The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian: Favorite Flawed Characters – TOP 20 Book Recommendations Realistic Fiction

I’ve posted about some favorite realistic fiction books that touched my heart in the past and Wonder by R.J. Palacio is certainly one of the “tops” in that list, but I thought I’d share what I’d recommend to students that come asking for another book like Wonder… I’ve also already posted about books with multiple points of view… so here’s the next focus: flawed yet celebrated characters to love…

1. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

2. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mulally Hunt

3. Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

4. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

5. Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

6. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

7. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

8. Rules by Cynthia Lord

9. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

10. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

11. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

12. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis

13. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

14. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

15. Tiger’s Fall by Molly Bang

16. Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

17. White Crane by Sandy Fussell

18. Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

19. Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

20. Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look

Realistic Fiction

Special books- in detail now:

1. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles – 4th grade and up – Prepare yourself for heartbreak- this is a 4 out of 4 tissue book! Goodreads Summary: “Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.”

2. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mulally Hunt – 4th grade and up – Just loved this story, unforgettable. Here’s another 4 out of 4 tissue book! Goodreads Summary: “Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance. It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determinded to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighbourhood bullly and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.”

3. Hound Dog True by Linda Urban – 3rd grade and up – Touching story, a special favorite. Goodreads Summary: “Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.”

4. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – 5th grade and up – How do you touch other people in your life? Do you help them for the better? Goodreads Summary: “Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.”

5. Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin – 5/6th grade and up – Quite an interesting story that addresses technology, autism, and more. Fascinating perspective. Goodreads Summary: “Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird—her name is Rebecca—could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is.”

6. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg – 5th grade and up – LOVE this book, never tire of recommending it. Goodreads Summary: “Mrs. Olinski, paralyzed in a car crash ten years ago, returns to teaching and chooses four unlikely sixth-grade Academic Bowl team, who become unlikelier champions, in more than the state competition. Julian, the strangest one on the school bus, invites Noah, red-haired Nadia, and silent Ethan, to tea.”

7. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper – 4th grade and up – Fantastic characters, storyline, and a little to realistic. This is a 3 out of 4 tissue book! Goodreads Summary: “Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but no one knows it. Most people, her teachers and doctors included, don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.”

8. Rules by Cynthia Lord – 4th grade and up – Honestly, you should read EVERY book by Cynthia Lord, they’re fantastic. This one rises to the top as my favorite. Goodreads Summary: “Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules-from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?”

9. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen – 5/6th grade and up – Interesting characters, great to hear from two voices. Goodreads Summary: “Flipped is a romance told in two voices. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.”

10. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine – 4th grade and up – 4 out of 4 tissue book- seriously, so much in one story… Goodreads Summary: “In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.”

11. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – 5th grade and up – Love this series! Goodreads Summary: “Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There’s my sister, Natalie, except she doesn’t count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook’s or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.”

12. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis – 4th grade and up – Very interesting and loved the adults in the story as well! Goodreads Summary: “Emma-Jean Lazarus is a lovable oddball who thinks she can use logic to solve the messy everyday problems of her seventh-grade peers. It’s easy: she just follows the example of her late father, a brilliant mathematician. Of course, the more Emma-Jean gets involved, the messier her own life gets. Suddenly she’s no longer the person standing on the outside of all social interactions. But perhaps that’s a good thing?”

13. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos – 4th grade and up – This series has helped many reluctant readers, fantastic! Goodreads Summary: “Joey Pigza can’t sit still. He can’t pay attention, he can’t follow the rules, and he can’t help it — especially when his meds aren’t working. Joey’s had problems ever since he was born, problems just like his dad and grandma have. And whether he’s wreaking havoc on a class trip or swallowing his house key, Joey’s problems are getting worse. In fact, his behavior is so off the wall that his teachers are threatening to send him to the special-ed center downtown.
Joey knows he’s really a good kid, but no matter how hard he tries to do the right thing, something always seems to go wrong. Will he ever get anything right?”

14. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu – 4th grade and up – I was on the edge of my seat through the entire reading of this book! A favorite! Goodreads Summary: “On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master’s shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar’s world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But it’s been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.”

Tigers Fall

15. Tiger’s Fall by Molly Bang – 3rd grade and up – Be prepared, there are many dark, sad moments through this book, but the uplifting nature of the ending is just so fantastic and touching… Goodreads Summary: “Lupe loves nothing better than riding her father’s horse, El Diablo. Fearless and agile, she rampages around her rural village in Mexico like a tigrilla (little tiger), which is her father’s nickname for her. But one day Lupe falls while climbing a tree. Paralyzed from the waist down, she will never again be able to ride El Diablo. Her life might as well be over, she thinks.
At first Lupe is filled with rage and self-pity. Her family brings her to a center run by and for disabled people, to recuperate. Despite the evidence around her, she refuses to believe that disabled people can be happy and self-sufficient, and she can’t believe that these people think their lives are worth living. But slowly the people and the spirit of the center help Lupe realize that she, too, has something to offer.”

16. Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead – 4th grade and up – LOVE THIS MYSTERY! The book did break my heart at times but in such a good way… Fantastic. Goodreads Summary: “Georges (the s is silent) has a lot going on. He’s having trouble with some boys at school, his dad lost his job and so his mum has started working all the time – and they had to sell their house and move into an apartment.
But moving into the apartment block does bring one good thing – Safer, an unusual boy who lives on the top floor. He runs a spy club, and is determined to teach Georges everything he knows. Their current case is to spy on the mysterious Mr X in the apartment above Georges.But as Georges and Safer go deeper into their Mr X plan, the line between games, lies, and reality begin to blur.”

17. White Crane by Sandy Fussell – 4th grade and up – I’ve had many reluctant readers LOVE this adventure that is packed with action and adventure. Goodreads Summary: “Niya Moto is the only one-legged Samurai kid in Japan, famous for falling flat on his face in the dirt. The one school that will accept him is the Cockroach Ryu, led by the legendary sensei Ki-Yaga. He may be an old man overly fond of naps, but Ki-Yaga is also known for taking in kids that the world has judged harshly: an albino girl with extra fingers and toes, a boy who is blind, a big kid whose past makes his loath to fight. A warrior in his time, Ki-Yaga demands excellence in everything from sword-fighting to poetry. But can the rag-tag Cockroaches make the treacherous journey to the Samurai Trainee Games, never mind take on the all-conquering Dragons? In a fast-moving, action-filled tale that draws on true details of feudal Japan, Niya finds there’s no fear they can’t face as long as they stick together – for their friendship is more powerful than a samurai sword.”

18. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis – 5/6th grade and up – This whole series is fantastic. Goodreads Summary: “Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis’s engrossing children’s novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family’s one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it’s up to her to become the “breadwinner” and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, this topical novel for middle readers explores the harsh realities of life for girls and women in modern-day Afghanistan.”

19. Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver – 4th grade and up – What a popular series! Fun and quick paced… Goodreads Summary: “For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal’s office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on “What You Did This Summer.” Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he’ll show what he did. But when Hank’s “living essay” becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.”

20. Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look – 3rd grade and up – One of my favorite books (and authors) of all times. Alvin’s great flaw is his inability to speak a word at school, but does that deter him from being a burst of energy at home? No. Do his parents treat him any different than his siblings? No. Highly recommended!!! Goodreads Summary: “Alvin Ho is an Asian American second grader who is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.”

Want more book ideas and reviews? – Yes, I’m quite brief, but a prolific reader!  Please visit me at Goodreads: Also, please follow this blog through email updates – (do so to the right of this blog post), my Facebook page, comment, or meet up with me on Twitter. I appreciate all of the support, makes my day! Honored by all the wonderful followers.

FTC Required Disclosure: This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Additionally this site is a Powells Books affiliate, and purchases made through the linked book covers may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Debbie Alvarez of The Styling Librarian. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @stylinlibrarian or at my Styling Librarian Page on Facebook.

4 comments on “Styling Librarian: Favorite Flawed Characters – TOP 20 Book Recommendations Realistic Fiction

  1. lenorelook
    April 17, 2014

    Hooray! Hooray! Alvin made the list!!!! THANK YOU, Debbie!!!

  2. Niki Barnes
    April 18, 2014

    I’m excited that I have read so many on the list…..but I’m more excited that I have some I can look forward to reading. Many of my favorite books are on this list!

  3. Pingback: Styling Librarian Book recommendations for Wimpy Kid Rereaders | The Styling Librarian

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