Saturday, October 15, 2016


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, was 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 fully 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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Seventh Wish

Volume Twenty Three in the Books That Matter Series

A couple months ago, I bought The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner. At the time, I was reading another book so I put it in my to be read pile, not realizing what a gem I had waiting for me. Then last week, when a friend said that she'd read the book and would let me borrow it, I remembered I had it so I fished it out of my pile and started reading it.

The Seventh Wish is a middle grade fantasy novel with a much deeper reality. Charlie Brennan is a normal middle school student with an older sister in college, several close friends, and a passion for Irish dancing. But one day when Charlie is ice fishing with a friend and his nana, she catches a magical fish that grants wishes. Having read stories of people who make wishes through other magical sources, Charlie understands the risks but still gets caught up in the allure of her wish-fish. However, Charlie's addiction is not the only one faced in this story. There is a more serious situation working its way into her life, but you must read the book to find out what it is.

I met Kate Messner a few years ago at a conference where she gave an inspirational speech. Then, she was talking about her book, Eye of the Storm, and of course I read it after that. So I was excited when I heard that she was releasing a new book, this one a fantasy. I was surprised--though I should not have been--by how serious this novel was and how much parallel there was between the fantasy elements and the true life moments. The Seventh Wish proves that fantasy can be a powerful vehicle to bring forth deeper real world problems that many are struggling with today. There is an author's note at the the back of the book that provides important information for people who are seeking additional resources. The Seventh Wish is a must read and a book that truly matters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Still A Work In Progress

Volume Twenty Two in the Books That Matter Series

Author, Jo Knowles, is the master of books that matter. Her new middle grade novel, Still A Work In Progress, proves to be anything but that. Much like See You At Harry's (Volume Five in the Books That Matter Series), there is a clear before and after to this book. The story opens with Noah, a seventh grader going about everyday activities with his two best friends, Ryan and Sam; his older sister, Emma; her dog, the Captain; the school's hairless pet cat, Curly, who wears various handmade sweater vests; and his parents who live by Emma's ever growing vegan food rules. Throughout the beginning, Noah hints at a scary problem under the surface of his everyday life and refers to it as "the Thing They Don't Talk About."

With his two best friends becoming more interested in girls and Emma's well being a growing concern on everyone's mind, Noah often feels unnoticed. He's the one who is not supposed to cause waves, not give his parents any trouble, and not complain about Emma's demands when it comes to food. He's the one who blends into the background, only allowed to shine through his artistic abilities.

Still A Work In Progress is heart wrenching and Noah's devastation is palpable. It moved me to tears several times, but also made me laugh out loud in other moments. It balances humor and everyday life with the heartaches and struggles of a family just trying their best to help a loved one through a serious illness. But this is not Emma's story, it is Noah's.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Paper Things

Volume Twenty One in the Books That Matter Series

"Ever since I can remember, I've had this theory that when each person is born, he or she is given an imaginary sack with the same number of happy moments, same number of horrible-news moments, same number of please-let me-die-now embarrassments. So, while some people may have a bunch of bad moments all in a row, in the end, we'll all have experienced the same ups and down. We'll all be even."
- Ari 's reflection in Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Eleven year old Arianna Hazard has had more than her fair share of tough moments. She doesn't remember her father who lost his life while serving his country. Her mother passed away four years ago after being sick, but Ari has never forgotten the promises she made to her. First, she must get into Carter Middle School. It is where her parents, brother, and legal guardian all went but it is now a school solely for the gifted and talented. Second, she must always stay with her brother, Gage. Now, eighteen, Gage is tired of butting heads with Janna, their legal guardian, so when he moves out, Ari goes with him. Only, he has no permanent work and no place to live. Despite Ari's attempts to see it otherwise, she and Gage are now homeless and no one can know.

With her grades slipping and her appearance questionable, Ari tries to be invisible and keep everything a secret, even from her best friend. But as the application deadline closes in, Ari wonders how she is ever going to get into Carter Middle School when she can't even fill out the simplest question on the form: her address. At night, Ari and Gage never know where they will end up: a friend's apartment, a stranger's house, a storage unit, or even a car. Sometimes, they can get into a shelter but only if they sneak in with the help of West, because if anyone finds out, Ari will get taken away from her brother.

It is her paper things that get Ari through. Ever since her mother died, Ari has created a paper world by cutting out people and furniture from catalogs. To most people, they appear to be nothing more than paper dolls, but to Ari, they are a large family, each member with names and stories. They are the home she's always wanted but never had. Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson is the touching and heartbreaking story of a young girl caught in the middle of the promises she made to her dying mother, the love she has for her struggling brother, and her own needs to just be a child.