Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

When I finished reading Laurie Halse Anderson's upcoming novel, SHOUT, I had so many things I wanted to say about it, but I didn't know how to say it.  I still don't.  This poetic memoir has left me speechless in the best way possible. 

I first came to know Laurie's work through Twisted, an incredible novel that I have been using in my classroom for many years now.  It is a book that connects with all of my students.  But Laurie is most well known for her groundbreaking novel Speak.  20 years later, Speak is still resonating with people all over the world.  But when Anderson realized that not much has changed in how the world views the topics of rape, sexual assault, consent, etc., she decided to speak up again, but this time she decided to SHOUT!

This novel, told in her free verse, is Anderson's telling of the trials, tribulations, and pains she grew up with, culminating in her own rape before she ever reached high school.  Her story is raw emotion.  It is painfully beautiful in the words she shares with us.  This is her story, but it is also the story of so many unfortunate people who have suffered the same as her, but have always been afraid to sound their voice.  This is Anderson's call to action.  We can no longer continue to be silent.  We mush shout along side Laurie for all of those afraid that their voice won't be heard. 

SHOUT is another title I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of.  It won't be released until March 12, so if you want to read this incredible story, let me know!

From Amazon:

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society's failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice-- and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Dig by A.S. King

As any of you who have ever read this blog before know, I am a HUGE fan of anything written by A.S. King.  Amy is a master storyteller, and her latest novel, Dig, is no exception.  In her newest story, she tells the story of 5 teenagers who are all trying to find their place in the world, lost in a world which includes dying parents, no known past, and an abusive home, among other things. 

As these teens all find their way in to each other's lives, they discover that they don't have to be defined by their parents, their grandparents, or any other outside influence.  Instead, they can decide to change the things that have always seemed inevitable.  All they have to do is dig!  If they can dig under the surface, they can find that, just like the potato, the best parts of us are what has yet to be seen.  We can bring the good stuff to the surface and make a whole new life for ourselves that has not yet been spoiled by the outside world. 

Amy is incredible, and Dig is just further proof of that.  This one may be my new favorite of hers.  Unfortunately for most of you reading this, it won't be available until March 26.  I was lucky enough to snag an ARC at the ALAN Workshop, so if you want to read it just let me know and you can read my copy.

From Amazon:

Acclaimed master of the YA novel A.S. King's eleventh book is a surreal and searing dive into the tangled secrets of a wealthy white family in suburban Pennsylvania and the terrible cost the family's children pay to maintain the family name.

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account--wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grandchildren. "Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says. What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby's drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a double-wide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest. As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings' precious suburban respectability begins to spread, the far-flung grandchildren gradually find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

With her inimitable surrealism and insight into teenage experience, A.S. King explores how a corrosive culture of polite, affluent white supremacy tears a family apart and how one determined generation can save themselves.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan

Sara Farizan's novel Here to Stay was a fantastic read.  It hits on tough subjects like prejudice, racism, and self-discovery, while at the same time interjecting humor, mainly through the voices of Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan as they comment on the events of Bijan's life.  And while this cover will tell you it is a book about basketball, it is so much more about what happens off the court rather than what happens on it.

Bijan, of Middle Eastern descent, is a student at a private high school and a staple of the JV basketball team.  After an injury, he is called up to the varsity squad and makes an immediate impact, scoring the game winning basket in a big playoff game.  Things start looking up for this quiet and unassuming student.  But it isn't always high fives and high school parties.  He becomes the target of some students who don't like the color of his skin or the way his name sounds.  Some hide behind the anonymity of the internet while others say things straight to his face.  As he tries to navigate this new world of his, Bijan has to figure out who he is and where he fits in to his own world.  Here to Stay is an engaging story that will have you rooting for Bijan to become the hero of his own story.  

From Amazon:

“A powerful YA novel about identity and prejudice.” —Entertainment Weekly

Bijan Majidi is:
  • Shy around girls
  • Really into comics
  • Decent at basketball
Bijan Majidi is not:
  • A terrorist
What happens when a kid who’s flown under the radar for most of high school gets pulled off the bench to make the winning basket in a varsity playoff game?

If his name is Bijan Majidi, life is suddenly high fives in the hallways and invitations to exclusive parties—along with an anonymous photo sent by a school cyberbully that makes Bijan look like a terrorist.

The administration says they’ll find and punish the culprit. Bijan wants to pretend it never happened. He’s not ashamed of his Middle Eastern heritage; he just doesn’t want to be a poster child for Islamophobia. Lots of classmates rally around Bijan. Others make it clear they don’t want him or anybody who looks like him at their school. But it’s not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends.

Here to Stay is a painfully honest, funny, authentic story about growing up, speaking out, and fighting prejudice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee is such a unique book.  This is the story of Will, a kid with a huge heart, told in 100 chapters of 100 words each.  While his story is short, and a very quick read, the reader will quickly see the kindness of this character as he searches for his place in the world after the suicide of his father.

Since his father's passing, Will has taken to walking everywhere.  It is in this walking that we see his thoughtfulness and heart throughout this short novel.  Not only does he reach out to help his closest friend, one who he hasn't spent time with in forever but is the victim of a recent sexual assault, but he also finds joy in the small boy he often sees as he walks to work.  But his kindness is not only limited to people.  The "insane dog" that is chained up in one of the yards he passes also becomes a target of his generosity.  And through these interactions, this novel will touch your heart in a way you may not have expected from such a quick read.  

From Amazon:

“An artful exercise in melancholy…Every reader will love openhearted Will.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Haunting, introspective.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Emotionally raw…[A] piercing narrative.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“McGhee artfully illustrates the tangled web wherein grief intertwines with the mundane.” —BCCB

After his dad dies of suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this exquisitely crafted story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each, by award-winning and bestselling author Alison McGhee.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

Monday, November 5, 2018

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger was a fascinating read.  It is the story of Lee, a high school senior, who survived a school shooting during her freshman year.  She survived, but her best friend was shot and killed as the two tried to take refuge in the bathroom.  But over the last three years, stories have been told about that day, not all of them true.  Lee is on a mission to make her final days at VCHS about getting the truth of that day in the open.  What she finds is that for some, keeping the truth buried with the victims may be more important. 

This novel deals with some tough issues and takes a different look at the horrific events of a school shooting.  Instead of telling of the event itself, this novel tells the story of the effects that this type of trauma has on those who survive.  It is a powerful novel that will stick with you even after you have finished the last page. 

From Amazon:

It's been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah's story--that she died proclaiming her faith.But it's not true.I know because I was with her when she died. I didn't say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah's parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I'm not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did--and didn't--happen that day.Except Sarah's martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don't take kindly to what I'm trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what's right. I don't know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a finalist for the National Book Award.  After reading this story, I completely understand why.  I am blown away by Jarrett's story.  I am inspired by his resilience and work ethic.  And I am truly touched by the love he found for his unconventional family.

Hey, Kiddo is a graphic memoir that details the childhood of Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  With a mother that was largely absent from his childhood, and a father whose name he didn't even know for the first seventeen years of his life, Jarrett's grandparents took on the role of mom and dad.  And while they had their own faults, they provided Jarrett with the love he deserved.  As Jarrett grew up, he found peace through art and continued to pursue a career in the field while facing adversity that no child should ever have to.  Along the way to his dream, he built a strong family bond and learned that the people you surround yourself with will always be the best family you could ask for.

This story is told in a unique way, through Krosoczka's own artwork, along with letters, drawings, and other mementos of his childhood.  I really cannot recommend this book strongly enough.  It is incredible.  

From Amazon:

A National Book Award Finalist!
In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka's teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett's family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett's life. His father is a mystery -- Jarrett doesn't know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents -- two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.

Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what's going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.

Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie by Courtney Summers was an incredible journey into the mind of someone who is out to do whatever it takes to help the ones she loves, and maybe even the ones she doesn't even know.  This novel is intense and dark, but will keep you wanting more.  It is told in a unique way, with alternating viewpoints from Sadie herself, along with the narration of a podcast that is trying to track her down months after she has gone missing.  It is a story about trauma, sisterly love, and the lengths we will go through to protect the ones we care most about.  I can't recommend this one highly enough!  

From Amazon:

A New York Times bestseller!

4 Starred Reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publishers Weekly!

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith

As you may know, I am a huge fan of Andrew Smith.  He is at the top of my list of favorite authors.  He writes incredible things.  But it has been way too long since I have had the chance to read something new by him.  I have been (not so) patiently waiting for the release of his newest novel, Rabbit & Robot, for a long time now.  In his new novel, Smith, takes us for a ride that was well worth the wait.  

Rabbit & Robot tells the story of Cager Messer and his friend Billy Hinman.  As the United States is falling in to another war (it's 27th simultaneous war) and Cager is falling farther in to his Woz addiction, Billy and Rowan (Cager's caretaker) kidnap him and take him to the Tennessee (a space cruise ship that is owned by Cager's father) to help save his life. 

The Tennessee proves to be anything but safe.  Filled with anything you could imagine, this cruise ship seems to be the perfect place.  While the Earth burns from the now more than 30 simultaneous wars, the cogs that run every aspect of the ship become infected and turn cannibalistic.  The idea of being stranded in space as possibly the only humans alive takes its toll on Cager and he begins to wonder what it really means to live a full life, a life with meaning. 

As is the norm, Smith's newest novel will make you laugh and cry, but more importantly it will make you think.  This story about love, friendship, the power of technology, and humanity will stick with you long after you have turned the last page.  You will question what it means to be truly human, while vowing to live the best life you can. 

From Amazon:

Told with Andrew Smith’s signature dark humor, Rabbit & Robot tells the story of Cager Messer, a boy who’s stranded on the Tennessee—his father’s lunar-cruise utopia—with insane robots.

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

In his new novel, Andrew Smith, Printz Honor author of Grasshopper Jungle, will make you laugh, cry, and consider what it really means to be human.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins is a powerful, thought provoking, and intense story that will hang around in your thoughts long after you have read the last page.  It is an important story that deals with gun violence and white supremacy in gripping fashion.  In true Ellen Hopkins style, she tells her story in a unique way, with not only the voices of our six main characters, but also the voice of the gun itself, always there provoking it's potential user.  It is an intense read, but one that is well worth your time.

From Amazon:

“Fall’s most provocative YA read.” —Entertainment Weekly

Someone will shoot. And someone will die.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins tackles gun violence and white supremacy in this compelling and complex novel.

People kill people. Guns just make it easier.

A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought by a teenager for needed protection. But which was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?

One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

When a book starts out with one of my favorite quotes from Stephen King's novela, The Body (aka Stand by Me), I expect great things.  The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart didn't disappoint.  This was a fun ride.  A horror story that was more about friendship, love, and sacrifice than about the blood and gore.  Don't get me wrong, there was blood and gore, but that isn't what this book was all about.  It was a story about discovering oneself and figuring out what is most important in your life.  As we get closer to Halloween, if you are looking for a horror story, but one with a lot of heart, you could do much worse than The Sacrifice Box.  

From Amazon:

A horror story about friendship, growing up, and finding a place in the world: Gremlins meets The Breakfast Club by way of Stephen King and Stranger Things.

In the summer of 1982, five friends discover an ancient stone box hidden deep in the woods. They seal inside of it treasured objects from their childhoods, and they make a vow:

Never come to the box alone. 
Never open it after dark. 
Never take back your sacrifice. 

Four years later, a series of strange and terrifying events begin to unfold: mirrors inexplicably shattering, inanimate beings coming to life, otherworldly crows thirsting for blood. Someone broke the rules of the box, and now everyone has to pay.

But how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Once again I had the privilege of reviewing a book for ALAN Picks.  I was given the book Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner.  This was a quick and enjoyable read.  What follows is the review I submitted for ALAN Picks:

Brynn Harper is a former honor student who has struggled since the drug overdose death of her older brother Nick.  With the tumbling of her grades and her self-worth, she has been moved from honors courses to the applied classes in the basement of her high school.  Because of an assignment in one of her new classes, she writes and email to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.  When she surprisingly gets a reply back, Brynn begins to write a series of unsent emails to her new found hero.  She tells Rachel about her brother, her unhappy home life, her ex-girlfriend, and all the other trials and tribulations in her life. 

When the school decides to let a student be a part of the selection committee for the new superintendent, the usual suspect, Adam Graff, steps up to take the position.  But Adam is part of the honors program and Brynn knows that he will only serve the needs of those select students.  Who will be the advocate for students like Brynn and all the others that fall between the two extremes?  Though hesitantly, Brynn steps up to the plate and takes on the task of representing the whole student body, not just the honors students, in the selection of their new leader.  Throughout her journey of civic involvement, she continues to tell her story to Rachel Maddow, all along using her as a measuring stick for what is the right thing to do.

In her debut novel, Adrienne Kisner tells Brynn’s story in the epistolary format.  And while the voice of the novel is mainly that of our protagonist, Kisner does well in developing the other characters that play a significant role in Brynn’s life.  Kisner makes the reader want to stand up and fight for the rights of all.  And in a world that doesn’t always think along these lines, Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow is an inspiring breath of fresh air. 

From Amazon:

In Adrienne Kisner's Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.

Brynn Haper's life has one steadying force--Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project--and actually getting a response--Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick's death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she's stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn's archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

If a book is written by Kara Thomas, I'm going to read it!  I have been waiting an awfully long time for The Cheerleaders and it was definitely worth the wait.  Again, Thomas has given us a story that will keep us guessing to the very end.  Thomas is a master of spinning a dark tale of murder and deceit and making the reader continue to turn the pages in anticipation of what comes next.  I can't wait to see what comes next!

In The Cheerleaders, Monica is a teen girl that is still dealing with the suicide of her older sister, along with the deaths of four of her sister's cheerleading teammates, all coming within a month of each other.  As the five year anniversary closes in, Monica starts to question what has always been the accepted story.  As she continues to dive deeper into exactly what happened to her sister and her friends, the story becomes darker and more mysterious as we start to question who was really responsible.  Just like her previous novels, this one is a highly engaging and enjoyable read!

From Amazon:

"Sharp, brilliantly plotted, and totally engrossing."--KAREN M. MCMANUS, New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying

"A crafty, dark, and disturbing story."--KATHLEEN GLASGOW, New York Times bestselling author of Girl In Pieces

"A little bit Riverdale and a little bit Veronica Mars."--RILEY SAGER, bestselling author of Final Girls

From the author of The Darkest Corners and Little Monsters comes an all-new edge-of-your-seat thriller set in upstate New York about an eerie sequence of seemingly unrelated events that leaves five cheerleaders dead.

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident--two girls dead after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know his reasons. Monica's sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they'd lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it's not that easy. She just wants to forget.

Only, Monica's world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad's desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn't over. Some people in town know more than they're saying. And somehow, Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn't mean anyone else is safe.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork is a wonderful and timely novel.  This is a novel that deals with the disappearances of girls throughout Mexico, but hits on the increasing spread of sex trafficking throughout the world, including here in the United States.  But it is also a novel about making the best choices for yourself and your loved ones.  It isn't just about the right choices, but about making the choices that are right.  This story is told in alternating view points, going between Sara, a young newspaper reporter, and Emiliano, her younger brother.  It is a quick and highly engaging read.

Disappeared tells the story of Sara, a young reporter at the newspaper in Juarez.  She has been outspoken about the disappearance of local girls, especially since her best friend Linda has gone missing at the hands of the cartel.  But when a threat to the lives of Sara and her family comes in to the newspaper's offices, she is forced to make a choice: Stop talking about the missing girls and give up on the hope of ever finding Linda or keep investigating and risk putting everyone she loves in danger.

Emiliano is a star soccer player and a budding entrepreneur.  Since his father left for the United States, Emiliano has worked to help his struggling family pay the bills.  He is given the opportunity to increase the profits from his business and make his family's life easier, but isn't exactly legal.  Emiliano has to decide if the benefits of this new partnership and worth giving up the moral integrity he has worked so hard to develop. 

This is a novel that will grab you quickly and take you on a ride you won't soon forget!

From Amazon:

Four Months Ago Sara Zapata's best friend disappeared, kidnapped by the web of criminals who terrorize Juarez.Four Hours Ago Sara received a death threat -- and with it, a clue to the place where her friend is locked away.Four Weeks Ago Emiliano Zapata fell in love with Perla Rubi, who will never be his so long as he's poor.Four Minutes Ago Emiliano got the chance to make more money than he ever dreamed -- just by joining the web. In the next four days, Sara and Emiliano will each face impossible choices, between life and justice, friends and family, truth and love. But when the web closes in on Sara, only one path remains for the siblings: the way across the desert to the United States

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough is an extremely powerful novel that is told in a unique way.  It is the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a talented painter of the 1600s, told both in verse and in prose.  This novel tells the real life story of Artemisia and her bravery and courage in the face of a society who finds little value in women, especially a woman who is just 17 years old.

When her mom died, Artemisia Gentileschi was faced with the choice of becoming a nun or helping her father with his aspiring career as a painter.  She chose to paint and became one of the greatest painters in all of Rome.  Her father took all the credit for her paintings and she was just a shadow in the background.  But when she is raped by a man who was brought in to help her painting, she is given another choice.  She can remain silent or she can speak out against her attacker.  But in a society where women have no real voice, is it worth the punishment she will face if she is thought to be lying?  In this astounding book, McCullough and Artemisia help to remind us, and women especially, to use your voice and never be afraid to "paint the blood."

From Amazon:

"When I finished this novel, I knew I would be haunted and empowered by Artemisia Gentileschi's story for the rest of my life."—Amanda Lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough's bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia's heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia's most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman's timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

★"A captivating and impressive debut about a timeless heroine."—Booklist, starred review
★"Belongs on every YA shelf."—SLJ, starred review
★"A haunting, stirring depiction of an unforgettable woman."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
★"Luminous."—Shelf Awareness, starred review

Saturday, July 21, 2018

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner was an incredibly fun read.  This is a story about friendship and self-worth and determination.  It is a novel about being who you are and finding a way to always keep that.  As a reader, you will find yourself rooting for Julia throughout the novel.  You will be hoping for her success as she navigates not only the complicated world of high school, but also the complicated world of street art.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable novel by Whitney Gardner.

This is the story of Julia, a teenage girl attending the Kingston School for the Deaf.  That is until she covers up a slur about her best friend with a beautiful piece of street art.  When her best friend snitches, she is expelled and forced to enter a public high school where she knows no one.  And even though she got in trouble for her artwork, she can't help but put up new pieces whenever she can get her hands on some paint.  But someone in these suburbs is tagging on top of her work, not so much ruining it as making it even better.  And with this new art war comes the self-doubt.  Julia wonders if her work isn't good enough and if it is worth trying to continue.  But through a new found friendship, Julia finds who she is and decided to believe in herself and her art.

From Amazon:

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award!

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

"[A] spectacular debut...a moving, beautifully written contemporary novel full of quirky art and complicated friendships...this book is a gift to be thankful for."—BookRiot

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena

My latest read was Ball Don't Lie by award winning author, Matt de la Pena.  This is one that I have heard so many good things about, but had failed to pick up until now.  And I am glad that I finally decided to pick this one up and give it a read.  It was a wonderful story that will grab readers quickly and not let go until the last page.  Ball Don't Lie is a story about perseverance, privilege, race, and self-worth.  It is definitely not one to be missed.

This novel is the story of Sticky, a teenager who has bounced through the foster care system since he was little.  Never being able to find a true home and battling the demons of his past, he turned to basketball as a refuge.  What he found out in basketball is that he is good...really good.  He finds a home at the rec center, playing against good competition every day, sticking out not just because of his ability, but because he is the only white boy in the gym.  Sticky has never had much, but basketball may be his ticket out as long as he can come to grips with who he is and what he can be.  Will Sticky get his shot or will everything he has battled in life finally take control?

From Amazon:

Newbery Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Matt de la Pena's Ball Don't Lie "is a must-read." [The Bulletin]

   Sticky is a beat-around-the-head foster kid with nowhere to call home but the street, and an outer shell so tough that no one will take him in. He started out life so far behind the pack that the finish line seems nearly unreachable. He’s a white boy living and playing in a world where he doesn’t seem to belong.
    But Sticky can ball. And basketball might just be his ticket out . . . if he can only realize that he doesn’t have to be the person everyone else expects him to be.
    Matt de la Peña's breakout urban masterpiece, Ball Don’t Lie takes place where the street and the court meet and where a boy can be anything if he puts his mind to it.

"[An] inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life."-School Library Journal, Starred

"Riveting...Teens will be strongly affected by the action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages."-Booklist

"Stunningly realistic."-VOYA

"Gritty and mesmerizing."-Kirkus Reviews

"I have never before seen blacktop ball depicted so well. In this novel, you will find its flash, its power, and its elegance without chains. This is powerful stuff."-Antawn Jamison, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers

"Truly authentic in its examination of both the game I love and the invariable missteps toward manhood. You cannot fail to be moved by the eloquence and truth of this story."-Rick Fox, former forward for the Los Angeles Lakers

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez

 The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez is another book I had been waiting on for quite a while.  I remembered the beauty of her last novel, Because of the Sun, and was excited to read her newest novel.  This book was a devastating read.  It was devastating and heartbreaking, yet beautiful as well.  Torres has written an incredible story about trauma and grief and the effects it has on not only the individual, but the family, friends, and community that surround them.  It is a story that shows that tragedy is not always easily overcome, that it sometimes consumes us.  This one has left me feeling numb and I know it is going to stick with me for a long time.

The Fall of Innocence is the story of Emilia, a teenage girl who suffered an unbelievably brutal attack when she was just 8 years old.  This attack not only left her physically damaged, but emotionally and psychologically damaged as well.  After slowly working her way back to just a shell of who she was before, devastating revelations come out about the attack she suffered years before.  And try as she might to "be okay," this news has begun to unravel her.  It has caused her to rethink all that she has come to accept.  And in the end, it all may be too much for one person to overcome. 

As heartbreaking as this story is, it is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year so far. 

From Amazon:

The Lovely Bones meets Thirteen Reasons Why in this gorgeous, haunting, and tragic novel that examines the crippling--and far-reaching--effects of one person's trauma on her family, her community, and herself.

For the past eight years, sixteen-year-old Emilia DeJesus has done her best to move on from the traumatic attack she suffered in the woods behind her elementary school. She's forced down the memories--the feeling of the twigs cracking beneath her, choking on her own blood, unable to scream. Most of all, she's tried to forget about Jeremy Lance, the boy responsible, the boy who caused her such pain. Emilia believes that the crows who watched over her that day, who helped her survive, are still on her side, encouraging her to live fully. And with the love and support of her mother, brother, and her caring boyfriend, Emilia is doing just that.

But when a startling discovery about her attacker's identity comes to light, and the memories of that day break through the mental box in which she'd shut them away, Emilia is forced to confront her new reality and make sense of shifting truths about her past, her family, and herself.

A compulsively-readable tragedy that reminds us of the fragility of human nature.

Praise for The Fall of Innocence

* "Sanchez deftly shows the long-lasting impact of the assault. . . . An intimate and tragic look at how traumatic incidents affect individuals, their families, and others around them." --Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

* "Sanchez writes with stunning detail, showcasing the beauty that can be found in small moments, in family interactions, in nature, and in seemingly everyday objects. . . and illustrates how a trauma like Emilia's has widespread effects." --School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

* "It is hard to imagine a more beautifully told, more moving, or more authentic story of one family’s journey through unbearable pain." --VOYA, STARRED REVIEW

"Beautifully written but ineffably sad, Emilia's story is a case study of trauma and its aftermath." --BCCB

"Emilia's inner world both captivates and devastates." --Publishers Weekly

"Internal and contemplative, [this novel's] haunting quality lingers." --Booklist

Monday, June 18, 2018

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour was the winner of the 2018 Michael L. Printz Award, the biggest award given in YA literature.  And this is one that has been on by TBR pile for some time.  I'm sad that it took me this long to get to it because it was a beautiful read and well deserving of the award.  It is a story about grief and loneliness and learning how to deal with it.  But it is also about enduring friendship and family and what those things can mean to someone who has been without them for so long.  And most importantly it is about hope for what the future can hold despite the sadness we may be feeling in the present.  This book truly is a beautifully told story that will stick with you long after you have read the last page. 

We Are Okay is the story of Marin, a young girl who has begun her Freshman year of college 3000 miles away from home.  When tragedy struck Marin near the end of the summer, she took off for New York and has not spoken to anyone from home since.  She has even ignored every text message, phone call, and voicemail from Mabel, her best friend.  When it is time for Christmas Break, Marin remains the only one still at school, not ready to return home and face the life she once had.  But Mabel comes to see her and Marin is forced to figure out all that has happened and how to go on living life.  With Mabel's help, Marin is finally able to find a way to make it all okay.  

From Amazon:

Winner of the 2018 Michael L. Printz Award — An achingly beautiful novel about grief and the enduring power of friendship.

Short, poetic and gorgeously written.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A beautiful, devastating piece of art.
" —Bookpage

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punch, We Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Family by Micol Ostow

Family by Micol Ostow was a fascinating read.  This was a story that explores the workings of a cult and what may draw people to them.  It is a story about finding a "family" and the lengths one may go to in order to be a part of that family.  But it also tells a story of self-discovery and the realization that we may all be stronger than we think.

Family is the story of Mel, a young girl who can no longer take the abuse she suffers in her home.  She has been subjected to it for too long and decides to get away.  In San Francisco, as she is struggling to find her way, she meets Henry.  Henry is a man full of life and full of charisma.  He tells Mel about his "family" and asks her to come be a part of it.  Since family is something Mel has never really had, the prospects sound enticing.  And once she experiences it for herself, she finds something that she always longed for.  She finds a group of people who care for each other, who share everything.  But she also sees the signs of something more sinister.  And when Henry is wronged, it is up to Mel and others to make them right.  But is Mel stronger than she thought?  Is she not quite as broken as she once believed?

Based somewhat on the Manson Family and the murders they committed, Ostow takes us in to the terrifying world of cults and maybe makes us see the appeal for those who are lost.  Told in verse, Ostow plays with words in an incredible way that make the reader understand how important each of those words are as the story unfolds.  This was a quick and very enjoyable read.  

From Amazon:

I have always been broken. I could have died. And maybe it would have been better if i had.

It is a day like any other when seventeen-year-old Melinda hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. Henry is the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry's family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs. And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.

Told in episodic verse, Family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they'll go to to make themselves "whole" again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Wow!  Monday's Not Coming is another incredible novel by Tiffany D. Jackson.  Her debut, Allegedly, was a wonderful read, so I was really looking forward to this novel.  And Jackson provided us with a novel that hits with all the same force of her debut.  This is a story about the power of friendship, but also the trauma that comes with tragedy.  It is a story that will leave you sad because of the terrible truth that comes with it, while at the same time fill you with hope in the knowledge that there is always someone out there who won't give up.  This novel has left me with so many thoughts, thoughts that will stick with me for a long time.  This isn't a book that you will soon forget.

Monday's Not Coming is told through the unique narration of Claudia, a girl who seems to be the only one that cares that her best friend, Monday Charles, is nowhere to be found.  When Claudia returns home after a summer spend with her grandma, she can't get in contact with Monday.  And since Monday did not respond to any of her letters over the summer, the worry that Claudia feels is immediate.  And when she doesn't show up to school for the first day, Claudia's fears only intensify.  And as the day's pass with no sign of Monday, Claudia does everything she can to figure out what has happened to her best friend.  But few of the adults in her life seem at all concerned about the sudden disappearance of this young girl.  And Claudia isn't going to give up the search until she has some answers.

From Amazon:

From the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson, comes a gripping new novel perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Gillian Flynn about the mystery of one teenage girl’s disappearance and the traumatic effects of the truth.

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried.

When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?