Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Algonquin Books. 328 p.
Antoinette is an autistic child with the ability to heal, but develops seizures when she alleviates someone’s pain. She is desperate to heal her dying mother, but is rebuffed.
Lily yearned for the closeness she once had with her sister growing up on their flower farm, but doesn’t know how to deal with her niece. Whenever she’s around, her battles with OCD seem to be heightened, causing a vicious circle of wanting to be with her sister but not wanting to regress into unhealthy behaviors.
Rose knows she is dying. Her sister Lily abandoned her and refused to help her run the farm when Antoinette was just a toddler, yet she is her only living relative. Afraid of Lily’s rejection, she is even more afraid of leaving Antoinette to grow up alone.
Antoinette, Rose and Lily display both physical and mental impairments as they tell their stories. Their hopes and fears will tug at the emotional heartstrings of readers, reminding them that everyone has a burden to bear, a story to tell, and a heart to be loved.
Recommended for Adults.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 373 p.
“Girl mans up” is a coming of age story with a twist. Pen, a young teen, has always identified as a boy. Ever since she was a little girl, she dressed as a boy, played with boys, and really thought she was a boy. Her old-fashioned immigrant Portuguese parents assumed she’d outgrow her tomboyish ways, but their disappointment and anger grew as they demanded she show them proper “respeito” (respect.)
Unable to accept the girly mold they want her to fill, and lacking courage to completely forge a manly mold of her own, Pen takes readers on a journey of self-discovery to find a girlfriend and finally “man up” to become the person she was meant to be. Her story helps readers understand the struggles felt by young trans teens beginning to truly self identify. It also shows the importance of having friends and family with whom these teens can feel safe as they navigate through uncharted territory in their quest to have “respeito” for themselves.
Recommended for ages 16 and older.
Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published September 27, 2016. Arthur A. Levine Books. 340 p.
Kate Hamilton has spent her life walking a tightrope, as she has had to make sure to never bring scandal on the family name because her father is a politician. When he falls behind in the polls because of something her ex boyfriend did to humiliate her, he take Kate and her mother out of D.C. to spend a few months in his Texas hometown to regroup.
In her quest to get a recommendation to art school to study photography and escape politics forever, Kate winds up volunteering at her aunt’s animal shelter where she meets annoying Hunter, the handsome ex-football player. Joining the yearbook staff to use their darkroom introduces her to handsome Kyle, star quarterback, and shy Ana. With football ruling the school, and politics ruling her home, it’s only a matter of time before football and politics lead Kate into making decisions she’ll soon regret.
Recommended for ages 12-17.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.
Shane and his best friend Josh are in sixth grade. Video games and baseball consume their every waking moment, and girls are making an appearance. Even though his dad hasn’t made too many attempts to be part of his life or to come for visits after his parents divorce, Shane is doing just fine without him. When he and his mom left San Francisco for Los Angeles three years ago, Shane never looked back. With his days filled with baseball, his friendship with Josh, and designing his very own graphic novel, he is finally getting to become the person he always knew he should be.
Despite his rosy outside life, Shane is hiding a secret that would change everything about his life if anyone ever found out about it. With his secret getting closer to exposure every day Shane will soon learn that truth comes with a price, and will have to decide if he is willing to pay it.
Once I started reading “The other boy” I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in one sitting. Hennessey’s young readers have the opportunity to learn about the many difficulties and challenges, as well as the hopes and fears, faced by transgender boys and girls. Through reading Shane’s story in this finely crafted novel, it is hoped they will learn acceptance and tolerance. Every middle school and public library should have a copy of “The other boy” in its collection.
Highly recommended for ages 11-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 329 p.
Brock Ripley is first to back away from conflicts, on the soccer field or off. He hates being gutless, but doesn’t know how to be brave. When he agrees to catch passes for Hunter Gates, the school’s star quarterback, his life becomes even more confusing as he tries to learn football and avoid getting hit on the field, hold off Hunter’s jealous former wide receiver, hide his father’s worsening sickness from his friends, and keep his friendship with Richie Fang.
Though Richie is a star soccer player, wins all types of competitions, is academically gifted, and a great jokester, his talents don’t include ways to stop riling Hunter. The angrier Hunter gets towards Richie, the more Brock retreats into his shell of avoidance. It is only a matter of time before Brock will have to learn how to get himself off the fence and onto the field of life before it’s too late.
This action packed book about football, bullying, true friendship, and learning to stand up for yourself is bound to pique the interest of readers – especially reluctant readers.
Recommended for ages 11-18.
Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Viking.
Robert was born July 21, 1972 with a giant tumor covering his face, underdeveloped legs, and missing toes. His mother refused to accept him, while his father left the decision of whether or not to keep him up to her. It wasn’t until many weeks later, when his four brothers and sisters were allowed to take part in the decision, that he was finally taken home.
Using simple explanations, Robert’s many operations and “aha!” moments are documented from elementary to high school. Despite being vague on the details of why he was born this way, and what happened after age 14, he clearly documents how he worked hard to live an ordinary life despite his physical limitations. He is an inspiration to those facing similar struggles.
Recommended for ages 9-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Seeds of America #3. Published October 4, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (Appendix includes Questions and Answers as well as lists of books and websites for more reading.)
“Ashes” continues the stories of escaped slaves Curzon and Isabel. First introduced in “Chains,” more of their lives and the cruelty of slavery was documented in “Forge.”
After escaping from their masters once again, the two have spent years making their way through the wilderness seeking news about Isabel’s sister Ruth who’d been sold away from her by a cruel mistress when she was just a little girl. Their plans of a reunited and peaceful life are interrupted by war and the cruelties of fate. The Patriot’s fight for independence causes Isabel to question how those seeking freedom for themselves could deny it to thousands of their slaves, while Curzon is sure the war will mean freedom for all.
As time passes, Isabel’s former closeness with Curzon dissipates as they remain at odds over the war and its meaning to them as slaves. As they learn to survive in the midst of chaos, they are left wondering and hoping about a future in a world turned upside down.
Anderson has done her research well, bringing readers fully into Isabel and Curzon’s time and place. The plight of escaped slaves, found on both British and Patriot’s sides, black soldiers fighting for General Washington, and other historical events are incorporated into the storyline of “Ashes.” If Laurie should choose to continue Isabel, Curzon and Ruth’s story in another set of books about their life after the war, I would be a very happy reader of them. Laurie can you hear me?
Highly recommended for ages 11 to 15.