Reynolds, J. (2017). Long Way Down. NY: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.
Masterfully told in verse, the new Jason Reynolds book has arrived. Fifteen-year old Will’s older brother was shot last night, yet he never cries. That’s one of the rules. No crying, no snitching, and get revenge. As Will gets on the elevator in his apartment building with a gun awkwardly stuck in the back of his pants, he begins the descent down, but at different floors different people from Will’s past – all dead now – hop on the elevator and proceed to unravel the patterns and complications of this ruinous cycle of violence.
Very suspenseful! You’ll fly through Long Way Down.
Spotswood J. (2016). Wild Swans. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks.
Wild Swans is a story about a summer and about Ivy, a girl going into her senior year. After years of trying to live up to her grandfather’s expectations, Ivy has had enough. She has her summer all set up: no clubs her grandad makes her join, no extra credit, no nothing. Just pure fun. Bonfire parties, hanging out with friends, and the occasional volunteering. But when her mom comes back with two daughters, the whole summer spirals downwards. From flaring arguments with her estranged and irresponsible mom, to trying to get to know her new sisters, to her best friend, Alex, starting to take an unwanted interest in her, the summer’s shaping out badly. At first Ivy tries to deal with everything from far away, but soon enough realizes if she wants to enjoy her summer, she’s going to have to face her fears and try her hardest to accept her mom for who she is. This book is about a family just trying to come to grips with who they are and learning how to let go of tradition. It’s a book about a girl wondering who she really is and what she really wants to do.
Federle, T. (2016). The Great American Whatever. NY: Simon & Schuster.
The last page hasn’t been turned yet, but I had to let you know … The Great American Whatever is an endearing, laugh out loud journey with Quinn Roberts, a sixteen year old whose sister, Annabeth, recently died in a car accident. Quinn, Annabeth, and Quinn’s best friend, Geoff, grew up doing everything together from lemonade stands to making movies. Throughout the book we get to see the screenplay in Quinn’s head of how he thinks life should go juxtaposed with what really happens. Screenwriting was Quinn’s passion, but he lost the interest and ability to write since Annabeth’s death.
After months of hibernating in his bedroom, Geoff pulls Quinn out to their first college party where he meets Amir and develops an immediate Continue reading
Sáenz, B. (2017). The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Boston: Clarion Books.
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a heart-wrenching, joyful, and tearful story all in one. In his senior year at high school, an orphaned boy named Salvador, or Sal, who is adopted by a gay, single
father. Sal likes to consider himself a good kid with good grades who stays in line. Until the first day of school that is, when he punches someone in the face. Suddenly Sal is questioning who he is and his place is the world, as an adopted part of a Mexican-American family. And when things start to tunnel downhill, Sal and his best friend, Samantha, will have to be prepared for the worst.
I first became aware of Benjamin Alire Sáenz when I chose Aristotle and Dante Explore the Universe from an LGBTQ+ display at the public library during Pride Week in Vancouver. It remains my favourite of Sáenz’s, but beware because
anyone I’ve spoken to who has read Aristotle first, favours it, while anyone who has read Inexplicable Logic considers that one superior! 🙂 I enjoyed the romantic component of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and still think of that story of two boys, both loners, but who serendipitously connect and form a beautiful friendship.
Quick, M. (2016). Every Exquisite Thing. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Nanette O’Hare is your typical teenager experiencing angst and hurt, and Every Exquisite Thing effortlessly succeeds in pulling the reader along with Nanette as she searches for answers. It all begins at Christmastime when her English teacher, Mr. Graves, gives her an out-of-print copy of the cult classic, The Bubblegum Reaper – complete with highlights, underlined passages, and dog-eared corners. The story speaks to some more than others. For Nanette, her obsession with the book causes her to reconsider past choices, drastically altering her relationships. She quits the soccer team Continue reading
Reynolds, J. (2014). When I Was The Greatest. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The language pulled me right in to this Brooklyn, New York story. Instantly transporting me to Ali’s neighbourhood and his stoop where he sits with his main man, Noodles, and Noodles’ brother, Needles. The three young teenagers discover what it means to have each other’s back as they negotiate entrance to an ultra hip party at MoMo’s.
Grittiness abounds their existence but Ali determinedly stays sweet. “A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing. When you one of Doris’s kids, you learn early in life that school is all you need to worry about. And when it’s summertime, all you need to be concerned with then is making sure your butt got some kind of job, and staying out of trouble so that you can go back to school in September.” The character development is convincing, especially when the boys are faced with a situation at the party when they need to rely on each other. From that night forward, the definition of family is challenged and redefined for them and their loved ones.
Bondoux, A. (2010). A Time of Miracles. New York: Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
Koumaïl’s story begins with the Terrible Accident. Gloria is picking peaches in the Republic of Georgia when she hears a screeching noise, looks up to see an explosion, and runs to discover a trainwreck. She unearths a French woman who is about to die, holding a baby to her chest, begging Gloria to care for him. That baby is Blaise Fortune, and Gloria takes him and calls him Koumaïl. Koumaïl loves Gloria, who is a giving, no-nonsense, strong woman. He often asks her to tell his story, and she does – “always in the right order” as she says. It’s actually these stories which end up helping him survive and which demonstrate that hope is fundamental.
They are desperately poor and life gets much more difficult and complex five years later when the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides she and Koumaïl, or Monsieur Blaise as she sometimes affectionately refers to him, must flee as refugees from the civil unrest, determinedly making their way westward toward France. This begins a five year journey on foot across the Caucasus (between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea) and Europe where they meet many unforgettable people and have many dangerous experiences. But there is a secret about Blaise’s past. The story he slowly learns about the truth of his family is entangled in the violence during the civil unrest, and revolves around Gloria’s love. She has been a good mother to him all these years, sacrificing and finding extraordinary means to give him the best she can. Continue reading