A deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.

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Jenna's Truth

A debut YA novella about cyberbullying by journalist and short story writer King.

Like many teenagers, Jenna Wilson yearns to be accepted by the popular crowd at her school, Willoughby High in Australia. She naively believes that Renee, a friend from her swim team, can help her get to know Tina Scaruffi, Renee’s uber-popular cousin. When Tina and her comrade, Krissy, inexplicably begin paying attention to Jenna, she’s baffled but flattered; she also immediately starts ignoring her own lifelong friend, Alyssa. All the kids at school seem to suddenly notice Jenna, who revels in no longer feeling invisible. An invitation to a party seems like the ultimate sign of acceptance; at that event, she tries to ease her nervousness by accepting the disgusting drinks that Krissy keep pushing on her. The predictably disastrous results are only made worse when Tina and Krissy take revealing photographs of an intoxicated, half-dressed Jenna and post them all over social media. When Jenna finally has the nerve to return to school, she discovers that everyone thinks of her as “Slag Bitch,” and she longs to return to her previous invisibility. As Tina and Krissy’s bullying continues, Jenna thinks about ending the torture the only way she knows how—by drowning herself. Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying, something many teens may have already learned about in school. The novella also includes supplemental lists of resources, study questions, and curriculum tie-ins for Australians. Without being preachy, the story reinforces the importance of seeking assistance, as Jenna is rescued, in more ways than one, by a favorite teacher. King crafts characters to whom readers can relate by showing not just Jenna’s unimaginable pain, but also Alyssa’s pangs of rejection as well as Jenna’s parents’ indescribable anguish. Although the Australian slang and references may prove difficult for young American readers, the Down Under setting adds an element of cool.

A deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9945690-1-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aulexic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told

A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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