Take your pick from two realistic fiction stories, one fantasy spoof, and one adventurous tale.
Ms. Bartels Recommends
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (The Montague Siblings, #2) by MacKenzi Lee
Hi-larious!!! I loved everything about this book. If you haven't read Henry "Monty" Montague's story yet, pick up The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue first. Devour it. Laugh out loud at it. Share it with all of your friends. And then jump feet first into sister Felicity Montague's equally rollicking tale. What is so refreshing about both books is even though they may feel a bit too modern – laying 21st century attitudes over an early 18th century story – Lee has done her homework and that historical groundwork she lays makes the stories totally believable.
"Felicity Montague must use all her womanly wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor – even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it. A must-have for fans of Mackenzi Lee's extraordinary and Stonewall Honor-winning novel.
A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind – avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.
But then a window of opportunity opens – a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity's way, so long as she's allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.
In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl's true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
I heard this book being pitched at School Library Journal's Day of Dialog last spring and could not wait to read it. This debut novel by Nicola Yoon's (author of Everything, Everything) husband has a great premise: two friends – both Korean – are encouraged to date members of their same ethnicity, but when they both fall for classmates who are not Korean, they come up with a plan to pretend to date each other to appease their parents. You may be able to guess early on how this turns out, but getting there is so much fun. Although this is a light-hearted and fun romance, it doesn't avoid tough topics like racism, classism, stereotypes, micro aggressions, and the immigrant experience. Frank Li is a wonderful main character: he's introspective and honest. His dialog and text exchanges with friends always ring true. The story does drag towards the end with side plots and several lose ends are tied up abruptly, but overall this is a highly recommended read for kids who want a thought-provoking, quirky romance. Many kids will relate to Frank's experience and the expectations placed on first generation American teenagers. This book will be popular with fans of John Green and David Levithan.
"Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.
Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl – which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.
As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love – or himself – at all." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
Normal People by Sally Rooney
This second novel from Rooney, author of the critically acclaimed Conversations with Friends, has also been widely praised by critics and has appeared on several best books of the year lists. So maybe the reason I was underwhelmed was because I was expecting so much. It's one of those books that I did not think at all about after I read. While Rooney has a keen ability to dive deep into character studies – she deftly dissects their personalities, motivations, flaws and anxieties – I did not feel any connection to or empathy towards any of the protagonists. Connell and Marianne are both kind of just there, dithering along in their high school and college years. I didn't really care if they ended up together in the end, though I thought they deserved each other. If you're wondering why I recommend this novel, it's because I think other readers will like it. Rooney has been called the J.D. Salinger of her generation – so it's worth giving this book a try.
"At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He's popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne's house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they're both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 10+
Ms. Matlin Recommends
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kill the Farm Boy is decidedly a very silly book. If the title reminds you of The Princess Bride, it's supposed to. Kill the Farm Boy takes the puns and gentle mockery of fantasy stories you find in The Princess Bride and the Shrek movies and takes it way, way further. For example, on the map of Pell, you have The Several Macks: Mack Guphinne (MacGuffin); Mac Muphinne (MacMuffin); Mack Enchiis (Mac 'n Cheese); Mack Ribpe (MacRib); and Mack Elmorr (Macklemore). If this amuses you, you're going to love this book. The story isn't all silliness though. The adventurers and their quest are well thought out and plotted and the characters work around their constraints with intelligence and a surprising amount of pathos. Kill the Farm Boy is much smarter than it would seem. The authors subvert the tradition of The Hero's Journey monomyth so cleverly, you almost don't realize it. I enthusiastically recommend this one.
"Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told. This is not that fairy tale. There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened. And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell. There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he's bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there's the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy's untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there's a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar 'happily ever after' that ever once-upon-a-timed." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+