Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern

Astrid’s almost in her final year of high school, but that’s something she’s not focusing on at all. Astrid has a brain tumor.  A few years ago the tumor showed up and with treatment it went away, but now it’s back with a vengeance. Astrid’s mom, really wants her to sign up for a new experimental treatment, but Astrid isn’t sure that’s the best option for her.  Astrid knows deep down she’s not going to make it this time. Astrid starts exploring her treatment options and she learns about cryopreservation. The chance of waking up some time in the future when there’s a cure available for her tumor is appealing.  In order to learn more and seize control of her life Astrid, her boyfriend Mohit and her best friend Chloe go on a life changing road trip to the cryopreservation research center. Fear of Missing Out is great realistic fiction that looks closely at death and decisions surrounding it. 

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Hilarious and sweet, this epistolary novel keeps the reader turning the pages. The premise is adorable: two 12 years old girls from opposite sides of the country are sent to the same summer camp by their single gay dads who are planning to woo each other on once in a lifetime trip to China. Bette and Avery are Dogfish and Night Owl. They refuse to speak to each other at camp (because their dads want them to learn to be sisters) so they email each other. Nothing goes as the girls (or their dads) plan but the story is heartwarming — and the double cross of the reader at the end is killer!

The Bridge Home

Lovely. Amazingly, a solidly middle grade story about escaping child abuse by running away on the streets of a city in India. Join the friends Viji, Ruku, Muthi and Arul as they create family and provide for each other until tragedy strikes. Ms. Venkatraman is able to convey all this in a child’s voice and at a child’s level.  One of the best books I have read in 2019.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Have you read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo? This is the devastatingly beautiful sequel. You can read it without having read the previous book, but not matter what, read it. It is vintage Kate DiCamillo — loopy, sweet, painful, sorrowful and lovely. One of the best books I read this year.  I will recommend it to adults as well as kids: meet Granny and Louisiana and Burke and Clarence the Crow and Reverend Obertask and Miss Lulu the organist who tortures Bach and the merciless Bernice in curlers! Recommend it to the nearest reader. Read it out load to your favorite person. It may heal something inside of you to read this book. Betsy Bird calls it “a slim, handsome novel about grace.”

(If you’ve objected in the past to Kate DiCamillo books, this one is clean and disciplined and stays pointed to true north the whole time.)

Slider by Pete Hautman

David loves all things eating.  He loves eating anything and everything, in fact he even times himself when scarfing down pizza to see how he matches up to other competitive eaters.  David’s ability to shove insane amount of food in stomach comes in handy when, he accidentally bids $2000 instead on $20 on a famous competitive eater’s half eaten hotdog on ByeBye.com.  Now David has to come up with a plan to get $2000 before his mom realizes the charge is on the card.  Turns out the local pizza chain is hosting their first ever competitive eating contest at the end of the summer and the prize is $5,000. David gets his besties to sponsor his entry and his summer adventure to win begins.

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Blade is trying to escape his life.  Born into a family of musicians, his dad Rutherford is in the headlines every other day for his drunken antics.  Rutherford even crashed Blade’s graduation, where he was planning to perform an original song for the first time.  Blade’s beginning to realize the love of his life, Chapel, might not be feeling the same way. To top things off in the midst of huge family fight Blade’s sister Storm announces that Blade is actually adopted.  Blade decides he’s done with his family and he sets off to find his real mom in Ghana, but has no idea what truths await him there.  Solo is written in verse and filled with music; including original pieces written by Blade (if you listen to the audio you can hear them too).

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl

Tess de Costa hears a voice that no one else can. When this voice tells her to save a local fisherman, everyone one in her town starts to treat her like a real life saint. They come to her for blessings and prayers and attribute all kinds of “miracles” to her.  After Tess tragically dies, her mother leads the charge for the pope to officially recognize her sainthood, but the two people who knew Tess best, her sister Callie and Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, feel this is betrayal of her memory. They remember Tess as someone who wanted to be a normal teen and only reluctantly carried the unfair expectations of an entire town. Danny and Callie set out together to sabotage the process and prove Tess was not a saint, which leads them to confront some hard truths about themselves, old family secrets, and the tragic mystery behind the kidnapping of a local girl.

A Psalm for Lost Girls doesn’t give any easy answers. Bayerl address a number of difficult issues from grief to mental illness with the thoughtfulness and gravity they deserve. Every character is vivid and feels like someone you know. Bayerl combines all this in a highly readable and fast-paced story. Fans of Jandy Nelson and Lauren Oliver will want to check this out.

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall

Troy’s life has been a roller coaster lately.  His mom passed away and now it’s just Troy, his dad and grandma.  Things have changed so much and Troy has started to get into trouble with his best friend Foster.  When Foster and Troy are busted for their most recent incident they are given the option of working at the horse stables in the city instead of going to juvie.  Cleaning up after horses does not seem like a great option, who wants to spend their time shoveling horse poop? But, Troy and Foster get a chance to learn to ride the horses too.   Troy begins to enjoy working with the horses and even starts to get excited at opportunity to join the stable’s polo team, but Foster is not interested at all. Troy really begins to bond with a horse named, Chance, who he rides during polo practice.  As Troy gets more involved at the stables he has to make decisions about his friendship with Foster and also how to handle some tricky situations that come with the other polo players.  Riding Chance is a great read for fans of G. Neri and Jason Reynolds.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Rashad is a boy trying to navigate high school. He’s clean cut, an ROTC kid, and he has mad art skills. Quinn is also a boy trying to navigate high school: he’s on the basketball team and he’s really focused on impressing all those college recruiters. Rashad is black and Quinn is white. They have mutual friends, but don’t really know each other; it’s a big school. Rashad has an older brother, a very strict father, and a warm, loving mother. Quinn’s mom takes care of him and his younger brother because his dad died while serving in the army. Quinn is on the basketball team with his best friend, Guzzo. And although Quinn didn’t witness what happened inside the corner store, he was outside and witnessed when Rashad was taken down by a white cop and dragged out of the and brutally beaten. This police officer just so happens to be Guzzo’s brother, and is like a second father to Quinn.

This story is told from two different perspectives with alternating chapters, and the incident is portrayed through both the point of view of victim and bystander. It will bring up many significant questions: How do you choose sides––especially when someone you once respected is in the wrong? And if we want the violence to stop, how do we end it? This is a hard-hitting contemporary, realistic novel and it forces you to question what it means to be all American. It also makes you ask: Why is Rashad absent again today? And what does that mean?

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