Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler is a warm-hearted coming of age story. Ashleigh Walker is going through a lot. Her parents are either silent with each other (and her) or bickering with each other. Living at home is intolerable. School is no better. It is what school has always been to teenagers: a boring pain. She has no boyfriend and no prospects.


But things are about to change. At a party she meets Dylan, a cute boy who is interested in her. And at school, Miss Murray, the substitute English teacher is making English fun. Moreover, she seems to understand what teens, and especially Ashleigh, are going through. She seems to be able to look right inside Ashleigh and understand her emotions, her innermost thoughts and feelings. The more Ashleigh sees her, the more she wants to see Miss Murray. These feelings confuse her.

In an easy going but engrossing manner, Liz Kessler gets Ashleigh through her parents’ breakup, her sexual identity crisis and her friendships, both old and new. There was something about Read Me Like a Book that made me want to read it straight through. I didn’t, but only because I didn’t have the time.

Ashleigh and her best friend, Cat, are two extremes. The former is more reserved. The latter more wild. Somehow, the combination seems to work for both of them.

All of us need, but few of us find, someone who can read us like a book. It’s gratifying to know that Ashleigh found that person.

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If you want a great book about friendship, Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler is the perfect fit. No major realistic fiction issues. No abuse, neglect, rape, drugs, etc. Quite refreshing, actually.


Reagan and Victoria are social outcasts for two vastly different reasons. Reagan is what most people would call trailer park trash, despite her 4.0 cum while putting in as many hours as possible at Joe’s diner. Vic on the other hand is of Latino descent in the lily white mid-Kansas town of Charytan. Having been expelled from school in Arizona, her professor parents moved the family to Kansas where they both found jobs at the local community college.

Despite their differing backgrounds, Reagan and Vic become fast friends, although each hide something of importance from the other. Having realized that the only way out of their personal hells is to go away to college, we come upon them (Vic actually) planning their college visits, knowing that they want to go to the same school and be roommates.

Reagan and Vic are a contrast in opposites. Reagan wears the same battered jeans and t-shirts while Vic is into fashion design, making her own clothes and looking gorgeous. Having been through a bad relationship, Reagan is avoiding boys while Vic wants to meet some hot boys. While Reagan is interested in classes and the library, Vic is interested in sororities.

To find out whether their dreams will be fulfilled and what stumbling blocks they encounter along the way (which they do, otherwise, why write the book?), you’d be wise to read Just Visiting, in some ways a more realistic portrayal of friendship and in some ways a more idealistic friendship. Nevertheless, we’d all be lucky to have such a friendship. In the meantime, let’s vicariously enjoy theirs.

P.S. A good end of summer beach read…Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.


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Having attended a Jazz Jennings interview during the American Library Association annual conference in June (and having scant prior knowledge of who she is–I’m probably the only such person in the world), I was impressed. She was your typical fifteen year old, other than the fact that she was being interviewed primarily regarding her LGBT advocacy. And while I didn’t have time to stand in the (long) line to get a copy of her book autographed, it sparked an interest. (Lucky thing I’m a librarian and can order books for our collection.)


I said in my post about Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston that there are serious books describing various, sometimes debilitating, trauma experienced by victims of rape, bullying, etc. However, similar to Hermione in Exit, Jazz has the benefit of strong family and friend support and so her transgender experience is vastly different and probably vastly better than many young girls and boys in similar situations. Both books are very positive.

In Being Jazz, Jazz describes the early feelings of being a girl in a boy’s body, wanting to wear girl’s clothing and play with dolls instead of trucks. She describes not being able to use the girl’s bathroom (it was interesting that the Orlando Convention Center had several unisex bathrooms), not being allowed to play on the girl’s soccer team. Yet, in the background, her parents were fighting the fights required to change the rules. I’m sure many (most) parents of transgender youth don’t have the knowledge or resources (time and money) to do all that the Jennings did.

She describes the onset of depression and how she handles it. She talks about friendship and shows a lot of spunk and self confidence when saying if someone doesn’t love her for who she is, then the friendship isn’t worth pursuing. She talks about the awards she’s won and the people she’s met.

Despite her experiences and the associated maturity, Being Jazz has the feel of being written by a fifteen year old (there’s no ‘with assistance from ___’ in the credits) and that’s good because maybe other fifteen year olds will be inspired by it…more so than if an adult wrote about being transgender.

No such book would be complete without a resource listing. Being Jazz includes the following: websites, depression outreach services, books for kids, books for teens and adults, educational books for parents of a transgender child and movies/tv.

All in all, Being Jazz was an enjoyable and educational read. It could be and should be a primer about what transgender means and how trans kids are no different than any other kid, having the same hopes and dreams.


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Jack and Libby. Libby and Jack. Two teenagers with issues. Jack has Prosopagnosia and can’t recognize faces, even of those who are close to him…even his girlfriend, which has caused him problems in the past. He’s identified other means of, sort of, recognizing people, but it’s certainly not fool proof. Libby was once dubbed America’s Fattest Teen and had to be lifted out of her house by means of a crane. Currently half her former size, she’s still a big girl, subject to the taunts of her high school peers.

Libby, having been the brunt of a cruel joke perpetrated by Jack, punched him, so they are both destined to serve time in the Conversation Circle after school, where they and several other teens discuss their behavior, among other things. It is there that they get to know each other and find out what makes each other tick.

Libby is still mourning the sudden death of her mother five years earlier, an impetus to her spiraling weight. Jack knows about his father’s affair and is trying to hide both this and his Prosopagnosia from the rest of the family. Can two people with issues come together and understand each other?

Jennifer Niven came on the scene in early 2015 with the critically acclaimed All the Bright Places in which she tackles suicide and bipolar disorder. In Holding Up the Universe, she tackles another subject affecting not only teens. Living in an era in which match-stick thin is a sign of beauty, being a larger size can have a dramatic impact on a person’s self image. Libby, however, knows who she is after having lived through a period during which she never left her home. She’s proud of who she is and wants to the world to know she is loved and wanted and just a great person. She, in turn, tries to instill that confidence in others.

While I enjoyed reading Holding Up the Universe, I found Libby to be too rah-rah. Is that possible given her past? Yet maybe that’s what’s necessary to let the world know that self worth isn’t inversely proportional to weight. On the other side, I don’t know how Jack  made it through life without anyone knowing of his disability. It seems incredible. In looking back, I also had an issue with characters in All the Bright Places.

Niven has put together an interesting supporting cast, most of whom ring true. All in all, Hold Up the Universe was an enjoyable read.

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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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