Archive for the 'Realistic Fiction' Category

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.

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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.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Genre: Realistic Fiction

372 p

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Dill Early, Jr. is struggling in his town where he is now famous for being the son of the preacher who was convicted of having child pornography on his computer.  He and his mom are struggling under all the legal bills and he doesn’t see how he can ever really get out of this small town.  Lydia, his sarcastic friend, is also a bit of an outcast because she refuses to conform to traditional norms.  She has a fashion blog where she showcases unique stores all around their area and encourages everyone to be themselves at all costs. Their other friend, Travis, is a large red haired senior who loves a fantasy book series and often carries a staff with him.  The three of them are often ridiculed in their community and if they didn’t have each other to lean on their lives would be truly miserable.  Lydia, at least, has very supportive parents at home who are not living hand to mouth and can afford to spoil her a bit.  Dill and Travis, on the other hand, have parents who do not seem to like who they are very much and keep trying to change them.  All three of them have aspirations for after high school but do they have the courage to go for them? Do they have the strength to break away from the expectations that have been set for them?

This powerful story gets more and more powerful as it goes on.  The character development is so well done that the reader really feels like he or she knows these people and is living alongside them.  There are many issues these teenagers are dealing with that seem especially unfair for people so young, but these situations exist all over America and it’s time we all start addressing it.  Travis and Dill feel like they are trapped and have no way out of the life set for them by their parents, while Lydia is counting down the days until she can leave this town far behind. In the end, they all must find the courage to do what they need to in order to not only survive, but thrive in their own lives.

 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 306

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Will lives in a tough neighborhood where there are many rules that everyone just knows.  One of these rules is to never talk to police and to avenge killings yourself.  When Shawn, Will’s brother, is gunned down in their neighborhood he knows that according to the rules it is up to him to avenge Shawn by killing the person who shot him.  Will gets in the elevator with his brother’s gun and on each of the seven floors down a ghost of someone who knew Shawn gets in to tell him some information he needs to know before altering the course of his life with a huge action.

Written in poetry format, this story immediately pulls in the reader because it’s so easy to understand Will’s plight.  He doesn’t want to kill anyone but feels like he has to because of the code of the neighborhood and in order to prove that he cared about Shawn, who had done a lot for him since their dad died by gunfire.  As he begins meeting these ghosts of people who used to live in the neighborhood Will realizes that everything is not always as it seems and he might need to rethink any drastic actions.  A powerful story that is highly recommended for everyone, but especially reluctant readers.

Saving Red by Sonya Sones

# of Pages: 440

Genre:  Poetry

Molly has suffered a traumatic event that has left her with a support dog to comfort her anxiety, but it takes awhile before she shares what that event is.  In the meantime, she has lost all of her friends and is struggling in school, which is why she’s out doing her community service hours on the last day of the deadline.  The only option she has is to participate in the homeless count, which is when the city sends volunteers into the city to count the homeless population so they know how much relief to budget for the coming year.  She is struck by how many homeless people there are in her community, but it hits her especially hard when she meets Red who appears to only be a couple years older than her.  She decides to try and help Red reunite with her family before the holidays, but it is much more difficult and complicated than she thought it would be.  Can she help Red reunite with her family before it’s too late?  Can she help her own family heal and move on after what happened to them last year?

Even as a fan of Sonya Sones’ books this is one of her best.  It delves into the issues of mental illness, homelessness, and teen anxiety which are all issues that young adults need to hear more about as these issues effect everyone at some point.  Red and Molly are great characters that readers naturally want to learn more about and spend time with.  The ending is satisfying, even if it doesn’t answer every question, because life isn’t always easy as both Red and Molly are very aware of.  Highly recommended

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

grace and furySerina and her sister, Nomi, live in Veridia where women have no rights and are not allowed to learn how to read.  Serina has been trained her entire life to be beautiful, graceful, and alluring in the hopes of attracting the heir to the throne so that he chooses her to be one of his graces.  Each year the ruler gets to pick three women or “graces” who live with him in the castle and produce heirs, among other things. This year the heir gets to begin choosing graces and Serina’s family is desperately hoping he will choose her and shower them with favor.  Nomi does not believe in this tradition or the fact that women are not allowed an education and has learned how to read secretly.  When Serina is sent to the castle to catch the heir’s attention, it is actually Nomi (who had gone along as a handmaiden) who gets chosen.  Shortly thereafter Serina is accused of a crime she did not commit and is sent to a prison on a volcanic island where women literally have to fight each other to survive.  Each sister must fight for her rights and her voice in their own way.  Can they survive to somehow find their way back together again?

This book seems very timely in an age of the #metoomovement and women trying to take their voices back. Both sisters have a big struggle ahead of them in very different ways and neither knows who, if anyone, she can trust.  The book definitely focuses on female relationships, dynamics, and empowerment but in very different situations between the two sisters.  Fans of futuristic books such as The Hunger Games, The Selection, and The Testing will enjoy this title and look forward to the sequel.

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages: 340

This book focuses on 6 high school students who all have their stereotypical characteristics.  Diana is the senator’s daughter who always looks and acts perfect.  Frankie is the star football player who goes out of his way to prove there are no rules for him. Tad is another football player who is biracial and has also recently come out as gay and is struggling to get people to see him as he is.  Cas is a lonely, overweight girl who feels like she won’t ever fit in anywhere.  Z recently lost his mother, but all people see in him is a colossal screwup who will never get his life together.  Rashid is a Muslim who struggles to be seen as a person and not as religion by those around him.  They are all at school for different reasons days before the actual start to the school year when a bomb goes off and they are all trapped.  As they try to find a way out more bombs go off and the police are clearly scared to enter to try and find survivors.  Then, they find a radio and learn that the police believe the bomber is one of the students trapped with them in the building.  Could it be one of them??

This one has done very well in my school media center.  Some very avid readers were initially bored by the seemingly stereotypical characters, but quickly became intrigued when their personalities came out and most readers were surprised by the ending which is always a plus with a mystery.  The story itself moves quickly as each character reveals intimate details about what led him or her to be in the school that fateful day.  Recommended for fans of thrilling mysteries.


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