Skinny by Donna Cooner. At 300 pounds, 15-year-old Ever decides to have gastric bypass surgery as a solution to what she sees as her tragic life. The author doesn’t glamorize the outcome of becoming “skinny,” and leaves it to readers to decide the value of taking such a drastic measure to solve a rather common problem. The theme of bullying makes this a valuable classroom read.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Set in the 1950s in steamy New Orleans, Sepetys creates a setting that is so atmospheric that readers will feel they are actually walking along Bourbon Street. The plot is first-rate but it is the main character, Josie, who steals the show. And the best part? I learned all about brothels and the important role they played in early New Orleans’ history.
Panic by Sharon Draper. This book is unlike any other of Draper’s novels because of its subject matter. Diamond, desperate to be a famous star, is kidnapped by a pedophile. While Draper manages to convey the abuse that Diamond undergoes at his hands, the scenes are not graphic nor sensational…just realistic enough to make readers think about being more careful with strangers.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr. This is the first book I have read by Zarr and I am impressed by her portrayal of complex characters and her ability to explore the nuances of love from the perspectives of three very different women without sentimentality. Jill’s dad dies unexpectedly and her mother wants to adopt a baby to fill the void. Jill suspects the teenage girl who is pregnant with her new sibling and moves in with them is not what she appears to be – but convincing her mother of that fact seems to be impossible.
American Ghost by Janis Owens. While not a young adult novel, this excellent piece of historical fiction about the infamous lynching in the 1930s in a northwest Florida community will provide a compelling read for older students (and their teachers). Owens weaves a love story into the horrifying events that bind this town together in secrecy and shame. It brought back all my questions about how our species can be so cruel and allowed me to see once again the price we all pay for such cruelty.