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Booked by Kwame AlexanderFiction. Though his dictionary-writer dad is obsessed with vocabulary-building, 12-year-old Nick would rather be outside, practicing for the soccer tournament with his friend Coby. Maybe if Nick were better with words, he wouldn't have such a tough time talking to April, the girl he likes. Then again, Nick has more worries than just perfecting his game (on and off the field): he's getting pushed around at school by a couple of "mean eighth grade tyrants," and his parents have announced that they're splitting up. Attention-grabbing free verse will keep you turning the pages of this "satisfying, winning read" (Kirkus Reviews) by Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander.
Summerlost by Ally CondieFiction. Cedar Lee can't help but wonder about the guy in the weird historical costume. Who is he, and why does he ride his bike past her house every day? Still grieving the sudden deaths of her dad and little brother, Cedar isn't expecting much from this summer. Yet after her curiosity prompts her to the follow the costumed guy, Leo, to his job at the Summerlost Shakespeare Festival, Cedar finds a new job, a surprising friendship, and a years-old mystery to investigate. Theater lovers and realistic fiction fans alike will appreciate this sweetly wistful read (and may also enjoy Traci L. Jones' Silhouetted by the Blue).
Counting Thyme by Melanie ConklinFiction. The last thing that 11-year-old Thyme wants to do is move all the way across the country. She doesn't have much choice in the matter, though -- moving from California to New York is the only way for her five-year-old brother, Val, to get the cancer treatment he needs. It's only supposed to be temporary, but Thyme still struggles with her own guilt: if she really wants her brother to get better, why can't she shake her homesickness? For another sensitive, heartfelt story about a loving family dealing with a crisis, try Jo Knowles' See You at Harry's.
The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen RiversFiction. How do you pass the time when you're trapped at the bottom of a well, waiting for a rescue that might never come? Kammie Summers' answer is to try to keep the spiders away while remembering the awful events of the past year: her father's conviction for stealing from a charity, her wealthy family's sudden poverty, and her attempt to make friends with the cruel classmates who tricked her into the well and left her there. Even as Kammie's oxygen runs short and hallucinations set in, you'll remain riveted by this brave, prickly heroine and her suspenseful story of survival.
Game Changer by Margaret Peterson HaddixContemporary Fantasy. Eighth-grader KT Sutton has an athletic scholarship and a promising career ahead of her -- until she blacks out in the middle of a championship softball game and awakens in an alternate world. In this new world, schoolwork consists of athletic drills, and after-school academic competitions are the extra-curricular activities that determine who's cool and popular. It's a big adjustment for KT to be picked on, avoided, and a disappointment to her parents...but even though she doesn't like any of that, she isn't sure she wants things to go back to the way they were, either. Thought-provoking, funny, and touching, Game Changer is a quick, enjoyable read.
Roller Girl by Victoria JamiesonGraphic Fiction. From the first time she hears the words "are you ready for some rrrroller derby?!" Astrid is hooked. Eager to try the high-energy, high-contact sport, she signs up for junior derby camp, assuming that her BFF Nicole will join her. When Nicole opts for ballet classes with snobby Rachel instead, Astrid is left to deal with the falls, bruises, and tough older girls at derby camp on her own. Illustrated in a bright, friendly style, Astrid's journey from confusion to confidence will make readers (especially fans of Raina Telgemeier's books) want to cheer…and then strap on their own skates.
Breakaway: Beyond the Goal by Alex MorganMemoir. Since the age of eight, Alex Morgan knew she wanted to be a soccer player. And, after years of training, she succeeded: Alex became the youngest member of the U.S. Women's National Team, and went on to play in the both the World Cup and the Olympics (where her team won the gold in 2012). In Breakaway, Alex uses a casual, friendly writing style to describe the hard work that goes into becoming a professional athlete. She also dishes out advice on coping with injuries, balancing school and sports, and building strong relationships. Though Alex's story will appeal most to soccer fans, her determination and down-to-earth attitude will inspire readers of all kinds.
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