My first Net Galley book was All That's Missing, by Sarah Sullivan. This is the author's first novel, although she's written a few picture books, and I was really impressed.
I always have a group of male readers who are not at all into the fantasy/sci fi thing, nor are they in to sports novels. They're just into realistic fiction with male protagonists - finding that sans romance can often be trying at best. I think this novel fits the mold, and can't wait to recommend it to my students next year.
The novel's main character, Arlo, lives with his grandfather, whom he calls "Poppo". Arlo's parents both died in a car accident when he was two, and Poppo is the only family he's ever known. He knows of a grandmother, but he can't recall ever meeting her. Arlo's life becomes increasingly complex as dementia begins to prey upon his grandfather's brain - Arlo finds himself trying to squeak by in school whilst keeping tabs on his grandfather, and making sure no adults in the community find out.
Finally, Arlo can hide it no longer and Poppo is taken to the hospital after wandering out in the middle of the night and suffering from a stroke. Since Arlo can't give the social worker he meets at the hospital any other family member's names, he's taken into custody of the state and sent to an orphanage for the night. He realizes quickly that he cannot sustain that life or play into its uncertainty, so he breaks free, vowing to find his grandmother.
His plan works, but the transition to living with Grandma is no piece of cake. Grandma hated Arlo's mother, and his grandmother's past seems to be rife with secrets that he's not privy to. Things eventually work out (I'll let you read to figure out how!), but not before Arlo saves his grandmother's house from an ill-intentioned crook, gets a history lesson on Prohibition and bootleggers, and learns the truth about his parents' past.
I thought that so many aspects of the novel would be super-relatable to my middle school students, and there was one quote in particular that I really loved:
"...the thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you'd have was a pile of twisted yarn."
Look out for All That's Missing, coming out October, 2013.