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

MS – Posted; Witness Protection; Shadow of the Sun

Anderson, John David. Posted. Harper Collins, 2017. 9780062338204. $16.99. 384p. Gr. 5-8.

Branton Middle School bans cellphones after a student gets caught posting during class about a teacher. The students have a difficult time being without their phones for the length of a school day, but a class assignment with Post-it notes is the catalyst for the students to start communicating via the small, sticky squares. Because the Post-it notes still allow for anonymity, some students begin to use them as a substitute for online bullying. The book deals primarily with Eric and his small group of friends, and the new girl, Rose. Rose is a large girl that adopts Eric’s lunch table and friend group much to their dismay. Due to her size and her recent addition to the school, she becomes a target for some of the worst Post-it Note bullying. Fortunately, Rose is also a confident young woman and she encourages a positive change in the school.  THOUGHTS: I loved this book. It was fun and had a good, but non-preachy message – that words hurt. More importantly, it was a book that I have no qualms book talking to my 7th and 8th graders. It was realistic without the need for additional mature content.

Realistic Fiction    Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Burt, Jake. Greetings From Witness Protection. Feiwel & Friends.  2017. 978-1250107114. 368 p. Gr. 5-8.

Nicki , a thirteen-year- old girl in foster care, has a troubled past and an unfortunate case of kleptomania that has derailed several of her previous placements. She is back in the group home and desperate for a permanent home when she is unexpectedly selected to be part of a new placement in the witness protection program.  She must step into the role of the daughter in a family in hiding from the mob.  Nikki’s new mom is a member of a notorious New York crime family and has recently turned state’s evidence against her brothers and many others in the family.  She, her husband and son are now under protection, and Nicki joins the family to change the family profile  so that they may better escape detection. With her street smarts, quick wits and charming personality, Nikki hopes to keep her family safe and find a place for herself in her new  home. Filled with heart, humor, some typical girl drama at school, some sibling rivalry at home and an element of danger, it is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. Thoughts: With its strong and smart main character, Greetings is a great choice for middle grade readers. The frequent literary references will appeal to avid readers and the page turning plot will appeal to both reluctant readers and fans of adventure tales.  

Realistic Fiction             Nancy Summers, Abington School District


O’Brien, Anne Sibley. In The Shadow of the Sun. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 978-0-545-90574-9  338 p. $17.99  Gr. 5-8.

Mia’s father, a white humanitarian aid worker, has chosen to take Mia and her older brother Simon sightseeing in the unlikeliest of vacation spots: North Korea. Mia is willing to make the best of it, but Simon, who didn’t want to go anywhere with his family, let alone to a country where Americans aren’t allowed to use their cellphones, is furious. Mia, who is adopted, was born in South Korea, and soon finds it both unsettling and wonderful to be in a place where everyone looks like her. Then, the unthinkable happens: their father is arrested.  Simon and Mia have come into possession of illegal photographs depicting atrocities in North Korean camps that they fear may further endanger their father, so they decide to make a run for the Chinese border.  With only a few snacks Mia has stowed in her backpack, they must find a way to navigate through one of the most isolated and dangerous countries on the planet, all the while knowing they are being hunted. Simon and Mia must work on their own strained relationship in order to work as a team.  Additionally, Mia struggles with identity issues stemming from her adoption. Throughout the novel, the author weaves in short vignettes from the point of view of a variety of (fictional) North Koreans, providing a glimpse of what life is like for people who actually live there. The author has personal ties to South Korea and has clearly done extensive research, as is evidenced in the front and backmatter. THOUGHTS: This is an eye-opening but still age-appropriate introduction to a mysterious country that is particularly timely. Kids will enjoy the survival/adventure aspect of the novel. Of course, it isn’t at all realistic that two American teenagers can escape North Korea with very little help, and although I’m all for suspension of disbelief, the final impression is that escape from North Korea is easier than it is.  Still, this is fiction, and interested readers will hopefully take the author’s advice and seek out more information on their own.  Overall, a fascinating and gripping read.  

Action/Adventure               Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD