Realistic

Never Always Sometimes, Adi Alsaid

Longtime best friends Dave and Julia are determined to live their lives authentically. Dead set against being cliché high school students they create a list of things they swore they’d never do. The list includes things like never dying your hair a wild color and never running for prom king and queen, to never date your best friend. But with two months left of their senior year and nothing left to prove, Julia convinces Dave to set out to break every rule on the list. Of course, things get complicated very quickly.

If you’re looking for a book to help carry you through finals and the end of the school year, Sometimes Always Never is it! Full of crazy antics, charming characters, and a bit of romance, the book will have you looking at what rules you can break in your own life.

Rosie Nominations Clean and Bitter End

CleanWhat I like about the Rosie nominations, is that there are books that cover a wide variety of subjects and vary in feel from light to pretty dark. Two books on the list deal realistically with the tough topics of dating violence and drug addiction.

In Bitter End, Alex is a typical teenager. She struggles with family issues, works a job she mostly enjoys and hangs out with her two best friends Zach and Bethany. Things change when the new boy at school, Cole, begins to show interest. Things are rosy at the beginning, but then Cole's interest becomes increasingly demanding, jealous and violent.

The path from rosy to violent is the crux of this story and is often difficult to read. Early on in the relationship, they becoming very close very quickly and share their deepest secrets. Alex feels that Cole loves her and is able to initially overlook some of Cole’s dark moods. The transition from overlooking the dark moods to blaming herself for them is gradual and terrifying. And even when the moods switch from being petty and sarcastic to physical violence Alex still is able to forgive Cole and the cycle continues.

Shine by Lauren Myracle

ShineWarning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.

After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.

But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process.  I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing. 

Acid, Projects, and Pit Bulls: Fiction by Paul Griffin

ImageThere are plenty of Young Adult books that portray the difficulties of being a teenager. Some are funny, some serious, and some are pretty dark. There's even a name for ones that focus on a specific issue -- the problem novel (you've got your teen pregnancy, drug abuse, suicide -- you name it). Some are great, but often times the more one topic takes center stage, the less realistic these books seem. It's never just one problem in real life, is it? For pretty much anyone at this age, times are hard all around. Paul Griffin writes about hard times.

SO B. IT

So B. It is a very special novel by Sarah Weeks.  Heidi, a twelve year old girl lives in Reno, Nevada with her mentally disabled mother and a quirky neighbor.  Homeschooled by her neighbor, Bernadette, Heidi lives a very unconventional life.  Her mother has a vocabulary of only 23 words,  Bernadette is afraid to leave her apartment, and Heidi's one friend, Zander, is overweight, loves junk food,  and lives in a world of made up stories.

The mysteries of how Heidi and her mother arrived at the apartment, who pays for their apartment, and what her mother's strange word "soof" means,  haunt the reader as well as Heidi.   When Heidi finds a roll of film and has the photos developed they reveal her mother at a Christmas party held at Hilltop Home in Liberty, New York.   Heidi simply cannot rest until she pieces together Mama's past.  She decides she must travel there alone in order to discover who her mother is, and, in the journey she discovers a great deal about herself.  This book is about identity, asking questions, and living both with and without the answers.  A memorable and unusual story,  So B. It would be great for ages 9 and up.

*Selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Split by Avasthi

SplitSome of the best fiction books take a situation of which you have very little first-hand knowledge and through sympathetic characters and solid storytelling create some sort of understanding of what living that life would be like.  Swati Avasthi's first Young Adult novel about domestic violence and abuse, Split, is a great example. Avasthi is able to allow the reader to care about the main character and his struggles with both the violence of his father and the legacy he is hoping to avoid.

Teenage Jace leaves his parents' house with almost nothing after a particularly brutal fight with his father.  He sets off from Chicago with his camera and the New Mexico address of his older brother who disappeared several years earlier.  Jace's brother Christian is less than thrilled to see him with a bruised face despite having come from and escaped the same back ground.  Their transition is rocky and a lesser book would have trivialized this time. Instead their difficulties felt genuine.

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