Seeing Reality Is Hard

As you know, I usually review three books each week on my blog, but this book of short stories deserves its own post. Do find a copy of this book to read.

I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories about Real Life

Compiled by Grace Kendall

It’s hard enough to break up with someone you’ve been dating, but when the boyfriend threatens to commit suicide or convinces you to stay together just for one more year until he graduates from high school or uses equally debilitating arguments, what is a person to do? “Three Imaginary Conversations with You,” by Heather Demetrios, drags a bit, but gets the point across that the boyfriend is obnoxious and manipulative.

The Downside of Fabulous,” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, brings in to sharp focus trying to connect with a boyfriend when you’re gay, with well fleshed out characters are and gentle humor. And how does the main character, Chris, deal with the rejection by his heart throb, Tom? Chris owns up to his mistakes and to his being gay.

Skittles, the black cat, keeps the reader guessing as he tells “The Night of the Living Creeper,” by Stephen Emond, about a group of kids talking about who might a “creeper” in their group, looking for someone to sexually assault. When the party breaks up, the creeper makes himself known to the hostess, but she doesn’t take any of his nonsense.

Kekla Magoon’s entry is “Makeshift,” about a mixed-race girl, which focuses on the boxes we put people in. Her father beats her mother one time too many and so Kayse and her mom leave their nice suburban house for a cheap apartment in the heart of Harlem. Kayse’s mom is black and her biological dad is white, as is the man she calls Dad. But Kayse doesn’t like being called “Blanca” or white even though she never much thought about her race before. In Harlem, being white is bad.

Things You Get Over, Things You Don’t,” by Jason Schmidt, is a very powerful story about a school shooting, told from the viewpoint of Caleb who tries to help his gravely wounded girlfriend. When he does save her only discover she’ll probably be a paraplegic for the rest of her life, he thinks it’s all his fault. That he did the wrong thing by moving her to stop the bleeding from the exit wound in her back.

In the end, they are able to tell each other their true feelings.

The message of “Coffee Chameleon,” by Jay Clark, is that recovering from addictions of any kind is hard, but probably the hardest is the addiction to love, especially if it’s commingled with an addiction to prescription drugs is concisely told with good use of humor. Matt was introduced to prescription medication pills by his girlfriend Andi, but got so hooked on them he got his own prescription. Then Andi dumps him and he has to detox himself all alone. But he ends up going to a local coffee shop to get himself out of his head and meets a girl there who helps him recover.

Marcella Pixley’s “Hush,” is the story of a girl and her mother dealing with the death of the father/husband’s from AIDS. This story of the misguided lengths we go to in keeping loved ones safe from our fears and grief is crisply told. June ends up being the grown up when her mother becomes obsessed with keeping her daughter safe.

Can you imagine having to face the world knowing they know your brother took a gun to school and shot students to death? So Lily’s parents move to a new town to start a new life, but Lily is sure everyone will learn about the truth. Rather than try for the leading role in the school musical, Lily hides behind the stage curtain until a new guy in school won’t let her stay hide her talents in Trisha Leaver’s “Blackbird.”

Gone from this Place,” by Faith Erin Hicks, deals, in a graphic story format, with acknowledging one’s sexuality. A boy and girl have made it through high school by being the perfect couple, only now that they’re heading off the different colleges breaking up. They figure in college they can come out and be accepted for who they really are. It’s a good plan except for one detail. It never occurred to them there might be other homosexual kids in their high school and it’s only at the last minute they discover they’ve missing out on real love.

You know the girl or boy you’ve always had a crush on, but didn’t know how to approach and when you do finally get together, you both mess it up? That’s what Jordan Sonnenblick’s “The Sweeter the Sin” is about. The girl has a saying that the sweeter the sin the better the taste. Unfortunately, David and Elizabeth discover that “t’aint necessarily so.”

But the strongest story is simply called “Mistake” and tells the story of a teen couple having to deal with an abortion. Malcolm supports Angela when she makes the decision to abort and at first he doesn’t feel anything one way or another. Then he goes with her to the abortion clinic and begins to think about the baby. A part of him regrets their decision and he wonders if Angela can actually have the procedure.

The last story is about Jose, an illegal immigrant whose twin brother, Javier, switches places with him to save him from deportation. “The Good Brother” is written by Patrick Flores-Scott and will make you want to find a solution to the immigration problems this country is facing.

This book is a keeper.

BIBLIO: 2016, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $ 17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-374-30258-0

ISBN: 978-0-374-30259-7

What happens to the time?

I promised myself to add a blog at least twice a week, but as poet Robert Burns–one of my favorites, I might add–said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft awry.” Howsoever, I’m back and full of more reviews. This post is about stories that show hope for those whose lives have taken a wrong turn.  Hope all has been good for you and you’ve been productive.  Sarah.

Alison does know horses.


Alison Hart

Jasmine Schuler is in foster care because she attacked Hugh Robicheaux with a hoof pick.  But Robicheaux had just accused Jas’ grandfather of killing Whirlwind, a valuable mare, by giving her yew to munch on. Her grandfather suffers a heart attack, leaving Jasmine nowhere to go. And Jasmine is sure of the truth—Hugh is the culprit.  She is relieved to discover that Whirlwind is not dead; that a look-a-like, but less valuable horse, was poisoned instead; for the insurance money. At first Jas is not keen on being in foster care, but when she ends up at horse rescue farm run by the no-nonsense Miss Hahn, things begin to look up. She still has to wear a tracking anklet because she attacked her nemesis, but she does have some freedom. The insurance company decides to prosecute the evil Robicheaux and needs Jasmine’s help in finding the real Whirlwind.  Plus, the good-looking Chase seems to have an interest in her and her problems. The book, a sequel to Shadow Horse, is fast paced with death threats and intrigue, plus a little romance thrown in for good measure. Horse lovers will enjoy all the horse talk and other readers will enjoy the mystery and romance.

BIBLIO: 2010, Laurel-Leaf/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Ages 12 +, $7.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-375-86005-8

This one should be at every school.  I read it one night and cried copious tears.

Want to Go Private?

Sarah Darer Littman

Abby isn’t looking forward to high school.  She just knows it’s going to be the same as middle school where she was the “smart girl” nerd.  But her best friend, Faith, embraces the changes and begins to branch out, making Abby feel more isolated.  Plus, at home, she doesn’t think her family cares about her.  She’s ripe fruit for an online sexual predator, “Luke,” who convinces Abby he alone loves and listens to her.  Even though a boy at school expresses interest in her, Abby doesn’t believe he could really be attracted to her.  And Luke warns her that he is the jealous type who might harm the school boy.  The more Luke isolates her emotionally, the more she’s willing to participate in his sexual games.  Eventually he convinces her to run away with him.  In the end, the FBI is able to track them down and rescue Abby.  Plan to stay up until you finish this book and make sure to have plenty of tissues on hand.  School internet safety classes should make this required reading.  It’s a compelling read and a horrifying story.

BIBLIO: 2011, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-15146-7

This one made me want to yank the protagonist away from the fellow to whom she loses her virginity, but she does manage to out grow him without getting pregnant.


Stasia Ward Kehoe

Hard as it is to write a novel in regular prose without getting wordy, try writing in verse.  That’s a whole ‘nother level of succinctness.  On top of that, to write so the emotions show through and the plot advances seamlessly is masterful.  Ms. Kehoe wrote a winner of a book.  Sara, who has lived her sixteen years in small town Vermont, where her dad grows apples and her mother is a driven business executive, wins a year’s scholarship to the prestigious Jersey Ballet.  Now four states away from her home, Sara is lonely and overwhelmed and soon enamored of the handsome, compelling, twenty-two year old Remington.  Her dancing grows stronger, but her body aches all the time and she isn’t quite good enough for the solo parts.  Still, she does make tentative friends and, with the help of her English teacher at the private school she now attends, discovers a gift for writing.  Is dancing really what she wants, she now wonders.  Is it wrong for her to make love with Rem?  Probably, but she likes being his dance-creating muse.  Until he begins to distance himself from her and selects someone else to perform the dance Sara helped Rem create.  In the end, she realizes ballet will always be a part of her, but it is not what she wants totally.  Not enough to put up with the pain and rigor and constant dieting.  So she heads home to Vermont—wiser and stronger.  A bit more description of what the many ballet terms mean would have been nice, but all-in-all an excellent read.

BIBLIO: 2011, Viking/Penguin Group, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-670-01319-7