Chasing the Jaguar

Here’s a new twist on the stereotype of old lady as evil witch. Tía (Aunt) Tellin, a fragile-looking, gray-haired old lady, walks right past the gangs and the homeless people hanging out in the park near her Los Angeles home, and she’s not afraid of anyone. She is descended from a long line of Mayan curanderas (traditional shamanic medicine women) and uses her psychic powers to help the police solve crimes. She is also the mentor and trainer of her great-great-niece, Martika Gálvez, the 15-year-old protagonist, who has just realized that she inherited the same abilities and must learn to use them wisely. A generous smattering of Spanish dialogue is either clear from the context or explained in a glossary in the back. Read more…

Notes from the Midnight Driver

Angry about his parents’ impending divorce, 16-year-old Alex gets drunk and smashes his mother’s car. He is sentenced to 100 hours of community service, visiting a cantankerous old man named Sol—a Jewish immigrant from Poland—at a local nursing home. Read more…

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl

Set in a tiny lakeside town on the Canadian prairie, this is the story of a diverse, intertwined cast of characters, struggling to overcome personal loss. Runaway Noreen, hardened at 17 by a rough childhood with an alcoholic mother and an abusive stepfather, feels no love for anyone or anything. She also has a knack for stumbling blindly from one disastrous mistake to another: she gets pregnant, steals, heedlessly injures a dog and accidentally starts a fire. Read more…

Hero

Fifteen-year-old Sean lives with his abusive, alcoholic mother; his father walked out years ago. When Sean is suspended from school for fighting, he is sentenced to three weeks of community service on a local ranch. There he meets Dave Hassler, a white-haired, decorated army veteran from World War II who has taken in other community-service kids before. He’s a sort of rough-hewn social worker as well as rancher. Read more…

God Is in the Pancakes

This sensitive book addresses several characters’ search for meaning under painful circumstances. Fifteen-year-old Grace, her mom and her older sister have struggled since Grace’s dad deserted them for another woman. Both sisters stumble through challenging transitions within the high school dating scene. Grace also seeks meaning on a larger scale, trying to assess whether she really believes in God and how to make complicated, irrevocable decisions about what’s right and wrong. Read more…

Being with Henry

Sixteen-year-old Laker has grown up with his emotionally fragile mother, Audrey, whose new husband gives her a hard time. When Laker loses his temper and knocks his stepfather to the floor, Audrey throws Laker out. He catches the first bus out of town and lives on the street until an 83-year-old widower named Henry offers him room and board in exchange for yard work. Read more…

Black Taxi

This lighthearted, fast-paced mystery, set in a small town in Australia, features a teen heroine named Rosie and several interesting characters in their 80s. Rosie describes her granddad, Paddy, as “a nice crook [who] wouldn’t hurt a mouse.” When Paddy is caught with hot property and sent to jail for six months, he gives Rosie temporary custody of his Mercedes and his cell phone, but both come with strings attached. Rosie agrees to chauffeur her granddad’s many friends around town, which turns out to be more demanding than she expected. She also receives increasingly sinister calls about a stolen diamond ring that Paddy knows nothing about. Read more…

Rules of the Road

“Somewhere long ago in this country it was determined that after 65 a person’s brain is no longer capable of making business decisions. I think that is rot. I have more business ability at 73 than I had at 63, and I resent the implication that I am over the hill and can no longer oversee the company my husband and I built from scratch.” So says Mrs. Gladstone, the intimidating, white-haired Texas widow who owns Gladstone’s Shoes—a company built on quality and service, with 176 stores in 37 states. Now her son, Elden, who cares nothing for quality, just wants to make a quick buck by selling out to a large conglomerate. Unfortunately, most of the stockholders agree with him. Read more…

Zazoo

This lyrical book, set in rural France, weaves together three love stories: one between two modern French teens, and two involving men over age 60 devastated by the same catastrophe during World War II. Zazoo, the 13-year-old protagonist, learns a great deal about life, death, war, love and reconciliation. She also learns that the same person can be both good and bad, kind and cruel. Read more…