Archive for the 'Realistic Fiction' Category

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Iowa High School Award Winner 2020-21

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  234

Marin ran away to college after a terrible tragedy befell her and she hasn’t told anyone about it, even her best friend Mabel.  Despite her effort to outrun her past, however, Mabel has come to visit Marin in her dorm over Christmas break.  Mabel is determined to find out why Marin ran away and if there is any way to rekindle their friendship.  As the weekend goes on Marin begins to face the terrible truth she ran from, but she also begins to realize that she is going to have to face her past eventually.  Can they be as close as they once were?  Can Marin learn to deal with her reality as it is?

Fans of John Green will enjoy this title.  The characters are vivid and the plot is revealed at an appropriate pace.  Many difficult issues are discussed so readers looking for lighter reads will probably want to keep looking.  This has been named an Iowa Award Winner for next year.

 

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Genre:  Realistic Fiction apart from one futuristic element

376 p.

Lake Devereaux survived the car accident that killed her best friend and her boyfriend.  She has less than a month until she turns eighteen, at which time she can resurrect one person, but only one.  To make matters worse, she had already promised her resurrection to someone else who isn’t even dead yet. Everyone is pressuring her to use her resurrection for their personal family member and she is getting frustrated and overwhelmed.  Then, after therapy she meets a boy from her past who does not care who she chooses and therefore she sees him as someone she can confide in. He has strong feelings against resurrections, though, which makes their relationship difficult.  Who will Lake choose?

This book manages to set up a premise that seems totally believable and yet impossible for Lake all at once.  Her relationship with her brother, boyfriend, and best friend are all described in avid detail as you see why she is struggling so hard with this resurrection decision.  The periphery characters are also well described and their motivations are all understandable.  The ending will surprise most readers, but not in the way they will probably think.  The book manages to sustain a very interesting premise throughout the entire book.

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages: 282

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Morgan has become increasingly frightened to leave her apartment ever since the mass shooting at her high school.  It’s gotten to the point where she can’t even step outside her apartment door without everything starting to go fuzzy.  When Evan moves in next door she begins to want to explore the outside world again.  She misses her friends and her swim team and she hates the burden she’s put on her single mother and brother.  Her father is largely absent and isn’t much of a role model when he is in the picture. With the help of her therapist, Morgan must make the choice to fight her fears or else she may never leave her apartment again.

This book truly helps readers see what it would be like to be agoraphobic.  Morgan’s fears and her subsequent fight to get better are not portrayed as easy or trivial in any way.  As the story goes on, Morgan is also forced to see that others were also negatively challenged by the shooting, but have struggled in other ways.  It’s also nice to see how Morgan’s family copes and remains relatively happy and supportive of each other despite all that they have been through and the fact that they are not rich.  Evan is a fun character for Morgan to interact with, but ultimately this is Morgan’s story to tell.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 286

2019 Iowa Book Award Winner

Aza is a high school girl with many phobias in life, specifically that she will come in contact with a germ that will ultimately kill her.  She is constantly thinking about different diseases and risks she could encounter on a daily basis and this constant focus on her mortality has made her a bit of an outcast in her high school.  She does have one best friend, Daisy, who loves to write Star Wars fan fiction and seems to have Aza’s back at all times. When a local millionaire is charged with several crimes and disappears before he can be arrested, Daisy and Aza dream about what they would do with the $100,000 reward money for anyone who can provide information on his whereabouts.  When Aza was young, she was friends with the millionaire’s son, Davis.  They decide to contact him again in the hopes of learning where his dad is so they can collect the reward money.  He quickly sees through their plan, but reuniting with Aza turns out to be pretty great as she and Davis become close.  Whenever she gets too close, however, her mind spins out of control and she has to leave to collect her thoughts.  Can Aza overcome her own thoughts in order to get close to the boy she cares about?  Can Aza and Daisy find out what happened to Davis’s father?  Is Daisy as good of a friend as she thinks she is to Aza?

This book has gotten a lot of attention because it portrays Aza’s condition in a realistic light so that others can understand what it would be like to live like that. All of the characters are well developed and it’s easy to understand their motivations and desires.  The mystery of what happened to Davis’s dad is what gets the story going, but ultimately this story is about the characters and how they are all trying their best to deal with their individual issues and get through high school.  Fans of John Green will devour this title.


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