Tag Archives: romance

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall  by Jennifer E. Smith. May 2, 2017. Delacorte Press, 417 p. ISBN: 9780399559396.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck–at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday–just when it seems they might be on the brink of something–she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Luck isn’t something that 18-year-old Alice is familiar with. When she was 9, her parents died just months apart from each other, and Alice moved to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle. Alice honors her parents by volunteering and dreaming of Stanford, though her longing to return to California is tempered by her close relationships with her cousin Leo and her best friend, Teddy, whom Alice secretly loves. On Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice jokingly buys him a lottery ticket—and he wins. Teddy, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his single, overworked mother, seems like the luckiest guy in the world. But as much as Alice wants to believe that this newfound wealth won’t change him, a rift grows between them. Smith, no stranger to romance (Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, 2015) crafts another thoughtful story about a girl on the brink of major change. Alice’s struggles are relatable, and her feelings for Teddy ring true. Particularly well-developed secondary characters put the finishing touches on this lucky find. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: When it comes to teen romance, Smith is quickly becoming one of the big dogs; an extensive marketing and publicity campaign will only increase the buzz.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything. Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune? Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

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Windfall on Amazon

Windfall on Goodreads

Windfall on JLG

Windfall Publisher Page

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. April 11, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062348708.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 490.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old Molly has had 26, count ’em, 26 crushes and not one boyfriend. But wait, here comes number 27: sweet, adorable Reid. Could a relationship finally be in the offing? But what about flirtatious, hipster-cool Will? Doesn’t he count? Love sure is complicated, and for Molly, this annoying fact of life is exacerbated by her anxiety, hypersensitivity, doubts, and even self-hatred. At least partially responsible for all this Sturm und Drang is the fact that Molly is, as her grandmother indelicately puts it, zaftig. As Molly herself exasperatedly thinks, “chubby girls don’t get boyfriends.” But why shouldn’t she have the same kind of loving relationship with a boy that her twin sister, Cassie, has with a girl? In her second, relationship-rich novel, Albertalli has done an excellent job of creating in Molly a sympathetic, if occasionally exasperating, character. And her take on the agonies and ecstasies of adolescent love are spot-on, as she demonstrates, once again, that the heart, indeed, has its reasons the mind cannot know.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are inseparable despite being wildly different: Cassie’s breezy self-confidence and high energy seem to make dating easy, while quirky introvert Molly experiences intense crushes on boys but, certain that she will be rejected, never acts on them. When Cassie starts dating the sharp-witted, “fucking adorable” girl of her dreams, their relationship is serious enough that Molly worries she is losing her sister and starts to withdraw resentfully into herself, not wanting to “vag-block” her sister. Naturally, enter a crush: Molly’s new coworker Reid, who’s funny, sweet, and unapologetically uncool. Molly’s emotional arc bends toward finding the confidence and courage to be “uncareful” and open herself to love without knowing what will follow. Her narrative voice is astute and frequently humorous, as when she describes her feelings about Reid as “the halfway point between vomiting and becoming a sentient heart-eye emoji.” The girls’ mothers’ upcoming wedding—joyfully set in motion after the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage early in the novel—provides the perfect set piece for the escalation and resolution of many intersecting plot points and the themes of family, intimacy, individuality, and change. It also allows for the matter-of-fact introduction of a multiracial family (Molly, Cassie, and one of their mothers are white, while their other mother, younger brother, and beloved cousin are not). A perceptive dramedy that tackles substantial themes with warmth and subtlety.

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.

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The Upside of Unrequited on Amazon

The Upside of Unrequited on Goodreads

The Upside of Unrequited on JLG

The Upside of Unrequited Publisher Page

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser. June 6, 2017. Bloomsbury Childrens Books, 376 p. ISBN: 9781681192970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Part of Series: Song of the Current (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Caro Oresteia, daughter of a river wherryman, thinks the river and sailing her family’s small boat is her destiny, and she is disappointed when the river gods don’t speak to her as they have to all her ancestors. She is meant for bigger things; her true fate begins to unfold when she releases a mysterious man from an enchanted box, discovers he is the heir to the Akhaian throne, and decides to protect his life with her own. First-time author Tolcser has created a hearty sea adventure, laced with romance and fantasy, that features a biracial heroine, both self-doubting and brave, and a blue-eyed, black-haired prince with a lot to learn. The flavor of the sea comes through by way of basic sailing terms and techniques, colorful cursing (“Balto’s balls!”), and dialect that feels authentic without being troublesome to read. This is more romantic than L. A. Meyer’s Jacky Faber series but may work with its readers. It can also be handed to fans of Celia Rees’ Pirates! (2003), or for the romance, Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Caroline Oresteia, a wherryman’s daughter and granddaughter, knows that she’s meant for the river—but at age 17, she has yet to hear the voice of the god at its bottom. When pirates burn several wherries, Caro’s smuggler father is arrested. To gain back his freedom—and maybe attract the god’s attention—Caro agrees to use her father’s wherry to transport a mysterious cargo: a young man named Tarquin Meredios who claims to be a royal courier. Pompous and overbearing, highborn Tarquin sneers at both Caro and wherrymen. But as he and Caro change course from Caro’s contracted destination to one Tarquin insists on, he grows on both her and readers. Caro’s narrative voice is smart and colloquial; worldbuilding details are imparted naturally through dialogue and her reflections on it. Caro describes herself as having a mixed heritage, noting the varying shades of brown in her relatives from her mother’s side. Most of the other, presumably white characters’ skin tones are not described, with pale Tarquin’s “strange foreign coloring” a notable exception. The frogmen, descendants of the river god and a sailor’s daughter, have brownish-green skin; Fee, a taciturn female frogman, works for Caro’s father. Caro’s description of her boat home, the Cormorant, will make even readers unfamiliar with sailing feel as though they belong on the water with her. Tolcser blends the right amount of epic fantasy, sea voyage, and romance for a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Tolcser lives in New Orleans, where she is an elementary technology teacher. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, she double majored in writing and philosophy. She enjoys video games and NBA basketball. She is married, with two cats.

Her website is www.sarahtolcser.com

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Song of the Current on Amazon

Song of the Current on Goodreads

Song of the Current on JLG

Song of the Current Publisher Page

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring. April  4, 2017. Delacorte Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780385741835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

Team Statistics:

Caleb McCleary. QB. Following in his brother’s “baller status” footsteps.

Tessa Dooley. Any position that needs filling. Her motto: “Be afraid.”

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between Tessa and her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level?

This summer, Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 8-11. Tessa loves football, and she’s been honing her skills with cute boy-next-door Caleb. She’s always accepted that she’d have to opt for something other than football, like cross-country, to participate in school sports. But now that she’s getting ready for high school, she wants to make some decisions for herself, so in spite of her demanding parents’ wishes, she insists on going to football camp. Heldring alternates between Caleb’s and Tessa’s perspectives, nicely exploring their struggles with self-determination, family conflict, and the importance of teamwork as well as their efforts to balance their burgeoning relationship with the pressures they each encounter regarding Tessa’s football dreams. Meanwhile, Tessa faces extra scrutiny—her mother is running for mayor, so her football aspirations put her at the center of a local media frenzy. Though Caleb and Tessa’s voices occasionally sound quite similar, there’s enough fast-paced football action, realistic family drama, and sweet romance in this slim novel that readers looking for girl-powered sports stories should find plenty to like.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
If any girl can make Pilchuck High School’s football team, it’s fourteen-year-old wide receiver Tessa Dooley. She’s fast, runs good routes, catches well, and knows how to play head games with defenders. But so far all she has played is summer-league flag football. She doesn’t know if she can handle tackle football—she’s never even worn a helmet. As the summer unfolds, she finds herself having to defend her love of the game (her parents want her to concentrate on more serious things); she also finds herself becoming the girlfriend of quarterback Caleb McCleary. In alternating first-person narratives, Tessa and Caleb give voice to their feelings about each other and about football. Though the back-and-forth, he said/she said of the narrative feels like Ping-Pong at times, it does serve to illuminate the appropriately complicated emotions both of a young romance and of pursuing a dream. Heldring writes with insight and restraint, letting complicated feelings remain complicated. There are no heroics in Tessa’s first official school game, but a satisfying performance and a realization that she has been an inspiration for a younger girl who decides she, too, wants to play football someday. Interviewed in the local paper, Tessa says, “I guess what matters is that I have a choice…Whether I play football in high school or not, I’ll never have to wonder what was possible.” As of now (according to the book), sixteen hundred girls across the country are playing high-school football and, like Tessa, pushing themselves to see what’s possible. dean schneider

About the Author

Thatcher Heldring grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where he taught himself to write and play sports—though not at the same time. Heldring has had several jobs in publishing. He has also worked as a grocery bagger, a ditchdigger, a small forward, a goalie, a scorekeeper, a coach, a rabid fan, a benchwarmer, and a shortstop. He lives with his wife and son in Seattle, a good place for indoor sports.

He is the author of Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer, Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, The League, and The Football Girl.

Her website is www.spitballinc.com.

Around the Web

The Football Girl on Amazon

The Football Girl  on Goodreads

The Football Girl on JLG

The Football Girl  Publisher Page

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. May 2, 2017. Philomel Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780399547010.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: One instance of self-harm, mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. A sufferer of anterograde amnesia, 17-year-old Flora has not been able to create new memories since doctors removed a brain tumor. Every day, she wakes up forgetting everything after age 10 and must use a complex array of notes, phone messages, and maps to negotiate the world. But something happens on the night of Drake’s going-away party. She remembers meeting him on the beach, and she remembers kissing him. Desperate to know how and why, Flora assembles a plan—one Post-it note at a time—to travel from England to Svalbard, an island near the North Pole, where Drake works as a research assistant. What follows is a remarkable odyssey of an atypical unreliable narrator—one who cannot rely on herself. Barr has crafted an enthralling story reminiscent of the film Memento, placing readers in the position of Flora’s memory. We follow what happens to her across scenes, yet are forced to watch her continually lose sense of time and place. One of the book’s driving forces is the hope that Flora will break out of these cycles, using both her ingenuity and grit. The one message that cannot be erased—a tattoo on her hand—encapsulates the book and the character perfectly: Flora, be brave. A deftly, compassionately written mystery.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A white British girl with anterograde amnesia travels to the Arctic to chase after a boy whose kiss has stayed in her memory when nothing else has.Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks cannot remember anything that happened before she was 10 years old, when doctors removed a tumor from her brain. Her memory resets itself every few hours, and ever present written reminders help orient her to her reality. Until one evening, when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake (also white), kisses her, and she finds that she can remember every detail of their brief time together. The next day Drake leaves to study abroad in Norway, leaving Flora clinging to her singular new memory and the desperate hope that Drake holds the key to her recovery. When her parents inadvertently leave her home alone, she takes matters into her own hands: she travels to Norway to look for Drake. Despite difficulties and delusions, she meets charming strangers who help her along the way and ends up discovering hidden parts of herself amid the icy, beautiful Arctic. Slowly, memories of her past begin to filter through and puzzle pieces fall into place, revealing that there is more to Flora’s story than she realizes. Flora’s voice is frank and childlike, yet her verve and determination help to drive forward a necessarily cyclical plot. An affecting portrayal of living with amnesia and discovering one’s own agency. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, writing a column in the Guardian about it as she went, and it was there that she had an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, which won the WH Smith New Talent Award. She has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world, and a novella, Blackout, for the Quick Reads series. Her twelfth novel, The Sleeper, is a psychological thriller set on the London to Cornwall sleeper train.

In 2013 she went to Svalbard with the idea of setting a thriller in the Arctic. The book that came out of it was The One Memory of Flora Banks, a thriller for young _adults

Her website is www.emilybarr.com.

Around the Web

The One Memory of Flora Banks on Amazon

The One Memory of Flora Banks on Goodreads

The One Memory of Flora Banks on JLG

The One Memory of Flora Banks Publisher Page

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. May 16, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 400 p. ISBN: 9780062422613.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Sequel to: The Crown’s Game

Part of series: The Crown’s Game (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Backstory is always a problem for sequels, and the elaborate 1825 alternative-history Russian setting of this title will be daunting to newcomers. However, fans of The Crown’s Game (2016) will be delighted to see how Skye writes her way out of a mostly dead antihero, a love triangle, and two royal brothers vying to become tsar of all the Russias. As in the first title, inventive feats of magic by sparring enchanters are the highlight; Vika’s control of the elements and Nikolai’s affinity to metal allow for imaginative showdowns of sorcery. Skye weaves in Russian history and culture, such as the Decembrists, Fabergé eggs, the Nutcracker ballet, and Pushkin’s “Bronze Horseman,” along with plenty of culinary and costume details. There’s nonstop action, lots of chapter hooks, comfortably predictable elements of romance, and an empowering message (“Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits”), all of which, despite some stilted writing, will pull readers right along.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
The 1825 Decembrist rebellion is co-opted for the second half of a lavish, Tolstoy-tinged fantasy duology, the sequel to The Crown’s Game (2016).Vika may now be the Russian Imperial Enchanter, but she cannot overcome her resentment against Pasha, the not-yet-crowned tsesarevich, either for forcing the deadly end of the Crown’s Game or for his autocratic commands. Meanwhile, Nikolai’s sacrifice left him trapped in an enchanted dream, seething with jealousy and despair; unwittingly feeding on dark energy frees him into a shadowy almost-life, plotting bloody vengeance against Pasha, who is his half brother. The operatic plot and outsized passions of the first title skated on the edge of melodrama; this follow- up, however, tips over into trite bathos. Neither the tiresome romantic quadrangle among the all-white characters nor the muddled magical system is improved by prose marred with clunky metaphors and a preference to tell rather than show. Vika’s brash willfulness and Pasha’s feckless insecurity fit poorly with their serious responsibilities; while both mature somewhat into their duties, they continue to value personal inclination over the common good. Worse, the narrative permits Nikolai to indulge his selfish petulance and bitter envy even to the gruesome suffering and death of (literally) thousands. Readers may well prefer the bittersweet, ambiguous ending of the first volume to this overly pat conclusion. (Fantasy. 12-18)

About the Author

Evelyn Skye is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Crown’s Game and its sequel, The Crown’s Fate. Evelyn was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies.

Her website is www.evelynskye.com.

Around the Web

The Crown’s Fate on Amazon

The Crown’s Fate  on Goodreads

The Crown’s Fate  on JLG

The Crown’s Fate  Publisher Page

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. March 7, 2017. Riverhead Books, 231 p. ISBN: 9780735212176.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Discrimination; War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol

 

Author Interview

Moshin Hamid on The Booklist Reader

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Hamid (Discontent and Its Civilizations, 2014, etc.) crafts a richly imaginative tale of love and loss in the ashes of civil war. The country—well, it doesn’t much matter, one of any number that are riven by sectarian violence, by militias and fundamentalists and repressive government troops. It’s a place where a ponytailed spice merchant might vanish only to be found headless, decapitated “nape-first with a serrated knife to enhance discomfort.” Against this background, Nadia and Saeed don’t stand much of a chance; she wears a burka but only “so men don’t fuck with me,” but otherwise the two young lovers don’t do a lot to try to blend in, spending their days ingesting “shrooms” and smoking a little ganga to get away from the explosions and screams, listening to records that the militants have forbidden, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, Saeed crouching in terror at the “flying robots high above in the darkening sky.” Fortunately, there’s a way out: some portal, both literal and fantastic, that the militants haven’t yet discovered and that, for a price, leads outside the embattled city to the West. “When we migrate,” writes Hamid, “we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” True, and Saeed and Nadia murder a bit of themselves in fleeing, too, making new homes in London and then San Francisco while shed of their old, innocent selves and now locked in descending unhappiness, sharing a bed without touching, just two among countless nameless and faceless refugees in an uncaring new world. Saeed and Nadia understand what would happen if millions of people suddenly turned up in their country, fleeing a war far away. That doesn’t really make things better, though. Unable to protect each other, fearful but resolute, their lives turn in unexpected ways in this new world. One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory and a book to savor even while despairing of its truths.

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
In an unnamed city with strict social mores, young Nadia is a rebel, an atheist who chooses to live and work independently. In religious and unassuming Saeed she finds the perfect companion. As the two fall in love, their romance is tinged with a sense of urgency and inevitability as the city falls to militia, and basic freedoms and food quickly become rarities. When the situation turns dire, Saeed and Nadia decide to migrate as thousands already have and cobble together every last bit of their savings to find safe passage out. Caught in the whirlpool of refugees from around the world, Saeed and Nadia are tossed around like flotsam, the necessity of survival binding them together more than any starry-eyed notion of romance ever could. If at times the story of refugees facing no easy choice feels derivative, Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, 2013) smooths over such wrinkles with spellbinding writing and a story of a relationship that sucks its own marrow dry for sustenance. The concept of the door is a powerful, double-edged metaphor here, representing a portal leading to a promised land that when closed, however, condemns one to fates from which there is no escape.

About the Author

Mohsin Hamid is a Pakistani author best known for his novels Moth Smoke (2000), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013). His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, and his essays in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. Born in 1971, he has lived about half his life, on and off, in Lahore. He also spent part of his early childhood in California, attended Princeton and Harvard, and worked for a decade as a management consultant in New York and London, mostly part-time.

His website is www.mohsinhamid.com.

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Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail. February 27, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670013081.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3;l Lexile: 620.

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A.J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor. Emmett and Gracie have been best buds since they were little, and there’s nothing they won’t do for each other. But when Gracie turns 14, she’s not certain if she can handle some of the shifts and changes that begin to take place. This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family. Characters are pitch-perfect for middle-school musings and milieu: a whirlwind of activity and emotional confusion that is the bane and fuel of any early teen’s existence. Call it cute, call it clever—Vail fluently captures the spirit of today’s American middle-schoolers. See Kristina Springer’s Cici Reno (2016) for another tween take on Cyrano.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well–Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes anotherâç¦and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar–kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Justin Case, Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, and Righty and Lefty. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY, just down the street from her future husband, though she didn’t know that until much later. She attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.rachelvail.com.

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. March 28 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 533 p. ISBN: 978031641684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Mention of rape

 

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Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. By now, fans of Laini Taylor know what to expect: beautiful prose, strange and whimsical fantasy worlds, sympathetic monsters, and wrenching, star-crossed romance. Her latest, first in a two-book set, certainly delivers on that, and there’s something quietly magical at play here. Lazlo Strange, an orphaned infant who grew up to be a librarian, has had a quiet first two decades of life. But Lazlo, reader of fairy tales, longs to learn more about a distant, nearly mythical city, called Weep after its true name was stolen. When a group of warriors from that very place come seeking help, Lazlo, never before a man of action, may actually see his dream fulfilled. Weep, though, is a city still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal war, and hidden there is a girl named Sarai and her four companions, all of whom have singular talents and devastating secrets. What follows is the careful unfolding of a plot crafted with origamilike precision. This has distinct echoes of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), though ultimately it’s a cut above even that: characters are carefully, exquisitely crafted; the writing is achingly lovely; and the world is utterly real. While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake—this is a thing to be savored.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Lazlo Strange is a lowly librarian with a keen and singular interest in the mysterious city of Weep, which lost contact with the rest of the world over two hundred years ago. When an envoy from that fabled city suddenly appears at the Great Library in the kingdom of Zosma, recruiting the best minds for a formidable but undefined problem, Lazlo manages to finagle a spot on the delegation. Meanwhile, we are introduced to teenage Sarai, who is “godspawn”—half-human, half-god—and who for the past fifteen years has lived in an impregnable metal citadel that hovers in the sky over Weep, ever since the gods were slaughtered in retribution for their brutal acts of sexual violence. Sarai has the power to fragment her consciousness into a hundred moth-shaped pieces and send them down to torment the citizens of Weep with nightmares. Much to her surprise, Sarai finds that, unlike others, Lazlo can actually see her when she enters his dreams, and what starts as an uneasy alliance between enemies blossoms into an improbable romance that will have tragic consequences as the plot draws to its cliffhanging conclusion. Taylor’s work (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, rev. 11/11, and sequels) sits at the nexus of the fantasy, horror, and romance genres. Here she has spun another mesmerizing tale with captivating twists and turns, an array of intriguing characters, strange and beautiful language, and baroque flourishes of the imagination; and, once again, she has set her readers up for an epic finale in the concluding volume of the duology. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. March7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481488754.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Part of Series: Chloe Snow’s Diary

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-10. As if starting high school wasn’t daunting enough, Chloe Snow has to do it without her free-spirited writer mother—who bolted to Mexico to find her “muse”—and alongside her religious best friend, Hannah, and Hannah’s judgmental, picture-perfect family. Fortunately, Chloe has a caring dad; a new best friend, Tristan; and the lead in the school’s musical! In the spirit of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, Chloe’s daily diary serves as the book’s format. Encompassing an overwhelming majority of Chloe’s record is her obsession with Mac, a senior boy with a girlfriend and Chloe’s secret hookup. Chloe, Hannah, and Tristan all have intense relationships with senior boys, which, aside from seeming a little improbable, starts to become how they define themselves. But despite Chloe’s dominating obsession with Mac, and the book’s abrupt ending, Chloe is refreshingly honest and unfiltered about very real issues facing high-school students: unsteady family dynamics, drinking at parties, balancing old and new friends, and the stigma of slut shaming.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The chronicles of Chloe Snow’s journey from self-absorbed high school freshman to slightly less self-absorbed sophomore.Fourteen-year-old Chloe is technology-addicted and obsessed with getting her first kiss. Her mom has trotted off to Mexico for four months to write, leaving Chloe and her dad behind, which she first presents with nonchalance in her diary. Many of Chloe’s relationships begin to change around the time she unexpectedly gets the lead in the school musical. It becomes clear that her mom is not coming back as promised. She becomes increasingly distant from her best friend in favor of a new one, and she develops a naively close relationship with a senior boy who has a girlfriend, which ultimately brings on a painful barrage of cyberbullying. When Chloe is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about her parents’ relationship, she is startled into seeing her own behavior more clearly as well. The narrative is told through Chloe’s diary, immersing readers in her singular perspective, though a few long passages are much too detailed to be credible as diary entries. What feels like token diversity among minor characters and Chloe’s passing acknowledgment of her own privilege as a straight, white, middle-class girl come across as superficial, though accurately reflective of life in many mostly white communities like hers. Awkwardness, drama, and a pinch of burgeoning self-awareness. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College and the creative writing MFA program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

 

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