Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Candlewick, 2013.

0763658596.medPiddy’s summer has been full of change: a changing body that everyone seems to notice, her best friend’s move away to Long Island, and her own move to a new apartment. Unfortunately, the new neighborhood requires changing schools. Piddy’s barely oriented to the huge building and new classes when she gets a message, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kiss your ass.” Everyone around her seems scared by this message, but Piddy’s just mystified. Who is Yaqui Delgado, and why would she want to hurt a girl she doesn’t even know?

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is an emotion-filled ride populated by interesting characters. The teenagers are confused and brave and mean and frightened in ever-changing and very realistic amounts. Their lives are full of the turmoil of navigating interpersonal relationships with adults and other teens. They’re helped, or hurt, by their financial situations and family ties. Piddy’s mother is confused by Piddy’s actions, haunted by her own past, and yet full of love for her only child.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I first read the title. It’s a great premise, but a premise alone does not make a novel. Meg Medina backed up her premise with a wonderful character and a strong plot. Piddy had me from chapter one and never let me go. I cheered her onward and read all the faster to find out what would happen. I hope that this book becomes a part of many, many middle school and high school libraries and public libraries, too. The problems are so true to adolescence—and life, and I think many readers will gain solace, strength, and hope from Piddy’s story.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

9780544238336_165lresWhen Edmund Lonnrot and his dad go out for ice cream, Edmund knows his dad’s about to break some bad news. It’s bad alright—bad enough to ruin a whole school year, but the news is quickly eclipsed by the assault Edmund and his dad witness in a nearby alley. Before Edmund knows it, his peaceful dad has broken up the fight (even peaceful people are formidable if they’re massive in size), and they’re headed to the police station as witnesses. There, Edmund’s photographic memory is quickly noticed, and he’s put to work to help stop a gang of art thieves. If he plays his cards right, Edmund’s new connection with the police might just save his whole year, that is, if it doesn’t get him killed.

A photographic memory, great drawing skills, a best friend who’s a genius, there’s a lot to admire about Edmund Lonnrot, codename Eddie Red. He lives the life of a spy when he goes undercover to catch a gang of art thieves, but by day he’s still an ordinary sixth grader. This fun mystery will appeal to adventure-seeking middle grade readers. The story moves at a rapid pace, keeping even reluctant readers engaged. And for kids who like to read more than one book about the same characters, the second Eddie Red book is due out in spring 2015.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Harper Collins, 2005.

Ginny Blackstone’s on a secret mission of her aunt’s devising. In contrast to Ginny’s rather ordinary mom, Ginny’s aunt is artistic, the one who sometimes leads her bohemian artist’s life in New York and sometimes disappears for long stretches of time. Now Ginny’s been challenged to leave her own comfortable New Jersey life and follow her aunt’s directions in a crazy chase across Europe. She doesn’t know how much money she’s got or even what her next task will be, and the kicker is she’s got to cut herself off from home and friends if she’s going to follow her aunt’s rules. As she travels, Ginny learns a lot about her mysterious aunt and even more about herself.

It seems to me Ginny’s story is every 17-year-old’s fantasy and nightmare rolled into one. Ginny doesn’t feel ready for the adventure that’s being foisted upon her, but who could turn down the mystery–not to mention the all expenses paid trip to Europe? But with the excitement comes the challenge of traveling alone, managing Aunt Peg’s crazy tasks, and muddling through when things don’t go as planned.

Ginny is a delightful character. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing her journey and wished I could meet Aunt Peg and the people she’d touched. This is a great summer read that left me wanting to pack my bags and hop a plane with nothing more than a few little blue envelopes to show me the way.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Nest Wendy Lamb Books-Random House, September 9, 2014.

Naomi’s great love of the birds on her native Cape Cod has earned her the nickname Chirp. She loves to go to her special spot near the pond to watch them swim and fly, taking in every detail of how they look and how they move. Chirp also loves to dance with her mother, a professional dancer. Now that Mom’s leg is hurting her and she can’t dance, Chirp convinces her sister Rachel to put on a show in hopes of cheering her up. But Mom’s achy leg is the sign of a much bigger problem and the start of a very long year for Chirp and her family. Chirp will need to gather a lot of strength from her birds and her budding friendship with her neighbor just to make it through.

Nest is beautifully written, a marvelous debut. Erlich has a wonderful very true sense of the thoughts and actions of the 11-year-olds, teenagers, and even the adults in the story. She manages to convey their difficult and confusing feelings beautifully and believably throughout the book. Chirp’s relationship with Joey is especially rich as they each muddle through their troubled lives. I loved the flow of the relationships in the story—the way each character sometimes did just the right thing or, at other times, exactly the wrong thing, making the story messy in precisely the way real life is.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I read it with caution sirens blaring in my head. The lovely cover gives no hint of the emotional weight of the story, and the first words, too, seem to be drawing the reader into a nature story. As an avid reader and a very sensitive child, this book’s events and characters would surely have brought on a stomachache and a spate of anxiety dreams for me. I worry a bit, too, about readers who find parallels in their lives to the lives of these characters. Though there are reasons within the story to find hope, there are also reasons child readers might find fear. So, adults, I would suggest you do read Nest and take in Chirp’s story. Do recommend it, but think carefully about individual readers and recommend Nest with care.

I read an electronic advanced reader copy of Nest complements of Random House and NetGalley.