Long Story Short

by Serena Kaylor

Beatrice is a brilliant 16-year-old who has already been accepted into the university of her dreams; Oxford. The only problem is that Beatrice suffers extreme social anxiety, so much so she has been homeschooled for most of her life. Beatrice has never been to a party. She’s never had a friend; she has never even deviated from a specific weekly dinner menu. Needless to say, her parents aren’t thrilled with her acceptance, so they decide that Beatrice will have to prove to her parents that she is emotionally and mentally ready before they allow her to go. and boy do her parents have the perfect challenge for her, she will have to successfully a program, well actually a summer camp that is completely out of her comfort zone; camp where she will have to interact with others, speak in public, and share personal space…a Shakespearian Theatre camp! And while she is there, she’ll have to fulfil a list of accomplishments her parents create for her:

Make a friend.

Share a secret.

Walk up to someone and make small talk.

Accept an invite she doesn’t want to.

Do an outdoor activity.

Pull a prank.

Execute a dare.

Hug three people.


The dream of attending Oxford is enough to get Beatrice out the door and onto the bus that will take her to camp; however, she soon faces embarrassment and rejection when she tries to cross a task off her list and talk to a stranger who just happens to be the most popular girl at camp; the “Ice Queen”.
I found this novel charming and a wonderful break from popular teenage angst-riddled dystopian literature. It is very well written with endearing characters (I absolutely LOVE Mia and Nolan!) It is a sweet, light-hearted novel that will be the perfect light summer reading fare.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the free copy

Alone

by Megan E. Freeman

Twelve-year-old Maddie is a normal teenager who just wants to do normal things like having a party at her grandmother’s vacant house without her parents knowing.

Maddie has it all arranged: she will tell her mother she is staying with her father and tell her father she is staying at her mother’s. Having succeeded in this ploy she then buys junk food and awaits the arrival of her two best friends. Unfortunately, her friends cannot come so Maddie spends the night alone with her junk food and old black and white movies. 

Now, everything would be fine and dandy if the political situation hadn’t been precarious. With curfews and military vehicles a common sight, life for Maddie and her family has been different, to say the least. Tragically, the evening Maddie decides to trick her parents and stay at her grandmother’s, the state is evacuated and Maddie is left all alone with nary a human around to help her. Soon the power is cut off and food becomes scarce and Emma is forced to use her imagination and grit to survive both the physical and mental hardship she encounters. 

This novel is written in verse, and in being so adds a wonderfully melancholy tone to the writing. It reads like a stream of consciousness, therefore, making Emma’s experience more emotionally impactful. 

How does Emma spend her days? Will Emma survive? Will her parents ever come to realize she has been left behind?

A great book to have in a classroom library or middle school book club.

Escape from Chernobyl by Andy Marino

Escape from Chernobyl is a fictional account of the Chernobyl disaster, a global incident that most young people know nothing about. 

16-year-old Yuri Formichev is an intern at the Chernobyl power plant in Pripyat Ukraine on the border of what was then the Soviet Union. Yuri’s dream is to be an engineer at the nuclear reactor but in the meantime, he is assigned as a custodian hoping to impress his superiors so that he can work his way up to intern as an engineer. Yuri lives with his Aunt, Uncle, and his two cousins Alina and Lev. 

The story immediately throws us into the action of the story. Yuri has just arrived for his shift at the reactor when he feels a shaking of the walls. Soon the walls crack and other workers are covered by debris. In the meantime a man is knocking at the door of Yuri’s family telling them they must leave the city for their safety. If they leave they will be abandoning Yuri.

Will Yuri survive? Will Alina and Lev escape the radiation that is beginning to permeate the area?

Escape from Chernobyl is a perfect read for reluctant readers. It is short, engaging, and accessible to people of all reading levels.

The Speed of Falling Objects

by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Life hasn’t been easy for Danielle “Danny” Warren. When she was 7, her adventurous father leaves her and her mother to become a famous “Reality Star”. Danny believes her father abandoned her because she suffered a horrible accident and lost her eye, an accident that not only stole her sight but also her courage. When her father invites her on a trip with him to the Amazon to film an episode of his Reality show, Danny believes it would be the perfect time to get to know her father and prove to him that she is not the frightened little girl he left behind. Unfortunately, the plane crashes into the jungle, and Danny not only has to face but she must also come to accept the man her father truly is.

The Speed of Falling Objects is truly an adventure story where the protagonist experiences more than her fair share of peril all the while falling in love for the first time.

The Inheritance Games

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I love novels with puzzles and riddles, hidden passageways, and old libraries. In The Inheritance Games, we have all of these with a bit of romance and mystery thrown in. Avery Grambs inherits 2 billion dollars from a stranger much to the dismay of his grandsons. There is, however, one the condition, upon receiving the estate, she must live in the mansion for one year, along with the same family he has disinherited. During this time she navigates through clues and puzzles in order to find out who, in fact, is her mystery benefactor. Much to her chagrin, Avery finds herself attracted to one of the grandsons, an attraction that complicates things because she can trust no one.

A wildly entertaining YA novel with a smart and feisty protagonist. Both the characters and the plot keep the reader entertained throughout.  Sure to be part of a series.

Me(Moth) by Amber Mcbride

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

(possible spoilers)

I’m finding it difficult to put into words how much I loved this novel. I don’t often gravitate to novels written in verse but honestly, the cover of this one was breathtaking so I had to take a look inside. For the entirety of my reading, I had to sit still for fear of breaking the magic in which I found myself, magic that kept me transfixed upon the spiritually intimate relationship between Moth and Sani.

It’s been two years since Moth lost her family in a car crash. Although she lives with her aunt, she feels guilty to have survived and has felt displaced and lonely ever since. Moth drifts through school friendless and alone until she meets Sani, a beautiful young man who draws, sings, and plays music. But there is something amiss with Sani, he is loving and creative one minute, and then withdrawn and isolating the next. Moth suspects it has something to do with the medication he sporadically takes.

Moth and Sani form a bond that grows beyond friendship. He too feels displaced living with his mother and abusive stepfather and soon decides to travel to Window Rock on the Navajo Nation to be with his father. Moth, having fallen in love with Sani, goes with him. On this journey, they both discover truths about themselves truths that are both disturbing yet freeing.

After reading Me(Moth) I can say it’s one of the best YA books I have ever read. I found myself consistently writing down beautiful lyrical lines such as “ why do I feel like the dust of your name is buried in my bones (71)  and “ I don’t know how to be whole anymore/whatever you need you can borrow from me. ( 134.) Aren’t they beautiful?!

I read it quickly the first time quickly because I needed to see a resolution of a multitude of thematic strings that had started to weave together, and then I needed to read again so I could pause and savour McBride’s beautiful use of language and imagery. 

If I were still teaching High school I would use this novel or portions of this novel in a literature study. Foreshadowing, imagery, voice, atmosphere, figurative language are just a few curricular links you can make using this text as support; a text that most young adults would find enchanting.

When I read I often read from the point of view of a teacher. I envision how can I use an engaging book or portions of this book in class to teach figurative language, literary devices, or Author Style. If I was still in the classroom, Me(Moth)  would be a mainstay for instruction on author style. More importantly, it is SUCH an engaging read it will definitely inspire a love of reading novels, especially novels in verse.

The novel deals with themes of identity, grief, mental illness, physical abuse, loneliness, culture, the importance of ancestors.

An interesting addition is Moth and Sani’s playlist. The lyrics of a few songs are scattered throughout a section of the text where Moth and Sani go on a road trip. McBride kindly includes this playlist at the back of the novel so if we so choose, we can listen to the same songs as the characters while the story is unfolding before us.

Amber McBride offers her book as “a gift, an iron/to smooth the wrinkles of [our] spirit” 

And it indeed does just that.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

A novel is written in verse. 

This novel made me tear up, not only because of the storyline but how beautifully it is crafted. Acevedo weaves together the story of two sisters: Camino Rios who, lives in The Dominican Republic, and Yahaira Rios, who lives in New York. When their father is tragically killed in a plane crash, the sisters discover their father has been living a double life, a life he shares with two different families. The lives of the daughters are completely different from one another. Camino’s mother has died, and she lives with her aunt Tia, a woman who “has seen death & illness & hurt/ but never forgets how to smile or tell a dirty joke” (pg 60). Camino plans to attend an international school and one day go to a university in the US to become a doctor. In the meantime, she has to navigate a world where most young women her age become pregnant or get forced into prostitution. So far. Camino has been safe from this fate because since she was thirteen, her father has “paid ElCero to leave [her] alone” (pg.36) (El Cero “recruits” girls to work as sex workers). And now that her father has died, she is a target.

Yahaira, on the other hand, lives in New York with her mother. She attends private school, plays chess, and has a loving girlfriend. She and her mother own their apartment “where there is a small courtyard out back/where [they hold] summer barbecues for the family and neighbors” (pg. 129).

The tragedy of their father’s death forces the girls to accept their father’s actions and decide whether or not they want to accept each other as family.

Acevedo alternates point of view in each chapter in such a way that makes the reader empathize with both characters. We can’t help but hope the young women truly become sisters in every sense of the word. 

Legendborn

Legendborn
Tracy Deonn
Love, love, loved this novel. From the first page until the last I was swept away in the story Deonn has written. I’ve always been a sucker for stories about secret societies that may or may not exist on campus, any campus. What would make someone special enough to be admitted to one? What rituals take place? Is there a price to pay?
Bree is our protagonist. She is beautiful and brave and has a huge chip on her shoulder since the trauma of her mother’s fatal accident. Needless to say when she has the opportunity to attend a boarding school for gifted students she jumps at the chance if only to escape the memories of her mother’s death and the guilt she possesses for the cruel way she spoke to mother at what would be their last conversation.
Strange things start happening right from the onset of her move. She can see “things” other people cannot see. What are these terrifying flying creatures that create mayhem and chaos among her fellow students? And who if the breathtakingly handsome young man who is trying to modify her memory?
Bree soon finds out the answers to these questions but in the meantime faces a plethora of other questions about her identity, her legacy and most importantly, the identity of her mother.
Spoiler alert…this story touches upon the Arthurian Legend, which is a tale I adore!

With the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, I have been consciously trying to read more novels written by black authors. I was so grateful that Netgalley and Simon and Shuster Canada sent me a free advanced copy to read.
Legendborn will be an obvious addition to any classroom or school library. It will also make a perfect novel for a choice in classroom literature circles. Not only is the plot entrancing, and the characters dynamic, the discussion of the various themes presented would be beneficial in any classroom. It is also so well written it can serve as a mentor text.