I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

i am the messenger

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  357

RAC:  Yes

Ed Kennedy has zero goals or aspirations for life.  He works as a cab driver, lives with an old dog, and plays card games with his three underachieving friends.  After witnessing the worst bank robbery he’s ever seen, Ed manages to help catch the robber sheerly by luck.  Afterward, he is given quite a bit of notoriety, but more importantly he receives a playing card with three names on it.  He quickly realizes that he needs to find ways to help the people named on the card and some are much more difficult than others.  Each person changes Ed a little bit and he begins to wonder how many names there will be.  He has evidence that someone is watching him to see if he is completing his tasks, but who?  What is the purpose of these little missions?

This powerful story makes you think about the choices you make everyday.  Ed never planned on making much of himself simply because he didn’t think he had any real potential or skills.  These missions help him to learn that he can indeed make a difference in many ways.  What is he meant to do?  His friends are no more motivated than he is, but as he continues his journey he begins to discover that they all have secrets of their own.  There is some sexual references and mild language, but the story will leave you thinking about the character and the message for days to come.

The List by Vivian Siohban

thelist

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

333 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

2014-2015 Iowa High School Award Winner

Every year a list is posted the Monday before Homecoming listing the four prettiest and four ugliest girls, one for each grade respectively.  Each chapter follows one of the eight girls and how they cope with the existence of this list.  Danielle, the ugliest freshmen, must deal with the fallout of how her boyfriend handles the news that she was voted on this list.  Meanwhile, Abby, the prettiest freshmen faces possibly not being allowed to go to the dance at all due to grades.  The “ugliest” sophomore is actually a cute, but very mean girl who is deemed “ugliest” on the inside.  The “prettiest” sophomore girl is a girl who has been home-schooled for her entire life and is trying to find independence from her mom with great difficulty.  The prettiest junior, Bridget, feels pressured into an eating disorder in order to maintain her image while the ugliest junior reacts quite strongly and refuses to shower or change her clothes for the entire week after the list comes out.  The ugliest senior is the first ever to earn that particular honor for all four years of high school and she pretends she is totally fine with it.  The prettiest senior feels the pressure to follow in her sister’s footsteps who was the prettiest senior the year before and seemed to fall apart afterward.  Each chapter follows a different girl as she navigates through this very difficult week.

This book has earned many awards for good reason.  This book delves into many serious issues for high school girls including insecurity, the fear of being excluded, worrying about what others think, eating disorders, dating problems, academic trouble, lying, and problems at home.  No one on the list finds happiness no matter which side of the list she is on.  While the circumstances around the list may seem unbelievable, the issues surrounding it are completely believable and exist at every high school.  A great book to recommend to high school girls, especially ones who are having trouble adjusting.

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange

dead ends

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  328

RAC:  Yes

Dane is a bully who is a mere few strikes away from expulsion, but he still can’t seem to keep his fists under control.  One day he notices a boy with Down Syndrome following him to school and he decides to put him in his place, but surprisingly the boy immediately has an effect on him.  His name is Billy D and he is Dane’s new neighbor.  Billy D wants Dane to teach him how to fight and find his father and in return he will tell the Warden at school how much Dane is helping him navigate the new building and protecting him from other bullies.  As Dane walks Billy D to and from school everyday they start to become friends and Dane helps Billy D solve the clues his father left for him in an old atlas.  Billy D is sure that the clues will lead to his father’s location, but Dane is starting to grow concerned that this path to Billy’s father might end with him getting hurt in some way.  Can Dane help Billy D long enough to avoid expulsion?  Can Billy D solve the clues and do those clues lead to his father?  What is the reason why he does not know where his father is?

Dane and Billy’s unlikely friendship pulls readers in as they try to follow the clues left by Billy’s dad.  You can’t help but want to know about Billy’s backstory and all the things he doesn’t want to tell Dane about.  Meanwhile, Dane is dealing with a single mom, an absent dad, and unexplainable rage issues.  Can these two find a way to help each other grow?  The characters are incredibly complex and sympathetic which fuels the entire story.  Recommended for reluctant readers.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

impossibleknife

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  391

RAC:  Yes

Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road for five years as he worked for a trucking company, but he has decided to return to his home town so that she can go to a normal school.  Unfortunately, Andy suffers from severe PTSD following his tours in Iraq.  Due to this condition, Hayley is constantly watching out for Andy to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else as he often uses recreational drugs to try and cope.  Hayley refers to betrayals in her past that lead her away from trusting anyone now with knowing their troubles.  When she meets Finn she realizes that there might be people out there who also have struggles at home and whom she might be able to confide in.  Can she ever be a normal teenager who worries about boys and schoolwork or will she forever be the parent in her house?  Can she open up to Finn and let him know the horrors she potentially faces each time she goes home?

Fans of Anderson’s titles Twisted and Speak will love this title.  It is very current and relatable while also revealing characters with personality and depth.  Many tough issues are discussed in this book such as domestic violence, drug use, suicide, and death, but they are all introduced in a way that does not feel forced.  The ending may or may not satisfy some readers, but in life things don’t always end perfectly and Anderson’s ending rings true in that respect.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

housegirl

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  372

RAC:  Yes

Lina is a lawyer at a high profile firm in New York City.  She is assigned a bizarre slavery reparations case in which she is challenged to find a modern day descendant of a slave who can claim damages today.  She ends up coming across a story about a famous artist, Lu Anne Bell who was credited with wonderful paintings of the slaves on her plantation before her death in 1852.  Some recent criticism has come up in which experts are speculating the artist was actually the young slave girl, Josephine.  Can Lina prove that Josephine was the artist instead of Lu Anne?  Can she find a descendant of Josephine when there is no evidence of what happened to her after Lu Anne’s death?  Can she do it in time for the unimaginable deadline that her boss has set for her?

No one denies that many injustices occurred while slavery was still legal in the U.S., but this book reminds us that there are still many stories to tell.  Although, this is a fictional story it does remind us that each slave had a name and a story and people are interested in learning those.  The way the story is told pulls the reader in through old letters and documents.  It seems impossible to right the wrongs that occurred back then, but there are still truths that can overcome the lies that have pervaded history.  Fans of Sarah’s Key and Between Shades of Gray will enjoy this title as another book that sheds a different light on a big piece of history.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  325

RAC:  Yes

Park is a half Asian student who lives in a tough neighborhood of thugs and bullies, but has always managed to stay under the radar.  Eleanor is a new student who has bright red curly hair and is a bit overweight.  She immediately becomes a target for the bullies at school and Park takes pity on her and allows her to share his seat on the bus.  They do not talk at first, but eventually they start sharing music and comics.   Eleanor never talks about home, however, and as their friendship begins to shift toward a more romantic relationship Park begins to understand why she never discusses her family.  Can Park protect her from the bullies in her life?  Does he have the courage to do so?

This powerful modern day romance will connect with John Green fans who enjoy unique and truly memorable characters.  There are many interesting descriptions used and information about both Eleanor and Park is revealed through surprising and yet realistic means so that the reader truly learns certain pieces of information at the exact moment that it occurs to the character.  Highly recommended.

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

raft

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  231

RAC: Yes

Robie lives in the Midway Atoll with her family, but often goes to stay with her aunt in Honolulu.  One summer, her aunt is called away unexpectedly and Robie decides to take the shuttle plane home to her parents.  The phones are out so she cannot call her parents and tell them she is coming and in the commotion she forgets to get weighed before her and her bags climb aboard the plane.  A major storm knocks out one of the engines and the plane goes down.  Robie ends up struggling to survive in the middle of the ocean with only a raft and a few supplies.  Can she survive out there by herself?  Will anyone come to look for her?

This survival story realistically portrays exactly what it would be like to be drifting on a raft for days including symptoms of dehydration, starvation, and environmental dangers.  The details of the region including geography, animal life, and weather are all perfectly accurate which helps this story to feel even more realistic.  The story itself is very exciting and moves quickly so it is recommended for reluctant readers.



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