In the opening chapter of The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, high school junior Jessica wakes up in the hospital to find that the lower half of her leg is gone, damaged beyond repair in a horrible bus accident that also claimed the life of one of her track teammates. Jessica is devastated. Running meant everything to her, and now she can't even get out of bed. However, her will is strong, and with the help of her loving family and friends, she is quickly on the road to recovery and to walking once again with her new prosthetic leg. But will Jessica ever run again?
As someone who also loves to run and gets what that runner's high feeling is all about, I can't even imagine how crushing it would be to have it taken away. Despite the odds and the setbacks along the way though, Jessica is inspiring, positive, and full of hope. While still recovering and confined to a wheelchair, Jessica ends up befriending a girl with cerebral palsy in her math class named Rosa, and as they become good friends, Jessica makes the connection that like Jessica, Rosa wants to be seen as Rosa, not as the girl with a disability. In the end, you can't help but cheer for Jessica like an excited fan along the track.
While losing a limb would surely be an awful tragedy, this story ends up being a feel-good "best case scenario" of what would happen in the aftermath of such a terrible event, thanks to Jessica's determined spirit and her wonderful support network. Parts of the book are certainly sad, but there are plenty of humorous and heart-warming scenes that keep this from being just another tear-jerker. I also found the bits about Jessica's recovery and prosthesis to be really informative. If you're looking for other inspiring stories like this one, try Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk, or Owning It : Stories About Teens with Disabilities.
19 hours after Jace leaves home in Chicago, he ends up at his brother's doorstep in Albuquerque with cuts and bruises to his face, less than $4 in his pocket, and a message from Mom: I'll be there on Thanksgiving. Swati Avasthi's debut novel, Split is a gripping story about abuse, frustration, anger, redefining family, and how the strength of this family can get you through things that may seem completely hopeless. The story completely pulls you in from the first pages, the characters are well thought out and likeable, and Avasthi's subtlety about a sensitive topic is appreciated. Chosen as one of this year's Best Books for Young Adults by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association, Split is an excellent read for the older teen reader.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of those well-executed stories that has stayed with me since reading it a few years ago. It is an achingly-sad yet touching and beautiful story full of music, love, and loss. Be warned...If you read this book, you will likely cry. Even this typically dry-eyed reader had a hard time holding back the tears during the last few pages (which was awkward considering that I was in the break room at work). But if you are up to the emotional challenge, I encourage you to take it. I'll try not to spoil it too much for you:
Mia is a Portland-area high school senior with a gift for classical cello, dreaming of making it into prestigious Julliard. She has a great relationship with her lovely family, made up of her cool punk rock parents and her little brother. The message that true passion for music transcends genres runs throughout the book, and this is what brings her together with her rocker musician boyfriend Adam, despite their superficial differences.
Unfortunately, it's about to get really, really sad. The book opens with a devastating car accident that leaves the other passengers dead and Mia critically injured in a coma, and the rest of the novel unfolds in out-of-sequence vignettes from Mia's life leading up to the accident. These scenes weave in and out with Mia's out-of-body experience watching her loved ones during the aftermath. Mia has suffered an unimaginable loss, but does she have the strength to stay and endure it? The characters are well-developed and lovable, which makes the emotional connection all the more strong and therefore painful. I absolutely adored her amazing family, and her boyfriend Adam is endearing to astronomical proportions. And yes, the whole post-trauma limbo "Should I stay or should I go?" thing has been done before, but this was done very well.
There's talk that this will be made into a movie, but no info yet about directors or casting now that actress Dakota Fanning has left the project. But guess what? There's a brand new sequel! Again, no spoilers, so I'll just tell you that it's called Where She Went (available now in the catalog), and it's about my dear book-crush Adam.
Witness by Karen Hesse is a chilling, beautifully written novel set in a small Vermont town. Told from the point of view of 11 different characters and in free verse, this story relates actual events that occurred after the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan in 1924. At the heart of the story are Leanora, a 12 year-old African American girl and Esther Hirsh, a 6 year-old Jewish girl whose families are victimized by the Klan. From these two young girls to the town’s adult citizens, the author has created convincing and distinct voices for each of the 11 characters. It is fascinating to read about the same events as they are told from these very different points of view and to see changes in attitudes slowly taking place.
If you enjoy the powerful format of the novel told in poems, you’re in luck because there are many other excellent poem-novels out there. Here are just a few of them:
And if you liked these poem-novels, here are even more titles.
These days it's easy to see what your favorite author is doing - besides hopefully working on the next great book. John Green is a great example:
If you're 12-18 years old and like to take photos or are just beginning here is a contest just right for you! We're inviting teens to show us why they love the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library by taking a photo showing why this library is special to them! You can print out this entry form and return it to the Children's Room at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library by April 30. There will be cool prizes so don't miss this chance to be a winner. The library has many books on basic photography to get you started or give you ideas. Be creative and take a chance!