Volponi, Paul. Crossing Lines.
Adonis likes hanging out with his football playing friends and the girl he would like to have as his girlfriend, Melody. When Melody and Adonis' sister, Jeannie, get involved in a Fashion Club, Adonis is uncomfortable because one of the very active members is Alan. The football players all think that Alan is gay, but it is more likely that Alan is transgendered. This doesn't really make a difference to the football players; they use every opportunity to give Alan a hard time. Adonis is uncomfortable with this. Through his sister, he has gotten to know Alan, who is always the soul of politeness and congeniality to Adonis. Adonis sticks up for Alan in small ways, and his teammates give him a hard time, especially when Alan starts wearing lipstick and dresses and answering to "Alana". When his "friends" plan too humiliate Alan publicly, Adonis has to decide whether to ignore them or to stand up for what is right and protect Alan.
Strengths: Volponi has such a magnificent touch with difficult issues. His Black and White is a brilliant book about race relations. The characters in Crossing Lines are all realistic and finely developed, from Adonis' dad, who is hugely homophobic but teaches Adonis to "play the game" about not telling people how he feels, to Alan's father, who is an Army recruiter tremendously embarrassed by his son. All through the book, I felt as uncomfortable as Adonis did, and was so glad to see that Adonis really does grow and learn to deal with difficult situations. So many facets of the difficulties of transgendered students are covered in a sympathetic way that this would be a great book for high school libraries.Weaknesses: The football players are the ones who add the inappropriate vocabulary and references to sex to this story.
Cam is trying to keep his household running the way it did before his father was killed in a traffic accident, but it is difficult. His mother is tired and his younger sister requires a lot of his time. When a strange man shows up at his house, he finds out that it is the man responsible for the death of his father. This man wants to help out; shovel snow, do the sorts of things for the family that their father can no longer do. This freaks Cam out, and he needs to find a way to help that man understand that the family needs to get on by themselves, and that the man also needs to get on with his life.
Peterson, Lois. Beyond Repair.
Peterson, Lois. Beyond Repair.
Strengths: My public library has gotten a lot of the Orca Current books recently, which I was glad to see. They are meant for reluctant readers, and have high school aged stories appropriate for struggling middle school readers. The writing, while easy to read, is usually compelling and something that a subset of my students (those who like Bluford but want to move on to topics beyond the inner city) really need.
Weaknesses: I expected this to be more of a mystery, but the bulk of the plot centers around the characters moving on after the death. Not a bad thing, just not what I expected.