YA – A Breath Too Late

Callen, Rocky. A Breath Too Late. Henry Holt and Co., 2020. 978-1-250-23879-5. 272 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Trigger Warning: This title deals with abuse, depression, domestic violence, and suicide. The day after she dies by suicide, Ellie wakes up from the worst dream. As she goes about her morning, things feel off, but Ellie escapes her sad house and makes her way to school. She slips into first period where the class is told that a classmate died yesterday. It isn’t until Ms. Hooper says the name that Ellie realizes no one can hear her scream. Because Ellie’s recent memories are distorted, she tries to uncover what exactly happened. Her regret is evident, but the permanency of her decision is firm. Ellie witnesses the grief of others as she tries to come to terms with and understand her death. Through this experience, Ellie realizes that though she felt like there was no escape in sight and nothing left to hope for, not all was as it seemed. Despite not feeling it, Ellie was loved.

THOUGHTS: This book is devastating and very compelling. Readers will want to know if Ellie figures out what happened and if she finds peace through her regrets. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA Realistic FIC – When I Am Through with You; Thing with Feathers; St. Death; Sunshine is Forever

Kuehn, Stephanie. When I Am Through with You. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-101-99473-3. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Unreliable from the start, Ben tells the story of what happened on the mountain in his own way, on his own terms, and apparently from his prison cell. So begins Ben’s story and how he got to be on the mountain to begin with.  Suffering from migraines and depression and being the only caregiver for his unwell mother, Ben feels trapped by his life in Teyber. He reconnects with former teacher Mr. Howe to help with the school’s orienteering (exploring) club.  Rose, Tomas, Avery, Duncan, Clay, and Archie join Ben on the first hike into the wilderness. Tense from the start, this group seems to be on a doomed trip. It’s not until the end that readers see just how doomed these adventure seekers are. THOUGHTS: Drinking, drug use, descriptions of casual sex, and violence make this a book for more mature teens.

Realistic Fiction, Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Hoyle, McCall. The Thing with Feathers. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-75851-8. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Emilie is perfectly fine staying in the safety of her home with her mom and best friend (her seizure dog). She disagrees with her mom and her therapist: attending public school is not a good idea. She doesn’t want to be known as “that girl that has seizures.” When Emilie starts school, she makes a decision not to tell anyone about her epilepsy. As she gets closer to her friends and a boy she’s paired with her decision not to reveal her medical condition becomes more and more critical. But it’s been months since Emilie seized, so she’ll be okay, right?  THOUGHTS: Readers will fly through this light-hearted and realistic sweet novel about what it means to be different and what lengths we will go to hide our differences. With a compelling storyline – Will she or won’t she tell? Will she or won’t she seize? – readers will fall in love with Emilie as she experiences public school, friendship, and first love.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Sedgwick, Marcus.  Saint Death.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (1st American ed.).  978-1-62672-549-2. 227 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Arturo lives in a shack on the outskirts of Juarez, a Mexican city that butts up against the American border. One day, his childhood friend, Faustino, shows up begging for Arturo’s help. It seems that Faustino has joined a gang and has stolen $1,000 from his boss to send his girlfriend and her baby to America. He must replace this money by the next day or he will be killed. Arturo, a skillful card player, agrees to try to win the money back, but soon finds himself in even more debt. Now, Arturo’s life is also on the line. He scrambles to replace the money both he and Faustino owe before they are both killed by gangsters. Fast-paced and devastatingly honest, this title by Printz award winner Sedgwick is an excellent addition to high school libraries. THOUGHTS: Focusing on taboo topics like religion, illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, and the exploitation of foreign workers by large corporations, this title is sure to spark a great deal of discussion and debate. Because violence is addressed in such an uncomfortable and unflinching manner, this title might be better suited for older, more mature readers. Pair this title with Linda Barrett Osborne’s This Land is Our Land for a unit on immigration or with Patricia McCormick’s Sold for a unit on human trafficking.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

 

Cowan, Kyle T.  Sunshine is Forever. Inkshares, 2017. 978-1-942645-62-7. $11.99. 282 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Hunter S. Thompson spends his days smoking pot with his only friend until a tragic “incident” changes everything. Desperate for acceptance and connection and wracked with guilt, he blames anyone else for the events in his past.  When he makes a couple of suicide attempts, he is sent to Camp Sunshine for depressed teens.  After being in therapy for months and on several medications, Hunter is not optimistic about the Camp Sunshine Program.  A few of the counselors and guards on staff are cruel and clueless,  though one or two seem genuinely interested and concerned for the kids.  But Hunter finds a real friend in his bunkmate Quint and a potential girlfriend in the charismatic but manipulative Corin. These connections and the questions of his therapist are helping Hunter make progress with his mental state, but when Corin convinces Hunter and a few others to join her in an escape plan, all of their chances for recovery are threatened.  THOUGHTS:  Sunshine is Forever is a raw and darkly humorous tale that tackles adolescent depression, suicide and mental health treatment in a believable way. A fast-paced read – a good choice for reluctant readers and for those who appreciate darker realistic fiction titles.   The mature themes and make it more appropriate for older teens.
Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA Realistic Fiction – Lizzie Lovett; The Tea Girl…; The Hate U Give; Follow Me Back

Sedoti, Chelsea. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. Sourcebooks, 2017. 978-1-492-63608-3. 400 p. Gr. 9 and up.

While the bigger picture items (depression, bullying, teen suicide, growing up/apart from friends, and feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere) are very compelling, the whole werewolf thing is a distraction. I kept expecting Hawthorn to be diagnosed with something and didn’t enjoy that aspect of the story. Not many high school seniors will make up convoluted fantasies to deal with stress. I stuck with it through the end, but I don’t know that many teens will be as dedicated. Love the cover, though!
Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

See, Lisa. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. New York: Scribner, 2017. 978-1501154829. 384 p. $27.00. Gr. 11 and up.

Lisa See has done it again, writing a beautifully nuanced and wonderfully engaging story of mothers and their bonds with daughters. The story begins with Li-yan, a young girl who is a member of a small ethnic minority, the Akha, that live in the mountains of southern China. Their livelihood is dependent upon the tea trees that cover their mountain. Li-yan is to inherit a special grove of trees passed down among the women in her tribe.  Li-yan attends a local school, and yearns to experience life beyond her tiny mountain. Soon, however, she becomes involved with a boy from a nearby tribe, and this relationship results in pregnancy. Normally, the pregnancy would be aborted since the couple is not yet married, but Li-yan refuses to let that happen, trying to keep her growing belly a secret. Her mother takes her to their private tree grove to give birth, and Li-yan takes the baby to an orphanage, leaving her with a small cake of tea leaves wrapped in paper. The girl is quickly adopted by a couple from California. The story is interspersed with small chapters about the childhood of the girl, who her parents name Haley, as she struggles with understanding why her birth mother did not want her. Her storyline highlights the difficulty of assimilating into another culture through adoption. In China, Li-yan marries the man she fell in love with, but their story is cursed from the start. She eventually ends up at school and learns more about her beloved tea. The reader will be appalled by the archaic traditions practiced by the Akha, but See does an excellent job of making their livelihood understood, looking at it through Li-yan’s changing eyes yet loving heart. See obviously did extensive research on both the Akha and the process of making tea as well as the culture of tea in China.  Li-yan is strong but humble, and searches throughout her life for meaning, love, and forgiveness. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent story to give to students interested in tea, China, and/or adoption from another country. Highly recommended for mature teens and adults.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shadyside Academy

I absolutely loved this book. Not only was it an introduction to a new culture in China, but it was also an interesting presentation of the adoption process and what young children of other cultures go through when they are adopted into white American families. I have always enjoyed Lisa See’s novels, but this one stands out as a favorite. When I was towards the end, I often found myself wishing that the story would go on and on, as I wanted to stay with the characters and see their stories continue to grow and evolve.  

 

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen, 2017. 978-0-062-49853-3. 444 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Starr may seem like the average teenage girl; she plays sports, likes spending time with her friends, and occasionally fights with her boyfriend, but she’s actually living a double-life.  Starr is torn between who she thinks she wants to be and who she thinks she should be.  While Starr lives in a poor, all-black neighborhood with gangs and drive-bys (to which she’s already lost one childhood best friend), she attends a rich, mostly-white prep school where stereotypes are so commonplace that she tries to blend in as much as possible to avoid being one, causing her to contemplate what it truly means to be black in today’s society.  Starr’s parents educated her and her brothers about racism when they were younger, even outlining specific possibilities they themselves may encounter, but this never stopped Starr from giving people the benefit of the doubt.  That is, until tragedy strikes and yet another childhood friend is killed; this time at the hands of the very people meant to keep us safe, the police.  When the young man is labeled as a drug dealer and a “thug”, laying the groundwork for a cover-up of this heinous crime, it is up to Starr to finally decide which life she wants to lead and how important she is to ensuring equality and justice for all.  THOUGHTS: Poignant. Thought-provoking. Powerful. Heartbreaking. Thomas writes an incredibly impactful story of race and culture that sadly rings so true today, shining a very bright light at racism, gang violence, drug dealing, interracial dating, and other parts of our society that many turn a blind-eye to. I cannot find the words to adequately explain how important this story is, except to say that while Starr and Khalil are fictional, their experiences unfortunately are not. Read this book. Then share it. I, for one, will be adding it to my high school library collection and putting it on display, front and center.

Realistic Fiction           Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Geiger, A.V. Follow Me Back. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-64523-8. 368 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Something happened to Tessa that made her an agoraphobic; she hasn’t left her house, more specifically her room, since she returned from New Orleans in June. She has limited access to the outside word and relies on her phone, Twitter, and Wattpad. Tessa feels safe in the anonymous world writing fanfiction about Eric Thorn.

Eric Thorn was thrown into the spotlight when he rocketed to the top of the music charts, gaining instant fame and a lot of fans. Eric feels trapped by his recording contract and his fame. Since a fellow singer was murdered by a crazed fan, Eric has become fearful of his fans and bitter about the life he is forced to live.  Among his tons of fans, Eric connects with Tessa on Twitter. They both feel a connection with each other and look forward to their daily DM conversations. Meeting in real life is a risk for both of them, but is it one they should take?

THOUGHTS:  Set in the present and the past, readers are given bits of the story as told by Tessa and Eric, their tweets and direct messages, and their police interviews. This fast-paced drama will attract those of the tech generation. While the terminology may become outdated as technology changes, this book will fly off of the shelves today.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

New YA Fiction – The Girls; Essential Maps…

thegirls

Cline, Emma. The Girls. New York: Random House, 2016. 978-0-8129-9860-3. 355 pp. $27.00. Gr. 10 and up.

In the summer of 1969, California girl Evie Boyd finds herself stuck in between childhood and adolescence, junior high and boarding school, and her recently divorced parents and their new love interests. She’s also bored and looking for something, or someone, to inject a spark into the long summer days. She stumbles into a friendship with an older girl named Suzanne, who soon introduces her to Russell and the makeshift family he’s assembled on a decaying desert ranch. Charismatic Russell brings 14-year old Evie into the fold through lavish attention and sexual initiation. Russell is a fictionalized version of Charles Manson, and The Girls is loosely structured around well-known historical events. But, as the title suggests, Cline’s focus is Evie, her relationship to the other girls on the ranch (especially Suzanne and the “blessed space of her attention”), and how close Evie drifts to life-altering violence. This impending violence filters through the entire narrative, and is also referenced in alternating chapters told from a middle-aged Evie’s point of view. Cline’s writing is atmospheric and inventive; for example, she describes a picture as “the unreal ocean and sky sandwiching a sugary rib of beach.” However, at times her style overwhelms the storyline’s pacing. THOUGHTS: Emma Cline’s debut novel is a compelling portrait of pivotal female connections. The perennially intriguing Manson Family premise will attract readers to this coming-of-age novel, but note that Evie’s sexual encounters (an indelible part of her loss of innocence) make this book most appropriate for very mature teens.  Plenty of books, articles, and documentaries about the Manson Family exist, but for an age-appropriate overview visit Biography.com’s “Charles Manson Biography.”

Historical Fiction (1960s)      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library

 

essentialmaps

Caletti, Deb. Essential Maps for the Lost.  New York: Simon Pulse, 2016.  978-1-4814-1516-3. 325 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Madison “Mads” Murray is spending the summer with her aunt and uncle in Seattle in order to finish up her real estate courses.  Despite the fact that she wants to go to college, her future has already been decided for her; she will pass her exams and then go into business with her extremely needy mother.  Everything changes, however, when she goes for a swim one morning and discovers the body of a woman who committed suicide. Unable to forget the woman’s face, Mads begins to research the woman, and when she discovers that the woman left a son, Billy Youngwolf Floyd, behind, she is unable to contain her curiosity.  What she doesn’t know is that the friendship she is about to begin with Billy will turn into so much more, and by not being honest with him about his mother, she might just destroy herself and everyone she cares about.  Told in alternating chapters from Mads’s and Billy’s points of view, this love story will give readers hope that even when the world seems dark and cruel, there is always love and beauty in it.  THOUGHTS: This book would pair well with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as there are multiple references to this title throughout the book.  It is also a great addition to any high school collection on depression and suicide, as both main characters struggle with bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide at some point in the book.  Because of these heavy topics and because of a few steamy love scenes (“Mouths on mouths, hands shoved down pants, if he doesn’t get them a bed soon, he’ll go crazy”), I would recommend this book to older students.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

New MS Realistic Fiction – Chloe in India; Friends for Life; The Closer; Cassidy’s Guide…

chloeinindia

Darnton, Kate. Chloe in India. New York: Delacorte, 2016. 978-0-553-53504-4. 224p. $19.99. Gr. 6-8.

Hoping to show their daughters, 15 year old Anna, 11 year old Chloe and baby Lucy, a different way of life, the Jones family moves from Boston , Massachusetts, to New Delhi, India. Change is difficult for Chloe who is one of the few students with blonde hair.  School is different too, as students sit on the floor more often in classes and report cards are hand delivered once a month with at least 70 different grades. Chloe hopes to be friends with Anvi and be invited to do activities together. A new student, Lakshmi, is called “stinky” by Anvi. Anna, now a uniform monitor, informs the family that Lakshmi is from the EWS, emotional weaker section. While Chloe misses and Skypes her best friend from Boston, it feels like their friendship is weakening to Chloe. Outside of school, Chloe spends time with Lakshmi. Chloe is shocked to learns that families in India would never have three children due to overpopulation. At first her mother is excited to see a revolution as poorer citizens have a chance for first rate education, but her mother is repulsed by the excess wealth that many families have in the area and especially at Aniv’s over the top birthday party. As Annual Day draws closer, Chloe and Lakshmi practice frequently outside of school. Their practice leads to great dancing, and Anvi does not get the lead dance role. In the restroom Chloe tells Anvi that she is not friends with Lakshmi. Shortly later, a bathroom door opens, and Lakshmi walks out having heard the entire conversation. It is her older sister who helps make things right in her friendship with Lakshmi. The sisters learn more about housing and corruption of wealth in the process.  THOUGHTS: Many students experience the uncertainties of moving around the state or throughout the United States. Not as many students are uprooted to another country and this book allows students to see what it might be like to be an outsider experiencing a new culture.  The mother at times is worked up about her writing deadline or concerned about social justice and has a curse word-reaction, once her dad does this as well. Chloe doesn’t like when she hears either parent swear. This book offer a realistic story of a moving, friendship and standing up for social justice.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover MS

 

friendsforlife

Norriss, Andrew. Friends for Life. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-85186-2. 234p. $17.99. Gr. 6-8.

Francis is fine eating lunch alone but would prefer that others not talk about his passion of fashion and creation of doll clothes. After a year of being a ghost and having no communication with anyone, Jessica is shocked that Francis can see, hear, and communicate with her.  Then shortly after, new neighbor Andi, “Thug, Thugette,” can see Jessica. The parents of Andi and Francis are shocked that their kids get along.  Andi doesn’t find Francis’ hobby odd as a relative makes a living designing clothes, but she has a hard time being teased regarding her appearance. Previously, Andi got in a lot of fights at school and at the new school she puts a stop to Quintin teasing. Both Francis and Andi wonder how Jessica passed and when they try to learn, Jessica is gone for several days. Any time they bring it up Jessica fades away. Francis is called to motivate a boy to go to school, and he is large in stature. This boy, Roland, can also see and hear Jessica.  Roland discovers the truth that Jessica committed suicide. All of those that can see Jessica seriously contemplate(d) suicide.  At the hospital, Jessica is able to stop a suicide, and she completes her journey. THOUGHTS:  This book reminds readers not to be afraid to talk or listen to one another. Your actions can help or hurt others greatly without your knowledge.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

closer

Ripken, Carl, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd. The Closer. Los Angeles: Disney, 2016. 978-142317868-2. 200p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Danny, going into eighth grade, is having a difficult time finding the correct pitches and stamina to be a consistent pitcher. Mickey, the catcher, is his best friend. His other teammate, Katelyn, confuses him as she invites the entire baseball team to her bowling birthday party. As Danny struggles to find his niche with baseball, his older brother, Joey, is a phenomenal high school senior pitcher with talent, bringing scouts from all over to watch his playing. At home, Danny accidentally breaks the window of his new and octogenarian neighbor, Mr. Spinelli. To his surprise, Mr. Spinelli offers Danny advice and teaches him a eephus pitch. Danny seems to have a handle on the pitch and posts his pitching which goes viral and gets him interviewed by local news outlets. When his special pitch, nicknamed “terminator”, stops working, Mickey asks Elmo for scientific help. Eventually Danny asks Mr. Spinelli for help about baseball and then about art. Relationships highlight the jealousy between siblings that can exist and the friendship that can be developed with others if you just try. THOUGHTS: This book is like The Pigman meets Finding Buck McHenry! Students that enjoy realistic or sport fiction will be sure to like The Closer.

Realistic Fiction; Sports     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

cassidysguide

Stauffacher, Sue. Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation). New York: Knopf, 2015. 978-0-375-83097-6. 294p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Eleven-year old Cassidy looks forward to summer. She enjoys spending time in nature, making pranks with Jack, and wandering like a hobo. It is just her rotten luck that when her great-grandmother passes her dying wish is for Cassidy to attend etiquette school while her older sister attends a forensic science class. Each chapter has a title and lively place settings, adding to the mood of the story. Cassidy is surprised that Delton, a smart and quiet classmate, is also enrolled in the etiquette course. They both struggle with the lessons providing humor to the readers. As the story progresses, Cassidy misses Jack and wonders why he is working so hard with lawn care and saving money. Etiquette lessons are the last place Cassidy wants to be during her summer, but it a rewarding experience for her. THOUGHTS:  This book is a fun summer read. It demonstrates that sometimes what one thinks will be terrible, such as etiquette lessons during summer, may not turn out that way.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

I’ll Meet You There

meetyouthere

Demetrios, Heather.  I’ll Meet You There.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.  978-0-8050-9795-5. 388 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Skylar Evans wants nothing more than to leave Creek View after graduation and attend art school in San Francisco.  This dream is threatened, however, when her world starts spinning out of control.  First, her mother loses her job at Taco Bell and falls into a deep depression.  Then, Skylar is reunited with Josh Mitchell, a former coworker who lost his leg while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. As she desperately tries to save her mother and begins to develop a relationship with Josh, Skylar begins to rethink everything Creek View means to her.  Will she really be able to leave behind this place and these people?  Although the book is an obvious love story, Josh’s recollections of war and Skylar’s emotional maturation throughout the book will also entice fans of war and coming-of-age stories.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Although the story is told mainly from Skylar’s point of view, Josh’s thoughts and war flashbacks are interspersed throughout the book, adding to its appeal for male as well as female readers.  The book really provides readers with a glimpse of the struggles soldiers face after returning home from war, and the author’s note at the end includes information about the Wounded Warrior Project as well as recommendations for further reading on the war in Afghanistan.  Underage drinking, steamy love scenes, and swear words make this title more appropriate for high school audiences.

New Realistic Fiction: 99 Days and My Heart and Other Black Holes

99days

Cotugno, Katie.  99 Days.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015.  978-0-06-221638-0. 372 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

After her mother wrote a best-selling novel about her tragic love life, Molly Barlow ran off to boarding school in another state to avoid the backlash.  Now, however, she is back in her hometown for 99 days of summer before her freshman year of college.  Unfortunately, her year-long absence didn’t seem to help matters; she is still despised by everyone in town.  Julia Donnelly, the sister of the two boys whose hearts she broke, eggs Molly’s house and leaves her nasty letters.  She can’t talk to her mom, as she doesn’t want her pathetic life to end up being the subject of another novel.  Even her former best friend doesn’t seem to want anything to do with her.  The only person who seems happy to see her is Gabe, Julia’s oldest brother.  As she tries to mend broken relationships, Molly begins a tentative relationship with Gabe.  Things become complicated, however, when Patrick – Gabe’s brother and Molly’s first love – returns home.  Caught in a steamy love triangle, Molly finds herself right back where she started when she left town in the first place and looks forward to starting over again with a clean slate in college.

Realistic Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Despite her transgressions, Molly is a very likeable protagonist, and I found myself rooting for her throughout the course of the novel.  I was disappointed, though, that while she​ grew emotionally and became more thick-skinned as the novel progressed, she did not seem to learn from her mistakes.  There are definitely themes in the book that will resonate with young readers, including sibling rivalry, adolescent love, and unfair double sexual standards.  I would give this book to anyone looking for a dramatic summer romance.  Be forewarned, however: the book does contain off-page sex, swear words, and instances of underage drinking.

myheart

Warga, Jasmine. My Heart and Other Black Holes. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0-06-232467-2. 302 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 & up.

The only way Aysel can be sure she doesn’t end up like her mentally ill father is to kill herself — or so she thinks.  Ever since her dad murdered her town’s star athlete, she’s been ostracized and depressed.  She spends her days surfing a suicide website, looking for a partner to help her commit the act.  She finds one in Roman, who on the surface seems to have everything going for him — athleticism, friends, good looks — but carries an enormous amount of guilt from a heartbreaking loss.  As they plan their deaths, a slow shift in perspective causes Aysel to begin to waver on carrying out their pact.  Readers will hang onto Warga’s honest and graceful narrative to find out whether Roman can be saved, too.  Teens struggling with depression can relate to the “black slug” devouring Aysel, whose dark humor makes her an endearing narrator.  The list of resources in the back for depressed and suicidal teens is essential.  Suggest to teens who couldn’t put down Jay Asher’s immensely popular Thirteen Reasons Why.

Realistic Fiction     Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School

When Reason Breaks

reasonbreaks

Rodriguez, Cindy L.  When Reason Breaks.  New York: Bloomsbury, 2015.  978-1-61963-412-1. 294 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado are two high school girls who have a lot in common.  Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, and both girls share the same initials as Emily Dickinson (whose poetry they are studying in English class).  More importantly, both girls struggle with family and social issues.  Elizabeth is angry at her father and has a broken relationship with her mother.  Emily, on the other hand, has drifted apart from her best friends and feels pressured to conform to her father’s expectations, as he is a high profile political figure in the community.  Before the end of the school year, one of these girls will attempt to commit suicide.  Told from alternating perspectives, the story accurately portrays the different ways people experience depression.  In addition, the story manages to incorporate Latino culture, gay relationships, popular culture references and some of Dickinson’s poetry.

Realistic Fiction        Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

I could see this book being used in an English classroom to supplement a unit on Emily Dickinson.  The story contains numerous parallels to Emily Dickinson’s life, all of which are explained in the author’s note at the end.  Some of Dickinson’s poetry is also incorporated throughout the story, and the class discussions in the book give the reader some great insight into the meaning behind these passages.  Because the book deals with some dark issues like suicide and depression, I would recommend this title to older (high school) readers.​