New Realistic Fiction for Kids

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

Reading Level: Grades 7+

Amber Appleton is the most optimistic, hopeful, cheerful girl you could meet. She divides her time between Father Chee and the Korean Divas for Christ (a group of Koren women learning to speak English through R&B music and Amber), the elderly at the local retirement home (where Amber engages in a cheerfulness-pessimism battle every Wednesday with Joan of Old),with the Franks Freak Force Federation (her four best friends brought together through group therapy and favorite teacher), with Private Jackson and Ms. Jenny (a Vietnam veteran/haiku poet and his dog), and with her own dog, Bobby Big Boy.  Amber lives a full, vibrant life, enriching the lives of everyone she meets. And yet, Amber Appleton lives on a school bus with her alcoholic mother.

Despite her home and family situation, Amber's hopefulness and willingness to give her all to others never wavers, until the unthinkable happens, sending Amber into a deep, spiraling depression. Her faith, previously so strong and infallible, fractures, and Amber Appleton, previously a town rock star, loses herself.

The first half of this novel flies past quickly, Amber's cheerfully whirlwind lifestyle a welcome respite from some of the depressing (yet good!) YA books I've been reading lately. Amber's depressive state is expertly, sparsely written, her discussions with Father Chee about religion a welcome addition to current young adult literature, and the ultimate banding together of the town a heartwarming conclusion.

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More books by Matthew Quick

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Willams

Reading Level: Grades 7+

25 year-old Innocent is the big brother but 15-year-old Deo has always been expected to take care of him because Innocent is "different".

When the president's soldiers come to their Zimbabwe village bent on finding all who voted for the opposition, Innocent talks back to the soldiers and is dragged away. While the soldiers are distracted, Deo slips away and finds his brother staked out to die. As Deo cuts his badly beaten brother loose, shots ring out. Everyone in the village is killed except Deo and Innocent.

Deo knows they must get to safety, but how can one boy and one injured, disabled man survive in a land of heartless soldiers, dangerous refugees and wild animals?

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More books by Michael Williams

Other tales of the struggle for survival in a war-torn land include:

Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis

A Long Walk to Water: a Novel by Linda Sue Park and

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

Reading Level: Grade 6-8

13-year-old Sarah, a new scholarship student at the exclusive Glades Academy, is miserable. In a school where kids judge each other by the amount of money and things their parents have, Sarah the daughter of the lunch lady doesn't stand a chance.

Teachers are no help. Sarah wouldn't even be on this stupid overnight field trip if Mr. Vickers hadn't insisted the trip would help her make friends. Surprise, surprise...the four other girls on the trip spend their time snubbing Sarah and talking behind her back.

After a morning of cruelty, Sarah has had it. She pretends to be sick enough to stay behind...but not need a doctor. Sarah has no intention of spending the afternoon in her musty bunk. Instead she agrees to join on a joy ride through the Everglades 15-year-old Andy, son of a local fisherman, on his air boat. He even lets her drive!

When the boat runs aground deep in the heart of the Everglades, far from any cell phone reception, Sarah and Andy must save themselves...or die.

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More books by Ginny Rorby

Other tales of survival include

Downriver by Will Hobbs

Are You Going to Kiss Me Now by Sloane Tanen and

Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy

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