New Realistic Fiction for Kids

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reading Level: Grades 7+

Life on a reservation isn't great to begin with, but when Arnold (Junior) sees his mother's name written in his geometry textbook, it's the last straw. He flings the book angrily across the classroom... hitting the teacher square in the face.

Realizing that as long as he stayed on the reservation, he was doomed to live a depressing, boring reservation life with no opportunities, Arnold tells his parents he is going to transfer schools - to the all-white, all-rich high school twenty-two miles away.

And so it begins.

Cleverly written, amusingly illustrated, and with wholly rounded characters, Alexie's first young adult novel is deserving of its high praises.

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Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going

Reading level: Grades 7+

Troy, a three hundred pound high school boy, is standing on the edge of a train platform, mock headlines running through his head (FAT KID MESSES UP) as he realizes he probably wouldn't even totally succeed at his own suicide, when a homeless drug addict legend from Troy's high school, saves his life. Obviously Troy owes Curt lunch after his rescue (according to Curt), and the odd pair strike up an awkward friendship. Curt, it seems, has decided that Troy is to be the new drummer for Curt's band. Only one problem.

Troy has never played the drums in his life.

Short, witty, laugh-out-loud chapters punctuated by Troy's FAT KID headlines and embodying a punk rock mentality, Fat Kid is sure to appeal.

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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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