The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

sun-is-also-a-starNatasha is extremely practical.  She believes in science and cold, hard facts.  She knows that is it unlikely that she will be able to keep her family from being deported back to Jamaica now that her father’s DUI has alerted the authorities to their illegal status, but she also knows that she’s willing to hope and dream a little if it means that she might find a way for her family to stay in the US.  Even though she has only about 12 hours left, she’s on her way to a meeting about a possible “fix”…

Daniel has always wanted to be more of a dreamer and a poet, but he has instead done his best to live up to the standards of a “good son” as laid out by his Korean-American [legal] immigrant parents.  They expect him to go to Yale, to study to become a doctor, and to marry a good Korean girl so that he will never have to struggle as they once did.  Even though he is not sure he really wants to go to Yale, he’s on his way to an interview with a Yale alum…

When Natasha and Daniel randomly meet in New York City, neither of them is out looking for love.  A serious of seemingly random events — is it coincidence or fate? — brings them together, though.  Daniel falls for Natasha pretty quickly, but her practicality has her thinking he’s just crazy.  Although she doesn’t want to admit it at first, there *IS* something about Daniel that really speaks to her.  So, does that mean Natasha will fall for Daniel too?  Or will he end up heartbroken?  Can Natasha find a way to stay in the US?  Or will her family really have to leave in less than a day?  Will Daniel get into Yale?  And if he does, will he even go?  This audiobook had me so anxious that I found it nearly impossible to shut off even when I had real-life responsibilities to tend to!  I especially loved the fact that it was narrated by Natasha, Daniel, and the Universe — interspersed with narrations by some of the people they encounter throughout the day.  Not only is it a great story for the hopeless romantic in us all, but it’s an amazing look at how people’s interactions with one another might seem insignificant at the time even though they make a big difference in the long run.

Happy Reading!

The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras

Best possible answerViviana Rabinovich-Lowe, aka Viv, was a model student and daughter for most of her life. As she headed toward the penultimate year of her high school career, nevertheless, her life began falling apart. The beginning of the end was when she fell in love with the wrong guy and trusted him with a rather personal (::ahem:: nude) photo of herself. After the breakdown that resulted from the photo being shared all over social media, Viv’s life started to unravel even further… Her parents no longer trusted her, she didn’t really have many friends, and panic attacks crept up out of nowhere. Because her grades started to suffer, too, she feared that she would never get into a good college and had ruined her life entirely. And, just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, Viv realized that her parents’marriage was beyond saving — but had no idea how to break the news to her mother.

Not only does this story serve as a great warning of the dangers of sexting, but it is also a great examination of the power of love, trust, friendship, and self-forgiveness. I can only hope this book makes it into the hands of the young people who need it.

Happy Reading!

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Lincoln's Grave RobbersWhen I first heard about this book, I just couldn’t believe it.  How was it possible that there was a plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from his grave and yet I had never even heard about it?  I admit that I was not the best history student; I much preferred math and science because I was terrible at memorizing all those names, dates, and places… but this is something I’m sure I would have remembered!  It didn’t surprise me in the least to see the depth and breadth of historical information that was included, since I’ve read other Steve Sheinkin books and listened to him speak about his research methods.  But I was definitely impressed  by the fact that, once again, he crafted a non-fiction book that read much more like a thriller than a textbook.  This is a great read for anyone who is interested in learning more about the early days of the Secret Service, money counterfeiting, and other [not always so] “organized crime” in the late 1800s.

Happy Reading!

Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen

unfoldingJonah has a terrible case of scoliosis.  He was supposed to have surgery to have his back straightened when he was a kid, but things never got that far.  He should have known better than to even take the trip out for the surgery, since Stormi warned them not to go and her premonitions always seem to come true.  It was just too tempting to think about being “normal,” though, so he went.  And while he sat in a group therapy session for kids like him who were scheduled to have surgeries at that hospital, he experienced his first seizure.  He and his father decided to head back home right away, since they didn’t want to take any more chances going against Stormi’s warning.  Ever since, both his back and his epileptic seizures have gotten progressively worse.  But he doesn’t blame Stormi.  He knows that she doesn’t make things happen; she just predicts them.  Gullary is a small town where everyone seems to know everyone and everything, so most people listen when Stormi gives a warning.  When one of those warnings is followed by the death of a classmate, nevertheless, some of the townspeople turn on her.  Jonah and Stormi run away, fall in love, and [very slowly] discover the dark secret the people of Gullary have been hiding for many years.  Though I enjoyed this unique paranormal mystery, I found that it was just a little slower to unfold than I would have liked.

Happy Reading!

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

moleculesStewart was a socially awkward prodigy who attended a school called Little Genius Academy and Ashley was a popular girl who excelled at fashion but wasn’t so great at school.  You might think this is a perfect set-up for a story in which Stewart becomes Ashley’s tutor, but that definitely wasn’t how they met.  They actually got to know one another because their parents decided to move in together.  Ever since Stewart’s mom died of ovarian cancer, he and his father have been struggling with ways to manage their grief and honor her memory while also, somehow, moving on with their own lives.  This move seemed to be the ultimate test.  Ashley’s situation was very different, but still very traumatic for her — her parents decided to divorce because her father came out as gay.  Though upset by her family breaking up, it seemed Ashley was even more concerned about what people would think if they found out the truth about why her parents divorced.  After all, being the “it” girl of her crowd was pretty much all she thought she had going for her.

When Stewart and his father moved in with Ashley and her mom, Stewart also transferred into Ashley’s school.  She was relieved to think that she would be “safe” from dealing with Stewart at school, even after finding out that he would be transferring from Little Genius Academy, because he was younger…  But then he was placed in some ninth grade classes because he was so advanced.  Trying to fit in at a new school was tough in and of itself, but it was made even more difficult by Ashley’s insistence that he hide the fact that they were now sort of related.  I really enjoyed the emotional journey Nielsen provided.  There were moments where I was so sad I nearly cried, times when I got angry with characters, moments where I found myself rolling my eyes, and others where I full-on chuckled.  The geek in me also really appreciated the fact that Stewart’s cat was named Schrödinger and that Nielsen included a part in which Stewart explained the joke to Ashley, just in case readers didn’t get it.

Happy Reading!

P.S.  Just in case there are any people considering this book for a younger teen/tween, I feel compelled to mention the fact that there are situations in which both underage drinking and sexual assault come up.  I think it was very well written and offers a fantastic conversation starter, but I didn’t feel right not saying anything.

What Light by Jay Asher

what-lightIf you liked Thirteen Reasons Why but, like me, wished that such a powerful book would have ended on a more hopeful note, you should check out Jay Asher’s latest book.  The cover and a more superficial summary might give the impression that this is a light and cheesy holiday romance, but I assure you there’s more than meets the eye.  Yes, Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and she falls for a cute guy named Caleb during the month her family spends in California selling those trees… but there is SO much more to this story!

First of all, there is Sierra’s difficulty in balancing her friendships with her best friends back home (in Oregon), with whom she *never* gets to spend the holiday season, and her best friend in California, with whom she *only* ever gets to spend the holiday season.  Secondly, there is the tension around the possibility that her parents might call it quits with the tree lot after this year.  (Though she only overheard a conversation about the possibility, it still started her worrying about what it would mean for both the family business and life as she knows it.)  The third conflict, of course, centers around Caleb.  Not only does Sierra have to decide whether she wants to invest time and emotion in starting a relationship with a guy she might never see again, but her best friend also told her a story about something Caleb did in the past.  Something pretty terrible.  And Sierra doesn’t know how to broach the subject, let alone how she might/should react if there is any truth to the story.

Coming of age, dealing with changing family and friendship dynamics, falling in love, and confronting/forgiving mistakes people have made in the past?!?  Yeah…  This is definitely *not* just a light and cheesy holiday romance.

Happy Reading!

Grand & Humble by Brent Hartinger

Grand & HumbleHarlan and Manny don’t have much in common.  Harlan is a popular jock whose parents are wealthy, well known, and politically connected.  Manny is a poor geek whose father keeps mostly to himself and is very secretive, even where Manny is concerned.  The one thing that links them together, though, is an accident that happened when they were both three years old.   Neither of them really remembers the accident or knows that the other exists — but Harlan has been having strange panic attacks that seem to hold premonitions, and Manny has been having horrible nightmares that might just have flashes of real memories.  I can’t say much more without spoiling the twist at the end, but I will say that I nearly started the book over again when the ending revealed the truths behind those panic attacks and nightmares…  And y’all know I never re-read anything!  LOL

Happy Reading!