Category Archives: sports

Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone

little-do-we-knowHannah desperately wished she could go back in time and say something to stand up for her [former?] best friend Emory.  And Emory wished she could take back the hurtful things she *did* say to Hannah.  But neither girl knew how to bridge the gap in their friendship after the damage was done.  Though the girls were next door neighbors and best friends for their entire lives up to that point, the events of one terrible morning may have caused irreparable damage.  And then, a strange twist of fate had the potential to bring them back together.  One night, as she went into her kitchen to get a glass of water, Hannan noticed Emory’s boyfriend, Luke, outside of her house — slumped over behind the wheel of his car…

Chapters alternate between Hannah (a believer) and Emory (a skeptic), as they navigate their changing lives and beliefs.  After Emory learns about her family’s financial struggles, and especially after Luke’s accident, she finds herself re-evaluating both her faith and her relationship with her family.  And though Emory had a pretty solid plan to break things off with Luke before they headed their separate ways for college — including a journal with a countdown to the day they would say goodbye — she finds that she might not be ready to let go.  Between Luke’s exploration of his own beliefs [after his near death experience] and the revelation of what caused the fight between Hannah and Emory, Tamara Ireland Stone provides her readers with plenty of food for thought.

Happy Reading!

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Tradition by Brendan Kiely

traditionFullbrook Academy was an elite prep school known for opening doors to the best colleges and beyond.  And though the students at the Fullbrook Academy knew that life there was pretty far removed from the idyllic images provided in all the brochures, everyone seemed happy enough with the way things had always been.  Well…  Mostly everyone.  Jules really would have liked to break some glass ceilings and to challenge the general feeling that Fullbrook is a boys school that girls are allowed to attend, but pressure from both friends and family kept Jules from raging against the machine too loudly. And then Bax showed up.  Bax, who was on a hockey scholarship (and never could have afforded the $50,000 tuition).  Bax, who was just as horrified as Jules when he witnessed the toxic masculinity of his hockey teammates who didn’t seem to see much difference between scoring in a hockey game and “stacking up pucks” in their dorm room windows.  Bax, who seemed to see past the rumors and the reputations people had been assigned in order to judge them by their character.  Bax, who gave Jules hope that things could change.  But, how could a few students make a difference when so many others, including the teachers and administration, were willing to excuse horrible “traditions” and turn a blind eye?

After finishing All American Boys, I said that I was looking forward to reading more by Brendan Kiely.  I was super excited, then, to get my hands on this ARC when I won a raffle basket at the NYLA YSS Spring Conference!  While All American Boys focused primarily on race relations, discrimination, and prejudice in America today, Tradition was more focused on issues surrounding extreme wealth/privilege and misogyny.  Aside from aiding in discussions on wealth and privilege, I think this book would be an excellent conversation starter for discussions on both feminism and consent as well.

Happy Reading!

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

All-American-BoysReynolds and Kiely have written a fantastic primer and conversation starter for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  By alternating between two perspectives — Rashad, a victim of police brutality, and Quinn, who was both a witness and a close family friend of the officer involved — they even helped to address the #BlueLivesMatter rebuttal.

Rashad was a good kid.  He did well in school, was in JROTC, and generally stayed out of trouble.  All it took was one moment of confusion in a corner store for a police officer to think he was a thief and a punk who may have attacked an innocent woman.  The next thing he knew, he was pinned to the sidewalk and getting pummeled.  Mind blown and body battered, Rashad had to face both his physical recovery and his awakening to the racism that still existed within his country and even his own community.

Despite having witnessed the arrest/beating and [later] the videos that other people had captured, it was still very difficult for Quinn to process.  He had always thought of Paul as a good guy.  He knew that what he saw went over the line…  And yet, how cold he turn his back on someone who had helped him so much when his own father died?  With friends and family pressuring him to side with the officer and his conscience begging him to side with the victim, Quinn had some very tough decisions to make.  Would he join the protest march?  And could he live with himself if he didn’t?

After finishing Long Way Down, I knew that I had to read something else by Jason Reynolds, and the cover of this book jumped right out at me.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed.  I look forward to reading more from both of these great authors.  After all, what’s a few more books added to my never-ending TBR list?!?  😉

Happy Reading!

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

neanderthalCliff Hubbard was probably the biggest loser in his school, both literally and figuratively speaking.  He was 6’6″, 250 pounds, and had a physique that earned him the nickname Neanderthal.  And, ever since his brother Shane killed himself, his life at home had become increasingly terrible as well.  So, how did he end up getting a girlfriend and becoming friends with the über cool and extremely popular quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman?  Well, it all started when Aaron met God.  After awaking from a coma, which resulted from a drunken boating accident, Aaron Zimmerman claimed that he had met God and that God had entrusted him with a list of tasks to complete in order to make Happy Valley High School a better place.  And The List, as it was often called, apparently required the assistance of Cliff Hubbard.

While I don’t think there are a ton of teens out there who will suddenly be called upon by God with specific lists of ways to make their own schools suck less, I think it is entirely possible that this book could inspire greatness.  And although the circumstances of HVHS might not align exactly with the circumstances of every high school, readers can certainly draw some parallels between The List and the ways they could reach out and help out people in their own schools and communities.  I highly recommend that Nerdfighters who want to end Worldsuck check this book out when it’s published in May.

Happy Reading!

Winner Take All by Laurie Devore

winner-take-allNell has always been an overachiever.  Whether training hard so her team could advance to and win the state volleyball championship or studying hard to become her class valedictorian, Nell has always given her all.  And that was why she couldn’t stand Jackson Hart.  He never seemed to try nearly as hard, but he always got what he wanted.  Jackson was the captain of his baseball team, one of the most popular guys at school, AND he was beating her by a fraction of a percentage in the class rankings.  Not only that, but Jackson came from money, and she only attended their elite prep school because her mother was the principal.  Talk about opposites!  But, as the saying goes, opposites attract.  Nell had always been frustrated by the fact that no one else could seem to see past his charming exterior to recognize the slime ball that he was inside.  Until even she started to fall for his charms.  And she fell hard…  But then she began to suspect that their relationship might be just another of Jackson’s games.  And, if it *was* a game, Nell was determined to win.

This book was a great read on so many levels.  It touched on honesty — between friends, between family members, and with one’s own self.  It addressed what can happen when competition is taken beyond a healthy level.  And it explored how perfectionism and toxic relationships (familial and dating) can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.  This is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your #ToBeRead list so you can be sure to check it out when it’s released at the end of January.

Happy Reading!

This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell

not-a-love-letterJessie thought that she and Chris needed a break.  Just for a week.  Just to get a little perspective before graduation.  Chris seemed to think they should get married right away, but she thought he was wrong.  Why?  Because Chris was being scouted for a full-ride baseball scholarship and could likely end up playing in the big leagues.  She thought that she would just weigh him down, regardless of how often he told her that she would only make his life complete.  And she was pretty sure her own college and career aspirations would not work out if she followed Chris off to college, since his school didn’t have the environmental conservation major she had her heart set on.  Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she could truly offer him since she thought of her upbringing as “white trash” and was embarrassed to even bring him into her home, which was dangerously full of her mom’s hoarding piles.

When Chris disappeared, though, Jessie had to find the courage to speak out about the secrets Chris had been keeping and to dig deeper.  She knew that Chris had been jumped a few weeks prior, by some other local baseball players who accused him of only getting a scholarship because he was black.  Even though she told the police about how they had used hate speech while they attacked him, and that she was concerned that those same guys were involved in his disappearance (since he was running in that same area when he disappeared), the police seemed content to think he ran away.  After all, those other guys came from good families and had an alibi for the night in question…

Every week, Chris had written Jessie a love letter.  As she struggled to work through her emotions and to try and figure out what happened to Chris, she decided to write him a letter of her own — but she insisted that it was NOT a love letter.  If he wanted a love letter, he would need to come back to her.  This book would make a great conversation starter about racism, mental health, friendships/relationships, communication, and more.

Happy Reading!

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

when-i-was-the-greatestGrowing up in Bed Stuy, NY, meant being surrounded by a lot of “bad” stuff.  Ali knew about the criminal activity all around him — from fencing stolen goods to prostitution to dealing and using drugs — but he wan’t into any of that.  His thing was boxing, hence his nickname.  It wasn’t because he actually liked fighting or anything, though, but because he liked training.  In fact, Ali wasn’t really into sparring at all and didn’t do particularly well in the ring.  Aside from boxing, he mostly just wanted to hang with his friends, Noodles and Needles.  Obviously, those are not their real names, but I’ll let you read the book to get the back story of how they got those nicknames.  I will also leave most of the plot out of this review because I don’t want to spoil anything.  Just know that there are plenty of teachable moments about family, friendship, loyalty, and choosing to rise above your surroundings.

I think what I liked the most about this story was how the author acknowledged the seedier side of urban life without glorifying crime and violence.  Much like Greg Neri’s Ghetto Cowboy, this book laid out all the best reasons kids should aim higher and also showed that it is possible to come back from bad choices instead of simply giving up.

Happy Reading!