While I’m Falling
Adult / August 1, 2018

Author: Laura Moriarty. Summary: Ever since her parents announced that they’re getting divorced, Veronica has been falling. Hard. A junior in college, she has fallen in love. She has fallen behind in her difficult coursework. She hates her job as counselor at the dorm, and she longs for the home that no longer exists. When an attempt to escape the pressure, combined with bad luck, lands her in a terrifying situation, a shaken Veronica calls her mother for help–only to find her former foundation too preoccupied to offer any assistance at all. But Veronica only gets to feel hurt for so long. Her mother shows up at the dorm with a surprising request–and with the elderly family dog in tow. Boyfriend complications ensue, along with her father’s sudden interest in dating. Veronica soon finds herself with a new set of problems, and new questions about love and independence. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Stuff I Liked: – A clear, engaging writing voice. I find Moriarty’s writing to flow easily, even through long paragraphs of character introspection, and mixes “telling” and through it a deeper level of “showing” casually. – Alarmingly relatable. I’ve never been in anything even vaguely like Veronica’s position…

Orbiting Jupiter

Author: Gary D. Schmidt. Summary: When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him: Joseph almost killed a teacher. He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain. He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her. What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl. Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help. But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine. (Published Summary). My Thoughts: A story of bad decisions and worst consequences, told through the straight-forward, simple voice of a boy. Or, more optimistically, a story of love and responsibility and overcoming prejudice. Joseph made a very bad choice or two – at the age of thirteen, with only an abusive father to support him – but his response is multiple levels above many real-life men in similar situations. The moment he finds out that he’s a father, his one goal becomes finding his baby daughter, to love and care for her. Jack, his foster brother, must find bravery in a…

Enter Title Here
Young Adult / February 12, 2018

Author: Rahul Kanakia. Summary: Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians…

Wild Bird
Young Adult / December 29, 2017

Author: Wendelin Van Draanen. Summary: 3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp. The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive. My Thoughts: This turned out to be a surprisingly uplifting story. Wren is a highschool student spiraling down hard and fast towards a crash landing that might be deadly. It all started small, when – lonely and unhappy in a new school – she made a single bad choice and accepted drugs (just this once!) from a new ‘friend’. Fast forward three years, and Wren is still lonely and unbalanced. But now she’s also addicted, shoplifting with her friend, running errands for what is essentially a teenage drug ring,…

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…