Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies | Justina Chen Headley

Half-Taiwanese, half-white Patty Ho feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere—until she goes to math camp and makes some important discoveries.


• A YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2008

• “Great voice from a very promising debut.” Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006

• “Headley makes an impressive debut with this witty, intimate novel.” Publishers Weekly starred review, April 10, 2006

• “Patty’s contemporary, immediate thoughts about finding direction and relating to family have universal resonance, while her specific struggles will speak directly to biracial teens.” Booklist review, June 1, 2006


When a fortune-telling granny sees a white guy in Patty’s future, her overbearing Taiwanese mama has a few ideas for reversing the prediction: Patty will eat stinky tonic soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Patty will attend math camp this summer. Patty will meet a Nice (Taiwanese) Boy.

Never mind that Patty is half white herself. But Mama considers marrying Patty’s dad the one mistake she ever made, and she’ll do anything to keep her daughter from repeating it. So as Patty’s white girlfriends look forward to a summer of fun, she heads off to Stanford for what is sure to be a month of torturous Asian geekery.

To her surprise, some of the kids at math camp are actually cool, and she might even have a chance with Chinese hunk Stu. Things are looking up for this banana-split girl—but in order to feel truly whole, she’ll have to learn the truth about herself and her family.

This is, first and foremost, a novel about the search for identity. Patty doesn’t remember her father, but with her long legs and big eyes, sometimes she feels like she has more in common with him than her Mama and older brother. And that’s hard to reconcile with the jerks at school who call her “Chopsticks.”

Despite some painful moments, the story is carried by Patty’s humor and insight. (On Chinese foot-binding practices, she thinks: “Chastity belts for feet. If you can’t walk, you’re not likely to sneak out in the middle of the night, say to kiss a secret lover in the Quad.”) Any girl struggling to figure out who she really is will find the real deal in Nothing but the Truth.

Headley, Justina Chen. Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies. New York: Little, Brown, 2006

Reviewed from library copy.


February 27, 2010. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. 1 comment.

Lockdown | Walter Dean Myers

Reese struggles to keep hope alive while working toward an early release from the Progress juvenile detention facility.

Awards & Honors for Walter Dean Myers

• 2000 Michael L. Printz Award winner

• 1994 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner

• Two-time Newbery Honor recipient

• Five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner


They call it the Progress Center, but 14-year-old Reese isn’t sure he’s making any inside the juvenile detention hall. Locked up for stealing a doctor’s prescription pads, he’s been given the chance to prove himself through a work-release program. Now he helps take care of the residents at an old folks’ home a couple days a week and spends the rest of his time trying to stay out of trouble at Progress.

With fellow inmates always looking for a fight and the threat of new charges being brought against him, Reese doesn’t know whether he’ll be released early for good behavior or stay behind bars for another 20 years. The heart-wrenching story of a teen on the wrong side of the law, Lockdown manages to steer clear of being too preachy while remaining inspirational. Through Reese’s relationship with an elderly man at Evergreen, stint in the solitary detention cell, and love for his little sister, readers experience the imperfect protagonist’s internal battle between hope and despair.

Myers, Walter Dean. Lockdown. New York: Amistad, 2010.

Reviewed from advanced reading copy provided by Goodman Media International.

January 4, 2010. Tags: , , . Realistic. Leave a comment.

Skunk Girl | Sheba Karim

Nina attempts to fit in at her small-town New York high school while respecting her parents’ wishes for her to remain a “good Pakistani-Muslim girl.”


• “Rife with smart, self-deprecating humor.” Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2009

• “A rare exploration of Muslim culture … will be a welcome addition to teen collections.” Booklist review, April 15, 2009


Bleaching her mustache and missing out on all the best parties are part of what Nina’s come to expect as a Pakistani-American teen with the strictest parents in town. At the start of her junior year in high school, she’s still living in the shadow of her genius older sister and still trying to figure out how to keep up socially in spite of her family’s fear that she’s becoming too “Um-ree-can-ized.”

Then the unexpected happens: Nina meets an attractive Italian exchange student named Asher—and Asher catches a glimpse of the dark line of hair running down the middle of her back. More humiliated than ever, Nina is certain that Asher will prefer button-nosed blond Serena over her scholarly, hirsute self.

Teens of all backgrounds will be able to relate to Nina’s struggle in reconciling her own identity with her family’s culture. While the girl-crushing-on-boy story may be familiar, the funny and touching Skunk Girl is truly a novel of a different stripe.

Karim, Sheba. Skunk Girl. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.

October 24, 2009. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. Leave a comment.

A Little Friendly Advice | Siobhan Vivian

Ruby’s estranged dad shows up uninvited at her 16th birthday party, shaking up her feelings, her friendships, and her life just like a Polaroid picture.


• “Populated with real characters who have authentic emotions, this debut novel manages to be at once uplifting and heartwrenching. Vivian is clearly an author to watch.” Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2008

• “Engagingly written and with a surprise ending, this novel will appeal to teens.” School Library Journal review, February 1, 2008

• “Vivian’s first novel deftly probes the often confusing intricacies of friendship … Readers will find themselves and their relationships reflected in Ruby’s story.” Publishers Weekly review, March 3, 2008


Ruby is turning 16 and looking forward to a low-key birthday at home. But before she can make the first cut into her Fudgie the Whale ice cream cake, an unexpected guest crashes the party. It’s Ruby’s dad, armed with a bouquet of carnations. Flowers might have been nice, if this hadn’t been the first time Ruby saw him since he left the family six years ago. Shocked by this sudden reappearance, Ruby flees the house with her friends—BFF Beth, boy-crazy Maria, and troublemaker Katherine—right behind her.

In the week that follows, Ruby is haunted by painful memories of her parents’ split. Beth acts like she wants to help, but is she keeping something from Ruby? Vivian’s spot-on portrayal of the girls’ friendship raises questions about loyalty and little white lies; her debut novel is Advice worth taking.

Vivian, Siobhan. A Little Friendly Advice. New York: PUSH, 2008.

September 10, 2009. Tags: , , . Realistic. Leave a comment.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Sherman Alexie

A Native American teen transfers to a school outside his reservation and makes some surprising discoveries about his place in the world.

Awards & Honors

• National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2007

• A School Library Journal Best Book, 2007

• Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2008

• A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008


Junior’s life on the reservation pretty much sucks: His family’s poor, he’s constantly bullied, and his school books are so old that one of them used to belong to his mom when she was a freshman. Hardly anyone ever leaves the rez, but one day Junior realizes that doing so might be his only hope. He transfers to a “white” school 22 miles away—and finds himself an outcast there, too. Now he’s seen as a traitor to the tribe, his best friend won’t speak to him, and he’s not sure if he’ll ever fit in.

Alexie’s semi-autobiographical story rings true with sharp characterization and persistent humor, while illustrations by Ellen Forney enhance the reading experience. Junior is perfect company for anyone who’s ever wanted a place to belong.

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007.

July 19, 2009. Tags: , , , . Multicultural, Realistic. Leave a comment.

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