Wolfson's new book will be wonderful to have in February, when all the 7th graders want depressing fiction. You think you have it bad? At least you are not Amanda, a young gymnast who dies of a head injury sustained during a meet. And you're not Dani, who was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body and struggles just to have enough energy and breath to get through the day. Fortunately for Dani, she gets a heart transplant which improves her health greatly. Unfortunately, Amanda's family is still reeling from her death, but her brother Tyler reaches out to the transplant recipients in letters. This was a good, realistic portrayal of both the recipients and the donor family, and was very touching. Like Koss' Side Effects, it seemed realistic and not overly sentimental. This author's What I Call Life is also very good. Warning: A couple gratuitous uses of the f-word, but since this novel has so much to recommend it, I will buy it anyway.
Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray read like... something I've read before. Phyllis Whitney? Rumer Godden's Greengage Summer? Very intriguing and atmospheric. Sophie FitzOsborne lives on the small island of Montmaray, a kingdom off the coast of Spain, with her mad uncle, the king, her cousin, younger sister, and housekeeper. The family is quickly running out of money, and life on the island is becoming untenable. Sophie would like to go have her debut in London, but doesn't want to leave the island. However, World War II is starting to cause difficulties, and German soldiers land on the island, complicating things even further. This had an overwhelming feeling of place and time that the reader knows is absolutely doomed. Shades of Brideshead Revisited? This would make a fabulous BBC television program. That said, I can't really think of any students to whom I would hand this.
On the flip side is John Ford's The Morgue and Me. Decent noir mystery, lots of action, but just wasn't absorbing to me. (From the publisher: "Eighteen-year-old Christopher, who plans to be a spy, learns of a murder cover-up through his summer job as a morgue assistant and teams up with Tina, a gorgeous newspaper reporter, to investigate, despite great danger.") However, the cover and title are fabulous, young adult mysteries are really hard to find, so this will be popular. Nothing really objectionable; a tiny bit racy, but in a way that will make students enjoy it.
A lot of the titles I have come across lately strike me as more interesting to high school students. Good stuff, just don't think that any of my students would get into it. Can't explain why, which is bothering me. One example is Claire Zulkey's An Off Year, which has a fabulous cover. Great story, too-- Cecily gets to college and decides that she's just not staying, so she goes home to try to figure out what to do with her life. Perhaps it's just that middle schoolers aren't thinking quite that far ahead yet. Reading about surviving high school is something they like. This is my philosophical pondering for the day.