Bang by Barry Lyga
Available in Print, eBook and eAudiobook.
When Sebastian was four years old, he accidentally killed his infant sister with a gun. Ten years later, Sebastian is waiting for the right time to use a gun on himself. The voice in his head will tell him when.
Sebastian lives with his mother in the same house where the accident happened. She won’t talk about his sister Lola and what happened that horrible day even though Sebastian needs her to. By trying to avoid it, neither can ever escape it for long. His dad left long ago.
Sebastian is the guy who shot his sister. Everyone knows it even if they don’t talk about it anymore, so Sebastian is pleased when he meets Aneesa, a new girl in town. He is immediately taken with her face and how it is framed by the scarf wrapped around her head. Aneesa is different and doesn’t know anything about Sebastian’s past. They begin hanging out and quickly bond.
Aneesa suggests that she and Sebastian start an online video series of Sebastian making pizza (after impressing her with his cooking skills). They hope they will eventually be able to make money if the videos become popular enough. Is his friendship (and maybe more?) with Aneesa enough to stop the voice in his head?
The horrible death of his sister has eaten away at Sebastian, and it has come to define who he is. Heart wrenching but with hope – just what you expect from Barry Lyga.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Available in Print, eBook and eAudio.
Marin is alone. She stayed in her college dorm (with special permission) over the holidays while everyone else went home. Marin feels like she has nowhere to go. Her mother died a long time ago while surfing and her grandpa (who she lived with) is gone now, too.
Marin lived in California until she fled to her college in New York two weeks before the semester started. She left abruptly and came with few possessions. She has tried to escape what happened back home. It is with mixed feelings that she awaits a visit from her best friend Mabel who she has not had any contact with since she left.
Something happened back in California that only Marin can explain and she has not been ready to do that. What will she say to Mabel? They were so close for so long and now they seem almost like strangers. In the middle of a snow storm, the two friends only have each other.
This is not a story of action; it is a sorrowful story of a lost young woman. Marin’s story is peeled back in small bits. Her secrets are revealed slowly through flashbacks and conversation with Mabel. It is a remarkable story that is worth the read to find out why Marin left everything behind. To tell more would be unfair to you.
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Available in Print & eBook.
Two voices in one town separated by decades, but connected by one tragic event, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.
Rowan is home when workmen find a skeleton on her family’s property. Whoever the person was, they have been buried a long time. Rowan enlists her best friend to help find answers when the authorities do not see the case as a priority.
William is the son of a white father and a Native American mother living in racially charged Tulsa in 1921. His confrontation with an African American man who was speaking to a white woman sparks more anger in a city already on edge.
Rowan’s and William’s stories are told in alternating chapters. William struggles with the open racism he sees in others (including his father) and his contact with two young African Americans he grows to like. He also feels the sting of being called half breed and threatened by the obnoxious shop keeper who works across the street from his father’s Victrola business.
Rowan, the child of a white father and African American mother, feels and sees racism in current society. Her parents are financially successful so when she starts working in a medical clinic in a low income area, her eyes are opened to the struggles of others.
This incredible story interweaves the past and present skillfully to show how much we have progressed as a society and how far we still have to go. Skin color is only that and has nothing to do with who people really are inside. Basing anything on people’s skin tone is just wrong and has lead to too much pain and anguish. Rowan and William, seemingly unrelated, show that we are never that far removed from out past. I highly recommend this book. It is, sadly, very relevant to today’s world.
Speed of Life by J. M. Kelly
Available in Print.
Amber and Crystal are twin sisters and high school seniors in Oregon. Even though they’re teenagers, they have adult responsibilities. When one of the twins got pregnant during her junior year, Amber and Crystal agreed to raise the baby, Natalie, together. Amber and Crystal don’t have easy lives, but they’ve learned to take care of themselves. They’re broke and busy. Amber washes dishes at her aunt’s tavern, the Glass Slipper, while Crystal works on cars and sells lottery tickets at Jimmy’s Gas and Auto Repair. Amber and Crystal’s gambling mom and beer-swilling stepdad, Gil, aren’t much help, but their friend Han is always willing and able to lend a helping hand.
Despite their difficulties, Amber and Crystal are committed to supporting each other and reaching their goals in life. They have made plans together for life after high school graduation. Amber is going to take over the Glass Slipper and Crystal is going to work full-time at Jimmy’s. The twins are going to move out of their mom’s home and get their own apartment. Above all, they want Natalie to have a better life than they have had.
Life gets in the way of their mutual plans when Crystal gets inspired to study auto restoration at a college far away in Kansas. Crystal — scared of blowing up the sisters’ plans — keeps her college dream a secret from Amber, even while taking practical steps to turn that dream into reality.
Will Crystal abandon her dream of going to college or will Crystal pursue her dream, thus betraying the twins’ plans? Can the sisters get the better future that they want for Natalie and themselves?
Recommended for readers who like: realistic fiction, stories about families, and thinking about their future.
Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash
Available in Print.
For three days in 1969, the Woodstock music festival made the small town of Bethel, New York, the center of the rock world. Thousands of people gathered in the name of peace to hear some of the biggest names in music. Two of those people are Michael and Cora, and this is how they met and spent those three days.
Michael drove from Massachusetts with his friend Evan, his girlfriend Amanda, and Amanda’s two friends. He’s not sure what to do with his life. Go to college? Join the military? He’s also not sure about his girlfriend Amanda. Sometimes it seems like she doesn’t even like him, so why is she with him at all?
Cora lives in Bethel on a farm. Her dad has nothing but disdain for the people coming to the festival. He is a veteran with great pride in his oldest son’s current service in Vietnam. He’s not as happy with Cora and her war protesting twin brother. Cora wants to be a nurse…no, she really wants to be a doctor, a lofty goal for a woman from a small town in those times. She works as a candy striper in the medical tent at the festival.
Michael takes some acid with bad results, so his friends take him to the medical tent where he is attended to by Cora. Michael doesn’t remember much about their first encounter, but soon realizes Cora is nothing like Amanda. Separated from his friends, Michael asks Cora to hang with him.
The festival allows to Michael and Cora to escape their worries for a bit: Cora’s strict father and her brother in Vietnam; Michael’s future and his issues with Amanda. Michael gets lost in the music and takes Cora with him. They run into famous people and share in the generosity of their fellow festival goers. Neither, of course, knows the mythical quality that Woodstock will one day represent to generations. But we do, so we can go along with them to feel just a little bit of what it could have been like for those three days of peace, love and music.