Tag: Realistic FIction

Hope and Other Punchlines

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Published: May 7, 2019
304 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?

Kim’s Review:

I read the description while browsing the books in Target and I was just fascinated. When I was teaching in Hawaii, I would make sure to do a special lesson every year on 9/11. I realized that my students were the very last of the kids who were born right before September 11, yet they weren’t old enough to remember what happened that day. I’m pretty sure that most of our followers at Jessica’s Reading Room are old enough to remember what happened and we all remember exactly where we were when we found out about the attacks:

I was in Mrs. Hand’s 8th grade English class. Then we all trekked across campus for chapel where we had a school wide prayer meeting. Later that night, my mom admitted that she thought it was a prank when she heard it on the radio but when she realized it was serious, she wanted to come pick us up right away from school. Everybody meeting in a huge building like the Founders Memorial Amphitorium didn’t sound like such a hot idea that day. We all have stories and memories that stick in our brains down to the smallest details.

This book is about a baby who was photographed being saved from one of the towers; the photo made her famous and she doesn’t remember a thing. She then has to learn to navigate her life around this photo, dealing with people who draw hope from it, even when she was too young to have any idea of what was happening. I very much liked the perspective of the younger kids who lived through it, but don’t remember. This is such a great book to have in high school classrooms and would be a great teaching tool. While it doesn’t focus on the details of the attack, it does give an in-depth look at the aftermath.

Believe it or not, this was not an ugly cry book for me. I did get misty and my heart definitely warmed. I liked this book a lot and I would absolutely recommend it!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK




How to Make Friends with the Dark

Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Published: April 9, 2019
421 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating:  5 stars

Book Description:

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

Kim’s Review:

Another ugly cry book for Kim! The cover fascinated me, the title sounded interesting, and after reading the description, I became obsessed with wanting to read it. It started out pretty regularly, a teen who doesn’t get along with her mom, who just wants independence, etc. Thankfully, there’s not much to give away that you don’t already learn in the description. Tiger’s mom dies unexpectedly and the rest of the book is Tiger trying to deal with her grief and new life without her mother. There were times when the typical teen idea of “adults just don’t understand” came out and that got a little annoying, but the emotions were so raw and real that it didn’t bother me. There are a lot of good lessons throughout the story that I think teens would benefit from, but I would not recommend this book to younger kids. By the time I finished it, I was sobbing. I haven’t cried that hard since Jagged Mind! It didn’t help that I’m PMS’ing but that’s neither here nor there!

I liked how Glasgow documented the whole journey from death, to funeral, to foster care, to guardianship, to coroners report, to obituary, to dealing with permanent loss. I think this would be a great book to give to teachers to read. To be honest, while reading this, that opening quote from The Breakfast Club kept coming to mind. “…and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…” – David Bowie.

Fortunately, there isn’t any real adult vs. teen conflict in the story, but it is sometimes easy to forget that teens’ feelings can be complicated and hard to deal with. We think that they have the resilience of childhood, but they’re far closer to adulthood and they often need more attention than the younger ones. Overall, this is an emotional and educational read that gives a detailed look into everything surrounding death, specifically how it affects teens under 18. I absolutely recommend it!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Neal Shusterman

Jarrod Shusterman
Published: October 2, 2018

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 10-17, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Jessica’s Review:

Between reading Hanna Jameson’s The Last and now Dry and watching ‘Walking Dead’ type shows/movies I now want to stock up on everything and be ready for the end of civilization! Especially water: You cannot live without water after a few days.  Dry has totally freaked me out and I want to be prepared!  Everything about Dry felt real to me. It takes place in southern California (OMG, this happened in the USA!) and the water has run completely out.  The desperation of everyone is captured brilliantly and we see how people become in impossible situations. 

Our protagonists are young adults, so they will come with immaturity, but I was completely drawn into the story! You don’t know what is going to happen and who will die or live.  For a while I thought we were going to have a ‘Mist movie type ending’ and OMG, that would be jaw dropping as it is so realistic and not a happy ending. 

Shusterman does such a wonderful job making you think about things long after you have finished his books.  He continues this with Dry.  Dry has you thinking about what you will do and who will you become when the Tap-Out eventually happens.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK