From the moment it started, Min and Ed’s romance was doomed to failure. For six brief weeks their relationship was intense, all consuming, and fated to burn bright, hot, and fast.  When the co-captain of the basketball team, notorious playboy, and school’s hottest guy and a quirky, “arty”, cinema-hound girl collide one night at a Bittersweet 16 party for Min’s best friend Al, the gravitational pull overwhelms them but it also creates a black hole from which Min, at least, can’t escape.   Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up explores the idea of opposites attracting, the tug of war between their disparate worlds, and the casualties that result from twoRead More →

How to Save a Life, the latest from Sara Zarr, is an emotionally honest, engrossing, and raw journey from loss and heartbreak to trust and hope.  Two young women, both broken and running away from wrenching pain, take turns telling their stories in well developed, distinct, truthful voices. High school senior Jill’s dad was killed in a car accident ten months ago and his sudden death has all but destroyed Jill’s world. Her raging anger has alienated everyone who tried to support her, has left her feeling lost and isolated, and is keeping her from seeing any hope or possibility of happiness in her future.Read More →

This was a tough one. Catherine Atkins’ The File on Angelyn Starkis gritty, intense, and unsettling. Its deceptively simple, succinct prose, short chapters, and sparse dialogue make it a quick read, but that comes at a price; this is a chilling story of a teen girl who is scarred by the sexual abuse she suffered at hands of her stepfather.  Being swept up in the train wreck that is Angelyn’s life is not really someplace that I enjoyed being, and I could hardly imagine living it day to day.  Angelyn’s boyfriend always wants to go further than she does; sometimes its easier to give in than toRead More →

If what you want most in a novel is a protagonist who gets it, who’s wading through the same emotional crap you are, who’s fed up with the ineffectual adults in his life and having to just accept the way things are, and most of all, a guy who is funny as hell, then Lucky Linderman is the protagonist for you. That’s not to say that Lucky’s life is all that great – it’s pretty crappy, actually.  His dad is emotionally distant from the family; his mom meekly inhabits the edges of her own life, preferring to spend time swimming laps; his grandfather is/was a VietnamRead More →

Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin deliver a hilarious, heartfelt concoction in Notes From the Blender.  I can’t count how many times I laughed out loud, smirked with understanding, and cringed with embarrassment throughout this book.    16 year old Declan (named after Elivs Costello, thank you very much) loves death metal, violent video games, and Neilly Foster.  He’s an outsider for sure, cloaking himself in black clothes, combat boots and an attitude that lets people know to keep their distance.  He’s learned to live with the pain and grief he’s carried since his mom was killed in a car accident when he was 9.  He and his dadRead More →

Even with all of the “multicultural” young adult novels published every year, there really isn’t much that takes place in Sub-Saharan Africa.  And those stories taking on the plight of the refugees, the disenfranchised, and the desperately poor are even harder to find.  Michael Williams’ recent publication, Now Is the Time for Running, tells the staggering story of a 14 year old boy, Deo, fleeing from Zimbabwe into South Africa seeking safety and a chance at a decent life for himself and his mentally disabled older brother, Innocent.  Inspired in part by Williams’ work with homeless refugee youths in his home country (South Africa) as well asRead More →

Paul Volponi has a talent for capturing the authentic voice of teen guys.  His books regularly display a straightforward, economic style that gets directly to the bare bones of his teen protagonists’ struggles with relationships, right and wrong, maturity, and a whole host of other real-life issues.  In every Volponi book I’ve read, I am always struck by the authenticity of the characters, the moral ambiguities, and the masterful blend of reality and fiction.   And his latest, Crossing Lines, is no exception, focusing on bullies, victims, and the people caught between them. The tension builds slowly over the course of the first few weeks ofRead More →

Senior Jake Martin is the school’s soccer star: he’s got the magic that pulls off win after win and keeps him at the center of the school’s in-crowd.  But the magic means more to Jake than just winning on the field; his obsession with prime numbers and his increasingly complex daily rituals keep him focused, keep his family “safe,” and keep the spiders and their choking webs from taking over his mind.  Jake’s third soccer state final championship is coming up on Saturday, and if everything goes perfectly by the numbers, he’s sure he’ll be free of the demons that plague him. Heidi Ayarbe plungesRead More →

Sam Smith and Emily Bell come from two different worlds:  17 year old Sam has spent his life drifting from state to state with his paranoid schizophrenic father, Clarence, and his autistic, asthmatic younger brother, Riddle.  They live outside the system, squatting in abandoned homes, preying on the gullible, and clearing out quick whenever the voices Clarence’s head tell him to run, or worse, the law comes looking.  Pretty, shy Emily lives in a comfortable suburban home with her caring and well-meaning parents, her somewhat annoying little brother, and the family dog.  But both Sam and Emily long for a deep connection to another personRead More →