# of Pages: 360
When Lily Bennett moves with her mother to a new town before her junior year of high school she tries to remain optimistic, but in reality her mother is fleeing her cheating husband and his pregnant girlfriend and Lily is fleeing her cheating father and the boyfriend who cheated on her with her best friend. They are both looking for fresh starts and unfortunately, that involves living on her wealthy grandmother’s property. Ever since she was a child Lily has had a bizarre recurring dream where she’s running on a big field that has caught fire and she approaches a teenage boy’s body in the middle of it. It has scared her since she was little, but normally she only has this dream a few times a year. Since she moved she has had this dream every single night and it’s beginning to take a toll.
Amber was a teen living in the same town Lily just moved to in the 1980s. Her boyfriend, Spence, was murdered on the football field of their school and the police investigator believed that Amber committed the murder. Four days later Amber was stabbed to death and it was ruled a suicide. Could Amber be trying to send Lily a message all of these years later about what really happened to her and Spence? What is Lily’s connection to Amber’s death?
Fans of Victoria Laurie’s mystery When will enjoy this title as well. It has many great plot twists, sinister characters, and red herrings. The idea that Lily could be the reincarnation of Amber is a unique twist you do not often see in YA mystery novels. The book itself moves quickly and will keep even reluctant readers engaged.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 391
Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road for five years as he worked for a trucking company, but he has decided to return to his home town so that she can go to a normal school. Unfortunately, Andy suffers from severe PTSD following his tours in Iraq. Due to this condition, Hayley is constantly watching out for Andy to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else as he often uses recreational drugs to try and cope. Hayley refers to betrayals in her past that lead her away from trusting anyone now with knowing their troubles. When she meets Finn she realizes that there might be people out there who also have struggles at home and whom she might be able to confide in. Can she ever be a normal teenager who worries about boys and schoolwork or will she forever be the parent in her house? Can she open up to Finn and let him know the horrors she potentially faces each time she goes home?
Fans of Anderson’s titles Twisted and Speak will love this title. It is very current and relatable while also revealing characters with personality and depth. Many tough issues are discussed in this book such as domestic violence, drug use, suicide, and death, but they are all introduced in a way that does not feel forced. The ending may or may not satisfy some readers, but in life things don’t always end perfectly and Anderson’s ending rings true in that respect.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 405
Sloane and James live in a world where teenage suicide is suddenly very common and often unexpected. They are still reeling from Sloane’s older brother’s suicide, which they both witnessed. Despite having many mixed up feelings about all the loss and stress around them they feel compelled to act happy all the time for fear they will be sent to The Program. The Program is the government’s answer to all of these teenage suicides and so far the only answer available for stopping them. Teenagers believed to have suicidal warning signs are sent to this building for 6 weeks and when they emerge they are completely happy and oblivious to their old life regarding friends, appearance, and personality traits. Sloane and James are terrified of The Program because of how some of their friends have returned, but parents are truly terrified of losing their children to suicide and will call the authorities if they are at all nervous about their child falling prey to this epidemic. Can Sloane and James keep each other safe and out of The Program? What will The Program entail if they do get sent there and are they strong enough to resist?
There are several epidemic type stories that are popular right now such as Delirium and Blackout and this one will find an audience with fans of those books. The motivations behind the teenagers and parents are accurately portrayed so that the reader can truly identify with everyone and their fears and motivations. The setting itself is told in such a believable way that it is easy to imagine how a community could get to the point of instituting something like The Program. The relationship between Sloane and James proves to be incredibly strong throughout the book and reveals their true feelings for each other. Like many other YA novels this one leaves an opening for a sequel. Recommended for reluctant readers.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance
# of Pages: 349
RAC Book: Yes
Carmen, Tibby, Bridget, and Lena are back ten years after the last installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Now they are all approaching the age of 30 and they have struggled to keep their friendship alive. Tibby moved to Australia with Bryan, Bridget lives with Eric in San Francisco, Lena lives alone in New York and works as an art professor, and Carmen lives with her horrible fiance in New York where she works as an actress. Tibby has especially fallen out of touch with her friends, which is why they are all so surprised when she invites them to Greece for a reunion. When the three girls arrive, Tibby is not there to greet them. By nightfall they know something is wrong and by morning their worst fears are confirmed. The way each woman handles this tragedy is to run away from each other, which seems a bit surprising considering how long they have been friends. Can they ever recover from their loss? Can they ever find their way in this world without wandering aimlessly forever?
Most of this book centers on Bridget, Lena, and Carmen coping with Tibby’s apparent suicide. During this time the three women rarely speak to each other and choose to throw themselves into various other activities. It seems sad they have been a bit lost these last ten years and it took a tragedy to wake them up. It’s difficult to take characters who became famous in young adult novels and make them realistic adults. In many ways, these characters were still the same immature girls who traded pants. The ending was satisfying, but the journey was a bit frustrating as the characters repeatedly made decisions that seemed unrealistic for thirty-year-olds who have been friends since birth.
# of Pages: 281
RAC Book: Yes
Alona is arguing with someone on her cell phone when she fails to look before she crosses a street and is killed by a school bus. She dies, but does not go to heaven as she expects. Instead, she remains around her high school and finds she can see how everyone is coping with her death. To her dismay, her high school did not come to a screeching halt merely because its most popular girl died. She begins to get frustrated because she doesn’t know how to get to heaven, but then she realizes that the weird goth kid, Will Killian, can see and hear her. She makes it her mission to make him help her get to the other side, but Will needs some favors of his own. Can the two overcome their differences to work together and find happy outcomes for both?
This is a fun, light story with some very real problems in it. Alona was the popular girl of the class, but that did not mean her life was perfect and Will soon finds that she hid some very serious problems from her classmates. Meanwhile, Will is struggling with his gift of seeing the dead and worries he might end up like his father who had shared the same gift. There is a bit of swearing, but it won’t be anything most high school students aren’t used to hearing. The message of the story is clear and readers will move through the fast paced story quickly. The ending is a little unclear, but overall it was an enjoyable read.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 229
RAC Book: No
Caitlin is having a difficult time coping with the suicide of her best friend, Ingrid. Her parents keep trying to help her by creating projects for her and offering her space, but she cannot seem to feel normal again. When a new girl in school, Dylan, tries to befriend her Caitlin feels guilty for having fun with someone else. One day, Caitlin discovers Ingrid’s journal under her bed. Slowly, she reads each entry and learns a lot about Ingrid she never knew. She feels bad that Ingrid did not feel she could talk to her about her issues and wishes she could have helped, but also realizes she must begin to put her life back together. She picks up her photography again and begins building a tree house in order to show everyone she is moving on, but not forgetting.
This book does have a few graphic scenes and some raw language, but many students will really identify with it. The different feelings Caitlin has are portrayed so realistically that any reader feels like he or she has experienced this terrible loss. Caitlin’s slow progression toward acceptance and healing feels natural and healthy and the people along the way who help her are engaging side characters. Anyone who enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why will enjoy this title as well.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age Level: 14 and up
# of pages: 288 p.
RAC Book: Yes
Clay Jensen is shocked to find a box of 13 audio tapes in a package addressed to him on his doorstep one afternoon. The note says that the tapes are to go to 13 people and if someone fails to send them on to the next person on the list then another copy of the tapes will be released publicly. As Clay begins to listen to them he learns that they are spoken by Hannah Baker, a fellow high school student who recently committed suicide. Each tape discusses one of the reasons that led to her suicide and which people were involved. As Clay anxiously awaits to find out how he played a part in her suicide he can’t help but notice how terrible high school can be and how a bunch of little, seemingly insignificant, incidents can add up to a terrible high school existence for someone else.
This story is powerful and not for someone looking for a fast read. It reminds us all that sometimes when something is said or done to hurt another intentionally it can have lasting effects and can even lead to other major events in that person’s life. The theme of the story is that we are all responsible for our own actions. Hannah never denies it was her choice to end her life. However, there were many times where someone could have acted differently that may have changed that decision. Even though it is a fictional story, many students will identify with at least parts of Hannah’s high school career and may even know someone showing warning signs for suicide. A very good read with an important message that students will hopefully think about long after they are finished.