Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 340

Edward, a 12 year old boy, was the sole survivor of a plan crash that killed 191 people.  He is taken in by his aunt and uncle, who are still reeling from the fact that they will never have a baby of their own. Several people reach out to Edward to help him cope with this terrible tragedy, but the only one who seems to bring him any peace is his new next door neighbor, Shay.  He even sleeps on her floor every night because he can’t settle in his new house.  The story alternates between Edward’s life after the crash and the interactions of people on board before the crash.  There was a young woman heading to meet her soon to be fiance with some big news, a wall street tycoon traveling with his nurse, and an outgoing flight attendant determined to make everyone on board feel safe and happy.  As time goes on, Edward learns something that opens up a world of possibilities for how he can move forward and truly cope with everything he’s been through while also trying to do some good in the world.

This story about life after death focuses on a young boy and how difficult it is to go on after losing his entire family in an instant.  He even feels some guilt as to why he should survive and no one else.  His new best friend, Shay, seems to understand how difficult this is for him and tries her best to help him through this process.  His aunt and uncle are trying to be supportive too, but many times they aren’t sure what is best for Edward.  In the end, Edward finds a powerful way to help himself move on, but also those of others left behind.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 466

Leigh is devastated when her mother commits suicide, but she believes she reincarnated as a beautiful red bird who visits her sometimes.  On one such occasion, she believes her mother brought her a box of keepsakes from her grandparents, whom she’s never met due to a falling out that occurred before she was born.  Leigh convinces her dad to take her to Taiwan because she believes her mother wants her to finally meet them.  When she arrives there is a little issue with the language barrier, but Leigh is determined to try and communicate with her grandparents for her mother’s sake.  She even sees that her mother has left her with a way to see old family memories in order to better understand how they had all become so distant.  As Leigh struggles with a newly uncertain future, she must also begin to grieve and let her mother go.

An Iowa High School Award winner for next year, this story battles culture, identity, family, betrayal, trust, and even a little magic.  This is a powerful story about a young girl struggling with her mother’s death, but also trying to plan a future she knows her father won’t approve of.  She’s also navigating a complicated relationship with her long time best friend and recent crush, Axel.  This story will linger with readers long after they have finished.  Highly Recommended.

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

306 p.

This story alternates between “then” and “now” and tells the story of how “Jane Anonymous” was abducted, held captive for seven months, and then returned to her family.  Jane was taken from her place of work very suddenly one day and although she was able to call her mother from the abductor’s car, they were unable to find her before she was taken away.  Jane finds herself in a tiny room that is filled with her favorite snacks, clothing, and toiletries.  She is told to perform certain tasks in order to earn gold stars that will get her rewards that she would like, such as books.  At first, she refuses to do anything, including shower, and is punished for her behavior.  It’s only when she begins speaking to someone through the wall that she learns her captor has others in this place and the best way to survive is to follow the rules.  She begins looking forward to hearing the voice of the teenage boy being held captive down the hall from her whenever he can sneak away through the vents to visit.  When she manages to find a way to escape she is unable to find anyone else to release before she has to flee.  She feels immense guilt as she returns to her very grateful family knowing that she left others behind.  As details of her captor are revealed, however, it becomes obvious that there was a lot she didn’t know about her situation.  Can she trust the police’s version even if it’s difference from the one in her own mind?

This powerful story tells how a teenage girl could be stalked and abducted without anyone being able to do anything about it.  In the end, she rescues herself and then must deal with the aftermath of returning to her home.  She has many strong people around her who want to help her adjust back to her life, but she isn’t sure she can after what happened to her.  Recommended for fans who like intense stories such as Pretend She’s Here or Ruthless.

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash

Genre:  Romance

356 p.

College freshmen Mariam is still reeling from her breakup from Caleb, her high school boyfriend and she believes the love of her life.  She has a great relationship with her roommate, but otherwise she hasn’t gotten out much since she’s started college.  One day she decides she’s done feeling sorry for herself and she goes to the local virtual dating experience in order to see if she has any more “matches” out there.  To her surprise, the matchmaking program uses artificial intelligence in order to assess all of her qualities and match her up with three top choices.  They tell her that her top choice is one of the highest percentages they’ve ever had, but she can’t help but notice that her third choice is none other than Caleb.  Can she really ignore this incredible coincidence?  No, she can’t, so she invites Caleb’s avatar on a virtual date without him knowing it’s really her.  It goes really well and pretty soon they are going on other virtual dates, but the longer this goes on the more she knows that she must tell him the truth and she’s not sure she’s read to lose Caleb all over again.  Meanwhile, is it possible she’s already had contact with her #1 match?

This romance story puts a very modern twist on dating with the virtual experience, but it’s still fun and filled with engaging characters.  The story feels genuine and believable despite the use of very advanced matchmaking technology and the reader really wants Mariam to find happiness.  Mariam’s difficulty adjusting to college life is very relatable to many students and they will want to see how she copes with her parents, siblings, and making new friends during this transitional time.  Recommended for romance fans.

 

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 392

Aina lived on the streets after witnessing her parents terrible murder in Diamond City, where she lives.  Then, one day she was taken in by Kohl, a notorious crime leader, and was trained to be a vicious assassin.  As a young adult she is given an assignment that seems impossible, but if she succeeds all of her dreams will come true.  The only problem is that if she does not succeed, everything she has worked so hard for will come crashing down.  As she begins to investigate this crime she learns there’s a lot that doesn’t make any sense and she wonders if she’s uncovering a secret plot by someone to completely take over Diamond City.  Does she follow orders like she always does or does she think for herself and potentially take a different, albeit riskier path?

Fans of Six of Crows will like this title.  Aina is a well developed character that you immediately root for even though she works as an assassin.  She has a motley crew of characters around her, but it’s easy to see this world she lives in and the many complications she faces daily just to survive.  There are many twists and turns to the plot and spy-esque plans that fans of spy novels will appreciate even if the setting is more of a fantasy one.  The story stands on its own, but is reminiscent of popular series right now.

Hooper by Geoff Herbach

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Sports

323 pages

Adam lived in a Polish orphanage after his mother died and his father couldn’t take care of him until he was adopted by an American professor and brought to the U.S.  He has since learned that he has strong basketball skills, but his social skills have lagged behind a bit.  He only has one friend, who is otherwise a total outcast, and he doesn’t even interact with the other players on his team because he never knows what to say and is self conscious about his accent.  When he is offered the chance to try out for an elite basketball team he is both excited and nervous because it’s obvious the other teammates don’t think he belongs there.  It is only after he proves himself both on and off the court that he begins to realize that he is capable of making friends and being happy.  When an incident with the police threatens to tear his new team apart he realizes that others are dealing with just as many issues as he is and he must decide if he will stand up for them or focus on his own hardships.  Can Adam find a way to fit in with a new team, family, and country after getting saved from an orphanage overseas or will his insecurities keep him from enjoying life?

Fans of sports stories will like this one because it has a lot of basketball action, but the story is also well developed and interesting.  Adam has many insecurities he is dealing with, but he’s afraid that talking about them will show weakness or open him up for more bullying than he already gets.  It’s only after he begins to open up a bit that he truly feels like he can make friends and be happy.  Recommended for readers looking for stories about sports.

The Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 250

Annie has a difficult family to say the least.  She was bounced in and out of foster care until she turned 8 and her mother got in yet another altercation and her foster family said they would take her back as long as they could make it permanent.  Her foster father in particular does not like Annie seeing her biological family because he thinks they are a bad influence.  So, Annie, a skilled basketball player, has learned that if her family happens to show up during her games there is not much anyone can do about it.  In tournaments she gets her team to lose the first game on purpose so that they can then work their way up through the losers bracket and have more games and chances for her family to come.  As time goes on, however, her family manages to find even more obstacles for her to deal with and she’s not sure how she can keep her foster family and biological family separate.  Is it unrealistic that she should be able to have both families in her life?

This story tackles the tough issue of foster care and the difficult positions that puts everyone in.  Annie’s family has some strong feelings about foster care, but Annie cannot deny it’s given her opportunities she would not have had otherwise.  That does not mean she wants to turn her back on her family completely, however, so it becomes very complicated.  Throughout there is a lot of sports action too, for readers who like to read about sports.  The issue of foster care is not treated as an easy fix and all sides are presented to show how complicated this can be.  There is always hope, though, for helping kids who are in terrible situations.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 538

Zelie can still recall how her mother used to do magic when she was a child.  Since she too was born with the signature white hair of someone who will one day possess magic, she can’t wait until she can begin to feel the magic move within her.  However, the king has decided that those who do magic are dangerous and he has found a way to restrain all of them, which is how Zelie watches her mother die in a terrible execution.  As she grows up she is ridiculed for her white hair and her family is forced to pay steep taxes simply for having her in the family.  One day in the market, she literally runs into a girl running from the royal soldiers who begs her for help.  Against all odds, the two manage to escape the soldiers and only then does Zelie learn that Amara, a princess, has stolen a precious artifact from the palace that everyone believes could help bring back magic.  They end up setting off on a quest, with Zelie’s brother, to find the other two relics they need in order to reconnect magic to the world.  There are many people chasing them such as Amara’s brother, who is hiding a secret of his own.  Can they fulfill their quest in time? How many will be lost along the way?

This is a powerful and sometimes violent story because Zelie and Amara are fighting a war against those people who do not believe magic should exist and are willing to do anything to stop it from coming back.  Zelie has seen how her people have been treated without it, however, and she believes it is their right to claim what is naturally theirs.  The book, although a bit lenghtly, is so engaging that even reluctant readers will get hooked as long as they give it a try.  There is a sequel to this story.  Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  300

Simi is an Indian American girl who very much wants to grow up to be an artist, not a matchmaker like her mother and grandmother.  They believe she has the matchmaking gift that they have been doing in their family for generations based on personality traits, values, and much more.  Simi’s friend, Noah, wants them to step out of their comfort zones and get noticed during their sophomore year of high school, which is why he suggests they team up with Simi’s brother (a coder) to create a matchmaking app to bring Simi’s mother’s business into the modern age.  Simi reluctantly agrees and they create and launch a matchmaking app for just their high school.  It is naturally a big success as people begin seeing past their previously set cliques to see people they might be compatible with in the school.  Even the artwork Simi designed for the app is a hit.  The only problem is that one popular girl did not get paired with the guy she believes she’s meant to be with and therefore she’s causing trouble for Simi and Noah.  Is a matchmaking app based on ancient matchmaking ideals a good idea?  Will it bring people together like it’s supposed to or tear them apart and make Simi’s sophomore year a disaster?

This is a fun story that honors the matchmaking culture in a way that shows why it was originally established and how for many people it truly is about finding happiness for lonely people and not about making connections or dowries.  There are many different factors that Simi must consider as she launches this app at her school, but overall her intent is to make people happy and not to make money or benefit in any other way.  Along the way Simi finds several potential love interests and one challenges her personal beliefs (she reacts true to herself, which readers will find refreshing).  Recommended for fans of light romances such as Jenny Han, Sarah Dessen, and Susanne Colasanti.

The Girl Before by Rena Olson

Genre: Suspense

# of Pages: 314

Clara is shocked and frightened when a swat team bursts into her home and forcefully drags her and her daughters away.  She quickly learns that her husband is under investigation, but she doesn’t understand what for.  She knows he would be very upset with her if she talked to the police so she refuses to speak or eat until the police bring her a note in her husband’s handwriting telling her to eat.  Eventually, Clara begins to open up about her life in the hopes of helping clear her husband’s name, but in talking to her therapist she begins to wonder if that would be a good thing at all.  Throughout the book it flashes back to earlier times in her life depicting the many struggles and abusive relationships she has faced in her very young life.  Despite all she’s been through, Clara cannot come to terms with the fact that the investigators working with her believe she is actually a young girl named Diana who was kidnapped at an early age and brought into a world of lies and violence.  Is it possible she could have failed to see the danger she was in when she felt so loved and looked after?  Did she willingly participate in the crimes of her husband or was she too blind to see what was really going on?

This suspenseful story follows Clara as she struggles to learn the truth about her life, her husband, and the entire way she was raised.  Readers will quickly realize that she’s actually a part of a human trafficking ring, but she’s been so indoctrinated into the cause that she really believes the people around her care about the young girls they are raising.  As the realization of her entire life dawns on her she begins to feel the weight of the decisions she has made or at least allowed to happen in front of her.  The story uses many flashbacks to put the pieces together, which does build suspense, but may be confusing for some readers.  Characters are fully developed and engaging and it’s easy to see how Clara ended up in the predicament she is in.  Recommended for fans of mysteries such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 390 p.

Sawyer was raised by a single mother because her mother’s wealthy family disowned her when she announced her pregnancy at 17.  Due to the estrangement, Sawyer has not ever met her mother’s family and is shocked when her grandmother shows up unexpectedly one day to offer her college tuition in exchange for living with her for a year and participating in the debutante season.  Sawyer doesn’t have a lot of options at the moment to go to college so she agrees to go and secretly hopes she might be able to figure out who her father is.  Shortly after arriving, Sawyer learns that her cousin is being blackmailed by another debutante and she agrees to help, but little does she know that is just the beginning of the crazy debutante season!

This book balances a little mystery with Sawyer discovering who her mother’s family is and sorting out everything she thought she knew about them.  Fans of Barnes’s other titles will enjoy this one as well.  The story is engaging and the characters are fun.  There are several red herrings in the hunt for Sawyer’s father, but there’s so much going on it’s best to just enjoy the ride through the debutante year.  There is a sequel available for those who want to know more about these debutantes.  Recommended for those looking for a light, fun read.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Poetry/Autobiography

Iowa High School Award Winner

# of Pages: 291

This powerful memoir written in poetry format depicts Laurie Halse Anderson’s early life and the many difficulties she faced, including getting raped at 13.  Despite the many hardships she faced, she always had hope and dreamed of a brighter future, but as she got older she was often prevented in fully speaking her truth because adults didn’t believe young adults could handle it.  Sadly, she quickly learned that many young adults had their own hardships to share and those that didn’t should be enlightened instead of shielded.  She also spoke about how she was inspired for many of her popular books.

During a time when people are speaking out more than ever for equal rights and justice for those who have been taken advantage of, this book is very important for young adults to read.  Anderson’s original bestseller, Speak, has remained popular for several decades and there’s a reason why it speaks to readers year after year.  Anderson isn’t afraid to talk about difficult situations that do occur, whether adults want to admit it or not.  She believes it’s very important to speak up in order to defend and protect those who find themselves in positions where they feel they have no power.  Highly recommended.

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 307

Meri lives in a world where everyone lives harmoniously in a beautiful city where there is no waste since people do everything digitally.  In fact, her mother was an artist who worked on the city beautification projects all around the city.  Meri and her father are still reeling from her mother’s tragic death and Meri thinks her mother left a message in her unfinished paintings in her studio.  Meri stares at the paintings for weeks trying to figure out what her mother was trying to tell her.  Then, one day she sees someone get arrested for having a piece of paper and she can’t stop thinking about it.  She starts investigating and learns there are a lot of things the government has done in order to ensure peace and beauty, including eliminating any form of protest or uncertainty in the community.  Is it possible that her government has taken the ability or desire to find truth or to substantiate facts? Will Meri be okay knowing that her rights have been violated or will she find a way to do something about it?

This book has been compared to Fahrenheit 451 because it deals with government restrictions on information.  The book itself, though, has a fresh and new take on what seems to be a very possible future if people do not try to safeguard choice and truth.  It is very believable that people could be persuaded to let these things go when promised with safety, beauty, and stability.  Recommended.

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Genre: Romance/ Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 440

Emma Saylor hasn’t spent much time with her mother’s family since she was little due to her parent’s divorce and then her mother’s death when she was ten.  Her father tried really hard to shield her from the pain he knew she felt from her mother’s absence.  When her dad gets remarried, Emma is supposed to spend time with a close friend while he goes on his honeymoon, but plans change and she finds herself without anywhere to go for several weeks.  After exhausting every possibility, Emma goes to stay with her mother’s family who call her Saylor (which is what her mother called her).  They run a hotel next to a lake and Emma finds herself learning the importance of hard work and family as she throws herself into the family business.  She also realizes that she really doesn’t know much about her mother’s family at all and enjoys hearing how memories and seeing family photos.  As she gets to know her grandmother, aunts, and cousins she starts to realize that she wants to get to know them more even after the summer is over.  Meanwhile, there is a little romance between her and a local boy.

Anyone can relate to this story about feeling torn between two different worlds.  Emma was always a part of her father’s elite upper middle class world, but she feels she belongs just as much to her mother’s working class family first world.  Can she find a way to balance both?  Can she find a way for her two worlds to connect?  Recommended for fans of Dessen’s other titles or Jenny Han books.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Genre: Realistic Fiction

247 pages

Lena and Campbell are two very different students at the local high school. Lena has grown up in this community and is very popular.  Campbell is new this year and is struggling to fit in her senior year.  One night they are thrown together in a concession stand at the high school football game when a riot breaks out.  Even though they do not know each other, they are forced to try and find a way home through the chaos and dangers of a tough neighborhood.  Lena knows the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean she thinks it’s a safe place to be.  They encounter some scary situations and find it’s nice to have each other to lean on.  Can they both make it home safely?  Will there be any lasting damage from this fateful night?

Fans of The Hate U Give and All American Boys will like this title about racial tension challenging young people.  It’s written by two different authors which helps give each protagonist an authentic voice.  Fans will probably want to know more about what happens to these characters after this memorable evening and the aftermath they are sure to face.


Archives