Eat Pray Love meets lust, love, soccer in Iva-Marie Palmer’s young adult novel Gimme Everything You Got. Set in Illinois in 1979 when Title IX was historically significant, Palmer’s book starts off with a snarky, candid, and humorous tone.  Who knew fulcrum could be sexually suggestive or that prolongedly was even a word, especially as an adverb to describe a fantasy kiss? I found myself laughing out loud about how genuine this all seemed. Initially, the discussion of masturbation and erogenous zones gave the novel an air of authenticity—given that such a focus is a natural part of the maturation process for teens—but it wasn’tRead More →

Those who have ever struggled with questions about family and tradition and what it means to respect the past while embracing the future will likely find themselves in the pages of We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler.  This poignant and well-crafted novel engenders a range of emotions—from anger to exasperation and from sorrow to exhilaration!  It not only leads readers to their own popcorn-scented memories and emotional free-falls but reminds us of personal failures and triumphs, revealing that joy really can trump tragedy if we remember to absorb the losses and store them in our hearts, because when the sun comes up, the showRead More →

Maximum racing is dangerous; one out of ten cars doesn’t make it to the finish line.  But race car driver Cassica Hayle is fast, flighty, and full of fierce life.  Possessing an addictive, restle ss energy and delighted by chaos and speed, Cassica craves life in the fast lane and wants to escape Coppermouth,  a barely surviving, backwater town where the stars at night are actually “restless orbital weapons moving steadily, left over from the Omniwar”(30) when death machines  “destroyed whole cities with lances of fire from space” (31). Now, in Coppermouth ,  people die from dust lung, a respiratory affliction resulting from dust blowingRead More →

There are many, many, many adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in this world and only a few are capable of standing on their own. The Season by spouses Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer is the newest adaptation of Austen’s classic story, one that, while a bit cliché, is a memorable version of a beloved tale. Megan McKnight fills the role of Elizabeth Bennet as a soccer player in her early twenties, someone who is definitely not a girly-girl. It’s her sister, Julia, who likes dresses and makeup and dances. When their mom enrolls them in the super exclusive Bluebonnet Club’s 2016 Dallas DebutanteRead More →

Similar to Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott uses a road trip as a metaphor for the journey survivors take as they learn how to cope with death and loss. After sixteen-year-old Ashlyn Montiel dies in a freakish bicycle accident in Bend, Oregon, her boyfriend—Kyle Ocie, a baseball player who doesn’t believe in the afterlife—and her best friend—sassy, smart, cheerleader Claudia Marlowe—have difficulty overcoming the shock of having Ashlyn ripped from their lives.  Realizing they will never be with her again not only affects how the two live; the idea of going on withoutRead More →

Staying determined, disciplined, and driven, Harper Scott and her best friend, Kate Grey have been working since before preschool on their goal—to dance with the San Francisco Ballet Company. Thinking that motivation, sacrifices, dedication, passion, and effort will ensure success, Harper doesn’t believe in luck.  Full of love and hard work, she is chasing fulfillment. Because Harper is also a descendant of Robert Falcon Scott, the Englishman who is best known for his legendary and fatal attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole, she has adopted a motto: “Succeed, or die in the attempt” (13).  With Scott in her blood, Roald AmundsenRead More →

The embodiment of athletic purpose, graceful and resolute, Elijah Thomas is 6’4” and carved out of steel, according to his best friend, Dylan Buchanan.  With his rhythmic dribbling skills, Dylan is no slouch on the court either.  The two juniors, teammates on Maryland Public Secondary School’s basketball team who have been playing together since boyhood, help their high school team win the state championship.  Now, they’re ready to play in the adult tournament, Hoops, on the Battlegrounds, an asphalt court in the neighborhood where practice and pickup games take place.  Despite their talent, can the boys “compete in the adult division, against college guys, hard-core streetRead More →

A catalyst for sparking conversations on complex social issues like diversity, bullying, and the effects of prejudice, Alan Gratz’s novel Code of Honor raises social consciousness and invites collaborative conversation about tough topics.  Much like Maria Padian’s novel Out of Nowhere (2013), Gratz uses a sports story to explore the contemporary topic of cultural collisions.  Both books embody the definition of Cultural Identity Literature (CIL). I coined the term CIL to enlarge the traditional term multicultural literature.  As a category of literature, CIL also addresses issues of power and oppression and provides an opportunity to view these issues from a different perspective, thereby inspiring empathy-building. Read More →

Known as M.D. by his associates, as Bam Bam Daniels on the cage fighting circuit, and as Doc by his little sister Gemma, McCutcheon Daniels is a 17-year-old cage fighter who fought his way into being the best.  A map of scars across his flesh tell the tale of a violent life lived, clawing his way out of the ghetto of Detroit, determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps.  His father, Damien “Demon” Daniels, “washed out of pro boxing and then fell into an abyss of crime, drugs, gangs, and whores” (5); now he’s in Jentles Penitentiary, nicknamed DT—Devil’s Toilet—for its reputation as oneRead More →