Monday, April 25, 2016

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

I have started a few books assuming the gender of a character only to find out in a few pages that I was wrong causing me to rethink how I picture them. With this book, that's part of the point. Riley is gender fluid. Some days, Riley feels like a girl and other days Riley feels like a boy.

Starting a new school, Riley wants to go unnoticed. One problem is that Riley sometimes wants to dress like a girl and sometimes like a boy. Riley would never be able to do that - at school or home. So Riley dresses neutral, fighting anxious feelings and possible panic attacks.

Only Riley's therapist knows about being gender fluid. Riley's parents don't even know. It would be a particular sticky issue for Riley's conservative congressman father who is running for reelection. As election day gets closer, it is increasingly difficult for Riley to find a way to get out of attending campaign events - they only bring on the worst panic attacks.

Riley's attempt to be invisible at school does not last long either. Riley does meet a cool guy named Solo on the first day. But is he interested in Riley as a guy friend or a girlfriend? Riley is also taken with Bec, a girl who may or may not be flirting with Riley. But the new potential friendships are overshadowed by the taunts of star football player, Jim Vickers, and his snotty girlfriend. Everything Riley feared is happening again.

Following the therapist's advice, Riley starts an anonymous blog about being gender fluid that quickly finds a following. It is the blog that drives Riley and the story forward.

Many things in life are not as straight forward as people would like them to be including gender. This story reminds us that people need to be accepted for who they are and given the chance to find out who that is. Riley is a character you will not easily forget.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Character, Driven by David Lubar

Cliff's life changes when he sees Jillian for the first time. Yes, she is that beautiful. She is new to school, and everyone notices her when she walks into class. Cliff knows he does not have chance with her but that doesn't keep his mind from thinking up things to say to her.

Cliff is telling us the story of his senior year. Jillian is only one part of it. His dad lost his job and is pathological about saving money. Cliff works two jobs to contribute to the money his mom brings home from working at a bakery. Cliff's dad is constantly harping about what Cliff cannot do because it is a waste of money (like go to a concert of one of  his favorite bands). His dad also tells Cliff he is wasting his time with art. Cliff is not sure what he wants to do with his life, but he would like art to be an option.

Cliff has two best friends, Butch and Robert. Butch has changed her name many times since he's known her. She is "a little twisted, but in a good way" (her skull collection is a good example). Robert moved from Jamaica. Both are very smart and 'fight' with each other constantly.

Then there's Jimby whose mother drank a lot while she was pregnant. As described by Cliff, it messed up Jimby's brain a bit, but he would take a beating for Jimby. Cliff tries to help Jimby whenever he can.

Cliff knows he is writing us a story and makes occasional references to remind us. In reality of course, it is David Lubar who has (once again) given the reader a story filled with humor and poignancy. There are some basic truths to be found alongside the funny musings of Cliff.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Mercedes has sex with virgin guys. She wants to teach them so they will give their girlfriends a better first time than she had. It's not just physical instruction; she tells them how to dress and behave and where to go on dates. She is just providing a service.

She has to keep her sex life a secret (particularly from her best friend Angela) which is difficult because she has helped so may guys (even she is kind of appalled at the number). She thinks the boys will never tell anyone for fear of their girlfriends finding out. If it were to get out...her life would be over.

Mercedes' sex life is not all about virgins. She has a weekly Wednesday 'date' with her chemistry partner Zach. He wants her as a girlfriend, but she wants none of it. She likes their arrangement just the way it is.

Mercedes is just trying to bide her time until she can go to MIT next fall to study chemistry, but life is complicated. Mercedes' dad left when she was young and her mom might as well be gone to for the lack of attention (let alone affection) she shows to her only daughter. Mercedes at least has Angela, although it is becoming more difficult to face her. Angela started a prayer group that is only attended by Mercedes and Angela's boyfriend (who Angela won't have sex with until they are married).  Even the new girl Faye (who is gorgeous and seems to catch Zach's attention) is confusing Mercedes. Is Faye flirting with her or just wanting to be frieds?

Mercedes thinks she is in control, but nothing is as it seems. There is a lot more to Mercedes and this story than sex.

For more information, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Addie Webster was eight years old when she was kidnapped from the governor's mansion. Darrow, her best friend, was the last person to see her. At the time, her dad was the governor. Now, eight year later, her father is the President of the United States, and Addie is back. She escaped her captors and is returned to her family to live in the White House.

So much has changed since Addie was taken. She has a sister who was born while she was away. Darrow is no longer the little boy she used to beat at games. Her parents have become very overprotective. They look at her like she could fall apart, but Addie kept herself alive for years without their help.

Around the same time Addie returns, terrorist attacks start happening in Washington DC, but with no injuries. Cerberus, the group taking responsibility, wants officials to see the flaws in their security systems before someone is hurt or killed.

To some, it is too much of a coincidence that Addie comes back at the same time that the attacks occur. Could they be related? Is Addie involved? It is only a matter of time before everyone is drawn into Cerberus' plot.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and author's site.

Friday, March 11, 2016

If Rock and Roll Were a Machine by Terry Davis

Bert Bowden wanted a motorcycle. His parents were against it, but he got one anyway. He doesn't feel like a motorcycle guy, but he feels good when he's riding it. It was something the he had to try.

Bert is not sure of himself anymore. He used to be a smart, outgoing kid until a teacher crushed his spirit. The teacher thought Bert was a know-it-all. He was personally irritated by Bert's classroom outbursts, so he turned the other kids against him. Since then, Bert has been adrift.

He tried out for football, but didn't make the cut. He tries writing for the school paper (his teacher even thinks he could write professionally some day). There's a girl he kind of likes, but he never expresses it.

This is a slice of Bert's life at a time when he seems to be finding his direction. Too often things happen in our early life that even we may not recognize at the time but have long lasting effects. Bert is lucky enough to find adults who want to help him and encourage him. Will riding a motorcycle help him? Maybe not, but riding one at least puts him on a road going somewhere.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Unslut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin

Emily Lindin was 11 years old when her reputation as a slut began. She was slut shamed all the way through eighth grade by her classmates and older students. Girls (including her friends) shunned and bullied her. Boys expected her to 'put out.' She was called names by everyone. Her reputation was an open invitation for boys to touch her wherever and whenever they wanted.

This book contains a reprint of Emily's actual junior high diary - the words appearing just as she wrote them. She details her life navigating through crushes and romances while being constantly reminded of her reputation. She blames herself in some cases for things that were in no way her fault. She cuts herself and even contemplates suicide.

In the margins, Emily responds to and clarifies her diary entries. We know that Emily has changed and learned and grown since her diary was written. And that is ultimately part of her message: that girls can get past this and grow into successful adults.

Emily chose to share her diary (first online) and founded the Unslut Project to reach girls having similar experiences and to make adults more aware of these situations. It is a compelling read that will hopefully make a difference.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and this site.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Imagine a social media site that gives you what you ask for - for a price, of course. Not money, but a task. Complete the task and get your wish, your want, your need. The teens of Nottawa, Wisconsin are invited to join NEED. Some teens ask for small things like a new cell phone; others concert tickets. But Kaylee just wants one thing...

Nate invites Kaylee to join NEED. She thinks its ridiculous and a scam. How could a website afford to give away things for free? But they both know it works because Nate's brother Jack got the phone he ask for.

Everyone knows that Kaylee has only wanted one thing for the past few years - a kidney for her brother DJ. She has asked everyone she knows to get tested to be a donor. She has tried hunting for her father (who ran out on them when DJ got really ill). Kaylee has been so desperate that she has alienated her classmates, broke school rules and ended up seeing a therapist. Her mom is not happy and does not trust her at all.

With nothing to lose, Kaylee asks NEED for a kidney. And then the bad stuff starts happening - minor crimes at first but it quickly escalates. It is amazing what some people are willing to do just to get something they want. Often their task seems innocuous but it is part of a more sinister plan.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson

You have to feel for Audie. She seems cool with everything, but her life is far from ideal. Audie makes money through medical trials. She fills out forms and answers questions; takes pills and injections; gets poked and prodded. All for the advancement of medicine! If only it was as noble as it sounds. If only the trials and medical personnel were as ethical as they should be.

Audie is just one of a group of people who sell their flesh to the medical profession. It is a seedy underworld of existence where the 'guinea pigs' cheat the rules by participating in more trials than permissible (nobody checks). It's a risk, but money is in short supply so Audie does what she needs to do. And the higher the risk, the bigger the payoff.

Audie wants to take her terminally ill boyfriend Dylan on a special vacation. If Audie can make enough money, she and Dylan can get away. Maybe she can even quite doing the trials. Maybe...maybe...Audie has no idea where her life is going. Her story is often cringe worthy and sometimes heartbreaking, but worth exploring.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Willowdean lives in a small Texas town known for its Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Her mom is a former winner. Willowdean has always hated the pageant - she does not have the physique of a 'beauty' queen, and she is really ok with that. Her mom on the other hand sees Willowdean's weight is a character flaw. So every year when it is pageant time, Willowdean braces herself while her mother dives deep into the preparations for the pageant as one of its directors.

It's not all about the pageant. First, there's Bo. He's the hot guy behind the grill at the hamburger joint where Willowdean works. He's been paying attention to her. When they kiss, Willowdean cannot figure out what someone like Bo would see in a fat girl like her.

Second, Willowdean is still not over the loss of her beloved aunt Lucy. She was not petite either and lived with Willowdean and her mom. Lucy shared her love of Dolly Parton with Willowdean. She had a bond with her aunt that she will never have with her mother.

Third, Willowdean's best friend Ellen seems to be drifting away. She has a new friend (who Willowdean can't stand) and a job at a 'skinney girls' store.

Willowdean decides to make a statement by joining the pageant. It turns out to be more difficult than she thought.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Some Boys by Patty Blount

Grace was raped by Zac, the school's most popular athlete. No one believes her. To everyone, she is trying to ruin Zac's life. Her own friends turn against her. To everyone, she is a slut.

Grace could run (her mother wants her to study in Europe), but she will not let her life be dictated by others. She is going to dress in her dark clothes no matter how much attention she gets (against the wishes of her dad and stepmother). Grace knows the truth and even though the police will not do anything she will not let Zac and his followers win.

Ian, Zac's best friend, liked Grace. In the world of unspoken guy rules: since Zac had Grace, she is off limits to Ian. Besides, she is accusing his best friend of rape. Grace must have wanted it - the way she was dressed at the party, the way she was drinking and dancing. She didn't fight off Zac when they were off together in the dark. She let him take off her clothes.

Over spring break, Grace and Ian find themselves together all alone in the school cleaning lockers. Ian is there after suffering a concussion that may end his athletic career and scholarship hopes. Grace is being punished - more fallout from the rape. After all, it's always her fault.

Grace and Ian's story is a powerful one. He is torn between his growing faith in Grace and loyalty to his friend. She is forever facing the verbal assault of others while trying to out Zac for who he really is. Ian is confused and reasonable. Grace is strong and vulnerable. Lots of questions with no easy answers, but a story worth reading.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.