Charlie’s father has always told Charlie that he’s a very special and fragile boy.  Protective of his son, Rajesh Pondicherry is a creative inventor and designer of various mechanisms in 1887 London.  Because Charlie has special needs and no mother, his bap doesn’t allow him to wander and doesn’t like him to spend too much time outdoors.  These limitations make Charlie an avid reader of adventure stories and the Almanack of the Elder Folk and Arcana of Britain and Northern Ireland by Reginald St. John Smythson.  Charlie’s vocabulary and imagination grow under the influence of this reading, which further teaches him about kobolds, trolls, dwarfs,Read More →

Just as an apple, cut and cored, cannot be put back together, Nella Sabatini–a young Italian Catholic girl–feels undone, confused, and incomplete.  Restless with desire for things her parents cannot afford, for popularity that evades her, and for a sense of peace and quiet that is in short supply with a houseful of “barbarian brothers” and a grandmother who is demanding and grumpy, “ancient and ignorant,” Nella aches for answers to life’s toughest questions and difficult dilemmas.  With happy moments so ephemeral, she wishes, “If only you could store up happiness. . . . Dig a happiness hole, or keep a happiness piggy bank, savingRead More →

After a school year plagued by panic attacks and trouble eating, Annie Stockton is hoping for a good summer. Her therapist has recommended freedom from the schedules and spreadsheets that Annie’s mother is so good at, hoping to help Annie feel happier and less stifled. Annie loves her mom, but she is tired of feeling trapped every day. “I wanted room to breathe. I wanted to make my own decisions, pick my own passions, study when I chose, and not clean my room if I didn’t feel like it” (183). Annie wants a summer full of the kinds of adventures that she writes about, butRead More →

What will you do for fame or goal fulfillment?  Presenting such a question may cause readers to reflect on the formula for success: hard work plus “discipline, control, and steely determination” (3).  But ambition can derail common sense, and we are all buffeted by the whims of circumstances that can cause us to react in unforeseen ways. Alyson Noël explores this “how far will you go” question in Unrivaled: A Beautiful Idols Novel released in May.  The main player in this novel isn’t an adolescent but an adult named Ira Redman, the überconnected night club czar of Los Angeles, California, and the sperm donor/father ofRead More →

Strong-willed and filled with questions as a child, Clara Hartel loves time spent with her dad, who promises, “You’ll never be lost as long as I’m here” (99).  Having already lost her mother to thyroid cancer, Clara requires reassurance that she will not be completely abandoned.  So, when her father dies suddenly from a heart attack, eight-year-old Clara no longer feels safe and secure. Devastated by her father’s death, Clara figuratively confines herself in a glass coffin, like that remembered from the bedtime story of Snow White.  Psychologically shut away from the outside world, Clara goes through the motions of life, where sounds are muffled,Read More →

Sixth grade is hard, especially for a person who has a strong sense of justice and believes the yearbook should be a snapshot of the school, not just a scrapbook of the popular students in the upper grades.  This tension forms the core conflict in Kristen Tracy’s latest book, Project [Un]Popular. Excited for middle school, Perry and her best friend—the bold and sensible Venice Garcia—join the yearbook staff at Rocky Mountain Middle School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, hoping to share their photography talent and to make a difference.  Perry sees herself as a serious artist and wants her photos to matter.  But the Photography Editor,Read More →

Willa Parker’s life is becoming one all about “should’s” and “supposed to’s” and it’s all her mother’s fault. Willa is a junior in High School, not exactly happy with her spot at the Freak Table, but she’s also not complaining. She’s content with her social standing and the life that she’s built with her dad in the small town of What Cheer, Iowa. Her mother, living in Paris after deserting Willa as a child, has other plans for her, though. These plans involve Willa having to move to the East Coast to attend the uber-exclusive Pembroke Prep, leaving her friends and her father behind toRead 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 →