Category Archives: Realistic Fiction

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRoseLaRose by Louise Erdrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a big Louise Erdrich fan and this novel did not disappoint. Set on the outskirts of a Native American reservation the story begins with tragedy: a neighbor accidentally shoots and kill’s his neighbor’s 6 year-old son while hunting in their adjacent woods. In an effort to provide solace and justice to the suffering family, he and his wife, who is a half-sister to the child’s mother, “give” their youngest son LaRose to the family. The rest of the story is dedicated to the collective grief the two families suffer and the family histories that led them to this point. The story is gripping at times with lots of foreboding and beautiful metaphors. The characters are complex and well-wrought and the history of mistreatment and exploitation of Native Americans is palpable throughout. A highly recommended read. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed revisiting John Green’s smart, snappy, snarky, funny prose after a long break. I also appreciated his insight into the mind of an obsessive, compulsive teen, something he portrayed with empathy and realism. The plot, a “mystery,” definitely felt like a device for him to explore the characters and their relationships, which didn’t bother me much because that part was done well, but a mystery reader would be seriously disappointed by the predictability and anticlimactic nature of the ending. Read it if you’re a John Green fan or if you suffer from or want to learn more about obsessive compulsive disorder. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Contemporary Realistic Fiction

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

The MothersThe Mothers by Brit Bennett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Mothers was an enjoyable read with a disappointing ending. The lack of a complete narrative arc left me wondering what the point of the story was, and in fact I wondered whether it was written as a cautionary tale for those considering abortion. Though the message was not actively anti-abortion, the teenaged abortion in this story seems to have left an indelible mark on the prospective mother, father, grandparents, friends and an entire church for years to come. Then again, the protagonist’s mother, who was apparently depressed over her fate which was decided at a young age due to an unplanned pregnancy, committed suicide. Maybe the message is just not to risk an unplanned pregnancy because you’re damned either way. The story was well-written, but felt unfinished. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Contemporary Realistic Fiction

A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the WorldA Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a wonderful work of well-researched historical fiction. I’m a sucker for anything set in Maine, and when you add in a fictionalized but realistic account of the backstory of one of my favorite works of American art, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, I’m a goner. The characters are fully developed and the alternately bleak and beautiful setting in mid-coast Maine is so vivid I can feel the fog on my face and the dried field grass prickling my feet. As is the case with all good historical fiction, I found myself learning about what life was like during a bygone era while being fully transported by the story. Be warned, however, this is not an uplifting book. Life was hard and disappointing, and you will suffer with Christina as you read it, but it will be worth it. ~Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Historical Fiction

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written with achingly wrought characters, it’s hard to conceive of this novel as a murder mystery because at its heart is is a coming of age story for two unremarkable midwestern boys in the summer of 1961. Drawn more than told by 13 year-old Frank, or rather 50 year-old Frank reflecting on the disastrous events of the summer he reckoned with racial prejudice, class, bullying, sex, passion, grief, murder, miracles, and faith and was thrust into adulthood. Krueger’s descriptions of summer in Minnesota in the 1960s are so evocative you can hear the chirping of the crickets and taste the Kool-Aid on your tongue, all the while turning pages swiftly to discover the next foreshadowed disaster to befall this charming small town. Echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird are felt here, with the strong sense of place, the flawless moral bearing of Frank’s father, Pastor Nathan Drum, and the loss of innocence that comes from eavesdropping on adult conversations that are not meant for children’s ears. This one will stick with me for a long time to come. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book covers a lot of ground and it does it very well. Starr is a 16-year old African American girl living in a poor inner-city neighborhood while attending a private school for mostly white students about 45 minutes from her home. That alone could be a book as Starr describes the balancing act of straddling all her worlds — home, with her close-knit family (dad owns a grocery in the hood and mom is a RN, uncle is a cop); school, with her mostly white friends (who are sometimes inadvertently racist and often clueless), and in the neighborhood, where she tries to maintain relationships with her two oldest friends, Khalil and Kenya. Starr’s parents had enrolled her in private school after her best friend was gunned down in a drive-by shooting when they were ten. But that won’t be Starr’s only brush with violence. The bulk of the novel covers the aftermath of Khalil’s death, which Starr also witnesses. Angie Thomas has written a very balanced and well crafted story that should move to the top of your “To Read” pile. – Ms. Steiger

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Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Enter Title HereEnter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having recently watched my own kids navigate the college admissions process and hearing about it every day in my high school library, I was really interested in reading this book. Reshma is a high school senior, the expected valedictorian of her class and desperate to get into Stanford. Her grades are good, but her SATs are weak by Stanford standards — Reshma needs a hook to pull her into Stanford.  Reshma decides that her hook will be this book she’s writing (and you are reading), which will chronicle her senior year and her fight to retain her position as valedictorian — by any means necessary.

I didn’t love this book, but Ms. Schoen really did — so if it appeals to you, don’t be put off by my 3-star rating. ~ Ms. Steiger

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Do I really need to say any more? Set in Texas, Ari and Dante are two Mexican-American teens who strike up a friendship at the town pool over the summer. This was a great audio book, and probably just as great to read if you are a fan of YA realistic fiction. I listened to it on the Axis 360 App if you want the audio book. ~ Ms. Steiger

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Filed under Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical BehaviorHighly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this book on the Axis 360 app available through the NSHS Library. Solomon is agoraphobic and hasn’t been seen by his peers since middle school. Lisa, a high school junior, decides she is going to “fix” Solomon in order to use him as fodder for her college application essay. This idea may seem far-fetched in some places, but I’ve heard crazier “getting into college schemes” in our area. Somehow Lisa’s boyfriend Clark gets pulled into the scheme — I don’t quite remember how. The three become fast friends until they’re not… This a quick, funny read that also speaks to more serious issues such as mental health. It is a great pick for fans of realistic fiction by John Green and Robyn Schneider. ~ Ms. Steiger

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Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, by Matthew Dicks

Memoirs of an Imaginary FriendMemoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such a clever premise! Budo is 6 year-old Max’s imaginary friend, and he has survived longer than most imaginary friends (who typically disappear in kindergarten, when children make their own, real friends) because Max is “on the spectrum” and doesn’t have any real friends. Budo helps Max navigate the confusing social environment of school, and protects him as best he can from bullies and from “getting stuck.” But there are limits to Budo’s power in the real world, and when Max faces some serious danger, Budo feels helpless and incapable of mounting a rescue effort. Budo is also in danger, but of a different kind. If he is successful at getting Max to be independent and help himself, will Budo cease to exist like so many other imaginary friends? The book gave me great insight into the thoughts and challenges faced by autistic children while at the same time telling a faced-paced and thrilling story of manipulation, deceit and derring-do. I could have done without the author’s obvious agenda when it comes to certain styles and strategies of teaching, but it didn’t detract too much from the good story. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Contemporary Realistic Fiction