Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized. When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

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This book has been pitched as Eleanor and Park meets The Fault in Our Stars and I think that’s a pretty accurate statement. In short, it’s a (frustrating) love story between two best friends, Matthew and Amy. One suffers from mental health issues and the other is physically disabled. Although they face major challenges, they find hope in each other. Told in dual 3rd person point of view, readers are treated to a first-love romance filled with anticipation, confusion, and insecurity. Their relationship is tested time and time again as the pair can never get out the right words to explain their feelings. There is plenty of drama to go around, especially with Amy’s shocking twist. I didn’t feel it was necessary to move the plot forward, and wish McGovern did without it. Overall, a quick new adult read with plenty of drama.

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

In an extraordinary debut novel, an escaped fugitive upends everything two siblings think they know about their family, their past, and themselves.

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Zebra Forest is a short, beautifully written story about family, secrets, love and forgiveness for mature middle grade readers.  Eleven year old Annie, and her nine year old brother Rew live with their depressed grandmother in a cluttered house among the birches and oaks of the ‘Zebra Forest’.  Although Annie was expecting a dull, unadventurous summer, her life was turned upside down when an escaped prisoner from the nearby prison holds them hostage.

This book is for readers that love character driven stories. Early on, it becomes evident that Annie and Rew are extremely resilient kids forced to grow up and take care of themselves as their grandma becomes less and less stable and reliable.  Throw in heavy family issues and a surprise they never saw coming, it is no wonder they turned to literature (specifically Treasure Island) as a means of comfort and escape.  Obviously, as a librarian, I loved this connection to the power of reading and storytelling.

BookIt Guest Review-Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

I rarely have the pleasure of coming across a picture book for teens so I was thrilled to come across the uniquely told story of Chopsticks.

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks.” But nothing is what it seems, and Glory’s reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it’s up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along.

Chopsticks is not just a regular picture book, it is a story told through a  mix of images from photographs, letters, television shots, cell phone messages,  CD lists, artwork, menus, and more.  As a reader I felt like I was going the personal scrapbook of Glory, uncovering the key moments of her life from losing her mother to losing her grasp on reality. I think that this book would be a great choice for those who enjoy expressing themselves artistically. I went through the book several times, loving the images, and even followed it up by listening to some of the songs they share with each other. I believe teens will be able to identify with elements of the story, and enjoy the alternative format.

I give it 4 out of 5

Happy reading,

Bookit

p.s. check out the YouTube version of Chopsticks

Bookit Review: Above by Leah Bobet

I saw this book and I thought the cover was beautiful and intriguing. I enjoy discovering new Canadian authors and the depiction of a woman with beautiful wings looking out at the Toronto cityscape at night prepared me for a read that would intertwine a fantastical world with a city I have visited often. If I wasn’t already excited, the cover also includes praise from the 2011 Evergreen winner Emma Donoghue (Room) who writes “Above pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time.” Thus, I went into this read with high hopes….

From Goodreads:

An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.

 

I really wanted to like this novel. The story is told from the perspective of Matthew who describes himself as a monster or freak, with feet like lion claws and scales like fish. He was born underground in a Sanctuary called Safe and has the role of Teller for his community. He listens, memorizes and tells the stories about the members of Safe. Thus, we see the story through his perspective and after Safe is invaded by horrific creatures that try to destroy the only home he has known Matthew is forced to the world above. Leah Bobet does a great job of building character development through Matthews voice, similar to how Emma Donoghue told the story of Room through the perspective of 5 year-old Jack who knows the world only through the room he is born in. Matthew tells the stories of the various members of Safe and how they came together, including Ariel a girl with bee wings he found broken and abused in the sewers.

In Above Bobet combines a depressing and realistic look at what life might be like for those who are born or inflicted with abnormalities, such as those of the fantastical nature and even those that have been seen to threaten societal norms such as being mixed gender. How would society and scientists treat these people if they were discovered? History shows that we have not been kind, and Above includes these hard to read topics which made it sad to read at times.

Lastly, the mystery of the story takes an interesting spin as you discover who invaded Safe and why. The moral code of Matthew`s character is challenged throughout the story and in the end the story of Above sends out the message of the butterfly effect, where one action can completely change the course of events to come.

I give it 4 out of 5

Happy reading,

Bookit

 

 

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