Archive for the ‘Realistic Fiction’ Category

New Books Highlight: The Harder Side of Life

This week I found three books on the shelves that all take up subjects most of us just shy away from. Books are so great that way: visionary authors can make you love someone you wouldn’t look twice at in real life, can make you have empathy for situations you’d normally brush off as scary, or unreal, or too far away from you to care about. Get ready to care about these three stories, and expand your mind past your preconceptions

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagdendear life

Cricket Cherpin – yep, that’s his name – lives as an orphan in a group home in nowheresville Maine, looking out for the younger boys, worrying his caretakers and worrying about what comes next. He’s read his file and he knows they think he’s a little dangerous, but he’s not sure if his future holds danger or if he can regain control. Or if he should just cut his losses and dive off a cliff. He’s on the verge of getting kicked out of the home, but he’s got eight more months there before he turns 18 and finds out if he’s got what it takes to make it. This is a hilariously dark story for all you fans of John Green and Sherman Alexie.

Sneak Peek! “The shrinkadinks think I have a screw loose. Ain’t playing with a full deck. Whacked-out wiring. Missing marbles.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Scott Blagden)

Crash & Burn by Michael Hassancrash and burn

This is the story of Stephen Crashinksy (“Crash”) who saved his high school from a massive assault planned by David Burnett (“Burn”). In one instant, a regular morning at high school results in ADHD-sufferer Crash becoming a hero, and schizophrenic Burn becoming an anti-hero notorious for his crazy and dangerous scheme. It’s really the story of Crash and Burn’s ten-years growing up together , not as friends, never knowing their fates would be tied in such a strange way. This story is obviously not for the faint of heart, because it looks deeply at several very serious subjects: mental illness and school violence among them. That said, it’s raw, rad, funny, and crazy.

Sneak Peek! (from the prologue) “I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m not exactly the hero that everyone says I am.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Michael Hassan)

When We Wuz Famous by Greg Takoudeswhen we wuz

Francisco has fought his whole life to be bigger than his Spanish Harlem upbringing might let him. He earns good grades, plays killer basketball, and gets a big-time scholarship to college. When he’s there, he’s pushed and pulled to be the kid from the ‘hood that his college peers want him to be. When he’s back at home, he struggles to be himself and not the kid who goes to a posh school, just the guy that his girlfriend, Reignbow, and friends have come to rely on. But between these struggles, Francisco must make choices about himself, and how powerless he may be to define that.

Sneak Peek! “Are you ready to hear it? Let’s begin by saying what this story is not. For starters, it’s not crap. That’s not to say this story is any good – it’s just not packed with lies.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Greg Takoudes)


New Books Highlight: Books that Sound Great!

Prophecy by Ellen Ohprophecy

Kira is a Demon Slayer, the Prince’s bodyguard, and the only girl in the King’s army. In short, she doesn’t have a lot of friends. She’s a complete outcast, actually. But because of what makes people fear her, her ability to see the demons who kill and then possess innocent people, she will play an important role in saving her society. Demons are growing in strength, and the prince might be the fabled savior predicted by an ancient prophecy, so it’s all Kira can do to keep him safe and try to unravel the mystery of the prophecy. Rooted in really cool Asian mythology, this book gives a new spin on the female main character who has to save the world. Plus, it’s the first in a trilogy (of course) so you have more great stories to anticipate.

Sneak Peek! “People feared Kira. They called her the Demon Slayer to her face and much worse behind her back. It didn’t matter that she was a first cousin to the crown prince or that she’d saved his life from a demon attack. Ten years was long enough for most to forget what really happened and instead to believe the rumors that began soon after.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Ellen Oh)

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Labantragedy paper

Told in alternating viewpoints by two students at the same prestigious boarding school, separated by one year, this is a riveting read that will have you hooked by the end of the first chapter. Tim’s story is that of being an outcast, and finding forbidden love in the form of the girlfriend of the most popular guy in school. Duncan’s story is that of being given the story of Tim’s senior year – a gift from Tim to Duncan, left in the small dorm room they both were assigned to in their final year at Irving. Duncan dares to turn Tim’s story into his Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of the senior thesis in which every senior must define tragedy. Their lives are intertwined in more ways than one and Duncan  must strive to understand why before he can move beyond Irving.

Sneak Peek! “As Duncan walked through the stone archway leading into the senior dorm, he had two things on his mind: what ‘treasure’ had been left behind for him and his Tragedy Paper. Well, maybe three things: he was also worried about which room he was going to get.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Laban)

Being Henry David by Cal Armisteadhenry david

He wakes up with no memory, no ID, alone in Penn Station with $10 and a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. With no idea who he is, he becomes Henry David – Hank – and does all he can think to do, make his way to Walden Pond, the setting of the book, the only possession he seems to have. Hank begins to understand that his mind is blocking his past from view, but he can’t imagine what trauma caused him to purposely stop himself from knowing his own past. As he sleeps in the woods near Walden Pond and tries to begin life over, memories come back in pieces and he fears the stranger he learns about – himself.

Sneak Peek! “The last thing I remember is now. Now, coming at me with heart-pounding fists. My eyes shoot open, and there is too much. Of everything. Blurred figures, moving. White lights. Muffled waves of sound. Voices. Music. Chaos.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Cal Armistead)

TAB Book Review: The Wanderer


The Wanderer

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech is a beautiful story of identity told in diary entries. Sophie has always loved the sea. She has three parts to her personality. The dreamy side, the logical side and the stubborn, impulsive side which is the one she uses to convince her family to let her get on a boat and sail to England with them. Leaving her parents behind, Sophie gets on her uncle’s boat named The Wanderer with her three uncles and two cousins. At first only Uncle Dock appreciates Sophie. Uncle Stew and his son Brian are super organized and constantly make lists and get on everyone’s nerves by bossing them around. Sophie’s uncle, Mo, doesn’t do much besides yell at his son Cody and sit around drawing. Cody, writing the other half of the book as a homework assignment, is “charming in a dangerous sort of way.” He fights a lot with his dad but makes a lot of jokes. He purposely mixes up sailing terms and everyone wonders if he can ever be serious.

As they sail to England, Sophie struggles to accept her past and Cody wonders if he can prove himself to his dad.

This exciting story is full of mystery and adventure as these wonderful characters and Newbery Award-winning author will take you on a journey you won’t forget.

–  Written by TAB member Sabine P.

New Books Highlight: Chance Encounters

This week I picked out three new books – new books that are just DYING to be taken home and read – that are all about chance encounters and are all very different from each other. Don’t you just love that as a plot element? Think about it: The Fault in Our Stars, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Shine by Lauren Myracle…the list of books that hinge on wonderful chance encounters between two characters is practically endless! But then I started thinking, in some ways, aren’t all books about chance encounters in some ways? That’s deep.

Three Little Words by Sarah N. Harvey

Sid has grown up happy in a quiet, contented sort of way, on a remote island with loving foster parents who have never made him long for his real parents. When Fariza, a new young girl arrives and becomes part of his foster family, things begin to change for Sid. Then, in the midst of an otherwise normal summer, a stranger lands on the island with something to say. Sid’s mother and a half-brother he is just now learning about, have gone missing and he is compelled to help find them and reconnect with the family he might wish he never had.

Sneak Peek! ” Sid, this is Fariza.” Sid looks up at the sound of Megan’s voice. She is standing in the kitchen doorway, her hand resting lightly on a little girl’s head.” (Text copyright © 2012 Sarah N. Harvey)

After Hello by Lisa Mangum

Amateur photographer Sara thinks she is just accompanying her father on a totally regular trip to New York City until Sam wanders in front of her camera lens.  Intrigued by his strangeness, she agrees to accompany him as he wanders around the city on a series of missions, trading information and items for others. Along the way during their day-long journey around the city, they meet artists and other interesting people. Sara’s world is undeniably altered…

Sneak Peek! “I shouldn’t have noticed him. I wasn’t even looking in his direction at first.” (Text copyright © 2012 Colored Paper Clips)

Discovering Wes Moore by Wes Moore

At first glance, this title might sound like a pretty boring name for a memoir. Author Wes Moore discovers himself? Actually, it’s more interesting than that. By chance, author Wes Moore discovered another person with the same name as him, but a very different story. The author’s life wasn’t perfect: his father died, a move to a new city shook him up and he started skipping school and getting into trouble, but thanks to his own determination and his mother’s hard work and love, he excelled in life. When he was a successful senior in college, he read about a man named Wes Moore who was serving a life sentence for murder. Moore realized the story could have been his own. He contacted him and so began a strange friendship.

Sneak Peek! “Nikki and I were chasing each other around the living room. Every time she caught me I’d scream, but I loved every second. I was three.” (Text copyright © 2012 Wes Moore)

Author Visit: Lisa McMann

At 6:30 on Monday, February 11, New York Times Bestselling YA and youth author Lisa McMann will grace Shorewood Library with her presence!

McMann is the author of the Wake trilogy (Wake, Fade and Gone), along with other YA titles Dead To You and Cryer’s Cross. Her latest YA offering, Crash, comes out this month. Check out some of her books before she arrives, plan to get some signed, and most of all, enjoy hearing this big-name author speak this February!

Haven’t read the Wake trilogy? Pick it up ASAP!

Wake tells the story of Janie Hannigan whose rare, if not exactly wonderful, gift of being uncontrollably drawn into other people’s dreams has meant her life is a little different from that of  the average high school student. When Janie starts visiting the dreams of mysterious loner Cabel,  she begins to realize the full extent of her power. In Fade, Janie uses her power for good: to unravel a mystery involving a possible sexual predator who is plaguing her high school. Janie also becomes privy to some information which may tell her more about her fate, but she might not want to know. In Gone, we delve more deeply into Janie’s personal life and the ways that her dream catching power has helped and hurt her.

Dead To You is a starkly realistic – even tragic – story of 16-year-old Ethan De Wilde, who was abducted when he was young but lost the memory of his life before then.  When Ethan seeks, and finds, his real name and story, he is reunited with his torn-up family – but nothing is that easy. There is mystery and more in this gripping psychological story.

Her newest book, Crash, out now, is similarly dark, supernatural and psychological. Jules Demarco is suddenly plagued by the same vision repeated everywhere – of an accident involving a snow plow crashing into a building and killing nine people. Why is she the only one who sees this? Has it already happened, or is it something yet to come? As she realizes what she is seeing, she knows it is her mission to try to stop it from happening.

McMann’s offerings for a slightly younger audience, The Unwanteds series, show how skilled of an author she is. The Unwanteds is a fun, fantastical adventure story – completely devoid of the supernatural and psychological details that make her YA books so riveting. In Quill, a sort of dystopian land where 13-year-olds who show any creativity are sent away, twin brothers Alex and Aaron are abruptly separated when Alex is proven to be a creative Unwanted and Aaron is named a Wanted. While Aaron gets to continue to live his life in Quill, distinguishing himself in university, Alex is sentenced to death. But when he meets the man who is supposed to take him to his death, he learns what really happens to Unwanteds – and takes us to the wondrous and magical land of Artime.

New Books Highlight: Dude Lit

How about looking at some books that really have guys’ interests at heart? I mean, not every book out there has to involve a love triangle.

The Bridge by Jane Higgins

In a bleak war-ridden future world: Nik is a high school student destined for greatness as a member of ISIS, the Internal Security and Intelligence Services. But when Nik is passed over, his life changes tracks. Soon, his best friend Sol has gone missing, and Nik is on the hunt, even if it means crossing over from the relative safety of Cityside into the dangerous outside world of the Southside. But ISIS is also on the hunt, for Nik.

Carter’s Unfocused, One-Track Mind by Brent Crawford

You might remember Will Carter from Carter Finally Gets It and Carter’s Big Break. Here he is in his sophomore year at Merrian High, without having learned much from the previous year’s hilarious and socially disastrous events. Carter’s on the bench for football, in a state of confusion over his on-again off-again girlfriend, and primed and ready for a fight with just-out-of-juvie Scary Terry Moss. Brilliantly funny.

Momentum by Saci Lloyd

Set in a future less bleak but just as divided as that of The Bridge, this story is a gripping thrill ride. The privileged Citizens and struggling Outsiders of future London live completely separately. The government, run by the Citizens, is not a friendly one, but Hunter has to live with it since his father works for them. When Hunter meets, and soon teams up with, Outsider Uma, he is awoken to the secret world of the Outsiders.

New Books Highlight: Really Real

Are you a fan of realistic books? Books that tell it like it is? Books that show you people just like yourself and those that are startlingly different? Books that explore huge problems that anyone could encounter (but hopefully won’t!), and small problems that plague every average human? Then check out these new gritty, realistic new reads that will have you pondering life’s deeper questions…

(P.S. New to the New Books Highlight: First lines (or first few lines) to get you hooked! For every title I recommend here, I’ll include the first line to give you a little sneak peek!)

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Harper Scott’s sister June died right before her high school graduation. And now their parents are splitting up. They also insist on splitting June’s ashes in half, and there Harper draws the line. She and her best friend Laney steal June’s ashes and set off for California to set things right and offer one last tribute to June. Shady Jake Tolan comes on the scene, offering Harper solace – yet also the possibility of another devastating revelation about June’s death, through his mysterious connection to her.

Sneak Peek! “According to the puppy-of-the-month calendar hanging next to the phone in the kitchen, my sister June died on a Thursday, exactly nine days before her high school graduation.” (Copyright Hannah Harrington, 2011)

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin

Alex and Thea Parrot are rich, privileged, loyal and jealous sisters throwing the party of the year when their parents go out of town. The story that unfolds is full of the grit of friend, family and romantic relationships stretched to the max and possibly torn apart as Thea tries to take what Alex has (popularity, looks, and more). Narrated from the alternating perspectives of the sisters, this is a delve into a psychological reality you will be both startled and drawn in by.

Sneak Peek! “She gets into the car and then she can’t drive it. Can’t even start the engine for the gift of the air conditioner. She is a living corpse roasting in sun-warmed leather.” (Copyright Adele Griffin, 2012)

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Becca longs to break free from her suffocatingly small town. When she discovers a corpse on the day after her high school graduation – the day the freedom she has longer for is finally within reach – she retreats into herself, afraid of the horror that has come so close to home. Becca’s summer is spent in near-madness as her story becomes intertwined with that of the corpse, Amelia Anne. A little horrifying, totally gritty and raw.

Sneak Peek! “They found her just after dawn on June 24th, crumpled awkwardly  by the side of the road with a rust-colored blossom drying in the dirt beneath her.” (Copyright Kat Rosenfield, 2012)

Meet the Morris Award

There are so many book awards these days. Whoever says that reading is a dying art has not explored the world of book awards! There also seem to be an increasing number of awards for YA books, which is great for us YA fiends. Here’s one that you might not know about, but which is really worth exploring: The William C. Morris Award, given by the American Library Association, honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. Looking at the award nominees for this unique award is a great way to find authors you might not have heard of yet! Here’s the list of this year’s nominees:

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby


Historical fiction. Set in Depression Era America, Wonder Show follows Portia Remini who is on the run from the creepy McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, and on the hunt for her father.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Romance. Amelia is 15 and her grocery store coworker crush is…a little older. Set in Australia, this is a funny story of heartbreak and love and, above all, awkwardness.

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett


Post-apocalyptic. In the year 2059 a new Ice Age took the world. Willo Blake was born into this freezing future and must search out his  family after they mysteriously disappear from their mountain home.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post


Realistic/LGBT. The early 1990s was not a great time for the plight of LGBT teens. This fictional look at that time in history tells the memorable and moving story of gay teen Cameron as she makes her way through a gay conversion center.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Fantasy. Dragons and humans co-exist – although not in total harmony – in this cool fantasy debut. Orphan Seraphina grapples with her identity in a magical world rife with scandal and secrets.

TAB Book Review: The Misfits

No one is exactly the same and not everyone fits in, especially in middle school. The Misfits by James Howe features a unique group of friends who call themselves the Gang of Five, even though there are only four. Bobby, the narrator, is overweight and his mother died of cancer when he was younger. Addie is tall, smart and outspoken. Colorful and fashionable Joe is gay and Skeezie is the tough, leather jacket type. All four are labeled and called names but they stick together and their funny, loveable personalities are more than what meets the eye.

Addie decides to run for student counsel at their small middle school in Paintbrush Falls, New York, but the group faces many problems being the misfits of the school. Even the teachers won’t let them run.

Meanwhile, Bobby sells ties for the dreaded Mr. Kellerman or “Killer Man.” He also has a crush on a girl but doesn’t know how to tell her. The kids continue to get bullied but want to do something about it.

This touching, laugh-out-loud book is unforgettable and leaves you with a smile on your face and tears in your eyes. There is a special place in my heart for the Gang of Five.

-Reviewed by TAB member Sabine P.

Short Books for a Long Weekend

It’s finally here! The most-anticipated long weekend of the fall: Thanksgiving break. School is closed, so if you don’t play a winter sport you probably don’t have much else going on this weekend other than finally seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 (but ONLY because you have to see how it all ends), spending a little time with your homework, and stuffing yourself on stuffing.

You probably also have a few minutes to fill and you KNOW you have a lot of fun reading to catch up on. So here’s a short list of short books to fit into your loooooong weekend. Most are so short that you could read a few and brag about how many books you finished this weekend when you get back to school on Monday…

A Certain October by Angela Johnson (158 pages)

Angela Johnson’s books are nice and drama-packed for being so short. Main character Scotty sees herself as pretty boring, without her friends who add the spice to her life. But when an accident leaves Scotty feeling guilty and her family reeling from the trauma, even her closest friends can’t get through to her. Life becomes a haze where Scotty can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. Can anything wake her up to the joy that life holds once more? Because of the length of the book, you don’t have to worry about waiting too long to find out.

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci (175 pages)

This engaging, fast-paced read is written in alternating chapters of regular narrative and graphic novel story. The narrative chapters tell the story of Tessa who tries to hold it together when her big crush falls for her little sister. She is driven towards a strange loner, who might just be what she needs. The graphic novel chapters are a sort of mythological metaphor about a girl, who is sort of like Tessa, with Medusa hair and Medusa powers: she goes around turning everyone at school to stone; something Tessa only wishes she could do. You’ll be flipping through this comic-novel hybrid quickly, while wishing there was more.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (227 pages)

Everyone’s read everything by John Green, right? You haven’t? Then take these few days off of school to catch up and start with the short novel, An Abundance of Katherines. Possible genius Colin has been dumped by 19 different girls name Katherine. And that’s a lot considering that most of us know maybe three. So in order to get a grip and maybe make a change, he sets off on a road trip with his buddy Hassan and his beat-up old car. Colin and Hassan’s road trip will have you laughing all the way to the end, probably in one sitting.

You can find more quick-to-read books in this list of Shorewood Library YA books under 250 pages: Short on Time?!