Tuesday, April 16, 2019

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller

GIRLS ON THE VERGE will no doubt be considered a controversial addition to YA literature, but its message is one that should be communicated to girls everywhere. In this reviewer's opinion politics has no place in women's reproductive rights and the right to choose. This may not be an opinion shared by everyone, however, GIRLS ON THE VERGE handles the subject in a sensitive manner that might just change the opinions of some.

When Camille discovers she is pregnant, she knows the last thing she wants is to be a mother at age seventeen. Her plans for the future will eventually include a family, but she is determined that the one mistake she made while on a meaningless date will not ruin her life.

Living in Texas has stacked the deck against girls like Camille. Her trip to the crisis clinic reveals the strict laws of her state. On the surface the staff seems understanding, but when Camille experiences a vaginal probe followed by prenatal advice assuming she will keep the baby, she realizes choice is the last thing she is being offered. The clinic requires parental consent or her appearance before a judge who might dismiss the requirement. 

Camille fears disappointing her parents so she finds help with a planned parenthood representative. They appear before the judge, but her request is denied. Texas is denying Camille's right to an abortion. 

Another alternative is to head to the Mexico border where an abortion drug is available. Accompanied by two friends, Camille uses attendance at a summer theater camp as a cover for the road trip that will hopefully help solve her problem. What follows is an emotionally charged experience in which ideas differ about the choice Camille is making. 

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller is well written and researched. Readers will better understand the feeling when personal choice is compromised. No matter one's stand on abortion, Waller brings the right of choice to the table and opens up the possibility of discussion that might promote change.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly

Iris may be deaf, but she is quite a girl. At only twelve years old, she is a genius when it comes to fixing radios. Using vibrations she feels through touch, she is able to repair the old radios she finds at a local junk store. When she finishes, she sells them back to the store's owner. Unfortunately, Iris wishes she could just repair radios all day long instead of going to school and dealing with the frustration of trying to communicate with people who don't understand her.

Things at school begin looking up the day Iris's science teacher shows a video of a whale named Blue 55. The whale is a hybrid species and it's been discovered that he can't communicate with other whales. Scientists in several wildlife sanctuaries listening to the sounds of whales discovered Blue 55's song is at a higher decibel than most other whales. Their tracking systems show that he tries to interact with other whale groups, but he is excluded.

When Iris sees the video, she immediately wants to help Blue 55. She begins researching whale songs and hertz measurements to find out how she can create a song specially designed for Blue 55. With the help of her friend Wendell, the school music teacher, and an app on her phone, Iris is able to create a song. She emails a scientist at the wildlife sanctuary mentioned on the video about the whale. She includes a recording of the song she created suggesting they could play it through underwater speakers for Blue 55 the next time he is in that part of the ocean.

What follows is an adventure that takes Iris and her grandmother to Alaska where she hopes to see the results of her hard work in person. Things may not go exactly as planned and she may be grounded until middle age, but Iris is determined to let the whale know someone hears him.

Author Lynne Kelly uses her experience as a American Sign Language translator to create a tale about a young girl and a lonely whale. Whether Iris is simply helping a whale or perhaps finding a way to make herself heard, readers will love this crazy, action-packed adventure.

Friday, April 5, 2019


Life takes a strange turn the day Carter Jones opens the front door and met the Butler. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick takes charge of the Jones household. There will no longer be meals in front of the TV. The usual sugary cereal for breakfast is replaced by steel-cut oatmeal with cream. Carter and his three sisters are delivered to school in an eggplant colored Bentley that draws more attention than Carter wants.

The Butler expects good manners, proper English, and regular walks for Nate the family dachshund. All of this is a bit of a surprise for Carter and his sisters, but his mother welcomes the organization and stability. Carter's father is currently deployed in Germany, and the death of his younger brother Currier still has everyone dealing with painful memories.

Basically, Carter sees the Butler as "a pain in the glutes." This feeling intensifies when the Butler organizes a cricket team and insists that Carter and his schoolmates learn how to play this strange but traditional game of England. Sixth grade Carter is shocked when the Butler suggests the eighth graders on the cross country team should be involved as well. Carter knows well that sixth graders don't mix with eighth graders, but he is about to learn the Butler can handle anything.

Author Gary D. Schmidt shows readers that proper behavior and being a gentleman can create the confidence needed to deal with impossible situations. Quirky characters, humor, and a healthy bit of competition combine to entertain as well as inform in PAY ATTENTION, CARTER JONES. I confess I still don't have a working understanding of the game of cricket, but it makes me interested in learning more.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson takes readers into her story as a survivor. In SHOUT she tells about abuse by a trusted friend and the impact it had on the rest of her life.

As the daughter of a minister, she tells of the frequent moves during her childhood. Her father's unpredictable behavior made life uncertain much of the time. Shame and the knowledge that talking to anyone about her abusive experience would not be welcome news, Anderson kept it a secret for years. 

Anderson's experience revealed itself through her work. SPEAK addressed the subject of rape. TWISTED details a difficult father/son relationship. CATALYST revealed two unlikely friends. The backstories for these books are made clear through Anderson's artful, descriptive, and often stark words.

SHOUT is difficult to describe. It simply needs to be experienced. Anderson's courage speaks directly to the survivors of #MeToo. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

HEROINE by Mindy McGinnis

Softball is Mickey Catalan's focus. She's a senior hoping to help her team win the state tournament. College scouts will be coming to watch her talent as catcher and hopefully invite her to play at the D3 level. Her best friend Carolina is the team's star pitcher with scholarship hopes of her own. Unfortunately, before the season begins a nasty car accident threatens to end both girls' dreams of the future.

When Mickey is finally aware that she is in the hospital, she finds herself watching as the surgeon who pinned her hip back together is explaining her injury by snapping the leg off a Barbie doll. She listens as her divorced parents explain they will tag-team her physical therapy and doctor appointments to help with her recovery. As she hears about the intense and lengthy therapy, she realizes her softball dreams may not happen.

With the help of painkillers and a massive amount of determination, Mickey surprises everyone and is ready for the start of the softball season. Her friend Carolina's injured arm has also recover enough for her to start pitching on the day of the first game.

Although both Mickey and Carolina suffered injuries in the accident, the way they handle their recovery is different. Mickey finds the painkillers help her not only manage the pain, but also express herself in a way she never has before. When one pill isn't enough, she pops two. When her prescription runs out and the doctor won't prescribe more, she finds another supply.

Mickey is handling the physical strain of playing softball, but she is depending on the pills to make it work. When her supply dries up, she is introduced to a replacement - heroine. By that time being high is more important than her softball dreams.

Author Mindy McGinnis has expertly created a story of addiction that is sure to hit readers hard, but in doing so, she paves the way for the discussion of a rapidly growing problem in today's society. She shows just how easy it is to become dependent on narcotics, just how easy it is to access drugs, and just how easy it is to deceive family and friends. HEROINE is a must-read for teens and adults!

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Life is not easy. Angie learned that when her sister died in Iraq. She learned it when she became the center of attention after her suicide attempt became part of a school athletic event.

All that is over according to her doesn't-understand-mother. It's time to continue focusing on her dead sister as the town dedicates a statue in her honor. It's time to concentrate on the urn-it's a symbol perched on the fireplace mantel. But, as far as Angie is concerned, all her support systems are gone. Her sister, KC-her true love, Jake-her best friend -- all are gone.

Angie is still grieving. Unfortunately, she is learning that not everyone grieves in the same way. Upon hearing her mother state that she "lost the good one," Angie realizes she will have to make her own way through the sorrow that haunts her every moment. She's ready to do it alone, until an unexpected trio offers their help.

Her old friend Jamboree, a strange girl named Zeke, and the accidentally present Darius invite her to climb aboard a ratty, old RV to embark on an adventure found on a postcard from her sister. The road trip that follows helps Angie recognize that she has value and can accomplish whatever she sets out to do.

In this sequel to FAT ANGIE, author e. E. Charlton-Trujillo proves that with the encouragement of the right people and a no-matter-what attitude can take a person out of her comfort zone and into an accepting, brave new world. Dialogue that rings true, pain that feels real, and quirky places like the shortest street in the country combined to make this reader fall in love with Fat Angie once again.