“Because of the sun” Jenny Torres Sanchez

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published January 3, 2017. Delacorte Press. 261 p. (Includes “Author Note.”)

BecauseOfTheSunDani grew up with Ruby, a mother who hated and blamed her for everything that went wrong in her life. She was a mom with an itchy foot, constantly moving from place to place, always with a different man on her arm. She wore skimpy clothes and drank a lot, and Dani hated her. She hated herself for hating her until the day Ruby was mauled to death by a bear and Dani was left alone with her mixed up thoughts.

Sent from Florida to live in New Mexico with an aunt she’d never known, Dani falls into the abyss of despair. She is alone, except for her dark thoughts and the bear that killed her mother, who seems to follow her everywhere. Dani must face her own hopelessness and learn to feel the anguish of others, because only through their pain can she live.

I found this book to be dark and full of symbolism, with some fantastical elements as seen through Dani’s Don Quixote-type imagination. As she constantly wanders in the sun and thinks contemplative thoughts about the bear, I felt that this book would be perfect to dissect in an English class. A high school English teacher would ecstatically tear it apart for her students.

Even though it was a little too complex for me, I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

“Girls like me” Lola StVil

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 310 p.

girlslikemeUsing 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.

“My sister Rosa” Justine Larbalestier

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published November 2016. Soho Teen. 312 p.

mysisterrosaSeventeen-year-old Che and his 10-year-old sister Rosa have lived all over the world. They’ve lived in Australia the longest, but now his parents are moving them to New York City. At first Che is upset because he’s leaving close friends behind, but soon finds himself at an excellent boxing gym with the most beautiful girl in the world, and is starting to form new friendships. The biggest fly in the ointment of his life is Rosa.

Rosa is not a normal 10-year-old. Her inability to show empathy, or feelings of any kind, as well as her ability to convince people to do her will, has always troubled Che. He is sure she’s a psychopath but no one, including his oblivious parents, believes him. Che loves Rosa, but is tired of years spent covering up her behavior and trying to reason with her. For her part, Rosa feels perfectly entitled to act the way she does, and is confident in her ability to get her way – even when it means that life can never be normal for Che or her family.

I found myself very frustrated with Rosa’s behavior and Che’s inability to get the help she needed. As she became more and more intense, I became more and more upset with the situation, which is why I could only give it 2 stars. I will inject a spoiler alert below to explain my rating but, for those who dislike spoilers, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

********SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT********

 

Besides the fact that I disliked the way Rosa got away with everything and that no one believed Che, I also HATED the ending. I hated that Che is trapped for the rest of his life, that Sally has checked out of their lives, and that David and Rosa got away with everything.

“Every falling star: The true story of how I survived and escaped North Korea” Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. Abrams. 316 p. (Includes Glossary as well as a list of Places and proper names.)

everyfallingstarSungju lived with his father and mother in a fine apartment in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. His father held a high office in the army and, as devout followers of esteemed leader Kim Il-sung, Sungju and his parents had a happy, easy life. Expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sungju went to a very good school and studied tae kwon do with other future leaders of the military.

In 1997, his father was kicked out of the army for unknown reasons. Forced to move to the slums of the town of Gyeong-Seong, life rapidly deteriorated. With hunger as their constant enemy, his father, soon followed by his mother, left in search of food. At the age of twelve, Sungju was left to fend for himself.

In his own words, Sungju tells how he learned to survive on the streets of various cities for four years with his gang of street “brothers,” despite starvation, beatings, and imprisonment. The story of their friendship and love, along with Sungju’s musings on governmental policy, hope, and Korean legends are woven together to create a powerful story of survival that will tug at reader’s heartstrings.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The boy who killed Grant Parker” Kat Spears

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. St. Martin’s Griffin. 305 pp.

theboywhokilledgrantparkerLuke Grayson hates the little town of Ashland, Tennessee where he had been sent to live by his mother after a series of unfortunate events at his Washington, D.C. private school. His dad is a Baptist preacher who he hasn’t seen in years, and neither he nor his stepmom are happy to have Luke living with them.

All Luke wants to do is make it through the final months of his senior year and get out of town but, from his first day there, he is targeted by Grant Parker, star football player, son of the richest man in town, and the biggest bully in school. Everyone has learned to steer clear of Grant, but Luke follows the beat of a different drummer. Tired of his forced status at the bottom of the social ladder, Luke turns an unfortunate event with Grant into an opportunity to rise to the top. With his newfound power Luke can be anything he wants to be, so why is he having so much trouble learning to fit into his new role? Isn’t this what he’d always wanted?

The age-old question of “when is a lie really a lie?” is brought to life through humor and teen angst as Luke tells his story. Male readers will find much in common with Luke’s quandaries, questions and continued series of unfortunate events.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Seven ways we lie” Riley Redgate

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2016. Abrams.343 pp.

sevenwayswelieOlivia 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.

“Dangerous Lies” Becca Fitzpatrick

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

DangerousLiesEstella Goodwinn returns home late one night to find her mother in a drugged stupor alongside a dead body. She accuses Danny Balando, her mother’s dealer and leader of a local Philadelphia drug cartel, of the murder. With her life threatened, she is forced to leave behind her boyfriend Reed, given a new identity, and sent to live in Nebraska under the Witness Protection Program.

Now known as Stella, she angrily refuses to settle into her strange new life in Thunder Basin. Knowing she only has to wait a few months until she turns 18 and can leave, she spends days plotting her escape. Carmina, the long suffering retired cop who took her in, and Chet Falconer, the good looking neighbor boy, begin to whittle away at the bricks of pain, loneliness and confusion she’d built around her heart. As Stella begins to feel a pull towards Chet and life in Thunder Basin, she gets a reminder from her old life that will forever shake up her life.

Fitzgerald did a good job describing the witness protection program, but Stella’s bratty behavior towards Carmina, and her constant neediness for Reed was a little over the top. Her up and down emotions towards her mother and Chet was another downer, which is why I only gave it 3 stars.

Despite these bad spots, “Dangerous Lies” is a good read, and I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.