Friday, October 22, 2010

Problems, problems: teen stories about coping with real life

Stepping into someone else's shoes can help you see your own life more clearly. The characters in the books below -- whether as a result of their own mistakes or due to circumstances totally beyond their control -- all find themselves in chaotic, seemingly unworkable situations. Look for copies of these books using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here at BookBag; their methods for coping with the chaos, getting a grip, and taking control of their lives make for some great stories.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Franc
isco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine Books) Fiction. Marcelo Sandoval isn't interested in sticking even a big toe out of his comfort zone; he'd be happy forever just listening to the music in his head, obsessively reading books about religion, and caring for the ponies in his special school's stables. But his dad, a high-powered attorney, insists that Marcelo take a summer job in his law firm's mailroom to get a dose of "the real world." There, Marcelo has to let go of his familiar routines and face challenges: having to tell true friends from false ones, doing the right thing even if it's dangerous, and taking the risk of loving someone. Unpredictable, moving, and memorable, Marcelo in the Real World offers a unique view of life.

Hot Lunch, by Alex Bradley (Dutton Children's Books) Fiction. When blue-haired, smart-mouthed Molly is paired up with her nemesis--blonde, perky Cassie--for a class project, they clash. And clash again. Then they get lunch duty and end up in a food fight, causing the lunch lady to quit. At their private, hippie-run school, punishment fits the crime, so Cassie and Molly have to take over for the lunch lady--but besides not being able get along, neither of them can cook! The two of them find out whether they should spend time around sharp knives together. Hot Lunch is a fast-paced, funny read with some great

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) Adult Nonfiction. This slice of history shows how the way people react to a drastic situation can make a huge difference in its outcome. In 1864, two ships, the Grafton and the Invercauld, wrecked on opposite ends of the same remote South Pacific island. The Grafton's five-man crew, through determination and sheer force of will, overcame the harsh environment and eventually built a small ship to carry them to New Zealand -- but the crew of theInvercauld descended into anarchy. After a year and a half, only three of theInvercauld's original 25-man crew survived to be rescued by a passing ship. Fans of adventure and survival stories (or TV shows) will find this descriptive history

Keesha's House, by Helen Frost (Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Novel in Verse. Keesha's father gets violent when he drinks (which is often), but she has finally found a safe place to live--a house owned by a man whose aunt took him in when he was young and in trouble. Keesha, in turn, invites other teens to take refuge and start fresh there: Stephie, who's pregnant and terrified; Harris, whose dad kicked him out after Harris revealed that he's gay; Katie, whose stepfather crossed a line but whose mother won't believe her; and several others. Heartbreaking yet hopeful and with painfully realistic characters, Keesha's House will mesmerize readers who like emotionally intense, brutally honest books like E.R. Frank's Life is Funny.

Nation, by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins) Fiction. Mau is headed home in a canoe, ready to take part in the ritual that will make him a man, when a tsunami kills every member of his island nation but him. The deadly wave also wrecks an English ship on the island's shore, depositing a girl named Ermintrude there. Soon, refugees from nearby islands begin to arrive, and Mau and Ermintrude must take the lead in establishing a new nation if they hope to survive. But Mau isn't sure who he is without his people, Ermintrude no longer knows what to believe about the world, and great danger awaits them both. Part survival adventure, part fantasy, and full of marvelous characters and comic relief, Nation is a riveting and memorable read.

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