|Shtum by Jem Lester
shtum.: /ʃtʊm/. adjective. Silent; non-communicative.
Ben and Emma’s son Jonah is severely autistic and silent. Life evolves around Johan’s care which is constant and messy and hard. The family is at breaking point. The local Council won’t fund the residential care that Johan desperately needs.
In the hope of swinging the odds in an appeal of Council’s decision, Ben and Johan move in with Ben’s elderly Dad. Single parents get better support, especially if you aren’t coping.
Ben’s Dad is great with Johan while Ben is falling apart. Emma isn’t faring much better.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Absolutely great kid literature. Funny, adventurous and a bit farcical. For independent boys or girls age 8+ or a terrific read aloud.
I listened to the audio version, would be fun for a family car trip.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
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.
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
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.
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister
by Amélie Sarn translation by Y. Maudet
I Love I Hate I loved this book.
Set in the present with French sisters of Algerian Muslim descent. They choose different paths, one western and one traditional. Both paths have difficulty and hardship.
One sister gets left behind. She remembers how much she loved her sister even when she hated her. She would like another chance to protect her sister.
She must live with the consequences of both of their decisions. Her family has moved on but she can’t.
Realistically written. I have a much better understanding of current issues of muslim women living in the west. This fiction took the gloss and some of the mystery of another culture away for me.
Well written with a solid ending, a satisfying read.
Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Set in Sri Lanka during the civil war. A story of love and loss. A story of culture and difference.
In the South two families of different backgrounds living in the same house. War separates them with one family immigrating to USA. Later their paths cross again in Sri Lanka when the sisters come back to work with refuge children. A lost love is found.
In the North one family living in hardship and fear of the day their children are taken for soldiers. At 13 you are old enough to serve. The parents can’t protect their children from the army or the enemy. One daughter is damaged and then taken by the Tamil Tigers for training. The ultimate soldier becomes a martyr.
A peek inside another world. A world of tragedy and tradition, of love and prejudice. The story ends with hope and thoughts of the future in a country no longer at war with itself.