Elem./MG – The Magical Reality of Nadia

Youssef, Bassam. The Magical Reality of Nadia. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-67481-1. 176 p. $14.99. Grades 3-6.

The Magical Reality of Nadia is a realistic fiction that follows Nadia, a 6th grade student who loves facts, and loves sharing them with her friends and classmates. Some fun facts about her: her family moved from Egypt when she was 6 years old, she collects bobbleheads, and she has a hippo amulet she wears that is actually from Ancient Egypt. One day there is a new student that comes to Nadia’s school who teases her about her heritage which causes some issues with her friends and throws Nadia for a loop. The other thing that throws her for a loop? The amulet around Nadia’s neck starts glowing! She finds that her amulet was holding a secret, which is hilarious and helpful at the same time!

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing transition novel, for a student who isn’t ready for longer chapter books. There are black and white illustrations found throughout the novel, which break up the book. This is a great book to have in any upper elementary/middle school collection.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – The Sky Blues

Couch, Robbie. The Sky Blues. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 978-1-534-47785-8. $19.99. 325 p. Grades 9 and up.

Senior year for Sky Baker hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. He’s the only gay student out at his small-town northern Michigan high school. The looks and comments from homophobic classmates cause him to feel he can’t be himself – he has to walk “straight” and carry his books “straight.” His mom and brother don’t accept him for who he is either, so he is forced to move in with his best friend Bree and her family over the holidays. Then there’s the scar on his chest he calls “Mars” (because that’s what it looks like), a scar from a burn he got in a car accident when he was small, a car accident that killed his father. Not feeling comfortable taking his shirt off in front of anyone else is difficult when you live with someone else’s family in a house on the beach. Despite these struggles, Sky has Bree, yearbook, and his crush on Ali. Though he’s not sure if Ali is gay, Sky plans to make the most of his senior year by promposing to Ali in an extravagant way in 30 days at their senior beach bum party, and he and Bree are documenting their ideas on his dry erase wall in his bedroom. All his plans are dashed though when a hacker exposes Sky’s promposal plans in a homophobic and racist email message that goes out to the entire school community from the yearbook account. Priorities shift from promposal to revenge as Sky, Ali, and their friends hunt the hacker. But what about prom? Will Sky still pull off an epic promposal? Or has his entire senior year become about something more?

THOUGHTS: An excellent addition to any YA LGBTQ collection, this debut novel has it all – humor, friendship, family, and serious topics such as bullying and homophobia. Despite the “small-town” setting, there is diverse representation among Sky’s friend group. And Sky and Bree’s yearbook teacher Ms. Winter is a pleasantly surprising important supporting character that readers young and old will love.

Realistic Fiction         Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Sky Baker is openly gay in his small, conservative northern Michigan hometown, but he still works hard to not be openly gay. He attempts to keep things toned down, even consciously trying to walk straighter (pun intended). His devoutly Christian mother kicked him out of the house Christmas Eve, and now he’s living with the family of his best friend, Bree. The future for most of his friends is bleak; the majority of them do not have the money to pay for expensive colleges and, like Sky, are pinning their hopes on the local community college. So Sky decides to end his high school years with a bang: the biggest, gayest promposal ever seen. Sky isn’t even sure his crush, Ali, is gay. But for Sky, it’s go big or go home. When his plans get leaked on an all-school email account, he is mortified beyond belief. But to his surprise he finds friends, support, and romance where he never expected. This uplifting book emphasizes the value of good friends – “good friendships are worth fighting for.”  Most of the characters are white, but Sky’s best friend Marshall is one of the few Black students in the school and Ali is Iraqi-American. While Sky deals with prejudice because he is gay, it turns out he is less aware of the prejudices Marshall experiences. Another character is transgender. The setting and characters are extremely realistic and relatable, and readers will be delighted with the conclusion of the book.

THOUGHTS: A vibrant addition to any secondary realistic fiction collection. Many students will identify with Sky’s economically depressed hometown, where a few have much, but most face a challenging future.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD