Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones. (Grades 7+)
Liliana is starting high school and her life has gotten pretty strange. Her dad may or may not be gay (she doesn't know if she really cares, but she worries that people at school might care). Her mom's new boyfriend may or may not be a drunken sleazebag. Her best friend only cares about being popular. And the guy she has a crush on just might be into her.
It's a lot to deal with and, to cope with it all, she writes letters to John Wayne. Yes, he's a famous movie star and, well, dead. But to Lili, he epitomizes what she thinks a hero should be. Someone who protects people, who stands up for what he believes in, someone who's able to take care of things when life gets a little rough. Yep, John Wayne is her hero. But as Lili faces new and different challenges, she'll learn to be a hero herself.
This is kind of an odd little book. I mean, writing letters to a dead movie cowboy is pretty odd. And Lili adopts some of John Wayne's cowboy slang into her speech. And, well, she's writing letters to John Wayne. Lili is not your typical YA heroine. And that's what I love about her.
The farther I got in this book the more I loved it and when I was finished, the more I thought about it the more I loved it still.
What I love is that it's complicated and messy. Lili doesn't have simple problems. She doesn't have problems with easy answers. And by the end of the book her problems are not all solved. The people in her life are not all tucked away into neat little boxes. It's complicated and messy and real. In real life your problems are not solved after 305 pages. I'm not saying that it's an ending that leaves you hanging. It doesn't. But the people that are confusing and contradictory at the beginning of the novel aren't suddenly all black and white.
Check out reviews at Charlotte's Library, And Another Book Read, Writing and Ruminating, and Teens Read Too. Also, you'll want to visit Carrie Jones's website where you can read her blog and find out what inspired her to write Girl, Hero and her other books.