Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary YA Fiction’

“They’re barefoot, moving silently along the carpeted hallway, searching for some clue to which hotel room might be Jenna McNulty’s.”

That’s the first line of Perpetual Check (Random House, 2009, 112 pages), by Rich Wallace. He’s the author of several realistic YA novels. Three of his books have been chosen as ALA Best Books for Your Adults.

From the Jacket Flap:

Randy is a chubby ninth grader with a Cub Scout hair cut who guesses M&M colors with his eyes closed and makes up words. He’s also a chess whiz who has defeated his older brother Zeke in nine of their last ten matches. Zeke is a high school senior, a soccer champ, and a chess natural who can beat just about anyone if he decides to really concentrate. So why is his loser little brother the better athlete, the better chess player, and the first to have a girlfriend?

Told in alternating points of view between brothers, Rich Wallace’s new novel brings to life one of America’s favorite pastimes in a suspenseful story about competition and family loyalty.

Perpetual Check is the fourth Rich Wallace book I’ve read. He does a really good job of writing from a male POV. 

I first heard Rich speak at the ALAN Conference several years ago and now I try to read everything he writes. He uses sports as a framework for his stories, but the stories themselves are about relationships.

In Perpetual Check, you don’t need to know anything about Chess in order to become swept up in the story.

Thanks for coming by.

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This week I read Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick.


From the Jacket Flap: When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he’s honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn’t feel like a hero. There’s a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can’t shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury, he can’t quite seem to put all the pieces together.

Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.

Purple Heart is a page-turning, gut-punching read that gives you an inside look at modern war through the eyes of an eighteen year-old boy.

I’ve read two other YA novels by Patricia McCormick. Sold, which was a National Book Award finalist, and Cut, which was a bestseller. If you’re looking for realistic characters dealing with intense situations in contemporary times, check out any of her books.

Patricia was trained as a journalist and writes like a poet. That combination makes for some powerful writing.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Jo Knowles

I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles the day before I left for a two-week trip. I finished it in just a few days. Yes people, it kept me up past my bedtime. 


From the Jacket flap: 

Ellie has hooked up with more than a few boys. Each time she is certain there will be more to the encounter than just sex. While she is with them, she feels loved. For a while anyway.  So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their “one-time thing” is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind. 

Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick, 2009) is Jo’s second YA novel, and it has racked up a slew of awards: 

YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
Gold Star Award for Excellence from TeensReadToo.com
Starred Review in Publishers Weekly Online

I thought the book was both poetic and page-turning, and emotionally honest. 

And, from a craft perspective, is a work of art. Jumping Off Swings, told in first person, masterfully alternates POV between the four main characters.

If you’re a fan of contemporary character-driven novels with complex plots, then this book is for you.

Another thing I think is really cool about Jumping Off Swings is that Jo Knowles was awarded an SCBWI Work In Progress Grant for it back in 2002. I don’t know the whole story behind the story but I think this is a great example of sticking with something. From the acknowledgments at the end of the book: To my agent, Barry Goldblatt, for not giving up on the novel formerly known as Slut.

Look for Jo Knowles’s newest book: SEE YOU AT HARRY’S!, about a twelve-year-old girl who feels invisible among the chaos of her family’s restaurant business, thanks to her parents’ benign neglect and the more demanding needs of her sister and two brothers in Spring 2012 from Candlewick. 

Leave a comment, and your email address, before midnight Friday, Sept. 3rd (Eastern Time) for a chance to win a copy of Jumping Off Swings.

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