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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 . . .