I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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Ben De Backer tells their parents that they are nonbinary, and is promptly kicked out of the house. Ben calls their older sister, who they haven’t spoken to in years, and she says that Ben can stay with her and her husband.

It’s not easy to be the new kid at school, but it’s even tougher when it’s the second semester of senior year. Ben just wants to keep a low profile and finish school. They don’t expect to make any friends, but a boy named Nathan keeps popping up. He’s everywhere; he even lives next door to Ben’s sister! It’s not clear to Ben whether Nathan is just being friendly, or whether there’s something more.

There are so many poignant moments in this book, like Ben’s mixed feelings about being kicked out of their house. From an outside perspective, this seems like such an unforgiveable act, but Ben’s feelings are more complicated. Naturally, they are scared and angry, but after a while, they have a sense of cautious optimism regarding resolution. My heart just ached for the kid because I didn’t want to see them get hurt again.

While the story might begin with a catastrophic rejection, the tone of this book is very positive. Ben is accepted as who they are by their sister and brother-in-law, and they also have the opportunity to start therapy to help process their feelings about everything. What starts out as survival turns into thriving, and they even find a friend in Nathan.

I would absolutely recommend I Wish You All the Best. This is a beautiful book, and I am looking forward to reading more of Deaver’s books in the future.

 

 

 

Jackdaw by KJ Charles

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Jackdaw takes place in Charles’ Charm of Magpies universe series of Victorian-era queer paranormal romance novels. It isn’t a strict perquisite to read the first three books in the series, but readers will benefit from a better understanding of the larger story arc.

Jonah Pastern played a supporting role in Flight of Magpies, the third Charm of Magpies book. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will say that Jonah appeared as one of the villains of the piece, so right away, it’s interesting to see him as the protagonist in a romance.

Once upon a time, Jonah met Ben, and they were very happy together.

Until they weren’t. Read more

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

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Be Prepared is a middle grade graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. We found this book at the town library, and my girls were very excited because they’ve enjoyed some of her other books.

This is a semi-autobiographical story about Vera’s childhood, although she explains at the end how some details were exaggerated, etc. As the story begins, Vera wants nothing more than to fit in with her American classmates. They have American Girl dolls, Carvel ice cream cake, and stuffed crust pizza, and Vera’s single mother simply cannot provide such luxuries. There is only one “fancy” thing that Vera can do to emulate her wealthier classmates, and that is go to sleepaway camp.

Vera’s Russian cultural camp is nothing like the posh camps that her friends attend, and it takes awhile for her to get used to new people, new routines, and of course, the stinky outhouse. It’s not as easy as Vera thought it would be to make friends, and she wonders if she’ll ever find her place. Read more

I Really Love You by Tatsuya Miyanishi

 

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I Really Love You is the latest book in Tatsuya Miyanishi’s Tyrannosaurus series. Over the years, my family has received the opportunity to read advanced copies of several of these Tyrannosaurus books, so even though my girls are growing out of picture books, it was still nice to revisit the series.

In this book, we are told that dinosaurs in the north speak a different language from dinosaurs in the south. Tyrannosaurus is feeling hungry, and a Tapejara agrees to help him find food. They both speak the same language, so Tyrannosaurus trusts his new friend- but it’s a trick! Luckily, the Tyrannosaurus escapes, and he encounters some Homalocephales. They don’t speak the same language, and the Tyrannosaurus thinks about eating them- after all, he’s still very hungry. But he ends up befriending them, and accepts their gifts of fish, clam, and berries. Despite their differences, they are able to strike up a meaningful friendship.    Read more

Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva

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I came across Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva when I was browsing Netgalley, and the blurb piqued my interest. My request was accepted, and so I added the book to my reading queue.

Alek is an Armenian-American high school student. He has been dating Ethan for almost six months. Things are getting pretty serious, but Alek has reservations. He loves kissing Ethan, but he’s not sure if he’s ready for things to go further physically. Alek measures his life in terms of Before Ethan and After Ethan; he’s changed so much for the better because of this relationship, and he can’t imagine what would happen if it ended. Read more

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

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I found The Music of What Happens at my town library. I’ve read some of Bill Konigsberg’s other books, so finding this on the new release shelf was a nice surprise.

When Max steps up to a food truck to place an order, he doesn’t expect to see Jordan, a kid from his school. Max certainly doesn’t expect to walk away with a job offer, but there you have it.

Jordan’s dad died a few years ago, and Jordan and his mom have been living off of the life insurance money. They’ve exhausted their savings, and they’re now a few months behind with the mortgage. Revitalizing the food truck that Jordan’s dad used to run is their final hope; if they don’t earn enough money to pay off the accumulated debt, they’ll lose the house.

Max and Jordan might go to the same school, but they aren’t friends. Things are awkward at first, but they quickly realize that they are going to need to communicate with each other if they want their endeavors to be successful. Read more

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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They Both Die at the End was written by Adam Silvera. I picked up this book after my oldest daughter stole our copy of another of Silvera’s book.

This book explores the premise of knowing that today will be the day you die. A service called DeathCast calls people to tell them that they are going to die, and a whole industry has developed around this concept. There are apps to find one last friend- or for the more salacious- one last “friend”. There are entertainment complexes that provide people on their Last Day with a variety of experiences.

Mateo and Rufus have never met, but they find each other on their Last Day through the Last Friend app. At first, it doesn’t seem like they have a lot in common beyond the obvious, but they are determined to make the most of their last day. Read more

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

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Crush is Svetlana Chmakova’s third graphic novel set at Berrybrook Middle School. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is in the sixth grade, and she loves graphic novels. For several years, she read graphic novels almost exclusively. She has always been a voracious reader, so this meant that we always had a lot of graphic novels in the house. She has recently branched out and found some novels that she really likes, but she still loves graphic novels.

Since she is an expert in the genre, I thought that it would be nice if she could share her thoughts on Crush:

So, I just want to say that I LOVE Svetlana Chmakova’s books, and that I was so exited when I heard there was a third book! Read more

Social Intercourse by Greg Howard

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Social Intercourse is a YA novel by Greg Howard. I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but the plot intrigued me, and so I made a request through my library network, and the book arrived a couple of days later.

It’s not easy for Beckett Gaines to be a gay teen in South Carolina, but he knows that he only needs to make it through high school and then he can leave his homophobic hometown. His plan is somewhat derailed when his dad starts dating one of football star Jaxon Parker’s moms.

Beck has accepted that his own mother abandoned the family, but he’s not too thrilled about the development because of his contentious history with Jax. Likewise, Jax wants his moms to get back together, so the two boys do what any reasonable teens would do and hatch a plan to break up Beck’s dad and Jax’s mom. What neither of them counted on was developing feelings for each other. Read more

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

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Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel was written by Val Emmich. It is, of course, based on the Tony award winning musical by Steven Levenson, Benk Pasek and Justin Paul. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my girls and I have been listening to the DEH soundtrack since the spring.

Evan Hansen is a high school boy with anxiety. He’s supposed to be writing inspirational letters to himself as a therapeutic exercise. One of these letters ends up with Connor Murphy, who commits suicide in an unrelated incident. When the Murphys find the letter, they believe that Connor wrote the letter to Evan. Instead of telling the truth, Evan allows the Murphys to believe that he was Connor’s best friend and fabricates an entire relationship. This desperately lonely boy finally has people paying attention to what he has to say, but it’s all for the wrong reasons. He has everything he could ever want, but it’s all based on lies. How can he tell the truth now? Read more