Honor Books: Yonder by Ali Standish and Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Here are two reflective books that won honors this year – Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalist for Yonder and a Newbery Honor for Iveliz Explains It All.

Cover of Yonder by Ali Standish

by Ali Standish

HarperCollins, 2022

ISBN 978-0062985682

Read from a library copy.

Ebook and audiobook available on Libby.

In June of 1943, 12-year-old Danny Timmons lives in a small Appalachian town, caring for his pregnant mother while his father is away at war.   His morning routine includes delivering the papers with his older friend Jack.  Through a story that alternates between present and past, we see how that friendship developed as Jack stayed with his family after a bad episode with his abusive father.  But how did Danny and his former best friend Lou, who shared all her Nancy Drews with him, stop talking to each other?  Why was his mother’s best friend and her family forced to leave town?  And most importantly, when Jack disappears – where did he go and why?  All of this is wrapped in a discussion of what makes a hero and whether or not all stories have them, as Jack slowly learns more about the atrocities both overseas and those that are quietly allowed to flourish right in his own kind-seeming hometown.  This shares themes of coming to recognize bullying with Jennifer Chan is Not Alone. For more adventurous stories of America during World War II, try Kate Hannigan’s League of Secret Heroes series

Iveliz Explains It All
by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Random House, 2022

ISBN 9780593563977

Read from a library copy. 

Ebook and audiobook available on Libby.

Cover of Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango.

In this novel in verse, Iveliz hopes to make seventh grade a fresh start, wiping away her past academic and behavioral challenges.  However, the grief and guilt over her father’s death three years ago are overwhelming, putting her constantly on edge, so that she explodes every time classmates (who already target her because she speaks Spanish) deliberately push her buttons.  She’s not able to talk to her mother or her counselor, and hopes that her grandmother moving in will be a comfort.  But though she’s used to having to explain things like how to pronounce her name over and over again, it still hurts when her grandmother forgets who she is and tells her that she’s weak to need medication for her mental health problems.  Even her relationship with her best friend, Amir, is strained, and she’s not sure if she’ll be able to make any other friends.  On top of all of this, she’s seeing and hearing her father, but knows that if she tells anyone, they will think she’s crazy.  Will Iveliz ever be able to reach out for help??

All of this is told in free verse on lined paper, with cute line drawings and moments of fun that help alleviate the weight of Iveliz’s many problems. I am torn about this book.  It is really effective, showing how Iveliz’s intertwining roles affect her and her mental health, all the different areas interacting messily.  I really cared about her, laughed a few times, and cried really, really hard as I read it in the bleachers while waiting for my son’s robotics tournament to start.  On the other hand, it was a lot of weight reading about a kid with severe depression when I am dealing with a lot of depression in my family already.  Ultimately, it was really good… and I had to go and read some heartwarming teen romance afterwards.  

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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