“Chasing shadows” Swati Avasthi

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Alfred A. Knopf. 305 p.

ChasingShadowsSavitri, Corey, and his twin sister Holly have been friends for the past eleven years. Their fierce devotion to each other, and shared love for freerunning, have made them inseparable. With just a few months left of school, they plan to go to nearby colleges in Chicago. Though Savi has been accepted to Princeton, she is sure she and Corey can continue dating and that she can remain best friends with Holly. However, the day she gathers her courage to tell them she was accepted at Princeton is the day Corey is shot dead, Holly is put into a coma, and she becomes the lone witness to a crime.

Days turn into weeks as Savi tries to come to grips with Corey’s loss and her guilt for not being able to save him, try to remember details for the police, and help Holly through her recovery. Meanwhile Holly’s will to live comes from the voice inside her head that assures her it knows how to bring Corey back from the Shadowlands where she last saw him being taken captive. All she has to do is to listen to the voice and do what it says. If she does, she can bring Corey back home.

Deeply affected by Corey’s loss, Savi and Holly tell their stories in alternating chapters and through graphic novel inserts. Readers will not only receive an education on freerunning, but will also learn about the love between a brother and sister as well as true friendship and how being loyal to someone might involve making tough, unpopular decisions.

It took me awhile to get into this book as I found the detailed freerunning explanations to be boring. However I liked the graphic novel inserts as it helped frame Holly’s thoughts and made them more understandable. Holly and Savitri’s emotions were raw and real, and the author did an excellent job exploring and detailing how each confronted and dealt with their pain.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Always” Sarah Jio

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books. To be published February 7, 2017.

alwaysKailey loved Ryan, her handsome and rich fiancé who she’d been dating for 4 years. Though secretly still in love with a man from her past, they were set to marry. The day she runs into a homeless man she recognizes as Cade, the love of her life who had disappeared years earlier, her life forever changes.

Through flashbacks, readers are shown their love story, setting the stage for Cade’s disappearance and Ryan’s appearance in Kailey’s life. The more she remembers the former life she had with Cade, the more she begins to question her life with Ryan. Should she give up an old love for a new one? Could she learn to live a new life and leave her old one behind?

As Kailey debates what to do, readers easily split into Pro Ryan or Pro Cade camps. The decision is not as hard as Kailey makes it out to be; she’s just too dense to figure it out as fast as I did. In the midst of trying to understand what happened to Cade, I couldn’t figure out the point of all the “cloak and dagger” mysteries around him. “Always” was okay but was a bit too predictable, with a few too many loose ends, for me to rate it higher than three stars.

Recommended for Adults who don’t mind the occasional “huh?” thrown into their reading.

I received an Advance Reading digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Lily and Taylor” Elise Moser

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Groundwood Books. 186 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

LIlyAndTaylorTaylor lives with her older sister Tannis and her son Mason. Tannis is constantly beaten by her boyfriend, but loves him and is sure things will get better. When he winds up killing her in a fit of rage, Taylor moves in with her grandmother and Mason. Little Mason gives Taylor a goal in life as she helps care for him, but she misses Tannis and her boyfriend Devon. Despite the fact that Devon regularly beat her, wouldn’t let her have friends, and made her call him several times a day to “check in” Taylor loved him, and would do anything to make him happy.

Lily has spent years taking care of her brain-injured mother, helping her recover from abusive boyfriends, but has managed to hide her troubles. She and Taylor become fast friends as Taylor gradually becomes a better student, leaving her to think she can live a normal life, but Devon has other plans.

Unhappy with Taylor’s inability to visit due to finances, Devon decides to unexpectedly show up with his friend Conor and insist Taylor go for a ride. After inviting herself along to keep Taylor safe, the girls wind up being held captive in a freezing cabin in the middle of the snow covered woods. As events unfold, readers wonder if Taylor will ever gain the strength to love herself more than she loves her boyfriend and break the cycle of abuse in her family.

“Lily and Taylor” paints a true picture of the ugliness of domestic abuse in teen and adult relationships. To drive this point home the author includes statistics, tips and hotline information, hoping her readers will make the call that will let them out of their own abusive situations. I hold out the same hope as the author.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Loud Awake and Lost” Adele Griffin

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Alfred A. Knopf. 289 pp.

LoudAwakeandLostSeventeen-year-old Ember almost died the day her car went over the bridge. After 8 months of recovery and therapy from her operations, Ember is finally getting to return home. Her parents and best friend Rachel assure her she is back to normal, but Ember feels as if she’s missing something. A few months of her memory have been lost due to temporary amnesia and, when she finds out a passenger named Anthony had been killed in the accident, Ember is determined to try and regain her memories to find out more about why they’d been in the car together.

Little by little pieces of memory come floating up to the surface of her mind, bringing more questions than answers. Rachel, her parents, her friends and her ex boyfriend Holden want her to be the girl she was before the accident, but Ember is not comfortable dropping back into the mold they made for her life. Despite not being able to dance anymore, she wants her own identity and is sure her hidden memories hold the key to her past and her future. From the hints people have been dropping, she is sure Anthony was more than just a friend but can’t put together the missing pieces of their relationship.

While striving to remember Anthony she meets Kai, who shares her dreams of wanting to break out from the mold society has planned and envisions a whole new world for them. Together they begin the romance of their lives, effectively frustrating Rachel, her parents and Holden as Ember feels herself drawing away from them as she draws closer to Kai.

When Ember finally regains her memories, I was shocked at what Adele Griffin had planned out all along, as I had never seen it coming. “Loud Awake and Lost” leads readers on a roller coaster ride of Ember’s emotions as she seeks to find herself amidst the missing parts of her life, and will keep readers eagerly turning pages to discover more of Ember’s memories and insights.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Second Impact” David Klass and Perri Klass

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published August 6, 2013. Frances Foster Books (Farrar Straus Giroux).  279 pp.

SecondImpactCarla is the top sports reporter for the school’s newspaper, and recruits Jerry to write blog entries related to football. Jerry is the school’s star quarterback, and finds a natural affinity for writing. Between the two of them, they’re supposed to cover football in their New Jersey football town where everyone eats, sleeps and dreams of football and winning the State championship.

When Jerry gets sidelined with a small concussion, Carla starts wondering about the ramifications of brain injuries in football players. Her curiosity is increased when another star player suffers an even worse concussion. Suddenly, it seems that she’s questioning the values of the town when her interest in concussions spills over into their ultimate love affair with football. Neither Jerry nor the town will stand for it, but Carla won’t back down. She believes she has a right to tell the truth, and will have her say. However, is “her say” important enough to risk the final championship game?

Readers will learn a lot about concussions, brain injuries and football in “Second Impact.” I wasn’t too thrilled with the Klass style of using blog posts and emails to tell Carla and Jerry’s story, but perhaps it will resound with the 12 and older crowd.

“Crash: A Mother, a Son, and the Journey from Grief to Gratitude” Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, MD

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 18, 2012. Skirt! (Globe Pequot Press). 213 pp. (includes Book Group Discussion Points.)

In 2003, when Roy-Bornstein’s son Neil was 17 years old, he and his girlfriend Trista were run over by a drunk driver and left for dead. Trista died from her injuries, while Neil sustained a severely broken leg and a fractured skull.

As a pediatrician, Roy-Bornstein had seen her share of trauma and grief, but dealing with a severely injured son and the repercussions of his slow recovery left an impact that has reverberated through the years. In “Crash,” she weaves memories from her son’s young lives, along with her own struggles to complete medical school as a young mother of two. As she recounts the tragedy faced by Neil, and his subsequent operations and difficulties, readers are enlightened about brain injury symptoms and how they affect lives.

“Crash” is an important read, not only to learn more about brain injuries, but to help readers (both teen and adult) understand the impact drunk driving can have on other people’s lives. The fate of the drunk driver, as well as Neil, Trista’s family, and the author’s family are all addressed while Roy-Bornstein relives Neil’s struggles and pains, as well as his triumphs and gains.

This is a good book for high school and adult book groups, and also includes a Book Group Discussion Points section at the end.