May 27, 2018

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Catch a Wave with These YA Sports Titles | SLJ Spotlight

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YA sports fiction is hard to find—especially books that feature nuanced ­female characters. From the brutal world of professional tennis to the peaceful artistry of surfing, the high-action environments featured in these titles will engage any athlete. Plus, the protagonists also deal with typical coming-of-age themes that will resonate with all teens.

Bashford, Taryn. The Harper Effect. 336p. Sky Pony. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510726659.

Gr 9 Up –Harper’s life has always been tennis—starting each match at love-love, where both sides have no score. At 16, though, Harper has never proceeded into the semi-finals, always clutching before her big break. Her coach says its a mental weakness and drops her. Her father finds a new coach but she’ll have to play doubles with the rising star—Colt. Dark, brooding, and secretive, Colt’s mood seems to slip into her life and she begins harboring secrets. She continues to train but has a hard time focusing. She seeks comfort at home through her sister Aria and their neighbor Jacob, but can’t reclaim the past. As Jacob looks at her with more than friendship and her new coach puts more pressure on her, Harper has a hard time figuring out how to juggle all of it. This sports romance will have readers asking all the right questions about growing up. Fans of Simone Elkeles’s Perfect Chemistry will enjoy the dialogue and bildungsroman style. VERDICT A good choice for sports ­fiction and romance shelves.–Cathleen Ash, Manor High School Library, TX

Kaltman, Alice. Wavehouse. 290p. Fitzroy Bks. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781947548381.

Gr 7 Up –Anna is extremely shy, much to her mother’s dismay, but when a video of Anna surfing goes viral, she is forced to face her fears. This novel is set in the small beach community of Kendall’s Watch where Anna lives with her single mother, whom she seems to always disappoint. Sara wants her daughter to flaunt her surfing talents and embrace potential fame; however, the 16-year-old is an introvert and would like nothing more than to surf and draw her “wavehouses” in solitude. With the help of her sophisticated best friend Myra and a new surfer boyfriend Chris, Anna is pushed to find independence and deal with her extreme shyness and performance anxiety. This is a slow-paced, character-driven novel in which the protagonist faces many hardships typical of a coming-of-age story. As the plot unfolds, readers are privy to Anna’s thought process and childhood flashbacks. These help teens gain perspective while adding realism and depth to Anna’s character. Kaltman uses the stagnant secondary characters to flesh out Anna’s character development. Through self-discovery, fights with family and friends, and a first romance, Anna matures and gains self-confidence. VERDICT This leisurely read about family, friends, and surfing is recommended for fans of sports and realistic fiction.–Haley Amendt, Hinton Municipal Library, Alta.

Kirby, Jessi. The Other Side of Lost. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062424242.

Gr 8 Up –As a child, Mari and her cousin Bri made a pact to hike the John Muir Trail for their shared 18th birthday. Since then, Mari has refocused her life on creating the ultimate social media image and Bri has passed away while pursuing her hiking dream. As Mari realizes the detriment her false life has brought her, she vows to quit social media and attempt the hike Bri trained years for instead. But the John Muir Trail is not for beginners and Mari might have encountered a challenge more difficult than she ever imagined. Kirby writes a classic journey through grief and adolescence in this coming-of-age novel. Full of adventure and heartfelt introspection, this work provides ample opportunity for thematic and symbolic analysis while maintaining a compelling plot inhabited by unique, if slightly underdeveloped, characters. Teens will find plenty of truth in Kirby’s depiction of creating and cultivating a social media presence before walking the nearly 211 miles with Mari on her adventure. A compulsively readable title with a deep understanding of the trauma both grief and social media can bring. VERDICT This is a must-have for where Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone and similar young adult contemporary novels are popular.–Abby Hargreaves, District of Columbia Public Library

Stokes, Paula. Hidden Pieces. 448p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062673626.

Gr 8 Up –A mystery that explores how privilege and socioeconomic status impact the choices we make. Embry hasn’t had an easy life. She doesn’t know her dad, and her mom works hard to keep the family business afloat, all while battling cancer. Now the bills are piling up, Embry’s boyfriend has just been deployed overseas and her best friend is out of town for the summer. Alone and hurting, Embry finds comfort in the arms of her best friend’s boyfriend, Holden. When the two are caught on film accidentally starting a disastrous fire while hooking up in the abandoned Sea Cliff Inn, the secrets Embry keeps start piling up. Someone saw what Embry did and they are threatening to hurt the people she loves if she doesn’t confess. Embry is a complex character whose choices are impacted by her socioeconomic status. She keeps so many secrets because she can’t afford the consequences that the truth will bring. This thriller also explores themes of friendship, family, and growing up. Enough clues are given throughout to keep readers guessing until the very end. The ocean coast of Oregon comes to life and sets the perfect backdrop to this story. Readers patient enough to make it to the end of this long novel will be satisfied with the neat and happy ending. VERDICT A character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti.–Kelly Butcher, West Liberty High School, IA

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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Comments

  1. Loving these sporty YA novels. Rather than give our teen girls images of beauty to live up to in books, let’s give them images of sporty, body confident, successful role models instead!!

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