Crush by Svetlana Chmakova
Publication Date: October 31, 2018
Jorge has a plan worked out for surviving middle school: stay close to his two best friends, Olivia and Garrett, avoid drama, and definitely don’t crush on anyone. Quiet and studious, Jorge prefers to stay on the sidelines, but he will use his size to protect others from bullying. One day, he notices his classmate Jasmine–really notices her. Does it mean he likes her? What if she doesn’t like him back? What should he do? Suddenly Jorge’s world is turned upside down as he has to navigate his own feelings and the revelation that Jasmine already has a boyfriend.
Crush is a realistic, character-driven graphic novel that explores the drama of middle school and the awkwardness of changing friendships. Although it explores difficult topics such as sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, and online trash talking, Crush is ultimately a feel-good read. Chmakova’s color palette is bright without being overwhelming, and her manga-influenced faces easily show the full range of emotions each character is experiencing.
Fans of the previous books in the Berrybrook Middle School series will snap this one up. Jorge starts to hang out with the drama crowd, providing a nice topical link to another middle school favorite, Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Readers who enjoyed Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, but who may be looking for something a bit lighter in tone, will also enjoy Crush.
— Pam Penza
Coming Up Clutch: The Greatest Upsets, Comebacks, and Finishes in Sports History by Matt Doeden
Lerner Publishing Group / Millbrook Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2018
Amazing last shots, incredible come-from-behind wins, or gaffes that cost everything are the memorable moments in most sporting events. Matt Doeden displays his passion for sports in this short book that highlights upsets, comebacks, chokes, and clutch performances across a variety of sports–including some of the lesser discussed sports like swimming, golf, and soccer.
Doeden’s word choice invites readers to be part of the action, while iconic photographs of the selected moments bring the event to life. Short chapters, interesting side bars, and a solid format make this a strong pick for reluctant readers.
This is a good nonfiction pairing for titles like Rebound and Booked by Kwame Alexander or the Track series by Jason Reynolds. It also has a place next to nonfiction titles like Uncle John’s Top Ten of Everything by Paul Terry.
— Jodi Kruse
The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner
Penguin Random House / Razorbill
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Vera Rivers’ twin sister Ava disappeared on Halloween when they were six years old. When it happened, her family fell apart: her father won’t leave the house, her mother is so busy with the case and charity work she doesn’t have time for Vera and her older brother, who was supposed to be babysitting them that Halloween, blames himself and drowns his guilt in alcohol and drugs. Vera is counting down the days until she can go away to college and stop being the sister of the missing girl. But then Ava turns up – found after twelve years. Her return brings the Rivers family back to together to help Ava heal from years of imprisonment and abuse. Vera tries to be supportive and not rush Ava, but she cannot help but wonder: where was Ava all those years, what happened and will her family ever get justice and closure.
While the overall tone of the book is understandably melancholy, the short, emotionally-charged chapters make it a compelling and quick read. Gardner weaves Vera’s struggle with survivor’s guilt and her desire to establish her own identity with Ava’s journey of healing and reintegration with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Overall, The Second Life of Ava Rivers is a moving tale of survival and strength for both Vera and Ava.
For fans of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and true crime podcasts as well as thoughtful mysteries like Kara Thomas’ The Darkest Corner.
— Cassandra Cuppy
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