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This is the Part Where You Laugh

by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

This is the Part Where You Laugh is a powerful story of friendship, struggles, and the real problems many teens face when living in poverty. Travis is a good kid -- he loves basketball and his grandparents, and has thus far done a good job of keeping his head above water despite the fact that his mother is a homeless heroin addict, gang violence disrupts their neighborhood, and his beloved grandmother is dying. Travis spends his days playing ball in the driveway with his best friend Creature, otherwise known as Malik. He befriends his new neighbor, Natalie, and entertains himself with innocent pranks and Creature’s antics. Things seemed to be looking up for Travis, but not for long. He is harboring anger over his situation that threatens his future in basketball, he learns that Natalie is hiding painful secrets of her own, and, worst of all, his closest friend becomes a victim of gang violence. But even in the worst of times, this book shows that love, humor and the bonds of friendship prevail.


Gritty and realistic, This is the Part Where You Laugh offers a hopeful view into the lives of many families living on the fringe and struggling to make ends meet.

Watched

by Marina Budhos

Naeem Rahman is a high school senior and Muslim American living in Queens with his family and struggling to make ends meet. His parents are immigrants from Bangladesh and only want a better life for Naeem. Unfortunately, Naeem is not interested in studying, and finds himself running with a group of friends who only cause him troubles. When one of these “friends” pressures Naeem into shoplifting and then abandons him to be captured by police, Naeem laments the disappointment his parents will face when they find out. To avoid jail time and prevent his parents from finding out, he is offered a deal as an informant. Naeem must spy on his Muslim neighbors, looking for any suspicious activity that could be linked to terrorism. Naeem takes the deal. He is not worried.. after all, his friends and family are good people. He even feels like he is protecting them by proving to authorities that there is no wrongdoing, and making money to help his family in the process. Naeem believes he can change things by working with law enforcement, “no longer will my have to live in the shadows.”


As time goes on, Naeem begins to realize that his comrades in law enforcement may not have the purest of intentions, and that they have been lying to him. Naeem no longer knows who he can trust, and now must find his way out of this tangled web of secrets and lies while trying to protect his friends and family.

Afterward

by Jennifer Mathieu

Readers fascinated by missing persons stories will love Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu. Eleven year old Dylan has been kidnapped, and thankfully is found four days later. But his discovery unearths an even darker truth -- Dylan’s abductor has also been harboring another missing boy. Ethan has been held captive for the past four years, and was only discovered when Dylan was found.

Caroline is Dylan’s older sister, and when Dylan begins to show signs of serious trauma, she sets out to find out what happened to her brother. Dylan has autism, and this tragic event has caused him to shut down even further. Caroline wishes that her parents could obtain counseling for Dylan, but a combination of financial difficulty and dealing with their own issues leaves Caroline to attempt to mend his wounds herself. The only other person, aside from the kidnapper, who knows what happened to Dylan is Ethan, and Caroline knows to tread lightly. In her quest for answers, and Ethan’s need for normalcy, Caroline and Ethan develop an unlikely friendship.

This book explores complicated topics with sensitivity, and readers will sympathize with the pain and healing that takes place from all sides.