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.

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.

Not If I Save Your First by Ally Carter

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Survival

293 p.

Maddie used to live in Washington D.C. with her father, who was head of the Secret Service.  Her best friend was the President’s son, Logan.  Everything changed when a group of terrorists infiltrated the White House to try and take the first lady and were gunned down by Secret Service, injuring Maddie’s father and Logan in the process.  After the incident, Maddie’s dad quit his job and moved the two of them to very remote Alaska where there was literally no one else around.  Everyday Maddie wrote Logan letters that were never answered.  Six years later Logan lands in a bit of trouble and his punishment is to get sent to Alaska to be safe with Maddie.  Logan finds a very cold welcome in Alaska as Maddie is very upset with him and there are indeed people out there still trying to hurt him and his family.  Shortly after he arrives he and Maddie are attacked in the woods and kidnapped.  What does this person want and can they manage to get away before the big storm hits?  Can Maddie make peace long enough to try and save Logan?

There are many aspects of survival in this story that Maddie has learned while living in Alaska that come into play.  The book is very fast paced and would appeal to reluctant readers who would like a quick read with many plot twists.  Fans of Carter’s other series’ such as the Gallagher Girls might find this one a little one note by comparison.  The characters do not seem to be as developed as some of Carter’s other series and many plot reveals seem rushed and unsurprising.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Genre:  Realistic  Fiction/Romance

# of Pages: 348

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Natasha is struggling to accept that her family is about to be deported and won’t stop fighting even though it is her last day.  There is a lawyer who is supposed to be very talented at stopping deportations and she has a meeting with him today, but along the way she meets Daniel.  Daniel is an Asian American who has always tried to be a good son, which is why he’s on his way to a college admissions interview for a school he’s not sure he really wants to go to.  After Natasha and Daniel meet by chance they both find themselves drawn to each other and end up spending the day together talking and sharing their life’s ambitions.  They know that today could possibly be their last and they want to make it count.  Is it meant to be?

Nicola Yoon is quickly becoming a favorite young adult author.  This story focuses on some real issues that many teens deal with everyday, but in a way that feels unique and special to this particular couple.  Readers will connect with Natasha and Daniel and will want to know more about them.  Yoon does a great job of helping to show how other characters fit into the story as well by switching to different perspectives throughout the story.  Fans of romance novels such as The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park will enjoy this title. Recommended.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  287

Iowa High School Book Award 2018-19

Adam Spencer Ross is a high school student who wants to be there for everyone who needs him, but he has OCD and therefore some tasks can be difficult for him.  He goes to counseling one on one and in a group every week and this does seem to help him cope with his OCD symptoms.  He often finds himself worrying about his group members, his stepbrother who has anxiety, and his mother who is getting death threats to the point where he simply cannot think about his own symptoms which then get worse.  Meanwhile, a new girl joins their OCD group and he’s immediately drawn to her.  He worries it’s a bad idea to get involved with someone who also has OCD tendencies, but he can’t seem to help himself.  Robyn feels the same way and they begin a sweet romance, but soon all the stresses in his life begin to make it impossible to ignore that his OCD tendencies are making it almost impossible to get through the day and Robyn’s seem to be going away.  As much as he cares for Robyn he worries that his being near her as she improves might actually hurt her recovery.  Does he have the strength to let her go for both of their sakes?

Fans of Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars will love this romance between two unlikely teenagers.  The characters are all engaging and despite the superhero nicknames, each teen in his OCD group gains depth and personality throughout the story.  The topic of OCD is described accurately and can help readers understand how this condition truly affects teens their age and in different ways.  This book also shows that although people with OCD have a lot to deal with they are also very loyal to those they care about.  The book has several plot lines that all come together nicely and realistically in the end.  Once readers make the choice to try this one they won’t be disappointed.

Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  323

Adam lives in Blackwater where jobs, food, and everything else are scarce and life is hard.  He lives with his disabled brother and harbors a secret crush on Sadie Blood, the girl who runs the bike repair shop.  Every year there is a brutal bike race and the winner gets to go to Sky-Base, the amazing city where there is plenty of everything including food and opportunities.  Adam would love to abandon this hard life for the easy one in Sky-Base, but he always worries about leaving his brother and Sadie behind.  Also, there is a group of thugs who enjoy terrorizing everyone around Blackwater and Adam isn’t sure he has what it takes to beat them.  Then, tragedy strikes and Adam knows that his only shot is to race and win.  Does he have what it takes?

This book is action packed and full of suspense as Adam navigates this dangerous track and competition.  Fans of The Maze Runner series will really enjoy this title as it has similar exciting plot twists and dangerous actions.  It’s easy to get engaged with the characters as they fight for their lives on an hourly basis in this tough town.  The ending will leave readers wanting more.   Recommended for reluctant readers.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 449

Iowa Award Winner 2018-19

Emily and Sloane have been best friends ever since Sloane moved to town. They do everything together and Emily feels braver and more adventurous when she’s with Sloane, which is why it’s so hard when Sloane disappears one day. She stops answering her phone and her house suddenly seems abandoned.  Meanwhile, Emily’s parents have become suddenly absorbed in a new play they are writing and she feels she has no one to talk to.  Then one day Emily receives a list in the mail from Sloane of crazy things to do this summer and she thinks that if she does them she’ll somehow find Sloane.  Along her journey through the list she gets a job where she meets a new friend, and gets to know a boy from school she previously thought was too good for her.  She also does many crazy things she never thought she’d have the courage to do.  As she moves and changes, though, she still misses her best friend and hopes to find out where she’s gone.

This coming of age story about friendship is relatable to any high school student who has needed help finding their true personality as they grow up.  It’s easy to get caught up with what friends like or don’t like, but eventually we all have to find our true self and be brave enough to share it with others.  Emily’s story shows how intimidating that can be while also revealing how amazing the results can be when you put yourself out there. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will love this story and will not be disappointed by the ending.  The list is fun, but it’s the characters who really shine.

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Genre: Mystery/realistic fiction

# of Pages:  359

2018-19 Iowa High School Award Winner

Addie Webster was kidnapped from her home when she was 8 and there has been no trace of her ever since.  Then, after her father becomes president of the U.S. she mysteriously shows up again and claims to have escaped from her terrible captors.  The head of the NSA finds her story troublesome and enlists her former best friend, Darrow, to keep an eye on her and see if she does anything unusual.  Darrow is offended at first, but unfortunately has some deeds in his past he would prefer did not become public and agrees to keep an eye on Addie.  He is surprised to find that she does exhibit some unusual behavior, such as being able to hack and take down a video posted by a bully in a threatening manner.  He’s happy she did it of course, but where did she get such computer skills if she was raised in a compound with no connections to the modern world? What is she up to and how far will she go to get what she wants?  Most importantly, is any part of her still the Addie he remembers playing board games with as children?

This book is fun, surprising, and fast paced.  Readers will enjoy the unusual set up, but will most likely see through some of the lies that take Addie awhile to figure out.  It is set up to continue and I’m sure that readers will want more after the exciting ending and subsequent cliffhanger.  Many of the characters are not fully developed, but as the series continues I’m sure they will develop further.  This would be a popular title to share with reluctant readers, not because of its length, but because of its ability to grab the reader from the very beginning and keep him or her guessing until the very end.

 

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Genre: Mystery

# of Pages:  421

On their very first day of school, six kindergartners are mysteriously abducted from school and do not surface for eleven years when they are all mysteriously dropped off with no memories and only their parents’ addresses clutched in their hands.  One of the original six, Max, does not return with the others and the realization that he hasn’t returned breaks his family even more.  His sister, Avery, decides to start investigating on her own to see if she can find out where Max is.  The others, meanwhile are struggling as well.  Scarlet comes home to a mother who has become obsessed with the idea that aliens stole her daughter and Caleb comes home in time to witness a tragedy.  They have been told repeatedly that it’s probably a good thing they can’t remember the last eleven years and the horrors they witnessed, but most of them still want to know where they have been especially since they are exhibiting knowledge in certain areas and they don’t know why.  They have missed most of their childhood and they each need to figure out how they fit into their own lives again.  Will they ever learn the truth behind their disappearance?  Where is Max?

Mystery readers will love this book because it is engaging, but also believable with many unusual facts they need to put together in order to get a general idea for what happened to them.  They know they may never know everything, but even learning the person responsible would be helpful when trying to move on.  The characters are all developed so that the reader can understand their feelings and motivations, while also understanding how hard it would be to go through something like this.  The ending is also very satisfying while not being too tidy or predictable.  Recommended.

The Possible by Tara Altebrando

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  292

Kaylee lives a fairly ordinary life for a teenage girl until she is approached by a woman doing a podcast on Kaylee’s birth mom.  Kaylee’s birth mom is famous for possibly having telekinetic powers based on a photo taken when she was a teen, although her powers were never proven. She’s also known for murdering her infant son and going to prison for it, which is why Kaylee has lived with her adoptive parents ever since and has no memory of her life with her mom at all.  Kaylee’s parents are against her interviewing for the podcast because they are afraid it will dredge up painful memories, but Kaylee feels like she needs to know the truth about her mom and agrees to help.  Once the podcast begins airing it becomes a local phenomenon and many of Kaylee’s classmates begin to wonder if she has telekinetic powers too since she is an excellent softball pitcher and a girl she doesn’t particularly like gets hit by a falling tree branch.  Suddenly, Kaylee isn’t sure what to believe anymore.  Is it possible her mother has special abilities and if so, could she?

This story is engaging right from the beginning.  Kaylee’s need to meet her mother and bring closure to her past is all very understandable, but it plays out very realistically and that’s hard for her to handle.  As she navigates through the twists and turns in this story, Kaylee learns a lot about herself, her parents, her mom, and her friends.  The ending is satisfying, but it’s the realistic writing style that will really help readers to identify with and care about Kaylee and her story.


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