Betita is a nine-year-old girl with a loving family in modern-day America. She enjoys learning new words, spelling, drawing, and playing with other kids her age. What appears to be a rather normal life quickly begins to unravel into fear and uncertainty when her Papi doesn’t pick her up after school one day. After failing to reach her father, the principal drives Betita home. While her mother tries to hide her worry, Betita knows something is wrong, and she soon finds out that the almost-worst has happened. Her father has been deported, leaving her mother, who is newly pregnant, and Betita to fend for themselvesRead More →

Recently graduated from high school and hoping to pursue a career in landscape architecture, Elizabeth Owens can’t wait to leave New Jersey for college at Berkeley.  Lauren Collins, who already lives in San Francisco, wants escape, too, and has requested a single room for the privacy, solitude, and novelty of no longer having to share space with anyone, especially her five siblings, six and under.  So, when Lauren learns her request has been denied and receives a “Hi, Roomie” email from EB inquiring about microwaves and mini-fridges, her reply is cool and somewhat curt.  A bit certain about EB’s warm overtures, Lauren aspires to work inRead More →

Getting out from under the intense weight on my chest after reading Matthew Quick‘s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has taken some time.  I felt pulled down into a deep, dark hole, all alone with only my thoughts about the futility of life, the lack of care or concern for myself or others, and a resigned sense of defeat in the face of an untenable future.  The slope down into Leonard’s depression is slippery and quick and getting back out isn’t easy work.  Which is the long way of saying that in Leonard Peacock Quick has expertly captured and painfully portrayed depression, anger, and isolation atRead More →

At first, Mark Goldblatt’s Twerp brought to mind a couple other books – Scrawl, a bully’s detention-assigned journal about his life and Ungifted, Gordon Korman’s hilarious story about a likeable kid whose bad judgment gets him in to trouble again and again.  But it didn’t take long to get completely lost in this well-written, engaging story about a 12 year old kid, his friends, and a terrible thing they did. Julian Twerski isn’t a bully.  He  didn’t mean for Danley to get hurt and he doesn’t think that what happened over winter recess is one hundred percent his fault, although he doesn’t deny that he hadRead More →

Erica “Chia” Montenegro, a thirteen-year-old girl, is on her summer going into eighth grade. She quickly learns that her mother has breast cancer and is getting a mastectomy. Her summer drags on sad, her friends notice, and her mom gets the mastectomy. Then one day they take a trip to visit caurto de milagros. She makes a promise to God that she will do something good for her mother in exchange for her mom’s health. She finally decides that she will get 500 sponsors to a breast cancer awareness walk. It’s hard for her to balance school, family, friends, and her promise all at theRead More →

That Time I Joined the Circus by J. J. Howard isn’t a typical runaway story but it is one rich in circus sounds and sensations.  The author’s obsession with music is obvious in the lyrical headnotes to each chapter and in the many allusions that occur in the text—making this a book for music lovers and for those who live their lives with their own sound track or play list. Although the circus plays a role in Howard’s text, this is really Xandra Ryan’s story—her disparate identity is obvious in her many names: Lexi, Alex, and even X.  Feeling like Doormat Girl who only getsRead More →

Readers of Carl Deuker’s sports stories will likely enjoy T. Glen Coughlin’s latest book.  One Shot Away: A Wrestling Story follows the narratives of three wrestlers in Molly Pitcher, New Jersey, during their senior year: Jimmy O’Shea, Diggy Masters, and Trevor Crow. Although not the typical wrestler’s build at 6’2”, Jimmy is ranked best 160 pounder in the county and slated for the Wall of Champions if he can avoid the distraction of his dad’s dastardly deeds.  Mr. O’Shea’s PhD in post hole digging, predilection for thievery, and passion for alcohol threaten to jeopardize Jimmy’s goals. At 152 pounds, Diggy is living in the shadowRead More →

New York City resident Sarah Beth (Sethie) Weiss is seventeen years old and obsessed with food and fat.  From Sethie’s perspective, lanky Janey won the genetic lottery and Sethie lost; even her 49 year old mother Rebecca looks better in a bathing suit.  Sethie’s two favorite words, svelte and lithe, are etched on her bedroom mirror, along with the mantras: Don’t Eat and Bones Are Beautiful.  5’4 Sethie weighs 111 pounds but she still sees fat on her boney frame.  Rules and definitions, order and control, rituals and routines govern Sethie’s life, unlike best friend Janey and almost boyfriend Shaw, who stroll through life unhurried.Read More →