“Born Confused” Tanuja Desai Hidier

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. ARC. Published April 29, 2014. Push (Scholastic Inc.) (First published in the U.K. in 2002.)

BornConfusedDimple Lala is turning seventeen. Despite being born in New Jersey, being Indian always seemed to get in the way of feeling American and “normal.” Dimple feels fat, and thinks she’s not Indian enough and not American enough. She is shy next to her slim, blond and outgoing BFF, and has always let Gwyn take the lead in her life. The only time she feels unique and herself is when she’s taking photographs and developing her photos.

Her parents’ customs and way of dress annoy her. With confusion about her cultural identity blinding her to reason Dimple is determined to undermine her parents in their attempt to arrange a date with Karsh, a “suitable” Indian boy.

Within a short time Gwyn becomes enamored, and tries to become Indian in an attempt to woo him. The saris and Indian jewelry Dimple has always refused to wear look better on Gwyn and, as Dimple watches Karsh and Gwyn slipping away, her search for meaning in her life deepens.

Alone, adrift and forced to look within, Dimple’s thoughts slowly morph into rediscovery, love and introspection. With loss comes gain, as sadness and confusion lead to happiness and clarity.

The many Indian words, terms and customs would have been better deciphered if a glossary had accompanied the book, but Dimple’s story will resound with readers caught between two worlds; their “new” American world and the “old” world of their ancestry.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.




“The Truth about Alice” Jennifer Mathieu

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. ARC. To be published June 3, 2014. Roaring Book Press.

TheTruthaboutAliceAlice’s junior year in high school went down the drain the day Brandon died.

Handsome Brandon, the town’s hero quarterback and every girl’s dream, was killed in a car accident. His best friend Josh and his former girlfriend Elaine blamed Alice. Rumors of her sleeping with him and another guy at Elaine’s party while sexting with him on the day he died followed Alice’s every move and earned her the title of Town Slut.

As the town slut, Alice had her very own Slut Stall created for her in the girl’s bathroom at school by her former best friend Kelsie. Little by little, school real estate closed to her until she was left ostracized, friendless and alone. Whether or not the rumors were true didn’t matter to Josh, Kelsie, or Elaine. Brandon was gone, so someone had to pay for it.

Kurt, the town nerd, is secretly in love with Alice and dared cross the invisible social barriers to befriend her. Despite his feelings for her, Kurt is afraid of telling her what really happened to Brandon. Will Alice ever regain her dignity, or will she forever be known as the slutty girl who killed Brandon?

Told through the viewpoints of Josh, Elaine, Kelsie, Kurt and Alice, readers are drawn through this high school drama brought on by rumors and popularity. Unfortunately, many students are subjected to this type of bullying, uncorrected by faculty and egged on by students. I found it very hard to believe that a slut stall, such as was described, could exist with no attempts made by the faculty to curb its creation through the use of paint and other proactive measures. I find it sad that students continue to be followers, rather than leaders, when bullying occurs.

Readers will, hopefully, gain compassion and insight into the feelings of any Alice’s they may encounter in their daily lives. Perhaps a bold Kurt may arise in their midst.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The Hidden Child” Camilla Lackberg

Rated 4 stars **** Fjallbacka #5. ebook. ARC. To be published May 1, 2014. Pegasus Books. (First published in Sweden as Tyskungen in 2007.)

TheHiddenChildErica Falck has just finished her maternity leave and is supposed to be working on her latest crime novel. Instead, she finds herself fascinated by her mother’s 60-year-old diaries and the discovery of a Nazi medal. Wanting to know more about what made her mother change from the fun-loving person described in the diaries into the unemotional and unloving person she knew, Erica decides to take the medal to Erik a local historian for further study.

Soon afterwards Erik is found brutally murdered, and Erica finds herself embroiled in a 60-year-old in which her mother was entangled. The diaries reveals names of a current Nazi sympathizer, the historian’s brother who survived years as a German POW, and a local woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. Each of them holds a part of these tangled threads, which soon leads to even greater mysteries and shocking truths for Erica and her detective husband to sort. Erica’s quest to find out more about her mother’s past will forever be tangled in her own future.

“The Hidden Child” uses multiple voices and viewpoints to untangle the mystery of Erik’s murder and the diaries. At first, the constant changing of voices between characters was a little disconcerting but as the story progressed it became vitally important to the storyline. Camilla Lackberg’s careful research into the historical importance Sweden played during World War II will also be an eye-opener.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“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.


“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.