenseful, realistic, finely crafted story exploring friendship, trust, and how we judge others. (map) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle’s books for young readers have received the Newbery Honor Award (Afternoon of the Elves), the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction (The Art of Keeping Cool), Holland’s Zilveren Griffel, and Italy’s Premio Andersen Award, among other honors. A graduate of Smith College and former journalist, Janet lives in Rhode Island and often draws on Rhode Island history in her work.

Her website is JanetTaylorLisle.com

Teacher Resources

Quicksand Pond Group Reading Guide

Around the Web

Quicksand Pond on Amazon

Quicksand Pond on Goodreads

Quicksand Pond on JLG

Quicksand Pond Publisher Page

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. May 2, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 400 p. ISBN: 9781419723735.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate (Seven Ways We Lie, 2016), features a girl who isn’t sure of anything at all. Jordan Sun is a junior at her performing-arts boarding school, but her low voice and Chinese features keep her from getting cast. Jordan’s on scholarship—her family struggles financially because of her disabled father’s medical bills—and her parents are overly invested in her success. So when she fails yet again to get cast, she considers other options. A spot has opened in the Sharpshooters, an elite all-male a cappella group. It’s college-application gold, so Jordan dresses up like a guy, borrows her cousin’s name, and auditions. Crazier still, she gets in. Jordan Sun, contralto, becomes Julian Zhang, tenor, living a double life as she’s drawn into the world of the Sharpshooters and into what it’s like to be a boy. In some ways, pretending helps her become more sure of her identity: she’s questioned her sexuality before, but as she spends more time as Julian, it becomes increasingly clear that she’s bisexual. Conversely, as she grows more comfortable acting like a guy, the surer she is that she’s not actually a transgender boy: “I knew it innately. The struggle to fit into some narrow window of femininity didn’t exclude me from the club.” It’s a smart critique of gender roles—male and female—in today’s society (a particularly notable scene is one in which Jordan, as Julian, is told in no uncertain terms to “man up” by a respected teacher), and it’s all delightfully wrapped up in a fun, compelling package of high-school rivalries, confusing romances, and a classic Shakespearean case of mistaken identity.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Redgate deftly harmonizes a lighthearted plot with an exploration of privilege, identity, and personal agency. Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American high school junior from a working-poor family who feels a bit out of place at her prestigious, arts-focused boarding school in upstate New York. Though the school’s diversity policy is bringing in more students from minority backgrounds, most of her classmates are still wealthy and white. After continued rejection for roles in the theater department, Jordan decides to try her hand at something new and joins one of the school’s legendary a cappella groups: a traditionally all-male one. To audition, Jordan adopts the male persona of Julian, and when Julian is accepted to fill a tenor spot with the group, Jordan must slip into the role of her life. As a first-person narrator, Jordan is often dryly sarcastic, but it is her lyrical prose that brings depth and empathy to a story that could otherwise be another needless riff on the cross-dressing trope. “It’s too simple to hate the people who have doorways where you have walls,” she reflects. Wearing Julian’s identity causes Jordan to question her assumptions regarding femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Jordan ultimately shatters her own self-limiting expectations and in doing so encourages readers to do likewise. A heart song for all readers who have ever felt like strangers in their own skins. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Riley Redgate speaks exclusively in third person, so this works nicely. She loves horror films, apocalyptic thunderstorms, and the Atonement soundtrack. When writing author bios, she feels as if she is crafting some weirdly formal Tinder profile.

She plans someday to start a melodramatically epic rock band named Millennial Filth. Until then, she writes acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, also novels.

Her website is rileyredgate.com.

Around the Web

Noteworthy on Amazon

Noteworthy on Goodreads

Noteworthy on JLG

Noteworthy Publisher Page