This one is called "We are all made of molecules" by Susin Nielsen and she has got author's voice NAILED. This story is told from two different points of view and even though the chapters are headed with the person who is telling the story, you totally don't need it because each character's voice shines through in the best (and often most hilarious) possible way. The story is told by Stewart and Ashley. Stewart is a very intelligent but socially awkward 12 year old. His mom died about a year and half ago and his dad has been dating a woman he works with and they decide to move in together. Ashley's parents split up about the same time because Ashley's dad is gay and Ashley (who is 13) decided this wasn't good for her social capital, so she didn't tell any of her friends and is barely speaking to her father. Ashley is very interested in appearances (particularly fashion) and misuses words (to hilarious effect). When Stewart starts attending Ashley's school, he has to navigate the whole social scene, which includes some pretty awful bullying (in a locker room). Part of what makes this book so awesome is Stewart's sense of what's right and how to get to that place of having people treat you nicely. This one would be great paired up with "Wonder" by R. J. Palaccio or "Counting by 7's" by Holly Goldberg Sloan.
I'm still debating about putting this one on the short list. I really loved it but one of my fellow reviewers totally panned it. I often wonder when that happens if I've given up on some of the books too soon. It's surprising how much our background information plays into our experience as readers. Anyway, this one is called "Catch you later, traitor" by Avi. It's about 13 year old Pete, who is growing up in Brooklyn in April 1951. He likes baseball and hanging out with his friends and reading Sam Spade mysteries. He even fancies himself a writer and writes passages in the style of Dashiell Hammet (which I enjoyed very much AND would make a great compare and contrast feature as well as talking about author's voice). After parent night at school, Pete's teacher, Mr. Donovan, starts dropping hints that Pete's dad, a college professor, is actually a Communist. After a few days, it's not so much hints, as full out bullying. Pete is then visited by the FBI (when his parents aren't home) and he starts believing that maybe his dad has somethings that he hasn't fully explained. I loved the mystery aspect of the story (who IS informing to the FBI?) as well as the family dynamics and the historical perspective is terrific. I think this is a great book.
Here's a little piece of an interview with the author, Avi, telling about the importance of the setting in this story.
This last one, I also really loved. It's called "Dear Hank Williams" by Kimberly Willis Holt. It's historical fiction, set in Alabama in 1948 and it's told (unsurprisingly) in fan type letters to Hank Williams from 11 year old Tate P. (who is a girl). She lives in a very small town with her great aunt and her little brother and a great uncle. Through the letters she explains that (in addition to being a very big Hank Williams fan) she lives with her great aunt because her grandparents were killed in a car accident and her parents are both on the road (her mother is a motion picture deal and her father is a world famous photographer). But it turns out that her mother isn't really in a motion picture deal and her father isn't really a photographer. I really liked the voice of Tate as she comes to terms with some of the real life things that happened. There are some interesting references to racism (both to blacks as well as to post World War 2 Japanese). There are a lot of interesting musical references, which might be interesting to some kids, but what really pulled me in was Tate. I really loved her character and her voice. She describes herself as an optimist and she really is. I loved her sunny disposition and her struggle to maintain that optimism. Loved her!