We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Mystery wrapped in prejudice!
Avery goes to her mother’s hometown in Bardell County, Georgia, to take care of Mama Letty, who’s dying from cancer, after being away for twelve years due to the contentious relationship between her mom and Grandmother, Mama Letty. Racism and the Ku Klux Klan destroyed Mama Letty when they killed her husband when Zora, Avery’s mother, was just a baby. Afterwards, Letty drank and checked out and was cruel to Zora and now they continue to be angry with each other. Avery and her father are caught in the crossfire. Scandals and secrets are revealed while Avery tries to break down the hurt between her mother and grandmother before time runs out. Mystery wrapped up in prejudice.

Likes/dislikes: I like the mysteries surrounding the different families in the story and they pulled me into the book. Avery and her father made me chuckle. I like how the author represents all types of people and also the prejudice that still lingers in our society.
Mature content: PG-13 for making out vague descriptions, underage drinking, brief kissing, weed smoking , nondescript kiss.
Language: R for 157 swears and 25 f-bombs.
Violence: PG for murder with no details.
Ethnicity: The characters are predominantly Black and White. Korean American is represented.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Reread:

Twisted justice!

Brynn and Mia, now both 18, lost their friend Summer five years prior to a brutal death. Everyone in Twin Lakes, Vermont believes the two are guilty of murdering Summer. They have been stigmatized and their lives have been threatened and ruined because of this. Brynn and Mia form an alliance to find the truth about Summer’s death after not speaking to each other for the last five years. They both have their own personal struggles to cope with as they try to decipher Summer’s behavior, surroundings and mental state when she was alive to find her killer and bring justice to the community.
Likes/dislikes: The story and the mystery surrounding the characters drew me in and I didn’t want to put the book down. I enjoyed how the characters brought a fantasy world into their own story by giving a book life. It saddens me to think of the harsh life and loneliness Summer had at only thirteen years old. She had to grow out of childhood too quickly but this background explains her actions and personality.
Mature content: PG-13 for mention of oral sex, not detailed; kissing with no details; mention of a doodle of a teacher with a hard on. Underage drinking and smoking pot, mention of kissing, no description. Brief kisses with some details.
Language: R for 87 swears and 10 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for fatal stabbing and self harm by scraping arm with scissors.
Ethnicity: The characters are predominantly white.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

An absolute must-read!

An absolute must-read!

Sal 17, lives in Juniper, California with his sick mother and alcoholic father. Sal attends school while trying to help keep the family hotel afloat. Sal and Noor, 18, were best friends until they had a fight months ago and haven’t spoken since. Sal’s mom collapses and needs to be taken to the hospital while Noor happens to be visiting her. Sal’s mother passes away and her last words to Noor were to forgive. Sal and Noor try to mend their friendship but they’re both keeping secrets and trying to persevere through their own harsh situations. When life implodes, they both have to make some tough choices.

Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about Pakistani culture and its languages. The author gives a comprehensive, concise content warning at the beginning of the book and lists resources at the end for help with domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, immigration and refugee rights, children’s defense fund, and women of color. I appreciate how the author portrayed harsh realities to readers in a way that is educational and with empathy but not graphic. This book is a must read.
Language: R for 147 swears and 3 f-bombs.
Mature Content: PG for brief undescribed kiss, drug dealer selling pills, mention of marijuana (weed), deeper kiss.
Violence: PG-13 for child abuse (a push against the wall), bloody face from abuse, kicking ribs, mentions of repressed sexual assault, continued abuse.
Ethnicity: Sal and Noor and their family members are Pakistani living in a predominantly white community. There is a Pakistani religious leader and his wife is Black. The Judge is Mexican American and the story contains mixed ethnicity police officers.

The Secrets We Keep by Cassie Gustafson

Emma lives in Prosper, Oregon with her mother, father and six year old brother Kyle. They moved from San Francisco because her father was in trouble for inappropriate behavior with a minor, Alice, a friend of Emma’s. Now it seems that he’s in trouble again with another friend of Emma’s, Hannah. Hannah’s mom found her journal where she’d written about Emma’s father touching her, so the police were called and he was arrested. Emma’s parents have coerced her into standing by her father’s side even if it means lying about the things he’s done to her for years. She’s struggling with loyalty, being treated like a burden and wanting to stand up for her friend and herself.

This is a story about surviving and the strength that takes! 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I appreciate the content warning at the beginning of the book to let readers be aware before reading. I enjoyed the gradual unraveling of the mystery surrounding the main character. I like how the author represented survivors and the resources list at the end of the book.

Mature Content: PG-13 for xexual abuse stated but not detailed; verbal abuse, gaslighting of children, physical and emotional neglect; mention of a nonbinary side character with positive interaction and respect.

Violence: PG for temper tantrums and angry outbursts from adults.

Language: R for 37 swears, no f-bombs.

Ethnicity: mixed

Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

Turning by Joy L. Smith

A story that gives readers perspective!

Genie is a dancer who has lost the ability to walk. Ballet has been her life and was going to be her future but she fell and everything changed. Genie now uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s keeping a secret hidden from her family and she has more than one secret that’s pulling her down. Her ex-boyfriend is pushy and she has to force him to listen to anything she tries to say. This frustrates Genie tremendously and she wants to move on. She meets Kyle in physical therapy and he has his own tragedy that he’s struggling with. The two of them become friends. When her secrets are revealed, Genie will hopefully have the love and support she needs. A realistic fiction story that helps readers realize that troubles and struggles could be much worse. 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 5 stars!

Stand Your Ground by Mia Reyes

Another helpful guide by Mia Reyes!

Stand Your Ground: Build Ace Confidence and Self-Esteem, Survive Peer Pressure and Bullying While Staying True to Yourself by Mia Reyes is another wonderful, helpful guide to building confidence and self-esteem, understanding avoidance behaviors, dealing with bullying and myths about bullying, and cyberbullying. Inspiring stories are included and guidance to building boundaries, confidence and a positive future forward are a large part of this book. The author has a gentle way of relating to the reader and builds a mutual respectful relationship with you as you read. I purchased this book to include in the school library collection where I am the librarian and also include it in the Meditation Station that I have set up in the same library.