Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Claire is not having a good day. It is the Dad’s Dance at her dance school. It occurs when the students turn 14 and she and her dad have been looking forward to this for forever. Unfortunately she is watching all the other girls dance with their dads because hers can’t dance, not since his stroke almost a year ago.


Falling Over Sideways flashes back to the events leading up to her father’s stroke and takes them forward to the present. The night before his stroke, Claire and her dad had an argument, Claire being the drama queen and her father making light of the situation. The next morning, when just the two of them were at breakfast, her dad stood up and, all of the sudden, listed to one side, mumbling gibberish. Panicking, she called her mother who, true to form, had her cell phone turned off. Next was 911. She rode with her dad to the hospital, all the while feeling that in some way, she caused the stroke.

As Jordan Sonnenblick has done with After Ever After and Notes From the Midnight Driver, two of my favorite Sonnenblick books, he uses humor to tell what is generally serious stories. Claire goes through so many stages: guilt at possibly being the cause of the stroke, denial, fear of the future, shame. She’s afraid to tell her best friends. She’s afraid to be with her father who is not nearly the man he used to be. All the while, Claire must deal with the trials and tribulations of middle school life, which we all know can be traumatic. Claire’s feelings and actions are contrasted with her mother’s and brother’s actions and emotions, since we know everyone handles trauma differently.

We tend to think that strokes only occur in older people, but Falling Over Sideways was inspired, in part, by a teenage friend of Sonnenblick’s son whose father had a stroke. Much of Claire’s actions and emotions are based on this.

Sonnenblick gets his point across without beating you over the head. Falling Over Sideways is a great read.

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The forecasters told everyone not to worry, that the storm would blow out to sea. But, as we so often see, they were wrong and the small island of Haven (one ‘e’ short of Heaven), off the coast of New Jersey, got battered by Hurricane Sandy. To make matters worse, Mira Banul’s mother, Mickey, and younger brother, Jasper Lee, were at a mainland hospital for Jasper Lee’s weekly treatment.

Mira went to sleep listening to the rain and a strong wind. She woke up with the downstairs of her house flooded, dead fish floating in her kitchen, her second story deck alist and no way for her and Sterling, her recently adopted cat, to get their feet/paws on solid ground.

However, for some reason unknown to Mira, Old Carmen who lived on the beach during the ‘off-season’ and disappeared during tourist season, chose to rescue Mira. She threw Mira a life line that she could shimmy down. It was Old Carmen who took in the strays–pets and people–kept the fire going, caught fish to cook and kept vigil.

I realized after finishing This Is the Story of You that Beth Kephart creates wonderful main characters but extraordinary secondary characters: Old Carmen in This Is the Story of You and Estela in Small Damages (which you must read) come immediately to mind.

This Is the Story of You is a testament to people’s ability to survive and band together (especially in this current era of hate, fear and devisiveness) . It is about three best friends who care so much about each other. It is about a girl who is ‘medium’ at everything but stands strong in the face of adversity.

Although foreign to most of us, readers will picture living on the beach, seeing detritus floating on the ocean water, yearning to hear about news of neighbors and friends. They’ll feel the pangs of pain at not knowing, the uncertainty.

This Is the Story of You is a story about unity and trust and family and is a welcome addition to my Beth Kephart library.


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I was at the American Library Association conference in Orlando last weekend and had a chance to exchange a few (very few) words with some of my author and illustrator idols:

They were all charming, of course. So, now for their latest books:

I’ll tell you that I love the books by these authors (except that I haven’t yet read anything by Laura Ruby but Bone Gap is on my reading list). The Margaret A. Edwards award (contributions to young adult literature) winner Anderson writes about current issues in Impossible Knife of Memory, Wintergirls and Speak. Readers can’t put her books down. Ashes is the third book in her Seeds of America trilogy about the Revolutionary War. She is truly impassioned about her subjects.

Jerry Pinkney is a marvelous award winning illustrator who has done wondrous things with his fairy tales The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare and Grasshopper and the Ants. Children and adults alike will smile as they read these books. He promised to continue as there are so many more fairy tales to tell.

Jordan Sonnenblick uses humor to discuss serious topics such as strokes, old age and cancer in Falling Over Sideways, Notes from a Midnight Driver, and After Ever After. The topics he writes about are ones you don’t see in young adult literature all that often.

Morgan Matson and Emery Lord are the masters of the summer romance (watch out Sarah Dessen!). Matson’s Unexpected Everything (review to come), Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance Summer are the perfect beach reads. (For some reason I’ve bought Matson’s last two books at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY…I’m not from there! Is this a trend?) Lord’s spin on romance and characters is unique in When We Collided (Vivi is such a great character) (review to come) and Open Road Summer. So get your reading chair, beach umbrella and SPF 50 ready.

You’ll have to wait until I read Bone Gap to know what that one’s all about. But if it is a Michael Printz Award winner, it can’t be all bad.

These six authors provide any kind of reading you want (serious, humorous, romantic, illustrious, mythical) to take you through the summer, into the fall and beyond. Happy Reading!


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Another “my parents are divorced and getting remarried” book. In this instance, twelve-year-old Elizabeth (Fizzy) and her mother move out of the family home. Fizzy is a normal pre-teen, other than being a talented chef hoping to have her own television show one day. The simultaneous news that her father and his new wife, Suzanne, are expecting a baby and her mother plans on marrying her boyfriend, Keene, is an unwelcome jolt to Fizzy. With a new baby and a new husband taking all her parents’ emotions, Fizzy feels like leftovers—nobody likes them. Her only confidante is her father’s sister, Aunt Liz. Aunt Liz, a talented chef in her own right, suggests Fizzy enter the Southern Living Cook-Off. Fizzy readily agrees to prove to a doubting Keene that she can win and in the hopes that winning a major competition might make her dysfunctional family love her again.

TheThingAbout Leftovers

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne is a fun read about a serious topic. Blended families are prevalent and pre-teens and teens need to realize that, although their parents may be focusing their attentions on new families, it is not to the exclusion of the old ones. In addition, step-parents can love their step-children if given the chance. Learning to adjust to step-parents’ idiosyncrasies can be daunting. Having a support person, as Fizzy has in Aunt Liz, can make the transition easier. Children of blended families will relate to Fizzy’s thoughts and emotions. A thought provoking read for parents and children.


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Amy Zhang was in high school when she wrote her debut novel, Falling Into Place. She has followed this up with another ‘not-put-downable’ book, This is Where the World Ends.

Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. That is how the world should be forever. Two opposites attracted. Janie, the imaginer. The doer. Micah, the follower. The support.

They lived next door to each other, bedrooms facing. Janie would slide a shelf between the rooms and shimmy across. They knew each other inside out…best friends, but nothing more. A world unto themselves.

Until it all fell apart. Right before the beginning of senior year, Janie moved across town to a bigger house that she hated. But she had no say in her parents’ decision. Although still at the same school, things had changed…dramatically.

Janie and Micah’s alternating narrative, the Before and the After, chronicle the disintegration of life, the apocalypse. The Journal of Janie Vivian, words and drawings, embedded in the story, mark the transition from fairy tale to harsh reality.

I’d say Amy Zhang is an author to watch, but with two great books to her credit she has already earned our respect. Now it’s a question of waiting…for her next novel. I know I am.


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Despite commitment issues…with trilogies, that is…I was convinced to read Madly by Amy Alward, the first in the Potion trilogy. I’m glad I did. Will I read volumes 2 and 3? I can’t commit!


When Princess Evelyn mistakenly drinks the love potion she prepared for Zain, she falls in love with the first person she sees, which happens to be her reflection in a mirror. Of course the royal family can’t have this. Plus it’s wreaking havoc with her magic…and her life.

The King calls a Wilde Hunt, an ancient tradition in which alchemists the world over try to find the exact ingredients for the antidote, for anything less will kill Princess Evelyn. Taking place in the current century, the Hunt pits the Kemi family, primarily Samantha Kemi apprenticing as an alchemist to her grandfather, who hails from a long line of famous, old-school alchemists against the ZoroAster corporation, a manufacturer of synthetic potion ingredients.

Madly nicely blends the old and the new. Characters zip around in cars and trucks, fly on airplanes and teleport. They communicate via social media, telecasts, cell phones, etc. Yet they use Bunsen burners, test tubes, and mortars and pestles. They look for ingredients including flowers, unicorns, abominable snowmen…the things fairy tales are made of. There is danger at every turn.

And what would a fairy tale be, old or modern, without a wicked witch and a love interest, both of which are here in full force. For a fun read, fairy tale, adventure, romance, try Madly out. You may be bewitched.


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Victoria woke up in a white hospital bed. The problem is that she wasn’t supposed to wake up. The night before she took an overdose of sleeping pills that she’d been accumulating. She was found by the elderly Juanita, her nanna, who she deeply loved. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

Books about attempted suicide, the post-attempt individual and group therapy sessions and the bonding of the teens in the group are not uncommon. However,  put in the hands of Francisco X. Stork (author of Marcelo in the Real World) The Memory of Light is more than a young adult novel about depression. One reason it that it is semi-autobiographical, as per the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Stork was 24 years old when he took 60 sleeping pills in his suicide attempt. That knowledge makes the book more meaningful.

Also, Stork has created a diverse cast of characters. Vicky’s roommate is Mona, who comes from a broken home and is searching for her little sister Lucy. She needs meds to control her mood swings. Gilbert hears voices and there is the fear that he is schizophrenic and E.M. has an uncontrolled temper.

The contrast in illnesses is also a contrast in life. Vicky seems to have the idyllic life–coming from a wealthy family, having everything she could possibly want, private school, plentiful opportunities. Gilbert, on the other hand, has to help his grandfather with his gardening business because Antonio is getting on in years and can’t do it by himself. Gilbert’s grandmother is showing the signs of schizophrenia that Gilbert is starting to exhibit. E.M. comes from a family in which his father physically abused his mother.

The Memory of Light is realistic in its depiction of mental illnesses. In its realism, there aren’t necessarily the happy endings we typically read. However, Stork provides hope to those individuals who accept and treat their illnesses, whether it is depression, schizophrenia, or a myriad other illnesses.

Stork implores teens, especially, who know or suspect something is wrong or who just know they are hurting to talk to an unbiased individual or professional, someone who won’t judge them. Mental illness knows no income or educational or racial boundaries. Sometimes the pressures of day to day life in school or at home are too much.

I could not put The Memory of Light down. It was that good.

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