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.


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