Tag: middle grades

Audiobook Review: AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler

AfterMath
Author: Emily Barth Isler

Narrator: Emily Barth Isler
To Be Published:  September 7, 2021

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 14-17, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

After her brother’s death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school–especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family’s own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Jessica’s Review:

AfterMath is the third book I have read this year that has dealt with a school shooting before or after the fact. AfterMath is a middle grades novel by Emily Barth Isler and the title has multiple meanings.  The idea for AfterMath came to Isler after the December 2, 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California.  She had a baby and a 4-year-old at the time. 

Each chapter of AfterMath begins with a Math problem. Our main character is Lucy who is twelve years old and dealing with the death of her younger brother from a rare congenital heart defect.  Dealing with the loss, Lucy’s parents decide to move.  They move to where her parents have a shorter commute, but they also move to a town that has not had new members to the community since there was a school shooting four years earlier.  Not only that, but Lucy is also the age of the students who were victims of the shooting.  The house they move into was also the home of a girl her age who died in the shooting. 

Lucy’s adjustment to a new school in a unique situation at an awkward time of life is our story.  There are so many important issues addressed in this book with loss and grief being at the forefront.  PTSD in various forms is also addressed along with bullying.  For one particular student we see the effects of how the sins of one person affect another who had nothing to do with said sin.  We see how everyone experiences their grief in different ways, and the way Lucy does this is not telling anyone at her new school about the recent loss of her brother. 

I really liked Lucy and how we see her love of Math despite having problems with learning the concept of Infinity.  We see how she grows over the course of the novel. We also get to know Avery through Lucy, a girl whom everyone at the school avoids. We also see Lucy’s home life with her parents and mysterious math jokes appearing in her room.  Lucy has a good relationship with her math teacher who also teaches her after-school mime class. 

This is a great book for those in the middle grades age group.  I listened to the audiobook version which the author also narrated.  She brought a special voice to the novel.  I received an arc copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

AfterMath is definitely recommended for the middle grades ages readers. 

Pre-order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

#DIverseathon2021: Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus
Series: Life of a Cactus #2
Author: Dusti Bowling
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Published: September 17, 2019
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read:  July 21-25, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars     

Book Description:

The sequel to the critically acclaimed Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus follows Aven Green as she confronts yet another challenge: high school. “High School. Two words that struck fear into the heart of every armless middle schooler I knew. Which was me. And like two people online.” Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school . . . with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?

Jessica’s Review:

Aven is back in Momentous Life and now she is starting high school… And it is not going how she wanted.  Connor has moved 30 minutes away, so she doesn’t see him like she used to. Now her main friend is Zion (“from The Matrix, not the Bible”). Zion is overweight and heavily bullied because of it. Zion was a minor character in the first novel, and Connor was the focus with his Tourette’s Syndrome.  Aven clicks well with Zion’s whole family, which includes his older brother Lando (Yes, from Star Wars. Their parents are total science fiction nerds and it has rubbed off on the boys).

High school brings some new challenges: a much bigger school with students who have not seen Aven before. Momentous Life shows how cruel kids can be to each other. Despite her challenges, Aven stays who she is.  Aven meets a girl who is home schooled and works part time at Stagecoach Pass and they also become friends. 

We also get more of Stagecoach Pass and Henry who is much older and dealing with dementia. We also get more of Josephine who lives in a retirement community and she is just an older version of Aven! You can’t help but love Josephine!

After loving Insignificant Events, I had to read this second novel in the series.  This was also a #Diverseathon2021 read for the month of July (the prompt is a main character with a physical or cognitive disability). I listened to the audiobook version as I did with the first and it was also narrated by Karissa Vacker, who did a wonderful job again. I did miss Connor as we did not get as much with him due to his move.  I really enjoyed these two novels and would love to see more of Aven as she grows up: Going to college, getting a job, etc.  I can see that once Aven matures into an adult that she will be a very confident woman despite her lack of arms.  Aven is very much a character that kids can look up to.

Despite being freshmen in high school now, there is still a bit of immaturity in the novel that revolves around them being adolescents, but this novel is definitely appropriate for middle schoolers.  This is definitely a book series for children who have a disability that shows them they are still 100% a person.

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus is recommended! 

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#Diverseathon2021:

For full details on this year long readathon, please click here.
And don’t forget about the awesome GRAND PRIZE at the end of the year. Click the link here for that information.

July’s host is Kesara at readswithkesara over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of One book valuing up to $20 from the Book Depository or Amazon (for US based winner)  Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.

Be sure to check out her YouTube Channel!
***

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Diverseathon 2021: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Series: Life of a Cactus #1
Author: Dusti Bowling
Narrator:
Karissa Vacker

Published:  September 5, 2017
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read:  July 5-7, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars     

Book Description:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Jessica’s Review:

Life of a Cactus is a novel I read ( I actually listened to the audiobook) for June’s prompt for #Diversathon: Which is a main character with a disability. And again, Life of a Cactus has two main characters with disabilities: Aven was born without arms and Connor who has Tourette’s Syndrome.  This novel is a middle grades novel that fits in 100% with that age group. And surprisingly, I really adored this novel! 

These are characters that you love and the writing helps you understand them completely with their discomfort with their disability at that age of middle school where they are already experiencing so much change. I revered Aven who takes her disability as it is.  She is energetic, kind, and upbeat, but also has that uncertainty of her age.  In addition to all the life changes she is experiencing; she has to pick up her life and move because of dad’s new job.  She is not happy with this as all the kids are now used to her and she gets along good. Imagine starting a new middle school and you have no arms! 

Aven connects with Connor who is a bit of a loner who has Tourette’s.  Life of a Cactus gives a very positive portrayal of what someone with Tourette’s is going through including the fear of going out in public.   Life of a Cactus really gives the reader an insight of what someone with Tourette’s goes through.  I wish I had had this book in middle school as there were a couple of boys in school with Tourette’s. Nothing was every really explained to us with what they had and you just got used to the noises they made.  And one ended up getting in trouble a lot because curse words would come out.  I guess back in middle school staff did not have a good understanding of Tourette’s.   

Life of a Cactus also shows the struggle of Aven’s parents with a lack of job and adjusting to the new job which can be a difficult one. There is also a small mystery that comes to the forefront in the last part of the novel with a conclusion that is a bit unbelievable, but I did not let that mystery hamper my enjoyment of this novel. 

Life of a Cactus is one I definitely recommend for middle schoolers!  I don’t recall anything that would be inappropriate for that age group in this novel.  In fact, many readers need to read this one!

***
#Diverseathon2021:

For full details on this year long readathon, please click here.
And don’t forget about the awesome GRAND PRIZE at the end of the year. Click the link here for that information.

July’s host is Kesara at readswithkesara over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of One book valuing up to $20 from the Book Depository or Amazon (for US based winner)  Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.

Be sure to check out her YouTube Channel!
***

Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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