YA and Middle Grade Reviews: Week of 4/10/17

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Find me on Goodreads for ALL the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

YOUNG ADULT

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity. Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

OPINION

“I’ve never felt quite so 17” ~ that line pretty much sums up this perfect, quirky, and quietly hilarious YA coming-of-age story. I mean, I’m 20 years older than 17, but WAS 17 while reading this book….it took me back to the exquisite agony of a crush. Of growing apart from friends as we grew older. Of having to decide to drink or not drink in the name of fitting in. Of being trapped at a party when your driver decides to drink. Of feeling like you’re the only one not in a relationship, or making out, or having sex, or any of the myriad of things teens can obsess about.

The part that made me decide to give the 5th star, which I was on the fence about for a little bit, was Molly’s body acceptance. Molly isn’t stick thin, and while she does recognize this and struggle with the fact that she can’t picture HER body getting naked with a guy, she doesn’t want to lose weight. Not once does she wrestle with eating or not eating or obsessive exercise or diet. NOT ONCE. I adore that so much. She stands up for herself when a guy makes a jerky comment about her weight, and stands up to her grandmother’s fat-ist comments later in the book. I could go on and on about this – it’s my favorite.

Her friendship with Reid is adorable and their texts made me laugh out loud. As for all of the majorly diverse characters, I know Albertalli used sensitivity readers in the writing of this book to ensure the accuracy of her depictions of same-sex relationships. I respect that in so many ways, and also respect her right to write these characters. Required purchase for high school libraries, and required reading for anyone who was ever 17 or who will be 17 in the not-far future. Due to lots of sexual references, I would recommend for ages 13 and up.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

 

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION:

1777. Albany, New York.
 
As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival those of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, Eliza can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.

OPINION:

Let’s be clear: the number one reason I was so excited about this book is because I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat with my kids. The second reason is the author. With my fangirl lens disclaimer taken care of, I will say that I’m also a school librarian and made sure to read this book with Chernow’s “Alexander Hamilton” biography next to me, and used it for reference during my reading of “Alex and Eliza”. de la Cruz states clearly in her author’s note that this story is her fictional embellishment of this love story, and it certainly is, with 2 events toward the end of the story being invented. However, the majority of the re-telling DOES follow the timeline and historical locations of real events, sometimes to the point of overkill in details.

History lesson aside, let’s focus on the love story here, which was very enjoyable! I can’t think of a better way to entice teenagers to read about US History than this book, with an accompanying lesson on historical fiction and how to decipher fact from fiction thrown in for good measure. I would recommend this for middle and high school libraries. When I think about current YA and the sweeping military stories included in even the most fantastical stories, this fits right in. The only difference is that it’s based on real people! Hamilton fans can rejoice in that, and “Hamilton? Who” readers can enjoy it as a stand-alone piece of fiction 🙂

Recommended for fans of Richelle Mead’s “Glittering Court” and The Winners Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

I received a digital ARC of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

MIDDLE GRADE

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar (Nancy Paulsen Books ~ April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
 
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

OPINION:

This middle grade #ownvoices novel about a Cuban-Jewish immigrant in the 1950s is a poignant story of fitting in and recovery. Ruthie Mizrahi is based on the author as a child, and the emotions of the real-life trauma are unmistakable in the story. This is a powerful tale and readers will feel all of Ruthie’s pain, sorrow, and joy as she works her way through the year – from accident to body cast to bed-ridden to discovering art and finally recovery. Her friends and neighborhood are a depiction of the melting pot that America truly is, and it is a delight to have this authentic and culturally diverse book to add to middle grade shelves. Recommend for all elementary and middle school libraries.

*my one and only objection to anything in this book is a small one, but worthy of mention from a current school librarian and former special education teacher. Ruthie mentions and objects numerous times during the book to being placed in the “dumb” class in school because of her beginning English skills. While I understand this was the term used at the time in the 1950s, I do cringe a bit thinking of this word being used during a read-aloud of this book in schools, or having students encounter this word and depiction of special education while reading independently. If I were reading this to students, I would either 1) discuss how “dumb” was used during that time period, but now we all know that that is not what special education classes are, or 2) replace the word during read-alouds. In my mind, this is worth mentioning to students during booktalks and such.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this title for review, all opinions are my own.

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails (Harper Collins – April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Since Steffy was little, she and her older sister, Nina, have lived with beloved Auntie Gina. But when Steffy and Nina’s dad comes home to live with them, everything changes.

So Steffy does what she does best: She cooks her way through the hardest year of her life. But sometimes her life feels like a kitchen-sink meal—too many ingredients that don’t quite work. All Steffy wants is for her family to be whole again. Can her recipes help bring them back together?

Steffany Sandolini is…

1 cup perseverance

2/3 cup listening skills

2 tablespoons talent

1 teaspoon loyalty

A dash of stubbornness

And more ingredients she hasn’t thought of yet. How will she mix them all together?

OPINION:

Steffany grabbed my heart right away and did not let go through the entire book. This emotional food-centric middle grade story deals with sisterhood, family, alcoholism, and traumatic brain injury without being teach-y or preach-y about any of them. The topic of alcoholism is not covered nearly enough in the middle grade world these days, and I welcome this addition. There are so many kids dealing with this in their lives, and knowing that they are not alone is so important.

I absolutely adore these foodie characters, and this book will be snatched up by fans of last year’s hits – Kat Yeh’s “The Truth About Twinkie Pie” and “The Thing About Leftovers” by C.C. Payne. All three of these books are different enough that they are not derivative, but will each touch readers in a different way. Another favorite of mine to add to that reading list (a bit older) is Joan Bauer’s “Close to Famous”. The fact that this book is written by a school librarian is apparent, because Nails so clearly knows her intended reader. Highly recommended for grades 4-7.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review ~ all opinions are my own.

3 thoughts on “YA and Middle Grade Reviews: Week of 4/10/17

  1. Miss R and I are just wrapping up The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Lucky Broken Girl may be next up! Thanks for the great recommendations… as always!

    Like

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