Fiction, January 2020

Gravity by Sarah Deming

Gravity by Sarah Deming. November 12, 2019. Make Me a World, 394 p. ISBN: 9780525581048.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

Gravity “Doomsday” Delgado is good at breaking things. Maybe she learned it from her broken home.

But since she started boxing with a legendary coach at a gym in Brooklyn, Gravity is finding her talent for breaking things has an upside. Lately, she’s been breaking records, breaking her competitors, and breaking down the walls inside her. Boxing is taking her places, and if she just stays focused, she knows she’ll have a shot at the Olympics.

Life outside the ring is heating up, too. Suddenly she’s flirting (and more) with a cute boxer at her gym–much to her coach’s disapproval. Meanwhile, things at home with Gravity’s mom are reaching a tipping point, and Gravity has to look out for her little brother, Ty. With Olympic dreams, Gravity will have to decide what is worth fighting for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Marijuana, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Gravity Delgado is making her mark on the world of amateur women’s boxing, with a Golden Gloves victory under her belt and undefeated status in the ring. Finding the Cops ‘n Kids boxing gym in Brooklyn was her salvation, quickly changing from a place where she could simply channel her anger at her drunk, abusive mom to Gravity’s ticket to a better life with her kid brother, Ty. Now the Olympic trials for the 2016 games in Rio are approaching and Gravity is training hard to knock out any competition among her fellow Lightweights and secure a spot on the U.S. team. Deming’s own background as a boxer, coach, and sports journalist comes through in vivid writing that slings sweat and pulls no punches. Fights and sparring matches are energetically relayed and exciting to follow, even for those unfamiliar with the sport. She also provides narrative variation by inserting accounts of fights and boxing news from a respected boxing blog that Gravity follows. Though fiercely passionate about boxing, Gravity’s love for Ty is unrivaled, and their relationship is tenderly depicted. She also has her first bouts with sex and dating, which are realistically complicated and messy but always secondary to her Olympic dreams. Readers will want ringside seats for this gritty debut title from Christopher Myer’s new Make Me a World imprint.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
A 16-year-old boxer dreams of winning Olympic gold. Gravity Delgado (half Dominican and half Jewish) feels like she has been fighting and breaking things her whole life. However, since joining PLASMAFuel Cops ’n Kids boxing gym in Brooklyn four years ago, she has channeled her fighting spirit toward a single goal: boxing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. As Gravity arduously trains for Rio, she grapples with different parts of her identity. On the one hand, her absent father’s Dominican family provides comfort and a safe haven from the abuse and neglect her drunk mother inflicts on Gravity and her younger brother, Tyler. On the other, praying a shema before every fight tethers her to her mother’s faith. A diverse set of characters populates the boxing world Gravity inhabits, including a Ukrainian brother and sister, wheelchair user Coach Thomas, Haitian American fellow boxer D-Minus, and Kimani, a kind, large, dark-skinned man who is painfully aware of the racism in people’s fearful responses to him. Deming’s (contributor: Viticulture & Vinification, 2013, etc.) own amateur boxing career and knowledge as a boxing correspondent are clearly evident in her masterful descriptions of the grueling training process and intense bouts. Readers will immediately stand in Gravity’s corner as she battles distractions and fights against the odds in pursuit of her dreams. A riveting pugilistic must-read. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Deming wrote for CNBC’s 2012 Olympics coverage and assisted on the New York Times bestselling sports memoir Eat & Run. She was an HBO Boxing insider, as well as a senior boxing correspondent for Stiff Jab. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, the Threepenny Review, the Guardian, Penthouse Forum, the Washington Post, HuffPost, WNYC.com, and the Morning News, and have been noted in Best American Essays and Best American Sportswriting. She’s been awarded a Pushcart Prize and a MacDowell Fellowship.

Before becoming a writer, Sarah was a chef, a yoga teacher, and a Golden Gloves boxing champion. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Ethan Iverson, and works with young boxers at the nonprofit community gym NYC Cops and Kids.

Her website is sarahdeming.typepad.com

Teacher Resources

Gravity Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Gravity on Amazon

Gravity on Barnes and Noble

Gravity on Goodreads

Gravity on LibraryThing

Gravity Publisher Page

Fiction, January 2020

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. October 1, 2019. Philomel Books, 495 p. ISBN: 9780399160318.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1957 and aspiring photographer Daniel Matheson is visiting Spain with his Texas oil tycoon father. Daniel is eager for the opportunity to flesh out his portfolio for a photography contest—what would be more prize-­worthy than photos of daily life in notoriously secretive Spain?—but he gets repeated warnings, some quite aggressive, against looking too closely. Another thing Daniel doesn’t bank on is Ana, an arrestingly beautiful maid at the Castellana Hilton, where he’s staying with his parents. As their affection deepens, so, too, do their differences: Ana, daughter of executed anti-Fascists, lives a tightly constrained existence, and Daniel has unprecedented freedom in her country and can’t quite wrap his head around the danger he puts her in. In another meticulously researched novel, Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2015) offers a captivating glimpse into Franco’s Spain, a region awash in secrets and misinformation. As Sepetys slowly unspools hard truths about the era, such as the prevalence of babies stolen from poor, Republican families, the facts become increasingly impossible to ignore, both for the reader and for Daniel. The romance ultimately takes center stage, but the troubling events in the margins add terrifyingly high stakes to Daniel and Ana’s relationship. For all her extensive, careful research (evident in the back matter), Sepetys doesn’t overwhelm readers with facts; rather, she tells a moving story made even more powerful by its placement in a lesser-known historical moment. Captivating, deft, and illuminating historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards. The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

About the Author

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over fifty countries and have received over forty literary prizes.

Her website is www.rutasepetys.com

Teacher Resources

The Fountains of Silence on Common Sense Media

The Fountains of Silence Reading Group Questions

Around the Web

The Fountains of Silence on Amazon

The Fountains of Silence on Barnes and Noble

The Fountains of Silence on Goodreads

The Fountains of Silence on LibraryThing

The Fountains of Silence Publisher Page

Fiction, November 2019

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles. September 17, 2019. Charlesbridge Teen, 260 p. ISBN: 9781580897785.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days–that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her gang leader brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her gang needs running, when her mami can’t brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is- will the gang let her go?

Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz’s story is a timeless one of a teenager’s navigation of romance, gang culture, and her own family’s difficult past. A companion novel to the much-lauded Like Vanessa.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Domestic abuse, Marijuana dealing

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Beatriz, first introduced in Charles’ Like Vanessa (2018), wanted to dance and become famous for it, until the day of her fifteenth birthday, when a rival gang drove by her family’s bodega and murdered her brother, Junito. He’d been the head of the Diablos, and Beatriz a blossoming Diabla, though she still harbored her dreams of meeting Debbie Allen and making her Fame dreams come true. After her brother was taken from her, though, she stopped dancing. It takes her a year of floating along with the Diablos and trying to do what she thinks Junito would have wanted before she goes back to dreaming and, ultimately, becoming whom she was meant to be. Though the situations and story line are heavy, and the average modern reader might not easily relate to a gang in the ’80s, Beatriz’s often funny, descriptive first-person narrative is a welcoming avenue into her story. Readers with diverse backgrounds will feel at home with Beatriz’s identities as Latina, Black, and American, and everyone will be cheering her on, right up until the satisfying, heartwarming end.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
In a city where “cocaine is king,” can a teenage gang leader dare to dream of another life? Newark, New Jersey. 1984. Beatriz Mendez and her older brother, Junito, lead the powerful Latin Diablos gang. Everything changes on Beatriz’s 15th birthday when a Haitian gang leaves Junito for dead and Beatriz badly injured. A Like Vanessa (2018) spinoff, this page-turner opens dramatically with a visceral fight scene that introduces a fierce protagonist. Beatriz is a Spanglish-speaking Puerto Rican badass with “a blade tucked inside [her] cheek…to use on anybody who tries to step.” In the aftermath of Junito’s death, Beatriz struggles to maintain her standing as a Diabla, raise her grades (mostly D’s and F’s), and support her grief-stricken zombie of a mother. Though “dancing ain’t gonna pay the bills,” she allows her childhood dream of becoming a dancer to glimmer through her tough exterior each week when watching her favorite TV show, Fame. Told in the first person, this narrative is full of passion and humor, with flashbacks rooted in Beatriz’s beloved salsa music. Realistic newsprint clips effectively add context. A friendship/romance with a new boy contributes depth while avoiding predictability. As Beatriz transcends her trauma and self-doubt—“No such thing as a gangbanger turned famous dancer”—readers experience a necessary portrayal of a young Afro-Latina woman who makes her own path, one that isn’t straightforward, told in an extremely realistic voice. Inspiring and fresh. (historical notes) (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Tami Charles is a former teacher and full-time author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. While it was refreshing to see a better selection than what she was accustomed to as a child, Tami felt there weren’t nearly as many diverse books as she’d hoped for. It was then that she decided to reignite her passion for writing. Tami is the author of the middle grade novel Like Vanessa (2018) and the picture book Freedom Soup (2019).

Her website is www.tamiwrites.com.

Teacher Resources

Becoming Beatriz Reading Guide with Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Becoming Beatriz on Amazon

Becoming Beatriz on Barnes and Noble

Becoming Beatriz on Goodreads

Becoming Beatriz on LibraryThing

Becoming Beatriz Publisher Page

Fiction, November 2019

Say, Say, Say by Lila Savage

Say, Say, Say by Lila Savage. July 9, 2019. Knopf, 176 p. ISBN: 9780525655923.  Int Lvl: AD, Rdg Lvl: AD.

Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions as a student in Minnesota have given way to an unintended career in caregiving. One spring, Bryn–a retired carpenter–hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished; she moves about the house like a ghost of her former self, often able to utter, like an incantation, only the words that comprise this novel’s title.

As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple’s household, her presence unwanted but wholly necessary, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves. Ella is startled by the yearning this awakens in her, one that complicates her feelings for her girlfriend, Alix, and causes her to look at relationships of all kinds–between partners, between employer and employee, and above all between men and women–in new ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Sexual themes

 

About the Author

Lila Savage is originally from Minneapolis. Prior to writing fiction, she spent nearly a decade working as a caregiver. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018. She lives in San Francisco.

 

 

Teacher Resources

Say, Say, Say Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Say, Say, Say on Amazon

Say, Say, Say on Barnes and Noble

Say, Say, Say on Goodreads

Say, Say, Say on LibraryThing

Say, Say, Say Publisher Page