Book cover coutresy of SyndeticsMy Basmati Bat Mitzvah , (236 pages ) Paula J. Freedman During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

First lines: “When Ben-O came over on Saturday for movie night, my Dad answered the door in grey silk pajama bottoms and his Math Teachers play by the numbers T-shirt, an unlit pipe clenched between his teeth. “Ben-o, old chap!” He cried heartily, “How are you, dear boy?”

Book cover couresty ofSyndeticsPromise me Something, Sara Kocek, (311 pages) As if starting high school weren’t bad enough, Reyna Fey has to do so at a new school without her best friends. Reyna’s plan is to keep her head down, help her father recover from the car accident that almost took his life, and maybe even make some friends. And then Olive Barton notices her. Olive is not exactly the kind of new friend Reyna has in mind. The boys make fun of her, the girls want to fight her, and Olive seems to welcome the challenge. There’s something about Olive that Reyna can’t help but like. But when Reyna learns Olive’s secret, she must decide whether it’s better to be good friends with an outcast or fake friends with the popular kids…before she loses Olive forever.

First lines: The night Olive Barton vanished into the woods at Talmadge Hill, I got my first kiss. I was wearing sticky drugstore lip gloss that smelled like a Creamsicle. Sugar-drunk off cherry coke and peppermint patties, I had no idea that a mile away in the frigid dark, the night was opening its mouth to swallow a girl.

Book cover courtesy of SyneticsFreakboy , Kristin Elizabeth Clark (427 pages)From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

First lines:  A pronoun is a ghost  of who you really are short sharp harsj, whispering its presence, taunting your soul. In you ogf you but not all you. Struggling my own He She Him Her I You. Scared that for scrambled-pronoun Me, We might never exist.

Book cover courtesy of Syndetics
, Heather Smith (275 pages)Growing up in a picturesque Newfoundland fishing village “should” be idyllic for sixteen-year-old Kit Ryan, but living with an alcoholic father makes Kit’s day-to-day life unpredictable and almost intolerable. When the 1992 cod moratorium forces her father out of a job, the tension between Kit and her father grows. Forced to leave their rural community, the family moves to the city, where they live with Uncle Iggy, a widower with problems of his own. Immediately pegged as a “baygirl,” Kit struggles to fit in, but longstanding trust issues threaten to hold her back when a boy named Elliot expresses an interest in her.

First Lines: As soon as I opened the door, I could smell it. I looked at my watch. It was only three twenty in the afternoon. But time of day never made any differnce to him. He had a whiskey with his bacon and eggs once. he drank it our of a coffee mug, as if that made it ok.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsLove in Revolution B.R Collins (263 pages) Esteya is fifteen. As war rumbles closer, Esteya’s brother – an important figure in the Revolutionary Communist Party – is able to protect their family from the worst of the privations of war. Then Esteya meets an extraordinary girl, Skizi, an outcast, shunned by all. But Esteya and Skizi are drawn to each other. Slowly and wonderfully love blossoms … And then Esteya’s family are betrayed and forcibly taken away. Skizi disappears. Esteya is left deserted, heartbroken and in terrible danger. But she must find a way to escape – and to find Skizi.

First lines: When I was small, ther was a house at the end of the town that had falled down We weren’t allowed to play there, of course, but we did sometimes. We’d play furious, clumsy games of pello against one intact wall, and when we were tired out we’d collpase in the shade with tepid bottles of cheery juice that stained our teeth pink. We’d argue about the bumps and curves in the wall and the angle of of our shots as if we were professionals.

Image cover courtesy of SyndeticsIf I ever get out of here Eric Gansworth (350 pages) Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

First lines:  “Cut it off,” I yelled. “Shut up or my Dad will hear you,” Carson Mastick said. “He’s not that drunk yet, and I’m gonna have a hard enough time explaining fow you come down looking like a different kid that the one that went upstairs.”

Book Cover courtesy of SyndeticsCy in chains David L. Dudley (320 pages) Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong’s plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he’s free, as black people have been since his grandfather’s day, but in rural Georgia, that means they’re free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he’s a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he’s chained to, there’s no way out, no way back.And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn’t know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations.

First lines: There was no way to escape the shuting and the noises of animal terror bursting from Teufel’s stall. The crack of the whip against the stallion;s side, the horse’s madded whinnying of rage and fear, the curses from John Strong’s moth. Cy put an arm around Travis, who pushed closer to him. Travis had his hands over his ears, like that would do any good. I tried to tell you we shouldn’t of sneaked down here, Cy thought, feeling the younger boy trembling. But you had to have your way, and the see the mess we in?

Book Cover courtesy of SyndeticsYou don’t even know  Sue Lawson (332 pages)Alex Hudson is a good guy. He plays water polo. He has a part-time job. He’s doing okay at school.Then the thing that anchors Alex is ripped away and his life seems pointless. How can he make anyone else understand how he feels, when he doesn’t even know?

First lines: A low keening noise ices my skin and fills the room. I slip out the door, down the corridow and into the faded afternoon.  As I stumble past the man in a wheelchair sucking on a cigarette and the two guys in green scrubs laughing, I grind to a halt. Srounf me people bustle to the tram stop, weave between ars to cross the road and send text messages as rhey walk back the way I’vee come. My life has shatted into a thousand shards of glass, but nothing out here has changed.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe war within these walls  Aline Sax and Caryl Strzelecki (171 pages)It’s World War II, and Misha’s family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.

First lines: It was September 1939 when the Germans invaded our country. A month later, they marched into Warsaw and took up residence as if they’d never leave. The war seemed to be over.  But after the dust of the bombings has settled, a very different war began… A war against some of us.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Extra Kathryn Lasky (307 pages)One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her family are suddenly picked up by Hitler’s police and imprisoned as part of the “Gypsy plague.” Just when it seems certain that they will be headed to a labor camp, Lilo is chosen by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to work as a film extra. Life on the film set is a bizarre alternate reality. The surroundings are glamorous, but Lilo and the other extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept in a locked barn when not on the movie set. And the beautiful, charming Riefenstahl is always present, answering the slightest provocation with malice, flaunting the power to assign prisoners to life or death. Lilo takes matters into her own hands, effecting an escape and running for her life. In this chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Gypsies who worked as extras for the real Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.

First Lines: “Disappeared?What are you talking about? People don’t disappear. She went some place.” “So where do you think Mila went? Why wasn’t she in school? Today of all days, recitation day. She had been practicing forever. She was sure to get the prize.” “Maye she’s sick.” ” Mila sick? Never- she’s as healthy as a horse. And if if she is. she would have dragged herself to school. No- something’s fishy.”