Above by Mackie Burt is a novel that speculates what happens after death. The journey begins as Callie Lane stands over her gravestone listening to the mournful comments of family and friends. Before she realizes what’s happening, she is pulled into a world where everyone around her is dead. She is reunited with her grandmother, her neighbor, and her dog as well as making some new friends.
Hardly given the time to adjust to her situation, Callie is told that Above is a lot like school…and life in general. She is expected to take classes to learn how to be a Guardian. She must learn from her mistakes and continue to grow if she is to survive death. But why is she the only one having flashes of a life not her own? And why does her family keep pulling her back when everyone else has to fight to see theirs?
Burt spins an intricate, beautiful, and emotional tale. The reader will find herself completely immersed in the world of Above, completely invested in each and every one of the characters. Just like Callie, the reader will wonder until the very last page why certain things are happening, how certain things will play out, and what it all means. This story is full of wonder, sorrow, and joy. In the end, the reader may even find herself hoping that Burt’s idea of life after death is accurate; it doesn’t seem so bad, after all!
Kaylee’s Ghost by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is a tale full of emotion, history, love, loss, and family. It begins with Miriam awaiting the birth of her first grandchild, Violet. Miriam is a psychic who longs for someone with which to share her gifts. She was incredibly close to her Bubbie because her own mother did not accept Miriam’s abilities. Now, she hopes that Violet will connect with her, as her daughter Cara also shuns her talents.
Violet is born with incredible psychic faculties. Miriam is overjoyed by this and immediately begins to nurture Violet’s premonitions and mind-reading skills. At the same time, however, Miriam is devastated because Cara, her daughter and Violet’s mother, pushes her further and further away. Their disagreement over whether psychic abilities are a gift or a curse causes a huge rift between not only these two, but also the entire family. To make matters worse for Miriam, she must make some tough decisions surrounding a long-time client, which ultimately affects the family as well.
Shapiro writes characters in incredible detail. The reader will be extremely engrossed in these people’s lives. Their relationships are real, complex, and fraught with such emotion that the reader will be deeply carried along in the story. The reader will laugh, cry, and heave a huge sigh when all is said and done.
Along with intricate characters and relationships, the story is intense and constantly evolving. Will Miriam be able to mend the rift between her daughter and herself? Will Violet be able to live a normal life? How does Kaylee fit into all of this? These questions will not be answered until the very last page and beyond. The reader should carve out a significant chunk of time if she decides to begin this book because she will not be able to put it down!
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
High School Dropout to Harvard is a memoir by John Rodrigues that reads like a fiction novel. He tells of creating giant ice sculptures that win international competitions, traveling aboard a cruise liner to numerous exotic locations, and getting into Harvard—all after dropping out of high school and fighting with dyslexia.
John shares the trials and tribulations of his life while living with a learning disability. As a child, he disappointed his parents and fellow students with his clumsiness and general comprehension issues. Instead of thinking in words and reading letters, he realizes early on that he thinks in pictures and that life is a giant puzzle. Over the course of his lifetime, he learns to harness this unusual ability to think in abstracts to achieve greatness and be unique. Although he drops out of high school and almost everyone thinks he’s never amount to amount to anything, he eventually—through much perseverance and hard work—ends up matriculating at Harvard University.
It is John’s unbelievable tale that draws the reader in, but it is the realization that every word is true that creates a lasting impression. John’s battle with his own brain—and his conquering/compromising with it—can be applied to every person’s life. He figured out a challenging aspect of himself, learned to work around that aspect/use it to his advantage, and accomplished more than he ever thought possible. This book is a must-read and an inspiration to people with disabilities and “normal” people alike!