Between Shades of Gray


Title: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Summary: Lina is a talented artist planning on attending an art academy over her summer holiday. Her happy and peaceful life is shattered on a quiet night in June, 1939, when she, her brother and mother are forced from their home and crammed with dozens of others first onto a truck, then a train, with no idea where they are headed. Lina’s father, a college professor, is considered anti-Soviet, and so like thousands of others the Vilkas family has been deported and sent to labor camps in Siberia, under the brutal regime of Stalin.

With little more than the clothes on their back, Lina and her family, separated from their father and everyone they know, will have to be resilient and resourceful in the face of unimaginable danger, brutality and inhumane living conditions.  Bravery and dedication to each other can only take the Vilkases so far in their bleak new life. This powerful story, based on little-known historical events will shock and sadden you, but like Lina’s artwork, you will also find strength, hope, and even beauty as well.

Who will like this book: Anyone interested in ‘secret’ histories that aren’t very well-known. Budding artists. People who like intense, dramatic stories.

If you like this, try this: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian




Title: Revolution

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Summary: It is 2010 and Andi Alpers doesn’t want to live. Since the accidental death of her little brother Truman, her life has been turned inside out. Her mom is lost to grief. Her dad only cares about whether or not she can keep it together long enough to finish high school. The only time Andi feels free of the crushing weight of sadness and guilt is when she plays her guitar. Or when she downs the antidepressants that leave her in a fog.

It is 1795 and Alexandrine Paradis wants to live. Through a chain of seemingly miraculous events, this ragged street performer entered the inner circle of the French court, assigned by Marie Antoinette herself to act as a light-hearted companion for her grieving young son. But now that little Louis is imprisoned by the revolutionaries, Alex must find a way to atone for the mistakes she has made and the damage she has done.

When Andi’s dad insists on dragging her to France so he can supervise her work on a senior thesis, she finds an old diary hidden in the case of an antique guitar. As Andi begins to read Alex’s words, two seemingly distant worlds begin to blur and then collide. This book is a fast-paced blend of realistic and historical fiction that will keep you turning pages. Andi and Alex are sharp, witty, sympathetic heroines you will root for and author Jennifer Donnelly’s gorgeous writing will have you reading sentences over and over again because they are so beautiful and so true.

Who will like this book: Fans of books that alternate between the present and the past. Anyone interested in the era of the French Revolution. Musicians, artists, actors and other assorted Bohemians.

If you like this, read this: A Northern Light, also by Donnelly. The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner. For mature readers, Juliet by Anna Fortier.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian



Title: Harvey: How I Became Invisible

Author: Herve Bouchard

Illustrator: Janice Nadeau

Summary: This deceptively simple, award-winning graphic novel tells the story of young Harvey, an ordinary kid growing up in Canada with his mother, father, and a kid brother who is much taller than he is. On the first day of spring, which Harvey notices is extra-bright because of the leafless trees and remaining piles of snow, after playing in the streets with their friends, the two boys return home to learn that their father has died suddenly of a heart attack.

Using some wordless panels and simple illustrations, the author and illustrator get right to the core of Harvey’s experience of his father’s disappearance and the subsequent days of mourning when the young boy begins to feel invisible. This is a moving, sincere, and emotionally devastating story that will hit home for anyone who has suffered the grief and sadness of losing someone important in their lives. Readers can only hope that we see Harvey again someday.

Who will like this book?: Anyone who likes books that make them cry. Fans of  realistic stories, and readers looking for stories about grieving.

If you like this, try this: Another stunning story about love, loss, and growing up set in Canada, the Essex County trilogy by Jeff Lemire.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

If I Stay


Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Summary: The biggest concern high school senior and gifted cellist Mia had been trying to choose between a life in New York attending the prestigious Julliard school of music and the life she has in Oregon with her boyfriend, family, and friends.  However, that all changes on a snowy winter morning when Mia and her family are involved in a major car accident.  Mia is rushed to the hospital.  With her body lying in a coma, Mia’s mind reflects back on her life and tries to decide whether she should stay and fight for a life that will be dramatically different from any she had envisioned.  

Who will like this book:   This book explores the value of family and friends and what truly makes life worth living.  Anyone who enjoys reading about these kinds of emotional issues will love this book. 

If you like this, read this: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian



Title: After

Author: Amy Efaw

Summary: Devon Davenport: Straight-A sophomore, star goalie, murderer? When a newborn baby is found in a garbage can behind her apartment complex, it doesn’t take long for the cops to find Devon, still suffering through the aftermath of delivery. This chilling, thought-provoking book for mature readers follows Devon from her arrest to her stay at a juvenile detention facility called Remann Hall and subsequent hearing to determine whether or not she will be tried as an adult.

This book reads almost as a mystery: Did Devon really not know, as she insists, that she was pregnant until she gave birth? What exactly happened that night? How could no one around her have noticed that Devon was about to have a baby? As her lawyer and the people she meets at Remann Hall peel back the layers of Devon’s personality and life story, readers see the catastrophic results of obsessively holding oneself to a standard of perfection.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who like intense, realistic stories.

If you like this, try this: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian



Title: Laika

Author: Nick Abadzis

Summary: This stunning graphic novel tells the true story of Laika, the first living being sent into space. After the launch of Sputnik, Soviet engineers are pressured to launch another satellite as soon as possible – this time, one that carries a passenger. High-spirited stray dog Kudryavka (Curly-Tail) is selected for the Soviet canine space program and becomes its star because of her ability to withstand the g-forces of liftoff and orbit, and her love of space gel ‘food.’ She is renamed Laika (Barker), and sent into space – but her satellite will never land.

You cannot help but fall in love with Laika. This heart-shattering book describes the Soviet story of the space race and the beginnings of the cold war, but it shows it’s true soul when telling the stories of the many people this scrappy little dog touched in her brief life: Her first owner, her sweet-natured trainer Yelena, and the chief of the Soviet satellite program – a complex man who was once a prisoner in a gulag, now a national hero. Recently a statue was dedicated to Laika in Moscow, a well-deserved tribute to an unforgettable dog.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the history of manned space flights. Animal lovers, if they are steely enough to make it all the way through…anyone who likes a book that makes them cry!

If you like this, try this: For another full-length graphic novel with a heart of gold (but with laughs instead of tears) try American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. For another heartfelt (yet offbeat) tale of a dog and friendship, look at the wordless Robot Dreams by Sara Varon.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian