This teen romantic comedy about arranged marriage is fantastic! It is a funny, honest and romantic read.

28458598What a sweet, fun, romantic read!  But this is not your typical teen rom-com.  Dimple and Rishi are arranged by their parents.  Rishi knows and is all in.  Dimple however, has no idea.  She is headed to Stanford in the fall and has no plans for romantic entanglements. She has a future as a tech giant to pursue.   She wants to attend Insomnia Com where can she focus on her great idea for a new app and hopefully turn into in a real one that can save lives.  Her parents were not on board with her going until suddenly they were.  Rishi is a more traditional Indian boy who wants to make his parents happy.  He is on his way to M.I.T. and knows his future is with Dimple Shah.  He is also going to Insomnia Con and asked to be her partner so they can get to know each other.  So suddenly her parents are in favor of her going.  When they met, Dimple is shocked and Rishi is confused and a little heartbroken.  Dimple is serious about this experience and doesn’t need the distraction so she can win and get her app developed by her tech hero.  She is furious with her parents for pushing her in this more traditional direction.  As Dimple and Rishi get to know each other things start to change. Dimple has to deal with bullies and awkward social situations but Rishi is always by her side.  Slowly she starts to see him and the sparks fly.  I highly recommend this book.  It is a fun, enjoyable read.  Indian teens will see themselves and other teens will learn about a different culture and how it pertains to the modern world.  I couldn’t put it down!  Dimple is a strong female character who shows you do not have to give up on your dreams to share your life with a good person.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the idea of arranged marriage.  What could be the pros and cons?

How are Dimple and Rishi similar and different?

Discuss how they meet.  What would you do if you were Dimple.  Or Rishi?  How would you respond?

Discuss how their relationship started to change.

Discuss the horrible dinner with the Aber-Zombies.  Why do you think people behave like that?

Discuss Dimple’s friendship with her roommate?

Discuss how Dimple and Rishi help each other and change their lives.

Why does Dimple make that hard decision at the end of the story?  What would you do?

Talk about what it means to be well matched.  What would you look for in a life partner?

Discuss Rishi’s brother’s relationship?  How is he different than Rishi.

What do you think is next for Dimple and Rishi?

 

Fantastic historic fiction and point of view characters in Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell Of Other People’s Houses

 

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I fell in love with the title and the cover of this incredible book.  The story inside does not disappoint.  It is the story of four people who are connected in ways you don’t understand right away.  I love a book that gives me a strong sense of place.  With The Smell Of Other People’s Houses, I learned a great deal about Alaska and its different landscapes and cultures.  It takes place in the 1970s so readers will experience another time as well as another place.  I couldn’t put it down.  I can’t wait to read her next book.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss what makes Ruth, Alyce, Dora and Hank similar or different.  How does this tell the story of Alaska.
Discuss when Dumpling says this about the hair ribbons made of the red slip. “Sometimes you just have to hold on to whatever you can.” pg. 81
Discuss this passage from Hank, “Remember when my mother said, You wait until your whole world falls out from under you”? It turns out the world has many bottoms.” pg. 108
Discuss when Hank says, “I’ll never understand how certain things that happen to us can climb under our skin and makes us someone new.” pg. 168
Discuss “We don’t have to be blood to be family.” pg. 185
Discuss when Dora thinks, “[Dumpling’s house] smells like a place where people like each other, and the Lawrence house smells like it’s judging you the minute you walk inside.” pg. 190

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

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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.

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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.

Fun Teen Romance – Alex, Approximately Is A Must Read For 2017

30312700I love the movie, You’ve Got Mail.  So when Alex, Approximately was sold in the vein, I had to read it.  It is a fun read both teens and adults will enjoy.  Bailey is moving in with her dad in a California town. Her mom’s marriage isn’t going so well which is why Bailey is ready for the switch. She meets Alex online at a chat room for film enthusiasts.  He only knows Bailey as Mink, her nickname.  Alex wants her to visit and watch North by Northwest with him on the beach.  He lives in the same town as her dad.  She keeps the fact that she is moving there a secret, figuring she might try to hunt him down before revealing herself  She has a cool vespa and job at an interesting cave/mansion/museum.  The only issue is the obnoxious security guard, surfer named Porter.  While Bailey tries to follow the clues to Alex, Porter gets under her skin.  After irritating each other, a romance begins. Bailey is torn between Porter and Alex who she’s never met. Little does she know that Porter is Alex, approximately.  This is a fun teen romance that has a great sense of place.  I felt like I was in the museum or at the beach with Bennett’s descriptive writing.  The story line about how Porter got his scar and his family history of surfing is a good plot line as well. I have a fear of sharks too. This is one to put our your to read list for 2017.  It will be released April 4th.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss online relationships.  Are they a good idea?  Have you ever had one?

Discuss any old movies you’ve seen that you liked.  Have you seen any mentioned in the book?

Talk about Bailey’s sense of Old Hollywood style.  What is your style?

Discuss the friendship between Porter and his friend with the drug problems.

What would you do if you were locked in the museum overnight?

Discuss what draws Porter and Bailey together even when they didn’t hit it off right away.

Why do you think Bailey’s mother didn’t contact her that summer?

Discuss Porter’s reaction when he found out that Bailey was Mink.

 

 

 

The Memory Of Things is a brilliant teen read that unfolds in the shadow of 9/11.

28220960In 2016 several new historic fiction books came out about 9/11.  I am trying to read them all.  Gae Polisner’s The Memory Of Things is fantastic!  I highly recommend it for middle school and up.  The characters are in high school.  Kyle gets separated from his classmates and walks across the Brooklyn Bridge back home.  On his way he finds a girl wearing angel wings, covered in ash.  She looks like she might jump.  He can’t just leave her there so he brings her home with him.  The girl can’t remember her name or what just happened.  His mother and sister are stuck in California and cannot get a flight home.  His father, who is a NYPD detective is busy at ground zero, trying to find his fellow police officers.  Kyle and the girl are alone in the apartment with his Uncle Matt.  Because of an accident, his uncle needs around the clock care.  He was a detective too.  Kyle and the mysterious girl exist inside their post 9/11 bubble, watching the news, caring for his uncle and not sure what to do next.  Kyle doesn’t think he can take the girl to the police just yet with so little information and no one really sure what is going on.  He tries to help her remember who she is.  The story is beautifully written with her confusing point of view alternating with Kyle’s point of view.  Slowly, like removing the petals on a lovely flower, we learn who this girl is.  It is a sweet love story, but can it survive once the girl finds out who she truly is?  It is a page turner and a way to introduce the events of the day and the chaos of the aftermath.  I also love this cover!  The Memory Of Things is another favorite read of 2016.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Do the teens have any memories of 9/11?  Were they born yet?  How old where they?  What do they know about that day?

Discuss how this story takes place in a bubble of sorts.  Kyle hasn’t spoken to many friends since he evacuated after the attack and he hasn’t seen his mother or sister.  His father is barely home.  His world became smaller in these days after the attack.

Discuss this passage: “I spin and I spin and I spin.  I’m a jewel box ballerina, and he is the music that’s winding me.”

Discuss Kyle’s relationship with his Uncle Matt.

Do you think Kyle’s relationship with the girl can last outside of their bubble?

The Sun Is Also A Star is my favorite read of 2016.

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Nicola Yoon creates a story that weaves together lives that collide by chance and shows how we are all interconnected.  The Sun Is Also A Star is one of my favorite reads in 2016.  It is written for teens but adults will love it too.  Daniel is the son of Korean immigrants.  He is on his way to an interview to get into what his mother calls “second best school” also known as Yale.  Natasha’s family is set to be deported that night to Jamaica.  Her father’s DUI made the family’s undocumented status known and Natasha is trying one last time to halt the deportation. Because a security guard takes too long getting Natasha through the line, she misses her last chance appointment but gets a shot with another attorney.  While killing time before her appointment, she collides with Daniel.  Daniel has been looking for signs ever since the subway driver evangelized to the passengers.  Did this happen for a reason?  Then he sees the dues ex machina jacket Natasha is wearing and follows her because he thinks this might be a sign.  The two meet and an adventure begins.  Is this by chance or destiny?  As the two get to know each other, Daniel explains that there is a science to falling in love.  He thinks he can make Natasha fall in love with him.  Natasha is a scientist and is skeptical.  The story unfolds into beautiful character development as we get to know these two exceptional characters.  It is told in point of view with many other perspectives from side characters and theories.  I couldn’t put it down and was deeply moved at the end.  I dare you not to cry during this one.  Good luck!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

How are these characters similar or different?

Discuss how we touch each others lives without knowing it.

Discuss when Natasha says: “Human beings are not reasonable creatures.  Instead of being ruled by logic, we are ruled by emotions.”

Discuss when Natasha observes Rob and Kelly and thinks, “He’s very persuasive, and she wants to be persuaded.”

Discuss when Daniel says that Natasha makes him think his life could be extraordinary.

What do you think about the science behind falling in love?

Read out loud the discussion about culture and what people think on pages 156 & 157.  Discuss.

Discuss Natasha’s thoughts about hair on page 130.

Discuss when Natasha says, “It is not up to you to help other people fit you into a box.” (pg. 158)

Discuss how the waitress  feels about culture and why she felt that Natasha should use the chopsticks.

Discuss their fight in the park.  (pgs 192-195)

Discuss when Daniel says, “We tell ourselves there are reasons for the things that happen, but we’re just telling ourselves stories.  We make them up.  They don’t mean anything.”

Discuss the ending and how the security guard fits into it.