In A Galaxy of Sea Stars, we meet Izzy whose dad recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan and is dealing with PTSD while trying to build a new business since he won’t be returning to the war front. Izzy’s mother is away on a neighboring island, taking time away from her marriage under the guise of helping out an extended family member. Izzy herself is feeling a bit lost as her friend group “the sea stars” seems to be changing and Zelda, the queen bee of the group is trying to keep them together by making all three of them join the school’s broadcasting club. As if things aren’t hard enough, Izzy’s dad introduces her to a friend who’s just moved from Afghanistan with his family and Izzy seems to be saddled with befriending their daughter Sitara who will be attending the same school. Sitara wears a hijab and seems so different from anyone Izzy knows. As Izzy’s friendship issues and Sitara’s being bullied at school collide, Izzy will learn what it means to be brave.
Socially anxious sixth-grader Autumn is having a rough start to middle school. Her best friend Prisha has moved to California and her father has left their family to serve in the Peace Corps in Ecuador (I know, I know). It’s just her mother and little sister living in their tiny apartment up the stairs of the veterinary hospital where her mother works.
Somehow, she makes two new friends in the first week of school — one boy named Cooper and a girl named Logan. But Logan thinks Cooper is weird, so Autumn has to navigate the fact that her friends don’t get along. On top of that, she really wants to write for the Dear Student column in her school’s newspaper — and she does! But when Autumn gives advice that polarizes her friends even more, she’s not sure how she’ll ever make it work.
It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go is quite the mouthful, but the quirky title encapsulates this book’s nature. Ellie is a young Jewish girl with undiagnosed social anxiety. She gets physically sick — sweaty, lightheaded, shaky, fainting at times — at the thought of being the center of attention, and even worse when her worst fear actually happens. Her latest anxiety trigger is the thought of her fast-approaching bat mitzvah.