“Step up to the plate” Maria Singh

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Tu Books. (Lee & Low). 276 p.

StepUpToThePlateIt was 1945 and, with World War II going on, all nine-year-old Maria wanted to do was play baseball. Her aunt built planes and women were starting to play professional ball so, when her teacher started an all-girls team at her school, Maria was thrilled. Unfortunately her Mexican mother and Indian father had old-fashioned ideas about what girls could do, so she knew it would be hard to convince them to let her play.

As she learns about teamwork and baseball, Maria also starts to learn about prejudice and racism when her little brother is beat up for being different and a German classmate lashes out at her. When she finds out her father can’t become a U.S. citizen or own the land he’d worked for years, through the confidence earned from playing the game she loved, Maria learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.

This book is an important introduction to the inequalities and discrimination faced by specific immigrant groups, many of which still go on today. Readers are also given insight into the world of adha-adha “half and half,” (Mexican-Hindu families) which also serves to educate. It should be in every elementary and middle school library, and would make for excellent discussions as part of a book club.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


“Die for you” Amy Fellner Dominy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press (Random House). 292 p. (Includes “Author’s Note” and “Resources.”)

dieforyouAfter Emma’s mother leaves her father for another man, Emma moves across town to be with her dad and help pick up the pieces of his life. Starting her senior year at a new school is rough, but meeting Dillon helped erase the darkness of hating her mom and seeing her dad’s pain. With Dillon she is able to love and be loved.

Emma and Dillon are so happy. They’ve promised to always be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to be together forever. However, it doesn’t take long before Emma finds that “forever” is more than just a word to Dillon. He always follows through on his promises. Always.

Dominy’s fast paced novel about what happens when relationships turn bad is sure to be an eye opener for many readers. The Author’s Note and Resources sections hold information that could unlock the cages of many relationships, making “Die for you” a book that needs to be on the shelves of every high school and public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The other boy” M.G. Hennessey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.

theotherboyShane 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.


“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.

“What remains” Helene Dunbar

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Flux. Published May 8, 2015.

WhatRemainsCal, Spencer and Lizzie have been best friends since first grade; knowing each other’s moods, thoughts, likes and dislikes. Spencer and Cal have been protecting Lizzie from her abusive home life since she was a little girl, which has made them inseparable. Love binds them together.

Now juniors, the three of them are starting to get excited about their upcoming senior year. Cal is planning on being the best shortstop the Major Leagues has ever seen, and can’t wait for baseball season to begin, while Spencer is always onstage performing in something with the Drama Department. Lizzie doesn’t think she’s good at anything, but is a wonderful artist.

Life as they knew it ends the day a texting driver crashes into their car, killing Lizzie, almost killing Cal, and injuring Spencer. Cal’s heart was literally broken in the crash, and his baseball dreams died with Lizzie. Certain that he was at fault for the accident, Cal falls into an abyss of guilt, loneliness and despair. As he begins to lose himself, only love can save him.

“What remains” is a heartfelt look at a special kind of love that touches the soul. Dunbar does a wonderful job drawing readers into Cal’s anguish and salvation. The author has also written “These Gentle Wounds,” also from Flux publishers, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Dare you to” Katie McGarry

Rated 5 stars ***** Pushing the limits, book #2. Harlequin Teen. 2013. ebook.

DareYouToBeth has been taking care of her alcoholic mom in Louisville since she was 8 years old. Her father left them, her mother lives with a drug seller and user boyfriend who beats them, but Beth won’t abandon her. Now that she’s 17, she lives in a nearby foster home with her two best friends Isaiah and Noah, but is always ready to get her drunken mom out of the bar when called by the bartender, to buy her food, and to pay the bills as best as she can because her mother needs her.

When Beth is arrested for something her mother did, her Uncle Scott gets guardianship and moves her to the country town of Grafton. Beth is determined to hate Scott, to hate life in the sticks and to hate everyone there. She carries her hate, and fear, like a shield and everyone stays away from her – except for Ryan.

Ryan is the school’s sweetheart. He’s handsome, tall, strong, and a baseball champion. He and his friends are always daring each other to do things, so when he’s dared to ask her out he takes the challenge. Beth leads him on a merry chase, but he’s determined because he never loses at anything. In time, he finds himself falling for her but Beth is as slippery as an eel. Not ever knowing love or peace, she can’t believe someone like Ryan could ever love someone like her and is not about to fall for his “lies.” She thinks he’s perfect, but Ryan is hiding some secrets of his own. Could two teenagers who are both in pain and lost in their own sorrows find happiness with each other?

I loved the way relationships formed in this book, and know teen readers 14 years and older will too. Though it’s labeled as book 2 in a series, I did not find any references to past events leading me to be happy that I hadn’t read book one beforehand.

“Call Me By My Name” John Ed Bradley

Rated ***** stars. ARC ebook. To be published May 6, 2014. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

CallMeByMyNameFootball, friendship, love, hate, prejudice and the world of the Deep South in the 60’s to early 70’s are introduced to readers through the lives of Tater Henry and Rodney Boulet. Tater and Rodney met on a summer day in 1965 when Tater came to the white park to try out for baseball. Uneducated about the invisible racial line separating the two parts of town, Rodney saved him from further harm from the white players who wished to educate him about it.

It took 4 more years until their paths crossed permanently, and they soon became inseparable friends. Angie, Rodney’s twin sister, accepted Tater unconditionally while Rodney had to work to keep his racist father’s thoughts and behavior from becoming his own. Football unified them even more, as the two became almost as close as brothers.

With Tater blazing new paths as the school’s first black quarterback, and Rodney his protective lineman, college scouts lined up for them. However, as Tater and Angie’s feelings for each other began to grow to more than friendship, Rodney’s flare-ups of racism seemed to increase. Can two boys of different races and backgrounds overcome years of hatred sown deeply through generations to have a time enduring friendship, or will society’s pressures doom them to failure?

“Call Me By My Name” bears some similarities to the story of 1960’s football players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayer (whose friendship was portrayed in the movie “Brian’s Song.”) It will remain with its readers long after the last page is turned. Recommended for readers 14 and older.


Be sure to have a box of tissues ready.