Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL by Lisa Yee

The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven DaysIt only takes one hypothetical question to ruin everything.  Higgs Boson Bing will be graduating in 7 days.  He'll be heading to Harvard to become a third generation dentist.  His parents will be proud, and he will be honoring the memory of his older brother.  However, when his girlfriend, Roo, asks him if he would give her a kidney if she needed one, his answer, or lack of an answer, could possibly be the beginning of the end of his dreams.

Since Higgs's brother died in a car accident just before starting college at Harvard, he has been trying to turn his own life around and become the son his father and mother lost.  He got serious and hit the books when he started high school and the reward paid off.  He is valedictorian and has earned early acceptance at Harvard.  Messing things up with his beautiful girlfriend has definitely thrown him off his game.

When he runs into Monarch, an unusual girl living in an old Airstream in the woods, he finds her quirky behavior a bit strange yet refreshing.  Influenced by her relaxed attitude toward life, Higgs may just have the courage to find himself and face the future on his own terms.

THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL by Lisa Yee takes a humorous, touching look at a high school senior about to embark on his future.  Like many graduating seniors, Higgs must decide if he will follow the dreams of his family or his own personal dreams.  Here's a hypothetical question for you, if you were faced with two futures, which one would you choose?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

THE FALL by James Preller

Click for OptionsReview ARC courtesy of Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends Publishing
Release date: September 2015

It was 2:55 am as I finally gave up on the notion of sleep.  Having started reading THE FALL by James Preller earlier in the day, I knew sleep would not come until I had finished Sam's story.  Now, having turned the last page, it still haunts me and will for quite some time.

Sam Proctor has decided to record his thoughts about the events leading up to the suicide of classmate Morgan Mallen.  Morgan jumped to her death from the town's water tower, and Sam must come to terms with whether or not he may have played a part in her decision to end her life.

Through journal entries suggested by grief counselor Mr. Laneway, Sam recalls his observations of Morgan, his conversations with her, and his participation in cyber-bullying instigated by classmate Athena Luikin.  He questions if he and Morgan actually had a real relationship or had they just been two souls passing through the craziness of high school life. 

As he searches for understanding, Sam tries to determine the motivation for his own behavior toward Morgan, as well as the mean-spirited actions of others directed at this lonely girl.  Though peer pressure played a role in Sam's participation, he comes to believe he not only must make amends for his actions, but also take steps to prevent a repeat occurrence. 

THE FALL presents a powerful story with a message that rings all too true as young people struggle with acceptance and the pressure to fit into preconceived perceptions.  Teen readers and adults alike will find much to contemplate as they experience Sam's awakening.  Author James Preller, already known for his book BYSTANDER, has added another worthwhile read for teens and young adults.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS by Lisa Schroeder

My Secret Guide to ParisNora has always dreamed of Paris.  Her fashion designer grandmother spent time there every year and returned with fascinating stories about the sights and sounds of the great city.  When her grandmother suggested a trip there to celebrate Nora's twelfth birthday, Nora could hardly believe it.  The only catch was to get permission from her mother who had barely been on speaking terms with Grandmother for years.

With the devastating news of Grandmother's sudden death, Nora's dream of visiting Paris all but disappeared.  However, her hopes were renewed when she and her mother went to Grandmother's apartment to sort through her remaining things.  In an old trunk at the foot of the bed, Nora found pure treasure.  Inside the trunk was a mysterious, locked box as well as an envelop with three tickets to Paris - one for her, her mother, and Grandmother, of course.  It was obvious that Grandmother had completely planned this trip before her untimely death.

Now it was up to Nora to convince her mother that the trip should still take place.  Not only would it be the trip of a lifetime, but Nora also discovered a batch of envelops in the trunk indicating that once in Paris, her grandmother had planned some sort of scavenger hunt involving special points of interest and secret gifts.  If Nora could only get her mother to understand how important this trip was to the memory of Grandmother, she could also learn more about what caused the rift between the two most important women in her life.

Author Lisa Schroeder takes readers on a heart-felt adventure that draws a mother and daughter closer.  Aimed at middle grade readers, MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS is a touching novel guaranteed to connect to readers of all ages. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

GAME SEVEN by Paul Volponi

Game SevenI was so glad to stumble across this new book by Paul Volponi.  I know several readers who read and reread anything he writes.  GAME SEVEN won't disappoint them.

Julio is sixteen and dreams of playing shortstop for the Cuban Nacionales.  He was raised with baseball in his blood.  He has memories of playing catch with his father and still plays with the glove Julio Sr. gave him.  Unfortunately, the man who taught Julio to play may become the reason Julio isn't chosen to represent Cuba. 

His father was a star pitcher for the Cuban team until he defected to the United States.  Julio Sr. made the decision to leave his wife and two children behind on the fateful day six years ago when his name was erased from the Cuban baseball record books.  

Now Julio has a chance to make a name for himself.  He and his cousin will be trying out for the team, and if all goes well, Julio will make history as a shortstop.  He may not be free, but his mother and sister will have a better life.  His father is in the United States about to play in the World Series as a Miami Marlin, but Julio can't think about that right now.

About to celebrate a team victory, Julio and his cousin are snatched away from the celebration by Uncle Ramon.  They head to a secluded beach where they are joined by a man named Gabriel.  It soon becomes obvious to Julio that he and his cousin will not be rejoining their teammates.  Uncle Ramon and Gabriel announce that under the cover of darkness they will be leaving Cuba for good.  If their plan works, they will be free in Miami in time to see the final game of the World Series. 

The lure of freedom is great, but can Julio come to terms with leaving his mother and sister behind?  And will he be able to face the father who left years ago to join the Marlins and live a life of fame and luxury?

Author Paul Volponi packs GAME SEVEN with action and suspense.  A daring escape combined with the excitement of championship baseball action are sure to have readers turning pages nonstop.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black HolesI don't know about you, but if I heard of a website titled Smooth Passages, I would think I'd be looking at a site for some vacation cruise package.  I would certainly be in for a surprise if I clicked to open that site.


Sixteen year old Aysel isn't interested in going on a cruise.  She wants to commit suicide and Smooth Passages is a website designed to support the desires of those considering suicide as the only answer to whatever problems plague their lives.  Aysel is particularly interested in the area of the site devoted to "suicide partners."


When Aysel connects with Roman (screen name FrozenRobot), she is sure she has found a kindred soul.  With Roman by her side, she will be able to follow through on what she believes is the only way to cope with her greatest fear.  Roman is trying to escape the massive guilt he feels over his young sister's tragic death.  Aysel's need for escape revolves around the fear that she has inherited whatever darkness made her father snap and brutally murder a local teen.


Together, the two teens set a date and method to end their lives, but perhaps finding each other could provide a final spark of hope that might have at least one of them rethinking their plans.


Debut author Jasmine Warga has created a story illustrating the power of guilt.  Her characters are rich and real, and readers are sure to connect with the intense emotions that pack the pages of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES.  I can't wait to see what Warga writes next.

Monday, March 9, 2015

PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD by Michelle Falkoff

Playlist for the DeadWhen Sam goes to apologize to his best friend Hayden only to find him dead, Sam's world begins to crumble.  Life was never the greatest for the two friends.  Both of them had family issues and neither really fit in at school.  Together, they found friendship through video games and music. 


Sam discovers a note from Hayden directing him to listen to a playlist of songs that will explain why he swallowed his mother's recently refilled prescription of Valium.  Sam begins to listen to the music hoping to find some answers and whatever peace he can after the loss of his one and only friend.  The music spans a wide range of selections, some favorites of Hayden's and others Sam knows Hayden included just for him.


The night before Hayden's suicide, the two had been at a party.  Not a usual event for them, but one they agreed on, each for different reasons.  The three bullies who constantly tormented Hayden were not supposed to be at the party, but the cancellation of a football game changed all that. 


There was an incident involving Hayden and the three creeps that ended in an ugly scene in which Sam spouted some unfortunate comments before leaving the party alone.  Now Sam is hoping the music Hayden left behind will help him come to terms with the fact that his final, cruel words may have been the last straw that drove his friend to take his own life.


Author Michelle Falkoff explores the world of those left behind by suicide.  Family, friends, and even chance acquaintances feel the effects from these tragic deaths.  As Sam discovers, there are no easy answers and usually many guilt-ridden survivors are left trying to pull together the pieces.  Similar to Jay Asher's 13 REASONS WHY, this book is a must read for teens and even adults. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan Bliss

No Parking at the End TimesAbigail and her brother Aaron can't believe they are living in the family van.  Their parents, totally devoted members of a church led by a man known as Brother John, have sold everything and handed their money over to the church leader.  According to Brother John, those who are true believers will soon be ascending to heaven to take their rightful place with God.


Selling their house and traveling across the country to San Francisco started out as an adventure, but now that they are eating in church soup kitchens, wearing the same clothes day after day, and sleeping crammed in their van, Abigail and Aaron have completely lost faith in the religious promises their parents still cling to.  Abigail wants to continue supporting their parents, but Aaron insists that their father and mother have lost touch with reality.  He is sneaking out of the van at night and going who knows where and doing who knows what.  Abigail fears the worst.


One night she follows Aaron and discovers he has been hanging out with other homeless teens.  He reveals that he has a plan to escape their parents' craziness and head back home to North Carolina.  The plan excites Abigail, but she isn't convinced that they should leave their parents behind.  Will she follow her brother or will Brother John be able to draw her back to the fold and the misguided belief that the rapture is imminent?


NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES is the first novel by author Bryan Bliss.  Taking a look at a family caught up in zealous religious belief will be a new adventure for many teens, but one that will definitely resonate with some.  Bliss explores the powerful influence the promise of religious salvation can have over people.  Kudos to Bliss for tackling this unique subject.