1979 by Steve Anderson

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In the small town where they lived, nothing went unnoticed

In Steve Anderson’s short story collection, adolescents of Small Town, America idly pass the time.  Some loiter, others sneak away to the woods, and some seek out mischief wherever they can find it.  There’s nothing glamorous or breathtaking about the scenery in 1979, but the characters provide sharp flashes of nostalgia for that awkward, yearning sense of self that all adolescents crave.

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Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

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I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely

It’s been nearly ten years since Prep was published, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost any relevance.  While Prep is a coming-of-age tale at heart, it’s also a deeply affecting story that may remind readers (especially female readers) of the personal triumphs and tragedies of adolescence.

The novel follows teen girl Lee Fiora, who attends the elite Ault School – a fictional Ivy League prep school in Massachusetts.  While Ault is known for producing some of the brightest and most promising students in the nation, the school is also known for its insulated and elite reputation, as well as astronomical tuition fees.

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Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

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Whenever there’s a loss, there’s bound to be a gain somewhere else

A debut novel by Laura Lane McNeal, Dollbaby introduces readers to some of the most sparkling, eccentric, and entertaining literary voices that contemporary southern fiction has to offer.  The story takes place in New Orleans in the 1960s and follows Liberty “Ibby” Bell as she begins a new life in the South with her grandmother, Miss Fannie Bell.  Before her father died, 12 year-old Ibby had barely heard of her southern grandmother, but just a few days after his funeral, Ibby’s neglectful mother leaves her young daughter in Fannie’s care indefinitely.

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Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

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All roads cross here.

Grasshopper Jungle is the story of how the world will end.  If you’re thinking global warming, war, a giant asteroid, or nuclear holocaust then think again.  As 16-year-old Austin Szerba reports, the apocalypse begins in a small town called Ealing, Iowa.

At first glance, Ealing is an ordinary place in the middle of nowhere sparsely populated by churchgoing lower-middle class Americans.  But decades ago, Ealing hosted a cultural mecca of scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs who worked at the town’s primary employer – Mckeon Industries.  From genetically-modified produce to Pulse-O-Matic showerheads, Mckeon Industries manufactured and supplied a variety of products.  But as Austin Szerba soon finds out, the company’s founder, Dr Grady McKeon, was involved in a dark set of experiments that included genetic mutation, human reproduction, and testicle-dissolving corn.  Oh, and he also accidentally created a race of gigantic and deadly praying mantises.

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Off Course by Michelle Huneven

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I’ve been waiting my whole life to be seen like that

It’s the early 1980s and Cress Hartley is ready to write her doctoral dissertation and begin her life.  Distracted and unmotivated, Cress retreats to her parents’ vacation home in the California mountains in order to focus and take advantage of the peace and quiet.  But Cress soon learns that the mountains have their own unique distractions – namely men, booze, and nature.

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