Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Few for 2016

I've been struggling with how to talk about books on this blog. I love writing about books, but lately regular reviewing has been too much for me. I just never get around to doing it and by the time I want to, too much time has passed since I read the book to write a detailed review and then I'm in a shame spiral so I just ignore the blog for a month and...

This year, I'm going to try to post sort roundups of what I've been reading so I can write more about books, even if writing out a full review seems overwhelming. And remember to friend me on GoodReads if you're interested to see a little something about pretty much everything I read.

Today I want to share a few books I'm excited for in 2016:

Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo. Grades 9 and up. Random House Books for Young Readers, January 2016. 368 pages.

Since she was a preschooler, Harper has had The Plan. She and her best friend Kate are dancers. They will work hard. They will sacrifice. Harper will teach ballet classes so she can afford to take her own classes. They will graduate high school early, audition for the San Francisco Ballet (their hometown), join the company, and share a cheap apartment while living out their dream. But when best laid plans go awry, Harper flees to "winter over" in the frozen darkness of Antarctica.

I couldn't put this book down. The premise is a little far-fetched, but absolutely compelling. It's a little quirky in a way that I wasn't sure I would like, but the characters are strong and the emotions are written genuinely. Both settings - San Francisco and Antarctica - are well realized, which is important since they're both so important to Harper. I would definitely hand this to teens who love ballet stories; this is one that's off the beaten path in a great way.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Grades 7 and up. Philomel Books, February 2016. 400 pages.

Ruta Sepetys is back with another little-known WWII story. Alternating between four different viewpoints, we hear the stories of four teens near the end of WWII in Europe. As refugees flee East Prussia, Russian soldiers hunt them down. They're hoping to get passage on a ship, but one ship's terrible fate includes tragedy.

The quick point of view shifts make this almost read like a novel in verse. We get the story in small snippets, but it all comes together nicely. The short "chapters" make the pages turn super quickly. This will be another engrossing story for teens interested in WWII or historical fiction.

Booked by Kwame Alexander. Grades 4-8. Houghton Mifflin, March 2016. 

Of course this follow-up to the 2015 Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover is dear to my heart. :) It's not a sequel, not the same characters (although Kwame did sign a deal with HMH to write a prequel to The Crossover!), but it's similar in style and subject matter. This novel in verse is about Nick, a boy who loves soccer and is dealing with some tough stuff this year. Using different styles of poetry and pulling on his own experiences of having a dad who highly values literacy, Alexander presents the story of a kid who thinks he hates to read. Nick deals with family problems, first crushes, friendly? competition, bullying... all without overwhelming the story. I think this will definitely be a popular follow-up.