Posts Tagged 'family'

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

Genre: Romance

# of Pages: 307

Hollis is a wealthy young lady who has suddenly caught the eye of the King at court and she is unsure how she feels about it. Her parents are thrilled at the prospect of their daughter becoming a Queen, but Hollis is not sure if this is the life she really wants. At the same time, she doesn’t have any other ideas for what she wants to do in life so she might as well be pampered and adored wherever she goes. In this kingdom, Queens have always been highly respected and revered, which pressures Hollis into thinking she has to be great if she were to become Queen. Suddenly, a family of refugees from a nearby kingdom arrives and with them, a young man whom she feels instant chemistry with. He is a talented metalsmith and has a mysterious past and Hollis can’t help but feel drawn to him. Could she really give up becoming Queen in order to chase someone she barely knows? Could she let down all of those around her who plan to benefit off of her impending nuptials?

As a fan of The Selection series I was so excited to read this new title by Kiera Cass, but unfortunately, most of the book lacked any real character development or plot movement. The ending was really exciting and definitely opens up the possibility for Hollis’s story to find some excitement, but up until then Hollis was a very difficult character to care about. She was unsure how she felt most of the time and extremely impressionable, but she was also unbelievably forgiving to those around her who might wish her harm. Most of the characters around her were very one-note as well which made it hard to feel one way or another about who Hollis ended up with. After the dramatic ending the next book could be really good, but I wish that the first one had taken the first 200 pages to better develop the characters and drive the plot.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Genre: Science Fiction/Historical

# of Pages: 486

Etta Spencer has been working her whole life to become an amazing concert violinist, but just as she’s about to make her big debut she is grabbed  by a mysterious young woman and zapped into another year.  She soon meets Nicholas, a sailor who has faced racism his entire life due completely to the color of his skin and the time period in which he lives.   Etta learns that she has been summoned from the past for a mysterious and dangerous task that will save her mother’s life.  She is still getting her head around the idea that time travel is possible and truly has no idea who she can trust in her impossible quest, but she knows she must try if she wants to see her mother alive again.  Can she bounce through time in order to retrieve a long lost relic in the short amount of days she has been given?  Who will betray her along the way?

Fans of the Ruby Red series will enjoy the first in this series.  The setup and character buildup take a little while, which might discourage some reluctant readers, but the payoff is there with the rich storyline that develops.  This first installment does leave a lot of questions unanswered but not in a way that is too frustrating for readers.  Recommend to students who enjoy historical fiction or sci fi titles.

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 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.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 538

Zelie can still recall how her mother used to do magic when she was a child.  Since she too was born with the signature white hair of someone who will one day possess magic, she can’t wait until she can begin to feel the magic move within her.  However, the king has decided that those who do magic are dangerous and he has found a way to restrain all of them, which is how Zelie watches her mother die in a terrible execution.  As she grows up she is ridiculed for her white hair and her family is forced to pay steep taxes simply for having her in the family.  One day in the market, she literally runs into a girl running from the royal soldiers who begs her for help.  Against all odds, the two manage to escape the soldiers and only then does Zelie learn that Amara, a princess, has stolen a precious artifact from the palace that everyone believes could help bring back magic.  They end up setting off on a quest, with Zelie’s brother, to find the other two relics they need in order to reconnect magic to the world.  There are many people chasing them such as Amara’s brother, who is hiding a secret of his own.  Can they fulfill their quest in time? How many will be lost along the way?

This is a powerful and sometimes violent story because Zelie and Amara are fighting a war against those people who do not believe magic should exist and are willing to do anything to stop it from coming back.  Zelie has seen how her people have been treated without it, however, and she believes it is their right to claim what is naturally theirs.  The book, although a bit lenghtly, is so engaging that even reluctant readers will get hooked as long as they give it a try.  There is a sequel to this story.  Recommended for fantasy lovers.

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.

The Girl Before by Rena Olson

Genre: Suspense

# of Pages: 314

Clara is shocked and frightened when a swat team bursts into her home and forcefully drags her and her daughters away.  She quickly learns that her husband is under investigation, but she doesn’t understand what for.  She knows he would be very upset with her if she talked to the police so she refuses to speak or eat until the police bring her a note in her husband’s handwriting telling her to eat.  Eventually, Clara begins to open up about her life in the hopes of helping clear her husband’s name, but in talking to her therapist she begins to wonder if that would be a good thing at all.  Throughout the book it flashes back to earlier times in her life depicting the many struggles and abusive relationships she has faced in her very young life.  Despite all she’s been through, Clara cannot come to terms with the fact that the investigators working with her believe she is actually a young girl named Diana who was kidnapped at an early age and brought into a world of lies and violence.  Is it possible she could have failed to see the danger she was in when she felt so loved and looked after?  Did she willingly participate in the crimes of her husband or was she too blind to see what was really going on?

This suspenseful story follows Clara as she struggles to learn the truth about her life, her husband, and the entire way she was raised.  Readers will quickly realize that she’s actually a part of a human trafficking ring, but she’s been so indoctrinated into the cause that she really believes the people around her care about the young girls they are raising.  As the realization of her entire life dawns on her she begins to feel the weight of the decisions she has made or at least allowed to happen in front of her.  The story uses many flashbacks to put the pieces together, which does build suspense, but may be confusing for some readers.  Characters are fully developed and engaging and it’s easy to see how Clara ended up in the predicament she is in.  Recommended for fans of mysteries such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

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.

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.

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.

The End of Our Story by Meg Haston

Genre: Romance

280 p.

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Bridge and Wil were very close until Bridge did something that Wil did not think he could bring himself to forgive.  It has been months and Bridge is still struggling without Wil and his family’s influence.  When she runs into Wil, his new girlfriend, and his dad at the grocery store his dad urges her to make things right with Wil.  She argues that it’s Wil who doesn’t want to have a relationship with her but he argues back that she needs to mend the friendship if nothing else.  Shortly after the town is shocked by the news that Wil’s dad has been murdered by an intruder and Bridge knows that it is her job to comfort Wil and his mother at this time.  Eventually, they begin to grow closer as Wil struggles with the aftermath of this attack, but is he being completely honest with Bridge?  Do they really have a future together or are they just looking for familiarity during a tragedy?

The relationship between the two main characters is very complicated, as many relationships are, despite both Wil and Bridge’s desire that it be easy and simple.  Bridge is trying to make up for a mistake she made and is desperate to get back in Wil’s good graces, but Wil has demons to overcome himself.  They are both facing many difficult decisions as they enter their senior year and it understandably causes some tension and anxiety with those around them.  They lean on each other to help them through these confusing times, but often find that without total honesty and trust nothing really matters.  Recommended for fans of conflict romances.

 

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

# of Pages:  403

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Canaan is meant to be a perfect city in which people live in peace and harmony without the distraction of technology, money, or competition.  Every twelve years the town breaks into chaos and then their memories are erased.  The only way they know who they are is by reading the book that is tied to them at all times.  Nadia did not forget her memories during the last forgetting and therefore knows some of the things people chose not to include in their books, including people, they hoped to forget.  She has no idea why she didn’t forget her memories, but it definitely didn’t make her life any easier since her mother and sister treat her like she doesn’t belong in their family.  Meanwhile, Nadia has begun slipping over the walls of the town in search of food, answers, and adventure.  She is caught by the glassmaker’s son and he demands she take him with her.  As they explore outside the walls they learn there are many things about how their town was set up that no one ever passed down, despite her suspicions that not everyone is losing their memories every twelve years.  Will anyone ever believe them about their discoveries?  Will it be enough to save them from this terrible fate of forgetting who you are every twelve years?

This story has a dystopian feel similar to The Giver, The Testing, and Matched.  It takes awhile to fully invest in Nadia and her quest to find answers about her town.  Once she begins finding answers the book’s pace picks up and takes off while many obstacles rise up to try and stop her from sharing the truth of their existence with others.  The main characters are well developed and everyone’s motivations and actions are adequately explained by the end.  Readers who enjoy these dystopian books will be curious for more, but it isn’t quite as engaging as some of the other titles in this genre.

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.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Genre:  Romance

# of Pages: 329

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Lily comes from a big and crazy family where chaos rules their house most of the time.  She likes to dress in a unique style, has unruly hair, and enjoys alternative music choices.  She even tries to write her own songs, but lately that hasn’t been going so well. She has a best friend, Isabel, who loves her for all her quirks but desperately wants her to find someone to date so they can have couple’s outings.  At school there is a boy she likes, Lucas, who doesn’t seem to notice her existence, and a boy, Cade, whom she despises and finds to be arrogant and rude at every turn.  After she gets her notebook taken away for writing music lyrics in chem class, she begins writing right on the desktop and to her surprise, someone writes a response and they have the same taste in music as her.  They begin exchanging notes back and forth and she really starts to open up to this person, but then becomes anxious about who her pen pal might be.  Could it possibly be the boy she’s been admiring or could it be the boy she dislikes with every fiber of her being?

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will love this sweet romance about two people who think they know everything about the other only to find out they really don’t know anything at all.  Lily’s family is humorous in the background, but the heart of the story is really the romance between Lily and her pen pal.  Recommended for anyone who loves teen romances.


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