This list has the potential for being very, very long but for now I’ll just give a smidgen of quality books dealing with characters that experience some sort of inner turmoil and as a result grows from it 

Boy Toy – Barry Lyga    

From the author of Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl, comes a wonderfully written 2nd novel. It deals with a relatively, okay absolutely taboo subject, molestation. Some people may shy away from it because of the topic but others will be drawn in like me because it was wonderfully written. The book is worthy of 4 stars. When Josh was in 7th grade life his life changed. Not in the way that a normal preteen life would. I mean: drastically life altering, can scar you for life type of change. It’s not something that can be kept a secret either. It’s a small town and what happened involved a teacher. Everyone in his school, his town thinks they understand how he feels. But they don’t-they can’t. Fast forward five years, Josh is still trying to sort through things – college is just around the corner and there is a girl with whom he used to be close to back in his life whether he wants to or not, his parents are fighting more, money is tight for the family. Now throw in another dynamic, Eve as she told him to call her, the teacher, has been released from jail. The memories flood back. She said she loved him, treating him like a grown up instead of little kid. But in this case, love was just a word and it was misused and misappropriated by something else. This book is a 4 star worthy if not more.

Weight of the Sky – Lisa Ann Sandell      The blurb on the jacket of the book caught my attention because I thought I was a lot like the protagonist, Sarah, back in high school and wanted to see how her story would unfold. I totally understood what Sarah meant when she thought the “religion was constant decision of her everyday life”. She, like I was, is in the minority, being one of only a handful of Jews in her high school. Both of us have run into people that can’t understand some of our religious traditions and beliefs. Her parents offer her trip to Israel to work on a kibbutz the summer before her senior year. Of course, she had other ideas on what she wanted to do on her summer vacation but still she jumps at a chance to escape her world of being the only Jew and a band geek and crushing on the most popular boy in school. I emphasized with her and wished my parents would have offered me a trip to Israel to find myself. This book written in free verse was easy to read, entertaining and hard to put down.

Life as it Comes – Anne-Laure BondouxSweet, simple and sad sums up Alice Kupiers book “Life on a Refrigerator Door – Notes between a Mother and Daughter.”  I read this book rather quickly as that it is not a book that has long chapters or really any chapters per say.  The book consists of notes, some long, others really short like just a few words exchanged between a mother and daughter who both have very busy lives.  Since they are rarely in the same room with each other, the notes are the one thing that both can count on.  Claire is 15 and busy growing up dealing with friends, school and now boys.  It is a very confusing time for her. There is a lot on her plate. Her parents are divorced and Claire’s mom works very hard to make ends meet.  You can tell at times that she is quite stressed. The notes show her frustration about not being able to spend time with her daughter, worries about work and life in general. Most of the time you can find her at the hospital on call delivering new babies into the world. She spends so much time caring for others that she lets her own health fall wayside until she finds a lump in her breast.  This puts the household into a tizzy and you get a glimpse how this crisis is affecting both mother and daughter.  You also see the depth of love they have for each other.   I did say that this book is sad, right?  

Hiroshima Dreams by Kelly Easton    

 I just finished Hiroshima Dreams by Kelly Easton and I want everybody to know what a good book it was.  It’s a story of growing up. The story is told beautifully, rich imagery woven thorough out the pages. It was very easy to picture this family going through the motions of daily life. The book starts off when the grandmother, Obaachan, arrives from Japan when Lin is in kindergarten.  The first time they meet, Ochaaban tells a koan. If you are like me then you learn that a koan is used for meditation and enlightening a being’s mind.  When Lin makes a wise comment in regards to it, Obaachan whispers to her “I knew I was right about you.”  In the beginning, life with Obaachan is not easy.  There is an adjustment phase for everyone involved.  Lin lost her bedroom to her grandmother and is forced to share with her big sister, Sally.  Sally is being Sally, a typical big sister who has make sure Lin stays in her place as the younger one.  Lin’s mom also has to adjust as her relationship with her mother is somewhat strained.  It takes Obaachan, two weeks to come out of her room and when she does she announces that she is ready to be “American”

I wish I had a relationship with my grandmother as Lin had with hers.  She has an opportunity of a lifetime, learning the ways of a generation past.  Lin has always had the knack to be able to tell the future and this is something she shares with her grandmother.  Her grandmother teaches her to develop her gift through meditation and Lin constantly tests the strengths and limitations of what she can do.  For Lin, it’s more than knowing what the weather will be like the next day and if the boy you like will call.  The education Lin got from Obaachan shapes her as a person observable as she grows into a young woman.

Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky      

This is one of those books that you are going to love or hate.  I loved it. The first page alone will hook you and you may end of finishing it in less than a day like I did.  I thought it was like a modern day Catcher in the Rye.  You may know Charlie – heck you may even be a little like Charlie.  Told through letters to someone who remains nameless we learn about the main character Charlie. Charlie, a freshman in high school is the “wallflower” in this novel. He definitely has issues resulting from things that happen to him like the suicide of his best friend and the death of his favorite Aunt two years before. Throughout the book, homage is paid to great works of literature like Catcher in the Rye and film classics like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  At first Charlie’s voice is a shy tentative one but as the year progresses with experiences shared with new friends, he definitely comes into his own.   

13 Little Envelopes – Maureen Johnson       

If your crazy, (well that’s what your mom thinks), Aunt Peg sends you a letter telling you about a quest you are about to go on complete with rules that you must follow…..would you do it? All you can bring with you is what fits in your backpack. You can’t bring any electronic devices with you – that means no ipod, mp3, cell phone – nothing. You also can’t take any extra money with you either. Credit cards are a no-no. Would you still go? But you have to do pick up a package waiting for you – with more instructions – all in 13 little blue envelopes – that you must open one at a time. Would you still do it? Can you actually resist the temptation to open all the envelopes at one? Ginny decides she can and this sets her off on a mad cap adventure around the world. Everything Ginny knows about herself and the world changes during this incredible summer. Read the book and find out what happens as she opens each envelope one by one. This is book that is hard to put down – I finished in just a couple hours sitting by the pool – falling completely in love with it. I only wish I had a crazy Aunt Peg…… 

As Cool as I am – Peter Fromm     

 I like Lucy, the main character in this book.  She is both smart and sassy.  She is basically on her own contemplating about love and love. Fromm has created a complex character that is wise beyond her years. Her father comes and goes and her mother while in the picture is not really in the picture. They, her parents were married very young, as teenagers because of Lucy and now instead of showing a united front are trying to relive their youths sowing their wild oats.  Who exactly is the teenager here, you may ask. It is interesting to see as Lucy grows up; her mother is coming to grips of growing older. This delicate balance presents some of the tenderest moments of this book.  Lucy ends up getting involved with her best friend Kenny but due to circumstances ends up moving away. Does she truly show she is her mother’s daughter in regards to basing her happiness on things that are not a permanent fixture in her life or does she survive this crazy thing called adolescence?  Read about her as she grows up and into herself. 

Nature of Jade – Deb Caletti        

Jade is exceptionally tough – I am talking not only of the gemstone but the also of the protagonist of this book. In high school, Jade Deluna is diagnosed with having a panic disorder. When things get stressful or she is uncomfortable, she experiences a feeling like the walls are closing in and shortness of breathe. This is all very scary for her and it is hard for her to cope. Her parents have issues of their own. Both Jade and her brother notice their parent’s crumbling marriage and wonder if they will get a divorce. Her mother is busy reliving her high school years through Jade by being the PTA president in her school and her father hides downstairs and tinkers with his train set when not taking her younger brother to some sort of sport. She sees a therapist weekly which helps but what helps her most are the elephants at the zoo and later on the boy in the red jacket.  

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton      

As I look back onto my childhood, the words of Ponyboy echo throughout my head.  He said that there are two kinds of people in this world: greasers and socs.  A soc has money, can get away with just about anything and has an attitude longer than a stretch limousine.  A greaser on the other hand always is on the outside and constantly needs to watch his back.  I grew up in a town that had similar social divisions.  This book is a great coming of age novel, as the main characters are hit with the real meanings of violence, hatred, prejudice and bigotry.  

Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger       

This book first published in 1951 is a true classic. Generations after generation have read this book. It has been debated, analyzed, praised, banned and taught in high schools for decades.  A story of human condition, Holden Caulfield is someone teens can relate to.  Salinger’s Holden captures what teen alienation is perfectly as he tells about a few days in his life beginning with being expelled from prep school.  He wears his pain of alienation which springs from the fear of growing up like a badge of honor. A must read.  

Pigman – Paul Zindel     

I read this book many, many years ago when I was in high school. I know I am going to sound all preachy but I really feel that everybody should read this book.  There is more about growing up than just misbehaving. The story is told through the eyes of John and Lorraine, two sophomores in high school.  Both come from unhappy homes and how they act in the book is a direct result that environment.  John is a compulsive liar – you wouldn’t want to place a bet on his truthfulness and Lorraine his not good at letting anyone get close to her, psychoanalyzing anyone who tries.   Angelo Pignati aka “The Pigman” accidentally walks into their lives changing all that they know.  The Pigman’s only friend is an old baboon in the zoo but soon after warming up to the kids considers them to be friends as well.  If you think all is good and this happiness continues for all, think again.  The Pigman extends his trust to John and Lorraine and in return they end up betraying him and destroying his life.   By reading this book you can learn a lot about having a Pigman figure in your life.  I know I did.

      It is definitely not easy being 15 and losing both your parents in an accident. It is even more difficult when the sister that is supposed to be taking care of you is the one you end up taking care of. These sisters are as different as night and day. Mado, 15, is just a girl who is trying to cope with her parent’s death, getting good grades and trying to keep together what is left of her family Patty, on the other hand, is a party girl who lacks sound judgment on a continuous basis. Mado relishes this role of “big sister” even less when Patty announces she is several months pregnant. Uh oh….. Originally written in French, the translation is choppy at times but it still delivers the sister’s raw emotions from being absolutely overwhelmed and angered to ecstatically happy and in love.

Life on a Refrigerator Door – Notes between a Mother and Daughter – Alice Kupiers

 

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