Feeling small, alone, and unloved, Ellis Truman has been abandoned by her parents. With a father addicted to drugs and an alcoholic mother who is mostly absent, Ellis is often home alone. She grows up embarrassed of her house, her parents, and who she is. She grows up in a world of in-between, unsettled, angry, and unsure of where she belongs. Then, Sandry Albrey, who grew up in Indiana with Ellis’ father, offers Ellis a home.  Sandry knows Tru’s shortcomings as well as the depth of his love. It is from her that Ellis will also learn the true meaning of love. Although Sandry welcomesRead More →

Fight + Flight by Jules Machias is a book for any young reader looking for a story that shows how to face a barrage of struggles that seem to occur simultaneously. A pansexual thirteen-year-old with lots of sass, Avery Hart loves dirt bikes because they’re “buzzy and beautiful.” This bold and assertive girl dreams of becoming “a robotics engineer who invents adorable AI assistants that do boring chores like washing dishes and folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom” (26). Diagnosed with the hypermobile type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), Avery’s body presents a series of challenges. Although she has always been rubber-band flexible, now she isRead More →

Written for middle grade readers, The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula is a strong reminder that things don’t always go as planned and that life doesn’t follow some script. Besides sharing the experiences of seventh grader, Holly-Mei Jones, a mixed Taiwanese Canadian who moves abroad to Hong Kong, Matula imparts a rich mix of cultural details—including mores for behavior like guanxi (relationships, connections, network) and multiple gustatory delights like bolo bao (pineapple buns) and jiaozi (dumplings). She even includes recipes following the book’s glossary of the Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese words, sayings, and other terms used in the novel. While heritage is aRead More →

Growing up, Rochelle Hassan read about dragons, quests, and unlikely heroes. Now, she writes about them in her first novel, The Prince to Nowhere. Hassan’s novel is set in the Aerlands, an imaginary world prowled by multiple monsters. To defend human settlements from these terrors, a mist hovers. This protective enchantment was placed there by the legendary mage Aurelion Kader.  In a community called Brume, twelve-year-old Roda lives with her mother and her aunt Dora. Kind, compassionate, and possessing a desire to help, Roda has always looked up to her brave aunt. When Roda begins receiving cryptic letters from Anonymous, she grows curious. The lettersRead More →

With multiple allusions to film noir and with some genre blending, Katie Henry writes a humorous story—Gideon Green in Black and White—about Gideon’s serious approach to being a detective and solving mysteries. Dressing the part, sixteen-year-old Gideon wears a trench coat and a fedora and lives his life in the shadows. Using his difference to put distance between himself and others, Gideon makes his life mission one of truth-telling: “That’s a detective’s job. Telling the world what’s real, even if people don’t want to hear it” (12). For him, life is black and white and facts are facts. However, as time goes on, Gideon realizesRead More →

Apart from his name, Cymbeline Igloo thinks he is normal in every way. A friendly and supportive nine-year-old, Cymbeline isn’t aware of how odd his life story is until a nightmare invades with the heaviness of death. One of Cym’s classmates pushes him into the pool during a school activity, an action which triggers Cym’s mom, Janet Igloo, to have a mental breakdown. Now, Cymbeline’s routine and familiar life has been disrupted in a major way. Cym is left to solve the mystery of his mother’s discomfort with swimming. As Cym sleuths out the details with the help of Veronique Chang—a genius and fellow classmateRead More →

With her novel Green Eyes and Ham, Mary Penney explores multiple topics relevant to middle grade readers. In her protagonist Abraham Hudson, readers will find a relatable character who confronts familiar conflicts. After all, the junior high years are fraught with challenges revolving around issues like first love, sexuality, friendship, and finding a sense of belonging where everything looks different, smells different, tastes different and where the language and customs are also unknowns. For twelve years, Ham has been homeschooled, but when his mother, who is a priest, experiences a cardiac event and needs to pare some of the stress from her life, Ham isRead 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 →