Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Published by Algonquin Young Readers 10/7/2014
Leila is an Iranian-American teen who’s into Zombie Killers movies and perfect hiding places (in order to avoid running during soccer). Not really in any clique, she’s surviving high school alongside her friends Tess and Greg. Even though she’s dated and kissed boys over the years (including Greg), Leila never crushed on anyone. That is until this summer when she was kissed by a girl – whoa! Now its fall and Leila’s back in school. Worried that her classmates will discover her secret, she works tirelessly to hide it from her friends, from the other students and from her Iranian-American family. However, once she starts crushing on the new girl Saskia all the lies and half-truths come crashing down.
Sara Farizan writes a powerful coming-of-age story where Leila doesn’t struggle with her own feelings towards girls so much as how her family, friends and fellow students will feel about her. The evocative prose pulls us into the high school milieu where the vagaries of students push and pull Leila in one direction or another, where mean girls exist regardless of whether they kiss boys, girls or both, and where one finds true friends by being true to themselves. Ms Farizan – a lesbian of Iranian ancestry herself – will have readers laughing as ethnic and sexual stereotypes are upended and worrying about Leila as Saskia’s behavior gets out-of-control. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is an excellent read that teens, both gay and straight, will find engaging and thought-provoking.
Side Note: For further reading on Iran and homosexuality, Deborah Ellis’ Moon at Nine is a fascinating historical fiction about lesbian teens and their life and death struggles in 1988 Iran.
I am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 6/17/2014
After his last mission Zack went off the grid to think, but “Father” managed to track him down. For his next assignment, his name is Daniel and he must complete a mission where another teen assassin failed. The target? A crazy ex-lieutenant colonel who runs a military camp for teens. It’s supposed to be an in-and-out mission – go to a recruiting event and get it done, no going into the camp. But when events take a turn for the worse, Daniel heads into camp against “Father’s” orders.
Allen Zadoff, a master of writing non-stop action & adventure stories, does it again with I Am the Mission. From his first words to the last sentence, readers are drawn into the assassin’s mission where everyone is a suspect and every snap of a twig sends our hearts racing. At one point, I had to put the book down just so my heart would stop pounding! The feints within feints and the fast-paced action will keep even the most reluctant readers hooked. Give this to any teen who likes spy novels or adventure stories; just be prepared for the question, “when is the next one coming out?”
My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books 6/3/2014
Once upon a time, before high school, Colette and Sadie were best friends, but Sadie quit talking to Colette the summer after 8th grade. Now at the end of 11th grade Sadie has invited Colette to Greece. When asked why, Sadie says “I need you” thereby invoking their promise from years ago. Colette doesn’t understand, but goes anyway – with the support of her father, but not her mother’s or her boyfriend’s – hoping to discover the truth about why they are no longer friends.
Caela Carter adroitly weaves the heart-breaking story of two friends, their broken friendship, and the unspoken cause of the rift with the exquisite beauty of Santorini. Told from Colette’s point-of-view, readers are left in the dark alongside Colette as she struggles to find the truth, as she struggles to understand what happened. While the reader catches on to a piece of the truth before Colette, our jaws drop when we learn of the final betrayal. Needless to say, the breath-taking descriptions of Santorini, swimming in the volcano, and watching the sunset leave the reader with the desire to hop the next plane to Santorini to reconnect with friends and find love. Ms Carter’s written a beautiful story about honestly, love, and giving people a second chance that teens will devour.
The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
Published by Sourcebooks Fire 4/2014
Six months ago Lexi’s father died. Her mother, unable to deal with his death, gets pushed farther off the deep end when she discovers Lexi is a lesbian. Her mom’s response – God must be punishing her. Lexi will do anything to help her which includes spending the summer at an ex-gay camp. With a motto “say goodbye to homosexuality”, Lexi knows it will be bad. The good news… Lexi realizes that all the girls there are lesbians as well (yippee!) and the one that just walked in the room is really beautiful! Clearly she’ll have some trouble saying “goodbye to homosexuality.”
Jessica Verdi takes a well-meaning Lexi and drops her into a cringe worthy environment. An environment where nature is manicured to perfection (ha!), where girls must wear pink clothes and boys must wear blue clothes (ugh!), and where everything about New Horizons including the director makes readers queasy. However, in the midst of this horrific setting, Ms Verdi organically allows friendships to grow, realizations to develop and truths to be told. In addition, she brilliantly succeeds in making The Great Gatsby a character as Lexi & Carolyn interpret passages and covertly exchange notes in the margins in the book.
The Summer I Wasn’t Me is not for the faint of heart for some of the stories shared as well as some of the events in the book are awful. While it’s a hard to read, it’s a powerful story that will have teens talking. Pair this with copies of The Great Gatsby as readers will want to determine if Nick is really in love with Gatsby…
Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Gemma’s summer plans go askew when her boyfriend of two years dumps her and her mom & step-father are headed to Scotland. Instead of staying home, she’ll spend her summer with her dad in the Hamptons. Not so bad unless it happens to be the place where she wreaked havoc five summers ago. As Gemma heads out of town, chance encounters, mistaken names, and trying to right wrongs collide and mayhem ensues. What’s a girl to do?
Katie Finn masterfully creates Gemma’s crazy world where everything that can go wrong will go wrong and where “karma’s a bitch” seems to apply more than “forgive and forget.” The story has the readers so caught up Gemma’s life that we want to scream at her and tell her to stop the scheming because it will only make things worse! Interwoven in the story are twists and turns that surprise even the most jaded of us in addition to an ending that leaves us stunned. Ms Finn takes readers on a ride of mayhem and no holds barred revenge and all I can say is HOLD ON!
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
Published by Wendy Lamb Books 5/27/2014
In the Golden family, there are two sisters: Nell and Layla. This year Nell, a freshman, joins Layla, a junior, at City Day High School and Nell knows this will be the best year of her life. Except it isn’t. Something is wrong with Layla and Nell needs to find out the reason why. But the worst part, the worst part is figuring out what to do with the information once Nell knows the why.
Dana Reinhardt places most of Nell’s story inside her head as she looks back on her freshman year and her sister’s behavior. Nell’s ongoing monologue is interspersed with hints regarding Layla and with the dead Creed brothers, Parker and Duncan, acting as her conscience. Ms Reinhardt expertly weaves the interplay between the sisters and Nell’s struggle to find the truth. The tension becomes palpable as Nell gets closer and closer to the truth and as she determines what must be done with it. Ms Reinhardt produces another thought provoking story that readers will quickly devour.
If your readers are looking for another sibling story, The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt will touch you profoundly. Boaz, a marine, has returned home from war a changed man and Levi, his brother, will do whatever is necessary to reconnect – to know the changed Boaz.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press 5/13/2014
Cadence Sinclair Eastman spends summers with her extended family on their own private island near Martha’s Vineyard – she, her cousins, and Gat are the Liars. Cady used to be described as blond, strong, and pretty, but not anymore. During “Summer Fifteen” on the island, something traumatic occurs and Cady is left with migraines and no memory of the event. Now it is “Summer Seventeen” and Cady is trying to piece together the lost summer and the lost memories.
The title of the book tells the readers right off the bat that the narrator is unreliable, but what we aren’t prepared for is the clean and lyrical prose E Lockhart uses to blow our socks off. Alongside the narrative, Ms Lockhart provides the readers with bits and pieces of truth through princess tales Cady has written. These tales shed light on her family’s dysfunctional dynamics. Ms Lockhart also uses evocative metaphors to describe Cady’s pain since speaking about said pain is unacceptable. Cady’s truth and fiction are so expertly woven that readers will be up long into the night to discover what is actually true. Once again, Ms Lockhart has given readers a brilliant and powerful story to savor.
Give this to fans of Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffen and vice versa.