YA – If These Wings Could Fly

McCauley, Kyrie. If These Wings Could Fly. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-88502-9. 385 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Crows. Hundreds and then thousands of them arrive in Auburn, Pennsylvania seemingly overnight. Are they a sign of the unease and anger that lays just beneath the surface of this tiny town? Leighton is your typical senior in high school – struggling with the advances of classmate Liam, applying to college, and balancing school and family. She is also her sisters’ protector – as her father is a violent and abusive man. Leighton’s father was a high school football star until an injury took him out. Holding this against the town and struggling with a failing family business leads to him destroying their home with his words and fists. Leighton is terrified to leave her sisters to go to college, her mother will not leave him, and every day the crow population grows. The girls show an interest in one particular crow, Joe, who seemingly knows what to bring and steal at their home. As the town grapples with how to remove the crows, Leighton and Liam attempt to finally remove the family from the domestic violence in their home. It’s not easy as it seems though…

THOUGHTS: A gripping story of survival amidst a small town, this is a book you will want to devour in a single sitting. The story does a fantastic job of showing what an abusive home can do to children, but still provides hope that there is a way out. The author does a remarkable job of balancing the influence of the crows on the mood throughout, and it brings the story together beautifully.

Realistic Fiction        Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

YA – Admission

 Buxbaum, Julie. Admission. Delacorte Press, 2020. 978-1-984-89362-8. 304 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Chloe Berringer is the daughter of beloved sitcom star, Joy Fields, whose classic show is now in production for a new season. Chloe’s parents send her and her younger sister to Wood Valley School, a prestigious and expensive private school in Los Angeles, the setting of Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things. Among the academic elite at Wood Valley are Chloe’s crush, Levi, and her best friend, Shola, a Nigerian American. Levi and Shola both have high aspirations for Ivy League colleges, but Chloe is just an average student. When her mom and her venture capitalist dad hire an admissions counselor to help her get into the selective Southern California College, Chloe is happy for the assist. But before long, the college admission cheating scandal blows up and Chloe and her mom are at the forefront. Seemingly taken directly from the Lori Laughlin case, the story feels a bit derivative. As the story begins neither Chloe or her mother are very sympathetic characters, they are both supremely entitled, clueless and a bit unlikeable. Though white privilege, wealth and educational inequality, drug addiction and undocumented immigrants are all mentioned, the novel seems to gloss over them lightly with the peripheral characters serving as a way to highlight those issues. Chloe and her family do eventually experience the consequences of their actions which allows them to make significant adjustments to their thinking and behavior as the story unfolds.

THOUGHTS: Admission is a quick and easy read that seems more suited for a summer beach read than a hard look at some of the substantive issues that are presented. But I do believe that this will be a popular title with high school students on their own path to college admissions. I will certainly be adding this title to my school’s collection.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Daughter of a beloved sitcom star, Chloe Wynn Berringer has lead a privileged life. At best an average student at prestigious private school Wood Valley, Chloe (and her parents) has her heart set on attending a selective southern California college. Her counselor advises Chloe to consider other options that aren’t such a reach, but to keep up appearances Chloe’s mom hires a private admissions counselor that guarantees his work. Chloe isn’t totally sure she needs that much help, but she’s nervous, so she gladly obliges with his sometimes seemingly outlandish requests. Told in reverse Chloe’s story begins with a knock on her door. The FBI is there to arrest her mother for her involvement in a college admissions scandal, and Chloe may face charges too. Shocked, Chloe thinks back to the beginning (these days she has plenty of time to think), filling readers in on how she got to this point. The public outrage and her best friend’s reaction leave Chloe feeling completely alone. Her little sister, who is not the same average student, gives Chloe some advice which helps her accept all that has happened and her life for what it now is.

THOUGHTS: This quick read will have appeal to many high school students who may be on their own college admissions paths. Though tied to the admissions scandal, the isolation that Chloe experiences mirrors the way many teens may feel after suffering consequences of poor decision making. It is difficult to ignore the parallels to the 2019 national college admissions scandal, but high school readers, especially fans of Buxbaum will enjoy this newest novel. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

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 – Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

De Leon, Jennifer. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2020. 978-1-534-43824-8. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Though nothing at home is as it should be, fine is the one word that describes 15 year old Liliana. After her father takes off (again), her family is barely holding things together. Her mom seems to be living in a fog (if you can even call it that), and her younger brothers are hard to reign in and keep calm. Even her best friend is too distracted by a boyfriend to be an ear to listen. Unbeknownst to Liliana, before he left her father signed her up for METCO, a scholarship opportunity of sorts for city kids to attend “better” schools in the suburbs. Liliana (half Guatemalan, half Salvadorian) fit right in at her richly diverse school in Boston. Not only is her new school unbelievably white, Westburg is an hour bus ride away. Liliana gives it a chance, though, because it was her father’s dream. To fit in at Westburg, Liliana becomes Lili, but when she discovers some secrets about her father’s citizenship, she is even more torn between her two very different worlds.

THOUGHTS: This book will find a home with anyone who is sick of the “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” questions. Liliana’s story will personalize the more generalized immigration news stories for teens and will open their eyes to the struggles of undocumented citizens and the reasons so many flee to America for better opportunities. This is a must have for high school libraries looking to diversity their collections with contemporary issues.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA Realistic Fiction – The Romantics; 7 Ways to Lie; 20?s for Gloria; P.S. I Like You

romantics

Konen, Leah. The Romantics. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. Print. 978-1419721939. 336p. $18.95. Gr. 9 and up.

Leah Konen has written a lively, sweet, and engaging novel of love and loss among teens as well as adults. There is, however, a slight twist to this typical teen novel: Love narrates the story, interjecting opinions, facts, and definitions throughout. Love gives a specific definition to how each character experiences love and relationships. Main character Gael is a Romantic, a lover of love. He is a senior attending high school in the college town of Chapel Hill, and decides, against better judgement, to declare his love for his girlfriend of two months. His love is not only not reciprocated, but he soon sees his girlfriend kissing his best friend.  Gael’s belief in love is challenged, especially in light of the fact that his parents recently decided to separate.  Teens and adults alike will be able to easily relate to one or more characters and the definitions provided by Love. Love is, of course, a serious subject, but Konen reminds us that we should have fun and enjoy ourselves along the way. THOUGHTS: I highly recommend this for teens who enjoy positive and fun romantic novels.

Realistic Fiction       Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I did truly enjoy this novel. After suffering through the usual teen fair of angst, unrequited love, and “serious” relationships, it was refreshing to read a novel that was honest yet heartwarming about human relationships and teens’ lives in general. When this is published in November, I cannot wait to purchase a hardcover copy for my library.

 

sevenlies

Redgate, Riley. Seven Ways We Lie. New York: Abrams, 2016. Print. 978-1419719448. 352p. $17.95. Gr. 9 and up.

The multiple perspectives in this novel truly set it apart from the general teen novel, which are often told from only one’ character’s first person perspective. In Seven Ways We Lie, debut author Riley Redgate has succeeded in authentically representing a diverse group of individuals and providing a convincing voice for each. The story opens with students in Paloma High School at an all-school assembly where the principal announces that they will be investigating allegations of a teacher-student relationship. The students are shocked, and rumors abound. The chapters alternate between 7 characters and their experience of the situation. These characters offer a good representation of the variety of students in high school settings, how their hopes and dreams differ, and what affects each student in different ways. The story deals with real issues in a mature way, not vilifying but also not exonerating the characters for their faults.  Redgate, only a recent college graduate, provides true insight into teen lives and how these lives overlap. THOUGHTS:  I found myself wanting to stay up late to finish this story, and teens will, too.

Realistic Fiction        Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I was pleasantly surprised with this title, as it did keep my attention and make me think about all of the different experiences that teens can face in high school, and how these experiences shape their lives and friendships. I cannot wait until Redgate publishes a new novel.

 

twentyquestions

Bedford, Martyn. Twenty Questions for Gloria. New York: Wendy Lamb, 2016. 978-0-553-53939-4. 273p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.

In present day Yorkshire, England, 15 year old Gloria has just returned home after running away for two weeks with a classmate. Bedford utilizes flashbacks as well as questioning of Gloria by a police inspector upon her return to gradually reveal the events surrounding the pair’s time on the run. Gloria was living a typical British teenage life, when one day, Uman Padeem transferred into her school. Uman is smart and passionate. He defies authority and seemingly does whatever he wants. In Unman, Gloria sees everything she is not. So, when he suggests they leave town, Gloria sees a chance to escape her mundane existence and embark on an adventure. But after two weeks on the run, and after learning more about Uman, the adventure doesn’t look so appealing. THOUGHTS: This unique story will keep readers turning the page to discover what will happen next in Gloria’s story. Teens will relate to Gloria’s desire to have choices in her life and to determine her own future. Recommend to fans of contemporary fiction and mysteries.

Realistic Fiction            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

likeyou

West, Kasie. P.S. I Like You. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-85097-1. 326p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Lily finds chemistry class dull, so one day to pass the time, she jots down some song lyrics on her desk. To her surprise, the next day in class she discovers a reply to her lyrics. It seems that someone who shares her desk enjoys the same music as she does. Soon these two strangers are exchanging notes in which they gradually reveal more about their innermost thoughts and feelings to one another. When Lily realizes that she has developed romantic feelings for this anonymous pen pal, she decides it’s time to discover his true identity. Could it be someone she already knows?  THOUGHTS: This enjoyable read is perfect for tween and teen fans of contemporary YA romance. Astute readers may notice some similarities to the movie You’ve Got Mail (I mean this as a compliment; it’s an enjoyable film). Lily’s life is more than just romance; a major plot point follows her as gains in confidence in her songwriting abilities. Recommended for both middle school and high school collections.  

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS