Saturday, January 28, 2017

Symptoms of Being Human

Volume Thirty in the Book That Matters Series

"'As for wondering if it's okay to be who you are--that's not a symptom of mental illness. That's a symptom of being a person.'" - Doctor Ann in Jeff Garvin's Symptoms of Being Human

Is Riley a boy or a girl? That questions is at the forefront of everyone's mind in Jeff Garvin's young adult novel, Symptoms of Being Human.

Riley is a gender fluid teen with an internal gauge that sometimes points more feminine, other times more masculine, and at times hovers somewhere between the two. The novel is told in first person from Riley's point of view so readers are not aware of the gender assigned to Riley at birth. And as Riley reflects it is usually the first thing people want to know about someone. Even Riley, occasionally, makes mistakes when assigning genders to new people.

This powerful novel shows the struggle of a teen trying to find acceptance in a new high school,  in a home with a conservative congressman father up for reelection and a mother supporting that campaign, in the blogging community where Riley writes under the anonymous name of Alix, in friendships with Bec and Solo, and in one's own self. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin is a book that matters.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Phantom Limbs

Volume Twenty Nine in the Books That Matter Series

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner is a tragic young adult novel about three teenagers coping with the pain of all they lost in the past few years. Otis lost his younger brother, Mason, three years ago and hasn't spoken to Meg, his best friend and first love, since she moved away around that same time. Meg has been dealing with a lot since Mason's death and is returning to Willow Grove after years of separating herself from the town and all that happened there. Dara has known Otis since Meg left and is coaching him to become an Olympic swimmer, having lost her chances at achieving that goal when part of her arm was amputated years ago. Each character has their own baggage and their own unique way of getting through each day but all three are dealing with phantom limbs and the pain that comes along with that. Phantom Limbs is beautifully written and so heartbreakingly devastating, earning its place as a book that matters.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I'll Give You the Sun

Volume Twenty Eight in the Books that Matter Series

"'Maybe we're accumulating these new selves all the time.' Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things."
-Jandy Nelson, author of I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun is a young adult novel of family, love, loss, and being true to the person you are. Noah tells part of the story when he and his sister start off as NoahandJude, thirteen year old twins who are half of a whole. Jude tells the other part when she and Noah are sixteen, no longer talking to one another, and have become totally different people than who they used to be.

Jandy Nelson writes a masterful tale told in alternating points of view set three years apart. This story pulls at the reader in the most emotional, heart wrenching ways. I'll Give You the Sun is a beautiful story told with intrigue and mystery. Characters are woven in with careful precision. Because like one of the story's characters reflects: "Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story."

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Volume Twenty Seven in the Books that Matter Series

Wrecked is the young adult novel by Maria Padian, told in alternating points of view from Haley and Richard. Haley is a college freshman, rooming with Jenny who has just been assaulted at a recent party. Richard is also a student at the same college whose housemate, Jordan, is accused of the assault. Neither Haley nor Richard attended the party in question. They don't even know the connection when they first meet, when they start to fall for one another. But as events unfold, they are soon forced into a college investigation involving their roommates. This story shows the reactions of others from the outside looking in, how it all impacts the victim, why a judge in an investigation makes certain decisions, while providing pieces of the incident between each chapter so the truth is not revealed until the end. Wrecked is a book that matters for dealing with such an intense, heavy topic that needs to be discussed.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Holding Up The Universe

Volume Twenty Six in the Books that Matter Series

Jennifer Niven has done it again. Her new book, Holding Up The Universe, soars into the books that matter category with flying colors. Much like, her first novel, All The Bright Places, her new young adult novel is told in alternating points of view from two high school students who are anything but ordinary.

Libby is heading back to school after several years of being homeschooled. She hasn't been to school since fifth grade, the year she lost her mother, the year she was bullied relentlessly. Then at the age of thirteen, when she had to be rescued from her house, Libby was labeled America's Fattest Teen, weighing in at 653 pounds. Now, she is about to enter her junior year and has lost the weight of two whole people but is still over 300 pounds. Ready to face the world again, Libby knows who she is, has endured the worst of people, and won't let that stop her from achieving her dreams.

Jack is popular but is holding onto a secret that is turning him into someone he doesn't recognize. He is face-blind and has trouble finding even his own family in a crowd. With his father having recently survived a battle with cancer while in the midst of an affair, Jack's condition has gone unnoticed for many years. Jack has swagger and charm that allows him to bury his fear and mask the condition that could lead to disaster.

But when their two worlds collide, nothing may ever be the same for either of them again. This is the story of Libby and Jack. It is for anyone who has ever felt unwanted. It is inspiring and beautifully written. It is a book that matters.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Truth About Alice

Volume Twenty Five in the Books That Matter Series

"I stared at the graffiti and watched how quickly the shiny Sharpie writing dulled to a permanent black stain." (excerpt from The Truth About Alice)

Alice Franklin is a junior at Healy High and the talk of her small Texas town, mainly because word has spread of her actions at a party in the summer. But when a car accident in the fall claims the life of Healy High's star quarterback, Brandon, soon Alice becomes the even bigger talk of an even bigger story as she gets blamed for the events leading up to the crash.

The Truth About Alice is very much her story and yet it is told from multiple outside points of view. Elaine is the girl who threw the party, who had an on again, off again relationship with Brandon. Josh is Brandon's best friend and fellow football teammate who survived the car crash. Kelsie did not attend the party, but as Alice's best friend, she is very much a driving force in this story. And Kurt lives next door to Brandon's family, is genius level smart, and has a crush on Alice. These four players tell a story that does not belong to them but yet is very much their own to share.

Author, Jennifer Mathieu, weaves a tale about truths and lies, the secrets kept and the ones shared, and the power of rumors that can soon take on a life of their own. The Truth About Alice is certainly a book that matters. It is a young adult novel of how each new event, new lie, new secret, new truth, new story can bring out the worst in people and can change the lives of others forever. It is the story of high school students set in a small town, so true it could be anyone's tale. The Truth About Alice is a must read for teenagers and for parents alike.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Unbelievable FIB: Over the Underworld

Volume Twenty Four in the Books That Matter Series

As I have stated before, fantasy can be a powerful portal into the world of books that matter. Adam Shaughnessy's second book in The Unbelievable FIB series once again proves that it belongs in this category. In the sequel, readers are reunited with Pru, Mister Fox, Odin, Thor, Ratatosk (the insult squirrel), and even Mrs. Edleman but this time the events are told from ABE's point of view. The Unbelievable FIB: Over the Underworld has many twists, turns, and cliffhangers that will leave the reader yearning for more. Join ABE, Pru, and Mister Fox for this next tale. It is a new year, a new grade, a new teacher, and a new adventure. So much can (and does) happen.