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

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.
Continue reading

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

Miles Morales: Spider-man by Jason Reynolds (2017)

milesUltimate Author Jason Reynolds brings Ultimate Spider-man Miles Morales to novel form in a surprisingly complex superhero story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9781484787489)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, superheroes, diverse (Black, Latinx)

Tone/Style: urban, cool (There’s got to be a better word than “cool” but I don’t know what it is. This book just has a lot of swagger)

Pace: moderate

Topics: superheroesboarding school, crime, urban life, mixed-race families

Themes: (with great power comes great) responsibility, protecting others, familydefying a destructive family legacy

Summary: Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man. Continue reading

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (2017)

felix yzThis unusual story with an LGBTQA+ diverse cast is both humorous and thought-provoking.

Recommended grade level: 6-8

Pages: 283 (for ISBN 9780425288504)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, humor, LGBTQA+, diverse

Tone/Style: epistolary, conversational

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: aliens, accidents, impending surgery, crushes

Themes: death, family, being different 

Summary: Felix is thirteen. When he was three, because of a science experiment gone wrong, he was fused with a fourth-dimensional being named Zyx, who communicates by using Felix’s fingers to type. Counting down to a risky procedure to separate them again, Felix blogs about a boy at school he likes, a bully, his mom’s annoying boyfriend, the threeness of things, and more, and we meet an Estonian chess grandmaster, Felix’s piano genius sister, his gender-switching grandparent, the denizens of the House on Harmony Street, and many other quirky and fascinating folks. (Source) 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

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (2014)

family-romanovA dramatic true story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   304 (for ISBN 9780375867828)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, history

Tone/Style: informational

Pace: moderate

Topics: Russia, royalty, wealth, revolution

Themes: family, excess, class struggle, war, leadership

Summary:  Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew. Continue reading