More graphic novels to talk about, this time, real-life stories. Some are realistic fiction, some are inspired by moments in the author’s life. All are great reading!
Set in the summer of 1983 in the suburbs of Boston, Trowbridge Road is a heartaching look at dysfunctional families. June Bug is a girl who’s just lost her father to AIDS, and her mother is terrified of the germs that are just waiting to infect them. June Bug escapes her home every day and sits in the tree outside Nana Jean’s house to watch Nana and Ziggy, a boy about her age, left by his mother as she works out her own troubles. June Bug imagines life with Nana Jean’s love and comfort, and heads home every day to be subjected to her mother’s dangerous germ phobia. Ziggy discovers June Bug in the tree, and the two become friends, imagining themselves imbued with magic. The two bond and escape reality together every day, and eventually, Nana Jean cares for June Bug like she’s one of her own. Families deal with secrets, pain, and loss in this gorgeously written book, which brilliantly and frankly shines a light on trauma, mental illness, and AIDS: particularly the misinformation about the disease in its earliest days. The characters have incredible depth and pathos, and themes of family, addiction, sickness, and bullying are all deeply explored. Magical storytelling and characters you want to see be happy make this essential reading. Back matter includes an author’s note about AIDS and HIV and mental health. Publisher Candlewick has a discussion guide, note from the author, and a sample chapter available for download.
Trowbridge Road is on the longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. It has a starred review from Kirkus.
Recommended for ages 14+
This surrealist novel follows the lives of four teens under pressure, ready to explode. School and testing stress, past trauma, and loss have taken them all to their limits and no one seems to see them. One turns herself inside out; one splits in two; one tells lies, and one builds an invisible helicopter that will fly far away.
Using four narratives, we get the story, piece by piece, slowly gaining clarity but never quite fully grasping it. I Crawl Through It is an indictment of the society we’ve left to our kids; focusing on ourselves, testing, and our children’s accomplishments and how they’re perceived more than seeing them for who they are and what they need.
This isn’t an easy novel to read, but it is an important one. Who hasn’t wanted to become something – someone else to deal with high school? Who hasn’t wanted to fly away from all the stress in life? When teens, who are supposed to be enjoying themselves at this stage of life want to run away and disappear, though, we need a book like I Crawl Through It to give us a sense of the disjointed, upended feelings we may be missing.
Many teens will see themselves in this novel. More adults should be reading this book to get a handle on what our adolescents are up against.
Author A.S. King received a Printz Honor for Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Her “official hideout” on the web offers educator resources, links to her blog, information about her books and author visits, and links to social media.
iBooks has selected I Crawl Through It as one of their 25 Best Books of September!
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.