Saturday, August 27, 2016

BIGGIE by Derek E. Sullivan

Biggie
Henry Abbott weighs in at 300+ pounds. That explains his nickname, Biggie.

Although he is the son and stepson of two well-known baseball players, Biggie avoids physical activity whenever possible. He is more comfortable hanging out online where he has tons of online friends. At school Biggie keeps a low profile by sitting in the back of the room and staying out of everyone's way.

Even at the gas station where Biggie works, he keeps it on the down low. He considers it a challenge to wait on the customers without actually speaking to them. There's only one customer Biggie wishes he could talk to. He has had a crush on Annabelle for as long as he can remember. He ignores the fact that she is not only a regular customer, but also a regular shoplifter.

Biggie finds himself the center of attention when his mother refuses to sign the form to excuse him from participating in phys ed. Coach places a wiffleball in Biggie's hand and sends him out to pitch. Biggie takes on the challenge and ends up throwing a shut out. Inspired by his success, he lets his younger brother talk him into trying out for the baseball team. After all Biggie has baseball in his blood so why not workout, get in shape, and maybe get Annabelle's attention.

Author Derek E. Sullivan tells the story of a social outcast determined to turn his life around. Losing weight, giving baseball a try, and coming out of his shell, Biggie shows how courage isn't always easy, but the end results may be worth it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

The Smell of Other People's Houses
THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES is filled with fascinating characters each with unique life challenges. Author Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock does an amazing job developing her teen characters and making them relatable for her readers.

Ruth and her sister are shipped off to live with Gran when her father dies in a plane crash. Ruth clings to memories of home as she attempts to adjust to Gran's strict rules. It comes as no surprise that her first romantic relationship ends with an unplanned pregnancy.

Alyce loves her parents but their separation threatens to tear her apart. Thinking her own dreams need to be set aside to assure their happiness holds her back when she should be speaking up for herself.

Dora's good luck could open doors for her future, but family threatens to ruin everything. Should she really expect more out of life, or is she undeserving?

When Hank makes the decision to take his two brothers out of an abusive environment, he knows it won't be easy. Now with one brother missing, he must decide if he can risk turning to a stranger for help.

The four teens' lives intertwine as they face life's obstacles. Readers will quickly be drawn into circumstances that will have them cheering with, laughing with, and crying with Ruth, Alyce, Dora, and Hank. Although their lives are filled with struggle, they are filled with hope and inspiration.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves
It's 1959 and it's been five years since the government declared segregation was illegal. Sarah and her sister Ruth are part of a group of ten black teens who will be attending Jefferson High School, an all white school, for the first time.

The NAACP and a community group have prepared the teens for what to expect when they arrive at Jefferson. Sarah thought she was ready, but the reaction of the white students was something she never could have imagined. Pushing, shoving, tripping amid shouts of "Nigger" and "Go home" exploded around the ten new students.

When Sarah entered her classrooms and found an empty seat, the white students immediately jumped up and moved away from her, even if they were forced to stand in the back corners of the room or sit on shelves. The teachers remained ignorant to spitwads and pencils hitting the back of Sarah's head. In study hall one of her black friends was hit in the neck by a baseball hurled from the back of the room.

Another side of the story comes from Linda. She is the daughter of one of the most vocal opponents of desegregation. Her father's editorials condemn the government's pressure to combine black and white students in schools across the South. Although Linda parrots her father's opinions, she begins to question the separation of blacks and whites when she is assigned to do a group project with Sarah.

Both Sarah and Linda are struggling with the huge change in their educational life, and at the same time they are also attempting to understand a strange physical attraction they both believe is unnatural. An accidental kiss shocks them both and has them frantically searching for some way to explain their growing feelings.

Author Robin Talley brings the tumultuous events of the Civil Rights Movement to life in LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. Today's teens will be stunned by the treatment of Sarah and her friends and the extend to which white community members were willing to go to protect what they believed was their right to keeping the South segregated. This book provides excellent reading to complement assigned books like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and historical texts.

Friday, August 19, 2016

PROMISE by Judy Young

Promise
Kaden doesn't remember much about his dad. When the man went to prison years ago, Kaden ended up living with Gram. Although a bit different, life with Gram has been good. Now Kaden is starting sixth grade and hoping to find a new friend, but the return of his father might change everything.

Living out in the woods in a series of five small cabins gives Kaden a lot of freedom. Gram keeps tabs on him and so does their neighbor Emmett, but Kaden spends most of his time hanging out at the top of an old fire tower with his pet crow Kubla.

The new music teacher's son, Yo-Yo, turns out to be just the crazy friend Kaden needs to convince him that not all kids are annoying bullies. Gram even thinks Yo-Yo is ok, and she's pretty hard to please.

When Kaden's dad shows up at the cabins, he brings with him secrets that threaten to tear apart the life Kaden has always known. He wants to trust the man and hopes that he has been rehabilitated, but the suspicious activity and hostile attitude that surround the ex-con make Kaden extremely uncomfortable.

PROMISE by author Judy Young is at times heartwarming and also heart-wrenching. Kaden learns that families are not easy and dealing with disappointments requires a strong individual. Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for providing a copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ALL WE HAVE LEFT by Wendy Mills

All We Have Left
ALL WE HAVE LEFT by Wendy Mills is an emotionally moving novel honoring the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. The majority of today's teens were not even born when the tragedy that changed the world happened. This new novel uniquely expresses how this tragic event brought terror into our lives.

Alia was in the south tower on the day it was struck by an airliner. She made the decision to be late to school so she could visit her father's office to plead her case. Despite her parents' objections, Alia was determined to get their approval to attend a special art program at NYU. She just needed to convince her father how important it was to her future dreams.

Jesse was only three years old when her brother Travis lost his life in the World Trade Center. His death tore apart her family, and she would give anything to learn more about him and somehow try to heal the wounds that have made her childhood so painful.

As Alia heads to her father's office, she notices an attractive, shaggy haired young man. His intentions seem questionable, but fate puts them together in an elevator at the exact time that the first plane hits.

Readers of ALL WE HAVE LEFT will feel the incredibly intense emotions of Alia and Travis as the events of 9/11 in the World Trade Center unfold. The connections between the two very different families speak to the many ways people experienced and reacted to the events of that historic day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES by Diane Lang & Michael Buchanan

The Fat Boy Chronicles
Based on a true story, THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES tells of Jimmy Winterpock, an overweight teen struggling to fit into high school.

Assigned to write in a journal for English class, Jimmy writes about his trials and tribulations as a fat kid. Fortunately, his family and church offer Jimmy support which enables him to deal with the bullying he encounters on a daily basis while at school.

Readers shouldn't worry that Jimmy's story is completely depressing. He also writes entries about a local murder and the plans his friend Paul makes to catch the murderer. Authors Diane Lang & Michael Buchanan paint a realistic picture of what it is like to be different in a world that values external beauty above all else.

Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for the opportunity to read THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving
Eleven years ago six kindergarteners disappeared. Now five of them have returned.

Scarlett, Lucas, Adam, Kristen, and Sarah arrive at their respective homes having followed maps each was given when they were released. Although, one family waits patiently, the sixth child, Max, doesn't return.

None of the teens remember anything about the eleven years they were missing. They don't remember how they were taken, where they were taken, or what they have been doing for eleven years. Lucas and Scarlett are determined to piece together their past despite the opinion that they should just accept their pasts are missing and carrying on.

THE LEAVING is a haunting tale with twists and turns galore. Just when the pieces seem to be falling together, the unexpected happens. Tara Altebrando, author of several other novels for teens, has outdone herself in the suspense department. Readers will be hooked in the first pages and won't want to put it down until they know the answers.