Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 310 p.
Using a poetic style of writing, along with text messages, St. Vil tells the story of Shay, a lonely, overweight 15-year-old girl. Shay has learned to constantly eat to cope with the pain of bullying and missing her dead father, as it helps her forget she’s fat and alone with her evil stepmother. Her gay best friend Dash, and her dying-of-cancer friend Boots assure her she is beautiful and funny, but even they can’t give her the help and support she finds from eating.
A chance encounter with a boy in a chat room leads to days spent laughing and chatting online. Soon her humor and his wit combine to form love, but is it possible to fall for someone you’ve never met? Shay believes staying online is enough, and resists all attempts for them to meet in person. She is certain that once he meets her he will run away, so is willing to settle for second best. Can she learn to overcome her fear and stand up for herself?
“Girls like me” tells Shay’s, Dash’s and Boot’s stories of loneliness, friendship and heartache, along with the ups and downs that come with being seen as “different” by their peers. It is a story every teen should, hopefully, learn from as they read.
Highly recommended for ages 13 and older.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.
Shane and his best friend Josh are in sixth grade. Video games and baseball consume their every waking moment, and girls are making an appearance. Even though his dad hasn’t made too many attempts to be part of his life or to come for visits after his parents divorce, Shane is doing just fine without him. When he and his mom left San Francisco for Los Angeles three years ago, Shane never looked back. With his days filled with baseball, his friendship with Josh, and designing his very own graphic novel, he is finally getting to become the person he always knew he should be.
Despite his rosy outside life, Shane is hiding a secret that would change everything about his life if anyone ever found out about it. With his secret getting closer to exposure every day Shane will soon learn that truth comes with a price, and will have to decide if he is willing to pay it.
Once I started reading “The other boy” I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in one sitting. Hennessey’s young readers have the opportunity to learn about the many difficulties and challenges, as well as the hopes and fears, faced by transgender boys and girls. Through reading Shane’s story in this finely crafted novel, it is hoped they will learn acceptance and tolerance. Every middle school and public library should have a copy of “The other boy” in its collection.
Highly recommended for ages 11-14.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2016. Abrams.343 pp.
Olivia hates that her mother walked away from her family three years ago. Kat holes up in her room with Internet games. Matt fills his days getting high. Juniper is the perfect queen of Paloma High. Valentine is a loner. Lucas is everyone’s go to guy for beer and weed. Claire wonders why she can’t be like Olivia and Juniper.
When the news breaks that someone is involved in a secret affair with a teacher, everyone is shocked. Each of these students has the power to reveal the truth, yet they all have their own secrets. Are someone else’s secrets more important than your own? As truth and lies blend, this unlikely group of students become bound together in ways they never imagined.
“Seven Ways to Lie” was very thought provoking, with each character having their own chapter to articulate their issues and thought patterns. She challenges her readers to think about the “why” of situations, reminding them that things are not always as they seem.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published August 4, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. 412 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
Gerald and Sara Murphy came of age in the 1920’s, hosting extravagant parties in their Villa America estate on the French Riviera with family friends like Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and many others. After spending their youth as outsiders laced into a form of conventionality by their parents and society, their new way of living freely was a way to recoup those lost years.
Despite outward appearances, all is not as it seems in the Murphy household as secrets are eating away at their foundation. Scott and Ernest create dramas of their own while Owen Chambers, a handsome American pilot with a tragic story, is soon irretrievably mixed in with Gerald and Sara’s confusing lives with unfortunate results.
I found Villa America to be as long on the discussions and short on the action as Owen described it to Gerald. Before I was halfway through reading it I was as tired of the Murphy way of living as was Owen.
The book had its moments but, in general, I wasn’t a fan. Therefore I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Publishing Group). 287 pp.
Stationed with his Marines unit in Afghanistan, Ben plans to volunteer to infiltrate a Taliban-filled unit in the morning. Knowing that those who volunteer for these assignments usually don’t survive, he has decided to unburden his soul from a deep, dark secret he’s carried for 3 years.
Ben spends all night penning a “To All Whom This Might Concern” letter in which he recounts what happened in his Wisconsin hometown three years ago the summer he was seventeen. Up to that point he’d been living a robot-like life going to school, taking classes at the university, getting high grades and working two jobs trying to please his mother by getting into the college of her dreams. When Del, a classmate, was killed in an accident Ben volunteered to mentor his younger brother Jimmy.
Through a series of events, Jimmy was murdered. Ben was a witness to the events of that fateful night, yet couldn’t be sure of what he’d seen. Through fear he stayed silent but through his letters he questions himself, his actions, and everyone who played a part in Jimmy’s murder. As he struggles to figure out why Jimmy was killed and who did it, he rails against rumors, his cowardice, his inability to make decisions, his parents and life in general.
“The Sin-Eater’s Confession” is full of questions, innuendoes, and half-truths leaving readers scratching their heads while feeling strong empathy towards Ben and Jimmy.
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).
Rated 4 stars **** To be published May 6, 2014. ebook. ARC. Skyhorse Publishing.
Kate 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.
2010. WestSide Books. 248 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note,” and “Resource Guide for Readers.”)
Fifteen-year-old Kendra’s memories and cutting episodes have been getting worse. Sexually abused from the age of 2 until she was 12 years old , and unable to cope with the trauma, she’s resorted to cutting herself. Cutting frees her mind from the pain, as blood gushing from her arm is tension releasing itself from her soul. Working with her therapist Caroline, and painting tortured canvasses under the tutelage of her art teacher have helped release some of her emotions, but her cutting gets worse when her attacker starts to stalk her.
He had promised to kill her if she told anyone, so his notes and messages for her to keep quiet leave Kendra terrified of remembering. She feels her world coming apart at the seams until she meets Meghan, who helps calm her and who understands her pain. Meghan promises to love and stand by her, so Kendra feels herself grow stronger even in the midst of her uncertainty. Unfortunately her attacker knows where she lives…
“Scars” doesn’t pull any punches, as it shares the details of a young girl traumatized sexually, mentally, emotionally and physically who learns to reach beyond herself for help. Readers aged 14 and older will find an audience in her message.
PS – In her Dedication, Rainfield wrote she wanted to reach “every abuse survivor and every person who’s ever hurt themselves to cope.” I, too, hope these survivors will see their faces in Kendra’s story and get the help they desperately need before it’s too late.