Lily lives in a perpetual nightmare. The bullying she faces in and outside of school is horrific.
The bullies take photos of her, attack her and call her names like pig, fatty and much, much worse.
Lily's mum is morbidly obese and hasn't left the house in years out of fear and embarrassment. She's dealing with her own family trauma, her brother Ray is a cop, but not a cop you can really trust at all.
Lily's dad works long nights at a tough job to keep things together at home. He's furious at those who are destroying Lily's life, but feels powerless to do anything about it. Meanwhile, Lily is spinning into a pit of despair.
Then, her father has an idea, he brings out his old boxing equipment and starts to show her some moves. At first she thinks it's a ridiculous idea but when she gets to imagine she's punching the faces of the people that hurt her, her attitude changes. This leads Lily to a boxing gym, I don't want to spoil any more of this novel because it's so amazing you should read it yourself.
Gloves Off is told in verse and alternates between Lily's perspective and occasionally her mother's. It's a very powerful look at fat shaming and the consequences that it has. Fat shaming is often overlooked as a "real" bullying issue, primarily based on the ridiculous claim that it will help the person being bullied to lose weight.
It's known that high school students who believe themselves to be overweight or obese are more likely to suffer depression and attempt suicide. (source)
There are other issues at play here as well. Lily's family can't afford to eat healthy. A report submitted in Sept 2018 by The Food Foundation showed that 3.7 million children in the UK live in households that earn less than £15,860 / year and are unable to afford the diet that is recommended by the government in order to stay healthy.
As a School Librarian, I haven't really come across a novel that packs this much punch (pun intended). It's an important story that needs to be told. It's not just the message that rings home, the story is beautifully told. It's raw at times and so heartbreaking you'll need to read it in private unless you don't want to be blubbering mess in front of strangers.
I can't recommend Gloves Off enough, it's published in August 2019, go get it.
Brody Fair is suffocating. He's falling behind at school and has no real plan for the future. His brother is a genius who spends every spare millisecond cramming his head full of knowledge so he can get into a good university. His father has agoraphobia and hasn't left the house in years. His mother takes on as many shifts as she can and is completely overwhelmed and exhausted.
To make matters worse, Brody is bullied on a daily basis by a couple of girls who verbally attack him on a daily basis. When Brody meets Nico, everything changes.
Nico introduces Brody to Everland, a magical world that exists in a kind of parallel universe in their home city of Edinburgh.
In Everland, Brody meets like-minded people and can be himself. With Nico he feels free to explore his feelings and do what he loves most, drumming, making music and sitting in quiet.
There is a catch to Everland, though. Brody can only visit it once a week, and he only has a limited time to enjoy it. There is a temptation, though, to leave his seemingly crumbling real world behind and stay in Everland forever. Brody finds himself faced with a choice that will alter his future forever.
Last Bus to Everland is a stellar novel that covers several topics facing teens today in a subtle but very effective way. The pressure to succeed at school, poverty, mental illness, coming out, bullying and finding out who you want to be are all part of Brody's journey.
You will feel for Brody, you'll want to join him in Edinburgh and tell him everything's going to be ok. Nico is a character that is also confused and troubled in different ways, with Brody he finds some kind of solace and you will be rooting for them as you fly through the pages of this novel.
The relationship between Brody and his family were some of my favourite parts of the novel. Brody doesn't feel like he really knows his siblings and it takes a few traumatic events for him to have important conversations with them, especially his brother. He loves his father but can't help feeling resentment about the fact that he doesn't work, forcing his mother to have no life outside of her job. It's a very well written dynamic, the idea that haunts a lot of people with mental illness, that they should just "get over it" and get on with their lives. It's never that simple.
The depiction of Everland itself is beautiful and haunting at the same time. It's in this dreamlike fog of bliss that Brody gets some respite from the pressure cooker that his home life.
I really recommend Last Bus to Everland, it's a superb novel that will tear your heart out, but in a good way. Don't miss it.
Kay Donovan & her friends are the most popular students at an elite private school. They run the place, they control the social atmosphere that is more important to most than grades.
One evening, after a party, they find a dead girl floating in a lake by the school. None of them claim to know her, she was a student at their school but she wasn't high up enough on the pecking order to be important to them.
However when Kay receives a coded scavenger hunt from the dead girl, her life becomes very complicated. She's plunged headfirst into a dangerous game where she must stab her friends in the back otherwise be framed for the murder. As the noose tightens, and the police begin to close in, Kay begins to unravel, and what is real and what is not becomes blurred.
I really enjoyed People Like Us, Kay is a great character, she has several flaws and can be very unlikeable but I never stopped rooting for her. She has a melancholic yet determined nature that keeps her chugging along in the face of obstacle after obstacle. At the Library that I manage, students can't get enough of school-based mysteries so I know this novel will be extremely popular.
I recommend it for ages 14 and up!
Paris is on the cusp of a Revolution, but all Camille cares about is putting food on the table so her and her sister Sophie don't starve to death.
Her parents deceased, Camille must try to survive famine, disease and her brother's drunken squandering of the little money they own.
However, Camille has a secret. She can turn worthless metal into coins, for a short period at least. This magic skill buys her and Sophie some time while she figures out a plan.
After delving into much darker magic, magic that her mother warned her about, Camille is able to disguise herself as nobility and enter the famed halls of Versailles, where she partakes in expensive and dangerous card games where the rewards are great.
It doesn't take long for Camille to discover that she might not be the only one at Versailles with a dark secret. Throw in the fact that she's fallen hopelessly in love with a daring young balloonist, Camille doesn't know if she can keep up her double life much longer. As the stakes become higher and the suspicions out of control, Camille finds herself in great danger, it doesn't help that Paris has turned completely upside down with violent anger at those who enter Versailles.
Enchantée is a great novel containing magic realism and historical facts about Paris, Versailles and the French Revolution. Camille's brother is a great villain, as are the other characters at Versailles although I don't want to spoil this as it's not clear who the real villain is right away.
I felt like the novel moved a long at an excellent pace and was really interesting from start to finish. I was genuinely concerned for Camille and Sophie and the sections of the novel where they were starving were really effective.
I don't think anyone who loves YA will want to miss Enchantée at all when it's released in 2019!
Two high school students take the same bus everyday but they've never actually met. Then one day, one of the teens, Richard, takes it upon himself to act recklessly and lights the other students' skirt on fire. Sasha suffers 3rd degree burns and has their life forever altered.
Richard is charged with hate crimes & faces a life behind bars. Both teens are forced to be in the spotlight as the press descends on them and their families.
The strangest part? It's all true. The 57 Bus is a fascinating look at two people who are brought together because of a horrible event. I could not put this book down, I needed to know what was going to happen to Richard & reading about Sasha's recovery was painful and heart breaking. It's an important book about tolerance, violence and recovery. I have organised it so that all of our Year 9 students (over 250 of them) will be reading The 57 Bus in the new year as I know it will generate a lot of discussion. Do not miss out on this amazing story. Recommended for ages 13 and up!
Kasia is a house-bound teen. Suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), she can't go down the stairs without feeling completely wiped out let alone go to school, meet friends and lead an average teenage life.
She spends her days in her room, listening to podcasts and audio books, doing homework and watching the world from her window.
Across the street and number 48, she swears she sees a figure in the window of a young girl. This seems strange to Kasia because she never sees her leave the house. Then one evening a car pulls up on her street, a man exits the vehicle and drags a screaming girl into it before stepping on the pedal and driving off.
Kasia is shocked and phones the police. Across the street, she sees the shadow of the girl in the window, watching everything unfold.
The police have nothing to go on. No one else has reported a missing person and there's no other witnesses. Kasia knows there is another witness but the police tell her that a young girl doesn't live across the street.
Is Kasia losing her mind? Has she been cooped up in her room for too long?
Kasia makes a new friend when a boy named Nav and his mum move in on the street to make amends with Nav's grandmother. Nav is sympathetic to Kasia and her medical condition, when many teens her age are not. Together, Nav and Kasia try to piece together the mystery of the shadowy girl in the window next door and the abduction that Kasia swore she saw. I won't spoil the novel any further, you'll have to read it!
Peny Joelson's writing is fast paced and concise which is what I love in a YA novel. It's also informative without delving into the info-dump that many authors fall victim to. I learned a lot about ME reading this book and I never once felt like i was being dictated to. I've only met one person in my life with ME and only briefly so I was interested in learning more. The frustration that Kasia feels when people in her school don't really believe her that she suffers from a real medical condition and is just trying to get out of school is tough and I can't imagine how that feels.
Girl in the Window covers some tough issues but I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a twelve year old student at Glenthorne. I really loved it, fans of mystery thrillers and even books like Everything, Everything will be wanting to read more from Penny!
Brynn Haper only has one consistent thing in her life: Television presenter Rachel Maddow. Other than that, she's dealing with a recent breakup, an abusive stepfather and a preppy jerk destroying the democratic political process in her high school.
As a homework assignment, she writes a few emails to Rachel Maddow and is thrilled when she receives a response.
As a way to catalogue her struggles, fears and determination, Brynn writes dozens of unsent emails to Rachel Maddow, all describing a life in turmoil and pain but full of hope and grit and spirit.
When Brynn's ex and the aforementioned preppy jerk get involved in a game of high school rigged elections, Brynn takes matters into her own hands to not only expose them for what they are but to get politically involved herself.
Dear Rachel Maddow is one of the sharpest YA novels out there today. Hilarious, infuriating and lightning quick, Kisner captures the excruciating pain that the high school experience can be and that there's still plenty of hope to be found in the youth of today. I recommend it for ages 15 and up!
Jane Mckeene is born into a world of terror. Zombies, known as shamblers, have risen from the Civil War battlefields and torn the nation apart even further.
Jane is sent to special combat schools based on a government law known as the Native and Negro Reeducation Act, In the school she learns to dispose of the undead in an efficient manner.
Her and the other students are told that the area around Baltimore is shamble free, but when this turns out to be a lie, Jane and her friend Katherine are plunged into a conspiracy that will take them out west where shamblers aren't the only thing that's rotten.
I only gave this book two stars on Goodreads simply because I felt it was around 100 pages too long. I had such high hopes for it but nothing happens, it seems to be a string of mildly entertaining zombie attacks that are wedged into a huge amount of info dumps that go on for pages. It had a lot of promise in the beginning, but I have to say that the book is really boring which should have been near impossible when writing a book about zombies during the American Civil War.
After Moss Jeffries' father was murdered by the Oakland police department and the crime went unpunished, he suffers anxiety and severe panic attacks.
Six years later, in high school, Moss and his friends discover that an armed policeman roams their halls and subjects them to random locker checks. When metal detectors are installed, Moss and a few of his friends decide to organise a peaceful protest in order to let the faculty know their concerns.
The protest goes horribly wrong and Moss and his new boyfriend Javier find themselves in a hellish situation with no apparent way out. In the aftermath, Moss must confront his fears and stand up for himself and those around him, putting everything he knows at risk.
This novel could very well read like a dystopian thriller to those who don't live in the shadow of a corrupt and
totalitarian system. It's a truly frightening novel with memorable characters and storyline that keeps you hooked from page one. The relationship between Moss and his mother is touching, Moss and Javier are excellent together and playoff each other nicely. As does Moss and his other friends, one of whom has a more privileged background, making her a source of occasional irritation for Moss as he navigates a world of racism and hate.
I can imagine that fans of The Hate U Give will be devouring this powerful story, can't wait to bring it to them at school!
I recommend it for ages 15 and up!
Zélie lives in constant fear. In a land where magic users, or maji, are hunted and disposed of, she knows all too well the dangers that surround her.
Majis have been driven to extinction under the authority of a tyrannical king.
The king's daughter Amari, however, decides that her father's ways are wrong and sets out on her own. This angers the king who puts a price on her head.
In a chance meeting, Amari and Zélie meet as Amari is on the run. Together they flee with Zélie's brother.
Chased by Amari's brother, Inan, the three go from one nail-biting adventure to the next as Zélie discovers that she may be the key to bringing magic back to the land.
Filled with thrills, Indiana Jones-style adventure and truly original characters, I can't recommend this book enough.
If you're looking for strong female characters with complex histories and troubled pasts with tons of great fight scenes, a strong fantasy plot and a ton of grit, this is the book for you.
I will be buying quite a few copies of this to keep our teens happy. Highly recommended!