The first one is called "Shooter" by Caroline Pignat. It's told from the point of view of 5 very different high schools students. Isabelle, or Izzy, is the class president but worries about not being enough. Hogan is a former football player who has some big issues surrounding his temper. Xander is a photographer who struggles with social skills (the author never names his diagnosis but you could assume it was Asperger's or possibly high functioning autism). Noah is definitely autistic and has limited self control. Alice is his sister who worries about him and tries as much as she can to protect him. They all end up in a boys bathroom at the school during a lockdown, which the kids initially assume is a drill, but it turns out, it's a real emergency. I really liked each of these characters for lots of different reasons. Each has a distinctive and remarkably likable voice. They are each dealing with their own demons and this crisis brings many of their problems to a place where they can deal with them. The writing was very fast paced and super hard to put down. I really liked this one a lot. It's too big for my elementary school library but this one will be great for high school students.
This next one is from a terrific author, Carol Weston. She has written several other books that I've enjoyed very much (like Ava and Pip) I'm writing about her latest book, "The Speed of Life" here in a YA post, because to me, it felt like it was too big for the small end of middle grade fiction. That's where I live-deep in the dark heart of an ELEMENTARY school library. I think it's too big for third graders. There might be some fourth graders who need it, but really-5th grade and up. It's about a girl named Sofia. She lives with her dad in an apartment in NY City. Her mother died the year before and its been really hard on Sofia and her dad, but they are muddling through. Like many teen age girls, Sofia is worried about dating (she isn't yet, should she be?) and body issues (like periods! And bras! and chest sizes!). An advice columnist comes to their school and speaks very frankly about all of these topics and Sofia starts emailing her and the columnist responds! The author does an amazing job of weaving lots of social issues into this one-coping with death, multiculturalism, puberty, dating, premarital sex, abortion, gay relationships, and friendship, just to name a few. Sofia is a terrific character, but the other characters are awesome as well-her dad, the advice columnist, her best friend KiKi, her new stepsister, Alexa. I was really sorry when this book was over!
Here's the author, Carol Weston, talking about the book.
The last one has a really great art connection. It's called "Piecing Me Together" by Renee Watson. It's about Jade who is a very talented collage artist and loves making art pieces. She lives with her mom and her older brother. Her mother works hard and has made it possible for Jade to attend an exclusive private school in another part of Portland, Oregon, where they live. Jade has to ride the city bus a long way to get to school and she feels like an outsider there, not just because of her appearance but because of where she lives, what she likes to eat, what she likes to do, everything is different. She notices another girl riding the same bus every day and strikes up a friendship with her. Jade also has a mentor that she is somewhat ambivalent about-she's not sure exactly why Maxine wants to be her mentor or even if Maxine is really that interested in her. I really liked Jade and her voice-I could really feel her emotions and understand what her life is like. One of the big themes that I think a lot of kids will relate to is the idea that you want to leave home for all sorts of reasons, but leaving is hard and scary and will it be any better some place else? I loved all the different struggles Jade was having and was sorry when this one was over too. I think lots of kids are going to enjoy getting to know her too!