All We Have Left

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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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Every Exquisite Thing

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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

Maybe A Fox

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Title: Maybe a Fox

Authors: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

Summary: Sylvie and Jules Sherman are sisters who live with their father in the Vermont woods. Each day, they take the bus to school and sit, crammed three-to-a-seat with their best friend and neighbor Sam. All three love the woods that separate their houses, spending their time exploring every nook and cranny, and tossing wish rocks, with their burning desires written on them, into the Slip, a wondrous and dangerous natural formation that alters that path of the local river. Jules hasn’t found her wish yet, but Sylvie’s wish is to run – faster, faster, and faster while Sam wishes for the return of the catamount – a rare, wild thing. All three have been touched by grief: Sylvie and Jules lost their mother years ago, and Sam’s brother Elk has just returned from war but is changed – his best friend Zeke did not survive. One winter’s day before the bus arrives, the unthinkable happens to the Sherman family.

A fox is born in the deep woods. Senna is no mere fox, however: She is Kennen, alive with a thousand years of fox-knowledge in her bones and a sense that she is meant to find someone, and that someone is the girl crying and screaming a name into the trees. And a voice insider her head is always urging her to fun, faster and faster.

This is a lyrical story about loss, unbearable grief, the way we sometimes wish for impossible things and the unknown magic that animates our lives . Co-written by authors Appelt and McGhee, this books features gorgeous, stop-you-in-your-tracks writing in service of a simple and truth-filled tale that will stick with you for a long time.

Who will like this book: This is a great book for all ages. Readers who like stories that make them cry. People living with grief. Animal lovers.

If you like this, try this: Pax by Sara Pennypacker. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles. Harvey: How I Became Invisible by Herve Bouchard.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

I’ll Give You the Sun

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Summary: Vibrant, outgoing Jude and shy, artistic Noah are twins. They may not be identical, but they have been together forever. Despite petty jealousies over their parents’ affection, their mother’s ambition for both of them to attend a prestigious art academy, or the attention of local bullies, Jude and Noah can always find their way back to each other. When the unthinkable happens, their bond is shattered and their roles seem to reverse, leaving the twins isolated from each other and their true selves. Brother and sister each have a piece of the whole story of what happened, but because of their grief and guilt, neither of them will share it or begin to help the other heal.

As we learn about these fully realized, complex characters – Noah narrating from age 13 and Jude from three years later, readers see how it all fell apart. This Printz Award-winning book will stick with you for a long time – it is literally gorgeous to read, especially the chapters from Noah’s perspective. It can be heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, often in the same paragraph.

Who will like this book: Fans of literary fiction. GLBT readers. People who like stories that make you put the pieces together.

If you like this, try this: The Sky is Everywhere, also by Nelson. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. All We Know of Heaven by Jacqueline Mitchard.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Eleanor and Park

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Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Park sees Eleanor getting on the bus and he knows she’s in for it. Her weird clothes, her wild red hair, her complete newness. He lets her sit down next to him but makes sure to keep his distance. He does okay at school, which is impressive considering his half-Korean/half-Irish heritage – not a common thing in 1986 Omaha, Nebraska. He’d like to keep his head down, listen to his music, read his comics and get through high school without any issues.

Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus and knows instantly that he is not happy about her presence. He doesn’t say a word to her, unlike the awful kids behind them. She doesn’t say a word either: Not to him, or them, because she has other things to think about, things that are a lot more important than school. Like finding a toothbrush. Or figuring out how she can manage to share a room with four younger siblings. Or how to avoid her merciless, manipulative stepfather.

This is the beginning of a beautiful, heart-shredding love story that will leave you breathless. As the connection between Park and Eleanor grows from silently sharing issues of Watchmen, to trading mix tapes, to falling in love, you will be swept along in their tumultuous, difficult romance. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet – the obstacles that exist within both Park and Eleanor’s lives make their attempt at a relationship something that requires more effort than many people would be willing to make, then or now. And that is what makes Eleanor and Park something rare in this genre. It is more honest, more true and ultimately, more beautiful, than a lot of love stories out there. To say this is the best book I’ve read so far this year is an understatement. This is a story that will stay with me – and you – forever.

Who will like this book: Readers who treasure heartfelt, realistic romance against steep odds. Criers (you know you’re out there)! People who are nostalgic for the ’80s.

If you like this, try this: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

My Friend Dahmer

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Title: My Friend Dahmer

Author/Illustrator: Derf Backderf

Summary: Jeffrey Dahmer was a notorious serial killer, responsible for the deaths of 17 men and boys. But before he became a monster, he was a kid growing up in the Midwest alongside author/illustrator Derf. This graphic memoir brings the reader into their world and shows how Dahmer’s crimes had as much to do with the people in his life who failed to see to the warning signs as his own troubled psyche. Beginning with their first acquaintance in middle school in the 1970s, the author tracks his evolving acquaintance with the weird, introverted boy who always seemed to be on the outside looking in.

Derf does not excuse Jeff’s horrifying crimes, but he asks the readers to look a little deeper at the circumstances that enabled Dahmer to become a killer. This book is more about how our actions can have consequences beyond our own understanding at the time. Derf also includes a terrific bibliography and information about his research for those interested in learning more about Dahmer and his crimes. This excellent graphic novel deserves to be read. It is not an easy book, but it is one that you will remember.

Who will like this book?: Older, mature readers interested in crime stories and psychology. This book is disturbing and intense – but it is very thought-provoking and memorable.

If you like this, read this: Stitches by David Small. The true crime graphic novels by Rick Geary, including Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy and The Lindbergh Child. Columbine by Dave Cullen.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

A Monster Calls

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Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Illustrator: Jim Kay

Summary: When the giant yew tree from Conor’s backyard comes to life it doesn’t really scare  him. Because it’s not the monster he’d been expecting. Not the one from the nightmares he’s been having ever since his mom got sick. This monster is different: He is ancient, wise and a little snarky. As we follow Conor through his days being picked on at school, reuniting with his visiting Dad who has moved to America to start a new family and battling with his grandmother who insists he start planning for a future without his mom, the monster visits at night and tells Conor three stories. They are not what Conor expects them to be, but they force him to confront both the demonic monster of his nightmares and the reasons for its existence.

Like the monster’s stories themselves, this book is not what you expect it to be. It might sound like a typical kid-with-sick-mom story with a monster thrown in for good measure. But just when you think you know how the story will go, it will take another surprising turn. Patrick Ness, author of the terrific Chaos Walking trilogy and talented illustrator Jim Kay, who provides dynamic and just-plain-creepy images throughout, completed this book after Siobhan Dowd’s untimely death. Like her stories, this tale is so much more than the sum of its parts. This short book tells a story about growing up that you will never forget.

Who will like this book?: Readers of all ages who like a lot of heart and soul with their thrills and chills. Fans of fractured fairy tales and illustrated novels.

If you like this, try this: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman. Harvey: How I Became Invisible by Herve Bouchard.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian