Tag Archives: realistic fiction

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. September 5, 2017. Scribner, 285 p. ISBN: 9781501126062.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 840.

An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Clinical description of slaughtering an animal

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Jojo, 13, and his 3-year-old sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, while their mother, Leonie, struggles with drug addiction and her failures as a daughter, mother, and inheritor of a gift (or curse) that connects her to spirits. Leonie insists that Jojo and Kayla accompany her on a two-day journey to the infamous Parchman prison to retrieve their white father. Their harrowing experiences are bound up in unresolved and reverberating racial and family tensions and entanglements: long-buried memories of Pop’s time in Parchman, the imminent death of Mam from cancer, and the slow dawning of the children’s own spiritual gifts. Ward alternates perspectives to tell the story of a family in rural Mississippi struggling mightily to hold themselves together as they are assailed by ghosts reflecting all the ways humans create cruelty and suffering. In her first novel since the National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones (2011), Ward renders richly drawn characters, a strong sense of place, and a distinctive style that is at once down-to-earth and magical.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Ward (Men We Reaped, 2013, etc.) follows her excellent, National Book Award–winning novel Salvage the Bones with her third book-length work of fiction, a searching study of all the ways in which people damage each other, sometimes without meaning to.Leonie, a young African-American woman, lives in the eternal childhood of addiction and dependency; her life revolves around trying to escape from herself, which is no help to her children, one a toddler named Kayla, the other a 13-year-old boy named Jojo. The three live with Leonie’s parents, the gruff but tender grandfather a font of country wisdom (“Goats is mean and pigs is smarter than you think. And they vicious too”), the grandmother steadily being eaten alive by an aggressive cancer. “Each time Leonie told me something mean, Mam would tell her to leave me alone,” a grateful Jojo recounts, devastated to see his mother hollowed by her illness. Clearly the older couple cannot take care of the children, but when Leonie’s white boyfriend is released from prison—Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm, no less—things go from bad to worse. It’s not necessarily that the drugged-out couple is evil, but that they can’t take care of themselves, much less anyone else, leaving the children to their own resources—and, as the story progresses, Ward makes clear that those resources are considerable, just as Leonie, who is haunted by the ghost of her dead brother, realizes that she has been dealt a hand that, while tragic, is simply part of the business of life: “Growing up out here in the country taught me things,” she thinks. “Taught me that after the first fat flush of life, time eats away at things: it rusts machinery, it matures animals to become hairless and featherless, and it withers plants.” Time doesn’t improve most people, either: it leads them into adulthood, makes them mean and violent and untrustworthy, all lessons the kids must learn the hard way. Though rough and cheerless, Ward’s book commemorates the resilience of children, who, as in the kindred film Beasts of the Southern Wild, are perforce wise beyond their years. Not as strong as its predecessor, but expertly written all the same, proving Ward’s position at the forefront of modern Southern letters.

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

Teacher Resources

Sing, Unburied, Sing Reading Guide

Around the Web

Sing, Unburied, Sing on Amazon

Sing, Unburied, Sing on JLG

Sing, Unburied, Sing on Goodreads

Sing, Unburied, Sing Publisher Page

 

 

Advertisements

Touchdown Kid by Tim Green

Touchdown Kid by Tim Green. October 3, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062293855.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Cory has always been passionate about football. But life for him and his single mom has been hard, making it difficult for Cory to play. And though Cory is a good kid, he’s constantly surrounded by negative influences. But when the coach from an elite private school with one of the best football programs in the country recognizes his talents on the field, Cory is presented with an unbelievable opportunity.

Cory knows that football could be his ticket out. But leaving to attend private school also means struggling to fit into a world where most people look at him and just see a scholarship kid from the wrong side of town. Cory knows that if he can fight hard enough—both on and off the field—he may be able to secure a bright future that looks different from his unpromising past.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Classism

 

About the Author

Tim Green, for many years a star defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, is a man of many talents. He’s the author of such gripping books for adults as the New York Times bestselling The Dark Side of the Game and a dozen suspense novels, including Exact Revenge and Kingdom Come. Tim graduated covaledictorian from Syracuse University and was a first-round NFL draft pick. He later earned his law degree with honors. Tim has worked as an NFL analyst for FOX Sports and as an NFL commentator for National Public Radio, among other broadcast experience.

He lives with his wife, Illyssa, and their five children in upstate New York.  His website is timgreenbooks.com

 

Around the Web

Touchdown Kid on Amazon

Touchdown Kid on Goodreads

Touchdown Kid on JLG

Touchdown Kid Publisher Page

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Patina by Jason Reynolds. August29, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 233 p. ISBN: 9781481450188.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6; Lexile: 710.

Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Sequel to: Ghost

Part of Series: Track (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. When Patina “Patty” Jones, the fastest girl on the Defenders track team, comes in second place in a race—a fact she finds unacceptable—her rage is so intense that she mentally checks out. In an effort to make her into a team player, Coach assigns her to the 4×800 relay race and makes the relay team do hokey things like waltz in practice to “learn each others’ rhythms.” Pfft. Meanwhile, Patty feels completely out of place at her rich-girl academy. And then there’s the really hard stuff. Like how her father died, how her mother “got the sugar” (diabetes) and it took her legs, and now Patty and her little sister live with their aunt Emily and uncle Tony. Reynolds’ again displays his knack for capturing authentic voice in both Patty’s inner monologues and the spoken dialogue. The plot races as fast as the track runners in it, and—without ever feeling like a book about “issues”—it deftly tackles topics like isolation, diverse family makeup, living with illness, losing a parent, transcending socioeconomic and racial barriers, and—perhaps best of all—what it’s like for a tween to love their little sister more than all the cupcakes in the world. The second entry in the four-book Track series, this serves as a complete, complex, and sparkling stand-alone novel.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
Back for the second leg of the Track series relay, the Defenders team has passed the baton to title character Patina, nicknamed Patty. First introduced to readers in Ghost (rev. 11/16), Patty has been forced to grow up quickly. After her father dies suddenly, Patty’s role in raising her younger sister Maddy grows larger as their mother gets ill and ultimately becomes a double amputee due to complications from diabetes. While moving in with their godparents, who have adopted them both, has relieved some of the pressure, Patty is not always certain how to relinquish her role as caregiver. She takes it upon herself to braid Maddy’s hair (as opposed to letting their adoptive mother, Momly, do it) because “ain’t no rule book for white people to know how to work with black hair.” Patty pushes Ma in her wheelchair to and from church on Sundays. She does all the work on her group project at school, and angrily counts her second-place ribbon at a track meet as “fake.” At some point, Momly reminds her, “Folks who try to do everything are usually avoiding one thing.” Those words ring true when an almost-tragedy strikes the household and Patty is forced to face the “thing”–the loss she feels at the death of her father–and start to trust others. For his first book featuring a female protagonist, Reynolds has done an excellent job of providing insights into the life of an African American middle schooler. Track scenes (and drama) are interspersed with home and school scenes (and drama); and as the new girl at an elite academy, Patty’s interactions with her vapid “hair-flipper” classmates, especially, are both humorous and authentic. eboni njoku

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Around the Web

Patina on Amazon

Patina on Goodreads

Patina on JLG

Patina Publisher Page

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco. September 19, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 326 p. ISBN: 9780385754026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 880.

Rosie’s led a charmed life with her loving dad, who runs the town donut shop. It’s true her mother abandoned them when Rosie was just a baby, but her dad’s all she’s ever needed. But now that her father’s had a stroke, Rosie lives with her tough-as-nails grandfather. And her beloved dog, Gloaty Gus, has just gone missing.

Rosie’s determined to find him. With the help of a new friend and her own determination, she’ll follow the trail anywhere . . . no matter where it leads. If she doesn’t drive the whole world crazy in the meantime.

Kimberly Newton Fusco’s tender story brings to life a feisty, unsinkable, unstoppable, unforgettable girl who knows she’s a fighter . . . if she can only figure out who’s already on her side.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
Could Rosie’s life be much worse?While still a baby, she was abandoned by her emotionally distant mother to the care of Rosie’s father, so she could “make something of herself.” He and her “big lug” of a dog, Augustus, were all a girl could need. But a year ago, her father suffered a disabling stroke, and her mother returned home just long enough to give her dog away. In the far-from-tender care of her grumpy, bewildered, but loving paternal grandfather—and under the threat of being taken away by her mother—Rosie has spent the past year desperately searching for her dog, thinking of little else. Her gripping, animated narrative—she’s given to employing medieval-style curses she and her papa have invented—is spun out across a dismal landscape of struggling but colorful and richly developed (though mostly default white) characters. There’s Phillippe, neglected by his mentally unstable mother, constantly hiding within a giant overcoat, and now in Mrs. Salvatore’s loud but tender foster care; Cynthia, another neglected child, who can rarely stop talking; a mute, outsider woman, Swanson, who has an undeservedly fearsome reputation; and Mr. Peterson, a teacher who could make all the difference if Rosie would let him. Ultimately, it’s Rosie’s heart and determined spirit that see her through to a hopeful, well-deserved resolution. God’s bones! Magnificent. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 3-5-Rosie has had a very difficult year. That’s what her fifth grade teacher writes in the comment section of her report card, and it’s true. Until now, Rosie has lived a charmed existence with her doughnut shop-owning, book-loving father and her very bad (but very lovable) dog, Augustus. But then one terrible day, her father has a stroke and Rosie is forced to live with her tough-as-nails, anchovy-eating grandfather. Things become even more unbearable when her estranged mother makes a quick trip from California to get Rosie’s life in order-and gives away Rosie’s beloved Augustus and won’t reveal where she sent him. As Rosie embarks on a relentless quest in search of her BFF, she encounters obstacles (her prickly grandpa, her rickety and dangerous bicycle, and the swirling grit that blows through the sandpit-ridden town where she lives), with little help from others. But Rosie won’t quit, and her journey takes her to unexpected places. Readers’ hearts will ache along with Rosie’s as she struggles to find not only her dog but also love and belonging in her harsh surroundings. The slow pace may test readers’ patience. But where the novel may lag in plot, it makes up for in character, with a fleet of unforgettable personalities who both guide and thwart Rosie. VERDICT This heartfelt tale with a rewarding ending will appeal to young fans of Kate DiCamillo, Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Jennifer Holm. Recommended for libraries serving middle grade readers.-Laura Lintz, Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, NY

About the Author

Kimberly Newton Fusco is the author of three other novels, Tending to Grace, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, and Beholding Bee, which garnered many accolades. Before becoming a novelist, she was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Ms. Fusco lives in Foster, Rhode Island, with her family.  Her website is www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com

Around the Web

Chasing Augustus on Amazon

Chasing Augustus on Goodreads

Chasing Augustus on JLG

Chasing Augustus Publisher Page

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. October 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781512482416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can’t find the words to tell anyone else. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn’t she?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. June narrates her story from the ages of 10 to 24, detailing the brutal physical and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her stepmother, Kathleen, and stepsister, Megan. From forcing her to overeat to convincing June that she and her deceased mother are worthless because they are black, Kathleen and Megan torture June every time her white father’s back is turned. Afraid to say anything about the abuse to her father or teachers, June finds solace in Blister, a homeschooled boy from a large family, with whom she starts to fall in love. June’s story is all the more heartbreaking because her visceral account, though fiction, is undoubtedly a reality for children suffering from abuse behind closed doors. The narrative derails considerably when an event near the end of the tale effectively forces June to internalize the idea that her silence—as a victim—is to blame. Despite a heavy-handed delivery, this novel, a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee in Great Britain, manages to end on a hopeful note.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Can the Guardian and Britain’s CILIP Carnegie Children’s Book Awards be wrong? Not that this lauded and nominated book by author Heathfield isn’t harrowing. It’s the 14-year–spanning story of June Kingston, a mixed-race black girl whose white stepmother, Kathleen, continually racially denigrates June and her dead mother, Loretta, who was black. It is a catalog of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from Kathleen, abetted by June’s stepsister, Megan, and enabled by the obliviousness of June’s white father. And yes, June’s preteen friend and eventual boyfriend, Blister Wicks, a poor, creative white boy, unwaveringly supports her throughout. In chapters labeled “before” readers see the unrelenting misery of June’s life, while briefer, intermittent chapters labeled “after” take them to a time after an unspecified trauma. When that reveal comes, readers may well feel sucker-punched at its disingenuousness, as the author writes around the most obvious aspect of this story. June’s abuse at home, bullying and neglect at school, and what happens after are specifically misogynoirist, or anti–black female, thrown into high relief due to the lack of any other living characters of color in June’s story. This is a disservice to readers, especially considering such works and resources as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and African American Policy Forum, a pro–Black-women-and-girls advocacy organization. What’s left for readers from this lack of nuance is the glaring voyeurism. Interracial love—and racial silence—simply aren’t enough. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Before becoming a mum to her three sons, Lisa Heathfield was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Award-winning author Lisa Heathfield launched her career with Seed in 2015. Published by Egmont it is a stunning YA debut about a life in cult. Paper Butterflies is her beautiful and heart-breaking second novel. Flight of a Starling is another heart-breaking read with an important message.

Lisa lives in Brighton with her family.

Around the Web

Paper Butterflies on Amazon

Paper Butterflies on Goodreads

Paper Butterflies on JLG

Paper Butterflies Publisher Page

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. September 5, 2017. Sterling Children’s Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781454923459.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 700.

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch, she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette’s syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally), Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Born without arms, white “problem-solving ninja” Aven Green can do almost anything with her feet instead—even solve a mystery. “Now that I’m thirteen years old, I don’t need much help with anything. True story.” Aven’s adoptive parents have always encouraged her independence. She’s never felt self-conscious among her friends in Kansas, playing soccer and guitar and mischievously spinning wild yarns about losing her arms. But when her father suddenly gets a job managing Stagecoach Pass, a run-down theme park in Arizona, tales of alligator wrestling can’t stop her new classmates’ gawking. Making friends with Connor, a self-conscious white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, and Zion, a shy, overweight, black boy, allows her to blend in between them. Contrasted with the boys’ shyness, Aven’s tough love and occasional insensitivity provide a glimpse of how—and why—attitudes toward disability can vary. While investigating the park’s suspiciously absent owner, the kids discover clues with eerie ties to Aven. The mystery’s twist ending is somewhat fairy-tale–esque, but Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. Though much of this earnest effort reads like an after-school special, its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Dusti Bowling grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where, as her family will tell you, she always had her nose in a book. Dusti holds a Bachelor of Psychology and a Master of Education, but she eventually realized that her true passion was writing. The Day We Met, her self-published YA novel, has sold over 20,000 copies. She currently lives in Carefree, Arizona, with her husband, three daughters, one bobcat, a pack of coyotes, a couple of chuckwallas, several rattlesnakes, and a few herds of javelina.

Her website is www.dustibowling.com

Teacher Resources

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on Amazon

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on Goodreads

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on JLG

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Publisher Page

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. October 10, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 286 p. ISBN: 9780525555360.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. It’s here: the eagerly awaited new novel by John Green, and—not to milk the suspense—it’s superb. High-school junior Aza has an obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”), which can be fatal. Her fear has become obsession, plaguing her with “intrusives,” thoughts that take over her mind, making her feel that she is not the author of her own life. She does, however, have a life: her father is dead; her mother is a teacher; her best friends are Mychal, a gifted artist, and Daisy, a well-known Star Wars fan-fiction author. To their trio is added Davis, whom Aza had known when they were 11. Davis’ billionaire father has decamped, pursued by the police, leaving Davis and his younger brother parentless (their mother is dead) and very much on their own. How will the friends cope with all this? And how will Aza cope with her own problems? Green, a master of deeply felt material, handles all of this with aplomb. With its attention to ideas and trademark introspection, it’s a challenging but richly rewarding read. It is also the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Nerdfighter Green’s latest takes readers through Indianapolis and the human biome.Aza Holmes doesn’t feel like herself. But “if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun…?” When a local billionaire—and the father of her childhood friend, a white boy named Davis—disappears, Aza (who seems to be white) and her BFF, Daisy Ramirez (who is cued as Latina), plot to find him and claim the reward, amid rumors of corruption and an underexplored side plot about semi-immortal reptiles. The story revolves around anxious Aza’s dissociation from her body and life. Daisy chatters about Star Wars fan fiction (and calls Aza “Holmesy” ad nauseam), and Davis monologues about astronomy, while Aza obsesses over infection, the ever present, self-inflicted wound on her finger, and whether she’s “just a deeply flawed line of reasoning.” The thin but neatly constructed plot feels a bit like an excuse for Green to flex his philosophical muscles; teenagers questioning the mysteries of consciousness can identify with Aza, while others might wish that something—anything—really happens. The exploration of Aza’s life-threatening compulsions will resonate deeply with some, titillate others, and possibly trigger those in between. Aza would claim that opinions about this book are unfairly influenced by “the gut-brain informational cycle,” which makes it hard to say what anyone else will think—but this is the new John Green; people will read this, or not, regardless of someone else’s gut flora. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers  and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is johngreenbooks.com

Around the Web

Turtles All the Way Down on Amazon

Turtles All the Way Down on Goodreads

Turtles All the Way Down on JLG

Turtles All the Way Down Publisher Page

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. September 19, 2017. Kathy Dawson Books, 453 p. ISBN: 9780803741492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Jane receives an invitation to attend a gala at the island mansion Tu Reviens, she accepts—not because she wants to go, but because her adored (and recently deceased) Aunt Magnolia made her promise to visit Tu Reviens if she ever got the chance. Bizarre personages and events fill the palatial home, including art theft, kidnapping, a secret organization, flirtations, and seemingly impossible twists of fate, all of which the impetuous Jane faces with a devoted basset hound sidekick. It’s the story’s structure, however, that’s most noteworthy, as Cashore (Graceling, 2008) applies the concept of a multiverse to Tu Reviens, following Jane down five possible paths during her stay. Yet, it’s not until the second half of the book, where things go increasingly off the rails, that the story truly blossoms. Art forms a constant backdrop to the narrative, and in all versions of Jane’s story, she finds respite from her grief and uncertain future through artistic expression. Creation, compassion, and choice repeatedly emerge as themes in this ambitious, mind-expanding novel.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When her guardian, Aunt Magnolia, dies, Jane is left untethered and financially insecure. Then Kiran, an old acquaintance, invites Jane to Tu Reviens (“you return”), Kiran’s family’s island mansion. Aunt Magnolia had told Jane unequivocally that “if you’re invited to Tu Reviens, go.” So Jane ends up at the exotic mansion, a place where staffers are not what they say they are, and the wealthy patriarch is a depressive recluse. What’s going on? Jane wonders, watching the household prepare for a gala party and noting the priceless Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Brancusi works on display. Then the story splits into five alternate scenarios. As Jane follows first one inhabitant and then four others in parallel narratives, she moves from the romantic confection the novel first seems to multiverses of surreality, science fiction, art theft, and Espions sans Frontieres (Spies Without Borders). The clues to the story’s fantastical nature are playful and sly. As scenarios multiply, the story becomes light on character development and rather plot-heavy, but Cashore’s glee, wit, and inventiveness are unflagging. With its references to works ranging from Doctor Who to Rebecca to Winnie-the-Pooh, this is pleasantly peculiar and unpredictable. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Kristin Cashore grew up in northeast Pennsylvania and has a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She lives in the Boston area. Her epic fantasy novels set in the Graceling Realm—GracelingFire, and Bitterblue—are all New York Times bestsellers and have won many awards and much high praise, including picks as ALA Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors Choice, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition, Graceling was shortlisted for the William C. Morris Debut Award and Fire is an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner.

Her website is kristincashore.blogspot.com

Around the Web

Jane, Unlimited on Amazon

Jane, Unlimited on Goodreads

Jane, Unlimited on JLG

Jane, Unlimited Publisher Page

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780425290408.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 670.

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs, that tweens will rally behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Malú wants to be totally punk at her new middle school, but her Mexican-American mother would prefer she learn to be a proper señorita. Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

Her website is celiacperez.com

Around the Web

The First Rule of Punk on Amazon

The First Rule of Punk on Goodreads

The First Rule of Punk on JLG

The First Rule of Punk Publisher Page

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. September 12, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553538076.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 680.

“Little” McCardell is doing all he can just to keep it together after the disappearance of his grandfather “Big” and the arrest of his older brother, JT. He’s looking out for his younger cousin, trying to stay afloat in school, working in the town graveyard for extra cash, and in his spare time he’s pining after Rowan–the girl JT was dating until he got locked up. When the cops turn up asking questions about Big, Little doesn’t want to get involved in the investigation–he’s already got enough to deal with–but he has no choice. Especially not after the sheriff’s deputy catches him hunting deer out of season and threatens to prosecute unless he cooperates.

Soon Little finds himself drowning in secrets, beholden to the sheriff, to JT, to Rowan, and to Big’s memory, with no clear way out that doesn’t betray at least one of them. And when Little’s deepest secret is revealed, there’s no telling how it could shatter their lives.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Suicide, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. As in This Is the Part Where You Laugh (2016), Hoffmeister’s latest depicts a teenager trying to endure his relatives and life in poverty. Sixteen-year-old Little is trying to survive after his grandfather Big disappears. He looks after himself and his cousin while also controlling romantic feelings for his brother’s girlfriend, Rowan. Believing Little knows something about the disappearance, police continually try to glean information from him. It’s not long before Little is smothered in the secrets of others, all of whom want his loyalty. This is a raw and gritty book depicting someone attempting to thrive in harsh conditions. It is deliberately paced only until one becomes accustomed to the structure, wherein sporadic flashbacks provide information about what happened to Big, and readers begin to put the pieces together to understand what occurred. Hoffmeister’s Mexican heritage is reflected through the main character. A compelling new work by Hoffmeister.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
When 16-year-old Little McCardell’s grandfather disappears, it is up to him to clean up the mess that’s left behind. Hunger, violence, drugs, and hopelessness haunt the citizens of his impoverished Idaho town. But Little is determined to break free from his family’s legacy. Desperate to find stronger roots, he even begins learning Spanish in hopes of feeling closer to his estranged Mexican father. He is determined to graduate and find a way to care for his young cousin, but his dyslexia is a constant battle. When an obsessed sheriff’s deputy begins asking questions about his grandfather’s whereabouts, Little must dig for information or risk becoming entangled in a dangerous world. Drugs, abuse, child pornography, casually crude language, drinking, and rape orient readers to the ample challenges that Little faces. But the unfolding mystery, lyrical language, and empathy for the characters make Hoffmeister’s a story worth investing in. Little’s determination, passion, and genuine love for the broken people in his life keep this narrative from falling into despair. Short chapters, a sparse setting, and evocative characters combine to create a story that is more than the sum of its parts. Proof that even in the darkness, there can be light. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Peter Brown Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Graphic The Valley, the memoir The End of Boys, the nonfiction text Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, and the forthcoming YA novels This Is The Part Where You Laugh and Too Shattered For Mending (Random House, Knopf).

A former troubled teen, Hoffmeister was expelled from three high schools, lived for a short while in a Greyhound bus station, was remanded to a recovery and parole program, and completed a wilderness experience for troubled teens. He now runs the Integrated Outdoor Program, serving teens of all backgrounds, taking them into wilderness areas to backpack, climb, spelunk, orienteer, and whitewater raft.

He lives with his wife and daughters in Eugene, Oregon. His website is www.peterbrownhoffmeister.com

Around the Web

Too Shattered For Mending on Amazon

Too Shattered For Mending on Goodreads

Too Shattered For Mending on JLG

Too Shattered For Mending Publisher Page