The Lovely Reckless

Francesca “Frankie” Devereux comes from “the Heights.”  After witnessing the beating death of her boyfriend, Noah, Frankie develops selective amnesia and PTSD – she can’t remember any of the details surrounding the incident, and she’s subjected to harrowing flashbac20161021_092425.jpgks to that night.  Frankie starts taking more risks than the “old” Frankie would, and one of those risks – driving while intoxicated – lands her in a lot of hot water.

Frankie’s mom sends her to live in “the Downs” with her undercover cop dad, who works a lot and doesn’t spend much time with Frankie.  In her new public school, Frankie still has the allies of her two closest friends, Lex and Abel (who are both also attending the public school), and she’s meeting new people.  One of those people is tattooed and sexy bad boy, Marco Leone.  As part of Frankie’s probation, she works at a rec center after school, and one of her charges is Marco’s little sister, Sofia.

Through the book, Frankie tries to figure out who this “new” Frankie really is – she’s not the same girl that she was before Noah was murdered – and find her way through a minefield of challenges.  Her mother is still trying to push her back into the girl she used to be, her father wants her to stay out of trouble (and Marco is trouble with a capital T), and Frankie just wants to remember what happened the night Noah died.

Getting mixed up with Marco exposes Frankie to a dangerous crowd.  Can she make the right decisions to keep herself and those she loves safe?  Kami Garcia’s The Lovely Reckless takes us on a fast-paced journey through the world of street racing, car thefts, and kids just trying to find their way.

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What Light

In Jay Asher’s brand new novel, What Light, we get a sweet holiday story with some beautiful emotional rollercoasters thrown in for fun.  Sierra, the main character, has spent her life living two lives – one, living on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon for most of the year, an20161016_160807_resizedd two, traveling down to California each “tree season” to work with her parents on their family tree lot.  She has two best friends in Oregon, Rachel and Elizabeth, and one bestie in California, Heather.

Finances indicate that maybe this will be Sierra’s final season in California.  Her Oregon friends would love for Sierra to stay in Oregon year-round and experience the winter holidays with them, but Sierra is torn as she loves Heather, too, and the life-long routine of visiting California each Thanksgiving-to-Christmas.  This year, Heather wants Sierra to find a holiday fling so she can double-date with Heather and her boyfriend, Devon.

Of course, this means a dark and handsome potential love interest.  Caleb comes in to the tree lot to purchase a tree, and Sierra is instantly intrigued by him.  However, Heather warns Sierra that Caleb is not fling material.  No better love than the forbidden, right?  Sierra continues to get to know Caleb, and obstacles ensue from all sides.  The biggest obstacle of all is that Sierra is leaving to go back to Oregon after Christmas, so why fall in love now, especially with a boy who everyone is vehemently opposed to Sierra dating?

Too much more will spoil the plot, so I will wrap this up by saying Asher’s characters are so well portrayed and the plot so skillfully woven that I was crying by the end.  And if you can make me cry with a story, you’ve effectively done your job as an author.  Read Jay Asher’s What Light.  You won’t regret it (except when you finish and there’s no more to read!).

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Hate List

In the aftermath of a school shooting, Valerie Leftman is both victim and victimized.  Her boyfriend Nick was, after all, the school shooter, who took his own life as well as those of their classm20161013_091525ates.  Valerie did what she could to stop the shooting, ending up shot herself in the process.  That doesn’t matter to the police and the public – she helped Nick compile their “hate list,” and so Valerie is also implicated in the crime.

Jennifer Brown’s Hate List takes a long, hard look at the survivors of a heinous school shooting.  Valerie not only has to deal with her own emotional response – she did love Nick, despite the tragic ending – she also has to face her own guilt as an accomplice to the list that led to the shooting.  Her family is broken apart – Dad’s moved in with his new girlfriend, and little brother Frankie practically lives at his best friend’s house.  At school, many of her peers look at Valerie as part of the problem.  One of the intended victims, a girl whose life Valerie saved, is determined to make Valerie her friend.  Even talking to a psychiatrist on the regular doesn’t seem to be helping.

The aftermath through Valerie’s eyes gives perspective to what hate can build to.  Along the way, Valerie learns about herself and who she really is, as well as who she wants to be.  Brown’s skillful characterization of Valerie shows both the selfishness and latent selflessness that Valerie learns to recognize as part of the healiing process.

Definitely a book worth reading.

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Falling Over Sideways

I admit up front that I was biased going into this book – I have loved everything Jordan Sonnenblick hasfos written, and as a teacher, have a warm place in my heart for him since he offered to give me advice on a student when I was new to the profession.

That being said, THIS BOOK ROCKS.  We all remember how much eighth grade can suck, right?  Well, Claire’s eighth grade year isn’t going too well.  There are mean girls in her homeroom, a boy she used to be friends with who somehow became her enemy and has been so all through middle school, and her dance friends were moved up into the high school classes early, while Claire stayed behind in the “baby” dance classes.  Her older brother Matthew is the perfect son – perfect athlete, perfect student, perfect boyfriend – and Claire just can’t catch a break.  In fact, one night, she yells at her father (what teenage girl hasn’t?) and tells him maybe he needs to struggle some more after he tries to lift her spirits by cracking some jokes.  The next morning over breakfast, a medical emergency strikes her father, and not only is Claire wracked by guilt, now her whole world has tilted on its axis.

Sonnenblick is incredibly skilled at taking serious medical topics (pediatric cancer in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie) and adding just enough wit and humor that the story makes you cry not from depression, but from the sheer joy of the writing.  Claire’s interactions with her family, friends, frenemies, and enemies are realistic and have true depth.  I cried a couple of times in the reading of this book.  You’ll have to read it yourself to see where, but trust me – Falling Over Sideways is another Sonnenblick winner.  And no, he didn’t pay me to write this review.

Though this is young YA – Claire is still in middle school – I would still recommend it highly.  A skillfully woven story with beautiful humor to balance out the struggles of the characters as they try to rebuild their life with a Dad that’s not quite who he was before the medical emergency that changes . . . well, everything.

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Dorothy Must Die

dmdThe first in a series by Danielle Paige, Dorothy Must Die is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz.  Our new protagonist, Amy Gumm, is another Kansas resident who grew up believing the L. Frank Baum books about Oz were fiction.  But when a tornado does to her what it did to Dorothy Gale, well, Amy learns that Dorothy was, in fact, real – and that she, Amy, has been recruited to take Dorothy out.

Upon Amy’s arrival in Oz, she thinks that much like Dorothy in the book/movie, she MUST be having a fantastical hallucination when she is greeted by an odd road of yellow brick and a boy who welcomes her to Oz.  But this is not Dorothy’s Oz as we know it – the true princess, Ozma, has deferred to Dorothy’s rule.  Dorothy has become very power hungry and is sucking the magic right out of Oz, with the help of Glinda the not-so-Good.  Amy meets some non-flying monkeys (the only way to escape Dorothy’s control is to cut the wings off) and others who tell her of the decline of Oz since Dorothy’s return.

While imprisoned for treason, Amy is recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked – a coven of witches and others who want to restore Oz to pre-Dorothy rule – as the one who must kill Dorothy.  Her mission is fourfold – Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, Steal the Scarecrow’s brain, Take the Lion’s courage, and then kill Dorothy.

So in this crazy world of Oz, Amy has to figure out who to trust, how to take on this mission to restore Oz, and how she can get back to Kansas – if she actually WANTS to go back.  Dorothy Must Die is the first book, and the series continues with The Wicked Will Rise and The Yellow Brick War.

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