I'm late to Poetry Month, but thought some quotes could be worked in. That's Whitman, Song of Myself, because teen years are all about personal identity.
Partridge, Elizabeth. Dogtag Summer.
In 1980, Tracy knows that she came from Vietnam five years ago, and that her adoptive father fought over there. Still, when she finds dogtags and an ammo box in the garage, she starts remembering what her life was like in Vietnam, and questions arise. Her friend Stargazer knows who his parents are, and feels comfortable with his hippy-ish family, but Tracy wants to know more about who she is and why she came to the US, especially since feelings are still running high that Vietnam vets were "baby killers".
Strengths: This short, highly descriptive novel would be great for the children whose parents were brought over from Vietnam as children. There have got to be a lot of them. The tension between fitting in and remembering one's past is vividly portrayed.
Weaknesses: Audience. This is slightly young for my group, and I have a hard time getting students to read introspective historical fiction, which is frustrating.
Ripken, Cal and Cowherd, Kevin. Hothead.
Connor's father has lost his job, and his mother is working extra hard as a nurse, so while they are supportive of Connor's baseball playing, it's hard for them to get to games and even harder for them to think about paying for summer baseball camp. Even though he's a very good player, Connor finds himself erupting on the field any time anything goes wrong, which doesn't make him look good. His coach is understanding, and a new friend, Melissa, helps him to understand that he needs to channel his anger in more helpful ways. Super-Sized Slugger comes out in the winter of 2012.
Strengths: This follows the Rich Wallace and Mike Lupica formula of short, action-packed story with an understandable problem to be overcome. My students will like this a lot.
Weaknesses: Would rather this were about football or basketball. Students were already asking ig there would be more books from the Barbers. Well, Paul Mantell? And why does this author not write as himself?
Padian, Maria. Jersey Tomatoes are the Best.
In this very serious novel, Eva and Henry (short for Henriette) face a lot of problems. Henry's overbearing father wants to control her tennis career, so she's glad to be off to a prestigious camp in Florida. Eva has been accepted into a high powered ballet school in New York City, (to the delight of her pushy mother) but has trouble dealing with the competitiveness, which worsens her nascent eating disorder. While Henry is dealing with how to manage a promising tennis career, Eva breaks a toe and descends into very ill health caused by her anorexia. Their friendship is the one constant that keeps the two balanced.
Strengths: Love the romance and the delicately hinted sexual pressure that David puts on Henry. Very well done. Enjoyed tremendously.
Weaknesses: One f-bomb--- on page 307! Still, the rest of the book dances around the word, and this instance is used when Eva is on the brink of a huge fight with her mother; this would be an example of a justified use. This is a horrible cover and title for a book because it makes it look frivolous, when it is really an excellent treatment of anorexia. Very well done.
Pyron, Bobbie. A Dog's Way Home.
Abby and her mother are in a bad car accident on their way home from an Agility Championship meet with Abby's dog Tam. Both are banged up, and when they finally are able to search for Tam, they can't find him. When Abby's family has to move to be with her grandmother for a while, she is even more worried that they won't be able to get Tam back. Told in alternating chapters, this chronicles Tam's struggles in the wild and the kind people along the way who help, and Abby's struggles to fit in to her new environment, carry on without Tam, and try to get him back.
Strengths: This is excellent for my young readers who love animal books but are not quite up for Knight's Lassie Come-Home or DeJong's Hurry Home, Candy. Alternating between the two characters was helpful.
Weaknesses: I don't have that much call for dog books, but I have to buy this anyway!