PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Category: Contemporary (Page 1 of 6)

Book Review: Maybe We’re Electric

 

Maybe We’re Electric

– Val Emmich –

Poppy

Published 21 September 2021

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Secrets. The secrets we keep to protect ourselves and the secrets we keep for our family. Maybe We’re Electric is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about finding the balance between speaking out and staying silent.

Covering just one night (plus a bit at the end) Maybe We’re Electric brings Tegan and Mac together. They never would have crossed paths – thinking each other in a different world at their school. But Tegan and Mac have far more in common than they think. When a storm hits, they find themselves together in the Thomas Edison museum. Both are running from their family and themselves. Both know they need to speak up about the secrets they are keeping. Both know the fallout from doing so will have far reaching consequences. Over the course of one night they connect and share more than they expected. But can their blossoming relationship survive the night?

Tegan is a compelling – if unreliable – narrator. As she slowly opens up to Mac, we readers also slowly begin to understand the true depth of what she is running from.

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Book Review: If Not Us

 

If Not Us

– Mark Smith –

Text Publishing

Published 28 September 2021

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If Not Us is a standalone novel from the author of the Winter series. Mark Smith creates in If Not Us a story of growing up, falling in love and finding your voice to speak up and be heard. With themes of climate change action, grief, and first love, If Not Us is a relatable novel for teens with an authentic male narrator.

Hesse lives to surf. He works in a surf shop and spends his free time in the waves. His goal is to one day surf the reef called Razors, where his father disappeared at sea and died. When Hesse gets involved in his mother’s environmental group campaign to close a local coal mine and power station, Hesse is thrown into the spotlight. It means taking a stand and his voice becoming the key to the campaign. It also means standing against his friends, whose parents might lose their jobs if the mine is shut down. In the midst of it all, Hesse meets Fenna, an exchange student who is dealing with her own anxiety and decisions about whether to stay in Australia or return home. As the campaign heats up and Hesse’s feelings for Fenna deepen, Hesse has to decide what is most important to him.

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Book Review: Social Queue

Social Queue book cover - light purple background, title and with girl standing above other people

 

Social Queue

– Kay Kerr –

Text Publishing

Published 28 September 2021

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Once again, Kay Kerr delivers a powerful and thoroughly enjoyable contemporary novel about growing up and finding one’s place in the world. Drawing upon her own experiences again, Kerr crafts such a realistic portrayal of social anxiety and trying to navigate everyday interactions, from romance and friendship to family and work life.

Zoe Kelly has survived high school (just) and is starting a new part of her life. No more dealing with bullies, no more autistic masking. An internship at an online media company allows her the freedom to express herself through the written word – something she’s really good at. But when an article about her foray into the dating world goes viral, the responses are a surprise. Apparently, Zoe had a number of admirers in high school and she just never saw the signs. Determined to discover how she missed them and document the process, Zoe meets up with her admirers, starting with her best friend’s brother and working through to a more recent encounter at uni.

Social Queue was honestly just such a delight to read. Some books are just so easy to love. So easy to enjoy. So easy to pick up after a long day at work and just let the world slip away. Social Queue was that for me, but it was also meaningful, insightful, funny, delicious, romantic and hit me right in the “I see you” feels.

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Book Review: Drawn That Way

 

Drawn That Way

Elissa Sussman

Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Published 28 September 2021

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As a fan of animated movies, Drawn That Way was a wonderful and fun insight into the magical and flawed world of animation. This is a delightful YA realistic novel that sucked me into the story and was just such a pleasure to read. You know how some books just make you smile? That’s this book. But along with the fun, flirtations, friendship and kissing, there are some powerful messages about challenging the racist, sexist systems, girl power and standing up for what you know is right.

Hayley Saffitz knows her future lies in the world of animation. The chance to spend the summer at an exclusive internship program with her idol and Oscar winning animator Bryan Beckett is everything she ever dreamed of and the chance to prove to everyone just how serious she is about animation. But when Hayley is overlooked for one of the director positions and Bryan’s son is given one of the direct positions without even presenting a finished pitch, Hayley realises the world of animation is biased. Determined to prove to herself – and the sexist men- that she deserves her chance, Hayley teams up with the other girls in the program to create their own short.

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Book Review: Like Other Girls

Like Other Girls – Britta Lundin – Disney-Hyperion – Published 3 August 2021

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Synopsis

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

My thoughts

What does it mean to be a girl? For Mara, growing up in a small, traditional town, being a girl means she has strict guidelines for how a girl looks and behaves and it’s everything Mara is not and hates. Like Other Girls is a novel about accepting yourself, accepting others and learning that there is no one right way to be a girl or to stand up for that right to be a girl in your own way.

This is not a book where the girl joins the football team and is accepted by the team. Just the opposite happens in Like Other Girls. When Mara joins the football team her relationship with her brother (the team captain) which was already unsteady, deteriorates even more. She has a massive fight with her best friend Quinn who initially encouraged her to join the team but who is now one of her greatest opponents. And her mother is no longer speaking to her or attending football games. That’s not to mention all the other responses from the other guys on the team, the coach or the other teams. When four other girls join the football team, Mara is determined that she won’t be cast as similar to them. She deserves to be there while they do not. But the reaction from the team and the sheer determination from the girls starts to prove to Mara that being a girl doesn’t have just one definition.

Alongside the story of rights, sexual harassment and equality, this is also a sexual orientation discovery story. Mara knows she is gay and has a plan for how she is going to come out – when she’s in college and far away from her conservative town. She could never be like Carly who is openly out and champions for LGBT+ rights. When Mara meets Jupiter and Jupiter hires her to do some work on her farm, Mara sees someone who is comfortable in their skin and clothes and who they are, someone in an LGBT+ relationship and Mara envies every bit of that comfort.
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Book Review: The Right Side of Reckless

The Right Side of Reckless – Whitney D. Grandison –  Inkyard Press – Published 13 July 2021

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Synopsis

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

My thoughts

I wrote two different reviews for this book. One when I was only a quarter of the way through the story and the other one after I had finished reading the book. One review was entirely disparaging and the other was far more positive. I’m going to give a review that sits somewhere in between. I was ready to give up on this book at the quarter mark. I am glad I didn’t as my feelings changed widely between the first and last portion of this book.

When I started this book, after reading just a few chapters I wished I had done some more research before requesting and reading this book. I judged it on its cover and synopsis alone, which sounded great, but as soon as I started reading I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. Or at least, that’s what I thought to begin with. The characters seemed two dimensional. The writing needed a really good edit and everything is told instead of shown. I wasn’t even a quarter into the book and I was already sick of Regan putting up with rubbish from her boyfriend and Guillermo reads like a bad boy who isn’t actually bad, he just went along with his friends who did the bad stuff and now he is being misjudged and he’s actually a good guy, so he just needs to prove it, so no character development needed. At this point I jumped online to do a bit of research about the publisher and author and found that reviewers suggested that the author’s first book suffered from all the same points. The author is also a Wattpad star and while I love that people are getting published in this way, it doesn’t mean these stories should be published without some really thorough editing. I’m going to give some passages to my writing class so they can practice editing and rewriting to show not tell. It should be pretty easy for them to spot the areas that need improvement.

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Book Review: When We Were Strangers

When We Were Strangers – Alex Richards – Bloomsbury YA – Published 27 July 2021

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Evie Parker is devastated in the wake of her father’s sudden death. But she knows something her mother doesn’t: the day of his heart attack, her dad was planning to move out. After finding his packed bags, an impulsive Evie puts everything away, desperate to spare her mom more heartache.

To make matters worse, Evie soon learns the reason her father was going to leave: he had been dating his twenty-two-year-old receptionist, Bree, who is now six months pregnant. Desperate to distract herself, Evie signs up for a summer photography class where she meets a motley crew of students, including quirky and adorable Declan. Still, Evie can’t stop thinking about her father’s mistress. Armed with a telephoto lens, she caves to her curiosity, and what starts as a little bit of spying on Bree quickly becomes full-blown stalking. And when an emergency forces Evie to help Bree, she learns there’s more to the story than she ever knew…

My thoughts

I am a massive fan of Accidental, so I was eager to pick up the author’s latest novel, When We Are Strangers. Again, Alex Richards delivers a novel that is full of emotional tension.

Evie Parker is distraught to learn of her father’s death. But when she finds his bags packed, ready to leave her and her mum for his pregnant mistress, Evie decides to unpack them and hide the truth from her mother. As she carries the weight of both the secret and her grief, Evie finds herself turned towards photography and entered into a photography course by her uncle. The course and her eclectic classmates give Evie the outlet she needs, but when she happens upon her father’s mistress and begins to capture images of her, Evie learns there is so much she didn’t know and so much she has still to learn.

When We Were Strangers is both gut-wrenching but also uplifting. For all the grief and emotional baggage Evie is carrying, there are moments of light, humour and human connection. I very much enjoyed Evie’s voice. She narrates the story and her teenage-ness just shines through so authentically and uniquely. She is sad, lonely and grieving and that comes through in her words and thoughts. At times she seems whiney or sulky, but that is so perfectly real. She has the right to be snarky and she uses that to the best effect.

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Book Review: Kind of Sort of Fine

Kind of Sort of Fine – Spencer Hall – Atheneum Books for Young Readers – Published 22 June 2021

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Synopsis

Senior year of high school is full of changes.

For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.

For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.

When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?

My thoughts

A story about surviving high school, with humour, honesty and a delightful freshness.

High school is tough – especially when you had a meltdown in front of the entire school and district. For Hayley, returning to school after she had a public breakdown in the school driveway is hard enough. When her parents and teachers decide that she is working too hard, she has to make a choice – drop tennis or drop her advanced placement courses. She drops tennis and is forced into TV production. She thinks it will be a joke. Instead, she is surprised to find herself having fun. She is teamed up with Lewis. For Lewis, senior year is the year he is finally senior producer at the school’s TV production class. It’s also going to be the year he recasts himself. No longer just the fat guy, Lewis has big plans.

When Hayley and Lewis are teamed up in TV production class, they seem like two opposites. Instead, they work really well together and they start to film documentaries that showcase the secret lives of their fellow students. It’s a bit of a journey of discovery for them both. Not only do they learn more about their classmates then they ever would have imagined, they also pushed themselves in new ways – physically and mentally and learnt more about themselves.

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Book Review: The Passing Playbook

The Passing Playbook – Isaac Fitzsimons – Dial – Published 1 June 2021

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Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

My thoughts

A story about sport, friendship, romance and becoming comfortable with sharing who you are. The Passing Playbook is a trans coming out story but also about belonging and accepting yourself

Spencer is starting at a new school. It’s a fresh start and one he wants to control. He decides to keep secret the fact that he is trans. When he is recruited for the boy’s soccer team, Spencer knows he walks a fine line between passing and being revealed as trans. When the league’s discriminatory policy benches Spencer he has to decide how much he trusts his team mates and how much he is willing to risk to fight the decision.

Sports stories offer such a great backdrop for relationship and character development. It seems to bring out the best and worst in people. As Spencer starts to settle into his new school and tries out for the soccer team he has to decide how much he will risk to protect his new friendships and place on the team. He loves soccer, always has, so he relishes the chance to play on the boys team – something he has always wanted to do.

While Spencer’s school is meant to be pretty liberal and progressive, he is still uncertain how, if or when he wants to come out as trans to his classmates. As he starts to get to know Justice and develops a friendship (and something) with him, he starts to learn more about the risks Justice faces if he were to ever reveal his own true identity.

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Book Review: We Are Inevitable

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman<br /> CR: Simon &amp; Schuster

We Are Inevitable – Gayle Forman – Penguin Teen – Published 1 June 2021

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Synopsis

So far, the inevitable hasn’t worked out so well for Aaron Stein.

While his friends have gone to college and moved on with their lives, Aaron’s been left behind in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, running a failing bookshop with his dad, Ira. What he needs is a lucky break, the good kind of inevitable.

And then he meets Hannah. Incredible Hannah – magical, musical, brave and clever. Could she be the answer? And could they – their relationship, their meeting – possibly be the inevitable Aaron’s been waiting for?

My thoughts

What does a failing bookshop, a group of lumberjacks and a grieving teen have to do with each other? If Aaron had his way, absolutely nothing, but in this funny, heartening novel together they have the power to change everything.

Aaron doesn’t know what his future holds and he is still reeling from his past. His mother has left, his brother is dead and his father seems to be ailing more and more each day. Aaron knows the bookshop that was once his parents’ whole world is struggling. If he had his way, he would sell it and finally be able to move on with his life. Just as Aaron is ready to sell a range of new people enter his life and seem determined to do everything they can to bring the bookshop back to life.

As a reader, it’s no surprise that I love bookshops and I know many other readers feel the same way. Bluebird Books plays a big role in this book. It’s the perfect setting for this story, falling apart, disorganised but has so much charm and love woven into its very fabric – exactly like the story of awe Are Inevitable itself.

The characters are so vibrant in this book, just as they are varied. First there is Aaron. Grieving, worried about his father and the bookshop, left behind by his classmates and floundering a bit. He is described by another character in the book as an unreliable narrator. Just as my heart hurt from him he frustrated me a little as he is so persistent in pushing others away from him and being so distrustful. We see the story from his point of view, but it’s still easy to see how his hurt rules his decisions.

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