Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Fight Back illustrates the fallout of domestic abuse – and one victim’s redemption

fightbackFight Back, by Brent R. Sherrard (2015, Lorimer), $9.95 CAD, ISBN:9781459408586

Recommended for ages 12+

Tyler has been his father’s punching bag for as long as he can remember. After his mother takes his younger sister and abandons him to his abusive father, he sustains a beating that gets him removed from the house and placed with his grandmother, who doesn’t really want much involvement in Tyler’s life, either. Tyler becomes a street kid, fighting and getting into trouble, angry at life, until his grandmother wants him out, and he’s placed into foster care with the Conway family, a husband and wife who’ve raised their own kids and open their home to Tyler.

While staying with the Conways, Tyler has no idea how to accept the kindnesses they give him. He’s afraid to open a birthday gift from them, so he sleeps with the box, not wanting the moment to end. Mr. Conway is finally able to reach Tyler by introducing him to the world of boxing.  A former boxer himself, Wayne Conway is able to train Tyler to fight his problems and get his head clear in the boxing ring, not out on the street. With the discipline of training giving Tyler a new lease on life, he’s got the tools to fight his demons, but he has one last fight left – the one inside himself.

This is another great selection from Lorimer’s Side Streets line of Hi-Lo fiction. Tackling the gritty life of a street kid and examining the abusive environment that spawned him, Tyler is a sympathetic character that risks being passed through the system until someone steps up and cares. Teens may recognize themselves or friends and family in Tyler. Adults may see someone they know in Tyler, and step up to do something. Make resources available to teens reading this book, including information on domestic violence and programs that offer an escape, whether it be information on shelters, academic programs, or athletics. Know the teens in your life and get this book into those hands.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen

Mette Bach’s Femme is a strong, sensitive coming out story

femmeFemme, by Mette Bach (2015, Lorimer), $9.95 CAD, ISBN: 9781459407671

Recommended for ages 14+

Sofie has it all – she’s popular, she’s pretty, and she’s dating the captain of her high school’s soccer team. Schoolwork? That’s really not the point of school, is it? Sofie finds herself paired with Clea for an English assignment and isn’t thrilled. Not only is Clea a hardcore straight-A workaholic student, she’s also – GASP – a lesbian.

Except, Clea’s actually pretty cool, and she spurs Sofie on to want to do better. The two become friends, and slowly, Sofie realizes that what she’s feeling for Clea is more than just friendship, and what she feels for Paul just… isn’t. A college road trip puts Sofie and Clea together, and Sofie discovers more about herself and the world around her. Now, how does she handle everything she’s learned?

This is a very sensitive coming out story. Sofie’s identifying as a lesbian – a “femme” – occurs gradually through the story, and we see the conflict present for all the characters: Sofie, Paul, her boyfriend, and ultimately, Clea, who has struggles of her own at home and with being the only out lesbian at school. Bach makes sure that this is no fairy tale rendering of an LGBTQ story – there is bullying and small-mindedness here, but with a spark of hope that makes readers believe that honesty and a strong sense of independence will carry the characters through. Multiple perspectives will help readers identify with different ideas and feelings toward the subject matter, and hopefully open a strong dialogue between teens, parents, and educators.

Femme is part of Lorimer’s new Side Streets realistic fiction line for Hi-Lo readers. The line takes on edgier material and examines timely topics through fiction. This one will be on my shelves this summer.