The Shadows We Know By Heart is my favorite 2017 book so far!


This is another debut novel from a new author I could not put down.  Jennifer Park tells the story of a family in turmoil after a child is killed ten years ago.  The parents are still barely holding on while Lean and her surviving brother, Matt try to live their lives in high school.  Sam was killed 10 years ago.  At the beginning of the story we don’t know how or why.  All we know is that Leah is not allowed in the forest behind her house.  But the forest is where she feels most at home, where she can be her real self and deal with the loss of her brother.  She has a secret.  She knows that Sasquatch are real.  She’s been watching them for years.  Then one day she sees a human boy is with them.  This boy has intense green eyes and they are drawn to each other.  She starts sneaking out away from her extremely protective father who is the local preacher.  We don’t realize right away but her best friend, Ashley’s family also suffered loss in the same incident.  Park’s storytelling is a slow reveal that kept me staying up late to finish reading.  I just couldn’t put it down.  It is a story of grief, romance, family and the wildness of things we don’t understand.  One of my favorite moments is when Leah connects with the Sasquatch child.  A six foot tall child she nicknames Bee.  The reason she and the boy share a connection is both beautiful and devastating at times.  Park writes beautifully and descriptively.  I felt like I was in the forest myself with my fingers digging into the dirt.  So far, this is my favorite book of 2017.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the legends of Bigfoot.  What would you do if you were Leah?

Discuss when Leah thinks, “We’re a breath apart, and instead of closing my eyes like any sane girl would do, I’m trying to rationalize this, because this is the boy I’ve wanted, who now wants me, and for some reason, it’s not enough to make me surrender.”

Discuss when Leah thinks, “My claim I think I have on this boy is so strong that I can’t dispel the jealousy that wraps around me like a second skin.  Sharing him is not something I’m sure I’m willing to do anymore.  And he’s not even mine.”

Discuss how the male Bigfoot and Leah’s dad are similar.

Discuss how Leah feels more at home in the forest.  Is there a place that feels that way to you?

Discuss how Leah’s feelings for Ben and the boy in the forest are different.

What would you do if you came face to face with a Sasquatch?

What do you think will happen to the boy in the future?

Discuss Matt’s revelation to the parents and Leah about Sam.


The Hate U Give Is A Must Read For Helping Teens To Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement.

I could not put this book down!  Angie Thomas is an excellent writer and I hope she continues telling stories.  Starr is a girl who juggles her life in two different words.  She and her brothers attend a private school which is a 45 minute drive away while she lives in an area known for drug dealers and gang violence called Garden Heights.  Starr grew up with Khalil.  They were family but she hadn’t seen him in a while. When they met up at a party someone started shooting and Khalil drove her home.  On the way home he is pulled over and shot by the police officer for no reason.  This is a story about Starr’s journey and about gang culture.  How much should she speak out.  The kids in her school heard about the shooting but have no idea that she was the other teen in the car. Was Khalil a drug dealer? The answer isn’t a simple one.  This is Angie Thomas’s first novel and it is a great one!  Her characters are well developed, especially her imposing father, Big Mav who used to deal drugs but became a business owner in the community.   It is a story of how a movement begins and how family is more than just your blood relatives.  It is a story about hard choices and doing the right thing even if that can get you killed.  I loved the way Thomas weaved the story of Tupac throughout the theme.   This is a must read for both teens and adults in 2017!
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss Tupac’s THUG LIFE and how it pertains to society.
Discuss how Starr has to become two versions of herself to navigate her different worlds.
Discuss Starr’s relationship with her wealthy boyfriend.
Discuss family and how Starr’s family is complicated with her brother Seven straddling two families.
Discuss Starr’s relationship with Khalil and the roller coaster of feelings she has about their relationship.
Discuss the choice Khalil had to make.
What do you know about the Black Lives Matter movement?
Discuss the differences between Starr’s father, Maverick and Seven’s stepfather, King.