PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: Mental health (Page 1 of 5)

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: 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: How To Become A Planet

How to Become A Planet – Nicole Melleby – Algonquin Young Readers –  Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

My thoughts

How To Become A Planet is a novel about anxiety and depression, friendship and gender identity exploration for upper middle graders. Perfect for students just transitioning into high school and confronted with new levels of expectations, new hormones and feelings, and dealing with mental health and complicated feelings from family breakdown and changes in friendship groups.

Pluto has depression and anxiety and at the moment that’s all she really knows about herself. She struggles to get out of bed, and certainly doesn’t want to spend her summer break at her mother’s pizzeria and with a tutor so she can go to eighth grade next year. When Pluto unexpectedly makes a new friend, they each make a list of things they want to do this summer. Pluto’s list is all about returning to the girl she was before her diagnosis. For Fallon, her list is about telling her mother how she feels about having long hair and wearing dresses.

Pluto starts to develop romantic feelings for Fallon – funny feelings in her tummy and wanting to touch Fallon’s face. No labels are applied, but Pluto is supported by and identifies with her tutor who is in a homosexual relationship. Again, no labels are applied to Fallon’s desire to cut her hair short, and wear her brothers’ clothes, but these discussions and feelings are a major part of the book, giving readers something to identify with and relate to without applying labels.

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Book Review: Tiger Daughter

Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin –  Published February 2021

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Synopsis

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

My thoughts

A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.

Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.

I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.

Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.

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Book Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet – Laekan Zea Kemp – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.

My thoughts

I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging.

Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family’s restaurant. Her father disagrees, and when Pen finally tells her parents she has dropped out of school and walked away from the life they wanted for her, they refuse to speak to her and her father fires her from the restaurant. Pen is an incredibly strong character – and not just because the guys in the kitchen completely and utterly fear her (which is awesome, by the way). Pen has a history of depression, anxiety and self harm. With her future so uncertainly and her risking everything to chase what feels right, but not really sure how to actually move forward, Pen finds herself wrestling with her mental demons again.

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Book Review: The Worrying Worries

The Worrying Worries – Rachel Rooney and Zehra Hicks (illustrator) – Affirm Press – Published September 2020

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Synopsis

Do you ever worry about your Worries?
They can be awful pests, and they hate to see you happy.
But if you follow some simple steps you can banish those worries for good!

My thoughts

The Worrying Worries is a wonderful story about what to do about those worries that seem to follow you around, the ones you just can’t shake.

The Worrying Worries is Rachel Rooney’s second similar picture book, following The Problem with Problems. Both are brightly illustrated by Zehra Hicks. I love how the illustrations resemble a child’s colourful drawings, especially the crayon circle worry creatures. This would be a great book to follow up with a craft and drawing activity, where students try to create their own similar illustrations.

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Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Six Goodbyes We Never Said – Candace Ganger – Wednesday Books – Published 24 September 2019

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Synopsis

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

My thoughts

Six Goodbyes We Never Said is an honest reflection of the complications and messiness of grief, an upfront and realistic portrayal of mental health and an ode to friendship and family, which can sometimes be as weird and tangled as it can be necessary and life saving. This book unfurls the journey of grief in a compelling and frank way, at times moving while other times delightfully amusing. It’s the perfect book for reflective readers or those who need something or someone to relate to when the world around them doesn’t reflect back what they see in the mirror.

Naima and Dew are what mainstream society would wrongly label as outsiders. Those who are different or who behave differently from society’s perception of acceptable or normalised behaviour. Both are struggling, not only under the heavy burden of grief so complex they can hardly speak of it, but with social anxiety (Dew) and the rituals and counting patterns (Naima) that has become a part of their every day existences. In each other they find someone who is facing the same complex emotional roller coaster.

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