Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Absolutely True Part-Time Diary of an Indian
Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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After a school incident provokes a teacher to challenge fifteen year-old Junior, he leaves the school on the Spokane Indian Reservation for an all-white school in a nearby town with better resources. At first, Junior’s new schoolmates shun him for being different, and at home, his friends shun him for being a traitor and leaving the reservation. Through cartoon drawings and frank narrative, Junior wrestles with his own sense of value and the value of his people.

I think part of what makes this story so powerful is the fact that … Continue reading

Review: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke NijkampThis Is Where It Ends
Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher

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It begins with the closing of the principal’s speech at Opportunity High. Confusion rustles through the auditorium as students discover the locked doors. Then one door opens, and a boy enters. A boy with a gun.

Four alternating viewpoints, each a student with a connection to the shooter, relate this tense, heartbreaking tale about a community ripped apart by violence. The story spans fifty-four minutes.

This Is Where It Ends includes a diverse body of characters across lines of race, religion, and sexual preference. As a YA reader and reviewer, I’ve commented before that I wish there were more stories featuring Muslim … Continue reading

Review: On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

On a Clear Day by Walter Dean MyersOn a Clear Day
Walter Dean Myers
Crown Books for Young Readers
Published: September 23, 2014

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Since her mother’s death, Dahlia has simply survived. On her own in a rundown apartment, she waits for a way to make her life mean more. Then two boys offer her a chance to make a difference. She joins other teen prodigies in brainstorming a strategy to take down C-8, a group of corporations that have the world in a stranglehold. But just as Dahlia and her team stumble onto something big, a big-shot terrorist comes to town. The team knows he must be stopped, but taking him on might simply be playing into the … Continue reading

Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowThe Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster

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Most of Greta’s memories are from her time spent at the Precepture as a Child of Peace. Though she’s the crown princess of the Pan-Polar kingdom, she and other child royals live together in the secluded school. If their countries declare war on one another, their lives will be forfeit. For Greta, whose homeland stands on the brink of war, reaching adulthood seems an impossibility.

When a new boy enters the Precepture, he’s bound and determined not to let the system dominate him. Greta’s always been careful to follow the rules, but now she finds herself challenged by Elián’s behavior. As their nations inch … Continue reading

Review: Escape from Sudan by Amanda DiCianni

Escape from Sudan by Amanda DiCianniEscape from Sudan
Amanda DiCianni
CreateSpace Independent Platform
Published April 24, 2014

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When soldiers attack his village, fifteen year-old Elijah Bwoko and his best friend become separated from family members. They receive word that Elijah’s sisters have been taken as slaves to a village several days’ journey away. In order to reach the girls, the boys must sneak past the soldiers who enslaved them and find a way to set them free. Then the group will have to escape across the border of Uganda. If they can get to the refugee camp there, they can apply for passage to America for freedom and safety.

In straightforward prose, DiCianni relates the story of a … Continue reading

A Brilliant Novel In Poetry: Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Locomotion by Jacqueline WoodsonLocomotion
Jacqueline Woodson
Speak, Penguin Group

Lonnie Collins Motion learns to pour out memories and feelings in a poetry journal. He writes about the night his parents died. About his little sister, Lili. About his foster mom. About the teacher he admires who doesn’t understand what his life is really like. His story unfolds, poem by poem, packed with emotion and insight.

One of the most powerful things about a novel-in-poetry is the power of each line. The narrative has been distilled down to just a few words, yet it’s enough to paint a complete picture of what Lonnie sees and experiences. There are simply not enough stories like this one, both in its approach to storytelling and in the story itself. Lonnie is easy to love – his … Continue reading

Review: Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold by Patricia McCormickSold
Patricia McCormick
Disney-Hyperion

Beneath the oppressive rule of her stepfather, Lakshmi and her mother carve out a meager living in their remote village in the mountains of Nepal. They dream of a life of plenty: a tin roof, a jacket for the baby. Lakshmi dreams of the day she will marry the village boy to whom she is betrothed.

Monsoon rains and her stepfather’s gambling addiction destroy the family’s crops. Lakshmi learns of a job in the city. She can work as a maid and send money home to support her family. A beautiful woman comes to escort her to her new home. But something isn’t right. Money changes hands. More money than Lakshmi can imagine passes from the lovely woman to her stepfather. She is taken over … Continue reading

Review: The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell

The Merit Birds by Kelley PowellThe Merit Birds
Kelley Powell
Dundurn Press

Furious. That’s how Cameron feels about leaving Canada during his senior year and missing his star spot on the basketball team. That’s how he feels about his dad being gone. And how he feels about living in Laos for a year with his mom.

Then Cam meets Somchai, who turns out to be a better friend than all of his friends at home combined. He meets Nok, the shy massage therapist who teaches him about doing good deeds for others. He begins to fall in love. With her gentle smile. With the slow, peaceful rhythm of life in Laos.

Nok’s brother Seng longs to do something useful. To save his sister from the knife’s edge of poverty. To … Continue reading

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