Left Neglected
Adult / December 16, 2017

Author: Lisa Genova. Summary: Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most. My Thoughts: Left Neglected plunges us straight into the hectic life of Sarah Nickerson, a highly successful career-driven executive and mom. There’s no time to think as she whirls from email to breakfast to helping kids back to email ontowards school drop-off and then she’s rushing off to work already behind. The writing is so good at immersing you in Sarah’s juggling act that the first couple of chapters are actually stressful. Then one rainy morning no different from any other, careening down a 70 mph highway, Sarah’s life comes to a screeching…

Turtles All the Way Down
Young Adult / November 1, 2017

Author: John Green. Summary: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I’ve never had a mental illness, so I can’t really say (as I would like to) that this is good portrayal of clinical anxiety and intrusive thoughts. I can tell you it made me uneasy, so much so that I had to put the book down several times and come back to it after a few minutes. I can tell you I’ve had nights that echoed the spiral-trap of Aza’s thoughts, a circling panic ungrounded in reality, and if it was only a pale echo still the writing-stirred memory had me flinching. I can tell you I believed her. That was the thing. I believed Aza. If you…

Once and for All
Young Adult / October 28, 2017

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants. My Thoughts: Wow, I’ve never seen a Manic Pixie Dream Boy before. You know what a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is, right? Quirky and cute and believes in life, there to remind the MC to eat ice cream and enjoy the sunset and things will turn out all right? Well, that’s who Ambrose is. Or who he’s meant to be – he’s not all that cute, and he’d definitely drive me mad. He has lots of quirky little things like blowing out a candle as soon as he lights it for a wish (majorly impractical when you’re lighting a whole bunch for wedding tables) and constantly fiddling with everything from the radio to the tape dispenser (just reading about it had me twitching). He…

The Wednesday Wars
Young Adult / October 12, 2017

Author: Gary D. Schmidt. Summary: Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Bernadette: Surprisingly good! The first-person narrator, a teenage boy, is very authentic, from his occasional cluelessness to his flashes of insight and wry understanding of the high-school ecology he lives in. The characters around him become…

What To Say Next
Young Adult / September 21, 2017

Author: Julie Buxbaum. Summary: Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world. KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.   DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth? My Thoughts: I don’t feel strongly about What To Say Next either way, and I’m…

The Impossible Knife of Memory
Young Adult / August 4, 2017

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson. Summary: For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Passing two boys, “Others would stick out their boobs, push their butt high and swing it side to side to say ‘check it out. Like it? Want it?’ Some girls are stupid.” “When he dumped some girl named Zoe she blasted a disrespectful description of his man-parts on the internet. Topher responded with photographic evidence she was lying.” Advices boy going on date to “keep your pants zipped”. Character finds out her father was…

Just Listen
Young Adult / June 19, 2017

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store. This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.   (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Realistic-fic has never been my personal preference, especially not in YA, but I do read it from time to time. And as par for course, Just Listen wasn’t a favorite from the books I’ve read recently, but I did like it. The main arc for Annabel is learning to speak up, to tell the truth but almost as importantly just to say something, anything at all. And I know that’s an important lesson to learn. I know because it’s something I can always stand to hear again, because I have friends who could stand to hear it…

The Impossible Knife of Memory
Young Adult / May 25, 2017

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson. Summary: For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? (Goodreads summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Passing two boys, “Others would stick out their boobs, push their butt high and swing it side to side to say ‘check it out. Like it? Want it?’ Some girls are stupid.” “When he dumped some girl named Zoe she blasted a disrespectful description of his man-parts on the internet. Topher responded with photographic evidence she was lying.” Advices boy going on date to “keep your pants zipped”. Character finds out her father was…

Like the Red Panda
Young Adult / May 22, 2017

Author: Andrea Seigel. Summary: Stella Parrish is seventeen, attractive, smart, deeply alienated, and unable to countenance life’s absurdities. She is not nihilistic; she is prematurely exhausted. Since her parents OD’d on designer drugs when she was eleven, she has lived with well-meaning but inexperienced foster parents, while her grandfather, her only living relative, tries ever more ingenious ways of committing suicide in his retirement home. Here are the last two weeks of Stella’s senior year in Orange County, California: the intensive AP final exams; the childish, celebratory trips; the totemic importance attached to graduation. Beneath Stella’s mordantly funny take on her life is the decisiveness with which she disengages from it, planting clues and providing explanations for those who will try to understand the act she is about to commit. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: As the story of an atheistic girl’s loss of hope for meaning in life, and subsequent slide into clinical depression and suicide, Like a Red Panda is certainly well-written in terms of believability and depression on the reader. It was not the type of story I meant to pick up, and I didn’t enjoy it. Content Review: Sexual content: Young girl asking a neighbor if he…

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Young Adult / May 21, 2017

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Summary: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual Content: Light kissing. “They’d waited more than a year, until they were both ready. And then one night, […] it had happened right here on this couch.” Characters “end up tangled together” – they’re engaging in sex, but it’s no more explicit then that. Language: 6 scatological terms, 3 hell Violence: Two boys fistfight, and a nearby girl gets accidentally hit in the eye. Other: Some under-age drinking.