The first one I read was called "Everything, Everything" by Nicola Yoon. It's about 18 year old Madeline who leads a very sheltered life because she has a rare immune deficiency which leaves her vulnerable to air and food borne pathogens. Picture Bubble Boy as a girl. Madeline is a kind, thoughtful, smart girl who is mostly obedient and makes the best of her situation (no whining or complaining for our girl!). Madeline's mom is Japanese and her dad was African American but there aren't too many cultural references (other than to her hair) there so I'm not sure that it matters. Madeline's world is rocked when a new family moves in next door. They have kids Madeline's age and Madeline spends a lot of time looking out the window and watching them. The boy, Oliver, comes over and they start texting and emailing and pretty soon they have cultivated quite a relationship. I really liked their interactions (which are funny and smart) and I loved the structure of the story (I don't want to spoil the plot!). In fact, I read the whole thing after dinner on a Friday night, which should tell you a lot about how compelling it was, since I normally fall asleep on the couch right after dinner! It would be great paired up with a story like "Noggin" by John Corey Whaley or "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Greene.
The second one really took me by surprise. It's called "Bone Gap" by Laura Ruby. It's been nominated for the National Book Aware and I can see why. It was really well written and at first it seemed like it was really gritty realistic fiction. The story starts with a boy named Finn. He lives with his older brother Sean, who takes care of him. Their dad was killed in a trucking accident quite some time ago and their mother remarried and basically left the boys to their own devices. Sean is very responsible and is working hard to support himself and Finn. In the meantime, Finn is kind of an outcast. People call him Moonie or Moonboy because he often seems to be looking around without really seeing where he is. One day, the boys find a girl on their farm. The girl is pretty badly injured and seems to be basically without speech, at first. They have a separate apartment on their property, so Sean treats her wounds and lets her stay there. They all grow very close and people tease them about who is really in love with who. Then one day, the girl disappears. Finn tells everyone that she's been kidnapped but he can't give a description of who took her so people think he's just crazy. What's surprising about this one is how it flashes around in time and then how it dawns on you (or maybe it dawned on someone as clueless as I am) that there are some very cool mystical elements going on here and HEY. Could that really happen like that? And really what the heck is going on here? I couldn't put this one down either.
The third one was just as compelling as the first two. It's called "We were liars" by E. Lockhart. It's about a girl named Cadence who comes from a very old and monied family in New England. They spend their summers at the Cape in the sprawl of houses that the family owns. The patriarch of the family seems to be a kindly, loving old man who loves having his girls (his three daughters) and all their children spend the summers there. Cadence is the oldest of the grandchildren and there is a lot of emphasis placed on the position with in the family and inheritance. Cadence loves spending the summers with her cousins (Johnny and Mirren and Johnny's not quite step brother, Gat). During their 15th summer, something awful happened that Cadence can't quite remember. She does remember them finding her on the beach, minus most of her clothing, hypothermic, and with a head injury. She has also acquired some debilitating migraine headaches. So she has a mission this summer to find out what really happened. It's a great story with big themes about family and what it means to be a family, change and creating change. I liked it a lot.