Phillips, Rebecca. Faking Perfect. New York: Kensington, 2015. 978-1-61773-881-4. 250p. $9.95. Gr. 9 and up.
Lexi is a high school girl hiding her real self, flaws and all, behind the perfect facade. Her home life isn’t so great, and she’s figured out how to fit in, even if it means hiding her feelings from her “friends”. As much as she tries not to, she follows in her mother’s footsteps and chooses high school “bad boy”, Tyler Flynn, to secretly date. Even that seems perfect, since he doesn’t want much more than a good time. Tyler begins to break their agreement and develops feelings for Lexi. As Tyler is falling for Lexi, she starts dating Ben, the high school golden boy, perfect in every way. Lexi eventually learns that true friends are your greatest asset, and even though relationships with your parents can be complicated, it’s okay to take risks and reveal the true you. THOUGHTS: This story was enjoyable. I love the premise that being fake is too hard to manage, and it’s better to accept who you are and stop trying to fit in. Lexi discovers that the people you need aren’t always the people you think you want. I also like that this book deals with other high school struggles and teen issues: popularity, teen pregnancy, drinking, sex, and complicated relationships with parents.
Realistic Fiction Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School
Hall, Deirdre Riordan. Sugar. New York: Skyscape, 2015. 978-1477829387. 266 p. $9.99. Gr. 9+.
Sugar is one of those wonderful books that you pick up and never want to put down. I was mesmerized from the beginning. Mercy, aka Sugar, faces difficulties in all sectors of her life. Her mother is obese (and, incidentally, gave her daughter the nickname Sugar), and remains in bed day in and day out, expecting Sugar to be her nurse, cook, and housemaid. Sugar has two older brothers: one who lives at home and makes her life miserable, and one who has escaped and lives with his girlfriend. Sugar has always loved sweets, but her relationship with food and her body has been tarnished by repeated bullying at home and at school. Her mother, brother, schoolmates, etc., all make fun of her size, which only causes her to eat more to attempt to drown out her feelings. Her life is miserable. That is, until she meets the new boy, Even. Even is sweet (no pun intended), and begins to draw Sugar out of her shell, and show her what life can be like when people show compassion. With Even’s guidance, she slowly begins to show kindness to herself and, subsequently, to her body. The two bond over motorcycle rides and commiserate about their difficult home lives. Hall’s writing is fluid and authentic, and she clearly shows how Sugar evolves as a person and how empathy and understanding are truly important in human relationships. I hope that this updated coming-of-age tale gains more notoriety and is widely read by teens and adults alike. I look forward to reading more books by this great new author.
Realistic Fiction Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School
Some of the best books that I have read have been student recommendations. It is important not only because it assures students that I actually do read and enjoy what they like, but also because it is necessary and helpful for me to stay up to date with some of the best books in YA fiction. Sugar was recommended to me by a discerning student who is very particular about what she reads, so I knew that if she loved it enough to recommend it, it must be a great novel. I have to admit that she was right: it is truly one of the best books for young adults that I have read in recent months. I have already shared this title during bullying book talks, and hope that many students and faculty read it. It can truly open up discussions on bullying, coping, and surviving difficult environments. It would also be a great selection for a book club, and I hope to recommend it for one, soon.
Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York: Delacorte Press. 2015. 978-0-553-49664-2. 310p. $18.99. Gr. 9+.
Madeline Whittier has spent her entire life inside her house thanks to Sever Combined Immunodeficiency or SCID, a rare disease that compromises the immune system. She has spent every day of her eighteen years with her mom and her nurse, Carla. Her only visitors must undergo a one hour decontamination process before visiting with her. This life has been enough for Madeline, that is until a moving truck pulls up next door. The moment Madeline lays eyes on Olly Bright, everything changes. She begins to see the world in a whole new way. Olly’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s enough to show Madeline that there is a whole world out there for her to live in. Maddy has to choose the life she’s always lived or the one with endless possibilities. THOUGHTS: This is a cute story. I had a feeling how it would turn out, and I was right.
Realistic Fiction Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School