Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will likely find The Upside of Falling by Alex Light an appealing read.  Set in Georgia and bouncing between the two perspectives of the main characters, this debut novel tells the story of Brett Wells and Becca Hart, while also capturing  a glimpse of high school social dynamics. Brett is the captain of the football team and appears on the surface to have an idyllic life since he has been gifted with talent, good looks, and wealthy parents who love one another.  Despite his “swoon-worthy eyes,” readers will discover that cracks and dents mar his perfect life. Becca,Read More →

Anyone who loves a good heartfelt story will find it in The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand.  Although this is the story of many characters, it is told primarily from the viewpoint of Cassandra McMurtrey. Cass has just turned 18, and as an adopted child, that age makes her eligible to pursue the backstory of her adoption and to receive letters written in a letter project by the mothers who gave their children away in the hopes of securing for them a richer life.  Cass’ curiosity and desire for answers about her identity lead her on a convoluted journey of self-discovery. Cass’ bestRead More →

Destined to be a classic survival story like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Be Not Far from Me by Mindy McGinnis proves that the world is not tame.  Ashley Hawkins lives near the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, “a place where geography cannot only kill [her] but also dictate [her] friends” (5). With her mama’s DNA that drove her to do everything alone and with her daddy’s inability to say he is wrong about something, Ashley has independence and stubbornness in her genes.  As a result of these traits and coupled with her explosive temper, Ashley acquires the nickname ass-kicker at summer camp.  FromRead More →

Readers of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will likely find Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh a lively read, rich with action and adventure but frightening with its plot line and themes about the abuses of power and the disparity in the treatment of human beings in their fight for both justice and survival. Like Katniss Everdeen, Astrid Jael is a strong and feisty female character who has chosen to risk her life in a cutthroat competition in order to win her freedom and to gain citizenship for herself and her family.  With its choreographed cruelty, the Race of Oblivion grants citizenship with allRead More →

The balance between humans and nature is a recurring theme in The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco.  In her cautionary tale about the long-lasting and detrimental consequences of man-made climate change, Chupeco also includes hope and redemption.  Furthermore, she poses the question: What if the world didn’t tilt?  Although the book is targeted more towards young adults than fifth graders, that’s an awesome inquiry question since fifth graders would soon discover that without Earth’s tilt, humanity would be in a sorry state. Set in both the sand-locked Golden City—where the sun is relentless and resources are scare—and in Aranth—where ignorance is a strength andRead More →

Despite there being few absolutes in this world, the human brain finds comfort in its ability to classify something as good or evil, right or wrong.  The unfamiliar or mysterious makes humans uneasy and fearful.  Shelby Mahurin explores this truth in her recent book Serpent and Dove, a story that takes place in a world of shadows, rituals, and magic. The characters that populate this setting in seventeenth-century France include Coco Monvoisin, a Dames Rouges—a red witch whose blood is a powerful ingredient in most enchantments. Wild, unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous, their magic is not bound by any laws or rules, unlike that of theRead More →

Although we humans all have insecurities and need training in loving ourselves in our own skin, these conditions are perhaps especially pronounced during our adolescent years when we walk school hallways, subjecting ourselves to snickering peers, poisoned looks, and whispered comments.  This is the conflict tackled by Donna Cooner in her novel Fake. Attending Fort Collins High School in Colorado, Maisie Fernandez is a mixed race girl whose father is a Filipino Californian and whose mother is a white Texan.  Branded as one of the Froot Loops, Maisie learns that it isn’t easy being sixteen and fat.  Despite her artistic, humorous, and intelligent characteristics, sheRead More →

Because authors bravely explore controversial topics and ask important what if and why questions and then explore their potential results explains one of the reasons I love reading.  Authors who tackle bioethics are especially intriguing—perhaps because they ask significant questions before the moment when the decision seems like it has already been made.  With progress in life science, technology, and medicine, bioethical issues are increasingly confronting us on the evening news, in social media, and even in our own lives.  Books like Nina Varela’s Crier’s War not only open the topic of bioethics for young adult audiences but make it accessible. In this debut YARead More →

As a confirmed bibliophile who believes in the power of books, I didn’t need Suggested Reading by Dave Connis to convince me that a person can be undone by a book or that books serve like eyeglasses, giving us new insight by providing a perspective we didn’t realize we were missing. Similarly, Connis’ protagonist, Clara Evans has been built by books; they have shaped, changed, inspired, and guided her to her senior year at Lupton Academy (LA), a private school in Tennessee.  On the first day of her last year in high school, Clara learns about a school policy about “prohibited media”: LA’s librarian Mr.Read More →