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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Chasing Lilacs* by Carla Stewart- young adult book review
Chasing Lilacs
by Carla Stewart
Grades 7-9 304 pages FaithWords June 2010 Paperback    

Twelve-year-old Sammie is just out of sixth grade in Graham Camp, Texas, when her mother tries to take her life. There are many things about her mother that Sammie doesn’t understand, and this event is one of them.

Life in Graham Camp is all about the company, a petroleum plant that owns the town and provides housing for its workers. Everything in Sammie’s little world is connected to everything else - which is connected to the company. Like many small towns, any news of interest spreads through the camp like wildfire. It isn’t long before everybody knows about Sammie’s mother and the fact that her father has committed her to an institution to get help.

That same summer, Sammie’s world is turned upside-down by the introduction of Clyde Junior - Cly for short. The nephew of Norm McLemore, Cly has been dumped on his aunt and uncle in hopes that the new environment will “straighten him out.”

Sammie finds him fascinating but has not the least bit of romantic interest in him. Her best friend, Tuwana, on the other hand, goes all drooling and tongue-tied any time he’s within sight. Naturally, Cly is more interested in Sammie than Tuwana.

With a twelve-year-old to raise on his own, at least temporarily, Sammie’s father trusts her to her own devices most of the summer. To keep herself busy, she and Tuwana decide to start their own newspaper in hopes that the beginning of school will bring a chance to work on the school newspaper.

Sammie’s mother returning home in the middle of the summer is an unexpected delight, but not without its problems. As Cly and Sammie develop strong bonds of friendship, Tuwana makes some discoveries of her own.

This first offering from Carla Stewart is a story about families, mental illness, stereotypes and sibling rivalry. It’s hard to pack so many themes in one small book, but she does it with the ease of a Harper Lee.

In the same way that Lee allows us a glimpse of a small Alabama town in the ‘50s, Stewart delivers insight into life in a company town, with all of its prejudices, poverty and despair, but also compassion, strength and perseverance. Middle-level readers will wait anxiously for her next novel.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Joyce I. Rice/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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