High school graduate Betty Lavelle is easily tormented and doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Generally level-headed and big-hearted, she’s a clothes geek, especially of sixties mod-inspired vintage style. She’s also a worrier who has a tendency to crush on people’s brains. She recently accepted an unpaid internship at Retrofit in order to provide a stepping-stone on her way to a career in the fashion industry. On an evening out to the mall in Berkley, California, Betty’s mother and older sister, Joy, are witnesses to a mass shooting in which two people die. Now, all three are traumatized. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,Read More →

Twelve-year-old Logan Foster is good at research, deductive reasoning, and logical problem-solving. However, he is not so adept at emotional responses, human interaction, and reading social cues. This unique protagonist evolves into the hero of Shawn Peters’ novel The Unforgettable Logan Foster.  Set in Santa Monica, California, Peters’ novel retells the story of an orphan who loves comics. Logan considers comics relatable because most superheroes are orphans. They also work to undermine villains and thwart bullies. When Gil Grant and Margie Morrow visit the El Segundo Transitional Orphanage (ESTO) as promising prospective foster parents, Logan experiences the feeling of being wanted and decides it feelsRead More →

The plot of One True Loves by Elise Bryant revolves around the life of smart, capable, artistic, and driven, Lenore Bennett. Each time she has a relationship with a boy, Lenore feels chosen and treasured—only to realize she has been nothing more than a chick on the side or a stepping stone to another relationship. Intent on protecting herself from the pain of such hurt, Lenore decides to live with her guard up and her heart on lockdown. However, “rooting out fuckboys and exposing their crimes against womankind” (29) proves to be a difficult mission with a friend like Tessa who is intent on writingRead More →

A junior at Willoughby High School, Eliza Quan is an ethnic Chinese girl who is smart although a bit prickly. A thinker who is passionate about facts and journalism, she doesn’t believe in self-aggrandizing or otherwise drawing attention to herself. In fact, she isn’t here to be liked. Similar to the attitude of her best friend Winona Wilson, Eliza doesn’t want to get noticed for the wrong reasons. However, Eliza does have one dream: to make it on the Wall of Editors. At Willoughby, the editor in chief of the school newspaper, the Bugle, is chosen by popular vote, and given that she’s the mostRead More →

Having been raised by her grandparents, Maria (Ri) Fernández has a lot of questions: Why did her mother abandon her? Why is Grandma so cold to their Mexican American neighbors? Why doesn’t the family speak Spanish? Why is Grandma keeping secrets? Wishing to “be enough” in Grandma’s eyes and yearning to study journalism and become a writer—not the doctor or engineer that Grandma wants—Ri feels like an outsider in her own life.  She is tired of everyone else telling her what’s best for her without regard for what she wants. Estranged from her Mexican identity—mostly due to her grandmother’s insistence about the sacrifices she hasRead More →

Room to Dream is Kelly Yang’s third book in her Mia Tang/Front Desk series. It shares Mia’s current experiences as a seventh grader navigating friendship challenges and boyfriend drama. Mia also returns to China in 1995 with her parents after being absent for five years. While she cherishes the time with family, Mia wonders about the changes that “progress” is making. The big chains are “swallowing up” the small mom-and-pop businesses. Having been made aware of these changes an ocean away, when Mia returns to California, she notices that ethnic shops are closing in favor of hotel and restaurant chains. When Vacation Rentals offers toRead More →

When “quiet, nerdy Ada Bloom finally has a verifiable love interest” (2), several people are surprised—including Ada. After five months, dating affable, athletic Leo Robinson, who is captain of the swim team, the two teens decide their relationship has reached the threshold of “the next step.” After Leo pops the question, Ada realizes she is not ready, and her relationship unravels from there. Cynthia Hand spends the rest of her novel With You All the Way exploring what makes someone believe he or she is ready for sex. She also addresses various motivations for the sexual act: curiosity, revenge, being sixteen, doing something risky andRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

Reading You Don’t Live Here left me wowed and gushing that author Robyn Schneider is a genius at capturing the search for one’s true self!  In her novel, Schneider not only shares insight into human nature and how keeping parts of ourselves hidden has consequences but includes multiple metaphors for the therapeutic power of art.  I also laughed out loud when she referred to high school as a “uniquely hellish social experiment” (70). Sixteen-year-old Sasha Bloom is a photographer, an identity she gravitated towards after her mother bought her a camera because Sasha would rather be invisible behind a camera lens than be a continuedRead More →