Warning: 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. Read more »
There 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. Read more »
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.
Some 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.
When I picked up Shusterman's Bruiser, I expected to read a book about an angry kid who taunts and punches away his insecurities. While this book does deal with bullies, Brewster, the character of the title, is almost the opposite of a bully and a bit magical to boot. A hulking and shabbily dressed 16-year-old, Brewster is an outsider who people vote to be the Most Likely to Go to Jail, and generally treat as if he's not there. Which suits him fine, even if he's never stepped on an ant, because he takes on the physical and emotional pain of anyone he gets close to. Read more »
One of the great things about good books is that they can reveal life through another person's eyes. That revelation is especially engaging when the character has some barrier to ordinary self expression. I recently read two fine books that offer fresh perspectives on school and life in general from characters who have trouble communicating with the world. Read more »
One request we get all the time at the library is for Star Wars origami books. In the past, we've had to refer people to websites, but now we can finally offer our customers an actual book with instructions for one Star Wars origami figure - speaking of Yoda, I am. Sixth-grader Tommy has an eccentric and socially challenged friend named Dwight, who is somehow able to channel very wise, if sometimes unclear, advice through his origami finger puppet Yoda. Tommy keeps a journal (his "case file") on the advice Yoda offers, in an attempt to determine if people should really listen to Yoda, or if he's just a "green paperwad" like Tommy's friend Harvey claims.