Tag Archives: romance

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus. March 6, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 315 p. ISBN: 9781250165343.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

It is 1962, and Elisa Esposito—mute her whole life, orphaned as a child—is struggling with her humdrum existence as a janitor working the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. Were it not for Zelda, a protective coworker, and Giles, her loving neighbor, she doesn’t know how she’d make it through the day.

Then, one fateful night, she sees something she was never meant to see, the Center’s most sensitive asset ever: an amphibious man, captured in the Amazon, to be studied for Cold War advancements. The creature is terrifying but also magnificent, capable of language and of understanding emotions…and Elisa can’t keep away. Using sign language, the two learn to communicate. Soon, affection turns into love, and the creature becomes Elisa’s sole reason to live.

But outside forces are pressing in. Richard Strickland, the obsessed soldier who tracked the asset through the Amazon, wants nothing more than to dissect it before the Russians get a chance to steal it. Elisa has no choice but to risk everything to save her beloved. With the help of Zelda and Giles, Elisa hatches a plan to break out the creature. But Strickland is on to them. And the Russians are, indeed, coming.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Misogyny, Racism, Anti-gay attitudes and epithets

 

 

About the Authors

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director mostly known for his acclaimed films Pan’s LabyrinthThe Devils BackboneCrimson Peak and the Hellboy film franchise. His films draw heavily on sources as diverse as weird fiction, fantasy, horror, and war. In 2009, Del Toro released his debut novel, The Strain, co-authored with Chuck Hogan, as the first part of The Strain Trilogy, an apocalyptic horror series featuring vampires. The series continued with The Fall in 2010 and concluded with The Night Eternal in 2011.

Daniel Kraus has landed on Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2015 (The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch), won two Odyssey Awards (for both Rotters and Scowler), and has been a Library Guild selection, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Parent’s Choice Gold Award winner, Bram Stoker finalist, and more.

He co-authored Trollhunters with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and his work has been translated into over 15 languages. His feature films include Musician (2007 New York Times Critics’ Pick) and Sheriff (2006 season premiere of PBS’s Independent Lens).

His website is danielkraus.com

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The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom

The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom. March 27, 2018. Fiewel and Friends, 320 p. ISBN: 9781250132796.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

She’s not the girl everyone expects her to be.

Harriet Winter is the eldest daughter in a farming family in New Hampshire, 1807. She is expected to help with her younger sisters. To pitch in with the cooking and cleaning. And to marry her neighbor, the farmer Daniel Long. Harriet’s mother sees Daniel as a good match, but Harriet doesn’t want someone else to choose her path―in love or in life.

When Harriet’s brother decides to strike out for the Genesee Valley in Western New York, Harriet decides to go with him―disguised as a boy. Their journey includes sickness, uninvited strangers, and difficult emotional terrain as Harriet sees more of the world, realizes what she wants, and accepts who she’s loved all along.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Discussion of rape and physical abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. In early nineteenth-century New England, oldest daughter Harriet chafes against the expectations placed on her, particularly when it comes to the handsome, eligible, land-owning neighbor, Daniel, whom her mother wants her to marry. Despite a slow-burning affection between Daniel and Harriet, the headstrong girl decides to join her brother Gideon when he leaves home to settle a parcel in the Genesee Valley. Determined not to let her gender get in the way, Harriet disguises herself as a boy and ultimately finds more challenges in the frontier than just hard labor. Ostrom infuses her lyrically written novel with plenty of period details about homesteading in western New York and cultivates a dynamic sense of atmosphere: the dense trees, mucky roads, and back-breaking labor under the sweltering summer sun are all vividly rendered. Harriet’s fiercely independent spirit is accepted by just about everyone, which doesn’t seem true to the time period, but despite the overly rosy depiction of the time, the warm romance and witty banter between the well-wrought characters should please plenty of teen readers nonetheless.

Publishers Weekly Annex (March 12, 2018)
Harriet Submit Winter has no intention of living up to her name and marrying her boring neighbor Daniel Long to meet expectations of gender norms set up in pioneer times. Instead, she disguises herself as Freddy, a boy, and leaves the family farm in New Hampshire with her brother Gideon to forge a new life in the wilderness of western New York. Ostrom effectively contextualizes the discussion of societal limitations imposed upon women within the story’s well-drawn historical setting. For Harriet, her male alter ego provides her with a protective armor and a sense of limitless potential, while it also starkly highlights gender inequity. A complicated courtship in the wilderness plays out like Pride and Prejudice with a western backdrop, but the ending bucks tradition to set up a refreshingly level-headed ever-after that is steeped in reality and feels true to the journey. Ages 13-up

About the Author

Melissa Ostrom teaches English literature at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Beloved Wild is her YA debut.

She lives in Batavia, New York, with her family. Her website is www.melissaostrom.com

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This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi

This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi. February 27, 2018. HarperTeen, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062490070.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A contemporary “clean teen” coming-of-age story about a small-town girl who opens her eyes to life’s endless possibilities

When Penny wins a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, she thinks it’s the start of a perfect summer. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview (2015)

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Life in small-town Florida holds few surprises for Penny. She has the steady company of her best friend, the reliable affection of her boyfriend, and a place to work at her dad’s restaurant. It seems a fluke when she’s chosen for an exclusive theater camp, since Penny adores acting but has little onstage experience. But Penny flourishes. She catches the attention of handsome, worldly Chase, who encourages her to take risks as an actor and exposes her to new experiences. Consequently, Penny dares to wonder if her future might extend beyond the familiar faces and places of her little town. The depiction of Penny’s hometown life realistically mixes the comfort of dependable friendships with the disappointment of limited opportunities. In contrast, Penny’s experiences at camp constantly challenge her to take risks with her artistic expression and in her social life. Theater buffs will enjoy the descriptions of Penny’s acting classes and her audition scenes. The focus on self-discovery makes this a worthy recommendation for fans of Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More (2013).

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A summer theater program changes Penny’s expectations for life after high school.Penny’s grown up in a tiny Florida town, embracing a future that everyone assumes will include inheriting her family’s diner and marrying her high school sweetheart, Logan. Attending a summer theater camp, on scholarship, before her senior year feels more like self-indulgence than career preparation. However, several of Penny’s pre-camp reflections already foreshadow changes on the horizon. First she describes a companionable silence with Logan as “mostly” comfortable and then moments later boldly concludes that her friendships will never change because “we have it all planned out—our futures here. Together.” So it’s not entirely surprising when her more-cosmopolitan theater friends’ dreams of acting in the big cities make Penny’s pre-determined small-town future begin to feel dull. Nevertheless, Penny’s wracked with guilt about viewing the family’s legacy as a burden, and bridging the gulf between Penny’s and Logan’s future expectations bids to be a difficult—and unresolved—feat. Gibaldi sensitively develops Penny’s desire for both independence and the safety net of Logan’s love, although secondary storylines—especially Penny’s father’s new romance—occasionally feel underdeveloped. Penny is depicted on the cover as white, and the lack of racial markers points to a mostly white cast. Penny’s conflict about her future is believable, and readers facing similar choices should find much that is recognizable. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who’s been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies.

She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughter.  Her website is laurengibaldi.com.

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The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis. January 30, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062659002.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 500.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Bullying, Domestic abuse, Homophobic language and attitudes

 

Author Facts

Video Reviews

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Evan Panos lives two lives: in one, he’s a high-school senior, a talented artist, and the best friend and tennis partner of Henry Kimball. In the other, he’s the son of two Greek immigrants, and while his mother’s disappointment in and anger towards him often turns violent, his mild-mannered father avoids and deflects. In both lives, Evan struggles with his sexuality, fighting a maybe-reciprocated attraction to Henry and keeping the secret from his devoutly Christian mother. Afraid that someone will realize the extent of the abuse, Evan isolates himself and hides his art in a nearby monastery, endangering both his friendships and his chance at becoming a real artist. But everyone has a breaking point, and Evan is rapidly approaching his. This poignant, sometimes explosive debut was based in part on the author’s life, and occasionally stilted dialogue and a few pacing issues don’t keep it from ringing true. A powerful read for anyone, but for those living a double life like Evan’s, it will be invaluable.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Mother really doesn’t know best in this tale of a closeted gay teen from a devout Christian household.Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos excels at conformity. His peers might notice him more if they knew his secret: during summer Bible camp, Evan kissed a boy for the first time. Evan’s strict mother ensures that this “evil” secret stays obscured with prayer and physical and emotional abuse. Through art, secret trips to the nearby monastery, and one-on-ones with his dad at Dunkin’ Donuts, Evan finds pockets of safety. But as his romantic feelings for his best friend, Henry, blossom, the tension between Evan and his mother escalates. Readers will wonder if it really will get better but can rest assured that hope is on the horizon. Surmelis’ own-voices debut wisely uses a first-person, present-tense voice to keep readers in the moment with Evan as he lives through his trauma. Though back story adds complexity to Evan’s villainous mother, she still reads as two-dimensional. In a cast of majority white, Midwestern peers, Evan’s immigrant Greek family is a welcome addition—both to the story and to realistic queer fiction for teens. Readers may need tissues (or doughnuts) to make it to the end. Another heartbreaking novel that pits religion and sexuality against each other, but with an important, culturally specific perspective. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Angelo Surmelis was raised in Greece until he immigrated to Illinois at the age of five. He currently lives in Los Angeles. An award-winning designer, Surmelis has been featured on over fifty television shows, including the Today show and Extra, as well as in magazines such as InStyle, TV Guide, and Entertainment Weekly. He has worked as a host on networks like HGTV and TLC.

His website is www.angelohome.com.

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Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon. February 13, 2018. Candlewick Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780763693541.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Can chasing the wrong girl lead down the right path? Witty as ever, best-selling author Dyan Sheldon maps the agonizing distance between “like” and “love.”

Josh has never really thought twice about girls before. He’s usually too busy watching old movies with his friends Sal and Carver, petitioning for more vegetarian options in the school cafeteria, or flailing in yoga class with his best friend Ramona. But when new girl Jena Capistrano walks into school, Josh loses his heart faster than he’s ever lost his balance on a double downward dog. Not that he has any real aspirations, of course: he knows Jena is completely out of his league. And then, against all odds — they become friends. The closer they get, the more infatuated Josh becomes, and the more he wonders if just maybe Jena might like him back. There’s only one way to find out. But it’s not exactly easy to put your heart on the line.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Josh Shine is hardly in the cool crowd, and he likes it that way. He’d rather play his guitar, watch old movies with his buddies, and hang out with Ramona, his other best friend. Enter new girl Jena Capistrano, and Josh thinks it’s love at his first sight. Alas, Jena is also now the new best friend of Queen Bee Tilda Kopel, enough to quash any thought of romance. But miracles do happen, and Jena and Josh become friends. Josh struggles to stay in the friend zone, but sometimes he gets an inkling that Jena feels more than friendship. He knows that the only way to find out is to ask her, but he’s afraid to take the risk. Josh is a sympathetic, likable character, and his circle of off-kilter friends complements him well. The narrative breaks free of the typical plot of an “uncool” boy winning the heart of a popular girl by exploring the dynamics of relationships and what participants really want. Funny, sweet, and refreshing, this is a teen romance with substance.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
Unrequited love is always a painful trip, especially if you’re a teenager who falls pretty far outside the popular crowd.Josh Shine is excellent at math, short, and outspoken—which means he doesn’t get along well with the popular people at his school. When he first sees Jenevieve Capistrano, he can’t imagine what Jena would ever see in him, but once they start serendipitously talking after her dad finds him in a tree, it turns out they have more in common than is evident at first glance. A comfortable friendship ensues, but Josh wants more—he just doesn’t know how to tell her. It’s hard for Josh to be her fallback friend, and it’s hard for his real friends to watch him bend over backward to please her. Descriptions give the impression of a mostly white cast of characters sharing the narrative, which bounces disconcertingly from point of view to point of view. While there is no new ground being explored in this book, Sheldon again proves herself adept at conveying the confusion and gnawing self-doubt that characterize the lives of teenagers, who are all trying to see themselves and one another as clearly as they can. A fairly sweet addition to a fairly crowded genre. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Dyan Sheldon is the author of many novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, which was made into a major motion picture. Her other books include The Crazy Things Girls Do for Love, One or Two Things I Learned About Love, and The Truth About My Success.

Dyan Sheldon was born in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in North London. Her website is www.dyansheldon.co.uk

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A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419725418.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Corporal punishment

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 8-12. Spencer has been able to see directly into Hope’s bedroom window from his own since she moved to town the summer before seventh grade. From that vantage, they’ve been in the right place to fall for each other, but never at the right time. That hasn’t kept Spencer from annotating, in detailed, drawn taxonomies, their ever-changing relationship throughout middle and high school: Hope as the only girl who likes to climb trees with him. Hope as the one person who doesn’t make fun of his Tourette’s. Hope as the object of his affection when she’s dating other people, but who is emotionally unreachable when she isn’t. In this sincerely charming account of one friendship in flux over the course of six years—eons in adolescence—the pair wrestle with their relationship. Simple summer crush? Tireless support through family strife and personal illness? Lovelorn confidante? Through sparkling prose (and Spencer’s clever doodles), Allen depicts how debasing unrequited love can feel, and just how consuming that connection can be when shared at long last.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Two teens chronicle six years of their unpredictable relationships.Despite his habit of sorting people into categories, Spencer Barton, an awkward white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t share his father and older brother’s love of hunting, and his tics make him a bully magnet. But when Hope Birdsong, a “magical” white girl, moves in next door, she becomes his—protector? Friend? Girlfriend? As they grow up in the insular Georgia town of Peach Valley, Spencer details their amorphous, contentious, on-and-off relationship from ages 13 to 19. His self-deprecating narrative, supplemented with snarky flow charts, alternates with Hope’s pensive text messages and handwritten letters to her older sister. As Spencer and Hope navigate their feelings for each other, their relationships with friends and family—tinged with parental disappointment, sibling rivalry, and grief—evolve. The long time frame occasionally condenses important events, resulting in some clunky expository dialogue and abrupt character development. However, fast-forwarding also allows Spencer and Hope to reflect (albeit somewhat heavy-handedly) on their maturing views of love, sex, friendship, disability, racism (at the expense of a briefly featured black secondary character), and loss. The ending provides closure, but it feels rather neat after the lessons learned from their messy ups and downs. Patient readers will want to follow Spencer and Hope’s tangled relationship just to see where it finally ends up. (Romance. 13-18)

About the Author

Rachael Allen is the author of 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs.

Her website is rachaelallenwrites.blogspot.com

 

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Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West. December 26, 2017. HarperTeen, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062675774.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.

But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-10. Artistically gifted Abby has two goals the summer before senior year: getting accepted into the prestigious art show at the museum where she works, and getting best friend (actually secret crush) Cooper to realize he likes her as more than a friend. Expect a rocky road and stinging rejection on both fronts before Abby digs in and tries harder. Told her paintings have insufficient depth and “heart,” she, with the help of her mom and grandpa, composes an intriguing list of life experiences to enrich her artistic sensibilities: face a fear, learn a stranger’s story, and try five things she’s never done before, for starters. The list is a clever plot device to drive the story forward, and it offers surprises along the way. Readers will be touched by West’s handling of the mother-daughter relationship, especially given Abby’s mom’s anxiety and agoraphobia, while the list, of course, tells all of us a thing or two about busting up routines and grabbing unexpected returns.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A year ago, Abby confessed her love to her best friend, Cooper—and it didn’t go well. Abby tried to laugh it off. Each pretends it never happened, but Abby’s feelings are unchanged. She’s doubly blindsided when her other passion, art, hits a roadblock. Her paintings are rejected for inclusion in an art museum show, deemed technically proficient but lacking in heart. Determined to turn that around, and with family brainstorming support, she creates a to-do list of activities to deepen her emotional expression, enlisting Cooper’s intermittent participation. They watch a mountain sunrise, read books outside their comfort zones, audition for a musical, and more. Abby makes friends, including classmate and sculptor Elliot Garcia, and her work shows progress. Abby worries about her mother’s agoraphobia; it’s worsened during her father’s long deployments overseas, especially since the family moved off-base, away from supportive military families. A refreshing departure from teen-literature tropes, Abby’s no brainy polymath acing AP English (the book she chooses is A Tale of Two Cities) and destined for Stanford. However, plotting is shaky: subplots go nowhere; outcomes negate what came before. Cooper’s friendly, romantic disinterest in Abby feels very real—its explanation and resolution, less so. Most characters are white or appear so by default. Elliot Garcia has dark, curly hair and a Spanish last name but lacks ethnic assignment. Abby’s friends Rachel, who’s black, and Justin, who’s Latinx, are minor characters. Abby’s likable, but her romantic passivity and hijacked artistic endeavors send a disempowering message. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the FenceThe Fill-in BoyfriendP.S. I Like YouLucky in Love, and By Your Side. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Her website is www.kasiewest.com

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Love, Life, and the List on Amazon

Love, Life, and the List on Goodreads

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The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle. December 26, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780544932050.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Grades 8-11. Lily, 16, struggles with ADHD. She hates her medication, but without it, she loses focus and has difficulty controlling her impulses. One of these impulses leads her to Abelard, a classmate with Asperger’s syndrome. They’re probably the only teens at their school who have read The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, and they begin a text correspondence in which they quote the book heavily. In fact, the text sessions seem better than some of their real-life encounters. As their relationship flourishes, Lily feels bound for eventual disaster. Abelard recognizes her best qualities, but his own issues create tension. When Lily thinks she is going to lose Abelard, she goes into full destructive mode, which, ironically, gets her headed in the right direction. Creedle’s debut novel is rich and thoughtful, and Lily, the first-person narrator, is feisty, funny, and introspective. Abelard’s portrayal dispels the erroneous notion that people with autism lack emotion. Lily’s best friend Rosalind, her overachieving younger sister Iris, and her mother are particularly realistic and effective foils to Lily’s turmoil.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2017)
When two white Texas teens—Lily with ADHD, Abelard with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder—fall in love, their romance loosely tracks that of their medieval predecessors. If she raises her grades and stops skipping school, Lily might be allowed to visit Dad—medieval-history scholar–turned–Oregon goat farmer—this summer. Failure seems likely; Lily’s hidden her emotionally deadening meds in the bedroom she shares with her little sister, who attends a school for gifted kids. When Lily lands in detention with handsome, smart, socially isolated Abelard, he covers for her, earning her appreciative kiss. Having inadvertently exposed Abelard to online ridicule, Lily borrows from the letters of Abelard and Heloise and apologizes. A strong text-based and shaky in-person romance ensues. Abelard’s journey from social isolation to engagement is slow (hovering parents don’t help). While Lily’s dream of Oregon collapses with her grades, Abelard awaits admission to a prestigious college-prep program in New Mexico. At her mother’s urging, Lily consents to experimental brain surgery. Banishing or alleviating her symptoms could make college (previously ruled out) possible for her, too. As revealed in her trenchant narration, Lily’s smart, funny, impulsive, easily distracted—ADHD is part of her. How will excising it affect her? Her romance with Abelard? Everyone around her has an opinion, and so will readers. Because many teens with ADHD manage college without medication (the surgery option is fiction), the scenario’s either/or premise also merits examination. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and unsettling—in a good way. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

From her website, www.lauracreedle.com:

I’m Laura Creedle.   I’m ADHD, dyslexic and neuro-divergent. I write YA novels and I blog at  adhd-writer.com.  I live in Austin Texas in an urban forest with my husband and son, a cat who thinks he’s a dog, and a tiny dog who acts like a cat. Also, a half dozen raccoons who have burrowed into my attic.  Unless I play NPR on a radio in the attic, because as everyone knows, raccoons hate low key pleasant liberalism.  Like most people in Austin, I play guitar.  I also own more than one pair of cowboy boots.  Neither of these is a requirement, but they help. When not writing, I volunteer with a kindergarten pre-literacy program at a local school.

Around the Web

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily on Amazon

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All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Al the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry. October 10, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781616206666.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Lakes have dried up, the earth is dying, and Sarah Jac and James flee southwest, leaving behind a gritty Chicago to harvest maguey in the desert. Surrounded by other transient workers, they hoard their money, hiding their love and scamming other workers while they dream of a different future. After an accident forces them to flee, the two find themselves working at the Real Marvelous, a ranch that’s rumored to be cursed. The owner of the ranch has two daughters, and Sarah Jac, who knows her way around a horse, is asked to give the youngest, timid and angry Bell, riding lessons. At the same time, James catches the eye of the eldest, fierce and beautiful Farrah, ill with a mysterious, terminal disease. As Sarah Jac and James are inexorably drawn into this family and their secrets, strange and magical things begin to happen at the Real Marvelous—things no con in the world can overcome, things that even their love may not be able to withstand. In aching, luminous prose, Mabry (A Fierce and Subtle Poison, 2016) crafts a story impossible to forget, infused with southwestern folklore and magical realism. The harsh desert is exquisitely, painfully rendered, and the characters are flawed and wholly real. A gripping, fablelike story of a love ferocious enough to destroy and a world prepared to burn with it.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In a dangerous, post-apocalyptic America, Sarah Jac and her boyfriend, James, keep their relationship a secret as they work at a mysterious farm. After environmental collapse, the western half of North America is desert. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Jacqueline Crow, aka “Sarah Jac” (who’s mixed-race), and fellow orphan James Holt (who’s white) specialize in picking the maguey plant for violent overseers and profit-hungry ranch owners whose harvests turn into pulque, mescal, and tequila. After a fatal accident during a dust storm, Sarah Jac is accused of murder, and the two stow away on a train that leads them to the Real Marvelous, a ranch in Texas that’s rumored to be cursed. To protect themselves, Sarah Jac and James pretend to be cousins, fearing that if they’re open about their love, they’ll expose themselves to blackmail or worse. Soon, Sarah Jac is commanded to provide equestrian lessons to the owner’s younger daughter, Bell, while James is commissioned to work in the big house as a groundskeeper—and ends up catching the eye of Bell’s sickly but beautiful older sister, Farrah. A complicated series of plagues, prophecies, and love triangles ensues. The author’s prose is rich and lyrical, but the worldbuilding is lacking, leaving readers wondering about details rather than immersed in the story. In a reverse of most romantic story arcs, the love story goes from initially swoonworthy to deeply unsatisfying. Mabry’s mix of magical realism and dystopia doesn’t live up to its promising start. (Science fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Samantha was born four days before the death of John Lennon. she grew up in Dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

She spends as much time as possible in the West Texas desert. Her website is samanthamabry.com

Around the Web

All the Wind in the World on Amazon

All the Wind in the World on Goodreads

All the Wind in the World Publisher Page

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck. September 26, 2017.  Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781524716080.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900

Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different? You see that goofy grin a thousand times and just laugh. But goofy grin #1,001 nearly stops your heart? 

Right. That sounds like a bad movie already.

Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. Matt and Tabby have been neighbors and best friends since they were babies. Now they are freshmen in high school, and Matt has fallen in love with Tabby. To his dismay, handsome, highly likeable senior, Branson, is falling for Tabby as well. It’s exquisitely painful for Matt to witness Tabby’s delight, but he tries to ignore his feelings and channels his frustrations into basketball. Then Matt loses Tabby forever. In this debut novel, Reck creates a realistic and moving portrait of a 14-year-old guy clobbered by a grief he cannot express. Matt is a funny, good-natured teen until the tragedy, and in the days and weeks that follow, he copes by maintaining surface-level denial while a roiling mass of anger builds within. Sympathetic adults intervene to help get Matt on track without providing pat solutions, much like the adult characters in Chris Crutcher novels.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
A young man loses the love of his life. Matt Wainwright has pined for his best friend, Tabby Laughlin, for years but has never struck up the nerve to tell her how he feels. Instead he seethes with jealousy when Tabby begins to date the big man on campus, Liam Branson. There’s friction between the two best friends for a bit, but just when things are starting to look up, tragedy strikes. The novel is startlingly similar to John Green’s Looking for Alaska, with lost loves, car crashes, and wise teachers. Even more startling is the novels’ mirrored structures: both take place over a school year and end with an essay written by the young man for a class taught by an inspiring teacher. The cherry on top of this comparable sundae is the fact that both books feature paragraphs in which the protagonist contemplates how long an instant death feels. Reck’s debut is competently written, but the ruminations don’t run as deep as Green’s. The tertiary characters don’t sparkle, spouting serviceable but unremarkable dialogue, and there’s little attempt to introduce diversity to the largely white cast. In the end, readers will have the feeling they’ve read this story before, and it was much better the first time around. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jared Reck lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters. He teaches 8th grade Language Arts, where he has been reading awesome books and writing alongside his students for the past twelve years. A Short History of the Girl Next Door is his first novel.

His website is www.jaredreckbooks.com/

Around the Web

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on Amazon

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on Goodreads

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on JLG

A Short History of the Girl Next Door Publisher Page