White, Amy Brecount. Forget-Her-Nots.
Laurel is struggling with the death of her mother, and since her father is very busy with his job, enrolls in the Avondale boarding school her cousin attends. Before her first presentation in class (about the language of flowers), she receives a small bouquet, kindles an even bigger interest in flowers. Soon, she finds that by creating bouquets for herself and her friends, she can makes things happen-- people become more romantically interested in each other, get better grades on tests, and Laurel herself feels stronger and more confident around certain plants. It turns out not to be merely coincidence-- Ms. Suarez, a teacher who knew Laurel's mother, tells her that she comes from a long line of Flowerspeakers, who can understand the language of flowers and use their powers. Laurel needs a lot of training, and finally connects with her grandmother, who is deeply grieving the death of Laurel's mother, to try to learn more about her heritage.
This was a fun twist on magic, had plenty of romance, and was generally fun. I think a sequel might be in the offing. My only complaint was that the story seemed a little unorganized in the middle, but I'll definitely buy this.
Bullen, Alexandra. Wish.
Olivia is also grieving. After her twin sister Violet dies, her mother uproots the family from the east coast in order to move to California, where she has an offer with a legal firm and Olivia's father can renovate their house. Olivia tries to fit in at her new school, but has trouble functioning because she misses her sister so much. When she takes a dress of Violet's in to be repaired at a shop called Mariposa of the Missions, she gets some unexpected help, in the form of a dress that grants her wish-- to have Violet back. No one else can see Violet, but she helps Olivia adjust to school and ultimately learn to live her life without her sister. When Olivia finally lets go of Violet, her life improves and her family begins to heal.
This also had some disorganized moments in the middle, and some tortured romance, which I found tiring, but is very realistic and girls will enjoy. While the cover is shiny, Mother Reader will be glad to know that none of it comes off! (If I read picture books, I am sure I would have a Tinkerbell Policy similar to Mother Reader's-- too funny!)
Kehret, Peg. Runaway Twin.
Even though Sunny has finally ended up in a foster home where she is comfortable with her situation, she still wants to locate her twin sister, Starr, from whom she was separated at age three. After finding a bag containing $800 in the woods (and very conscientiously trying to find the owner), Sunny takes off on a cross country trip from Nebraska to Washington state to find her sister. On the way, she finds an abandoned dog who follows her, survives a tornado, and manages to make it to the house where her grandmother and sister lived, talk to neighbors, and find her sister. This doesn't turn out quite the way Sunny plans, but she is able to put her life back together and be happy with her situation.
This really was pure fantasy-- I can't imagine bus stations selling tickets to preteen girls, hotel owners renting rooms, or rescue workers from the Red Cross letting this girl wander about by herself. Still, it was fun in the way that The Boxcar Children is fun, and the less-than-perfect ending is a welcome twist, especially after the improbability of the rest of the book.
Amato, Mary. Invisible Lines.
Trevor has lots of plans. He wants to play soccer, hang out with the popular kids, and do lots of drawing. He also wants to succeed in school when he is mistakenly placed in an advanced science class. The problem? His single mother is struggling with several jobs just in order to pay the rent, and so can't afford to get him a notebook for science, much less pay $1,000 for him to join a travel soccer team. He is doing fairly well at balancing everything going on, including babysitting his younger brother and sister, until someone starts to make it look as though he is stealing and vandalizing.
This was an interesting depiction of a boy in difficult circumstances trying to compensate all by himself, but there were some very slow moments. I did not need to read as much about fungus as was brought up in reference to the science class. With some more judicious editing (this weighs in at 320 pages), this would have been a good book for reluctant readers interested in soccer, but I'm not entirely sure about it as it stands.
Also looked at Richard Platt's London: From Roman Capital to Olympic City, which was well-done and very interesting, but I have no curricular need at all to order this. Picky Reader read Lisi Harrison's Alphas and said that it was just like The Clique except not quite as mean. The popularity of this series has died down, so I think I'll pass. Teen Boy read John Barnes' Tales of the Madman Underground and was vaguely amused, but said it really wasn't middle school appropriate, had a 1970s setting he could have done without, and was just too long (532 pages). Perhaps for high school, but I'll pass.
One of my students wanted to know if I speed read; not exactly. It's just that I've read a lot for many, many years, so I have well-developed reading muscles!