Thursday, April 30, 2015

THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Same SkyA middle-aged woman from Texas and an eleven year old girl from Honduras are each fighting their own battles.  Their stories couldn't be headed in more different directions, but their paths intersect just the same.

Childless, Alice and her husband want nothing more than to adopt and raise a child as their own.  Owning a successful BBQ restaurant keeps them busy but doesn't fill the void they so desperately want to fill.

Carla has been forced to grow up too early.  Her mother leaving for the United States looking for a better life has left Carla to raise her younger brother on her own.  Trying to keep everything together is almost more than she can handle so when the opportunity to head toward Texas herself arises, Carla packs up her brother and begins the dangerous journey to join their mother. 

While Alice is dealing with adoption disappointments and helping her husband with the family business, Carla is living through hell on earth as she travels on foot through treacherous terrain, jumps trains, and is raped as other fleeing immigrants look on helplessly. 

Author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the stories of Alice and Carla and their common struggle to survive what life has thrown at them.  Through heartbreak and tragedy, the two are determined to reach for their dreams despite the odds stacked against them.  Although not specifically a YA novel, THE SAME SKY would be an inspiring read for mature teens.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

SKIN AND BONES by Sherry Shahan

Skin and BonesAnorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating take center stage in SKIN AND BONES by Sherry Shahan.  This book takes readers into the world of eating disorders where Jack "Bones" and David "Lard" are attempting to identify the demons that have taken over the food portion of their lives.

Bones is anorexic.  His fear of gaining weight has become a threat to his physical health.  An offhand comment from a sales person years ago triggered his eating disorder, and now his family is concerned that things are so out of control that a six week program in the EDU (Eating Disorder Unit) is the only way to help him.

Lard loves food.  If he doesn't learn how to control his compulsive eating, he could literally eat himself to death.  Oddly enough cooking and acting as an amateur chef, gives Lard a sense of satisfaction and allows him to work with food and not have the desire to eat it. 

Both teens are in a treatment center where they are constantly monitored and are involved in therapy sessions and writing exercises designed to teach them how to cope with their issues.  It isn't until Bones meets and falls in love with another patient named Alice that he begins to understand the seriousness of his situation.  Is it too late for Bones to change?  Will he and his new friends be able to modify their behavior and change their attitudes about food?

One of my students recommend this book as one of the best book she had ever read.  It is a worthwhile read and will definitely provided a needed message for teens experiencing body image issues and eating disorders.  Many of these books focus on the female prospective, but SKIN AND BONES realistically includes both males and females.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The Future of UsEmma and Josh are about to experience the World Wide Web for the first time.  Using one of the new America Online (AOL) CDs that have been arriving in mailboxes around the country, Emma uses her new computer to log onto the Internet for the first time.  She and her former best friend Josh are about to have a sneak peek into their futures that might change things between them forever.

Authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler combine their amazing imaginations to create a story that will have readers realizing that living in the here and now is more important than worrying about the future.

The first thing Emma does is sign up for an email address and then she creates a password.  Once logged on, she begins to explore.  Clicking on the "favorites" tab, Emma finds herself gazing at a blue and white website scattered with small pictures and various comments attached to the photos.  One photo looks strangely familiar.  Could it actually be her?  More specifically, is it a picture of how she will appear in the future?

It soon becomes evident that this strange site called Facebook represents something from fifteen years in the future.  Emma immediately calls her neighbor Josh and tells him he has to see this.  Upon further examination, the two discover that refreshing the site changes it and allows them to see glimpses into their future lives.  At first it is exciting, but it seems that each peek they get of what is to come, messes with what is happening in their current lives. 

Will learning their fate in the future be worth losing what they have in the present?  Pick up a copy of THE FUTURE OF US and find out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


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 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.