“Harbored secrets: A psychological mystery” Marie F. Martin

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 4D Publishing. 2013.

HarboredSecretsThe Montana prairie had always held a fascination for Blinny Platt. She’d worked almost her whole life on her father’s ranch, as the farm was part of her soul. After buying land several miles away in 1982 Blinny began building her own home, where she soon found herself engrossed in memories that had taken place in 1935 when she was 8 years old. At that time her baby brother was killed in a house fire, causing her mother to die of grief. Shortly thereafter, her father sent her and her 3-year-old sister Odette away to live with uncles she’d never met.

After 5 years he remarried and sent for them, but their relationship had suffered irreparable harm. Over the ensuing years Blinny blamed him for her mother’s death, and herself for causing the fire, wondering why he wasn’t there when she needed him. As Odette got older, she turned spiteful and rebellious, blaming Blinny for all of her issues. As the sisters try to piece together their pasts they find that hidden secrets, though painful, will finally set them free.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, this tragic story of loss and betrayal will leave readers aching. Secrets revealed threaten to crush, but the sisters prove to be survivors. Though Blinny’s memories seem to be awkwardly added into the narrative as she builds her new home, the story she tells helps readers forgive the occasional stiffness of the author’s transitions.

Recommended for Adults.

 

 

“Not if I see you first” Eric Lindstrom

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published December 1, 2015. Poppy.

NotIfISeeYouFirstParker’s dad taught her to run and to be independent. She embraced her blindness with funky looking blindfolds, a quick-as-a-whip attitude, a fierce protectiveness of her friends, and a list of rules for how to be treated.

When her forever enemy, Scott Kilpatrick, comes back into her life Parker is livid. She has never forgiven him for what he did to her, and plans to ignore him forever. However as events in her life begin to boil over, Parker will have to find a way to let go of the past and, in so doing, find her true self.

I LOVED this book, and was SO disappointed when it ended. I really, REALLY wanted it to continue. It was THAT good!! Lindstrom has created a believable cast of characters who will live on in our memories, long past the final chapter.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Sex & Violence” Carrie Mesrobian

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Publishing). 294 pp. Finalist for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) 2014 Morris Award.

Sex&ViolenceSeventeen-year-old Evan has been dragged all over the country by his father’s jobs. He uses his New Kid status to scout out girls who’ll Say Yes with the least amount of trouble, knowing he’ll soon be gone and won’t have to form any attachments. While at a boarding school in North Carolina Evan meets Collette, a beautiful girl on the track team. They begin a secret relationship that is ruined when Tate and Patrick, two jealous classmates, viciously assault him.

His father decides to move them to his old family home on a lake in Minnesota, to help Evan heal. Evan begins to see a psychiatrist to work through his issues and, on her advice, begins writing letters to express himself addressing them to Collette, who we soon find out had also been assaulted.

As Evan learns to work through his trauma and sexual issues, he begins calling himself “Dirtbag Evan” as he remembers the many one-night stands of his life and fluctuates between his old persona and trying on a new one with a group of friendly teens who take him under their wings. In “Sex & Violence,” readers gain insight into the mind of a young man trying his best to unlearn his violent sexual past and reinvent a calmer future.

I was disappointed that the boys who assaulted him and Collette did not get their “due,” as readers were left with a nebulous court date and no closure on the crime. It was also a bit discomfiting to see “you’re” for “your” and “they’re” for “their” several times in a book that was not an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). If the book gets a second edition run it would be nice to see these misspellings corrected as well as a chapter or two describing a trial that would send Tate and Patrick to jail for an indeterminate amount of time for their crimes.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

“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.

 

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

Rated 5 stars ***** Random House, 2010. 473 pp. (includes Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index)

I first heard Louis Zamperini’s story on a recent episode of Jay Leno. I listened to the somewhat frail, 95 year old elderly man tell of running in the 1936 Olympics, and recount some of what he faced as a POW in Japan during World War II. I was captivated, as was Leno, and immediately put the book on hold at my library. I just received it a couple of days ago and settled down to read it.

As one of the top runners of his era, Zamperini was on tap to break the 4 minute mile when World War II arrived. He entered the service as a bombadier for the Air Corps, and thus began the most horrific chapter of his life.

In great detail, and with much research, Hillenbrand tells the story of how Zamperini survived 47 days adrift in the ocean after his plane crashed only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a POW for over 2 1/2 yrs. Zamperini and other Americans experienced extreme duress, horrific conditions, torture, slavery, and starvation under the cruel fists of their Japanese captors.

Using primary sources including Zamperini’s war diary and archival materials, as well as period photographs, Hillenbrand helps readers see what was happening in his life and helps us to learn about the great sacrifices made by captured American GI’s during this tumultuous period in history.

As I write this, it is the day before the Fourth of July – a time to remember the cost of freedom over the years which allows us to maintain our status as free Americans. Reading “Unbroken” allows readers to experience anew the gratefulness we should feel towards those from The Greatest Generation. “Unbroken,” and Louis’ heartbreaking story, really touched me. I know it will do the same for others. You can also see his story on video, as broadcast during the 1998 Olympics.

Mature high schoolers, and Adult readers, will find Zamperini’s compelling story to be both educational, enriching and sobering.

“Almost Perfect” Brian Katcher

Delacorte Press, 2009. Hardcover. 360 pp.

Logan is expecting his senior year of high school to be a bust. In his tiny town, and even tinier high school, he’ll now have to watch the love of his life who selfishly broke his heart go through her daily life without him by her side. He has no recourse to soothe his agony except for his daily track workouts.

Everything changes when he meets Sage, a new girl who is different, funny, quirky, very cute, yet shy and seemingly scared of her parents. Suddenly, his broken heart is healed as Logan finds himself falling for Sage and wanting to help her with whatever secrets she seems to be hiding. Gradually they warm to each other and, after a few months, he dares to kiss her and feels full of new possibilities – until Sage reveals her big secret. She’s really a boy.

Logan is disgusted, and pushes Sage out of his life. He doesn’t want anyone to think he’s gay, and is angry at her for tricking him. However, he gradually begins to realize their friendship means more to him than what others think, and feels like he might even love her. Unfortunately, what others think has a way of weighing on his mind more than he’d planned and, when Sage really needs his help, Logan is nowhere to be found.

Katcher uses humor and drew on real life teen experiences to write this very touching book for transgender teens showing the problems and experiences they face on a daily basis which include loneliness, suicidal thoughts and rejection. Website resources are included in the Authors Note.

While reading this book, I alternately laughed out loud or reached for a tissue, depending on the situation. Sage is a very believable and lovable character who will, hopefully, make readers see the transgender teen in a whole new light.

Recommended for grades 9-12.