Title: The Shape Of Thunder
Author: Jasmine Warga
Publication Info: 2021 Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)
The Plot: Cora and Quinn have been best friends since they were very young. Now 12 years old, their friendship has been ripped apart by a violent event. A year after the incident, the girls have not spoken, and Quinn obsesses on finding a way to “fix” everything. She lands upon the idea of time travel, perhaps finding a wormhole in a magical location and traveling back a year to prevent the violence. As she researches this idea, she realizes that she will need Cora to help her with this project.
My Take: This is a tender book that examines that damage to relationships after a violent event. Author Jasmine Warga does an excellent job making us feel the pain of these girls and their ache for putting things back the way they were. Canny readers will understand that their project is doomed from the start. Warga’s powerful message is that while we cannot undo the past, we can struggle to make sense of it and hold on to the love that we still have. Highly recommended for mature tweens and teens.
One Interesting Note About The Author: Jasmine Warga’s idea for The Shape of Thunder started from her concerns about gun violence, a public health hazard that afflicts many young people regardless of skin color or zip code.
Title: The Mysterious Disappearance Of Aidan S. (As Told To His Brother)
Author: David Levithan
Publication Info: Alfred A. Knopf 2021
The Plot: Eleven year old Lucas’s older brother Aidan has been missing for six days. When Aidan returns, everyone is relieved, but his story of where he was is too fantastical to believe. Lucas watches the mood of the small town shift from relief to anger as Aidan’s story comes to light. Lucas navigates the tension he feels between defending his brother and understanding that Aidan’s account strains his capacity for belief.
My Take: I thought that this was an excellent book that pulled me right in and kept my interest to the end. It is really a twist on every children’s book that has the child transported to a fantasy world. Levithan asks the reader to consider the implications of something like The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. What would be the consequences of such a story? Would it be traumatic for the children to be transported back and forth? How would you ever be able to explain what happened? Levithan explores the strength of family ties and how much we can support our loved ones even as we question their behavior. I highly recommend this book to ages 11+.
One Interesting Note About The Author: According to his website, when David Levithan is “not writing during spare hours on weekends, [he is] a publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint.”
Title: Too Bright To See
Author: Kyle Lukoff
Publication Year: 2021
The Plot: Growing up in rural Vermont, eleven year old Bug has always believed that her 150 year old house was haunted. With the recent passing of her Uncle Roderick, the ghosts in her house seem even more active. Life outside her house has also gotten more complicated as middle school approaches and her best friend Moira seems intent on recreating herself with lip gloss, makeup, and a new fixation on boys. Will Bug be able to also find her true self to quiet the ghosts in the house and survive the social scene at middle school?
My Take: This book did not interest me, but I believe that it is the right selection for some readers. Spoilers prevent me from saying more about this, but this book will speak to a narrow audience of young people struggling with themselves. Rather than being driven by the plot, author Kyle Lukoff prefers to draw attention to Bug’s inner life and her close relationships to her mother, best friend Moira, and her deceased uncle. Also, the supernatural elements in the book mirror Bug’s inner turbulence, a combination that works well as these elements collide to produce some unexpected outcomes. Even thought I was not captivated by this book, I can see the value in its message and believe that it will truly speak to certain readers.
One Interesting Thing About The Author: According to his website, Kyle Lukoff was hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen. Which means that he’s been working at the intersection of books and people for half his life.