Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
Fifteen-year-old Alice Bliss shares a love of gardening with her father, Matt, who teaches her how to care for her tools as they plan their garden together. She clashes, however, with her mother, and when Matt is deployed to Iraq they are unable to lean on each other for support. As they wait, agonized, for his return, Alice faces not only the experiences of growing up and falling in love, but the challenges of dealing with a mother who is falling apart and a younger sister who needs more help than Alice can give. This sensitive, heartbreaking debut, which is based on the author's one-woman musical, calls for having at least one hanky on hand.
Silver Sparrow: A Novel by Tayari Jones
Dana Yarboro's father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. Though both Dana and her mother have always known this, James goes to great lengths to protect his other, first family from the truth. And despite her mother's tendency to spy on the other wife, Dana is kept from her half-sister by the simple rule that Chaurisse picks first (summer camp, summer job, college), and Dana gets what's left. After the two meet accidentally and Dana pursues a friendship with her unsuspecting half-sister, James' secrets inevitably unravel. Set in Atlanta's middle-class African-American community in the 1980s, this novel and its complex, believable characters are likely to appeal as much to teenaged girls as to their grown-up counterparts.
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
Lucy Hull is an accidental children's librarian who routinely gives her favorite patron, 10-year-old Ian, books that do not conform to the rigid rules his overbearing, fundamentalist mother has set for him. When Ian's parents force him to attend behavior-modification classes that will "cure" his burgeoning homosexuality, Ian determines to run away--and Lucy decides to go with him. Though this set-up may leave you feeling incredulous, it's actually the start of a warm, moving, and frequently funny book full of literary references and paeans to the power of reading. "Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental," says Kirkus Reviews of this debut.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
At 29, Alice Love was a happy-go-lucky newlywed expecting her first child. Imagine her shock when she wakes up after an accident on a stationary bike to find she's 39 and the mother of three kids she doesn't recognize. She remembers nothing of the previous ten years, and seems to have become a totally different woman--one who is estranged from her sister and going through an acrimonious divorce with a man she last remembered loving fiercely. Figuring out who she's become, based on clues she picks up here and there, makes What Alice Forgot a highly captivating read.
The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
When Cold War diplomat Nick Fleming dies under suspicious circumstances, he is immediately suspected of treason and promptly declared a mole; to protect their children, his widow moves them to her childhood vacation home in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. While the two teenage girls deal with the death of their father differently (the eldest buckles down, the other acts out), the youngest, 8-year-old Jamie, doesn't really understand that his father is gone forever. When he sees an escaped bear wandering the island, he is sure that it is somehow connected to his father. As a tale of the stages of grief, The Summer of the Bear is "gently absorbing" (Daily Mail).