This is Bouwman's second novel and I missed her first one. This one is so big that it's a bit hard to describe. It starts with two main characters, a brother and sister-Pip and Kinchen. They are orphans but live with a kind old man named Ren who has adopted them and cared for them on an island that is quite far away from other islands, so they rarely get visitors. However, on the day the story starts, there are visitors from a place called Raftworld. In particular, the visitors want to talk to Pip about his gift for talking to animals underwater. It turns out the King of Raftworld has a plan for easing the overcrowding of Raftworld that involves Pip and his gift. In addition to Pip's gift, he also has a problem recognizing faces, even faces of people he knows well, so his sister is very protective of him, so when the King is a bit insistent, she wants to walk away and take Pip with her and things really start to happen. I don't want to give too much away because the unfolding of this story is part of what makes it so magical. But let me tell you that there are historical touch points that will surprise you along with gigantic themes of finding yourself, trust, forgiveness and hope. I loved this one so much!
My second new favorite is one I read as an advanced reader's copy from Netgalley. It's called "Almost Paradise". It's by Corabel Shofner and it's her first novel. It has an array of very interesting characters-the main character and storyteller is Ruby Clyde Henderson. She has led a tragically interesting life-her father was killed on her birthday in an armed robbery. Her mother, who is not a strong person, has allowed people to steer her in different directions. The latest person to do the steering is a man named Carl (who Ruby calls the Catfish) and he has a million great ideas on how to make money. This doesn't end well for any of them, luckily, Ruby Clyde finds someone who will help take care of all of them. It's a lovely story full of hope and love and funny things that happen in life. I really liked all the characters in this story. It would be great connected to another book that has similar themes - "The Honorable Perry T. Cook" by Leslie Connor. Don't miss this one!
This last one is a YA book and it will be too big for my library, but I had a really hard time putting it down. It's called "Fragile Like Us" by Sara Barnard. It's told by a girl named Caddy who has a best friend since she was a little girl named Rosie. They attend different schools (Caddy goes to a private all girls school and Rosie attends the local high school). Caddy's parents have high expectations for and that's doubly difficult because Caddy's older sister has struggled with mental illness. A new girl named Suzanne moves to their town and Rosie and Suzanne seem to becoming really good friends and Caddy is a bit jealous. However, it turns out that Suzanne is struggling with some really big issues and Caddy really wants to be able to help. Her family and Rosie try to tell Caddy to distance herself from Suzanne but Caddy keeps thinking things will get better. It has a really interesting dynamic-you can see how people are drawn into difficult and enabling relationships. I liked all of the girls and it was also possible to get some insight into the lives of English school girls-the English culture was very strong. I thought it was a super compelling read and I think the high school kids would enjoy it a lot. This one is coming out July 18, so look for it!