The Unlikely Hero of Room 13-B by Teresa Toten
When the counselor of his O.C.D. support group suggests that each of the group members select a superhero persona might be helpful in their treatment, Adam decides to be Batman. The girl he has his eye on is Robin, which is a lovely coincidence toward a possible relationship. But relationships are messy when one notices the drugs meant to keep the OCD symptoms at bay aren't working anymore and all the rituals required to get through the day and past thresholds are getting more elaborate and complicated. Adam wants to be a hero for Robin and for his mother, who has problems of her own. He wants to be a better person than he is but he is not sure he can do it.
The Unlikely Hero is truly one of my favorite YA books read in 2015. I finished it in May and have no idea why I never reviewed it. When I asked a student to read it and tell me on a scale of one to five how many stars he would give it, he said it deserved fourteen stars. My daughter, who volunteers at a crisis hotline, said it was the best book she had ever read on the challenges for people struggling with OCD symptoms. She is determined to NEVER refer to her desire to organize things as OCD after reading this book.
I gave the book 4 of 5 stars. My only criticism of the book is how quickly I was able to see through the mystery of the person writing threatening letters to his mom. I will be recommending this book to all kinds of reading teens.
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Four accomplished teenagers are on the verge of explosion. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope—but no one is listening. So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away from the pressure…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it. ---from A.S. King's webpageAs I reread the summary of this book, I Crawl Through It, I realize why I had a hard time writing the review and leaving it for "another day." The book is very weird. It is the first surreal novel I have ever read. And everything is really surreal, believe me. Throughout the book I am looking for clues which will help me make sense of what I am reading. How can a person turn herself inside out and why don't the adults recognize that she needs help? How can a girl only see on Tuesdays the helicopter her boyfriend is building and how can she dare ride in this invisible machine? Nothing is what it seems yet everything is a clue to reality.
Before you decide against picking up this book because it is so strange, I want to remind you what a tremendous writer A.S. King is. She is truly a wordsmith. "It is masterfully written and brilliantly bizarre" (VOYA). I awarded it 4 of 5 stars and added to our Mock Printz list as a late entry.
The MARTians by Blythe Woolston
When Zoë Zindleman graduates as the last girl in her school and gets a job at Allmart, she thinks her life will improve. But her mother moves out of the house, which is in foreclosure, and tells Zoë to stay put until she is kicked out. Suddenly she if faced with the awful choice of living alone with no way of getting to work, or moving into the laundromat with Warren, another Allmart employee. It seems like Allmart is going to suck the life out of her unless she does something different and quick.
This dystopian novel really paints a bleak picture of the perils of a life of consumerism. It was a quick read which caused me to think a lot about the choices we are making as a society. The funniest part of the book were the news reports. 3.5 of 5 stars.
The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
When Evan's father dies, he finds a hand bound book on his desk. The book is about an experience a Japanese soldier has on an island where he is stranded during WWII. Evan can't figure out why his father was reading the book and how it relates to his grandfather but as he reads the book himself he gets drawn into the mystery it presents. It is "engrossing, suspenseful, and at times, terrifying" (Goodreads).
I had a hard time getting any traction on this book until I was well into the mystery. Wynne-Jones is a solid writer and has crafted a very different tale here. I was thinking it was just a historical novel until the monster shows up and suddenly it veers into the realm of paranormal or horror fiction. I did have one student tell me she enjoyed the book but we didn't chat about it so I don't know what it was she liked about it. All the reviews I've read of the book talk about Wynne-Jones doing a good job with the symbolism of war and peace, fantasy and realism, love and hate. Rating 4 of 5 stars.