Monday, January 24, 2022

ACROSS THE DESERT by Dusti Bowling

 

Jolene lives in Phoenix with her mother in a crummy apartment. She wears second-hand clothes that are about two years too small which makes her the target for taunts at school. Right now it is the height of summer. That means excessive heat and not many ways to escape it. Jolene spends as much time as she can at the library. It's cool there and she can read her favorite travel books and work on her map drawing skills.

Currently hooked on watching the livestream videos posted by a girl who calls herself Addie Earhart, Jolene tunes in to watch as often as possible. Addie streams her adventures flying an ultralight trike around a desert area a few hours away from where Jolene lives. Addie frequently lands in the desert and explores the terrain, animals, and plant life. Jolene watches with fascination and maps Addie's every move. These library trips and Addie's videos help take Jolene's mind off her opioid addicted mother.

One day while watching Addie's livestream, Jolene witnesses Addie's ultralight crash to the desert floor. Knowing she is the only one viewing the video at the time leaves Jolene desperate to rescue the girl she has come to know as a friend. Armed with a gallon of water, some crackers and a measly slice of bread, Jolene borrows her mother's credit card and cellphone and heads off to save Addie. Can she locate the spot using her hand-drawn map? Will she get there in time to save her friend?

Author Dusti Bowling's ACROSS THE DESERT is an adventure that will have readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. This one is perfect for middle grade and up.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

FIFTY-FOUR THINGS WRONG WITH GWENDOLYN ROGERS by Caela Carter

 

Calling readers of all ages! This is the book to read if you want to know what it is like inside the mind of a neurodivergent person. Gwendolyn may only be eleven years old, but when she shares her feelings of inadequacy, she will touch the hearts of many.

Gwendolyn struggles every day. She has lived most of her eleven years being told she is bad. In an effort to control her own behavior, Gwendolyn has compiled a list of 54 things she believes are the things that make her bad. She reads through the list every night before she goes to sleep, and every morning she folds the paper into a small square that she places in her shoe. Those 54 things have come to haunt her.

When Gwendolyn sneaks a peek at an IEP report given to her mother, she learns that even the grownups can't pinpoint what is wrong with her. "Inconclusive" now confirms to Gwendolyn that maybe she can't be fixed. 

A new doctor, Dr. Nessa, takes on the task of doing more tests with Gwendolyn. Her conclusion is that ADHD might be the cause of some of Gwendolyn's behavior issues. After trying Gwendolyn on several medications that have her suffering some debilitating side effects, Dr. Nessa realizes there is more to the problem. Is Gwendolyn a hopeless case, or will she find a way to explain what's happening in that unique mind of hers? 

Author Caela Carter does an amazing job of capturing the thought processes of a troubled mind. Readers will be rooting for Gwendolyn, cringing when teachers, friends, and family react unsympathetically, and cheering as this wonderful little girl comes to better understand her own behavior. It is made clear from the very beginning that there are no magic cures for neurodiversity, but there are ways to understand and better aid people struggling to fit into what is considered to be the "normal" world. FIFTY-FOUR THINGS WRONG WITH GWENDOLYN ROGERS is a must read!

Monday, January 17, 2022

CONCEALED by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

 

All Katrina remembers is constantly moving from place to place, changing her name every time, and keeping secrets she doesn't understand. This time her parents have decided to make their home in a camper that can be moved when they move. Maybe it will make things easier, but Katrina knows she'll still be kept in the dark about the important things.

They are just getting comfortable when Katrina meets Parker. He lives in the trailer next door with the woman he says is his current foster parent. Katrina has never really stayed anywhere long enough to make a friend, so she jumps at the opportunity. It isn't easy to open up to a person when you have to keep everything about yourself a secret, but Katrina and Parker figure out a way to hit it off.

They've only been living in the camper a short time when things come crashing down. Katrina's mother disappears, her father takes off with the promise of figuring out what happened, and Katrina believes everything is happening because of her carelessness. Parker steps up to help without even knowing that his life and Katrina's will both soon be at risk.

Author Christina Diaz Gonzalez uses the premise of the witness protection program to create this adventure filled with enough twists and turns to keep readers' heads spinning. Just when it seems someone can be trusted, another plot twist pops up. CONCEALED will keep readers guessing right up to the end.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

ME (MOTH) by Amber McBride

 

Moth describes the accident like having the car break in two like a candy bar with its gooey, sticky filling leaking out onto the road. She lost her mother, her father, and her brother in that accident. Living with Aunt Jack is not the same as having her caring family around her. She feels lost and alone.

Sani's life with his mother and abusive step-father has him feeling lost and alone. When Sani and Moth meet, they connect immediately. Aunt Jack takes off leaving Moth on her own just as Sani decides he needs to get away from his step-father and search for his Navajo roots.

The two begin a road trip that will take them across the country to New Mexico. There's a plan that includes a variety of tourist stops just like a road trip should. As they travel, they learn each other's secrets. There's a trust that allows Moth to feel like dancing again and Sani to feel like making music and singing again. Moth's grandfather's magic and Sani's Navajo stories connect the two on a spiritual level.

Author Amber McBride's novel in verse is filled with poetic phrases, references to Shakespeare, and beautiful word choices that create images guaranteed to stay with readers long after they finish. ME (MOTH) was not quite what I expected, but I'll be forever glad I read it.

Friday, January 7, 2022

HUDA F ARE YOU? by Huda Fahmy

 

HUDA F ARE YOU? is a graphic tale based on Huda Fahmy's experience as a Muslim teen in Dearborn, Michigan. Before living in Dearborn, Huda's family lived in a smaller community where Huda was the only girl wearing a hijab. It was quite a shock to start high school in Dearborn where almost all the girls wore hijabs.

It seemed like being around more Muslims would make life easier, but that wasn't the case for Huda. Searching for her own identity and place in the world was frustrating for Huda. She got good grades which pleased her parents, but she wanted to be accepted by her peers for who she was. To be accepted Huda believed she had to change herself to fit in with all her various acquaintances. On the surface she wasn't alone, but she wasn't really close with anyone.

Huda's humor, creative art, and her honesty will have readers chuckling as they follow her path to understanding herself and her faith more fully. All teens will find something to relate to no matter their background, culture, or location. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

STICKS & STONES by Abby Cooper

 

Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, for Elyse that isn't exactly true. She has a condition called CAV. When someone calls her a name or says something mean to her, it shows up on her arm or leg. If someone compliments her or says something nice, those words show up, too. She doesn't mind the nice words, but the mean ones itch like crazy.

In elementary school her teachers would tell the class about her condition and encourage her classmates to be kind and not use mean words. It was pretty cool then because they thought Elyse's condition was interesting. Now it's middle school, and there are new students Elyse didn't know in elementary school who don't know about CAV. She's decided not to tell everyone, but that means she may have a lot of itching to do. Middle school isn't exactly known for kids being kind and understanding.

One really awesome thing about middle school is the sixth grade class trip. It is something all the kids look forward to, and Elyse is no exception. Starting in September, everyone is in competition for Explorer Leader. The winner will help plan and lead the sixth graders on the trip. Elyse has decided she wants to win. Being Explorer Leader will prove to everyone that she deserves to have amazing compliments that will fill her arms and legs with words that don't itch. 

Author Abby Cooper writes about what it is like to fit in and be accepted. This book is perfect for readers who have felt left out or not cool when everyone else seems to have it altogether. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

KNEEL by Candace Buford

 

This is the perfect YA read for today. Focus on police brutality, racism, and Black Lives Matter themes make this a timely read for teens or anyone frustrated with the current struggles in our society.

Monroe and Westmond are two towns separated by an interstate highway, but they are also separated by attitudes that threaten to destroy the youth in their midst. Monroe is home to a primarily Black population while Westmond's residents are mostly White. There has been tension between the two communities, and racism rears its ugliness at a high school football game between the two rivals.

When a Westmond student aims the N-word at Rus and his friend Marion, a tousle breaks out resulting in the arrest of Marion for assault and resisting arrest. It was clear that the punches came from the Westmond student and Rus saw that Marion never resisted when the police cuffed him. Unfortunately, no one is listening to their side of the story.

Since a recent shooting claimed the life of a Black teen and the police officer who fired the fatal shot is still on active duty, tensions are running high. Rus is frustrated because Marion, the Monroe team's quarterback, is barred from playing by the football league. It is their senior year and scouts are going to be showing up with potential scholarship offers. Out of frustration Rus takes a knee during the national anthem which causes an uproar with the community, his parents, and his coach. How can Rus help Marion prove his innocence and at the same time stand up for what he believes is right without losing scholarship offers that might be his only chance to leave Monroe for some place better?