Category: Realistic Fiction


Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard
ISBN-13: 978-0689862687
Simon Pulse, Ne York, 2003
176 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Can Seventeen-year-old San juggle school and parenthood on his own?

SUMMARY: Seventeen-year-old Sam should be thinking about graduation and college. Instead, he is changing diapers and worrying about midnight feedings. His former girlfriend Brittany decides that she can’t handle parenthood she leaves. But Sam doesn’t want to give up Max. He tries to juggle fatherhood with school. He struggles to find the balance between being a teenager and being a parent. In the end, he might have to make some difficult decisions for the sake of his son.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through Sam’s character. There are periodic flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces of the story. I appreciated the lack of judgement in this book. It takes an honest look at what it’s like to be a teen parent with little support. He does get financial support from his father; however, her is angry with Sam’s decision and does not provide any emotional support or help care for Max. Sam envies Claire’s relationship with her family. He does have some support from his aunt and uncle.

I was a bit disappointed by the ending but it fit with the realism of the book. It felt a bit rushed but in thinking back, Sam’s life was being rushing into a very important decision. He struggled between being a teenager and trying to be a father. When he leaves Max with his aunt he says he feels empty and lost. He struggles with his identity and his responsibilities as a father. In the end, he knows that the right decision is the hardest one. No matter how much he wanted to try and keep Max, he eventually had to let him go.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Bechard is a an author and a teacher of young adult and children’s novels. She is a teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults. Some of her other titles are If it Doesn’t Kill You, Spacer the Rat, My Mom Married the Principal, and Really No Big Deal.

Bechard was born in Chico, California, and is the youngest of six childrenShe lives in the suburbs of Portland with her husband and Barney, a Shetland sheepdog. They have three frown sons.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.margaretbechard.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some readers my have a problem with the topic of teen parenthood and mentions of sexual situations.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Possibly Sexual Education

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Do you feel like the ending worked well for the novel? Do you think Sam made the right choice?

WHY INCLUDED: I included the novel because I love the fact that it’s the father who wants to keep the child and is assuming responsibility. This point of view is not dealt with often enough. There are teen responsible teen fathers out there and it is important for teens to be able to read about them.

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Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/my_weblog/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennet
ISBN-13: 978-0385740067
Ember, New York, 2011
272 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Lara has the perfect life: popularity, beauty, and the perfect boyfriend and family. THen she gained weight and everything changed.

SUMMARY: Lara Ardeche’s life was perfect. She was popular, she had great friends, the perfect family, a wonderful boyfriend, was made homecoming queen, and she was thin. When a mysterious rash appears, Lara starts taking medication in order to control the intense itching. But the medication causes her to gain weight. She tries everything to loss weight, even taking laxatives and starving herself. The more weight she gains the more her life seems to fall apart. She soon realizes that her perfect family was never really perfect at all. Can Lara learn to love herself again?

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through Lara Ardeche. This novel is painfully honest. As Lara gains more and more weight her language because more and more self deprecating and hat filled. While reading this book, I often wondered if we would ever get to a point where the word “fat wasn’t used with such intense hatred and disgust. The characters are very well thought out. No one is perfect in this book and I really appreciated that. In the beginning, everything looks wonderful on the surface to Lara. Her mother is beautiful, her father is handsome, and they are both still in love with each other. This of course was just one of the facades that Lara learned about once she started to gain weight.

Lara’s parents are extremely concerned with appearances. In fact, Lara’s mother ignores her husband’s cheating in order to keep up appearances as the perfect couple. Her mother is also extremely pressuring when it comes to Lara losing weight. her father as well. They both refuse to believe that Lara is trying to lose weight and accuse her of sneaking food. Her father acts cold towards her as she gains weight. He eventually loses interest in his family’s problems and leaves.

I really appreciated the fact that the story didn’t end perfectly. Not everything was resolved. We never know if she and her boyfriend Jett worked things out. We don’t know for sure what happens between Lara’s parents. Even her self image is left questioning. She is making progress at the end of the book to stop looking at herself like she’s fat. She is slowly starting to realize that she has to learn how to be happy with herself jut the way she is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cherie Bennet is an actress, novelist, director, playwright, newspaper columnist, singer, and television writer. She was the scriptwriter for daytime shows such as: As the World Turns, The Young and the Restless, and Smallville. She is also the author of A Heart Divided, Anne Frank and Me, Zink, and numerous television series adapted into novels.

Bennet lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Jeff Gottesffeld and their son. They adopted their son Igor from Russia. Jeff Gottesfeld is also a writer. They often collaborate on projects.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.cheriebennett.com/

READING LEVEL: 14+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might take issue with the sexual situations, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, and drug overdose within this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Health

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: There were parts of the book left unresolved, do you feel this makes it more realistic? Was it conclusive enough for you?

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to include a book that dealt with body image and weight. I was drawn to the fact that the main character was the perfect beauty queen instead of having a weight problem all her life.

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
ISBN-13: 978-0316011273
Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2004
256 p.

GENRE: LGBT Fiction, Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Regan has been keeping the secret that her brother is really her sister her whole life, but now everything is going to change.

SUMMARY: Regan O’Neill has always known that her brother Liam was different. In fact, she is the only one who knows his deepest secret; Liam is really Luna, a transgender girl. As Luna’s desires to transition increase, both Regan and Luna’s love and courage will be put to the test.

CRITIQUE: Regan’s voice throughout this novel is exquisitely honest. She deals with her fears about Luna’s transition from the surgery and people’s reception of Luna. There are even times when Regan lashes out at Luna because of the burden of their shared secret. The burden of their secret is becoming too much for her to take. She is also faced with the problem of juggling a potential romantic relationship and constantly being their or her sibling. She is trying to grow up and experience high school but feels like she can’t do that and keep making sure that Luna is in a healthy state of mind.

There is also the added obstacle of their parents. One of the main themes in the novel is gender roles. This debate is seen through their parents. Their mother used to be the dotting mother and housewife but now ignores her family for her new job. She even ignores the entire scene when Luna comes out to her father and is threatened to be disowned. She does not stick up for her children and this outrages Regan. Regan misses her mother and wishes she could be supportive of her family and deal with her job. Their father is set in the traditional gender roles. He pressures Liam constantly to play sports and expects Regan to do the housework and cook dinners when their mother does not. This family is holding onto a broken facade throughout the majority of the novel. It slowly crumbles as Luna starts to transition.

Even though Regan and Luna face obstacles and the ending isn’t a perfect one, this was a very uplifting novel. It inspired hope that transgender teens are not alone and that there is support out there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Anne Peters is an American author who was born in Jamestown, new York. She began writing later in her career. She claims she never wanted to be an author and was shocked when it happened. She says she hated reading as a teenager. Now, she has written nearly twenty books for young adults and children.

She has worked as a teacher, a computer programmer, a research analyst, and systems engineer. Other titles by Julie Anne Peters include Far From Xanadu, Keeping You a Secret, and Between Mom and Jo. She has a new book out title She Loves You, She Loves You Not…

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.julieannepeters.com/

READING LEVEL: 14+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some may object to the portrayal of a transsexual character.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: LGBT Studies

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Regan lashes out at Luna a few times in the book. Do you think she was too harsh?

It is revealed later on in the novel that Regan and Luna’s mother new about Liam all along. Do you think that makes it worse that she ignores her children’s problems?

WHY INCLUDED: This book deals with a subject that has only in the last decade been written about with compassion. There are a lot of people out there who don’t even understand what transgender means. It is my hope that by including novels like Luna in schools and libraries, we can gain a better understanding of transsexuality.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
ISBN-13: 978-1416914631
Simon Pulse, New York, 2005
224 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: She first got high when someone spiked her drink with LSD at a party. Once you have it you can never go back.

SUMMARY: This is the story of an anonymous teen who is like most teenaged girls. She worries about school, fitting in, her looks, and boys. Everything changes when her drink is spiked with LSD at a party. Her journal chronicles her descent into addiction.

CRITIQUE: The story is written in an epistolary voice or journal style. Most of the journal entries are dated. There are sections of the book that are dated with only a question mark. These entries are during her long trips when she has no idea what day, time or even what year it is. We see her personality go through drastic changes as she gets further into drugs. At the beginning and during some of the times when she’s clean she is sweet, considerate, and extremely vulnerable. She is constantly worried about what other people think of her and being accepted by friends and family. When she first starts to use drugs she feels more confident and happy with herself. During some of her heavier trips her personality becomes very hostile and sometimes despondent.

I’m not sure where I stand on the debate about the authenticity of the author. It feels a bit unbelievable that it all was from a real girls journal. The sections that are supposedly from random pieces of paper seem implausible. She was tripping pretty hard. I find it hard to believe that she could keep track of all this pieces of paper or be able to write in such a clear manner. However, I feel like it is handled with a great deal of honesty and realism.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The author of this book is stated as anonymous because it was supposedly created from the journal entries of a real drug addicted teen. However, some believe that it is a work of fiction and Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist and Mormon youth counselor is the author. She is the sole copyright owner for Go Ask Alice and is listed as the author not the editor. She later claimed in an interview in 1979 that the book was based off a journal from one of her patients and that she added the elements based off of her dealings with troubled teens. She claimed that she could not show the original diary because parts were destroyed while transcribing it and the rest was locked away.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: N/A

READING LEVEL: 14+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: This book contains serious drug addiction, sexual content, rape, and self harm.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Possibly Health

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: When the main character is off the drugs, she is extremely self conscious and vulnerable. Do you feel like she was more at risk for drug addiction?

WHY INCLUDED: Drug addiction is a serious problem that teenagers are vulnerable to. Even though some of the material in this book is difficult to read, it is important for teenagers to see what drug addiction can do to them and their families.