MG – The Road to After

Lowell, Rebekah. The Road to After. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022. 978-0-593-10961-8. 180 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

This middle grade novel is a powerful story of a young mother and her two daughters who have been kept hostages in their own home unaware of the reality outside their walls. Their father has monitored their activities, interests, and movements their entire lives so that the girls know nothing else. Their mother gains the courage to leave the home and everything behind to start a better life for the three of them. The oldest daughter, Lacey, discovers her love for nature, animals, and freedom. The story is about hope and survival.

THOUGHTS: This debut novel is beautifully written. It flows so smoothly that students will keep reading to find out what happens to Lacey and her sister. It is written appropriately for a middle grade audience and is filled with hope.

Realistic Fiction  Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD
Novel in Verse

YA – Grown

Jackson, Tiffany D. Grown. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-84035-6. $17.99. Grades 9 and up.

Enchanted Jones wants to sing, so when she auditions for a music competition and catches the eye of artist Korey Fields, her dream seems to be within reach as Korey befriends her and begins singing and recording with her. When Korey proposes Enchanted go on tour with him, her parents refuse, but soon Enchanted is on tour with Korey and begins to learn the truth about him. Now in an abusive relationship, Korey controls Enchanted’s every move – how she looks, what she sings, when she can leave a room, who she can speak to.  Korey swears his love for Enchanted and desire to marry her once she turns 18.  Enchanted believes that everything Korey does is because of his love for her, yet she questions his continued control of her. When she learns of charges filed against Korey for a relationship with an underage girl, Enchanted can’t believe it. Yet, she sees herself in the story. Does Korey truly love her, or does he just love controlling her? Can Enchanted escape the abuse alive, or will Korey be the end to her?

THOUGHTS: Tiffany D. Jackson is a genius. She is a master of suspense, and her ability to tell truth through story is uncanny. I cringed through most of Grown (and was physically nauseous at times), but I also couldn’t put it down. The truth of abuse is so real, and yet Enchanted’s lack of recognition is so real. This novel made me uncomfortable, angry, sad, and so many more emotions. To me, it is the most intense of Jackson’s novels. It does include a content warning at the beginning: “mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.” This is a phenomenal addition to all HS library collections.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD
Mystery