A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review A List of Cages by Robin Roe! Julian doesn’t feel as though he belongs anywhere, at school or at home where he lives with his uncle. He likes to hide in a small secret room behind the school stage where he can be alone and no one knows where he is. I immediately felt protective of Julian and hated how people assumed that he was stupid and treated him horribly. He’s had a tragic past and he’s presently living in an unhappy world. Adam knows Julian because his family fostered him for a while after the death of his parents until Julian’s Uncle Russell stepped into their lives and took Julian away. Uncle Russell is a force to be reckoned with and has more issues than anyone realizes. This tragic and touching realistic fiction story earns 5 stars!

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

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Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow! A young woman named Charlie is found outside a hospital, hurt and alone. She’s treated in the hospital for seven days and then is taken to a psychiatric ward. She has cut herself to cope with the struggles in her life. She’s released from the ward and tries to get through it all one day at a time, and sometimes one moment at a time, while she finds a place to live and a job. Her social circle grows and she finds herself dealing with other’s problems and she wants to move forward not backwards. Girl in Pieces is a true pay-it-forward story and the author relays her own story and shares resources with readers at the end of the book. A deep, complex story as raw and realistic as life gets. 5 stars for this young adult realistic fiction story that’s inspiring and eye-opening.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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Made you up by Francesca Zappia- Alex goes through each day trying to figure out what is a hallucination and what is real. She keeps her schizophrenia hidden from everyone and deals with it secretly and on her own, besides her family and her therapist. This book contains completely endearing and realistic characters with clever writing and interesting background building. Laugh-out-loud funny at times and empathetic at others, as well as heart-breaking, Made You Up is a must read realistic fiction story with food for thought; 5 stars. The minute I finished reading it, I wanted to turn around and read it all again.

Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi

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Thanks to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for the opportunity to read and review Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi! Kai and her parents are consumed with grief over the suicide of her sister Jen. I like how the story covers their grief and how each of them handles everything differently from finding Jen, her letters to each family member, the funeral preparations, their relationships with others and work and school when they try to get back to “normal”. All of this is covered in the first half of the book then Kai hits rock bottom and her friends and family don’t know how to help her, so she’s sent to a grief camp. This turns out to be the best possible choice. Small group discussions and activities help the teenagers learn how to move forward without forgetting the loved ones they have lost. Helping others seems to be the best way to overcome sadness because of thinking about someone else instead of just yourself heals broken hearts. I’m impressed with this book, the realistic feel of it, and I fell in love with the characters and wanted them to heal. The background of the story is interesting also and I appreciate the author being willing to share her personal experiences along with her pain. The resources included at the end will help many readers know where to find the help they need; 5 stars for a beautiful story of experiencing loss and the hope that brings light back into our lives.

Skinny Me by Charlene Carr

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Skinny Me by Charlene Carr involves a young woman who has battled her weight her entire life and is dealing with the feeling of hitting rock bottom. She feels that her weight is out of control, she’s unemployed and her mother has passed away. She picks herself up and focuses on what she can do to improve her life and relationships. Little by little, Jenny makes changes starting with a new menu and beginner exercises and a job acceptance. She tries to socialize more and also pushes herself to run. Jenny meets with a personal trainer and sets a possible goal and continues to work on her relationships. She realizes that losing weight isn’t going to stop her insecurities and internal struggles; she has to work on her self esteem also. 4 stars for a realistic story geared toward adult readers. Per author request, I voluntarily read and reviewed this book.

Hearts Are Like Balloons by Candace Robinson

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of Hearts Are Like Balloons by Candace Robinson! The story begins with May in her teen years helping her mom take care of her cancer stricken father. The story continues on with May and her mother trying to deal with the loss of their loved one, after her father took his own life. They handle things differently and in their own ways but eventually they move forward with their lives, still keeping him close to their hearts. This book is about relationships, tragedy, friendship and love and is a tear-jerking read; both sad and happy tears. It’s also a soothing balm to help heal wounds and sadness. I love Hearts are like Balloons with its humor and strong characters. 5 stars for this realistic fiction, romance story!

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

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I voluntarily read an ARC of this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor! A young adult story that encompasses many teen issues, is therapeutic while being told and sticks with the reader for days afterward. Reggie, Snake and Carla share their take on depression, relationships and teen pregnancy . I plan on purchasing this book for the library I work at because the teenagers will love it with it’s sarcasm, humor, struggles and dysfunctional relationships telling the story. 5 stars!

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for the opportunity to read and review All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. All the Bright Places cannot be described with one word. This book is tremendous in heartbreak, coping skills, love, loss and grabbing life and enjoying it while you can! The best line of the book is on page 23, “Some people hate him because they think he’s weird and he gets into fights and gets kicked out of school and does what he wants. Some people worship him because he’s weird and he gets into fights and gets kicked out of school and does what he wants.” This statement sums up the reputation of Theodore Finch. Finch is a mystery to everyone. Finch and Violet share the narrative through alternating points of view. Finch struggles with depression and Violet suffers from survivor’s guilt. Violet’s sister died in a car accident not long before the story begins. The awkwardness and humor between Finch and Violet pulled me into the story and made me love both of their characters! When the two were paired together for a class project, their lives intermingled in many ways and they helped each other grow and enjoy life. All the Bright Places is a beautiful story of loss, love and what comes after. I appreciate that the author approached the stigma of needing help and the people we all know as fakers. The author’s notes were soul bearing for her and she discussed difficult topics that tend to be overlooked in our society; way to face the tough parts of human nature! 5 stars for this highly recommended book.

Bang by Barry Lyga

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I checked out Bang by Barry Lyga on our school’s Overdrive ebooks site. The opening literally blew me away! The narrator states that his sister is gone. She’s gone because he killed her! He was four years old at the time and now he’s telling the story ten years later. The narrator, Sebastian is just living, but not enjoying anything. He’s consumed by guilt and doesn’t believe he has any right to be happy. Sebastian has been biding his time until the tenth anniversary of his sister’s death because that’s when he plans on taking his own life. This story is difficult reading at times, but other times it’s friendly and healing. I’m not going to spoil the book for you because it will take the curiosity away and this story is worth reading! Bang is contemporary, realistic fiction for a young adult audience and my rating is 4.5 stars.

Proof of Lies by Diane Rodriguez Wallach

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach. Anastasia lives with her sister Keira in their family home after their parents died in an accident a few years earlier. Keira gave up medical school and works as a nurse to take care of her younger sister. The morning after a party, Keira disappears, leaving behind a bathroom full of blood and no sign of a body. A distraught and depressed Anastasia knows Keira is alive and needs help. Their mutual best friend Charlotte is amazing with technology and she’s helping with Keira’s case. Charlotte’s parents are Anastasia’s legal guardians now. As Charlotte and Anastasia hunt for clues, the mystery deepens and more people become a part of the mystery, either as suspects or helpers or both. I love this book and it made me realize how much I enjoy mysteries. Proof of Lies became unputdownable and I was pulled into Anastasia’s life and her searches across the globe. The author’s writing is flamboyant, smooth and believable. The clever writing and word play are entertaining, such as, “It felt like I was one giant headache lately – eat, sleep, breathe, Tylenol.” Great humor! I appreciate the facts at the end of the story and the excerpt of book two of the Anastasia Phoenix series, Lies That Bind. Clean read worth 5 stars!