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It's Kind of a Funny Story
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2000s)
Inspired by the author's real-life, five-day, in-patient treatment for depression, this 2006 novel was made into a movie in 2010. On December 19, 2013, the author died of an apparent suicide at the age of 32. For me, knowing the tragic ending to Vizzini's real-life struggle with mental illness changes this novel from instilling a sense of hope to underscoring the seriousness of depression, especially among perfectionists and high achievers. The novel is told from the point of view of a 15 year-old boy who worked hard to get into a prestigious Manhattan prep school only to feel not-good-enough after he is admitted. Unable to eat or sleep, overwhelmed by his own high expectations, and jealous of his friend's easy successes, the main character thinks about jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead, he calls the Suicide Hotline, checks himself into the hospital, and thrives in the scheduled routine of the adult psychiatric ward with its controlled choices, simple tasks, and art-and-crafts therapy where he discovers a hobby he loves - drawing brain maps. The tentacles-and-anchors metaphor might resonate with readers who feel over-scheduled, over-emailed, and overwhelmed - while the fear of a single failure leading to a domino effect of failing at life might be all-too familiar to perfectionists. A good book for group discussion. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 03/05/2014

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The Universe Versus Alex Woods
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence (2000s)
Drawing heavily on Slaughterhouse-Five, this 2014 Alex Award winner might appeal to Kurt Vonnegut fans - especially those with an interest in the ethics of euthanasia. Quirky characters! Alex was 10 when he survived a direct hit from a meteorite that left him with temporal lobe epilepsy, a need for morning meditation, and an interest in both physics and neurology. His mom sells crystals and potions in the Queen of Cups - her shop where she does tarot readings. And his best friend is a grouchy, elderly pacifist whose "letter-writing club" is Amnesty International and whose dog is named Kurt after the famous Hoosier author. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 02/28/2014

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The Boy on the Wooden Box
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (1940s)
Written by a man who had once been a child on Schindler's list, this Holocaust memoir is even more moving as an audiobook narrated by Danny Burstein whose measured, calm delivery reinforces the quiet dignity of Leon Leyson's plain-spoken words. Only 4 hours long, it would be perfect for family listening for grades 5 and up. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 02/18/2014

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Help for the Haunted
Help for the Haunted by John Searles (1980s)
An atmospheric mystery about a family whose secrets are even more haunting than the creepy Raggedy Ann doll caged in their basement, this title won a 2014 Alex Award as an adult book with teen appeal. An eighth grader is the only witness to the double homicide of her parents who were experts in the paranormal. At first, she is convinced the murderer is a former client, but as clues slowly unfold through flashbacks, she becomes less certain of what she saw in that church on that snowy night in February 1989. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 02/15/2014

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The Impossible Knife of Memory
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (2000s)
An 18 year-old girl watches the father she adores spiral out of control from post traumatic stress disorder after a distinguished military career. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 02/04/2014

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September Girls
September Girls by Bennett Madison (2000s)
There are girls and then there are Girls - gorgeous, blonde, and foreign. And for once, they only have eyes for Sam instead of his attractive older brother. But there's something a little strange about the Girls in this sleepy beach town. As Sam learns their secret, he slowly discovers who he is as a man. Chapters alternate between Sam's first person sarcastic narrative and the dreamy collective consciousness of the Girls. The most interesting thing about this book is the heated debate it stirred among bloggers about sexism. Cuddlebuggery blasted it as misogynistic while The Book Smugglers argued convincingly that it is exactly the opposite. I see this book as a strong challenge to sexism, but I like that there are different interpretations and I love when books generate conversation, especially about important topics like gender studies. For thoughtful readers who enjoy literary fiction and magic realism, this YA book has strong adult appeal. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 02/04/2014

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Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done by David Allen (2000s)
The key to this personal productivity management system is to take whatever is on your mind (draining your energy, diminishing your productivity, and increasing your stress) and get it out of your head by writing it down on an action plan focused on successful outcomes. Instead of creating daily to-do lists that are often depressingly incomplete at the end of each day, use your calendar to record day/time-specific tasks and rely on the following lists (reviewed weekly) to record everything else: projects, waiting-for, next-actions, and someday-maybe. The author's 2-minutes or less rule is helpful when evaluating incoming tasks. If something can be completed in 2 minutes or less, do it immediately. If it will take more than 2 minutes, delegate it or defer it. What is most surprising about this system is how simple it is. No special tools or software needed, just plain old lists, organized work spaces, and alphabetized files within reach. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 01/30/2014

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Midwinterblood
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (Other)
Inspired by a Carl Larsson painting entitled Midvinterblot, seven stories move backward in time from 2073 to before the 10th Century, sharing a Nordic island setting, a history of blood sacrifice, and a love that transcends time. The love that Eric and Merle share is not always romantic. In past lives, they have also been friends, parent and child, twins, and king and queen. The mood is dark and the history is violent, but the reincarnations create a sense of hope that Eric and Merle will be together always. I liked the foreboding, the folktale feel, and the precision in this 2014 Printz Award winner - every word matters. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 01/26/2014

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One Shot at Forever
One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard (1970s)
In 1971, high schools weren't grouped into divisions. To make the Illinois state championship game, a baseball team had to be the best, regardless of size. The Macon Ironmen were a rural team - farmers' kids - mismatched uniforms, five bats, zero budget, a discouraging principal, and an inexperienced, "liberalized, long-haired, mustachioed" coach. Coach Lynn Sweet was a progressive English teacher who emphasized fun, taught his students and players to think for themselves, and never pulled a pitcher out of a game. For anyone who has ever played, coached, or driven carpool for high school sports, this nonfiction audiobook will have you on the edge of your seat, cheering for these underdogs as they fight toward the state championship one obstacle at a time. -- Added by Nimble Novice on 01/19/2014

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