“Okay For Now” by Gary Schmidt


Fourteen-year-old Doug’s life is going down the toilet. His abusive father moves the family to a new town where they live in a house Doug names “The Dump.” His older brother is severely injured in the Vietnam War. And his middle brother is accused of stealing — which makes everyone in the new town assume Doug is also a hoodlum.

Despite the odds stacked against him, Doug is determined to thrive. He discovers a love for drawing when he sees an Audubon book on display at his local library. With the help of sympathetic teachers, he overcomes illiteracy and discovers an innate talent for science and math. This heartwarming, emotional story follows Doug in his day to day life and leaves readers cheering for him and hoping he is able to overcome all the obstacles in his path. One of my favorite things about this book is the fact that even those who seem to be the worst villains have the opportunity to be redeemed. And despite his upbringing and the unfair perceptions of others, Doug is determined to see the good in others and work to make the world a better place. Though this brief description may make this sound like a saccharine, feel-good story, Doug’s tough-guy voice makes it a very grounded, accessible book for boy or girl readers from ages 10-14.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky


“The Trouble With Half a Moon” by Danette Vigilante


Thirteen-year-old Dellie’s family fell apart when her little brother, Louis, died. Mom is terrified that Dellie will get hurt, too, so she refuses to let her leave their apartment for anything besides school. Dellie keeps her confusion, pain and guilt inside–until six-year-old Corey and his abusive mother move into the apartment downstairs. Though Dellie knows Corey’s mother and her boyfriend are dangerous people, she can’t stop reaching out to Corey and trying to help him.

Readers will respond to the emotion Dellie feels–her worry and love for Corey, the fight she has with her best friend, Kayla, and the new romance that buds between her and Michael. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this sweet book is Dellie’s developing friendship with another new neighbor, Miss Shirley, who helps her cope with her past and learn to deal with her present.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Amanda Coppedge Bosky

“Countdown” by Deborah Wiles


[Note: we occasionally review upper middle grade books which will appeal to readers ages 12-14.]

Wiles was able to capture the emotions of a ten-year-old girl growing up during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Political and public service announcement images are placed throughout the story that represent what would have been seen on TV and in the newspaper during the 1960s. Many of these images help evoke the sense of impending doom that Franny feels while she struggles with growing up. A mean friend, new boy on the block, first invitation to a boy/girl party, and crazy home life force Franny into deciding what kind of person she wants to be. There are several other layers of history embedded throughout with regards to civil rights, postwar veterans and popular culture. The manner in which historical depth and juvenile insight were handled makes this a unique read.

Check out the book or put it on hold.

-Lynlee Lebensart