©2019 by Clare Lund, Librarian on the Loose. All views are my own. I receive no compensation for reviews.

For Young Readers, Continued

 

You Go First

by Erin Entrada Kelly

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, and feels like she's being left behind by her best friend. Ben is in Louisiana, where he struggles to find someone to eat lunch with. When events turn both of their lives upside down, Charlotte and Ben develop a friendship playing Scrabble online, and realize how important it is to talk to someone, even if they live 1000 miles away.


Also check out Hello, Universe (2018 Newbery Medal winner!) and The Land of Forgotten Girls by the same author.

Amina's Voice

by Hena Khan

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

Amina is shy, and starting middle school doesn't make things easier. Her best friend Soojin suddenly starts talking about changing her Chinese name to something more "American," which causes Amina to question her place in this country as a Pakistani-American Muslim. A sweet story of cultural identity, friendship, and confidence that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds and ages.

I also adored More to the Story, a modern-day adaptation of Little Women, by the same author!

Restart

by Gordon Kormon

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

Choosing just one Gordon Kormon book was a challenge, but this one really stuck with me. After Chase falls of his roof, he remembers nothing of his previous life. When he returns back to school, he finds that the students either worship him or fear him, leading him to wonder what kind of person he was before his accident. After confronting his own past, Chase realizes that he has the chance to completely redefine himself.

Some of my other favorite Gordon Kormon books include

Schooled, Ungifted, and No More Dead Dogs.

Legend

by Marie Lu

Sci-fi / Dystopian thriller
Ages 10 and up

What was once the United States is now home to the Republic, a nation constantly at war. Born into an elite family, 15-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Day grew up in the slums and is now a notorious criminal. Chapters alternate between the two perspectives, revealing that things are not always as they seem.

If you like Legend, you should definitely finish the rest of the trilogy... I couldn't put them down.

Rain Reign

by Ann M. Martin

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

Rose has Asperger's syndrome and is obsessed with homonyms and prime numbers. Her dog Rain is her constant companion, especially since her father doesn't have much patience for his special-needs daughter. When Rain goes missing during a storm, it forces Rose to abandon her routines and safe spaces as she is faced with a very difficult choice. This book is heartbreaking and just so beautiful.

Nowhere Boy

by Katherine Marsh

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but starting to lose hope. Then he meets Max, an American boy who is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. With one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

Breakout

by Kate Messner

Realistic fiction

Ages 10 and up

Nora Tucker is working on her contributions to the town's time capsule when two inmates escape from the nearby maximum security prison. Fear can help a community come together, but it can also bring out the worst in people. Told through multiple narrator's artifacts for a time capsule, this book sheds lights on important issues like systemic racism and generational prejudices. (Plus I loved all the Hamilton and Jacqueline Woodson references!)

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

by David Barclay Moore

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Twelve-year-old Lolly and his mom are still reeling from his older brother's death in a gang-related shooting when he receives a gift of Legos, and puts all his frustrations and anger into building something... something big. What a beautiful story about finding your own place in the world, no matter how unconventional it may be. I loved Lolly's inner monologue and the cast of well-developed supporting characters.

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

Magical realism
Ages 10 and up

Every day at seven minutes after midnight, 13-year-old Conor wakes up to find a monster outside his window. The monster has several lessons for Conor to learn and wants something terrifying from him in return: the truth. The story is accompanied by haunting illustrations and is a heart-shattering tale of dealing with grief. (Relatedly, the film is one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen.)
Wow. Just wow. Such an important book.

Wish

by Barbara O'Connor

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

11-year-old Charlie knows every possible way to make a wish, and she's been wishing for the same thing for years. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. I loved everything about this book, including the gorgeous cover art!

Also be sure to check out How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.

Inkling
by Kenneth Oppel

Fantasy, humor
Ages 9 and up

The Rylance family is stuck. Dad's got writer's block. Ethan promised to illustrate a group project at school—even though he can't draw. Sarah's still pining for a puppy. And they all miss Mom. Enter Inkling. Inkling begins life in Mr. Rylance's sketchbook. But one night the ink of his drawings runs together—and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything.

The First Rule of Punk

by Celia C. Pérez

Realistic fiction

Ages 9 and up

Malú is miserable when her mom announces that they are moving from Florida to start a new life in Chicago. It initially seems like the two of them have nothing in common -- Malú calls her mom "Super Mexican" because she's so proud of their culture, while Malú is more interested in punk music and making zines than her heritage -- but they learn how to look past these differences and support each other. Unique book with an important message for everyone: BE YOURSELF!

Ghost (Track series #1)

by Jason Reynolds

Sports, realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

A long time ago, Ghost and his mom had to run for their lives, and he still carries the anger from that moment with him. Now, he wants to turn that anger into speed on the track. An engaging read with dynamic and well-developed characters. Loved the message about turning life's negative energy into a passion, and Jason Reynolds truly has a gift for words.


Liked it? Don't miss the rest of the series:

Patina, Sunny, and Lu 

Ghost Boys

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

When 12-year-old Jerome is mistakenly shot and killed by a police officer, the ghost of Emmett Till guides him through the afterlife. Among friends and family members, Jerome's spirit also communicates with the daughter of the cop who fired the fatal shot, and he realizes that more than one life was shattered by his untimely death. About a timely and necessary topic, this story is  accessible even for young readers.

I also recommend Ninth Ward (about Hurricane Katrina) and Towers Falling (about September 11th).

Playing Atari with Sassam Hussein

by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil

Historical fiction
Ages 10 and up

A fascinating “slightly fictionalized biography” of co-author Ali Fadhil during his childhood in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This account is eye-opening about the terrors of growing up during war, but with the innocent optimism of a child narrator. So powerful.

Amal Unbound

by Aisha Saeed

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Life is quiet in the Pakistani village where Amal lives, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Then the unimaginable happens; after a run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her debt. Her life will never be the same.

The Rithmatist

by Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy
Ages 10 and up

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist so he can learn how to bring Chalkings to life and fight evil forces. But as the son of a lowly chalkmaker, this will never be his future. Then students start disappearing, kidnapped from their rooms at night. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel finds himself on the trail of an unexpected and dangerous discovery.

The Blackthorn Key

by Kevin Sands

Mystery, historical fiction
Ages 10 and up

Christopher Rowe was learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Benedict Blackthorn. But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart. The first book in a series.

The Ethan I Was Before

by Ali Standish

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Ethan and his family pick up and move from their home in Boston to a small town in Georgia after "the accident." Pieces of the story are slowly revealed until they all come together at the end, leaving the reader guessing the whole time. Incredible character development and a beautiful portrayal of life after tragendy and second chances.

Nightbooks

by J.A. White

Horror/suspense
Ages 10 and up

Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping the witch Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending—and a way out of this twisted place.

Front Desk

by Kelly Yang

Realistic fiction

Ages 8 and up

Mia and her parents are Chinese immigrants who came to America with only $200 in their pockets. They accept a job managing a motel for a horrible man who constantly exploits them, but Mia is strong and earnest and learns how to use the power of words to persuade. This is about fighting oppression with empathy, optimism, and a strongly worded letter.