Here are some shorter musings on some recent MG realistic fiction reads.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
I really don't know what to rate this. This is well-written and for such a short, easy read packs quite the emotional wallop. This is a contemporary story of two sisters in India who run away from their abusive father and have to survive on the streets of a big city. They are homeless and spend their days scavenging through trash for anything that might bring a little money. They meet two young boys, and the four children quickly form a family. They will do anything to protect each other. The story is told through the point of view of Viji, the younger sister. This might have blown me away, but for one major spoiler. That element that packs the emotional wallop. I think the author had the best of intentions with what she was doing and much of that is done so well. But at the same time I'm...uncomfortable enough with this element to not feel confident in recommending it. I feel she could have gone a different direction and it would have been way less problematic. Upon further reflection, I may need to revisit this, but that is my stance now. I don't think you get cookies for having good intentions but landing in the swamp of problematic tropes anyways. In my Goodreads review I go into a further explanation behind a spoiler cut. If you are curious, it is here.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams
Genesis is a heroine with a lot going on in her life. Her father gambles and drinks too much, so her family is constantly being evicted from their houses. She wishes she were different in many ways including having lighter skin and straighter hair like her mom. When her family has to move one more time, and Genesis finds herself starting over yet again, she vows to make some changes. Some of the changes like finding her voice and making friends are good. But some of the changes are dangerous. Williams created a believable and sympathetic character in Genesis that audiences will truly feel for as they follow her journey.
Soof by Sarah Weeks
It's possible you have to be fan of the first book (So B. It) to be a fan of this one. I've never read So B. It (I'm not sure why or how I missed that one as I generally read and enjoy Sarah Weeks's books.) Anyway, I found myself having a hard time liking anyone who was a character in that first book or understanding any of their motivations. There were a lot of things that appeared to happen for plot conveniences and not because they actually made any sense. Aurora is a gem though. I loved her voice and wanted to kidnap her.
Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow
The writing here is excellent because it's Erin Bow, and she is an excellent writer. I came away with the impression that it was also well researched and as factually accurate as Bow could make it writing from the perspective of an outsider of the culture. (I know she spent some time in Mongolia prior to writing this.) I fell just short of being able to love it, which is mostly because I am not the right reader for this book. I don't like nature. I hate birds. I also had some questions about character motivation and general characterization of the adults. I do fully intend to add it to all my MG lists and book talk it to the 5th-7th graders. The ones who love realistic fiction and nature will eat this book up.