A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

monsterA moving and heartbreakingly honest modern fairy tale.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up; maybe older for sensitive readers

Pages: 216 (for ISBN 9781406311525)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, (light) horror, drama, British import, Europe (England), Kylie’s Favorites

Tone/Style: mysterious, sad

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: monsters, fables, ill parents

Themes: being honest with oneself, death, acceptance, grief and loss, denial, change, moving on, family

Summary:  The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

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Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick (2016)

fallingJordan Sonnenblick is a staple in realistic fiction aimed at middle school readers.  His newest offering does not disappoint.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9780545863247)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, humor

Tone/Style: thoughtful, self-pitying

Pace: moderate

Topics: parental illness, strokes, recovery, dance, saxophone

Themes: family, parent-child relationships, selfishness, sacrifice

Summary: It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke . . . but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her — if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is. Continue reading

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (2016)

whenfriendship_front-165x248If you want issues, this book has got them.  Lots of them.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9780803738164 )

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: resigned, exploratory

Pace: moderate

Topics: dogs, cancer, writing, magicians, libraries, adoptees, abuse

Themes: illness, belonging, finding meaning, grief and loss, death, change

Summary: Ben Coffin knows from foster care that people can leave you without a good-bye. That’s why he prefers to hide out in the Coney Island library with his sci-fi novels, until he rescues an abandoned dog from the alley next door. Scruffy little Flip introduces Ben to fellow book lover Halley—yes, like the comet. Some call her Rainbow Girl for her crazy-colored clothes, but for Ben it’s her laugh, pure magic, the kind that makes you smile away the stormiest day. Continue reading

The Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica (2009)

6455553Football fiction with depth and heart.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 244 (for ISBN 9780399246265)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, sports fiction

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The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2015)

the-nest-9781481432320_hrA mind-bending horror great for reluctant readers.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9781481432320)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, psychological

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