Straight Punch

cover artStraight Punch by Monique Polak is a novel about a girl who gets expelled and has to attend an alternative school for troubled teens. The moral of the story is that appearances and first impressions can be deceiving. Everyone has a history that explains how they’ve ended up where they are. All of the youth at her new school seem intimidating and below her at first, but Tessa comes to see good in all of them.

Tessa is squeamish about all violence in the beginning and has anxiety about boxing being the primary physical education at her new school. The students learn different things in boxing class, depending on what’s going on in their life. Some learn discipline, some learn to channel their aggression, some learn how to stand up for themselves. Art, especially street art is another main component of the story. Expressing themselves through art is important to many teens.

Alcoholism, gambling addiction, bullying, and teen pregnancy are all topics that arise in the novel.

*spoiler alert*

Trigger warning for women who have suffered a miscarriage. There is a descriptive scene that could bring back bad memories.



* I received this ARC complementary from Second Story Press

Fostergirls by Liane Shaw is a novel about a girl named Sadie who grew up in foster-care, jumping from “pseudofamily” to “pseudofamily” until being placed in a group home. This is the story of her thirteenth attempt at dealing with a new school, new guardians and a new roommate. 

fostergirls cover artThe first-person perspective is what makes the book for me. Being inside Sadie’s mind is the best way to understand her avoidance of friendship and her difficulties with school work. From the very first chapter Shaw had me interested in the point of view with this description of the school system:

“big boxes filled with lots of little slots where all the kids have fit neatly. If you don’t just slide into place, you get squished and rolled around like a lump of Play-Doh until they figure out a way to squeeze you in. Or they just give up and send you off to another box with the same size slots that you still don’t fit into.” (Shaw 1-2)

Sadie’s descriptions of people and organizations are always like this, colourful, entertaining and down right depressing!

This is an important novel for anyone to read, but I’m going to outline what different people will probably get out of it.

Librarians/teachers: Our own love of reading makes it baffling sometimes how much some teens hate books. Since reading and writing are some of our strongpoints it can be hard to relate to those who find it impossible. Despite how much I read now I had trouble learning how to, and I later worked in an office for students with disabilities, so I already had some idea about this struggle. Shaw opens the disability up to me in ways I never considered. Reading the learning disabled’s point of view can help us help them.

Teens in foster care or with difficult home lives: If you’re tired of reading about spoiled princesses and snobby beauty queens who complain about their parents rules, or the pressures of being popular- here is a story you can relate to more. Sadie isn’t a hero who saves the world, she’s a down-to-earth street smart girl who’s just trying to survive. She knows the difficulties of hunger, neglect, abuse and abandonment but she perseveres.

Teens with learning disabilities: This is a book that might give you ideas about what would help you succeed in school. Even if you are already receiving this help it could be nice to read a book that clarifies the fact that your difficulty learning doesn’t indicate a lower intelligence.

Teens in great homes with a natural aptitude for school: This book will help you understand people you may know but not KNOW.  I hope it will discourage you from giving them a harder time than they already have.