“Life: An Exploded Diagram” by Mal Peet

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This unusual story focuses on the bizarre history of seventeen-year-old Clem Ackroyd, his parents and his grandparents, and the way war shapes him and his family. The story begins at the end of World War II, lingers over the details of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and ends on September 11, 2001. Not only is it a unique, broad-spanning historical fiction novel, it is also full of beautiful language, a finely-drawn first-love story, and plenty of humor mixed in with all the heartache.

At the heart of the story is Clem’s secret relationship with Frankie, the daughter of his father’s boss. Every nuance of their ill-fated romance is chronicled, juxtaposed with Cuban Missile Crisis thoughts from John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro and other major players. If this sounds like dry reading to you, trust me, it’s not–Peet brings history to life as well as he evokes the heady, helpless, hormone-soaked feeling of first love.

Highly recommended for teens who like historical fiction or unusual narratives. Fans of realistic fiction by authors such as John Green or Sara Zarr might enjoy this book. Recommended for older readers.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky

“Putting Makeup on Dead People” by Jen Violi

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There’s no way around it. Death changes people. For Donna, the change began four years ago with the death of her father. At that time, Donna withdrew from her family and friends. That’s normal. Fast-forward four years to the spring of her senior year. Here, at the funeral of her classmate, she discovers she is more comfortable around dead people. Well, not so normal. Also, not the future her mother has in mind.

High school graduation is a point where change cannot be avoided. While her friends receive acceptance letters from high profile colleges, Donna seeks entrance into mortuary school. With her past weighing heavily on her and a secret sure to cause unbearable strife at home, Donna seems to be stuck in neutral. In “Putting Makeup on Dead People,” Jen Violi provides a fresh angle on the coming of age story. She successfully weaves elements of a family struggling to move past death, the faith of a new friend, the power of reconciliation, the infatuation of first love and the classic boy-next-door to create an altogether believable tale. Sometimes destiny comes in strange packages. This one is sure to have wide young adult appeal.

This book is recommended for older teens.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

– Kimberly Bower

“Shine” by Lauren Myracle

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Cat’s friend Patrick is openly gay in a small, very conservative Southern town. When he is beaten up and left for dead one night, Cat has strong suspicions that it was someone Patrick knew, not a passing stranger, who assaulted her friend. As Cat delves deeper into the mystery of what happened to Patrick, she must confront her own demons and uncover unpleasant secrets about her friends and her hometown.

Cat’s irresistable voice would be enough to make this book a page-turner. But on top of crafting a gritty coming-of-age story, Lauren Myracle also added a compelling mystery to her plot. The twists and turns of the mystery read like hardboiled crime noir dropped into a backwoods Southern town. Though this book might look a little too long for reluctant readers, they will soon find themselves drawn in by Cat’s investigation. I recommend this book for more mature readers.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Amanda Coppedge Bosky