Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Reasons to be Happy by Katrina Kittle, 281 pages.
@ SPL:  YA PB Kittl
    
The title, “Reasons to be Happy”, suggests that Katrina Kittle’s new teen novel is a cheerful, happy story … but it isn’t.
    
At one time, Hannah Carlisle had many reasons to be happy. Self-assured and confident, she had two loving parents and many friends. She enjoyed school, loved to run and was a talented artist.
    
Then her mother was diagnosed with cancer. The family moved and Hannah started eighth grade at a new school where she had trouble fitting in. For the first time, her “plain Jane” looks bothered her. Her self-assurance disappeared. And later, when her mother died and her dad withdrew into his grief, Hannah was intensely lonely.  Desperate to fit in with the crowd at school – and desperate to have a measure of control over some part of her life, she became bulimic.
    
The novel doesn’t ignore, gloss over or “sugar coat” the physical and emotional repercussions of bulimia – or the difficult road to recovery. Hannah’s own journey to recovery began when she accompanied her aunt to Ghana to film a documentary on starving orphans. There, Hannah was shocked out of her insecurities about her body image in the face of the desperation and death around her. Learning – and accepting - that inner beauty is so much more important than outer beauty, she was eventually able, upon returning to North America, to find reasons to be happy once again.
    
Unsettling and hard-hitting, this well-written novel paints a realistic portrait of bulimia for young readers who may be struggling with their own body image.       

** Recommended for ages 12 to 15 years.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe, 309 pages.
    
A small island community is hit with a strange, deadly virus. Quickly infecting both young and old, it races through the population and becomes an epidemic.
    
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the flu-like virus.  
    
As the casualties begin to mount, the island is quarantined, cut off from mainland Canada and the rest of the world. No one can leave or enter the island.
    
The situation becomes increasingly desperate. Healthy residents fight for food supplies, of which there are never enough.
     
Sixteen-year-old Kaelyn, a resident, is grieving the loss of her mother and caring for her young cousin, Meredith. She is also working with her microbiologist father in a desperate attempt to develop antibodies to the virus. Previous tests have failed, but they have modified the serum again and believe that this time, it could work. But before they can try it, her dad is attacked by a crazed resident – and it’s unclear if he will recover.
      
With Meredith now very sick, Kaelyn makes the difficult decision to try the serum on herself.
     
The Way We Fall ends before the reader can find out if the test is successful but the story is continued in a just-published sequel,The Lives We Lost.
    
Megan Crewe’s haunting dystopian teen novel has been nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s 2013 White Pine Award. It is a thoroughly captivating story and leaves readers hungering to know what will happen to Kaelyn and Meredith.

** Recommended for ages 12 to 16 years.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on April 4, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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