October 6, 2015

Random Acts… Fall reading for escape and inspiration

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:53 pm by dinaheng

My bedroom nightstand is stacked high with books that cry for attention. This month, I delved into two Young Adult (YA) novels and a memoir about a mother whose life path has been changed by two very special sons.

When it comes to YA novels, it’s rare to read stories with diverse characters who are easy for all readers to relate to. “On the Edge” by Allison Van Diepen (Harper Teen, $17.99) offers a compelling look at Miami’s underworld through the story of Maddie Diaz, a teen who dares to speak up and testify against gang members who have attacked a homeless man.Dinah Eng

Her secret ally is Lobo, an enigmatic leader of a rival gang who’s dedicated to freeing the victims of sex traffickers. In their world, navigating the challenges of random street violence is an everyday obstacle course that all too many experience.

While written for ages 14 and up, in many ways, this gritty series is more appropriate for those 16 and older. Its romance unfolds in a truly realistic setting with Hispanic characters who are fighting for the truth as they figure out where they belong in the world. But that, after all, is a struggle we all face every day.

On the other end of the YA spectrum is the captivating sci-fi fantasy “Ice Like Fire” by Sara Raasch (Balzer + Bray, $17.99), which takes readers into a world where access to magic is restricted to the rulers of various kingdoms and a lost chasm of magic has been discovered that could release its unrestricted energy into the world.

"Ice Like Fire" by Sara Raasch. Cover art courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

“Ice Like Fire” by Sara Raasch. Cover art courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Meira, the teenage queen of Winter, believes that too much magic is dangerous. Theron, the son of Cordell’s king, believes more magic will cure everything. Mather, the leader of Winter’s resistance movement, just wants to save Meira and be free of Cordell’s oppression.

When Meira goes in search of allies, she discovers a web of political lies and unexpected help from Summer’s princess, a young woman who fights for a secret love. Fans of epic adventures will enjoy this sequel to “Snow Like Ashes,” though like all well written middle books of trilogies, it will leave you with unanswered questions, wanting more. Surely the sign of a good read.

Far from the imaginary escape that YA novels provide comes “Expect A Miracle” by Jenny Long with Bob Der (Sports Illustrated Books, $21.95), a true inspirational story about a mother’s journey as she overcomes life challenges while raising two special sons – one with special needs, and one who is just special.

Jenny Long lost her mother at the age of 12, and by 18, was a high school dropout, pregnant, and married to a convicted felon. With the birth of her first son Conner, the new mother decided to work toward a better life for her family. But it was the birth of her second son Cayden, two years later, that really changed everything.

Doctors recommended that Cayden, born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy, be placed in assisted living, but Long refused, and raised the boy at home. Older brother Conner, who must be an old soul in a young body, developed a strong, loving relationship with Cayden.

At age seven, Conner decided to enter the Nashville Kids Triathlon, with his five-year-old brother. So Conner swam, while pulling his brother in a raft; biked while towing Cayden in a trailer, and pushed that trailer when it was time to run. The two boys crossed the finish line together, and for their tenacity and spirit, won the 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKids of the Year award.

While most of the book is naturally written from Long’s point of view, I wish more had been shared from the children’s perspective. For as parents observing the race put it, “Look at what one brother can do for another. That’s what family is all about.”

The loving care and respect that Long and her sons share for each other are an inspiration, and in an age where families are often fractured, the real miracle lies in staying together – no matter what.

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