Posts Tagged 'friendship'

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.

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.

 

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 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.

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense

Told from multiple viewpoints, six teenagers struggle to survive when masked men open fire in a shopping mall at Christmas time.  Grace, watched in horror as her mother became the first victim.  Miranda had been looking for ways to earn extra cash to support her new habit.  Javier had been working as a janitor in the cafeteria.  Amina had been working retail in a local clothing shop.  Cole was near the food court when the shooting happened and tried to get as many people as possible into a local store before the metal grate closed.  Finally, Parker had been reluctantly babysitting his little sister while messing around with his friends and lost track of her in the chaos.  He finds himself in the middle of the action while trying to find her.  All of these teenagers come from different backgrounds and have different issues to deal with, but ultimately they all have the same goal of survival.  They come up with a plan for how to help the hostages, but not everyone will make it out alive.

April Henry has once again created a fast paced suspenseful novel in which the characters are engaging.  Reluctant readers will enjoy this title as it is full of action and very little downtime.  The ending does contain a few surprises, but most are set up throughout the story and should not be a huge surprise.  A very entertaining read.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

# of Pages: 356

Sylvie, Vincent, Jules, and Sam are all lured to a late night escape room they believe to be mandatory for team building at their lucrative investment firm.  All of them have places they’d rather be, but after losing two major clients recently they are all concerned about their positions going forward.  Once they arrive, they soon get stuck in the elevator in the abandoned building and they quickly find a few clues that makes them realize the elevator is actually the escape room.  It’s very hot and dark, however, so they struggle to find clues.  They soon realize that there is no getting out of here unless they find their own way out and each clue reminds them of what they have given up and who they have hurt on their way up the corporate ladder.  Who is behind the escape room and will these four escape alive?

The person behind the escape room becomes clear fairly quickly in the story, but the why and the how take awhile to unfold.  Each of these people has a complicated backstory and it takes awhile for everything to come out.  Fans of mysteries such as The Woman in the Window and the Woman in Cabin 10 will enjoy this fast paced, high energy mystery story.  Even once the reader figures out who is behind the escape room, there are still many surprises ahead.

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.

 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

# of Pages: 556

Genre: Fantasy

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Nova lives in a world where some people have a super power that they were either both with or acquired at some point.  When she was young the Anarchists were superheroes trying to protect the rights of other superheroes by overthrowing the government that was oppressing them.  This led to chaos and another group of superheroes called the Renegades then rose up to fight the Anarchists.  Nova and her dad both had super powers and her dad believed that if they ever needed help the Renegades would come to their aide. However, when an assassin comes to their door Nova is forced to watch as he kills her mother, father, and baby sister.  The only reason she survives is because she’s able to put people to sleep when she touches them.  She ends up joining the Anarchists since the Renegades were nowhere to be found when she needed them.  She believes they have grown too powerful and need to be taken down, which is why she joins them when she’s old enough in order to learn what their weaknesses are.  As she begins working with her team, however, she realizes that you cannot blame an entire group for the sins of a few.  Should she remain loyal to the Anarchists who took her in when she had no one or truly become a Renegade who vows to protect the city at all costs?

The first in a series, this story is unique and engaging and puts a fresh spin on the idea of super heroes. Nova and her team captain, Adrian, both have secrets and desires to help the city improve, but they go about it in different ways that if found out could get them in big trouble.  The secondary characters are all developed and memorable so that the reader can truly differentiate between all of the superheroes and their many different, unique powers.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good adventure story.

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


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