High School


5M4B disclosure

allthebrightplacesI didn’t really want to read this book, but I was curious. Two teens meet on the ledge of a bell tower and change each other’s lives. It’s being compared to The Fault in Our Stars (as is any emotionally resonant new YA fiction these days), which has been criticized for romanticizing cancer. I don’t agree with that assessment of that title, but I did worry that this novel would somehow romanticize suicidal feelings. But I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.

If I didn’t want to read All the Bright Places, I definitely didn’t want to be enchanted by the sad story, but I was. Violet is a girl dealing with the tragedy of losing her sister in a car accident a year ago. Violet and Eleanor were both in the car. Eleanor died. Violet lived. That’s a lot for a 17-year-old to handle. It’s changed her, but maybe it’s changed her into the Violet she should have been in the first place, more cerebral, less concerned with popularity.

Theodore Finch is known as Freak. He’s always changing his look and his outlook. There’s rebel Finch, 80’s Finch, Prep Finch, but who is the real one? He deals with anger and depression and suicidal thoughts. Violet captivates him, and he eventually breaks through the shell she’s built up around herself.

The book captivated me. It was a little angsty, self-absorbed, as is much of YA fiction, which creates that great combination of looking back to my past and relating with the teens in my life. But it quickly got real, too real. Finch’s battles with mental illness are inexplicable and since they are mostly seen through his POV, they aren’t explained away, which is real. We don’t often get the luxury of understanding.

When I attended kidlitcon 2013, we had the conversation about needing diverse literature. It’s thankfully a conversation that has continued. Some of the stats about people who are underrepresented in children’s and YA literature stuck with me. A big one was the number of teens who are affected by mental illness (anxiety, depression) versus the very low number of characters who have this struggle in literature. If nothing else, this book gives us that accurate representation.

The author’s note at the end of the book tells us that “every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide,” and “every 40 seconds someone is left behind to cope with the loss.” Jennifer Niven shares about how she’s dealt with being a survivor of suicide and pleas with anyone who is struggling to get reach out for help and provides a list of resources.

This is a good book. It’s a hard book, but if we are truly looking to YA lit to mirror the concerns and realities of teen lives, then they will not only address first love, but bullying, labels, neglectful parents, loss, and suicide. This book has it all.

It doesn’t come out for a few more weeks, January 6, 2015, but it’s going to get a lot of buzz in the year to come. It’s already been optioned as a movie with Elle Fanning attached to it.


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David Baldacci Books for Everyone in the Family #Giveaway

David Baldacci is a familiar name to many adult fans of the legal thriller genre, but did you know that he has also written for tweens and teens? On 5 Minutes for Mom, we’re featuring two Baldacci novels as part of the ongoing Christmas Giveaway Event. While The Escape is his latest for adult readers, older tweens and teenagers are the target audience for The Finisher, released earlier this year. To read my full review and enter to win copies of both books, along with a $25 Visa card, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom. While you’re there, be sure to browse all the Christmas Giveaways going on this month.
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Revisit Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer with Penguin Classics

When was the last time you read Mark Twain’s classics Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I’m fairly certain I read Huck Finn’s story way back in high school, but I don’t think it really struck a chord with me until a few years later. I attended Elmira College, a small school in western New York located in the town in which Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) resided for many summers with his wife’s family who hailed from Elmira. Every day, I would walk past an octagonal study relocated to campus from the land on which the family lived, and it was thrilling to know that Clemens wrote some of his best work inside that little building, including these two novels. Each of the new Penguin Classics editions feature an introduction
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5 Books to Read with Your Teenage Daughter {Friday’s Five}

I’ve read some passionately written posts in which the blogger gets very upset about the fact that grown women are devouring Young Adult literature. Oh my. And many of them are mothers, no less. It’s scandalous! My teenage daughter would describe those kinds of people as ‘judgy’. We don’t like when people are judgy. We like to read what we want, and we like to share stories with each other. If she doesn’t think it’s weird to read the same novels as her already weird novelist mother, then why would I complain? I write my novels for the future adult in her, so the least I can do is read the ones she already loves right now. Here are five of our favorites: Walk Two
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Joy School by Elizabeth Berg

I’ve read Elizabeth Berg’s fiction for adults and a writing book she wrote. I enjoy her voice and her characters. Brilliance audio released her novel Joy School on audiobook late last year. I didn’t realize it was a Young Adult book until I started listening, but I feel like I enjoyed the sort of coming-of-age story as much or more as the target audience would. Fourteen-year-old Katie Nash is an interesting character. Her dad is in the military, so she’s recently moved and isn’t sure where she fits in at school. Her uncertainties and desire to find her niche come through loud and clear. Her uncertainties about herself are amplified, because her mother has passed away, and so there are things that she has trouble
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Just Call My Name

I read I’ll Be There to get up to speed on the characters whose story continues in Holly Goldberg Sloan’s new book Just Call My Name. The first book was fine. The characters certainly intrigued me, but I wasn’t 100% wowed. Wanting to follow the characters, and especially knowing there was another book hat was going to continue the story kept me reading. This book had a stronger pacing than the first one. Maybe it’s just because the scene was set, and I already knew the characters and the situation. The characters each had a lot of growth during this novel, and new characters were introduced as well. The background from the first novel that led into the story is this: Seventeen-year-old Emily is singing
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Subway Love

Jonas is struggling through a summer in NYC. It’s kind of hot, he’s kind of bored, and he’s ticked off at his dad who left his mom for another woman. Laura is struggling a bit too. Her older brother is a total hippie, rebelling against authority, using mind-altering drugs. Her mother has shacked up with a guy closer to her brother’s age than her own. Her parents are divorced too, so she spends time commuting between her mom’s home in Woodstock and her Dad’s apartment in NYC. Jonas and Laura meet on the subway one day, but they are truly star-crossed lovers. They have to hurdle time and space and schedules and brothers and friends to be together, not to mention the pleas of a
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Deep Blue

I frequently enjoy YA books, as they may be meant for teenagers but still appeal to the kid in me, too. Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly felt more like a book that needs a teenage girl to truly appreciate it. This first book in the Waterfire series is set under the ocean and features the world of mermaids. Serafina is the princess of Miromara, and she is getting ready to celebrate her Dokimi, which is a series of tests that prove that she is ready to take on the mantle of ruler one day once her mother dies – as this is a matrilineal society and the men don’t rule. It is also when her betrothal to a prince from another kingdom will become official. In
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The Revealed

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Me and You

Lorenzo is a 14-year-old boy. He’s a bit of a misfit, and though his parents support him, they wish he would make more friends. He’s been under the care of a therapist trying to help him reach out (I think he’s somewhere mildly on the spectrum). He himself vacillates between being happy on his own and wanting to fit in with the others at school. This desire to fit in causes him to fantasize about tagging along on the ski trip he hears the popular kids talking about. He voices the fantasy to his mom, which results in a spiraling lie that ends up with him spending the ski week hiding out alone in the basement of his building. He’s an only child, sort of.
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Happy to Be Alive, Because

Avery has a summer to remember. It doesn’t start off that way, far from it. During her senior year in high school, her mom got cancer. When she passed away, Avery was lost. Her mother is all she has, and all the plans she made in her last year of high school — like staying at the local community college after she graduates — were all made so she could help care for her mother. After receiving yet another casserole from a well-meaning friends, she feels like she has to get away. When she finds some tickets and a travel itinerary for a trip her mother hoped to take with her to her hometown on the beach. Avery decides to take the trip alone in
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Love and Other Foreign Words, a 5-Star Read

Josie is a precocious 16-year-old girl. She loves languages, and she’s become an expert at all of the languages she hears each day: her best friend Stu speak (even Stu Chewing), those of her volleyball teammates at school, the college kids she sees each day in her Early College Program, sisters, fiancees, parents and more. The word most on her mind is love. Her older sister Kate says she’s in love, but Josie knows Geoffrey Stephen Brill is not right for her. She can’t be in love with him. Kate, he’s the single most uninteresting person in the world. You’re not really going to marry him, are you? Is this a delayed rebellion? Is this the boyfriend you should have had when you were sixteen
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