YA Realistic FIC – In Some Other Life; Upside of Unrequited; The Names They Gave Us

Brody, Jessica. In Some Other Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 978-0-374-38076-2. 464 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

It’s hard not to go through life – at least parts of it – without wondering “what if?” Kennedy has gone through high school and achieved great things for herself. She’s editor of her award winning high school newspaper and has big plans for college and her future career. But she always has the nagging “what if?” in the back of her mind. What if she hadn’t chosen public school over the elite private school she wanted to attend?  After witnessing her boyfriend and bestfriend kissing, Kennedy has a bit of a meltdown and eventually rushes to the campus she could have attended. What if she had chosen differently and skipped the possibility of a relationship? While getting a glimpse into what could have been, Kennedy is knocked over and bumps her head. When she wakes up her world flips upside down, and the choice she wishes she had made years ago is suddenly a reality. Kennedy has to realize that things aren’t always what they seem, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  THOUGHTS: I loved this sweet “what if?” story. It goes a long way in showing readers that things aren’t always what they seem – in life and in the happy, smiling posts they see on social media. Life isn’t always sunshine and happiness. For all the readers who have ever wondered what if I made a different choice, this is a great read!

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Albertalli, Becky.  The Upside of Unrequited.  Balzer + Bray, 2017.  978-0-06-234870-8. 340 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Although Molly Peskin-Suso has had many crushes, she has never had a boyfriend. In fact, she has never even kissed a boy. When her twin sister Cassie starts dating a girl named Mina, the two are determined to set Molly up with Mina’s cute hipster friend, Will. Molly, however, finds herself intrigued by her geeky coworker, Reid. Will one of these boys, Will or Reid, become Molly’s long-awaited first boyfriend and first kiss? Readers will sympathize with Molly as she struggles to sort out her thoughts and feelings about love, dating, and relationships. THOUGHTS: One of the most notable features of this book is the amount of diversity in its cast. There are characters of various races, body sizes, religions and sexual orientations. Molly, the main protagonist, suffers from anxiety. This diverse cast, along with the book’s familiar themes of dating, love, body image, family, and friendship, make it an easy title to relate to. The humor and honesty with which it is written will keep readers coming back for more. Give this to fans of Jenny Han or Sarah Dessen. Beware, however, that the book contains a great deal of swearing and talk about sex, making it more appropriate for high school readers.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Albertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited. Balzer & Bray, 2017. 978-0-06-234870-8. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Becky Albertalli’s sophomore effort, The Upside of Unrequited, is just as delightful, irreverent, and charming as her first novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Molly believes she’s just an average girl, especially when she compares herself to her beautiful, shining star of a twin sister, Cassie. Despite Cassie’s insistence that anybody would be lucky to have her, Molly staunchly refuses to put herself out there, despite her 26 crushes over the years; the idea of rejection is just too unpalatable, and since she’s a self-described “fat girl”, way too likely.  This book has a lot going on – twin dynamics, sibling dynamics (they have a baby brother), wedding drama (Cassie and Molly’s moms are engaged), romantic entanglements, uncool footwear, pansexuality – but Albertalli juggles it all with grace, humor, and empathy.  Readers will cheer Molly on as she finds her courage, and figures out what she’s really looking for. An absolute joy of a read. Thoughts: Albertalli has a gift for writing infinitely relatable, likable characters; Molly is the perfect blend of teenage cynicism, angst, self-doubt, and naivety, and she will resonate with anyone who has ever had a crush or felt the crushing weight of rejection.

Realistic Fiction       Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Lord, Emery. The Names They Gave Us. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-61963-958-4. 388 p. Gr. 7 and up.

This is a book about the power to shift your perceptions, and the lasting impact it can have on your life.  Lucy is secure in her faith; her father is a pastor, and Lucy genuinely enjoys going to church each week, and she especially looks forward to being a counselor at Bible camp each summer.  However, after learning that her mother’s cancer has returned, Lucy’s faith is completely shaken.  Her parents convince her to try a new camp this summer, Daybreak, a camp for “troubled” kids, where her mom believes she’ll find solace and kinship. Lucy is skeptical, and after her rocky start, she’s sure she’ll never fit in, or be any help to anybody. Thankfully for Lucy, her fellow counselors are welcoming and forgiving; Lucy finds that the more open she is with them, the more open they are with her. These diverse teens challenge everything she thought she knew and believed; it’s a pleasure to watch Lucy’s transformation as she explores what it means to be a true friend. When Lucy discovers something shocking about her mom’s past, connected to Daybreak, it will test her literal new found faith, and her new relationships. Thoughts: Every teenager should read this book to learn about what compassion looks like, and what allyship looks like, as Lucy expresses and embodies both.

Realistic Fiction    Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

YA Realistic FIC – When I Am Through with You; Thing with Feathers; St. Death; Sunshine is Forever

Kuehn, Stephanie. When I Am Through with You. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-101-99473-3. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Unreliable from the start, Ben tells the story of what happened on the mountain in his own way, on his own terms, and apparently from his prison cell. So begins Ben’s story and how he got to be on the mountain to begin with.  Suffering from migraines and depression and being the only caregiver for his unwell mother, Ben feels trapped by his life in Teyber. He reconnects with former teacher Mr. Howe to help with the school’s orienteering (exploring) club.  Rose, Tomas, Avery, Duncan, Clay, and Archie join Ben on the first hike into the wilderness. Tense from the start, this group seems to be on a doomed trip. It’s not until the end that readers see just how doomed these adventure seekers are. THOUGHTS: Drinking, drug use, descriptions of casual sex, and violence make this a book for more mature teens.

Realistic Fiction, Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Hoyle, McCall. The Thing with Feathers. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-75851-8. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Emilie is perfectly fine staying in the safety of her home with her mom and best friend (her seizure dog). She disagrees with her mom and her therapist: attending public school is not a good idea. She doesn’t want to be known as “that girl that has seizures.” When Emilie starts school, she makes a decision not to tell anyone about her epilepsy. As she gets closer to her friends and a boy she’s paired with her decision not to reveal her medical condition becomes more and more critical. But it’s been months since Emilie seized, so she’ll be okay, right?  THOUGHTS: Readers will fly through this light-hearted and realistic sweet novel about what it means to be different and what lengths we will go to hide our differences. With a compelling storyline – Will she or won’t she tell? Will she or won’t she seize? – readers will fall in love with Emilie as she experiences public school, friendship, and first love.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Sedgwick, Marcus.  Saint Death.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (1st American ed.).  978-1-62672-549-2. 227 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Arturo lives in a shack on the outskirts of Juarez, a Mexican city that butts up against the American border. One day, his childhood friend, Faustino, shows up begging for Arturo’s help. It seems that Faustino has joined a gang and has stolen $1,000 from his boss to send his girlfriend and her baby to America. He must replace this money by the next day or he will be killed. Arturo, a skillful card player, agrees to try to win the money back, but soon finds himself in even more debt. Now, Arturo’s life is also on the line. He scrambles to replace the money both he and Faustino owe before they are both killed by gangsters. Fast-paced and devastatingly honest, this title by Printz award winner Sedgwick is an excellent addition to high school libraries. THOUGHTS: Focusing on taboo topics like religion, illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, and the exploitation of foreign workers by large corporations, this title is sure to spark a great deal of discussion and debate. Because violence is addressed in such an uncomfortable and unflinching manner, this title might be better suited for older, more mature readers. Pair this title with Linda Barrett Osborne’s This Land is Our Land for a unit on immigration or with Patricia McCormick’s Sold for a unit on human trafficking.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

 

Cowan, Kyle T.  Sunshine is Forever. Inkshares, 2017. 978-1-942645-62-7. $11.99. 282 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Hunter S. Thompson spends his days smoking pot with his only friend until a tragic “incident” changes everything. Desperate for acceptance and connection and wracked with guilt, he blames anyone else for the events in his past.  When he makes a couple of suicide attempts, he is sent to Camp Sunshine for depressed teens.  After being in therapy for months and on several medications, Hunter is not optimistic about the Camp Sunshine Program.  A few of the counselors and guards on staff are cruel and clueless,  though one or two seem genuinely interested and concerned for the kids.  But Hunter finds a real friend in his bunkmate Quint and a potential girlfriend in the charismatic but manipulative Corin. These connections and the questions of his therapist are helping Hunter make progress with his mental state, but when Corin convinces Hunter and a few others to join her in an escape plan, all of their chances for recovery are threatened.  THOUGHTS:  Sunshine is Forever is a raw and darkly humorous tale that tackles adolescent depression, suicide and mental health treatment in a believable way. A fast-paced read – a good choice for reluctant readers and for those who appreciate darker realistic fiction titles.   The mature themes and make it more appropriate for older teens.
Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA Realistic Fiction – Truthers; Allegedly; Once and for All; We are Okay

Girard, Geoffrey. Truthers. Carolrhoda LAB/Lerner Publishing Group, 2017. 978-1-5124-2779-0. 360 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Katie never believed in her dad; he let her down too many times to count.  His bad combination of drugs and alcohol left Katie picking up his responsibilities all throughout her childhood, forcing her to learn that the only person she can depend on is herself.  When the police bring Child Services to her front door, Katie isn’t shocked, knowing it was only a matter of time.  What she didn’t expect was to hear her dad has been admitted to a mental institution due to a violent encounter with coworkers and claims of 9/11 conspiracies involving former vice president Dick Cheney.  Katie remembers her dad spouting “truther” conspiracies sporadically, mostly when he was either drunk or high.  But when her dad shares a dark secret with her, she finds herself thrust into a world of lies, half-truths, and corruption.  Now Katie must figure out if her dad could be telling the truth, which would shake up her world completely, or if he really is in the place where he belongs.  THOUGHTS: Girard’s novel had me riveted and horrified all at the same time.  Like many reading this review, I remember 9/11 very clearly.  I can tell you where I was when each plane crashed, how I felt when each tower crumbled before the world’s very eyes, and how my friends, family, and students were directly affected by what happened that terrible day.  To read this fictional character, Katie, explore all-to-real “truther” points-of-view, I was so upset by how plausible it all seemed.  I have never given credence to the “truther” movement before, and I cannot say this book has convinced me to believe in any way, nor was that the author’s intent, however I can see how easily it would be to get caught up in it all, just like Katie was.  I would recommend this to any high school teacher who is looking to get their students more involved in questioning the world around them, even if it means questioning their own government.

Realistic Fiction          Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Jackson, Tiffany D.  Allegedly.  Katherine Tegen Books, 2017.  978-0-06-242264-4. 387 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

After serving six years in jail for allegedly killing a three-month-old baby who was in the care of her and her mother, Mary Addison now lives in a group home and is on house arrest.  She volunteers at a nursing home, where she meets Ted and ends up getting pregnant with his baby.  When she realizes she won’t be allowed to keep the baby, she decides it is time to tell the truth about what happened that fateful night so that she may be exonerated.  Finding someone to believe her, however, may be more difficult than it seems, and in the end, the truth may not be clear and straightforward.  A searing portrait of relevant issues like mental illness, media bias, race, complicated family ties, and the criminal justice system, this novel is sure to spark debate among its readers.  THOUGHTS: I found myself unable to put this book down, as I desperately wanted to discover the truth about Mary and her mother.  Besides the suspense, the empathy and pity I felt for Mary, along with the plot twists along the way, kept me coming back for more.  I would recommend this title to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Paula
Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train, or fans of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.  An excellent addition to any YA collection.

Realistic Fiction     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-425-29033-0. 368 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

With her mom, a famed wedding planner, Louna lives amidst many teen girls’ dreams, taking a ringside seat working at lavish weddings. Being part of the planning and execution, however, is not as glamorous as one may think. Though they make their livelihood on love, Louna’s mother Natalie and her mother’s business partner William don’t believe in it. In fact, their post-wedding celebration includes a bet on how long (or not) each marriage will last. Their cynicism is starting to rub off on Louna; she can feel it. With her own first love ending tragically last year, Louna feels like she missed out on her one and only. It takes meeting Ambrose, an impossible and annoying son-of-the-bride (and later brother-of-the-bride) to bring Louna out of her shell. With the support and distractions of her best friend Jilly, who is constantly taxiing her siblings around while her food truck parents work, Louna enjoys one last memorable summer of wedding planning.   THOUGHTS: Fans of Sarah Dessen’s sweet teenaged romance novels will swoon over this newest book. Set amongst a beautiful summer wedding season, it successfully looks at love and loss. Descriptions of sex and teen drinking may not be suitable for younger readers.

Realistic Fiction   Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

I look forward to each new novel by Sarah Dessen. While her newest release is not as strong as her previous titles, the story is still engrossing and will be heartily enjoyed by any young person interested in novels focused on relationships and personal growth. Louna has spent her life around weddings, since her mother and her mother’s best friend own one of the premiere wedding planning businesses in their town. Louna is an old hat at calming down a bride and finding an errant wedding guest. Yet, a previous heartache has caused her to question marriage and she has given up dating for the foreseeable future. The summer before college, she works at her mother’s business every day. When her mother hires the brother of one of their clients, she immediately questions this decision. Ambrose is annoying, loud, and constantly in search of his next date. Ambrose and Louna decide to make a bet- Ambrose has to date someone for longer than two or three dates, and Louna has to go on as many first dates as she can. The bet leads to some funny outcomes and interesting interactions between the two. The characters, as always, are engaging and likeable even with their faults, and the story moves back and forth between Louna’s present and the love of her past. THOUGHTS: While a bit cliche at times, this title will be enjoyed by many teens looking for a simple, easy lovestory.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy

 

LaCour, Nina. We Are Okay. New York, Penguin: 2017. Print. 978-0525425892. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Nina LaCour has written a beautiful little gem of a novel about truly understanding one’s family and accepting the life we have to lead. Marin escaped from her home in California after a tragedy, leaving for her new collegiate home in rural New York. She cut herself off from her life and friends, not answering any texts from her best friend, Mabel. But, when the winter break comes around, Mabel comes to New York for a visit, and Marin must begin to confront her past and come to terms with the life she now must lead. The story jumps easily from Marin’s past and her life with her beloved grandfather, to her present, quiet existence at school. Marin and Mabel’s complex relationship slowly reveals itself, and LaCour shares their experience with compassion and grace. THOUGHTS: I highly recommend this novel for libraries with a vibrant teen collection.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy