Posts Tagged 'death'

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.

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.

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.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Genre:  Fantasy

Holly Chase was a wealthy, beautiful, egotistical daughter of a movie director who lived to judge others.  Therefore, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she was visited on Christmas Eve by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  Yet, Holly chose not to take this experience seriously and laughed it off as a joke despite the ghosts’ warnings that she would die soon if she didn’t change her ways.  Shortly after her disastrous Scrooge experience she is hit by a car and dies.  She wakes up in the office of the company who choose the “Scrooge” each year and she is now required to work here to prepare for each Christmas Eve, but then must also act the role of Christmas past.  She thinks she’ll be stuck in this existence forever until one year her Scrooge is a teenager just like her, and unfortunately, she can see the similarities between herself and her new Scrooge and for the first time she begins to feel bad about the kind of person she really was when she was alive.  Can she save him from the same fate even if she has to break a few rules?

Anyone looking for a fun Christmas read should check this one out.  Holly is brash, bratty, insensitive, and sympathetic all at once.  She’s trying to do better, but doesn’t really know how.  The supporting characters are all fun and colorful, but the focus is definitely on Holly and most of the other characters are not as developed.  The story itself is fun and the reader wants to root for Holly despite her difficult personality.  Recommended.

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

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Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  248

RAC: Yes

Miss James “Mori” Moriarty has been living a tough existence since her mother died several months before.  Her father has become a heavy drinker and often takes his frustrations out physically on her and her three brothers.  She knows she needs to do something to protect her brothers but she isn’t sure what at this time.  Meanwhile, she becomes friendly with a strange boy at her school, Sherlock Holmes.  They encounter a murder in the nearby park and are shocked to see the police are severely inept and make terrible and lazy assumptions.  They decide to investigate on their own in order to find the true killer and are horrified to discover this was merely one amongst several similar murders.  There is a serial killer out there the police aren’t even looking for!  Can Mori find the killer and save her family from an increasingly bad home life?

This is a fun mystery story for fans of mystery fiction and TV shows.  Sherlock Holmes is impressive in his deductions and observations as always and it’s refreshing to see a different take on the character of Moriarty.  There is a bit of violence in it and Mori’s father is definitely a force to contend with in her life, but Lock and Mori try very hard to never lose hope that they can in fact prevail as long as their intentions and resolve are strong enough.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  388 p.

RAC:  Yes

On a spring break trip to Aruba a group of high school seniors think they will have a carefree time full of beaches and parties, but instead end up finding one of their own, Elise, stabbed to death in their beach house.  Surprisingly, police turn suspicion onto their group rather than following clues that might suggest an outside intruder.  Within a few days, Anna, Elise’s best friend, is arrested and charged with the crime.  Anna’s boyfriend, Tate, is originally considered until his father’s expensive lawyers convince Aruba to let him go in exchange for testifying against Anna.  Anna feels shocked, sad, vulnerable, and betrayed as she awaits her trial in jail.  As her friends return to school, college, etc. she is forced to face the realization that she may spend the majority of her life in a foreign prison.  Will Anna be convicted?  Did she know anything about this terrible crime?

Fans of Pretty Little Liars and similar series will enjoy this title that packs emotion, suspense, and surprise throughout the entire story.  Readers come to feel like they know what it would be like to be in Anna’s shoes.  There are some passages with heavy language and sexual references that do ring true for how teens often talk and act to each other but may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Golden by Jessi Kirby

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  277

RAC:  Yes

Parker is a high school senior who has always followed the rules and done what she was supposed to, which is why she is currently a finalist for a prestigious scholarship that would give her a full ride scholarship to her dream school.  Her best friend, however, feels she needs to break a few rules before graduation.  The opportunity surprisingly arises when she is asked by a teacher to mail out notebooks full of wishes and goals written by a group of high school seniors ten years prior.  As she gathers the notebooks to send out to these graduated seniors from ten years ago she comes across one for a Julianna.  This is a big deal because Julianna died in a car accident with her high school sweetheart shortly after graduation.  They have since been immortalized in the town as the “golden couple” who were meant to be together forever.  Parker decides to open the notebook and read what Julianna’s last thoughts were in those weeks leading up to her death.  What were her aspirations?  Her dreams?  When Parker starts reading the notebook, however, she is very surprised by Julianna’s words and it makes her question everything the town promotes about this girl.  Was there more to that fateful night that led to the horrific car accident?  Parker decides to investigate.

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks will devour this title.  It is full of colorful characters, including Parker who is always pushed for greatness by her mother but deep down she doesn’t really know what she wants for her future.  Meanwhile, Julianna’s notebook opens a flood of feelings and fears leading up to graduation that anyone could identify with.  Plus, there is the added intrigue of finding out what exactly happened to Julianna and her boyfriend.  It’s a fun romance story that will be popular with many young adult teens.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Genre:  Fantasy/Science Fiction

# of Pages:  390

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2013-2014

Cinder is a cyborg living in squalor with her stepmother and two stepsisters.  She works everyday as a mechanic while her family does nothing and spends all the money.  A terrible plague is striking their kingdom and Prince Kai is trying desperately to find a cure.  He has lost his mother to this disease and now his father has contracted it.  When Prince Kai comes to Cinder for help with his broken cyborg she conceals the fact that she is a cyborg because many people look down on cyborgs as less than human.  The plague soon strikes Cinder’s house and she is blamed for bringing it to the family.  Her stepmother sends her away to “volunteer” to be a test subject in the royal labs in order to find a cure.  When Cinder arrives at the testing facility they end up learning much more about her past than she could even imagine.  Who is she?  Who were her parents?  How did she come to be a cyborg?  

This retelling of Cinderella is new and fresh as Cinder has a robotic foot which causes her stress throughout the story.  The kingdom is in peril both from the plague and from an evil outside ruler trying to take over during their time of need.  Fans of futuristic novels, such as Divergent, will enjoy this title for its unique twist on an old tale and will eagerly grab the sequel to see what happens next. 

Crazy by Han Nolan

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  348

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2013-2014

Jason tries to blend in at school and not draw anyone’s notice because he doesn’t want anyone to know how bad his home life is.  His father has always had some mental issues, but when his mother suddenly dies he finds it is up to him to take care of his father and everything else.  When he tries to rebel against some of the rules in class, however, he ends up having to meet with other troubled teens in a counseling session every week.  Soon, he comes to find that others have difficult issues to deal with as well and begins to open up a bit.  Will his new friends help him keep his secret even after they see his deplorable living conditions and the fact that he is solely responsible for his father’s survival?

This is a powerful story about a group of young kids who deal with more than most students can probably imagine in a single day.  Loss of parents, illness, infidelity, divorce, mental illness, and substance abuse are all discussed as these high school students try to help each other cope.  The counseling sessions do help Jason come to terms with the fact that he is not alone and he can reach out to people.  Reading this book could help high school students to be more understanding of each other and hopefully not as superficial.

One Moment by Kristina McBride

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  261

RAC:  Yes

Maggie and her boyfriend climbed a gorge in order to jump hand in hand into the water below, but something went terribly wrong and Maggie woke up at the top with no memory of what happened.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Joey, floated in the water below dead.   Afterward, Maggie and her friends must face life without Joey, while also overcoming the guilt they feel for having gone to that place at all.  Adam, one of their best friends, seems to be holding something back and has been steadily withdrawing since the accident.  Is there something Maggie doesn’t know about Joey?  Will she ever remember what happened at the top of that gorge?

Fans of realistic fiction will enjoy this title.  This story is engaging right from the beginning and the individual characteristics of the group are detailed well so that the reader can truly distinguish between each member.  There are a few key elements that the reader will pick up on before Maggie, but the big reveal seems satisfying nonetheless.  The book deals with grief, the aftermath of death, and even the ability to see the flaws as well as the strengths in someone who is gone in a manner that anyone can relate to who has experience with losing a loved one.

Reached by Ally Condie

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  512

RAC:  Book

In the final installment of the series, Cassia is back with the Society working as a sorter when the Rising takes control and produces a cure for a mysterious plague that the Society was trying to keep quiet within city limits.  Xander is working in the clinic as a physhic and was well aware of the plague and is thrilled when the Rising takes over simply because he was always on their side and now they can cure these people.  Ky, meanwhile, is working as a pilot for the Rising and his job is to deliver the cure to different locations.  They all end up coming together, but the virus mutates and threatens to wipe out the entire civilization.  Will Cassia choose Xander or Ky?  Will they all even survive the plague?  How will the Rising govern better than the Society did?

This ending was satisfying, but slow and a bit underwhelming.  The first book in this series was so interesting and raised so many questions about society in general and what is considered “normal.”  It seems like the second two books in the series lost their way a bit and struggled to recapture that spark the first one had.  It’s not bad, but just not as good as Matched.  Die hard fans will enjoy seeing what happens, but many readers will find this book tedious and cumbersome.  There are still some unanswered questions as well and the ending, although satisfying, is definitely realistic which hopefully readers will appreciate.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Genre:  Romance/Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  549

RAC:  Yes

     Ismae was born with terrible scars on her back because her father is Death and her mother tried to have her killed before she was born.   Later, Ismae’s stepfather sells her into a terrible arranged marriage.  Once her new husband sees her scars he believes Ismae to be cursed and starts to beat her.  She is rescued and sent to a convent where everyone works for Death.  Ismae comes to find she has talents for working as an assassin whenever Death shows her the mark that someone should die.  She is sent on a mission to help a man named Gavriel to protect a young girl who has recently taken power over a big nation.  Ismae knows there is a traitor amongst the duchess’s advisors, but is not as prepared for the task as she thought she would be.  Can Ismae find the traitor who threatens to put an entire kingdom in jeopardy before it is overtaken by enemies?  Can she trust Gavriel as her convent believes or is he in fact hiding any secrets of his own?

     This book is getting a lot of attention because it is engaging right from the beginning.  Any reader naturally wants to know more about Ismae’s skills as well as who is betraying the young duchess.  The characters are all memorable, which is important in a book with so many characters any of which could be the traitor.   The ending is satisfying and readers will want to see more of this character to find out what she is capable of.  Fans of Graceling and Star Crossed will enjoy this title as well.

You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  289

RAC:  Yes

     Luna and her family are struggling to deal with the unexpected death of her mother.  A year after she was hit and killed by a taxi, Luna goes to her mother’s studio and finds her cell phone with seven unheard messages.  As Luna slowly listens to the messages she begins to learn things she never suspected about her mother.  Could it be possible that her mother’s death was not an accident?  Is there information her father is not sharing with her?

     The book lives up to its title in that there is information to be learned from the seven messages, but Luna does not linger too long on them and instead moves on to finding out more.  The relationship with her neighbor seems a bit tiresome at times, but Luna’s relationship with her father and brother are rich and help establish their home life before their mother’s death.  The ending is satisfying, but there is no surprise that the reader won’t predict early on.  Fans of Lipstick Apology will enjoy this title.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages: 391

RAC:  Yes

Nora is paired with Patch in science class and always feels a bit uncomfortable around him, especially since he seems to turn up wherever she is.  The more time she spends with him, however, the more drawn she feels to him.  Her best friend and the school counselor warn her he is dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted, but she cannot help but feel like she is in fact safe with him.  Meanwhile, another new boy has come to her school, Elliot, and he is determined to befriend her.  While Nora’s best friend thinks Elliot is wonderful Nora cannot help feel like something is a bit sinister with him.  After a series of bizarre events in which Nora either hallucinated or someone is purposefully messing with her, she must decide which boy would be taunting her with dangerous situations.  Is her life actually in danger and why?

This story is yet another fallen angel romance, but somehow still finds a way to be unique and interesting.  Patch and Elliot both have reasons to hurt Nora, yet they both seem genuine at times when they want to befriend her.  While Nora’s mother is absent for an enormous part of the book and her best friend seems to make the worst choices ever, Nora seems to take things in stride despite the fact that she finds herself in severe danger over and over.  The ending provides some answers, but there is still a lot readers will want to know as this fantasy romance unfolds.  Fans of Unearthly, Fallen,  and Halo will enjoy this title as well.


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