Sunday, December 6, 2015

Realistic Reads: Not If I See You First, The Anatomical Shape of the Heart and Orbiting Jupiter

As an approved professional reader on Net Galley, I have access to advanced copies of more books than I can possibly read.  How do I choose which books make it to the top of my virtual reading pile? Many times my choice is based on knowledge of the authors or word of mouth.  This month I am enthusiastically recommending three new realistic reads.  Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom chronicles the tale of a teen who lost her sight, as well as her mother, in a horrific car accident.  The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett introduces us to Beatrix and Jack, two unconventional artists who meet on a midnight bus in San Francisco.  In Orbiting Jupiter by two-time Newbery winner Gary Schmidt,  sixth-grader Jackson narrates the story of his foster brother Joseph, a thirteen-year-old who has a child himself.  

In Not If I See You First  Parker Grant, who was blinded in a car accident that took her mother's life, develops rules that are her coping mechanism for life. Don't treat her differently, don't take advantage, and no second chances.   When her father dies and Scott Kilpatrick, the best friend who broke her heart in middle school reenters her life, she needs to rethink the rules.  Trying out for the track team and giving tough-love advice to her classmates keep her busy, but before she knows it, all the emotions she's been avoiding overwhelm her and she implodes.  Now she must relearn to navigate her world and include forgiveness and trust.  Scott and Parker's unconventional love story will have you at hello. 

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart focuses on Beatrix, whose specialty is anatomical drawing and Jack who is a notorious graffiti artist who hides in the shadows in San Francisco. She is hoping to win a drawing competition that will win her a scholarship to become a medical illustrator. He is leaving single gold words of inspiration around the city.  She would love to spend the summer drawing cadavers at the Willed body facility at a San Francisco medical school, but is denied. When she meets Jack on a late night bus and spies a can of gold spray paint in his backpack, little does she know that he will be the key to her realizing her dreams.  When Jack opens doors for her at the medical school, she finds out he is the mayor's son, who is hiding many family secrets.  Together they navigate a plethora of problems to find a future that allows them a chance at love.  These two engaging characters will win readers' hearts through their frank humorous dialogue and heartfelt actions. 

Jackson Hurd, the narrator of Orbiting Jupiter, rises to the occasion when his family takes in Joseph, a 13-year-old foster kid, on their farm in rural Maine.  Joseph has suffered parental and institutional abuse, fathered a daughter and lost the love of his life in childbirth.  As Joseph acclimates to life on the farm and a new school, Jackson tries to help him find the daughter he has never been allowed to see. Not only is this the story of Joseph's redemption, it is also a coming-of-age tale for Jackson. Flashbacks to Joseph's past illuminate his journey, where the present tale shows Jackson's development as he defends Joseph and defines his own code of behavior.  This is a powerful character study that one has come to expect from Gary Schmidt and I highly recommend it.

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