Wednesday, December 17, 2014

LIghting the Darkness

Stories of future dystopian societies crowd our shelves in the Young Adult department, their popularity fueled by blockbuster series/movies such as Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and Veronica Roth's Divergent.  But while that genre continues to explode, another type of story walks out of our doors more and more often these days: stories about normal people faced with huge, yet very real, problems: disease, injury, family trouble, and more.  This genre, simply called realistic fiction, appeals to teens who want to read stories of other teens "lighting the darkness" -- finding their way through these problem to some sort of resolution. The last five of our 2014-2015 Soaring Eagle book award nominees tell of these types of stories.
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.  Green is one of few authors, YA or not, to have more than one title on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time, and the popularity of the movie version of The Fault in our Stars has landed the book on our Soaring Eagle nominee list for the second time in three years. 

This is the story of Hazel Grace. Living life with Stage IV thyroid cancer, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors . . . for now.
We meet her two years post-miracle. Sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too - post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. She considers herself a "ticking time bomb" and refuses to let anyone get too close.  Then she meets Augustus Waters at the  cancer kids support group her mom insists she attend.  

Gus is gorgeous, in remission, and - shockingly - interested in Hazel. In fact he sets out to make Hazel’s wishes come true.  As Gus and Hazel fall more deeply in love, they have to accept the role cancer is going to play in their relationship. Is it worth falling in love if you don't know what tomorrow will bring?        

Counting by Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Making friends is hard for 14-year-old Willow Chance. Instead of playing sports or watching movies with her friends, Willow would rather spend her time working on the garden she has created in her backyard or studying and diagnosing diseases…or counting by sevens. Seven is a lucky number and Willow sees it everywhere.

 Dell Duke is a lazy school counselor with no interest in the students that come to his office until he meets Willow Chance. Willow teaches Dell that not everyone teenager fits into the predictable categories that he has placed them in.  Willow’s meetings with Dell Duke pay off when she finally gets her chance to make friends. Quang-ha, one of Dell’s students, and Mai, his older sister, take an interest in Willow.

However, when tragedy strikes Willow, she is suddenly alone in the world with no one to take her in. She loses her ability to count by sevens.  Mai, Quang-ha, and Dell must work together to help Willow find her new place in the world, and to help her remember how to count by sevens. (Review by my colleague, Rachael Yates)

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith  If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When GDL accidentally gets an email address wrong, EONeill decides to answer. They strike up a conversation, which leads to another, and another . . .until the two have developed an intimate rapport, all the while guarding their true identities.
However, GDL is convinced that EONeill is someone special, so he lobbies for his next movie to be shot in her hometown.  After all – this is Graham Larkin, the latest teenage heartthrob, and he can shoot movies wherever he likes.  Ellie O’Neill isn’t the type of girl to be taken in by the trappings of stardom, however, and when his true identity is revealed, she is shocked and unsure if she wants any relationship at all.
Can a star as big as Graham really start a relationship with a girl as ordinary as Ellie? And why is Ellie so intent on avoiding the media spotlight at all costs? Is her secret as big as Graham's?

The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen.  Jessica has everything going for her:  at 16, she has many friends, and her running ability makes her a superstar on the high school track team.  And then, the unthinkable happens: a random accident with the track team bus leaves one team member dead, and Jessica seriously injured. She has lost her leg.

Jessica doesn't know who she is anymore, without being a runner. Her recovery is long and difficult, but it forces Jessica to look hard at her life:  while she was a popular track star, she ignored people with disabilities, people like her math tutor, Rosa, who has cerebral palsy. Is that the type of person she really wants to be? 

This is the story of Jessica's quest to run again, but it is also the story of what Jessica learns when running is taken away from her.

Forgotten, by Cat Patrick. What would you do if you knew you would forget everything that happened today while you sleep tonight? How would you get ready for your science quiz, or remember what you and your friend talked about at lunchtime?  How would you remember meeting the new student, so that you didn't embarrass yourself by introducing yourself a second time?

Each night at precisely 4:33 a.m., while 16-year-old London Lane is asleep, her mind "erases" the previous day’s memories. In the morning, all she can “remember” are events from her future. She relies on elaborate notes to re-establish her memory before she goes to school each day, and usually, her system works.

But when Luke Henry, the new boy in school, enters the picture, life gets even more complicated. Luke is not someone you’d easily forget – and yet, London cannot find him in her future “memories.”  When she starts experiencing disturbing dreams, London realizes it’s time to learn the truth about whatever destroyed her memory in the past – before it destroys her future.


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