Monday, November 26, 2018

HOW WE ROLL by Natasha Friend

How We Roll

Quinn McAvoy knows that people have problems. Her brother Julius is on the autism spectrum so she knows he has bigger problems than she does. When her family moves from Colorado to Massachusetts so he can attend a special school, she knows that is what's best. She knows Nick, a boy at her new school, who lost both his legs in a snowmobile accident, has bigger problems than she does.

But, here's the thing, Quinn has some equally big problems. She just doesn't want to bother her parents or get unnecessary sympathy, or rejection, from her friends. When Quinn was about to start eighth grade, she lost all her hair. It was discovered that she had an autoimmune condition known as Alopecia areata.When everyone at her old Colorado school found out, she became the butt of jokes and felt uncomfortable even with her best friends. Now she's about to enter a new school, and the only outlet she has for complaining is a message board called alopeciasucks.com.

Dealing with wigs, her parents' total focus on her brother's autism, making new friends, and an unexpected attraction to the kid in the wheelchair, makes for a roller coaster of emotions for Quinn. Will she make new friends she can trust? Will she make the basketball team? Will she ever get over what she still calls that One Stupid Night?

Author Natasha Friend has been a favorite of mine and many of my students. PERFECT, LUSH, and BOUNCE have "spoken" to a lot of the teens in my classroom over the years. HOW WE ROLL focuses on the struggles of several teens and their desires to fit in and be normal in a world that doesn't always welcome differences. HOW WE ROLL is a definite winner!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

SADIE by Courtney Summers

Sadie
Everyone thinks nineteen year old Sadie ran away. She did gather her belongings, buy a used car from a sketchy couple, and head off on her own, but she has a mission. She has vowed to find and kill the man who killed her little sister Mattie.

The body of thirteen year old Mattie was found by the schoolhouse in Cold Creek, Colorado. Her death was definitely the result of foul play, but Sadie isn't convinced that the local authorities are doing everything they can to find her killer.

Both girls were raised by a surrogate grandmother after their drug addicted mother took off. Sadie doesn't remember much about her father, and Mattie's dad took off and can't be of any help in solving the mystery of his daughter's death. That leaves Sadie. She's determined to get revenge if she has to use the switchblade she's carrying to do it herself.

Following what few clues she has, Sadie goes from stop to stop asking questions and gathering new details as she goes. With only a little money for food, etc., Sadie choices are not always wise, but she's willing to do anything for Mattie.

Author Courtney Summers builds suspense by alternating Sadie's experiences with transcripts of from episodes of a podcast by a local radio personality highlighting the little known details of Mattie's death and the search for the missing Sadie. This is a psychological thriller you won't want to miss.

Friday, November 23, 2018

WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K. Arnold

What Girls Are Made Of

*Fair warning - I would suggest age 16+ as readers for this book.

Author Elana K. Arnold doesn't pull any punches in WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF. Life as a girl today is not all "sugar and spice." Nina Faye's story is filled with issues girls today should be discussing. Sex, orgasms, emotional abuse, pregnancy, and more are brought out into the open as Nina experiences them all.

At age fourteen Nina began to question love when her mother declared "there is no such thing as unconditional love." Not a particularly involved parent, Nina's mother shares her pearls of wisdom, but usually denies having said them when Nina wants to discuss them further. This leaves Nina floundering when it comes to her first serious relationship.

Some may criticize the direct and often explicit nature of Arnold's book, but she makes it clear that girls need to stand up for themselves and take charge of their own minds and bodies. WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF offers readers a chance to experience some of the scarier aspects of being a girl on the page rather than first hand. Nina's is a cautionary tale that just might prevent some girls from making the wrong choices.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

HEY, KIDDO by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Hey, Kiddo
HEY, KIDDO is Jarrett Krosoczka's tale of his family and dealing with drug addiction. Never knowing his father and having a mother who was either in rehab or jail, Jarrett grew up living with his grandparents. Their love for him was obvious, but it wasn't always smooth going. His mother was in and out of the picture so he never truly learned to count on her for anything.

From the time he could hold a pencil, Jarrett loved to draw. It helped him pass the time and also helped him express himself. His grandparents made sure he had the opportunity to take art classes at the art museum, and he was introduced to comics. In high school he was offered a chance to draw for the school paper and loved every minute of it.

Jarrett describes finally getting to meet his father. Finding out he had a half-brother and sister was the best thing about finally connecting with his dad.

Despite an often tumultuous life Jarrett graduates and heads off to college to study art. He explains that the experiences of his early life taught much about himself and what it takes to be a family. In several narrative sections at the end of the book, Jarrett explains his inspiration and the process required to create this graphic novel.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED by Kody Keplinger

That's Not What Happened
Three years ago nine people were shot and killed at Virgil County High School when one lone shooter fired a gun for a reason not understood by anyone. Six students survived and are now living with feelings most of them can't even express.

Lee decides that writing down an account of what happened might help answer some of her questions. One thing she knows is the death of her best friend Sarah has been misunderstood by everyone in Virgil County, even Sarah's own parents. Since a book is about to be released placing Sarah on the pedestal of a martyr, Lee decides it is time to tell the real story of what happened in the girls' bathroom that fateful day.

Thinking it might be easier if the other survivors tell their versions of what happened, Lee asks Denny, Miles, Ashley, and Eden to write letters that she can include with hers. She wishes most that she could ask Kellie to share her story, too, but after the way people treated her, Kellie left town and Lee doesn't know where she is.

Kellie's story is the key to revealing what happened that day. Can Lee find her and will she agree to add a letter to that will answer everyone's questions? Or, should Lee just forget the whole thing?

Author Kody Keplinger weaves a twisted tale involving Lee and the other survivors. With school violence becoming all too common, THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED will strike a cord with readers. Keplinger keeps the focus of the story on the small group of survivors and the nine victims, not on the shooter which gives this school shooting tale a different angle.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BLENDED by Sharon M. Draper

Blended

Isabella "Izzy" knows both her parents love her, but she also knows that their constant fighting that ended in divorce is a fact of life she must accept. Since her father moved back to Ohio, her life is a back and forth tug of war. One week she lives with her mom. One week she lives with her dad. In between there's Exchange Day when everyone meets at the mall in front of the Apple Store for the handoff.

Both her parents have new significant "others" and there's even Darren whose mother is Izzy's dad's new girlfriend. Izzy has a room in each house, clothes in each closet, and even a different backpack for each week.

One thing has been bothering Izzy a lot lately. Her mother is white and her father is black. This never used to be an issue, but recently Izzy has been feeling like she doesn't really belong anywhere. Her skin tone identifies her as black to most who see or know her, but is that who she truly is and does it really matter? She knows, of course, it does, but with the rest of the turmoil in her life, Izzy isn't sure how to talk about it.

BLENDED is author Sharon M. Draper's latest book. Izzy's story highlights how lucky she is with loving parents and an awesome ability to play the piano, however, even when outward appearances indicate happiness, Draper draws attention to issues that often lurk in the shadows. Labeled for an 8-12 year old audience, BLENDED has much to offer for readers of any age. It is definitely one to check out soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

SAVING WINSLOW by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow
SAVING WINSLOW is the latest book by author Sharon Creech. It is the heartwarming tale of a tiny donkey and the boy who promises to love and care for it. Creech fans will want to add this to their already awesome collection of her books.

Louie has had some rather depressing experiences with animals in the past. Whether it is fireflies, worms, goldfish, hamsters, or kittens, they either die or run away within a few days. When Louie's father brings home a tiny, newborn donkey, Louie swears this time will be different. No one else seems to be supportive, but Louie begs them to "Think positive!"

There are some rough patches, but the donkey Louie christens Winslow thrives. Many positives come from raising the little fellow. Louie makes a new friend, Nora, who gradually warms up to Winslow and the rest of Louie's family. Winslow also helps Louie occupy his mind when he is missing his older brother who is far away in the army.

At just over 100 pages with short chapters, SAVING WINSLOW is perfect for any reader or animal lover looking for an inspiring read. I'll be sharing it with some 5th graders in the near future. I'm sure they will love it.


COUNT ALL HER BONES by April Henry

Count All Her Bones

The all-star cast of characters from GIRL, STOLEN is back! Author April Henry returns to Cheyenne's story to let readers know what happens next.

Several years ago Cheyenne and her mother were in an accident that left her mother dead and Cheyenne blind. Not long after the tragedy, Cheyenne was mistakenly kidnapped when the family car was stolen with Cheyenne sleeping in the backseat.

Griffin Sawyer stole the car for his father's chop shop, but when it's discovered that the daughter of the head of Nike is part of the package, Griffin's father, Roy, decides to demand a ransom.  Cheyenne is ultimately rescued and Roy is sent to prison.

COUNT ALL HER BONES picks up with the start of Roy's trial. Cheyenne and Griffin are scheduled to testify, but Cheyenne's trusting nature results in a second kidnapping. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the imprisoned Roy sets a complicated plan into motion. Will Cheyenne's self-defense training pay off? Is Griffin part of the new plot or is he also a victim?

COUNT ALL HER BONES is a must read for fans of April Henry. A big thank you from this reader for letting us know what happens next.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P by Alex Gino

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!

Jilly can't wait until her little sister is born. She is already planning how she will teach her little sis how to make the perfect PB&J sandwich.

The day finally arrives. Her sister is born and she approves of the name her parents choose, Emma. Before Emma even leaves the hospital, it is discovered that she has a significant hearing loss. Special doctors and audiologists quickly become part of Emma's young life. Once Jilly's parents find a support group, some the confusing information begins to make sense. Jilly gets busy researching and vows to learn how to sign (ASL) so she and Emma can communicate.

Jilly also finds a source of information and support in the chatroom of the online game she plays. It  turns out that "Profound" as she knows him is a member of the support group. His real name is Derek, and he is as just as dreamy in real life as he Jilly thinks he is when he's gaming online.

Jilly's colorful extended family welcomes baby Emma, but another uncomfortable situation develops at a holiday meal when her uncle and even her grandmother make hurtful, racist remarks toward Jilly's aunt and cousins. There is much to learn about people's feelings and how hurtful words are often disguised as innocent comments. Jilly is beginning to understand the need to speak up and take a stand when others need her help.

One thing Jilly learns is that not everyone makes hurtful comments on purpose. Aunt Alicia explains,
"It's like the difference between stepping on someone's foot by mistake and kicking them. Only one is mean, but they both hurt. Sometimes you don't have to be trying to hurt someone. You just have to say the wrong thing."

Author Alex Gino covers quite a bit of controversial territory in YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P. Hopefully, readers will be inspired by Jilly's commitment to speak up and make a difference in the world around them.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

DEAR EVAN HANSEN: THE NOVEL by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition)
I'll be perfectly honest and say that I knew nothing about the hit show of the same name, but after reading the novel, I'd now love to see the Broadway version.

Evan is in therapy and medicates himself to get through the day. He is happiest when he is blending in and not the center of attention. However, there are times when he wishes someone would "see" him. His mother is always working or attending classes. His father has remarried, moved to Colorado, and is about to have another child. Evan dreams of Zoe Murphy but knows she'll never give him the time of day.

According to Evan's therapist, writing letter to himself will help him deal with his depression. During the summer he wrote one of the letters every day, but it didn't seem to help. Lately he's been ignoring the therapy assignment. On the day Evan decides to type up a letter while in the computer lab, Connor Murphy picks up the letter from the printer and keeps it. Evan doesn't think too much about it until he realizes he won't have a letter to show his therapist.

What follows is a complicated web of lies stemming from Evan's letter. After Connor commits suicide, Evan finds comfort in leading people to believe that he was Connor's only friend. Thinking this will somehow help comfort Connor's parents and sister Zoe, is the main motivation for the lie, but Evan finds strange comfort himself when the Murphy family begins including him in their lives.

DEAR EVAN HANSEN illustrates the lengths a lonely person will go to be seen by others. Connor's emotional issues and Evan's depression are all too common. This novel may help bring the problem to light.