Friday, April 19, 2024

JUST BREATHE by Cammie McGovern


David and Jamie meet in a hospital. David is a senior in high school hospitalized with cystic fibrosis. He spends his time wishing he was back at school where he is senior class president and one of the popular crowd.

Jamie's mother is a nurse and arranged for Jamie to volunteer for the Smile Awhile program. After her father's suicide, Jamie spiraled into a depression. Her mother wants her to keep busy and also close so volunteering at the hospital seems perfect.

Jamie is a sophomore so when she recognizes David, she is a bit star-struck. She is used to seeing him making the daily announcements in the cafeteria and hanging out with his girlfriend Sharon. Seeing him in bed needing oxygen and a feeding tube is a surprise.

Overcoming her shyness, Jamie starts stopping to visit David. They talk about school, his plans for college, and her love of old movies. She brings him movies to watch and teaches him origami. She may have a bit of a crush on him which worries her mother.

When David's condition takes a turn for the worse, he convinces Jamie that getting out of the hospital will help him feel better. Together they plan several adventures which are totally against hospital policy. One of these ill-advised adventures ends up with David returning to the hospital by ambulance. Jamie is sure she'll never see him again.

JUST BREATHE by Cammie McGovern will grab readers and hold on tight. Both David and Jamie have serious issues that might threaten to unravel the average teen, but they show courage and resilience. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024



To be honest I was drawn to this book because of the title. I'm often a "judge a book by its cover" reader.

Anna Chiu is juggling family, school, and whatever else shows up in her life. As the oldest and well-behaved daughter in a Chinese family, she follows the rules and finds very little time to have her own life. When she isn't in school, she is home taking care of her younger siblings. Her father's life is dedicated to the restaurant that provides for the family. Unfortunately, her mother is a problem. 

Most days Anna feels like the mother. She loves her mother, but the fact that she spends most of the time hidden away in bed is beginning to take its toll. Weeks go by, sometimes even months, with her mother doing nothing. When she does step out of the bedroom, she is often maniac. She'll be fanatically cleaning and ordering everyone around. 

Anna understands that her father spends most days and nights at the restaurant. He has enough on his plate without having to worry about his wife. During a school break, Anna offers to come help at the restaurant. This gives her a chance to get away and feel useful. When her father hires a delivery boy, Anna soon finds herself with a friend. Maybe even a little more than just a friend.

Author Wai Chim takes readers into a family dealing with mental health issues. Her realistic portrayal of Chinese culture and the tendency to keep secrets, will help readers from all backgrounds better understand family structures. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024



When Noah's best friend dies in a car accident, Noah feels lost. Lewis was a trans boy and so is Noah. They loved supernatural things and were especially fascinated by cryptids. Both were convinced that the Mothman lived in the nearby woods.

Making new friends is not easy for Noah. Diagnosed with autism, he has trouble reacting to people and understanding emotions. When Noah finally connects with a small group of girls, he finds that he enjoys sitting with them at lunch and even participates in a sleepover.

Noah confides in his new friends and informs them he is trying to find the Mothman. One of the girls seems interested and offers to help Noah with his science project about the creature. Noah has been writing letters to the Mothman and leaving them outside at night in hopes of meeting him. He is pretty sure the cryptid has been reading the letters and may have even responded with drawings several times.

Author Robin Gow uses verse and letters to tell Noah's tale. Readers will learn about patience, loss, and the courage it takes to carry on.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024



It's 2006. Nora/Nova is seventeen and going to summer camp for the first time. She won't be a camper; she'll be a counselor. Her main goal in committing to this three-month program is to forget about him.

Nova, the name she chooses as her camp name, is uncertain about exactly what to expect. First, she meets her fellow counselors. They all seem so experienced, but it doesn't take long to warm up to them. 

When the campers begin to arrive, Nova tries hard to remember all their names and to get to know them. Some are repeats who fall right into the routine. Others are new and need a bit of encouragement. There are also a few who seem ready to rebel at every turn. 

There is crafting, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding, just to name a few of the activities. Nova realizes she is beginning to connect with the girls in her cabin, and the more that happens, the less she thinks about him. The decision to spend her summer here in the woods was a good one.

Author Vikki Vansickle creates a realistic summer camp experience in THE LIGHTNING CIRCLE. It will click with readers familiar with summer camp, and possibly encourage those who aren't, to give it a try. Written in verse with illustrations by Laura K. Watson, this is a fast read perfect for middle graders.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

SAFE PASSAGE by G. Neri & David Brame


G. Neri fans will want to check out his new release SAFE PASSAGE. A graphic novel similar to his popular YUMMY, this story features Darius, his little sister, and Booger. A year earlier Darius's mother was shot and killed leaving Darius and his sister in the care of their step-father. He has tried to educate the kids on living in the rough neighborhoods of Chicago, but kids will be kids. They don't always follow the rules for safety.

On the way to school, Darius's friend Booger comes up with a scheme. He heard that a Brinks bank transport truck crashed and money is supposedly flying around everywhere. Booger convinces Darius they need to be a part of this windfall. Promising they will be back in time for Darius to take his afternoon math test, they hop a bus and head out to become rich. 

The first problem is Cissy, Darius's sister follows them. She is determined to be part of the adventure or snitch about it to their step-father if they don't let her come along. Problem after problem causes their scheme to turn into a dangerous situation. They end up running from one dangerous neighborhood to another hoping to find safe passage back home.

G. Neri's narrative combined with David Brame's art make SAFE PASSAGE a powerful read sure to be as popular as YUMMY with teen readers.

Friday, March 29, 2024

WILL ON THE INSIDE by Andrew Eliopulos


WILL ON THE INSIDE by Andrew Eliopulos is a story about dealing with Crohn's disease. Will is a seventh grader who loves soccer. The team is going to have to handle the season without him because he has been diagnosed with Crohn's. He has been suffering in silence, but he realizes he needs to speak up.

For a while now, Will has been planning his school days, including soccer practice and games, around knowing where he can find the nearest bathroom. Eating means constantly watching out for foods that will trigger his stomach to rebel. 

Now that Will has told his parents about how sick he sometimes feels, he is learning about colonoscopies, steroids, flare ups, and remissions. Tragically, he learns there is no cure for Crohn's, but he is told it is possible to manage it. How will his teammates react to the news? Will his new friend Griffin understand? Is it Will's own fault that he has this disease? Will finds family, friends, and even his faith can help him deal with these life changes.

WILL ON THE INSIDE will help readers better understand a disease that isn't always visible on the outside but causes major internal suffering for many on the inside. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024



Jake is only comfortable when he is spending the weekend with his grandmother. She makes him feel important and loved. Their time together helps him forget about the awful middle school kids he deals with during the week.

It is becoming clear to Jake's parents and his beloved grandmother that something isn't right. Jake isn't eating and he's getting thinner and thinner. When he refuses to talk with them about what's bothering him, and his health is failing, his parents check him into Whispering Pines. This inpatient facility is supposed to get to the bottom of Jake's depression and his issues with food.

Now his days are filled with physical examinations, group and individual therapy sessions, and forced daily menus. The voice he has been hearing in his head begins shouting even louder. If he can listen to the voice, he is sure he can ignore the rules of Whispering Pines and get back home where he can be in control once again.

LOUDER THAN HUNGER follows a young teen suffering from anorexia nervosa. Eating disorders are a serious concern for many young people today. The feeling of control they have over food usually masks other issues related to depression and bullying. Author John Schu uses his own personal experiences to tell Jake's story in hopes that LOUDER THAN HUNGER can help readers dealing with similar problems find ways to cope and conquer their fears.