Realistic Fiction Grades 7 and up – Every Last Word; Beyond Clueless


Stone, Tamara Ireland. Every Last Word. New York: Hyperion, 2015. 355 p. 978-1484705278. $17.99 Gr. 7-12.

Samantha McAllister is one of the remaining five “Crazy Eights”—the most popular girls in her school. She’s pretty, popular and just set a county record for the butterfly in swimming. She’s also OCD and desperate to keep her secret from everyone despite her weekly therapist visits and all-too-frequent obsessive thought trains. If word gets out, if the Crazy Eights are imbalanced, everything will change, and she will lose status, friends, and sanity. Amidst this pressure, she meets Caroline, who listens without judging and introduces her to Poet’s Corner, a well-hidden room lost between the stage and custodian closet, and she is hooked. She begins writing and sharing poetry in the twice-weekly meetings, all the while keeping Caroline and Poet’s Corner a secret. She also meets and falls for AJ, a guitar-strumming poet and music lover. Unfortunately, this is the “Andrew” that she and the Crazy Eights bullied so badly in fourth grade that he changed schools. They confront this past, and slowly, they fall in love, and Sam realizes she’s gaining control over her life, apart from the Crazy Eights. Then a surprise twist makes her rethink everything.  THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful novel about coming to terms with change in oneself and others. Sam has some tremendous help from her mom and therapist, but it’s clear that her real growth comes from her own choices. This is a good look at “Pure-O”—showing more thought-driven obsessive OCD versus compulsive behaviors. The social results are positive for Sam, and it’s certainly a hopeful book about the strength needed to fight mental illness and to make peace with oneself.

Realistic Fiction        Melissa Scott, Shenango High School




Alsenas, Linas. Beyond Clueless. New York: Amulet Books, 2015. 978-1-4197-1496-2. 249 p. $16.95. Gr. 8 and up.

This is an engaging story to which many teens will relate. Before becoming the new girl in a girls’ Catholic high school, Marty was very comfortable hanging out with her best friend, Jimmy. Now, not only is Marty sent to a different high school, but Jimmy, no surprise, has hooked up with a boyfriend, Derek, and is now hanging out with two of Derek’s gay friends, Kirby and Oliver, leaving Marty feeling like the fifth wheel. When Marty successfully auditions for the school musical, Into the Woods, and gets the role of Little Red Riding Hood, she also gets lots of attention from Felix, who comes from the boys’ school and, as it turns out, appropriately plays the role of the Wolf, not only in the school production but in Marty’s superficial back-stage romance with him as well. Not coincidentally and as the book’s title implies, Marty is oblivious to the interest Oliver shows her, as the themes of mistaken identity and parental and inter-personal relationships play out in parallel fashion in the teenagers’ lives and in the production of Into the Woods. THOUGHTS: This quick, light read, with completely likable characters, is a welcome change for readers who want to enjoy a book about teenage friendships.

Realistic Fiction         Annette Sirio, Barack Obama Academy

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