Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.

NY: Viking, 2011.

Dessen is a first-rate author whose novels are directed at young adults but which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys a good story and thoughtful writing, regardless of age. The protagonist of this one is seventeen-year-old McLean Elizabeth Sweet, who was named after her basketball-fanatic father’s favorite college coach. But then the coach retired and his younger replacement ran off with McLean’s mother, which kind of soured both of them on the sport.

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Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything.

NY: Viking, 2015.

I’ve become thoroughly hooked on Dessen’s novels, for all that they’re marketed for young adults. Her narrative and character-development skills make her books engaging reading for any age group. There’s rather more trauma this time, though. Seventeen-year-old Sidney Stanford used to practically worship her older brother, Peyton, the local golden boy, but that was before he started making bad decisions and getting arrested.

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Published in: on 2 October 2017 at 5:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friedman, Aimee & Christine Norrie. Breaking Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2007.

This is a graphic novel about high school kids, undoubtedly aimed at high school kids, which is fine. But it doesn’t quite work. The focus is on four third-year girls at an arts magnet, each one of whom is (naturally) completely different from the other three. One is essentially a slut and the dominant personality, one is the shy hugger-peacemaker, one is being driven crazy by straitlaced parents, and the fourth, the narrator, is interested in a guy no one else approves of.

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Published in: on 5 August 2017 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key.

NY: Viking, 2008.

“Young Adults” is a marketing ghetto I tend to ignore as being self-limiting. A book is either well-written or it isn’t. And Dessen writes very good books. All of them, naturally, focus on teenagers with problems, either personal or societal, but this one is a bit darker than most. Ruby Cooper’s problem is nothing so mundane as just not finding the right boyfriend. Her father left when she was eight and her sister, Cora, was eighteen, leaving just them and their not very stable mother. Then Cora went off to college on a self-earned scholarship and apparently cut off contact, and Ruby had to deal with their mom by herself.

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Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mackler, Carolyn. Infinite In Betweeen.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the first of Mackler’s YA books I’ve read and it’s not bad. The structure is a little strange, but it seems to work. The focus is on five kids in a town in central New York as they make the journey through four years of high school. In freshman orientation, as an “ice-breaker,” all the new students are broken into groups of five to share some kind of socially useful activity.

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Hicks, Faith Erin. Friends with Boys.

NY: First Second, 2012.

After being homeschooled all her life, Maggie is dealing pretty well with her first day at the public high school. She’s found her classes, and the Grade 9 bathrooms, but she hasn’t yet found “her people.” Even her three older brothers aren’t much help. Her dad is busy being the new small-town police chief. And the ghost from the nearby cemetery is just annoying.

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Castellucci, Cecil & Jim Rugg. Janes in Love.

NY: DC Comics, 2008.

This is the sequel to Plain Janes — though it doesn’t actually say that anywhere, and if you pick it up thinking it’s a standalone graphic novel, you will have no idea what’s going on. As background, Jane Beckles is a high school student transplanted from the big city to a small suburban town following the detonation of a terrorist bomb that put her in the hospital for awhile. Now she’s running a girl gang that creates public art projects at night, which the town’s cops and managers treat as vandalism.

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Hassler, Jon. Staggerford.

NY: Atheneum, 1977.

Miles Pruitt is a native and lifelong resident of the small, ordinary town of Staggerford, Minnesota, somewhere on the highway between Fargo and Duluth. At thirty-five, he’s been teaching Senior English for twelve years at the same high school he himself graduated from — which means he has been depending on the school’s basement cafeteria for hot lunches for more than half his life.

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Published in: on 23 April 2016 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Castellucci, Cecil & Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes.

NY: DC Comics, 2007.

Graphic novels — not collections of DC superhero comics, but scratch-written stories — can be kind of a mixed bag. This author has won several awards for her work aimed at the YA market, but in my opinion, she’s only about halfway to where she might be.

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Johnston, E. K. The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim.

Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing, 2014.

Trondheim is a very ordinary small mining and farming town in southwest Ontario, and Siobhan McQuaid is a pretty ordinary sixteen-year-old — except for her music, which fills all the world around her. But this is actually an alternate history novel, and Trondheim, like all other communities, has problems with attacks by flying dragons.

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