“The way back from broken” Amber J. Keyser

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner). 207 p.

TheWayBackFromBrokenFifteen-year-old Rakmen’s baby sister died in his arms from an undiagnosed heart murmur. Awash with grief, his parents blame him and each other. His mother begins attending therapy sessions at Promise House, a place that promises to help grief filled; broken parents recover from the loss of their children.

As the broken brother of a lost sister, Rakmen is forced to attend the children’s sessions where he meets nine (or ten) year-old Jacey. Her baby brother was stillborn, throwing her mother (Rakmen’s teacher, Mrs. Tatlas) into a dangerously fragile mindset, and causing Jacey to wonder why she’d been robbed of the opportunity to become a big sister.

For some unknown reason, and to his eternal displeasure, Jacey becomes very attached to Rakmen. Mrs. Tatlas suggests they travel together to her uncle’s cabin in Canada for some R & R so, without any pushback from his parents, the three of them head to the wilderness. When an accident happens, it is up to Rakmen and Jacey to learn to work together to save all their lives.

I couldn’t really get into this book. I found it strange that Rakmen’s parents would let him go off for the entire summer with a perfect stranger, even though she was his teacher. Also, Jacey was supposed to be nine or ten, yet she acted more like six or seven. There were a few other issues, including grammatical errors scattered throughout so, overall, it wasn’t a win for me.

I’ll leave it up to you 14 and older readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

“Romancing the dark in the city of light” Ann Jacobus

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Thomas Dunne. (St. Martin’s Griffin). 276 p. (Also includes Suicide Prevention Resources, and Discussion Questions.)

RomancingTheDarkInTheCityOfLightForced to move to Paris to live with her very rich mother after being kicked out of four high schools, eighteen-year-old Summer is not a happy camper. In order to inherit a lot of money, her grandfather’s will mandates that she graduate from a private high school and finish college by the age of twenty-two, but Summer can’t muster up the interest needed to finish the last five weeks of her senior year. She’d rather spend time drinking, and dreaming of the Parisian boyfriend she absolutely MUST find so she could have a purpose for her life.

After a suicide on the Metro she meets the very handsome Kurt, who she soon decides is going to be the boyfriend she’s been seeking. She also feels the same way about Moony, a fellow student at her high school. As time goes on, Summer spends more time getting drunk and hanging out with Kurt than she does with Moony – even though he’s the one who makes her heart flutter. With just a few weeks left before she’s supposed to graduate, Summer makes a decision that will forever change not only her life, but also Moony’s.

I wasn’t a fan of this book. I knew Summer had big problems, but some of what happened to her seemed a bit far fetched as well as fantastical. I also had a problem with her constant neediness and the way she couldn’t handle rejection – even something as simple as someone saying they had to go to a doctor’s appointment when she’d invited them to coffee.

Though I enjoyed the descriptions of Paris, which reminded me of the time I’d spent there many years ago, Moony was the only one that really grabbed my interest as I found Kurt and Summer to be clichés. It is because of Moony that I gave this book two stars instead of one.

I’ll leave it up to those of you in the 16 and older range to decide if you want to read it or not.

“The weight of Zero” Karen Fortunati

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Delacorte Press. 375 p. (Includes “Author’s Note,” and a list of Sources.)

theweightofzeroCatherine, a seventeen-year-old high school junior used to be a dancer, used to have two best friends, and used to have a normal life. Everything changed her freshman year when her grandmother died and she was diagnosed as bipolar. Now life revolves around therapy, counseling, medication and loneliness.

After unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide during an especially bad case of depression, Catherine is sure she can never live a normal life. Depression, which she calls “zero,” will always suck her dry so she has decided it would be best to have an escape plan. Her plan consists of stockpiling pills to use when Zero rears its ugly head.

Catherine thinks being bipolar means she can never drive, go to college, have a boyfriend or live the life she was meant to live. As she prepares for Zero and her pills, she begins to live in ways she’d never thought possible. Should she dare to dream of life beyond Zero, or will Zero continue to erase every one of her hopes and dreams?

Fortunati offers hope to teens suffering from bipolar depression. I hope Catherine’s story  will be a beacon to lead them to safer waters.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“Remember to Forget” Ashley Royer

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. 2016. Blink.

RememberToForgetSeventeen-year-old Levi has not spoken a word for months. Ever since Delia, his girlfriend of almost a year tragically died in a car accident he has frequent panic attacks, has fallen into a deep depression, and is heavily medicated. Levi feels he doesn’t deserve help, and believes life without Delia is meaningless.

Desperate to save her son’s sanity, Levi’s mother arranges for him to move from Australia to Maine. She is sure a change of scenery will help him cope, but Levi is furious. He is sure that having to live with a father who abandoned him 3 years ago, and starting his life all over again in a completely new setting will not help.

From the moment he lands in Maine, Levi does everything he can to get his father and everyone else he meets to hate him especially Delilah and Aidan, his neighbors. It takes some time, but eventually he finds that love can break your heart but can also help it to heal.

Royer takes readers through Levi’s roller coaster of emotions in a very realistic way as she tells his story and Delilah’s. From the moment I began to read I couldn’t put the book down, finishing it in one sitting. Her true-to-life characters, filled with their own hopes, dreams and fears, are a perfect complement to Levi. I especially loved Aidan, as his antics made me laugh out loud. I was surprised to read the author is just 17 years old, which explains her understanding of the teen experience. This is her first book, and I look forward to reading more of them.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

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


“Charm & Strange” Stephanie Kuehn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 213 pp. Winner of the 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Author Award.

Charm&StrangeWho is Win? Who is Drew? Win is the present, while Drew is the past.

Win changed his name, avoided making friends, exiled himself from his family, and has lived in a boarding school for years. Now, at the age of 16, Drew is catching up to him.

Through flashbacks, readers get insight into Drew’s 9-year-old self. He looks up to his kind 14-year-old brother Keith and loves his 7-year-old fun-loving sister Siobhan. Little by little, readers notice their behavior beginning to change as Drew becomes angry enough to hurt himself and others, while Keith turned bitter and mean, and Siobhan became fearful.

Drew’s anger and confusion is still within Win who believes he has a wolf within himself and will change with the right full moon. Torturing himself with past memories, unable to deal with the past while unable to live in the present, Win is at the end of his rope. It takes the help of two classmates who look beyond their own needs to show Win there is light at the end of his tunnel.

Kuehn’s debut novel is deep, strong, powerful and will make her readers think long and hard. It will be remembered long after its pages are closed, and was an excellent choice for the 2014 Morris Award.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Freewill” Chris Lynch

Rated * star. ARC ebook. To be published March 4, 2014. Simon & Schuster.

FreewillSeventeen-year-old Will is highly imbalanced. He is living with his grandparents because his father committed suicide after killing his stepmother. This event has deeply affected him, leaving him unable to attend the regular high school. As a result, he must spend time in the alternative high school, carving beautiful pieces out of wood, with only random memories of how the pieces came to be carved. He is certain he doesn’t belong there, insisting he is meant to be a pilot, but no one takes him seriously.

Will floats through life talking to himself, second guessing himself, and wondering about his grandparent’s motives in caring for him. The voice in his head narrates the story, and either drives Will forward or holds him back from action. When a local teen commits suicide, Will puts a wooden monument by the memorial site. Soon a rash of teen suicides occur, which makes Will believe he is responsible because his wooden pieces are always at the same location. Through his disjointed, fevered, very confused mind readers seek to pick out clues to his strange behavior and wonder what makes him “tick.”

“Freewill” was released in 2001, and is being released again in 2014 with a new cover. It is not a happy book, but is very dark and full of deep, confused, almost crazed thoughts that might be too much for some of its 14 and older readers.

I didn’t care for “Freewill”, but will leave it to you to decide if you want to Read It or Not.


“Night Runner” Brian P. Wallace

Rated 2 stars ** 2012. Bryanna Wallace Enterprises. 443 pp.

NightRunnerCliff Walker had everything going for him. He was an all around athlete, especially excelling at baseball. His father had been a top prospect for the Red Sox, and it looked like Cliff was on his way to greatness. Suddenly he disappeared off the face of the sports world.

Fast forward to Cliff’s sessions in a psychiatric hospital where he’d been taken after attempting suicide. Through the help of his doctor, he learned he suffers from Depression and Agoraphobia. Running is the only thing that lessens his anxiety so, upon his release, Cliff begins a nightly routine of logging long and fast miles through his South Boston neighborhood.

Through the actions of his best friends, Cliff is soon being trained for the Boston Marathon and is expected to become the first American to defeat the Kenyans since Greg Meyer did so in 1983. The only problem with this plan is Cliff can’t run during the daytime or his Agoraphobia kicks in big time.

Wallace throws in humor along with the names of well known sports writers, anchors, reporters, and runners as well as Boston and South Boston clubs and notables. Set in South Boston, “Night Runner” is full of lingo from the area which may prove difficult to understand for those not from “Southie” (such as  the many references to “13,909.”) I had to ask someone from the South Boston area what that meant. I won’t spill it here, but will see if you can figure it out yourself if you decide to read “Night Runner” or not.

“Night Runner” has a really nice storyline and moved me to tears a few times, so I will recommend it to Adult readers. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with self published books, I have to say some may be thrown by blatant errors in grammar and spelling which appear constantly throughout the book. I almost read it with a red pen in hand, but forced myself to get out of correction mode and to just read it for its storyline. It was hard as errors were blatantly on almost every page, but if I can do it you can too.