Savvy, an 8th grader who lives for basketball, tries out for a high school age team and makes it, knowing that she is going to have to work very hard. There's a lot going on in her life-- the family has moved to be with an aunt on her farm because the PGA playing father has been disabled, Savvy's cheerleader sister is struggling with eating disorders, the aunt breaks her leg and Savvy has to pick up the slack on the farm, and there is a romantic interest-- a boy whom Savvy likes but who dates her sister. Wow! On top of that, there is the competition on the basketball court. When anabolic steroids are found in Savvy's gym bag, she is suspended from the team even though she doesn't know how they got there. Won't give away the ending, which was nicely foreshadowed. Even girls who aren't into sports will like this one for the story. Boys like stories about steroids enough that after they read Crackback, Juice, and Gym Candy, they might look at this.
Another great read, from Terri Fields, author of Holdup! is My Father's Son. Kevin is doing well splitting his time between his mother and father, and gets along well with both of them. It is a shock when he sees his father's picture on television, identifying his as a serial killer. His father refuses to contact him, and students at school give him a hard time. I thought this would be like Tolan's Plague Year, but it's completely different. What I liked about it most was that I never knew which was it was going to turn. Most YA books are fairly predictable, but this one wasn't at all. It qualifies as a mystery, but I hate to say anything more about the plot and ruin it. Just buy it-- it's quite suitable for middle school, but dark enough that 8th graders will like it.
Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever, 1793 is a perennial favorite with my students, and considering the press on Chains, I think my expectations were high. Certainly, this is an excellent book, and a great addition to a collection of historical novels that fit the 8th grade social studies curriculum, at least here in Ohio. Isabel and her sister Ruth are sold to a loyalist Boston family in 1776, so that book covers both the treatment of slaves and their attempts to gain freedom as well as the Revolutionary War and the struggles of the Colonists to break free. However, the British want to free the slaves, so Isabel struggles. Well-researched, this covers a period in slave history that not many books do, and the characters are intersting and well-developed. Will definitely buy, but I do feel lukewarm. It might be that the book was over 300 pages in tiny print. Hmmm.
Did not care for Kadohata's Outside Beauty. Four sisters, who all have different fathers, are on a road trip with their mother to visit one of the girl's fathers when their mother is in an accident and they are all sent to their different fathers. Too much introspection and not enough action. Read, Read, Read feels similarly, and Library Thing has four reviews of this.
Sydor's My Mother Is a French Fry and Further Proof of My Fuzzed Up Life had the same flippant, nasty tone for too long. The girls might love it, but I'll pass.
Shannon and Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge was an interesting, graphic novel retelling of the story, but I can't think of an audience for it. The pictures are gorgeous, there's a sort of Wild West twist on Rapunzel, but I can't see my graphic novel boys picking it up, and the girls who do venture into graphic novels tend to like realistic, modern fiction. I'll road test it a bit today. Perhaps this is more of an elementary title.