“Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen

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This 2015 release by Sarah Dessen was more serious, contemplative, and reflective than her numerous other novels, such as Along for the Ride, This Lullaby, Just Listen, and Lock and Key. The story focuses on teenage girl Sydney Stanford, who has always been overshadowed by her popular brother Peyton. While in high school, Peyton started going down a bad path after he started experimenting with drugs, shoplifting, and drinking. This eventually results in Peyton getting sent to prison after he seriously injures a boy one night while driving under the influence. Sydney feels ignored by her family, especially her mother, as her parents try to connect with Peyton in prison. She feels ashamed of Peyton’s bad behavior and is the only person in her family who feels guilty about what happened to the boy, David Ibarra, who ended up paralyzed as a result of the accident.

One day, Sydney meets the Chatham family and they help give her advice on how to deal with her family and the accident, as they have gone through a similar situation. She begins to spend time with the Chatham family to escape the problems in her own family. Sydney develops a deep friendship with them, and their friendship is tested at the end of the novel.

This is one of Dessen’s more serious novels, as one of the main conflicts is between Sydney and her mother about focusing less on Peyton in prison and more on what is happening to Sydney. There is a slight theme of love, but it is not the main focus of the novel and plays a little role in the development of the plot unlike in some of Dessen’s other novels, such as This Lullaby. The theme of family is prevalent throughout the novel, especially how family must support one another through hardships. This new release gives readers insight of how difficult it is for families to stay together after a life changing event. Fans of Dessen’s will not be disappointed, and those who are interested in realistic teen fiction should check out Saint Anything if they are looking for a good read.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caylee P.

“The Unquiet” by Jeannine Garsee

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Rinn Jacobs has bipolar disorder. Before she started taking medication to control her condition, her moods — and her life — swung wildly out of control. When her actions indirectly led to the death of her grandmother, she attempted suicide. Rinn and her mother left California to return to her mother’s hometown in Ohio. Now it’s Rinn’s job to get her disorder under control while her mother and stepfather are separated and dealing with the aftereffects of her step-grandmother’s death.

But it’s hard to be normal when you’re renting a house and sleeping in a room where a woman hanged herself. It’s hard to be normal when a creepy hallway and an abandoned swimming pool at school seem to be haunted by Annaliese, the ghost of the hanged woman’s granddaughter. And it’s especially hard to be normal when tragedy falls on everyone who experiences paranormal activity in the eerie corridor.

Rinn becomes convinced that Annaliese is haunting her and preying on her friends and her mother. But will people believe her, or just think it’s her bipolar disorder talking?Give this book to horror fans who are looking for a genuinely creepy, page-turning ghost story.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky

“Bitter Melon” by Cara Chow

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High school student Frances Wong lives with her mother in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Her mother works hard to put Frances through private school, and constantly dreams of the day her daughter will grow up to be a doctor so she can afford to take care of her mother. Frances works hard to show filial dedication to her mother, as their Chinese culture dictates.

All this changes when Frances accidentally gets put in Speech instead of Calculus at school. Rather than switching to the correct class, Frances is intrigued by her new teacher and the possibility of competing in Speech. She knows her mother would never approve, so she begins lying to prevent her from finding out.

Frances begins to blossom, seeing for the first time the possibility of a life not bound to her demanding and abusive mother. At home, as her lies come to light, her mother becomes more controlling and abusive, both verbally and physically. Frances’ evolution is beautifully illustrated by the changing topics of her speeches over the course of the novel, starting with her acceptance of her culture’s filial piety, and ending with her own desire to explore the world and be her own person even if this is not what her mother wishes.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky