“Seven ways we lie” Riley Redgate

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2016. Abrams.343 pp.

sevenwayswelieOlivia hates that her mother walked away from her family three years ago. Kat holes up in her room with Internet games. Matt fills his days getting high. Juniper is the perfect queen of Paloma High. Valentine is a loner. Lucas is everyone’s go to guy for beer and weed. Claire wonders why she can’t be like Olivia and Juniper.

When the news breaks that someone is involved in a secret affair with a teacher, everyone is shocked. Each of these students has the power to reveal the truth, yet they all have their own secrets. Are someone else’s secrets more important than your own? As truth and lies blend, this unlikely group of students become bound together in ways they never imagined.

“Seven Ways to Lie” was very thought provoking, with each character having their own chapter to articulate their issues and thought patterns. She challenges her readers to think about the “why” of situations, reminding them that things are not always as they seem.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Shame the Stars” Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Rated 5 stars ***** Tu Books (Lee & Low). 2016. 288 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note”, “Book Recommendations”, “Newspaper Clipping Sources,” and a “Glossary.”)

shamethestarsBefore Texas became a territory and then a state, it was part of Mexico. As happened when European immigrants took control of land occupied by its original inhabitants, the Anglo American colonists who settled in Tejas, Mexico in the early 1800’s decided they wanted the land upon which they had settled, and fought to get it from Mexico. Ultimately the land they conquered became the state of Texas. Just as Native Americans had their lands stolen from them, so too did the Mexicans who had originally lived and farmed their own lands in Tejas for generations.

“Shame the Stars” is set in 1915, and tells the story of Tejano families struggling to understand and survive brutalities inflicted upon them by the Texas Rangers (a group of “lawmen” who randomly killed and raped Mexican Americans, imprisoning them without trail, and stealing their land.)

Joaquín Del Toro and Dulceña Villa are teenagers in love during this tumultuous time in the fictitious city of Monteseco. Though suffering from the devastation brought upon them and others by the Rangers, they refuse to keep their heads bowed low in servitude. They, and many others, determine to make a difference for their people and stand for their rights. “Shame the Stars” is their story.

This book is marketed as a “rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet,” but I feel this simplistic overview is a disservice to McCall. “Shame the Stars” is so much more than this, as the author’s rich and powerful narrative opens the eyes of her readers to an atrocious chapter in the history of the United States that had been a secret for many years. It is closer to the history of Segregation and the crimes committed by segregationists than it is to Romeo and Juliet.

The “Refusing to Forget” Project, started in 2013, created an exhibit of this time period called “Life and Death on the Border 1910-1920.” It was on view in Austin, Texas from Jan. 23-April 3, and was a visual complement to the events in the book.

I sincerely hope McCall’s excellently written and researched book will win an award of some type at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in January, as it deserves a place in every high school and public library. McCall is a previous winner of the Pura Belpré award however, since “Shame the Stars” is intended for a much older audience, my fingers are crossed that it will receive a Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from YALSA.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a copy of this book from Lee & Low in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Piecing Me Together” Renee Watson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Bloomsbury. 260 p. To be published February 14, 2017.

piecingmetogetherJade is starting her junior year at a very exclusive high school located on the other side of her neighborhood. She did not want to leave her old school or friends, but accepted a scholarship because she wanted to learn Spanish and travel with their study abroad program.

As one of a handful of black students at the school, Jade finds that because she is black and poor she is expected to act, speak and think a certain way. She is even expected to participate in a mentorship program offered only to African American girls, causing her to feel that her classmates and teachers disregard her, and are unable to understand why their expectations are hurtful. Prejudices and stereotypes at school as well as in the news cause Jade to create beautiful artistic collages from her self-examinations, as she reflects upon the state of the world for herself and other blacks.

Watson’s thoughtful observations about a young girl finding her voice, while telling her story about what it means to be black, will be an eye opener to many who don’t understand white privilege. I especially loved her poem “Things that are Black and Beautiful” on page 136. I can’t quote it here, because this is an ARC and the author/publisher might choose to change it for the final version of the book, but it is lovely. The beautiful cover art is also striking, while the title of the book excellently conveys Jade’s talent and her actions as she seeks to express herself.

I predict “Piecing Me Together” will win the Coretta Scott King Book Award at the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards, as well as a few other book awards.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Seeing off the Johns” Rene S. Perez II

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. 2015. Cinco Puntos Press.

seeingoffthejohnsJohn Mejia and John Robison were baseball stars in the small, poor, forgotten town of Greenton, Texas where everyone knew everyone’s name. These two friends, known as The Johns, had gotten a baseball scholarship to the University of Texas and were leaving the town most people knew they would never leave. As such everyone felt an ownership in the boys, feeling their success and exit from the town was everyone’s successful exit.

When the boys died in a car crash just a few hours later, Greenton was devastated. The only one indifferent to the calamity was 17-year-old Concepcion Gonzales, known as Chon. For four years he had hidden his dislike for the John who had stolen Araceli, the love of his life. With that John forever out of the picture, Chon’s days now turned to thoughts of how to methodically woo back the only woman he’d ever loved.

Set against a backdrop of close knit town prejudices and fears, Perez tells the story of a hard working young man struggling to find his own voice amid a life filled with love, heartache, friendship and sorrow. Though the writing is at times introspective and rambling, Chon’s hopes and dreams are real to anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Stranded” Melinda Braun

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. 2015. Simon Pulse.

StrandedEmma is a champion swimmer, but that didn’t help when her car flipped into a body of water trapping herself and her younger sister Lucy. Unable to deal with her guilt at not saving Lucy’s life, Emma has given up on her own life, going through each day like a zombie.

Hoping to avoid the upcoming anniversary of Lucy’s death, Emma signs up to join a weeklong remote wilderness camp for teens. After a freak of nature kills three of the group, Emma finds herself as one of a group of four struggling to find their way in a vast forest with only a few supplies and a little water. They need to work together but, with each passing day, the threat of wolves and an impending snowstorm, along with infighting, distrust, hunger, and thirst begin to wear them down. With the hope of rescue becoming slimmer each passing day, Emma finds an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

“Stranded” ranks right up with Gary Paulsen’s classic book “Hatchet.” Readers will not only learn important wilderness survival skills, but will also learn what “survival” really means.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Girl in Pieces” Kathleen Glasgow

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published August 30, 2016. Delacorte Press.

GirlInPiecesWho are cutters? Why do they cut? What can be done to get them to stop? Do they want to stop? Can they ever live a “normal” life? Will anyone ever love them? Can they ever love themselves? Can “regular” people learn to see beyond their scars? Can THEY learn to see themselves beyond their scars?

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Davis answers these questions and more as she narrates her personal story of abuse, neglect, fear, despair and homelessness in short, revealing chapters. Charlotte’s narrative is a small window into the souls of the millions of teens who feel the only way they can release their personal pain is through self-mutilation.

“Girl in Pieces” is raw, truthful, despairing and inspirational. It will stay with you long after the last page is turned. Several copies should be in every public and high school library to show these teens they are not alone, and that they are loved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Three truths and a lie” Brent Hartinger

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Simon Pulse.

ThreeTruthsAndALieRob, his boyfriend Liam, their friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen decide to spend a fun weekend at Mia’s parent’s cabin. Located in the middle of a partly denuded rainforest in Washington State, the four friends expect to have a great time at the cabin’s lake telling truth and lie games and hanging out.

Within just a few short hours of arriving, the satellite phone they need to communicate in case of an emergency winds up missing. It doesn’t take long before a series of other unfortunate events turns the fun they’d anticipated having into terror, as it seems like someone doesn’t want them to leave. As the horror escalates, their reality becomes someone’s lie leaving it up to the reader to distinguish between the two.

I thought “Three truths and a lie” was interesting though some of the events seemed rather far fetched. It reminded me of what always happens to those who don’t pay attention in creepy 1960’s “B” slasher movies, and I will admit that the ending left me very surprised.

It’s because of Hartinger’s ability to deceive that I recommend his book for ages 16 and older.