Category Archives: romance

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

inexplicable-logicBefore Salvadore started his senior year, his life seemed to make much more sense.  Applying to colleges and thinking about both his history and how his life might change in the near future, though, started him questioning everything he thought he knew and understood.  Sal was adopted, but it wasn’t a “typical” adoption.  His dad, Vincente, and his birth mother were very good friends before she ever met his birth father and became pregnant.  So much so, in fact, that Vincente was the “birth coach” when Sal was born.  Although Vincente was gay, he even married Sal’s mother so that he could adopt Sal more easily before she died of cancer.  Sal never missed his mother too terribly because he had been too young to really remember her, but also because he felt so loved by his adoptive family.  Despite their different ethnicities (he was white and his adoptive family was Mexican-American), he never felt like an outsider.  When a few kids at school started directing racial and homophobic slurs at him and his father, nevertheless, Sal even started questioning his place in his family.

I don’t want to spoil any of the plot for y’all, but I think it is fair to say that this story includes several major, life-changing events that affect Sal and the people he loves most.  As he did with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Sáenz handled coming of age, family dynamics, and evolving friendships with both realism and beauty.  I was especially grateful for the adult characters, like Vincente and Mima.  Sal’s best friend, Samantha, and new friend, Fito, were amazing characters as well, but I find that it’s far less common for a YA novel to have such fully-developed, accessible, vulnerable, and honest adults.  If you haven’t read anything by this author, you need to fix that problem immediately…

Happy Reading!

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided-we-fallDanny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army.  At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp.  Why?  He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly.  One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970.  Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved.  But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?

I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions.  I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more.  Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book.  The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.  :-/

Happy Reading!

The Takedown by Corrie Wang

takedownKyla Cheng is NOT a likeable character, and she is just fine with that.  She knows that people are sure to be jealous of her for many reasons, including but not limited to her valedictorian rank, popularity, and beauty.  What she didn’t expect, nonetheless, was for someone to hate her so much that they went above and beyond to ruin her life.  How did they ruin her life?  First of all, they found a way to edit a video to make it look like Kyla had been caught having sex with her young/hot English teacher — which most people wouldn’t believe because they didn’t think there was good enough technology to make such a seamless video even though Kyla swore it wasn’t real.  As if that was not enough, they also managed to hack their way into her college applications to submit them early… and with completely horrifying answers to the personal essay questions!  All of this, of course, is multiplied by the fact the viral video is connected to her social media profile, which is also linked to those of her family members.  She is determined to figure out who made the video so that she can get it removed from the internet, but will she be able to befriend her hater and/or track her [she is *sure* it is a her] down in order to delete the original file?

This is a great book for opening a conversation about the implications of living in the digital age and using social media, since it shows just how quickly a picture or video can go viral and how impossible it can be to get these things off the internet once they’re out there.  I recommend this book to fans of MT Anderson’s Feed.

Happy Reading!

The Sky between You and Me by Catherine Alene

sky-betweenRaesha is not the stereotypical girl with an eating disorder from the “after school specials” of my youth.  She isn’t the super-popular girl who is afraid to lose it all if she gains a few pounds, nor is she the unpopular fat girl who thinks that she will finally be accepted by her peers if she loses some weight.  This story is much more realistic, so I think it’s only fair to provide a *TRIGGER WARNING* for people recovering from eating disorders.

While Raesha doesn’t set out to be anorexic, she is so dedicated to making it to (and winning) Nationals that she decides to lose a few pounds.  After all, being lighter will mean that her horse can run faster.  The worst thing is that she isn’t pressured by anyone else to compete in barrel racing but rather competes to honor the memory of her mother.  Between grieving for her mother and her father’s frequent absences (for work), Raesha is often very lonely.  And, with the change in behavior that accompanies her eating disorder, she only drives her boyfriend and her friends further away.  I would recommend this book for Ellen Hopkins fans and readers of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.

Happy Reading!

Bang by Barry Lyga

bangI am fairly certain that every person has something they look back on with regret.  Some people, though, have much worse regrets than others.  Take Sebastian Cody, for example.  When he was only four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four month old baby sister.  Can you even imagine the shame and depression that could stem from such a horrific tragedy?

This story takes place ten years after that tragedy, the summer after Sebastian’s ninth grade year.  His mom is insistent that he have a “productive” summer, but he really doesn’t see the point.  After all, he plans to kill himself at the end of the summer.  All of his troubles began with a gun shot, and he plans to end them the same way.  But then, a new girl moves into his neighborhood.  Aneesa isn’t like anyone he’s ever met before.  Not only is she a Muslim girl who wears a hijab, but she is so straight-forward that she often surprises Sebastian with her blunt honesty.  It’s nice just to have a friend who doesn’t judge him for what he did all those years ago, but he wonders whether everything would change if only she knew the truth.  Much like Jay Asher’s What Light, this book expertly explores coming of age, friendship, and self-forgiveness.

Happy Reading!

Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone

clickdAllie Navarro went away to a CodeGirls summer camp where she learned how to create her very own app, and she was super excited to share it with her friends when she came back home.  Even more exciting?  She would have the opportunity to enter her app into the upcoming G4G (Games for Good) competition!  Her app was eligible because it helped people to find other people near them with whom they “clicked” even if they didn’t know each other yet.  Basically, it was a friend finder and it worked to make the world a less lonely place.

Through a series of questions, much like online dating websites, Click’d was able to match people by their interests.  This way, the kids in her middle school (and anywhere else her app spread) would be able to get to know people outside of their usual friend groups.  When you finished the questionnaire, you would get access to a leaderboard of the top 10 users with whom you Click’d — and then the app would send you on a scavenger hunt to find them!  The app utilized the phones’ geolocation functions to tell people when they were near a match with a series of “bloops” and flashing lights — and then it gave users a photo clue pulled from the user’s public Instagram feed.  Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen.  Somehow, though, there was a glitch that accidentally utilized private photos from the users’ phones some of the time.  Would she be able to fix it in time to present at G4G?  Would she just present it without admitting to the coding error?  Definitely a good conversation starter about honesty and integrity.

I like the fact that this story raised issues about privacy and phone/internet safety concerns without resorting to R-rated problems.  There were embarrassing photos and screenshots of conversations that were supposed to be secret, but no sex acts or nudity involved.  I am not sure whether that was done intentionally so that parents, teachers, and librarians would feel more comfortable sharing this book with younger tweens, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.  I appreciated that there were no quick fixes, lots of hard work, and plenty of growing pains as the story worked up to the G4G competition.  I also loved the fact that it concluded with a happy yet realistic ending.   I thought that since my own middle-schooler is away at a computer programming summer camp this week, reading (and reviewing) this book was definitely apropos!  And, though the book will not officially be released until early September, I think I might just offer to let him read my ARC when he returns.  🙂

Happy Reading!

What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold

what-girls-are-made-ofNina Faye was most definitely not a hopeless romantic.  Her own mother told her (when she was only 14 years old) that there was “no such thing as unconditional love,” and she took that message straight to heart.  Nina’s work in a high kill shelter and her obsession with stories of saints who had endured horrible tortures to prove their love for God only reinforced her mother’s statement.  And because she was aware of the fact that love was “conditional,” she made it her mission to figure out the conditions of love for the people in her life.  Not only did she try to figure out what she should do to make sure her parents didn’t stop loving her, but she also started to keep track of the conditions by which she could keep her boyfriend happy.  But what if knowing those so-called conditions of love is not enough?

This story was a brutally honest, often heart-wrenching, look into the struggle many girls face with both loving and being loved.  As the story alternates between Nina’s own story and the stories she is writing for her senior project (inspired by the stories of the tortured saints), readers are able to witness Nina’s life and better understand her frame of mind.  Since it describes both sex and torture in graphic detail, nevertheless, I feel compelled to state that this book is not for the faint of heart.

Happy Reading!