“Me Since You” Laura Wiess

Rated 5 stars ***** Published February 18, 2014. ARC. Simon & Schuster.

MeSinceYouSixteen-year-old Rowan Areno is tired of her strict parents telling her what she can and cannot do. Her best friend Nadia’s parents allow her to leave the house in cute little shorts and tops, and let her do whatever she wants. Roe is jealous of their leniency, and frustrated because her police officer father runs a tight ship. Having been caught in the past, she is extra careful the day she decides to cut school with Nadia to meet a couple of guys. Within minutes of their arrival Nadia is convinced to go to a beach party with them and, despite knowing Roe has to be at work in a few hours so can’t go, has no problem ditching her.

Of course Roe’s dad catches her but, when he takes her home for the usual lecture, he is called out on a call for a suicidal jumper at a nearby bridge. Roe has no idea this call will forever change her life because it results in her dad falling so deeply into depression he commits suicide.

She and her mother are left to pick up the pieces of their lives, with both falling deeper and deeper into their own sadness and depression. Roe is angry with her dad for leaving her without a reason and without a note, and is not willing to be lifted out of the dark hole of sadness she’s dug for herself. It takes months but soon, the only thing keeping her head above water is her relationship with Eli. Eli had also been at the bridge with her father on that infamous day and, since his dad had been killed in Iraq, his empathy enables her to slowly climb out of the pit she had dug for herself and realize life can go on for those left behind.

“Me Since You” takes a usually-not-seen look at suicide and the effect it has on those left behind who suffer through the stares, suspicion, and questions of “why?” Wiess uses a term called the “ripple effect” to teach readers how one seemingly random act by one individual can affect a multitude of people.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

 

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“Zane and the Hurricane: A story of Katrina” Rodman Philbrick

Rated 5 stars ***** Published February 25, 2014. ARC. Blue Sky Press (Scholastic). Includes a map showing The Path of Hurricane Katrina, a Katrina Timeline 2005, Interesting Facts about New Orleans and the Great Flood and an Author’s Note.

ZaneandtheHurricaneThe horror of Hurricane Katrina, and the sufferings of the people of New Orleans, are told through the eyes of twelve-year old Zane Dupree.

Zane’s father was killed before he was born, so no one is more surprised than he when his mother insists he travel to New Orleans to spend time with Miss Trissy, a great-grandmother he never knew existed. He reluctantly agrees to go as long as his dog Bandit can come, but immediately hates the heat and smells of New Orleans.

It doesn’t take Miss Trissy long to set Zane straight on his heritage, reminding him he’s not “multiracial or biracial” as he’d previously called himself but is mixed. Even though Zane looks white she reminds him his dad’s face is what she sees, not his blond hair or green eyes. Zane had never looked at himself that way before, and this lesson is just the first in many he learns during his stay in New Orleans.

When news of an impending hurricane reaches them, they plan to evacuate. However Bandit runs away, Zane runs after him and is separated from Miss Trissy. When the hurricane hits, he and Bandit are stranded in Miss Trissy’s house as the floodwaters reach to the attic where they have gone for safety. He is rescued by a passing boat but soon learns the hurricane and the flood it generated affected thousands of lives besides his own. Half drowned, starving, and unable to find shelter anywhere, including in the overcrowded Super Dome, he and his rescuers stumble on seeking help that is short in coming.

“Zane and the Hurricane” uses real life events and accounts from real people to tell the story of the people of New Orleans who were abandoned by those in authority who should have helped but didn’t. Their sufferings during and after the storm are recounted for those who may have forgotten, or didn’t know about what happened that fateful day in 2005.

It is an eye-opening read and is recommended for readers aged 10-14.

“Dead Silence” Norah McClintock

Rated 4 stars **** Mike & Riel book #5. Published March 1, 2014. ARC Darby Creek Publishing.

DeadSilenceHigh school will never be the same. Those were Mike’s thoughts the day his best friend Sal was killed. He blames himself for not being there for Sal that fateful day and is angry at everyone especially Teddy, the school bully, and his gang. In his mind Mike has already solved the case, and Teddy is guilty. All he needs to do is to convince the police.

As Mike begins to digs into what happened on the day of the murder, he starts to find out things he didn’t really know about his best friend. It doesn’t take long before Mike’s questions carry over to his own relationship with Sal and his behavior towards others. No one is more shocked than Mike when the true murderer is uncovered.

Despite “Dead Silence” being the fifth in a series, it is not necessary to have read the other books, as it stands alone on its own merits. There are references to past books, which may make the reader want to read them, which is not a bad idea.

Recommended for ages 13-16, especially reluctant readers.

“The Summer of Letting Go” Gae Polisner

Rated 4 stars **** Published March 25, 2014. ARC. Algonquin.

TheSummerOfLettingGoFrancesca was 12 years old and was supposed to watch her four-year-old brother Simon, at the beach but she got distracted and he drowned. Now 16, she has not been able to forgive herself for letting him drown. In addition she is sure her mom hates her, since she has not been civil to her since he died.

Drama continues when her best friend starts dating Bradley, Frankie’s secret love crush, and she begins to suspect her father is having an affair. Feelings of guilt for Simons’s death coupled with liking her best friend’s boyfriend and insecurities about the possibility of never getting a boyfriend are bringing her down.

A reprieve arrives in the form of 4-year-old Frankie Sky. He is an adorable child who looks, talks and acts like Simon. Francesca is sure Simon’s soul has been reincarnated in Frankie, and each day something happens to further cement that belief. It doesn’t take long before her sixteenth summer becomes one she will never forget.

“The Summer of Letting Go” is emotional as well as thought-provoking, and will cause it’s 12-16 year-old readers to get lost in its pages.

“Better off Friends” Elizabeth Eulberg

Rated 4 stars **** Published February 25, 2014. ARC. Point (Scholastic, Inc.)

BetteroffFriendsCan a guy and girl be best friends? Can they really be friends yet not be romantically involved? Can a guy and girl who are best friends ever date if their friendship is at stake? If a guy and girl who are best friends eventually start to have feelings for each does that mean their friendship is doomed? These questions and more are answered in Elizabeth Eulberg’s very insightful story told in the voices of both friends for greater authenticity.

Early in 7th grade Macallan and Levi met when he moved from California to Wisconsin. At first he was just another new kid, but their friendship took off when they discovered a common love for a BBC sitcom. Over the years, their friendship grew stronger as they spent time hanging out after school, laughing at each other’s jokes, and sharing the good and bad events in their lives.

Despite both having boyfriends/girlfriends and outside interests over the years, people always assumed they were dating. Their boyfriends/girlfriends knew about their special friendship, but sometimes these relationships got a little awkward. Of course Macallan and Levi shrugged off these comments, until the day romantic feelings for each other started to rear its head in high school. Can a guy and girl really be best friends?

I loved reading “Better off Friends,” as I’ve run into this same situation with a couple of my own male friends. The interesting questions and scenarios I posed earlier will keep readers turning the pages to find out if Macallan and Levi have the answers.

Recommended for ages 12-16.

 

“The Canal Bridge: A Novel of Ireland, Love and the First World War” Tom Phelan

Rated 5 stars ***** To be published April 1, 2014. (First published in Ireland in 2005). ebook. ARC. Arcade Publishing. (Includes Acknowledgments, Glossary and a Selected Bibliography).

TheCanalBridgeKitty, her brother Con, and his best friend Matthias were inseparable. They lived by a canal in a small town in Ireland, and grew up singing how “their side” was the best side. Amusing themselves on the canal, in the canal and on the towpath beside it, their lives revolved around each other and the canal.

When Matthias was 18 he and Con decided to join the British Army as they loved reading about foreign places, and joining would give them the opportunity to see the world. Despite being branded as traitors by some of their countrymen because of fighting for the British, they chose to leave all they knew behind and enlist. Sadly, they only got as far as the Mediterranean Sea before war against Germany broke out, and England rushed to the aid of France.

On the war front, Matthias, Con and the rest of the boys from Ireland experienced horrors no one would ever be able to erase from their memories. As they struggled to breathe in trenches filled with stagnant water and decaying bodies, or managed to survive violent battles, their minds constantly wandered back to Ireland wishing for the peacefulness of their youth.

Meanwhile Ireland was going through its own battles, as the Easter Uprising of 1916 caused even more hatred against their English oppressors. Ireland was now even more divided with Irish supporters against anything Protestant, including the home where Kitty worked and filled her mind with hopeful thoughts that Matthias and Con would come safely home. None of these three friends knew that this war would not only tear Ireland apart, but would also tear everything they ever knew about themselves into oblivion.

The horrific events of World War I are shown through the eyes of those who suffered and died as soldiers and nurses. It is unthinkable that despite all these deaths (over 57,000 killed in just one day) that the world would embark on yet another war just a few short years later. Students of history and of Ireland will learn much through reading this book.

Recommended for Adult readers.

 

“The Reappearing Act: Coming out as Gay on a College Basketball Team let by Born-Again Christians” Kate Fagan

Rated 4 stars **** To be published May 6, 2014. ebook. ARC. Skyhorse Publishing.

TheReappearingActKate Fagan, former women’s basketball player for the University of Colorado, tells her story in “The Reappearing Act.” As she grew up she didn’t think she was gay, assuming feelings she’d had for girls over the years were just excited thoughts for possible friendships.

With her life revolving around basketball, Kate thought college life was great. During her sophomore year everything changed when her teammates invited her to join them at a Bible study. These Bible studies became weekly meetings where homosexuality and other topics were discussed. Kate had just begun to realize she might be gay, and these times served to further confuse and frighten her.

Kate was afraid of the feelings she kept having for other women. These feelings, combined with the fear of telling her parents, losing her best friend and of her teammates’ reactions caused Kate to retreat further into herself. As a result, during her college years, she led a double life constantly feeling guilty and confused as she tried to reconcile the Bible with her own feelings and beliefs. This pattern of telling lies and half-truths carried over into her adult working life, until she could finally admit to the world that she was gay.

Fagan’s honest account of her insecurities and internal battles will ring true with readers struggling with their own similar reality. “The Reappearing Act” will serve as a testimony that there is light at the end of their dark tunnels of uncertainty and fear.

Recommended for readers 18 years old and older.