Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman

9781911508304_fea99Originally published in School Library Journal, February 2019.

Gr 9 & Up: Readman’s debut novel unfolds in 1950’s Scotland, weaving together mystery and magical realism surrounding two young girls on a remote island. Lorrie’s family moved from England to help her aging grandfather, Grumps, in the family whiskey distillery. At once intrigued by her shy next door neighbor, Sylvie, whose life seems fairly uneventful due to her mother’s extreme rules. Sylvie is fascinated by kisses, keeping a secret scrapbook from her protective, prying mother. An unlikely friendship between the two young girls develops, providing a bit of happiness for each, though their family lives are far from happy. As Lorrie and Sylvie spend more time together, it becomes apparent that Sylvie and her mother are hiding a secret. Strange occurrences like Lorrie’s father’s disappearance and a miraculous healing of a young boy involved in an accident leave Lorrie and the town wondering about the friendly, yet strange Sylvie. VERDICT: Readers will enjoy the unique plot and vividly drawn characters of this atmospheric, coming of age story, though pacing is slow at times.

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Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

9780062675798_6d1a0Originally appeared in School Library Journal, February 2019.

Grade 9 & up – The second in a three book companion series, this realistic fiction, set in Los Angeles, is written as a standalone novel with crossover characters. High school senior, Lacey spends her days covered in elaborate zombie makeup on set, playing the love interest of famous heartthrob, Grant James. Grant is hot and he knows it, but he and Lacey lack chemistry on set of the campy horror film, Dancing Graves. Lacey begrudgingly and occasionally completes her schoolwork in between filming. When her overprotective father hires a tutor, she heeds his advice to buckle down and finish school in case acting isn’t always an option in her future. Donovan Lake, her easy-on-the-eyes tutor, at first seems uptight and lame, but as she spends more time with him, her math grade isn’t the only thing progressing. Working on set brings Lacey into some unfamiliar social territory, but she manages to make new friends. When odd coincidences that could jeopardize Lacey’s acting career keep occurring, she must decide who to trust and be willing to look out for her own happiness. Snippets of movie script are included between chapters, allowing readers to feel like they are on set with the characters. Recommended for purchase to enhance a clean young adult romance collection. VERDICT: Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this light-hearted, wholesome romantic comedy which would make a great Netflix film.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

9780778330271_56037Originally published in Library Journal, January 2019.

Jenoff seamlessly weaves together the stories of three remarkable women and the impact of WWII on their lives. In the New York train station, Grace Healy, a newly widowed legal secretary, stumbles upon a suitcase with the name Trigg, containing a dozen photos of women with only first names and no other way to identify them.  Eleanor Trigg, an outsider with a painful past, is the leader of a group of secret female agents. Her girls are sent into occupied Europe as radio operators, charged with the task of sabotaging the Germans and arming the citizens. Grace feels a connection to Eleanor and the girls, yearning to discover why they never made it home, creating an element of mystery to the story. Marie, a young single mother, takes a job with Eleanor’s unit of the Special Operations Executive in London, posing as a French woman. Marie is sent to Paris to serve in the Vesper circuit under the direction of roguishly-handsome Julian. The City of Lights will bring great passion and heartache for brave patriot, Marie. VERDICT: Recommended for fans of Lilac Girls and The Alice Network, Jenoff’s fast-paced historical fiction boasts an intriguing plot and strong female characters.

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

9781250140708_05103

Originally published in Library Journal, January 2019.

Loigman’s second novel follows Jewish sisters Ruth and Millie Kaplan from their childhood in Brooklyn to adulthood living at an armory base in Springfield, MA. The eldest by three years, Ruth is held to almost impossible standards, while Millie, with her striking looks and pleasing manner, gets away with most anything. Possible male suitors for Ruth always end up pursuing the younger, more beautiful Millie. After their parents die unexpectedly and Millie loses her husband, Lenny, the sisters end up together. Ruth’s husband, Arthur, is an army officer allowing Ruth a prestigious job in payroll, while Millie becomes a soldier of production in an armory factory. Resentment and jealousy intensify as Millie again becomes the beloved center of Ruth’s social circles. Then a stranger arrives and long-buried secrets are revealed, leaving the sisters a chance at a hopeful future. Unfolding in alternating points of view, Loigman provides a behind-the-scenes look at women fighting their own wars at home. Readers will enjoy the heartfelt picture of women’s daily life during wartime through the eyes of two unique, extraordinary sisters. VERDICT: Recommended for historical fiction fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Morton.

The Competition by Cecily Wolfe

thecompetition

Originally appeared in School Library Journal, November 2018.

Grade 7 & Up: A diverse cast of characters take part in the Penultimate, an Ohio state writing competition, where 100 teens battle for a full college scholarship. Mary Sofia (a Latina) lives in a shelter. Her mother blames her for the unforgettable, tragic night her abusive stepfather was killed by her older brother Matias, as he protected Mary Sofia. She longs to visit Matias in prison, missing him dearly. Michael, Caucasian, is an introvert who excels at swimming and writing, who is instantly attracted to Mary Sofia. Camera who is shy and biracial carries a secret of being sexually assaulted during a party. Raiden is a Chinese American teen who dreams of becoming a nurse, though his father would rather he be a doctor. The four young people conveniently pair up into couples, forming a foreseeable cozy group for the remainder of the story. One of the contest themes is writing about “a defining moment,” which forces both Camera and Mary Sofia to finally come to terms with their painful pasts. The story line is realistic with hints of tame romance. After an unlikely turn of events for the new friends, the predictable yet hopeful ending offers each an unexpected chance at a brighter future. Compared to other realistic teen fiction, Wolfe’s second novel falls short in pacing and writing quality. Themes of friendship and typical teenage behaviors are represented well. VERDICT A strictly additional purchase.

The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross

9780316476867_f37acOriginally published in Library Journal, October 15, 2018.

In her third novel, Ross (What Was MineMaking It) weaves a tale of the wealthy Hollingworth family and a secret that spans five generations. Rich historical details bring time periods to life from early 1900 wartime to the Great Depression and all the way up to September 11, 2001. Bridey, age 16, leaves Ireland with her sweetheart, Thom, hoping to marry in America. Thom perishes of ship fever, leaving her alone and pregnant. She gives the infant up for adoption, working in a factory until she meets Sarah Hollingworth and becomes a maid at the family’s lavish estate in Wellington, CT. Sarah, who lost her mother at age 12 and then took care of her siblings, marries Edmund, but is unable to have children of her own. Readers will come to know the infant as Vincent and follow him until his adult years. Vincent’s granddaughter, Emma, loses her own father when the twin towers collapse, a repeating pattern of tragedy for the Hollingworth family. Family drama unfolds in alternating viewpoints; the characters are linked across time periods, as they navigate poverty, loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. VERDICT: Fans of historical sagas will enjoy this dramatic tale.

The Book of Joshua by Jennifer Anne Moses

978-0-299-31950-2-frontcover

Originally published in School Library Journal, October 2018.

Gr. 9 & up: Josh, a typical Western High senior living in New Jersey, wakes up in a psych ward to a very atypical future, in which he is missing an eye as well as his girlfriend Sophie. Previously a cross-country star and popular kid, he must now retake his senior year as an overweight schizophrenic. Unable to get any truthful information from his hovering mother or therapist about the incident which resulted in his eye loss, he feels lost and trapped. To make matters worse, his younger brother Nate has become a star runner and everything that Josh used to be prior to the incident. He is forced to attend group meetings with other mental health patients when he would rather be looking for Sophie. Only when Josh starts to spend time with new girl and fellow outcast, Elizabeth Rinaldi, will he finally begin to make progress toward the truth. Readers will empathize with Josh and at the end, finally uncover the surprising truth regarding the missing eye and Sophie. VERDICT: While it provides an honest, unique view of mental health, this realistic fiction novel is light on depth and brief in plot compared to others in the genre, and therefore recommended for strictly additional purchase.