“You look different in real life” Jennifer Castle

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published June 4, 2013. HarperTeen. 358 pp.

YouLookDifferentInRealLifeSixteen-year-old Justine really doesn’t want to do it. She, along with classmates Felix, Rory, Keira and Nate, made a documentary when they were 6 years old called “Five at Six.” She, and the movie, was a big hit, which inspired the filmmakers to decide they should be filmed every 5 years. She rocked “Five at Eleven,”  but is sure she’ll be a bust with “Five at Sixteen.” She feels like everyone else has “done” something with their lives in the past 5 years, but she’s just one big, fat, zero.

She has not become the person she thought she’d be by now, and doesn’t want the whole world to know about it. On top of that everyone hates each other. Felix is her only friend, Nate and Felix haven’t spoken in years and refuse to be in the same air space. Keira ignores everyone, but does talk to Nate, while Nate ignores everyone else. Rory’s autism has gotten worse, and Justine did something awful to her years ago so now they’re not friends. They’re all a mess. No one is ready for filming but, as the saying goes “the show must go on.”

As we follow Justine’s struggle to “become” someone, and begin to find out about everyone else’s struggles and issues, “You look different in real life” takes on new meanings as teens “discover” themselves in the life stories of Castle’s characters. I enjoyed seeing each character walk their paths to freedom from the boxes each had placed themselves in, and know teens aged 14 and older will relate. Sometimes big steps are good, but other times small steps work just as well.


“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal” Jeff Kinney

2007. Amulet Books. 217 pp.

DiaryofaWimpyKidI know, I’m totally behind the times because practically everyone else has already read this book. However since I’m on vacation and didn’t bring enough books to read, I had to go to the Public Library. Their YA section was sadly lacking in interesting titles so, when I saw this book I figured “why not?” and borrowed it to read. I’m glad I did.

Greg has just started middle school and, through the use of funny cartoon drawings and his “journal” (making sure to insist we don’t think it’s an actual “diary”) tells readers all about the horrors of middle school life. Kinney’s hysterical descriptions and drawings had me in stitches from the first few pages, and it’s easy to see why kids of all ages (especially boys) love this series. Poor Greg can’t catch a break, as all of his various schemes to achieve popularity and notoriety all fade to nothing, leaving him holding the proverbial bag on every occasion.

Boys aged 9 and up will become instant fans, and will devour the rest of the books in the series.

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” Benjamin Alire Sáenz

2012. Simon & Schuster. 359 pp.

AristotleandDanteDiscovertheSecretsoftheUniverseFifteen-year-old Ari hates his name, himself, and his life. He’s always been a loner and keeps his feelings bottled, just like his father. One summer day he meets Dante, a strange boy who makes him laugh and think. As they bond over swimming lessons, the strangeness of their names, questions over who is more Mexican than the other, and debate life, they become best friends. With Dante, Ari can be himself but also learns to look outside himself for answers.

Through their years of friendship, readers are taken through the ups and downs of male teenagers through Ari’s narration, as we vicariously experience angst, love, betrayal and loss. As Ari searches for his place in life and Dante struggles with his, they both seek to discover what the universe has in store for them and their reasons for being in this world. Their friendship is tested many times, as family, love and life work together to finally help them both to discover the secrets of their own universes.

At the recent ALA Media Awards in Seattle, Sáenz won multiple awards for “Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe,” including the 2013 Pura Belpré Author Award, the 2013 Stonewall Book Award, and a 2013 Printz Honor Award. It was also chosen as one of the top 10 books for 2013 on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Sáenz  has done an amazing job conveying the feelings and thoughts of two teen boys, with families who fully support and love them even when they don’t love themselves. Readers aged 14 and older will learn much from Aristotle and Dante. I absolutely loved this book. You will too.

“Prairie Evers” Ellen Airgood

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published May 2012. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Group Inc.) 215 pp.

Prairie has always been a free child, growing up with her beloved Grammy and parents in the North Carolina mountains while being homeschooled. When her parents relocate to a farm in New Paltz, N.Y., Grammy returns to North Carolina and 10-year-old Prairie enters school for the first time. Life in 5th grade is very hard, especially for someone who’s never been to school before but, when she becomes best friends with Ivy, things become bearable.

Prairie loves sharing the raising of her chickens and farm life with Ivy, and can’t understand her sadness. When she realizes Ivy comes from a bad home life, Prairie is determined to change things to help her become happy once more.

“Prairie Evers” is a story about change and growth in a young girl’s life, and will be enjoyed by students aged 9-12.