This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration’s personal toll.

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THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

YOUNG READERS EDITION

This moving coming-of-age memoir by novelist Grande was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in 2012. It has now been adapted for a younger audience.

The grown-up Grande writes credibly in the voice of her younger self about growing up in Iguala de la Independencia in southern Mexico. The book starts as her mother is leaving for the United States to join her husband, who left two years before. Grande and her older siblings are left in their grandmother’s care. Life in Iguala is one of grinding poverty and abusive treatment. Their parents have left with the dream of earning enough money to build a house back in Iguala; meanwhile the children have their own dream of being reunited with their parents and once more being a family. As Grande’s parents’ marriage collapses, their mother returns only to leave again and again. Eventually, their father takes them to the U.S. The author describes a life that, though different, is not easy on the other side of the border. They must live in fear of deportation, learn a new language, cower under their father’s abusive treatment, and make do, always on the financial edge. Though redacted for young readers, this edition pulls no punches, and its frank honesty does not read “young” in any way. Read this along with Francisco Jiménez’s biographical series, starting with The Circuit (1997).

This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration’s personal toll. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6371-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A painful story smartly told, Benjamin’s first solo novel has appeal well beyond a middle school audience.

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THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH

In middle school, where “Worst Thing” can mean anything from a pimple to public humiliation, Suzy “Zu” Swanson really has a reason to be in crisis: her former best friend has died unexpectedly, and the seventh-grader is literally silenced by grief and confusion.

A chance encounter with a jellyfish display on a school trip gives her focus—for Zu, the venomous Irukandji jellyfish, while rare, provides a possible explanation for the “how” of Franny’s death. And Zu is desperate for answers and relief from her haunting grief and guilt. In seven parts neatly organized around the scientific method as presented by Mrs. Turton, a middle school teacher who really gets the fragility of her students, Zu examines and analyzes past and present. A painful story of friendship made and lost emerges: the inseparable early years, Franny’s pulling away, Zu’s increasing social isolation, and a final attempt by Zu to honor a childhood pact. The author gently paints Zu as a bit of an oddball; not knowing what hair product to use leaves her feeling “like a separate species altogether,” and knowing too many species of jellyfish earns her the nickname Medusa. Surrounded by the cruelty of adolescence, Zu is awkward, smart, methodical, and driven by sadness. She eventually follows her research far beyond the middle school norm, because “ ‘Sometimes things just happen’ is not an explanation. It is not remotely scientific.”

A painful story smartly told, Benjamin’s first solo novel has appeal well beyond a middle school audience. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-38086-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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