YA Realistic FIC – Rocks Fall…; Run; Female of Species


Ribar, Lindsay. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2016. 978-0-525-42868-8. 323 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Aspen Quick can reach inside of people and steal almost anything: thoughts, feelings, memories, or physical attributes. It’s a family trait the Quicks of Three Peaks, New York, have always used to perform the “triad ritual” that repairs dangerous fault lines in the cliff looming over their town. And sure, maybe Aspen occasionally uses his ability to make his life a little better (e.g., manipulating his crush into breaking up with her boyfriend and falling for Aspen instead). Following his cousin Heather’s death, Aspen becomes a regular member of the ritual. But he notices something strange afoot in seemingly idyllic Three Peaks; local teens still talk about Heather in the present tense, and one of them seems immune to Aspen’s abilities. The novel’s interesting structure, with scenes from “Before” closing each chapter, adds context even as the holes in Aspen’s memory are revealed. THOUGHTS: With Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar has stirred up a singular brew of summer love, magical realism, and family secrets. It’s a satisfying stand-alone that readers of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap will enjoy.

Magical Realism      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library



Keplinger, Kody. Run. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.  978-0-545-83113-0. 295 pp.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Bo Dickinson and Agnes Atwood could not be more different.  Bo comes from a family of drunkards, drug addicts, and criminals and has a reputation for being wild.  Agnes, on the other hand, goes to church with her parents every week and always follows the rules.  Because she was born legally blind, Agnes has lived a very sheltered life.  When Bo suddenly enters her life, Agnes is curious about the world outside her small circle, and the two become best friends.  That’s why Agnes doesn’t hesitate when Bo asks her to run away from their small, rural town with her.  Told in alternating perspectives, Agnes explains how their friendship formed while Bo relays the events of their road trip.  Throughout the course of the book, the two will share secrets and new experiences, break rules, and form an indestructible bond.  A solid story of friendship, this book has some edgy topics that will be relatable to many teens: bisexuality, sexual experiences, disabilities, dysfunctional family dynamics, underage drinking and more.  THOUGHTS: This book really opened my eyes to what life can be like for those who are blind and how refreshing it can be for others to treat them like normal people (as Bo does for Agnes) rather than treating like they are handicapped.  For that reason, I could see this book pairing well with Blind by Rachel DeWoskin or with books about other disabilities or abnormalities, such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind.  I would warn purchasers, however, that the book contains some graphic language and edgy content, so it may be more suited for older readers.

Realistic Fiction       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 978-0-06232-089-6. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Three years ago, Alex Craft’s sister Anna was found in pieces in the snowy woods. Without enough evidence to convict the killer, Alex watched her sister’s murderer walk free. Now she watches and waits, and becomes what she thinks and feels; violence and vengeance. With her own crime unpunished, Alex retreats from her family and peers, afraid to unleash the violence buried deep inside her. While volunteering at an animal shelter for her senior project, Alex meets Peekay, the local preacher’s daughter, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Now venturing into the high school social world, Alex also meets Jack, who begins to chip away at her hard exterior and see the person underneath- but with that person also comes darkness and anger. Told through Alex, Peekay, and Jack’s alternating perspectives. McGinnis expertly taps into the often uncomfortable yet realistic world of teenage drinking, drugs, and sex, as well as the social pressure that accompanies it. THOUGHTS: While the ending seemed a bit rushed and dramatic, McGinnis is an excellent storyteller who expertly unravels Alex and Anna’s story over the course of the book. Jack, Peekay and Alex are far from the perfect teen, which makes them all the more relatable to teen readers.

Realistic Fiction     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

YA Realistic Fiction – Kill the Boy Band; Klickitat; Gutless; Holding up the Universe


Moldavsky, Goldy. Kill the Boy Band. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-86747-4. 312p. $17.99. Gr. 10-12.

Moldavsky takes a dark (yet humorous) look at the cult-like world of teen girls obsessed with boy bands in her debut novel. Four teen girls (Erin, Isabel, Apple and the novel’s unnamed narrator) are bound by their love of The Ruperts, a British boy band. Determined to meet the boys when they come to New York for a Thanksgiving concert, the girls get a room at the same swanky hotel where the band is staying. When Apple encounters her favorite member of the band, Rupert P., in the hotel hallway, she tackles him, knocks him out, and brings him back to the girls’ room. Now in possession of their very own Rupert, the four must decide what to do with him. A night filled with adventure, romance, band drama, fights, social media wars, fan riots and yes, even murder, occurs. THOUGHTS: In this dark, satirical look at the world of fame, everyone is revealed to have flaws, from the obsessed fans to the the boy banders, who turn out to be not so perfect after all. Fans of today’s popular groups will find many of the scenarios and observations present in the novel relatable and spot-on. Purchasers should be aware that language used in the book make this a purchase best suited for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS



Rock, Peter. Klickitat. New York: Amulet, 2016. 978-1-4197-1894-6. 229p. $17.95. Gr. 9-12.

Vivian’s rock has always been her older sister, Audra. She helps Vivian deal with episodes of anxiety and stress and gives Vivian the attention she does not always receive from their somewhat distant  parents. So when Audra runs away, Vivian feels lost. She holds on to the promise that Audra made that she will return for her, and they will be together once more. She looks for clues to Audra’s presence and when writing begins to appear in a blank notebook, Vivian feels a connection to her sister. When Audra returns, she is in the company of Henry, a young man she has been living with off the grid. Vivian, now off her anxiety medication, joins them in their makeshift hideout located under a house. Together they practice survival skills in anticipation of leaving the city behind and travelling northward to live off the grid together. But who is Henry, and can he be trusted? When tragedy befalls the group, Vivian returns home alone. THOUGHTS: This was a thought-provoking novel. Vivian is an unreliable narrator, and the reader at times is not sure if the events she describes are actually occurring, or are a symptom of her mental illness or her stopping her medication. While Klickitat is a quick read, it is a novel that will stay with the reader a long time as they ponder the questions raised by the story.

Realistic Fiction       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS



Deuker, Carl. Gutless. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0544-649613. $17.99. 329 pp. Gr. 7-12.

Brock Ripley is approaching his freshman year and long-term challenges.  He’s a decent enough soccer athlete, but he chokes when he’s faced with pain from opponents.  Meanwhile, his dad’s health has changed; once a physically active man and a very involved father, he’s diagnosed with Steinert’s disease, a form of multiple sclerosis.  As his dad deteriorates, Brock deals with the loss and carries his own deep fears.  Stellar athlete Hunter Gates, who is two years older, has great athletic ability and a father pushing him to a pro career.  At the park one day, Hunter’s dad pulls Brock into catching passes for Hunter.  One day becomes many, and the two find they click perfectly on plays.  Brock joins the football team and struggles to prove himself and lose the shadow of being known as “gutless” on the field.  Unfortunately, Hunter’s not really a friend, and his physical superiority and deep arrogance lead to bullying of Brock and Brock’s friend, new student Richie Fang, whose differences, notably his Chinese heritage, eventually attract Hunter’s cruelty.  Brock considers Richie a friend, but how can he stand up for him if he’s not standing up for himself?  Will he stand up against Hunter, or choke every time?  THOUGHTS: This is a bleak story that feels heavy due to the isolation of characters and sense of dread over every page.  It’s clear that there’s no one but Brock to handle his problems.  Deuker offers just a sliver of hope by book’s end.  Deuker knows how to fill a sports story with field/court action while highlighting timely social issues, much like his Gym Candy (2007) deals with steroid use and Swagger (2013) targets sexual abuse.  The writing is strong and the story flows well, and readers will be drawn to this book.

Realistic Fiction        Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Niven, Jennifer. Holding Up the Universe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 978-0385755924. 400 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

With her second novel, Jennifer Niven has proven herself to be an astute observer of the teenage experience and the unique struggles faced by individuals in all walks of life. The story is reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, as it alternates between the first person viewpoints of Libby Strout and Jack Masselin, each of whom have their own inner demons to battle. Libby, once so obese that she had to be literally cut out of her house, is returning to high school after losing weight but still carrying more than she would like. Jack has prosopagnosia, meaning that he cannot differentiate faces, even those of his close friends and family, from one moment to the next. He barely makes it through some interactions without giving himself away. Libby quickly becomes the butt of many jokes and pranks, some at the hands of Jack himself. Interestly, however, Libby notices Jack’s problem, and the two begin an unlikely friendship. The characters are well-developed and authentic, and I found myself rooting for both, especially Libby, throughout. Niven gives Libby’s character such confidence, a characteristic that I wish more high school girls possessed. The plot moves quickly, and the reader is left wanting more of the story.  THOUGHTS: This is an excellent novel and should be available in all high school libraries. It will most probably be one of my top picks for the year.

Realistic Fiction         Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Jennifer Niven is becoming one of my favorite Young Adult writers. She possesses a keen knack for understanding the teenage mind, and her novels are engaging and fun while at the same time exposing teens to new experiences and lives. My hope is that by reading her books students will begin to move past sympathy and develop more empathetic feelings when approaching issues faced by their classmates.