MG – A Thousand Questions

Faruqi, Saadia. A Thousand Questions. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-062-94320-0. 225 p. $16.99. Grades 6-8. 

In this East meets West friendship story, A Thousand Questions shows the disparity in lifestyles between the United States and Pakistan told alternately by the two main characters. Eleven-year-old Mimi Scotts and her mother travel from Houston, Texas, for summer vacation to visit her wealthy grandparents, Begum Sahib and Sahiba Ji, in Karachi for the first time. She is awed by the wealth and luxury of her grandparents’ home compared with her tiny apartment and stretched budget back in the United States. While Mimi’s mother reconnects with her school chums, Mimi forms a friendship with the servant girl, Sakina Ejaz. Too poor to go to school, Sakina assists her diabetic father cooking in the Ji’s kitchen. The two girls become fast friends. With the backdrop of the campaign season for new elections, Sakina shows Mimi the sites of Karachi, and Mimi agrees to tutor to Sakina for her English examination so that she can win a school scholarship. Mimi’s narration includes secret letters she writes to Tom Scotts, the father she has never met. When Mimi discovers her freelance journalist father is living in Karachi, she is determined to meet him and Sakina is a willing accomplice. Author Saadia Faruqi captures the richness of the Asian city from the delicious dishes and its atmosphere to the inequity of the caste system as well as the authenticity of the fully-drawn main characters: Sakina, mature beyond her years, cognizant of her integral role in providing for the welfare of her family; Mimi, an ordinary American girl of modest means, getting to know her grandparents and also her own mother in her childhood home and longing to connect with father.

THOUGHTS: This book reminds the reader of When Heaven Fell  by Carolyn Marsden, a story that compares the life of  a struggling Vietnamese family with the life of an adult Vietnamese-American adoptee who visits her Vietnamese birth mother. There’s a part where Sakini asks Mimi if there are poor people in America and Mimi answers, “No,” at first until she remembers a homeless man and the kids at school who qualify for free lunch. Discussion of social justice issues, equity in education, and divorce can ensue.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

When Mimi and her mother arrive in Karachi, Pakistan for the summer, Mimi immediately misses air conditioning, soccer, and chicken nuggets, all staples of her American upbringing. Mimi is surprised to find that her grandparents live in luxury, employing servants and wearing fancy clothes, while Mimi and her mother can barely afford rent in their tiny Houston apartment. Mimi realizes there is so much she doesn’t know about her mother, her grandparents, and her father who left years ago without explanation. After learning that her father’s job brought him to Karachi, Mimi befriends a servant girl who agrees to help Mimi find him in exchange for English lessons. Sakina, a servant of Mimi’s grandparents, dreams of going to school like Mimi, but her servant status prohibits her from making her dreams a reality. After all, when would she find the time to go to school when she must keep her job to take care of her own family and ailing father? Going to school seems even more impossible when she takes a secret exam and fails the English portion, but when Sakina and Mimi strike up their deal, Sakina starts to hope for her future and a better life for her family. As their friendship blossoms, the inequities of the Pakistani class system are revealed, and the friends determine to make good in both of their worlds despite the challenges.

THOUGHTS: Instead of multiple perspectives from different time periods, this story highlights two contemporary perspectives in a country many readers will be unfamiliar with. Shining light on the class system that still exists today in Pakistan, readers may feel compelled to learn more about the living inequalities and hardships people face who live outside of the United States. This is a good #ownvoices addition to any library seeking to diversity their collection.

Realistic     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – Love & Olives

Welch, Jenna Evans. Love & Olives. Simon Pulse, 2020. 978-1-534-44883-4. $18.99. 352 p. Grades 7-12. 

On the outside it appears that Liv has everything figured out, but inside she’s struggling with a few things. For one, her long time high school boyfriend Dax just graduated, and he wants Liv to follow him to Stanford. She hasn’t found the right way to tell him that her heart is set on RISD, and anyway she might not even get in (and still has one more year). When a beat-up postcard for Liv arrives days before Dax’s senior trip – which Liv is supposed to go on – Liv feels her perfect outside begin to crumble. Dax doesn’t know this side of Liv. At her mom’s insistence, Liv is headed to Santorini, Greece to spend some time with her father, whom Liv hasn’t seen since she was 8. Since she hasn’t heard from him in years, Liv has many conflicted emotions about seeing her father again. Why after all this time does he think they can have a relationship. But Liv’s father’s love of Atlantis was a connection the two of them shared during her childhood, and an exciting special project helps them begin to reconnect after all those years. His persistent assistant Theo is a great buffer between the awkward moments, and Theo helps Liv experience Santorini. His good looks are a great distraction too, and as they work together and become friends Liv begins to question some of the choices she’s made in her own life. The clock on her visit is ticking, though, and Liv isn’t sure she can count on her father. Is their relationship beyond repair, and can Liv move on beyond her childhood broken heart?

THOUGHTS: Set among a gorgeous backdrop with detailed descriptions of Santorini, readers will fall in love with Greece. Liv/Olive/Kalamata/Indiana Olive has a lot to learn about herself, and readers will be rooting for her from the beginning. With a strong cast of characters and a little bit of mystery and romance, this book will be a hit among middle and high school students.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – It Sounded Better in My Head

Kenwood, Nina. It Sounded Better in My Head. Flatiron Books, 2020. 978-1-250-21926-8. 260 p. $18.99. Grade. 8-12.

Natalie had a good grip on her life until her parents jovially announce they’re getting a divorce. They’ve known this for months but waited until the Christmas holidays and high school graduation (which coincide in Australia, where the book was first published). A rarity for literature, Natalie has a great relationship with her parents and is devastated by the news and hurt by their deceit. She turns to her support network, her best friends Lucy and Zach. But since they started dating, Natalie sometimes feels like a third wheel. Having suffered through severe, scarring acne during puberty, Natalie has a shattered self image and has not dated. At a party, she connects with Alex, Zach’s older brother, but quickly convinces herself Alex’s interest was an act of kindness perpetrated by Zach. But an accidental case of musical bedrooms at a beach house over New Year’s brings Natalie and Alex back into close proximity, and as they talk they again feel a positive connection. However, Natalie’s lack of confidence and poor self image quickly threaten to sabotage the burgeoning relationship. This engaging book covers a topic not discussed in YA literature, the trauma of severe teen acne, and the scars it leaves, both physical and psychological. Natalie is a bright teen with caring parents and friends, but the long term effects of her acne are evident in her image, (styling her hair to cover which side of her face looks worse) confidence, and self-worth. American readers will need to translate Australian terms and references but will recognize themselves in the three friends as they shakily navigate through the next phase in their lives.

THOUGHTS: A welcome addition to YA realistic fiction collections. While some characters have sex off-page, Natalie and Alex discuss the issue and decide they are not ready.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Summer and July

Moiser, Paul. Summer and July. Harper, 2020. 978-0-062-84936-6. 320 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

12 year old Julliet is afraid. She is afraid of turbulence on the airplane ride to LA, afraid of the premonitions given by a fortune teller back home, and afraid of telling the truth about why she missed her piano recital. While in Ocean View, where she and her mom are staying for a month, Julliet meets Summer, a free spirited surfer, who teaches her to live beyond her fears. As summer days filled with ice cream and “ignoring alien orders” pass by, Julliet realizes that Summer is hiding a difficult reality in her own life. With Summer’s help she is not only able to confront many of her physical fears, but Julliet is also able to share how her parent’s divorce has contributed to her fears. As feelings grow and summer comes to an end, Julliet helps Summer find joy after a family tragedy and she becomes the strong, fearless surfer girl she is meant to be.

THOUGHTS: This sweet novel set in an ocean town will be a perfect middle grade read for students nostalgic for summer. Students who are struggling with divorce or feelings related to LGBTQ+ identity will appreciate and connect with these characters.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA FIC – Layover; The Girl You Thought I Was; The Summer of Broken Things

Andelson, Amy, and Emily Meyer. Layover. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-254-76487-6. p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Two years ago at thirteen, Flynn’s mom was in an accident. After losing her mom, Flynn leaves her Northern California home, moving across the country to New York, to live with her dad, stepmom, stepbrother, and half sister. Though Flynn has adjusted and it’s not as fresh, the pain of losing her mom is still with Flynn.

Amos has just returned to New York after trying to avoid an uncomfortable and confusing situation. He fled New York going to boarding school in Massachusetts. While some parts of his life remain the same, his friendship with Flynn is quite different, and Amos wonders if running away was the answer he had wanted.

Poppy is happy to have her siblings back under one roof, so they can do the things they always used to do – together.

While en route to meeting their parents on a winter vacation in Bora Bora, these siblings decide to take a stand and stick together. What happens on their layover in Los Angeles is a whirlwind few days of being together yet sometimes feeling torn apart.

THOUGHTS: What a cute story! Readers will delight in the sibling relationships with narrators Flynn, Amos, and Poppy. The various storylines propel readers forward, as they will want to learn the outcome and see how each sibling resolves his or her situation. Underage drinking and discussion of mature relationships as well as a lack of parental supervision throughout the novel make this a suitable high school read.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Phillips, Rebecca. The Girl You Thought I Was. HarperTeen, 2018. 978-0-062-57094-9. 368 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Though her parents recently divorced and her older sister is now off at college, to everyone else Morgan Kemper appears to live an ideal life. She and her dad have adjusted well to their new apartment and are getting by together.

Things aren’t always as they seem; however, and when Morgan is picked up for shoplifting at the mall, her carefully constructed life begins to crack. Able to hide her crime from all of her friends, Morgan is spared the embarrassment of a trial by volunteering and taking an online shoplifting class.

While volunteering, she meets Eli, the boss Rita’s nephew. Rita knows why she’s really there, but Morgan can’t bring herself to tell Eli. As she falls for Eli and volunteers throughout the summer, Morgan struggles with her urge to shoplift. She still has not processed her mother’s infidelity and used shoplifting to feel some control in her life. In order to move forward and heal, Morgan needs to accept herself and her life for what it is.  

THOUGHTS: Pressures placed on teens and the aftermath of divorce as well as sibling, parent/child, and teen romantic relationships are all addressed in an authentic way. At times predictable, readers still will root for Morgan to get her life together. This is an excellent addition where realistic, character driven books (with a little romance) are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. The Summer of Broken Things. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-481-41764-8. 400 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Avery Armisted has everything any 14 year old girl could possibly want, and she doesn’t have to work hard to get it. When she doesn’t get her way and is forced to spend the summer before high school in Spain while her dad is there on business, she is anything but thrilled. Instead of seeing the trip as an opportunity or adventure, she fights to attend soccer camp with her best friends. Even her mom doesn’t seem to be on her side this time, though. To soften the blow, Avery’s parents compromise and allow her to bring a friend along. Their choice is Kayla Butts, a childhood friend of Avery’s who is a far cry from someone Avery considers a friend these days.

While Avery sulks in Spain, Kayla seems to thrive, despite her simple, normal upbringing. While reinventing herself without the “Butt Girl” stigma of her small-town school, Kayla begins to see that maybe Avery doesn’t really lead such a charmed life. When the girls discover a shocking secret that links their past, they have to work together to move forward and understand who they really are.

THOUGHTS: Avery is not the most likeable character. In fact, she’s a spoiled brat. That doesn’t mean she deserved to uncover a family secret the way she did. At an impressionable time in her teenage life, Avery’s world crumbles, and she’s an ocean away from home. Readers will go from despising Avery to rooting for her in this coming of age novel of deciding who you are in the face of adversity. This is a clean read that is suitable for any middle or high school student looking for a book about friendship, family, and self-discovery.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA FIC – Before I Let Go; Rules of Rain; Moxie; The Librarian of Auschwitz

Nijkamp, Marieke. Before I Let Go. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-64228-2. 368 p. $17.15. Gr. 10 and up.

Returning to Lost Creek, Alaska, for her best friend’s funeral after moving away several months ago, Corey is devastated. She never found the words to tell Kyra that there was a great big world outside of Lost, and now she’ll never have the opportunity. Guilt-ridden over never responding to Kyra’s letters, Corey doesn’t know what to expect in Lost. Lost isn’t what she remembers, and neither are the people that live there. The town that she once loved and that loved her seems like it’s hiding something. Determined to uncover the truth about Kyra’s death, Corey sets out on her own. Desperate to find answers before her return to Winnipeg and terrified for her safety, Corey races against the clock before her flight departs. Told in present tense, letters sent and unsent, and flashback narratives written in play format, Corey’s and Kyra’s stories unfold as Lost fights to keep its secrets.  THOUGHTS: The remote Alaskan wilderness amps up the creepy factor in this mystery. Through the emphasis on Kyra’s storytelling, readers will be compelled to learn what actually happened to her, but they may not feel fully invested in the novel, as the characters lack depth. Though identity and mental health issues are addressed, they are not at the center of the story. Before I Let Go is a good read for mystery fans and those interested in exploring the ways mental illness affects one’s life and experiences.

Mystery; Realistic Fiction    Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Scheier, Leah. Rules of Rain. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-65426-1. 384 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

The connection between twins can be unique. Add into the mix one twin has autism, and the dynamics are even more complicated. Rain’s entire life has revolved around her brother and helping him navigate the world. She has been Ethan’s voice and rock for so long that she knows no different.  Now teenagers, Rain and Ethan are beginning to grow into themselves and somewhat apart from each other. She is interested in cooking and blogging about obscure recipes, while he is fascinated by the inner workings of the human body. Rain and Ethan experience many firsts and learn a lot about each other and themselves. While Ethan seems to be thriving in his independence, it is Rain who begins to unravel. THOUGHTS: This is more than a coming of age story, and there are a lot of issues involved. At the heart of the novel twins are learning as much from each other as the world around them. Their twin/sibling relationship, autism, family dynamics/relationships, parent/child roles, divorce, bullying, underage drinking, as well as teen relationships (friendship and romantic). While other issues are present, to say more would spoil the surprise. Teens with complicated home lives and/or challenging sibling dynamics will like this character-driven novel. Some mature content makes this book more suited for high school readers.  

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Mathieu, Jennifer.  Moxie.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017.  978-1-62672-635-2. 330 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Unlike her mother, who was a rebellious teenager, Vivian Carter has always kept to herself and followed the rules.  However, after witnessing incident after incident of sexism in her conservative Texas high school, none of which are corrected by the administration, she decides to take matters into her own hands.  Inspired by her mother’s Riot Grrrl zines of the nineties, Vivian creates and distributes an anonymous zine around her school, calling for all girls to take action in protest.  The movement gradually grows, with more and more girls participating in each new protest and some girls even taking their own actions to improve the misogynistic environment.  Inspiring and empowering, readers will keep turning pages in order to find out what the Moxie girls are going to do next–and whether or not they will be successful in changing their school’s culture. THOUGHTS: Because of its strong emphasis on feminism, I would recommend this book to teenage girls and/or those who enjoy reading fiction with strong female protagonists.  The novel would also be an excellent supplement for a social studies unit on women’s history, women’s rights, and/or social activism.  It would be sure to spark discussion and may even inspire students to conduct further research on the Riot Grrrl movement of the nineties.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Iturbe, Antonio. The Librarian of Auschwitz. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. 978-1627796187. 432 p. $19.99. Gr. 9-12.

Spanish author Antonia Iturbe tells a fictionalized story of the little-known “Librarian of Auschwitz,” a young girl whose task it was to protect the few books in the possession of Jews in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Dita Kraus arrives at Auschwitz after living in the Terezin Ghetto, and is “lucky” enough to be sent to the family camp instead of directly to the gas chambers. In this part of the camp, there is a school run by Freddy Hirsch, who sees in Dita a strong young woman willing to protect their beloved texts. The story moves back and forth between Dita’s life in the ghetto, the lives of other prisoners and Jews, and the backstory of the enigmatic Hirsch. The novel starts out slow and on occasion the language seems a bit stunted (which might be a result of reading it as a translation). However, the story and characters do shine through, and the reader becomes engrossed in this story of both the cultural and physical survival of a people. THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for high schools, especially to complement memoirs and other readings about the Holocaust.

Historical Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shadyside Academy

YA FIC – I Never; The Way It Hurts

Hopper, Laura. I Never. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-328-66378-8. 304 p. Gr. 10 and up.

When Janey’s parents announce their divorce while on a fabulous vacation, her world is rocked. She used to know who she was, but now she’s not so sure. Add in golden boy Luke Hallstrom, and Janey realizes she has a lot to learn. Self-confidence becomes an issue Janey never realized she had as she experiences many firsts. Navigating uncharted territories (for her), Janey learns how to be who she wants with her family, her friends, and her boyfriend.   THOUGHTS: As an adult who works in a high school, I was uncomfortable at times while reading this book. I’m not saying I’m totally naive about what goes on, but I don’t necessarily want to read the details. Saying this book doesn’t shy away from the details is an understatement. Though I’ve never read it, Judy Blume’s Forever has stood the test of time as a challenged modern classic. I recommend you read I Never and gauge your audience before adding it to your school library. Descriptions of casual sex make this more suited for mature readers.  

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Blount, Patty. The Way It Hurts. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-63278-8. 352 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Dual narrators Eli and Kristen could not be more opposite. Eli is trying to jumpstart his rock career in a band while Kristen stars in her high school musical. Together they take center stage in the back and forth banter of social media misunderstanding.  Off the stage, both teens are dealing with issues in their own lives.  Eli is a protective brother to his autistic sister, while Kristen is navigating some issues with her family. When Kristen tries to diversify her musical resume by joining Eli’s band, sparks fly but not always in a good way.  THOUGHTS: I have enjoyed several of Blount’s character-driven books. Readers looking for a little music, a few family issues, and some social media drama will enjoy this one. As Eli and Kristen navigate their new fame and friendship, they each have some growing up to do and some big decisions to make about the future.   

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

MS Fiction – Dance Fever; The Shadow Cipher; The First Rule of Punk; Auma’s Long Run

Bowe, Julie. Dance Fever. Stone Arch, 2017. 978-1-4965-3819-2. 148p. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.

Victoria Torres is back in another installment of Capstone’s Victoria Torres, Unfortunately Average series. In Dance Fever, Victoria is finding her role on her middle school’s fundraising committee to be stressful. Annalise (one of the bossiest girls in the school) proposes holding a formal dance to raise funds, but other students want a more relaxed activity. Victoria thinks she’s hit upon the perfect compromise: a barn dance with a Wild West theme. When Annalise agrees, it looks like a crisis has been averted. But Annalise has one condition, she wants the event to be a Sadie Hawkins dance. Now Victoria not only has to deal with helping to organize and run the event, she also must try to work up the nerve to ask her crush Drew to the dance! THOUGHTS: This series is fun and humorous, yet incorporates issues/topics relevant to upper elementary and middle school students. The characters in Dance Fever must work together to meet a common goal, compromise in order to reach their goal, deal with obstacles/complications, and even ask someone out for the first time. Overall, a great (and quick) read.

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Ruby, Laura. The Shadow Cipher: York (Book 1). New York: Walden Pond Press, 2017. 978-0-0623-0693-7. 496 p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

In 1798, the Morningstar twins arrived in New York City and began building impressive buildings with state-of-the-art machines and technology. They then mysteriously disappeared with their assistant, but their legacy left a lasting impact on the city. It was also rumored that the twins hid a vast fortune in the city that could only be discovered by solving the Old Cipher, a cryptic, seemingly unsolvable puzzle.  Over 300 years later, Tess and Theo Bidermann and Jamie Cruz live in an apartment building designed by the Morningstar twins. A real estate developer is determined to demolish the building along with the other Morningstar buildings in the city. Tess, Theo, and Jamie are determined to save their beloved building and are convinced it’s their time to solve the Cipher and show the world it’s real. THOUGHTS Ruby’s middle grade follow-up to the excellent Bone Gap is a fun, adventurous novel with a lot of heart. Give this one to The Mysterious Benedict Society fans.

Mystery     Vicki Schoewbel, Friends’ Central School

 

Pérez. Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. Viking, 2017.  978-0-425-29040-8. 310p. $16.99.  Gr. 4-8.

Malu has to move to a new place, but only for two years for her mom’s job.   She calls her mom, “Super Mexican” as she tries to get Malu to become more of a senorita.  Malu’s parents are divorced and her dad, who is a white record store owner and lover of punk music, won’t be coming with them.  Once she gets to Chicago, for the first time in her life, there are other Mexican-Americans around her besides her mom.  In order to deal with all of the changes in her life, Malu makes zines, many of which are sprinkled throughout this book.  Malu does manage to make friends in Chicago and make some music as well.  Malu is a strong character, who still makes mistakes.  At times, this story hits the reader over the head with too much Mexican history and culture at once, but at other times it feels appropriate and flows naturally.  It works best when it is incorporated into one of Malu’s zines.  THOUGHTS: If you are looking to add diversity to your collection for this age group, this is a solid purchase.  Any student who feels out of place can relate to Malu.  

Realistic Fiction      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Odhiambo, Eucabeth. Auma’s Long Run.  Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 978-1-5124-2784-4  298 p.  $17.99  Gr. 5-8.

Auma has been running her whole life.  She lives in Kenya and has pinned her hopes on attending secondary school knowing that her only chance of making it there is via a track scholarship. Auma’s dreams don’t stop there; instead of marrying young, like so many girls, Auma wants to become a doctor. Compared to many of the families in her small village, Auma lives a comfortable existence with enough to eat, occasional treats, and the tuition money that will allow her to complete primary school and score well on her admittance exams. However, a dark cloud looms over the village as more and more adults start succumbing to a strange new disease that no one wants to talk about. When Auma’s beloved Baba (father) comes home from his job in the city not feeling well, Auma’s world is turned upside down. Although Auma desperately wants to hold on to her dreams, she is suddenly burdened with the responsibility of supporting and caring for her younger siblings.  Auma starts to learn the truth about the dreaded disease invading her village, AIDS, but there is no cure and little comfort.  Auma’s struggle to keep her dream of getting an education and eventually becoming a doctor alive while keeping her family from starving is nothing short of inspirational.  THOUGHTS: While the writing is very straightforward, at times almost pedestrian, the story is vitally important both in terms of its specific setting (1990s in Kenya) and its larger, universal themes.  A valuable addition for middle school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

YA Realistic FIC – She, Myself, & I; Love, Hate, & Other Filters; American Street; Alex Approximately

Young, Emma. She, Myself, and I. Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-2570-8. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Paralyzed and slowly dying from a degenerative disease, 18-year-old Rosa longs for a normal life.  Brain-dead after an accident while trying to help a friend, 18-year-old Sylvia’s family is left with no hope of her ever regaining consciousness.  Their young lives are about to intertwine in ways never thought scientifically possible.  A brain transplant will give Rosa a new body and Sylvia the legacy of a lifetime.  The physical recovery will be long and difficult for both Rosa and her family as well as Sylvia’s parents and friends.  As Rosa learns how to live in her new body, she becomes deeply preoccupied with the person whose tragedy that gave her the ability to walk again.  She needs to know who Sylvia was before the accident, whether a part of Sylvia still lives on in her, and if she will ever feel like “herself” again when she looks in a mirror and sees someone else’s face.  THOUGHTS:  A dying quadriplegic teenage girl is given the chance of a lifetime — to wake up in a new body with a new future.  How does she compromise who she used to be with who she is now?  What does she, and everyone around her, see when her face is no longer her own?  While the situation itself might seem unrealistic, medical technology is rapidly advancing and brain transplantation might not be far from the horizon.  Technology aside, the existentialism of Rosa’s situation and the ripple effect on Rosa’s and Sylvia’s families and friends are not often seen in YA literature and will resonate with teens as they embark on their own journey of discovery.

Realistic Fiction      Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate & Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018. 978-1-6169-5847-3. 288 p. $18.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Maya Aziz is torn between being the typical American high school senior and being the traditional Indian girl her parents wish for her to be. Maya’s parents emigrated to the U.S. with dreams; dreams that included for their daughter to have a future as a successful lawyer with a Muslim husband.  But Maya’s dreams are not her parents dreams.  She loves to make movies and has a crush on the star football player.  She is beyond excited yet also scared that she’s been accepted to NYU with a note saying they think her films “show promise”, and the star football player just might be interested in her, too.  As Maya frets over decisions that will shape her future, a terrorist attack at the state capital threatens to take it all away from her.  In the aftermath, Maya and her family must learn how to compromise their dreams with our nation’s reality.  THOUGHTS:  In sharing the story of 18-year-old Maya, born in America to parents that emigrated from India to a small Illinois town, Samira Ahmed has captured what it means to be anyone who is of Middle Eastern descent in the United States.  Ignorance and false information continues to feed racism in our country.  There are far too many Americans who conveniently forget that, unless they are American Indian, we ALL come from a long line of immigrants who were given a chance to build their own version of the American dream.  Ahmed also turns the spotlight on the issue of fear and anger stemming from the refusal to accept others as they are, particularly when the actions of one cast a suspicious net on others, and especially when religion is involved.  Oftentimes, people act out of ignorance and anger, not considering the lasting effects on all those around them.  The addition of an anonymous secondary narrator will make readers question their own preconceptions as the story weaves to its conclusion.  I would rank Love, Hate, & Other Filters right up there with Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and should be on every high school reading list.

Realistic Fiction     Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Zoboi, Ibi. American Street. Balzer+Bray, 2017. 978-0062473042. 326 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

American Street is a powerful debut novel, and one that should find its way to every library that serves young adults. Told from the point of view of a recent Haitian immigrant to the United States, the story highlights and expands on many current issues in our world regarding immigration and poverty in urban areas. Fabiola Toussaint travels from Haiti with her mother to live with her mother’s sister and her daughters in Detroit, Michigan. Yet, when they arrive in the States, Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration officials and Fabiola is forced to travel on to Detroit alone. When she arrives, she is quick to realize that American life might not be like what she imagined. Her three female cousins are loud and brazen, and her aunt never seems to work or leave the house, situated on American Street in inner-city Detroit. Fabiola is despondent over the loss of her mother and unsure of how to act in this new American life, maintaining her faith in her voodoo practices to seek understanding. A new relationship lightens the story, but Fabiola must soon decide what is more important to her: the chaotic family who brought her to the United States, or a mother whose love has sustained her. This book realistically and honestly describes the immigrant plight, from one poverty-stricken area to another.  THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for high school students as well as adults. This author is one to watch.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy

 

Bennett, Jenn. Alex Approximately. Simon Pulse, 2017. 978-1481478779. 400 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Bailey Rydell has decided to join her divorced father in California, the other side of the country from her mother and her stepfather, who cannot seem to stop fighting. Not only will Bailey be able to spend time with her father, but she will also be in the same town as “Alex”, a boy whom she has been talking with on an online movie-lovers chat room for a long time. Bailey thinks that she and Alex might be perfect together, but she decides not to tell him that she is moving until she can do some detective work and find a little bit more about Alex in the flesh. Bailey is obsessed with old movies and movie stars and is excited when her father gets her a job at a local museum. The first day on the job she butts heads with Porter Roth, the son of a local surf legend and security guard at the museum. Soon, they realize that they each have experienced troubles in their pasts and try to move forward together. Will Alex get in the way of their budding relationship? This sweet story starts out slow, and Bailey can be a bit annoying at times. But, as she grows as a character she evolves into a strong young woman in her own right. The adult characters are numerous and realistic, and add a nice counterpoint to the teen viewpoint. THOUGHTS: Teens will find this novel fun yet introspective, a new-age take on the classic Shop Around the Corner (Bailey would know what this movie is, but I rather doubt most teens would!).

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side