If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

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If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
Will lives with his Mum. He doesn’t know his Dad but he always puts the money in the bank. His Mum doesn’t go outside the house, the world panics her. She gets everything delivered. Will can’t remember ever being outside.
One day while his Mum is having a rest he goes outside. It isn’t what he imagined. The kids aren’t wearing helmets like he does, whether he is inside or out. His Mum is worried he will get hurt without the helmet. She is like that, they cook most of their meals in the jug. His Mum has heard about terrible things that have happened to people with other appliances.
Her family has a history of tragic, random deaths and she isn’t taking any chances with Will.
He decides he wants to go to school and she allows this. She is afraid if she doesn’t, someone will come and take Will away from her. At first he doesn’t fit in. His Mum’s way of educating him was unconventional and he has some odd ways of thinking.
Finally he makes a friend. They decide to try and find out what happened to a kid from a foster home who went missing. It turns out the boy may have been involved with some criminals. They discover something that turns the criminal’s attention onto them.
The adventure gives Will an opportunity to learn about the world outside.
This is a sensitively written story with enough mystery to keep
you turning the pages.

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard is on the autism spectrum but is verbal and bright. Her family life is a bit tricky. Her solo Dad has vowed not be like his own father. This is a struggle for him. He has a sometime job and spends time at the bar on the corner. Rose spends afternoons by herself and cooks dinner every night. Sometimes her Dad is home to eat with her, sometimes he doesn’t eat at all.
Her Dad’s single brother Wesley is Rose’s ally. When Rose is no longer allowed to ride on the school bus he offers to drive her each morning and afternoon. He also takes her places on the weekends sometimes.

One day her Dad arrives home with a stray dog for Rose. She names him Rain because it was raining when he came into their lives. They don’t look for the previous owner because Rain doesn’t have a collar or tags. Rose and Rain become the best of friends.

Rose doesn’t have friends at school. She struggles with her autism and OCD. She confuses the other children by her outbursts of prime numbers and her obsession with homonyms. Her teacher aid stays with her all day and is helping Rose discover how to relate to others.

A superstorm hits and Rose’s Dad lets Rain out without her collar. Rain becomes lost. It is up to Rose to find her. Uncle Wesley helps her but Rose has to make some big decisions. Rose finds out along the way that she is brave and strong and smart.

Recommended to readers 8+ especially fans of ‘A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

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The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

“Moving through grief like it’s a thick drift” this is how Sarah St John describes life since her only child, 22 year old Cully is killed in an avalanche. It is three months since his death. Sarah is trying to reengage with life. She goes back to work as a television host for the local ski resort info channel but her mind can’t engage with what she is supposed to be saying, her heart isn’t in it.

Her recently retired father Jack is living with her. This is a blessing as well as a challenge. Sarah and Jack get on very well but Jack has so much time on his hands that he has resorted to watching and purchasing from the home shopping channel.

When returning home from her first day back at work she encounters a girl, Kit, in her driveway. Kit offers to come and shovel snow the next morning after the predicted storm moves through. Sarah uncharacteristically invites Kit inside and tells her father that the she could get started chipping ice off the back deck. Jack and Kit work for a while in the afternoon.

Kit returns the next day, by then Sarah and Jack are wondering what this girl is really up to. Kit has a proposition for them that has incalculable possibilities.

Sarah’s best friend Suzanne’s husband of many years has cheated on her and although she is devastated, her grief does not compare with Sarah’s. It is difficult for their friendship because they need each other more than they are able to help each other.

Sarah’s daughter is a lifelong friend of Cully and they attended the same university. She has arranged a memorial tribute to Cully. Sarah, Jack, Suzanne, Cully’s Dad and the Kit go along.

This should be a sad and depressing read but it was not for me. What made me love this writing was the possibilities, not exactly hope but a glimpse into the future. How possibilities allow us to continue to move through life when it seems to have stopped around us.

How possibilities allow us to heal, grow and move on even when we aren’t ready. How possibilities can force us to make choices which are far reaching and may not be what we hoped for. That the possibilities make it possible to move on.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

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T has been shot in the street by a white man.  Was he armed?  Was it self-defence?  Why do all the witnesses have a different version of what went down?

Very, very good. Short chapters, easy flow, hard hitting reality of living in a bad neighbourhood. Either running into or away from gangs. The desperation, poverty, hopelessness is tragic but sympathetically written.

You don’t always have a choice whether you join a gang or not. The boys of Peach Street don’t have many choices. It’s either the Stingers or the Kings. The girls don’t have much hope either.

This book should draw in reluctant boys 13+ but is a gripping read for all ages. Strong girl / women characters.

We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

24836625We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Once again I was fooled by the cover.  It looked like a fun, dysfunctional family romp. This also happened to me with The Fields by Kevin Maher.  This time it is animal testing, in The Fields it was cleric sexual abuse.

There was definitely dysfunction in the family, an older brother and sister were unaccounted for at the start of the story.  I didn’t read the back cover properly or I would have realised something about the sister.  Maybe I did read it and it just sounded more fun.  It wasn’t fun.

Rosemary is telling her family’s story.  She starts in the middle and skips around a bit. It is a gripping read, you can’t predict what is on the next page. Rosemary says she used to talk a lot, now she is pretty silent.  She attends Uni but doesn’t have a group of friends or any idea what she should get a degree in, she has been attending for some time.

Her Uni is far from home but she visits her parents on holidays.  She can’t talk to her parents about what happened to her siblings, but she might  like to know more.  She feels that she is to blame and is carrying lots of guilt.

She makes a friend, gets thrown in jail and drinks too much on a night out.  Her Mum gives her the journals that she wrote when Rosemary was small. She isn’t sure she wants to read them.  She puts them in her luggage which gets lost by the airline.

Rosemary’s Dad is a scientist.  He does experiments on animals.  There is a bit of graphic detail around how animals were used for testing, it is shocking and sad.

Near the end of the book I got concerned, how would the author tie up all the bits of the story without rushing or glossing over things.  I needn’t have worried, this book has an ending that fits the story.  A satisfying read.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Ari lives with his parents. They won’t talk about his older brother who is in prison anhis Dad won’t talk about his time in Vietnam. Ari would like to know more but knows not to ask. He has a lot of questions that have built up over time. This makes him angry.

One summer day he goes to the town pool. He can’t swim. A boy he’s never met before, Dante, teaches him how to swim. They become friends. He goes to Dante’s house and finds that Dante and his parents love to talk, they talk about everything. Dante tells Ari that he wants to kiss boys, not girls. This doesn’t bother Ari as long as Dante doesn’t try to kiss him.

Ari gets on well enough at school but keeps the other kids at an arms length. He gets a job at a burger place.

Dante’s Dad gets a job teaching at a Uni far away for eight months. Dante writes lots of letters, Ari sends two. Dante gets back in the summer and their friendship continues.

Dante gets a job and a boy friend. Dante and Ari’s dads become friends. Events lead to a few dramas and the boys friendship is tested.

I loved this book. Well formed characters with real and interesting life dramas. Great story for 14+ boys.

Smart by Kim Slater

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Smart by Kim Slater

Kieran is growing up in a council house. He lives with his Mum who is always at work, her boyfriend Tony and his son Ryan who are always home.

Kieran has his own teacher aid and gets on at school, art is his favorite subject. He keeps his drawings and journal hidden so Tony won’t find them. When his Mum is at work he is either quiet in his room or out somewhere. His Mum is working later at night.

He finds the body of Colin a friend and homeless man down at the river bank. The police think Colin was drunk and fell accidentally. Kieran thinks he has been murdered and uses skills learned watching CSI to investigate the case.

Kieran has a few friends, Jean knew Colin from the shelter and a new boy at school. He hasn’t seen his grandmother in a long time. His teacher aid thinks Kieran might not be safe at home.

All the while Kieran is collecting clues, staying away from Tony and trying to look after his Mum.

A well written and page turning story of dysfunctional family life, love, loyalty and a reminder that you should never underestimate someones bravery, intelligence or ability.