Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)

InsignificantA smart and hilarious voice sets this apart from other books in its genre.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:   262 (for ISBN 9781454923459)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, mystery, ability diverse

Tone/Style: blunt, humorous

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: differently-abled people, theme parks, moving, making friends, new experiences

Themes: perseverance, independence, family, being different, friendship

Summary: Aven Green gets that question a lot. She loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Continue reading

Posted by John David Anderson (2017)

postedA thought-provoking look at bullying and changing friendships, with just a touch of silliness in the mix.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  384 (for ISBN 9780062338204)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: both light and serious, thoughtful

Pace: moderate

Topics: bullying, LGBT issues, new friends, friend abandonment, technology

Themes: change, friendship

Summary:  There was a war. This is where it ended.

I can’t tell you exactly when it changed, when it spiraled out of control like a kite twisting in the wind. When it stopped being something funny and clever and became something else. Maybe there was no single moment. Maybe underneath all the squares plastered on the walls and notebooks and windows there was the same message over and over. We just ignored it because it was easier to stomach that way.

Continue reading

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)

long wayAn unforgettable novel in verse about one boy’s role in a cycle of violence.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9781481438254)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, diverse, own voices, African-American, reluctant readers, award winners

Tone/Style: spare, hard-hitting

Pace: fast

Topics: inner city life, gangs, ghosts

Themes: revenge, grief, cycle of violence, decisions, family

Summary: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
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Speed of Life by Carol Weston (2017)

speed of lifeThough it is ostensibly about grief, most readers will be more touched by its frank and empathetic exploration of common and often unspoken relationship struggles experienced by young teen girls.

Recommended grade level: 7 or 8 and up

Pages:   329 (for ISBN 9781492654490)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, romance

Tone/Style: personal, angsty

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: death of a family member, advice columnists, mixed families, first relationships, when to have sex, moving, new school

Themes: grief, moving on, growing up, friendship, family

Summary: Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on. Continue reading

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009)

if-i-stayA dramatic, emotional story about family and love.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   201 (for ISBN 9780525421030)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction in spirit, though it has a dash of fantasy; romance

Tone/Style: serious, sad

Pace: moderate

Topics: grief and loss, accidents, music, choices

Themes: death, family, hope, romantic love, purpose

Summary: Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving. (Source) Continue reading

Well That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (2017)

awkwardIt’s Cyrano de Bergerac with smartphones. Diverse and thoroughly modern.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:  320 (for ISBN 9780670013081)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, romance, diverse

Tone/Style: modern, youthful, sarcastic

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: cons, technology, crushes

Themes: friendship, dating relationships, growing up, change

Summary: Gracie has never felt like this before.  One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything—and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. Continue reading

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)

Romance laced with social issues and philosophical musings.

Recommended grade level: mature 8th graders and up

Pages:   348 (for ISBN 9780553496680)

Genre(s) and keywords: romance, realistic, diverse

Tone/Style: contemplative

Pace: moderate

Topics: Asian-Americans, African-Americans (sort of; she is technically Jamaican), undocumented immigrants

Themes: love, romantic relationships, fate, chance, finding meaning, preparing for the future

Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story. Continue reading