Sheinemel, Alyssa. Faceless.
September 29th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Maisie has it pretty good at the end of her junior year: she's a runner, she has a boyfriend, Chirag, who has just asked her to prom, and her parents are both still around, even if they fight with each other. She's hoping to get into Barnard. This all changes when she is out for a run one morning, gets caught in a storm, and is badly burned in an electrical fire. After a month in a medically induced coma, she wakes up to find everything has changed. She has lost most of her nose and left cheek in the fire, and is badly burned. She is lucky that she is eligible for a face transplant when one suddenly becomes available and seems to be the only choice. Even though it allows her a better chance at "normal", it's certainly not the old "normal". In addition to the pain, scarring and swelling of her wounds and her surgery, she has to take a variety of drugs to help her body accept the transplant, and the drugs have lots of side effects, many of them negative. She also has physical therapy to restore motion to her damaged left side. Chirag, as well as her friend Selena, are very supportive, but Maisie feels awkward going to school, where she feels that everyone is staring at her. She finally goes to a support group, where she meets Adam, a young adult whose face was injured in the war. He is able to help her because he has been through a similar experience, but Maisie misunderstands his attention. Slowly, Maisie learns to accept what she has been through and starts to chart her course for the rest of her life.
Strengths: This had some similarities to Van Draanen's The Running Dream in that the process of anger and eventual acceptance was realistically laid out. This is a problem novel that older middle school and high school students will enjoy. The reactions of friends, family and acquaintances all felt very realistic. Definitely makes one feel lucky!
Weaknesses: Selena seemed a little flat through most of the book, but even that made sense at the end. Really well done.
What I really think: Not a cheery read, but a hopeful one. I enjoyed it tremendously.
al Mansour, Haifaa. The Green Bicycle
September 22nd 2015 by Dial
Wadjda lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her mother, who has a job as a teacher a grueling distance away from home. Her father rarely comes home, and rumor has it that he is looking to take a second wife because Wadjda's mother can't provide him with a son. Wadjda has quite a business at school, selling candy and trinkets to her school mates. When she sees a shiny green GIRL'S bicycle in a shop, she is bound and determined to save her money in order to get that bicycle, so she can win races against her friend, Abdullah. Wadjda has all manner of trouble in school because she is always coming in disheveled, and she just can't seem to be proper like the other girls. She wears Chuck Taylors with her uniform, can't keep her hair tidy, and envisions a life for herself that does not include the kind of miserable solitude that her mother's life does. When Wadjda delivers a note for an older student that ends with much trouble, she runs the risk of being kicked out of school and endangering her family.
Strengths: This was an interesting look at what daily like in Saudi Arabia is like. The mother has to car pool with a group of teachers, and they have to hire a man to drive them, since women are not allowed. Wadjda isn't really allowed to ride a bike, either; the thought being that girls might damage their reproductive parts doing this. The details about different types of clothing, and about how women dress when they are in the company only of other women was very interesting as well.
Weaknesses: This was a really sad book, and the parts involving Wadjda's father looking to marry again might upset readers on the younger side, but I think this will be a good addition to a middle school library.
What I really think: I know that we are all supposed to be tolerant of other cultures, but the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia made me SO mad! Religious laws should always be suggestions and not mandates. Once you start telling women that they have to completely cover themselves because otherwise they will tempt men, you totally lose me. Why not make all of the men go around blindfolded, if they are going to be the perpetrators of crime? Seems more fair to me. So this was hard for me to read.