When Alder Madigan and Oak Carson first meet as next door neighbors in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood, the two fifth graders decide they don’t like one another. Complicating any chance at a friendship is the mystery of their mothers’ dislike for one another. However, as time and coincidences transpire, the two accept that change is hard and that sometimes, one thing—like anger or a tree—has to end to make room for something else. Furthermore, the universe appears to have other plans. Those realizations—in the midst of a kitten coincidence, an apparition of a house that isn’t there inhabited by Mort the opossum, and theRead More →

Set in North Carolina, The Mending Summer by Ali Standish tells the story of twelve-year-old Georgia Collins whose heart is breaking as she struggles to put her Humpty Dumpty family back together. Pursuing their own dreams, her mother is studying long hours for a degree in biology so that she can work in a lab, and her accountant father moonlights as a piano player who comes home transformed by alcohol into the Shadow Man, no longer the Daddy she knows and loves. To protect Georgia from the fighting and the shame and to give herself more study time, Mama arranges for her daughter to summer inRead More →

“Most people, it seemed, dreamt and fantasized about being able to fly like a bird” (86). For Quinn Cutler, her dreams have always been about the ocean. Since she was a child, she’s had a deep connection to the sea, specifically the water by her family’s summer home. They haven’t been there in years, though, not after Quinn almost drowned because she couldn’t stay away from the waves. Years later and Quinn has adjusted to living a normal life in the city. Well, as normal as it can be when your dad is running for Congress. While in the limelight, her family tries to remainRead More →

As Jing turns eleven, she realizes that the age is “like an age of breakthroughs – tea-drying for the first time, my first offering to the guardian, visiting a new city, getting a new hanfu…new adventure, new experiences” (30). What seems like an exciting new period of her life quickly turns into her greatest fear, though. Jing’s widowed Aunt Mei has led the family since the death of Jing’s mother, and because of low resources, she convinces Jing’s father that it is time for Jing to get married. Jing is spirited enough to fight back against the plan to sell her to a big cityRead More →

A magical realism tale, Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson is set in Taper, Florida, “where the sea of sugarcane stops and swamps begin” (1). The thick, mucky place intrigues twelve-year-old Charlie Reynolds who is attending the funeral of his stepfather’s father. While the family is in Florida, Charlie notices a look on his mother’s face, the old look of fear, placed there by an abusive father. He knows his mother does not like this place, so when the townspeople ask Prester Mack to coach the football team, a position vacated by the death of Willie Wisdom, Charlie worries that the place will dredge upRead More →

Whoa – I was knocked back by David Massey‘s debut, Torn. Based on simply the slightly cheesy tease on the cover (“An American Soldier. A British Medic. Afghanistan. Can their love survive a War?”), I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book, but within the first few pages I was so captivated, horrified, and walloped by this powerful story that I stayed glued in my chair until I finished the book.  At a swiftly-paced 274 pages, the time flew and before I knew it I was breathlessly coming up for air and looking at war in a whole new way. And then the very nextRead More →