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

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Swagger

swagger

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

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Ms. Marvel

kamala

Title: Ms. Marvel

Author/Illustrator: G. Willow Wilson/Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt

Summary: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl living in Jersey City. She goes to school, hangs out with friends and fangirls over pretty much everything, including her favorite hero, Captain Marvel. She does her best to be a good daughter to her strict parents, as well as a faithful Muslim. But one night, she disobeys the rules to sneak out to a party, when something impossible happens: A strange mist drifts across the city, rendering everyone unconscious. When she wakes up, Kamala discovers that like her hero, she has superhuman (or, Inhuman) abilities – she can shape shift and even heal herself! Calling herself Ms. Marvel in homage to her hero, Kamala decides to use her new powers to protect and serve her community.

To say this is a groundbreaking comic is an understatement: This is the first ongoing storyline to have Muslim headline character. Kamala’s heritage is skillfully woven into the story as she tries to balance being a good and respectful person while discovering the full scope of her sometimes-scary new abilities. She is diligent and brave, even when facing dangerous situations, horrifying villains and potentially-embarrassing run-ins with legendary heroes. She is also lighthearted, silly and headstrong – an ordinary girl with extraordinary powers. This series, of which three collected volumes are now available, are perfect for summer reading. Funny, bold and heartfelt, the story of Kamala Khan is not to be missed.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like strong, sassy and brave heroes. Pop culture obsessives. Comics fans who like to see classic characters rebooted.

If you like this, try this: The Hawkeye books by Matt Fraction, which also spend time with a superhero going about their ‘ordinary’ life. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword Back by Barry Deutsch.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Keep Sweet

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Title: Keep Sweet

Author: Michele Greene

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Alva Jane has lived with her mother, father, his other six wives, and 29 brothers and sisters her whole life. She is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). She is fathers favorite daughter by his favorite wife.  Because of her natural mathematical ability she has been allowed to stay in school past the age of 13 and to work at a local store. And even though the group’s prophet arranges all marriages in the community, Alva Jane has her heart set on being a first wife – and on marrying the boy she loves, Joseph John. Alva knows how to ‘keep sweet,’ meaning that as long as she displays perfect obedience to the prophet, her father, and the laws of her faith she will live a happy life. But when her father’s jealous first wife, Sister Cora, catches Alva and Joseph sharing an innocent kiss, her life is turned upside down.

No longer protected by her father’s favor or her mother’s love, Alva Jane must face the dire consequences of disobedience. This stunning book opens up a window into the all-too-real world of girls who are forced to marry and have children with men twice and sometimes three times their age. Can Alva survive in a world where women have no rights and all the power lies in the hands of a group of men who believe they take their orders from God?

Who will like this book?: People interested in outsider religious groups such as the FLDS. Readers of intense realistic fiction.

If you like this, try this: Sister Wife by Shirley Hrdlitschka. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. For younger readers, The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecelia Galante. For mature readers, the non-fiction Escape and Triumph by Carolyn Jessop.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

So Punk Rock

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Title: So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother)

Author: Micol Ostow

Summary: Ari is a high achieving sophomore at Gittleman High, a Jewish school. He gets almost-perfect grades and isn’t very popular, with parents who are strict and focused on academics (not unlike my own parents) and a little brother who is their parent’s angel, making Ari look bad. If his parents find out that he plays in a band, they would kill him. He has the mind of a righteous teenager and is in fact the best friend of the smoothest kid in school, Jonas. He also has to deal with a forlorn crush on Sari Horowitz. But Ari has a plan to change his social standing: He will start a rock band. 

By picking up members from unexpected places, Ari manages to get a band together. They play an opening to a bar mitzvah and instantly gain fans at school, and to Ari’s delight, the attention of Sari. This band of wannabes gets a few gigs and outside fans, but it can it really last? As his parents’ disapproval becomes apparent and social drama and confusion ensues, Ari struggles to keep the band together by tiny threads that may not even exist.

Who will like this book?: Ostow has captured the essence of a classic high school band. Complete with the ups and downs, readers who have survived high school will see a bit of themselves in this book. This drama-filled novel is sure to keep you flipping pages, and is a very good read for anyone who is or has ever been a teenager or likes punk or rock music. It shows how some people follow their dreams towards the first steps of rock stardom, and how easily it can go all wrong.

Recommended by: Ben, Fairfield resident and avid reader

Marcelo in the Real World

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Title: Marcelo in the Real World

Author: Francisco X. Stork

Summary: Marcelo is different – he is not very good at interacting with new people or understanding the nuances in their conversation, but he can hear music no one else does and is deeply interested in matters of faith. At the end of his junior year, he is excited about his new job at his school, caring for the ponies that are used in student therapy. But his dad thinks he is ready to go to ‘regular’ school and tests him: If Marcelo can work the summer in the family law firm, he can return to his beloved school. If he fails or quits he must attend public school.

Marcelo takes up the challenge and enters the ‘real world,’ away from his familiar surroundings. In the office he makes friends, enemies, and discovers that it’s not so easy to determine who is bad and who is good. This beautifully written story is about growing up, testing yourself, and learning to stand up for what you believe.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the way differently-abled minds work. This is a great coming of age story for teens and adults to enjoy.

If you like this, try this: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. For younger readers, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Sister Wife

Sister Wife (Young Adult Novels)

Title: Sister Wife

Author: Shelley Hrdlitschka

Summary: Celeste lives in Unity – a town that believes in the Movement. Girls are expected to be faithful, helpful and obedient. Men are expected to marry multiple wives, including girls as young as 15. Contact with the outside world is frowned upon, and friendships between girls and guys the same age, even within the community, are strongly discouraged. Her sister Nanette cannot wait to become a ‘sister wife’ and marry a much-older man, but Celeste, who is about to turn 15, isn’t sure.

Through her relationships with Jon – a boy her age who also has his doubts about the Movement, Taviana – a girl who has moved to Unity to escape her abusive past, and Craig – an outsider who encourages her to think for herself, Celeste comes to realize that there might be more to life than Unity and the Movement. Can she break free from the traditions of her community, or will she become a sister wife? The answers will surprise you in this fast-paced, unique story.

Who will like this book: Readers interested in religious outsiders or the polygamous communities that have been in the news lately. This is a good book about what happens when religious faith and individual goals and desires collide.

If you like this, try this: The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante. Mature readers interested in learning about polygamy should check out Escape by Carolyn Jessop or Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian