All We Have Left

Cover image for All we have left

Title: All We Have Left

Author: Wendy Mills

Summary: Alia and Jesse both have trouble understanding their parents and why they act the way they do. Alia wants to be a comic book artist, but her parents insist that she study for a more ‘respectable’ profession. Jesse knows why her parents are heartbroken: Her brother Travis died inside the World Trade center on 9/11, and they have never gotten over it. Both girls break the rules and have to face the consequences of their actions: Alia loses her chance to study at a prestigious art camp after being caught with someone smoking in the school bathroom and Jesse is ordered to volunteer at a local community center after she and her friends are caught vandalizing a local business. These young women have never met, but they are connected to each other, though neither of them knows it: One of them is living in the past, and the other in the future. Alia will be a firsthand witness to devastation, and Jesse will live through the long wake of its aftermath.

This book is thought-provoking and gut-wrenching. As the stories of Alia, Jesse and Travis  weave together, you will find yourself turning the pages faster and faster to see how it works out, hoping things will be different than you already know are in the end. Serious, surprising and deeply moving, this is a fantastic book to share with the adults in your life: You’ll want to understand more about what they experienced on that terrible and tragic day.

Who will like this book: People who like to cry. Anyone interested in what life was like before and during the attacks on September 11, 2001. Readers who like stories where characters are strangers who are secretly somehow connected to each other.

If you like this, try this: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan.  For mature readers: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Some Kind of Happiness


Title: Some Kind of Happiness

Author: Claire Legrand

Summary: Finley can hardly believe that her parents are sending her to stay with her dad’s family – whom she has never even met – for the summer so they can work out their issues with each other. After all, it’s hard enough for her to recover from her crushing bouts of sadness which leave her unable to leave her bed sometimes. At least Finley has the Everwood: a fantastic world she has been crafting and refining her whole life about an enchanted forest filled with secrets and adventure. Carrying her notebook of stories with her, she has no idea what to expect. What she finds is a family brightly bursting with life – sweet-natured cousins, loving aunts and perfectly poised grandparents – and more: a house built on the edge of a wild forest that Finley knows in her heart is the true Everwood she’s been dreaming about. As the summer goes on, it is in this place that she discovers that it’s not just the characters in her stories hiding a devastating secret.

This gorgeous and dramatic book is a must-read for anyone who likes realistic fiction. Finley’s struggle with the reality of her parent’s difficult relationship, the new realization that big families come with expectations, and the unpredictable feelings that threaten to destroy her might break your heart, but you won’t want to put this down until you know how it all turns out. Lyrical and unrelenting, this is a book to share with friends and the adult readers in your life so you can all talk about it together. Finley and her family are unforgettable.

Who will like this book: People who like stories about big families, especially families with secrets. Readers who like books about storytelling and characters with wild imaginations. Aspiring writers. Fans of books featuring mysteries from the past.

If you like this, try this: See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Boxers & Saints


Title: Boxers & Saints

Author/Illustrator: Gene Luen Yang

Summary: In this stunning masterwork, Gene Luen Yang tells an epic story across two books about young people facing the devastating consequences of war in 18th century China. Little Bao and Vibiana both live in the idyllic but impoverished rural countryside with families that are facing challenges. Soon, inspired and driven by the hidden magic surrounding them (Bao by the god-kings of Chinese mythology and Vibiana by the legend of Joan of Arc), they each embark on a journey through the rapidly-changing world around them, finding themselves as they endure the upheaval, war and devastation that comes when people with different points of view cannot coexist peacefully. When their paths finally cross, neither will be the same.

It probably doesn’t matter in which order you read these dual narratives, but I’d suggest you start with Boxers. You might not learn too much about this famous colonial-era Rebellion in your history classes, but this story will immerse you in the violent and bloody struggle between those who wished to reject foreign influence in China and others who welcomed it. You will  be moved by both of these young people as they find themselves leading their people towards an unthinkable destiny, each believing they are right.

Who will like this book: Graphic n0vel readers. Fans of historical fiction and stories laced with magic and spirituality.

If you like this, try this: Yang’s Printz-winning work, American Born Chinese. Another fantastic graphic novel with a supernatural element, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol.For another era in Chinese history, take a look at Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. For more on the history of this era, read The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Every Exquisite Thing


Title: Every Exquisite Thing

Author: Matthew Quick

Summary: Nanette O’Hare is a good girl. She’s been a great student, star athlete and loyal friend with her future mapped out for as long as she can remember. When her favorite teacher gives her a copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, an obscure paperback with a cult following. She seeks out the mysterious author, who lives near her in suburban New Jersey and her friendship with him changes everything. Questioning why she just goes along with everyone else’s idea of who she should be, Nanette stops it all and embarks on a new adventure: Finding out who she is on her own terms. Rejecting expectations, falling in love and leaping wildly into possibility, Nanette begins to author her own story instead of following the plot that has been written for her since before she even had a say in the matter. But life isn’t a fairy tale and sometimes there are sad and serious consequences for rebellion.

Matthew Quick is one of the best writers of mature young adult fiction working today and he maintains his track record with this new book. With characters so real you feel like you know them already, Every Exquisite Thing is a terrific choice for anyone who wonders about the ‘whys’ behind all the rules young people are expected to follow. While Nanette may not exactly be a role model, she just might inspire you to think a bit more deliberately about your own choices and the path you choose to walk.

Who will like this book?: People with inquisitive, curious minds who like to ask questions and find unexpected answers. Readers who like stories with unique and witty protagonists. Anyone whose life has been changed forever by a book.

If you like this, try this: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, also by Quick. A non-fiction book about going your own way (with darker results), Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Terrible Typhoid Mary


Title: Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America

Author: Susan Bartoletti Campbell

Summary: In turn-of-the-century America, typhoid was a serious and deadly illness. It was spread through unsanitary behaviors such as not properly washing hands or living in close contact with sick people in cramped environments. However, this was before people understood ‘germ theory’ – the idea that microscopic things, invisible to they eye – cause disease. For many people, this was not science, but silliness. Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant with an impeccable record as a servant and cook employed by rich families in New York City, was a medical marvel: While she carried the typhoid bacteria, she was not herself, visibly ill or suffering from the symptoms of the disease. After several outbreaks in homes she worked in, including some that were fatal, Ms. Mallon was identified as the cause and her life and reputation would never be the same.

This engaging story brings up many interesting questions: Did ‘Typhoid Mary’ understand what she was doing? Was she a villain or a victim? Did she deserve the treatment she received at the hands of authorities? Can science always be trusted? How should we treat people who are ill in our society? Should they share the same rights as healthy people? A true story that echoes through our society to this day, this book will give you chills and make you want to wash your hands, right away.

Who will like this book?: Younger readers who like true stories of science, medicine and illness. People interested in history, especially medical history of the history of New York City. Anyone who likes a story with a secretive main character.

If you like this, try this: Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian



Title: Swagger

Author: Carl Deuker

Summary: Jonas is nervous about moving to Seattle. He was an all-star with a shot at a college scholarship at his old school – will he be able to get on the team and garner the stats he needs to compete at his new one? Before school begins, he meets two important people who will change his life forever: His neighbor Levi, the son of a strict pastor with a simple manner and a good heart who is also a monster on the court and potential future teammate, and Ryan Hartwell, a local guy not much older than them who hangs out at the practice court with a lot of good advice on how to improve their game. Hartwell tells Jonas and Levi that they need to celebrate their swagger on the basketball court and in life – but the collision of these three people will lead to both incredible success and devastating, irreversible damage.

At first this book seems like a simple sports story about teammates and friends. As the pages turn, however, it becomes something deeper, more affecting and ultimately unforgettable. Jonas is a protagonist you will really root for, even as he makes questionable decisions in part of a chain of events that may leave you heartbroken. While it contains sensitive content, Deuker, a master of sports fiction, handles these serious situations without sensationalism and with careful grace. A challenging and rewarding tale that should be read by teens and parents/caregivers together.

Who will like this book?: People who like quick reads. Fans of sports stories that are about more than sports. Readers of intense books about friendship.

If you like this, try this: Boy21 by Matthew Quick. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Crackback by John Coy.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian


Kill the Boy Band


Title:  Kill the Boy Band

Author: Goldy Moldavsky

Summary: Four girls, Apple, Erin, Isabel and our narrator are as different as can be, but they are united by their undying devotion to the world’s most popular, if only marginally-talented, British boy band, the Ruperts. Incredibly, just before a big show in Manhattan, the intrepid super-Strepurs (a fandom name derived from spelling the band name backwards, of course) find themselves in a position that any fangirl would envy: Alone in a hotel room with one of the boys. The problem is he is there against his will, sort of kidnapped and tied to a chair, with everyone in the Ruperts’ universe looking for him, from his fellow singers to his stylist to his girlfriend to the hordes of fans jamming the streets outside the building. As the girls sink deeper and deeper into the mess they’ve made, cracks in their bonds begin to show, proving that people are not always what they seem to be, and that maybe you can never truly know anyone, even your best friends.

This fast-paced, smart and hilariously funny story is part mystery and part an examination of the ups and downs (and downright insanity) of being part of a fandom. The language is blunt and at times profane, the reality of the situation is bizarre and often dire and the pages practically turn themselves, revealing ideas about fandom, adolescence and life itself that are more profound than can be described without spoilers. Put this at the top of your too-read list!

Who will like this book?: Fans and stans. Mature readers who like twist-and-turn psychological mysteries, and stories with potentially unreliable narrators. Anyone who has ever worshipped a boy band.

If you like this, try this: Born to Rock by Gordon Korman. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The Haters by Jesse Andrews. I am (not) the Walrus by Ed Briant.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian