Tuesday, July 31, 2018

And She Was by Jessica Verdi

Verdi, Jessica. And She Was. Scholastic, 2018. 978-1-338-15053-7. 361 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

From the Publisher: 

Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents? 

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, shortly after Dara’s birth mother died.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on a road trip with her best guy friend, Sam. She's determined to find the extended family she’s never met. What she discovers—and what her mother reveals, piece by piece over emails—will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine. 

From rising star Jessica Verdi, this is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves.


My Review: 


     



I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 


When her mom casually dismisses Dara's shot at achieving her dreams by providing a copy of Dara's birth certificate, she questions why and takes matters into her own hands. Her mind reveling at the what ifs, Dara doesn't expect confronting her mom will lead her to discover that her whole life is built on lie, or that the one person who has been there for everything isn't who she thought. When faced with a copy of her daughter's birth certificate and two unfamiliar names listed as parents, Dara's mom Mellie finally reveals she is transgender. Outraged at being kept in the dark, Dara gets what little information she can about her birth mother's family and sets off on a road trip with neighbor and best friend Sam to learn about from where she comes. As Dara gets closer to meeting her extended family, Mellie shares details of her story - their story - with Dara in a series of emails. Not yet ready to forgive Mellie's betrayal, Dara goes against her wishes to discover the life she could have lived. As Dara learns more about her family and her mom, she has the opportunity to make her own decision about what path her life will take. Mellie's reasoning will be obvious to readers before Dara, but for the first time in her life the ball is in Dara's court. 

THOUGHTS: Mellie's story of transitioning is raw and honest and sheds some light onto an area of YA lit that is growing. Trigger warning: Mellie has her reasons for shielding herself and Dara from the extended family; their conservative viewpoints are quite obvious and sometimes extremely offensive/insensitive. And She Was will be an excellent addition for high schools looking to diversify or expand their LGBTQ+ collections. 

Ebb and Flow by Heather Smith

Smith, Heather. Ebb and Flow. Kids Can Press, 2018. 978-1-771-38838-2. 232 p. $10.99. Gr. 5-8 and up.

From the Publisher: 

One summer,
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo's.
It was my mother's idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.

Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren't all they're cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend - a shameful secret he still hasn't forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett's secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy resilience, courage, and responsibility.
 

My Review: 





I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 


Last year Jett and his mom moved to a new town for a fresh start, and he struggled to fit in. Against better judgment, Jett became friends with Junior, a troubled boy with a rough home life. Junior likes trouble, and usually Jett goes along with him to seem like a friend. As Junior and Jett become closer, they share details about their lives that no one else knows. Though feelings of guilt plague him at times, Jett likes seeming cool in Junior's eyes. 

Now Jett is on his way to spend the summer with his grandmother after a "rotten bad year" (7). Being away from home gives Jett the space he needs to think about what he did and learn some lessons on forgiveness. With his grandmother's regular reassurances, Jett begins to learn the meaning of friendship and forgiveness - of others and of himself. In free verse vignettes, Jett shares his story switching between now and then to give readers a full picture of his life and regrets. 

THOUGHTS: Though on the outside it appears to be a traditional book, approachable free verse vignettes fill the pages with Jett's story. Ebb & Flow is an excellent example of character development and providing readers with sparse details as well as text structure. Give this book to a struggling or reluctant reader, a reader who likes a non-traditional structure where the story isn't linear, or read it aloud to a whole class. Upper elementary and middle grade readers will enjoy this story about the choices we make and the true meaning of friendship and forgiveness. 

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout

Prout, Chessy. I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018. 978-1-534-41443-3. 416 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching memoir.

The numbers are staggering: nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s school, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unfathomable backlash from her once trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice.

This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event; it takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than attackers, while offering real, powerful solutions to upending rape culture as we know it today.

Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.

My Review: 


     



I listened to the audiobook version of this book (which is read by the author) via my local public library
. I highly recommend listening! 


A ripped from the headlines story of surviving sexual assault, Prout begins her story by taking readers through what initially brought her to Saint Paul's boarding school in New Hampshire as a high school freshman. Chessy shares details about life prior to boarding school and during her first year where she sheds light on unique "traditions" at Saint Paul's. One tradition, the senior salute, has forever changed Chessy's life. In explicit detail, Chessy describes her assault, the immediate aftermath, the trial that eventually followed, and the years of pain and recovery she faces as she tries to put voice to this crime. While sharing her story, Chessy also discusses how national events like the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump and the women's marches that followed impacted her on a very personal level and how they empowered her to speak up for women. Though she cautions that each survivor's story is unique to him or her, Chessy's narrative is all too real for many survivors. Young women and teen girls especially need to read this story of suffering, resilience, and ultimately hope. 

THOUGHTS: With national attention of the #MeToo movement, and individuals in power being held accountable for their actions, teens will appreciate the honesty of Chessy's story. Regardless of background, many teens will relate to some experiences Chessy has as a high school student. Readers looking for a raw, emotional, and authentic read will appreciate Chessy's voice and ability to stand up for what is right. Graphic details of sexual assault make this suitable for mature readers. 



Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

Hoyle, McCall. Meet the Sky. Blink, 2018. 978-0-310-76570-7. 256 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.


From the Publisher: 

It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm.
 

My Review: 


     



I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 


There's no doubt that Sophie is a hard worker. She's a good student, and she does everything she can to ease the pressures at home. Ever since the accident that destroyed her family, Sophie has put her dreams - her life - on hold to take care of her sister and help their mom run the family business, caring for the animals. 

When Finn Sanders returns to town, Sophie knows there's no way she'll let him get close to her again. Finn doesn't seem to understand why Sophie is so annoyed with him. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Finn has experienced hardships of his own. In the chaos of of mandatory evacuation, Sophie is separated from her family and becomes trapped on the island with Finn. They must work together in order to survive, but personalities will clash as they struggle to beat the storm. 

THOUGHTS: Readers will root for Sophie and Finn as they race through the roaring storm, desperately trying to survive. The intensity of the storm mirrors the emotions both characters face as they come to terms with their situation and the past years of their lives. This character driven novel is great choice for any middle or high school library. 

Our Stories, Our Voices edited by Amy Reed

Reed, Amy, editor. Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real about Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America. Delacorte Press, 2018. 978-1-524-71587-8. 352 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.

This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.

My Review: 





I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 


Twenty-one writers, including many major young adult authors, tackle what it means to grow up female in America. With pieces on gender, race, religion, and ethnicity, these authors share their stories without fear of discrimination to show a new generation of women how to stand up and be strong. Note: Many authors don't hold back when discussing their views on the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump. 

THOUGHTS: Speaking up and speaking out, these writers will inspire teen girls to stand up for themselves, regardless of identity. In the introduction, specific articles are listed as potential trigger warnings. Due to the nature of the content, this collection is most appropriate for high school readers. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones

Sones, Sonya. The Opposite of Innocent. HarperTeen, 2018. 978-0-062-37031-0. 272 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

Poignant and chilling by turns, The Opposite of Innocent is award-winning author Sonya Sones’s most gripping novel in verse yet. It’s the story of a girl named Lily, who’s been crushing on a man named Luke, a friend of her parents, ever since she can remember.

Luke has been away for two endless years, but he’s finally returning today. Lily was only twelve when he left. But now, at fourteen, she feels transformed. She can’t wait to see how Luke will react when he sees the new her. And when her mother tells her that Luke will be staying with them for a while, in the bedroom right next to hers, her heart nearly stops.

Having Luke back is better than Lily could have ever dreamed. His lingering looks set Lily on fire. Is she just imagining them? But then, when they’re alone, he kisses her. Then he kisses her again. Lily’s friends think anyone his age who wants to be with a fourteen-year-old must be really messed up. Maybe even dangerous. But Luke would never do anything to hurt her...would he?

In this powerful tale of a terrifying leap into young adulthood, readers will accompany Lily on her harrowing journey from hopelessness to hope.


My Review: 


     



I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 


Lily has grown a lot since Luke left two years ago, and her childhood crush has deepened. Though Luke is older, he is perfection in Lily's eyes. When Luke moves in with Lily's family until he gets on his feet, she feels like the stars have aligned. Her friends don't understand her crush on an older guy and are distracted by more age appropriate love interests. 

As Lily spends more time alone with Luke, she knows their love is real. Even if they can't be seen on a date in public, Lily dreams of one day. At first the secrecy is exciting. Eventually Lily catches up to her friends' opinions and questions Luke's intentions, but it may be too late to save herself from heartbreak. 

THOUGHTS: A must-read for fans of dark romances, readers are drawn into this intense, page-turning verse novel. Mature relationships and underage drinking make this most suitable to high school readers. 

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Frick, Kit. See All the Stars. McElderry Books, 2018. 978-1-534-40437-3. 320 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

Part love story, part thriller, We Were Liars meets Goodbye Days in this suspenseful, lyrical debut.

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.

My Review: 


     



I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 


THEN it's the summer before junior year, and Ellory has everything going for her - three best friends who are her whole universe, a boy she meets and starts to falls for, and plans for her future. 

NOW it's the star of senior year, and Ellory's world has imploded because of secrets. Following an extended suspension (reason unknown), she has to start over all alone back at Pine Brook High School. Outcast and feared by most, Ellory walks the halls and suffers through classes while wrecked with guilt over everything she's lost. 

Told in alternating time periods, readers will piece together the destruction of Ellory's life as she knew it. 

THOUGHTS: The mystery of Ellory's junior year definitely will encourage readers to devour this book. Give See All the Stars to f
ans of realistic mysteries and fans of multi- or unreliable narrators like We Were Liars! PS - It's also locally set on the West Shore of South Central, PA!