Book Review: The Secrets We Bury

The Secrets We Bury – Stacie Ramey – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 6 March 2018

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Synopsis

In an effort to escape his family, Dylan decides to hike the Appalachian trail—but he never expected to run into love.

Dylan Taggart is on the run. His family is trying to put him in a school for psychologically challenged students, and he gets it—he has anger issues. But Believers Charter School is a complete overreaction. So he decides a six-month hike on the Appalachian Trail is the perfect place to hide out until he can legally drop out of school.

Dylan wanted independence, but being alone on the trail is more than he bargained for. Then he meets a mysterious hiker named Sophie, and the two begin to develop a bond he never expected. But will love be enough to escape what they’re both running from?

My thoughts

I was intrigued by The Secrets We Bury, but never did I expect that is was going to be that good! Everything fits seamlessly together: the authentic male protagonist who struggles to fit in and deal with everything that makes him different; the people Dylan meets on the trail, those who are just passing strangers and those who come to have such an impact on him and he on them; the trail magic; the powerful beauty of the setting and the way Dylan slowly comes to notice it; and of course the underlying themes of grief, guilt, forgiveness and starting over.

Dylan has run away from home. Run away from the grief that overpowers him, run from the guilt of the secrets he carries, run from the mother who wants to put him in a special school to control his outpouring of anger. His plan of escape is to hike the Appalachian Trail. But the trail will test Dylan in ways he couldn’t expect – from bugs and new food to bears. When Dylan happens upon a strange and intriguing girl who is apparently hiking alone and unprepared, Dylan is drawn to her in a way he has never experienced before. Dylan might be running away, but the trail just might be the place where he finds himself.

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Book Review: More Than We Can Tell

More Than We Can Tell – Brigid Kemmerer – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 6/8 March 2018

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Synopsis

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

My thoughts

When life tests you, when it throws everything at you, who can you turn to, who can you trust? Once again, Brigid Kemmerer has created a heartbreaking, emotional and moving novel. As a companion to Letters To The Lost, More Than We Can Tell evokes the same emotional response as the characters face a crisis point in their lives, fall in love, and learn to lean on the support of those around them.

Rev Fletcher has found safety and love with his adoptive parents. But when his biological father reaches out to him, it threatens to shake and destroy everything. In the midst of this turmoil, Rev meets Emma. They attend the same high school but have never really crossed paths until now. Emma, too, knows what it feels like to have her world turned upside down. Her parents are constantly fighting, her father barely acknowledges her existence, and her mother is constantly on her case, and then there is the online stalker sending her horrible messages. When things escalate for both Rev and Emma, they will need to learn to lean on each other as well as drawing on the support of the people around them.

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Book Review: Take Three Girls

Take Three Girls – Cath Crowley, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell – Pan Australia – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

Ady – not the confident A-Lister she appears to be.
Kate – brainy boarder taking risks to pursue the music she loves.
Clem – disenchanted swim-star losing her heart to the wrong boy.

All are targeted by PSST, a toxic website that deals in gossip and lies. St Hilda’s antidote to the cyber-bullying? The Year 10 Wellness program. Nice try – but sometimes all it takes is three girls.

My thoughts

Take Three Girls is contemporary #LoveOzYA fiction at its best. And yet, Take Three Girls is transferable to any society, any country which experiences the troubles of bullying, social media dangers, and relationship breakdown. With a no-holds-barred approach, Take Three Girls takes some serious and seriously important topics and meets them head on. What results is an open, honest, and refreshing novel that clears the way for some vital conversations.

Clem, Ady, and Kate. Three girls who attend the same school, but who otherwise don’t have a lot in common. Or at least, don’t think they do. When these three girls, like many others, are targeted by an abusive website spreading horrifying false information and sexual harassment, they are thrown together, not only in class but as they face the challenges of a cruel online world and culture.

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Book Review: Where I Live

Where I Live – Brenda Rufener – HarperTeen – Published 27 February 2018

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Synopsis

LINDEN ROSE HAS RULES FOR SURVIVAL.

1. Prevent the in-class nap.
2. Never carry too many belongings.
3. Avoid looking the part.

Her rules guarantee no one discovers her secret–that she’s homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her best friends, Ham and Seung, have formed a makeshift family, and writing for her school’s blog prevents downtime. When you’re homeless, free time sucks. Despite everything Linden’s burdened with, she holds on to hope for a future and a maybe romance with Seung.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay attention. And attention is the last thing Linden needs.

To put a stop to the violence, Linden must tell the story. Even if it breaks her rules for survival and jeopardizes the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.

My thoughts

As expected, Where I Live is an incredibly powerful book. It snuck up on me and simply stole my breath away. In addition to raising the very needed and important topic of teen homelessness, Where I Live is a beautifully crafted novel that examines relationships in all their forms, and balances heartbreak with hope, offsetting challenges that knock you to your knees with the joy of living.

Linden is hiding in plain sight. Every day she handles a million tiny details to ensure that no one knows she is living in her high school, especially not her two best friends, Ham and Seung. Their love, banter, acceptance, and sometimes crazy schemes make the secrecy worth it. But when Linden starts to uncover the secret of a fellow classmate, sees abuse that is all-too reminiscent of her past, it begins to shake her already fragile world.

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Book Review: Hooper

Hooper – Geoff Herbach – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 20 February 2018

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Synopsis

For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.

But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.

My thoughts

It is going to be hard to put the magic of this book into words. What at first seems to be a simple tale about a boy who plays basketball is actually a richly detailed and poignant story of family, belonging, racial injustice, finding home, and settling into the person you were meant to be. Hooper, with a style all of its own, captures these timely themes in an original and approachable way.

“Basketball will be your passport.” Adam doesn’t exactly understand what that means. After all, he already has a passport from when Renata adopted him and brought him from Poland to his new home in the USA. But he does love basketball. Loves the freedom he finds only on the court. Loves the way it silences the anger and painful memories. As his basketball skills start to give him new opportunities on the court, Adam must balance these with the challenges he faces off the court. And maybe, through it all, he will discover a home, family, and friends, and finally a place where he belongs.

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Book Review: Flight Season

Flight Season – Marie Marquardt – St Martin’s Press: Wednesday Books – Published 20 February 2018

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Synopsis

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

My thoughts

Flight Season is a beautiful, heartbreaking book that had me smiling and laughing and crying, both despairing and rejoicing in humanity, and so happy just to spend a little time with these amazing characters.

Vivi Flannigan has returned home from college for the summer to pull her life together. If she can stick it out at her hospital internship she might have a slim hope of passing her semester’s courses. If she can help her mother get back on track, she might be able to save their home. And if she can avoid Old Town, she might have a slim chance of forgetting that one night she lost total control. TJ Carvalho has one last clinical placement to pass before he is done with his nursing studies. So when Vivi turns up in his ward, the girl who he witnessed have a complete meltdown, he does his best to avoid her. But when TJ and Vivi are forced to work together to care for heart patient Ángel, the three of them form a beautiful, if challenged, friendship, which just might change their lives in ways they could never have expected.

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Book Review: Winterfolk

Winterfolk – Janel Kolby – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

A gritty yet beautiful debut novel about a homeless teen who relies on the magic she sees in the world around her to help her find her place, perfect for fans of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap

Rain is a homeless teen living with her father in the woods outside Seattle, near a community of other homeless people called the Winterfolk. She finds safety and sanctuary in this hidden world—until the day that safety is shattered when she learns the city plans to clear the woods of everyone who lives there. Now she’s forced to confront Seattle, which is full of strange sights, sounds, people—and memories.…

My thoughts

How shall I describe this book? At once both hopeful and sad, gritty and yet filled with magic, Winterfolk pairs the harsh reality of homelessness with a magical, lyrical writing style to create an ethereal novel about love, family, belonging, acceptance, and community.

Rain lives in the Jungle, the forest outside of town that shelters the Winterfolk. Rain knows how to be invisible, living with her father, King – who is friend, protector, everything – and a collection of souls who use the forest to take what protection they can to hide from the world. When the Winterfolk’s home is threatened by destruction, Rain knows her home is in danger. On Rain’s fifteenth birthday, King takes her into town. But a simple trip to see what lies outside the protection of their trees becomes a life-changing journey.

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Book Review: The Calculus of Change

The Calculus of Change – Jessie Hilb – Clarion Books – Published 27 February 2018

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Synopsis

Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom’s faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden’s brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.

My thoughts

I expected Calculus of Change to be light-hearted contemporary, where math meets romance and trivial high school problems create light drama and much fun. Instead, Calculus of Change is a deep novel and touches on numerous heavy issues, from sexual assault to body image, relationship problems and self perception. It is thought provoking and written in an original style.

When Aden falls she falls. Head over heels, totally discombobulated falls in love. That’s what happened when Tate walked into their calculus classroom wearing a yarmulke and a smile that seemed only for her. But Tate has a girlfriend, and as Aden and Tate become friends and spend increasing amounts of time together, Aden finds it harder to hide her true feelings. But her unrequited love isn’t the only thing not going to plan, like her father’s endless grief and anger, her brother’s impending destruction, and her best friend’s own dangerous relationships. As Aden struggles to reconcile her feelings with her perceived self worth, she must decide how she will view herself, her family, her friendships, and her memory of her mother.

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Book Review: Say You’ll Remember Me

Say You’ll Remember Me – Katie McGarry – Harlequin Teen Australia – Published 22 January 2018

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Synopsis

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

My thoughts

Say You’ll Remember Me is simply stunning. Incredibly powerful, emotive, and heartbreaking, with characters that slip into your heart and refuse to leave, Say You’ll Remember Me demonstrates the importance of grace and understanding in this story of family and love. Once again Katie McGarry delivers a wonderful book. I have come to expect nothing less from this extraordinary writer, but nevertheless, McGarry seems to pass all expectations. In my opinion, Say You’ll Remember Me is her very best book to date.

Elle knows she is blessed – good parents, a safe and secure life, endless opportunities – but still she feels trapped. Trapped by the expectations of a life in the spotlight thanks to her father’s political career. Trapped by her own feelings of failure to live up to those expectations. For Drix, fresh out of juvenile detention and a second chance program, life has been against him since he was born. Now he has been given a chance to start over, but he too is constrained by expectations. Elle and Drix are not supposed to meet, not supposed to build a friendship against everyone’s orders to stay apart, and not supposed to connect in such a powerful way. But sometimes, there is one person in life who can see past all the facades and lies, and who believes in you, no matter what, and they are worth fighting for.

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Book Review: When My Heart Joins The Thousand

When My Heart Joins The Thousand – A.J. Steiger – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Alvie Fitz doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care. She’s spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.

If she can make it to her eighteenth birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be legally emancipated. Free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home.

All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. She can bide her time with him until her emancipation. Humans are overrated anyway. Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is—a boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about.

Her past stalks her with every step, and it has sharp teeth. But if she can find the strength to face the enemy inside her, maybe she’ll have a chance at happiness after all.

My thoughts

When My Heart Joins The Thousand offers a beautiful insight into growing up and learning to accept your self.

Alvie has only another year until she will legally be free – free from fear of being returned to the foster care system, free to continue living on her own terms, free from the continual assessment of others as seeing her as something different, something other. When a young man enters the sphere of her daily routine she is at first shaken, but then takes up the opportunity to prove that even she can enjoy the closeness of others. But her relationship with Stanley is nothing like she imagined. As Alvie faces the challenges of living alone, fights for her freedom, and faces her past, it is her relationship with Stanley that prompts her to reassess everything she knows about herself and love.

Well, that is one intense prologue. Talk about getting thrown right into the story. Actually, intense is the perfect descriptor for this book. It tackles so many important themes in an upfront and honest way. It is intense in an unputdownable way and I greatly enjoyed reading Alvie’s story.

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