Realistic Fiction

On Location: Dig Deeper into the International Missions Force Series

I got the chance to interview YA fiction writer Felicia Bridges about being an author, putting yourself out there, and why she’s been successful. Read the video transcript here.


Where do the books of her series take place? Check out my info graphic below to find out and see where her next novels will be set! The video and infographic are for my final project for my Media and Journalism 121 class at UNC. 


4 Thought-Provoking YA Novels


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A genuine and stirring work, Speak reveals the weight of being both an outcast in high school and a rape victim. Fear and loneliness muzzles and disconnects freshman Melinda, who hadn’t told anyone what happened at a back-to-school party. Realistically portraying how it feels to be a teenager elicits even more empathy for the main character. The novel reminds me how prevalent, harmful, and hidden sexual assault to both men and women continues to be in our culture. Being kind to others is vital-we may have no idea what people struggle with.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Four characters, each affected differently by WWII, fight to survive and eventually board the same ship. Sepetys skillfully juxtaposes her characters in order to highlight their brave, kind, or selfish acts. The reader gazes into the psyche of a Nazi soldier and sees an example of someone  drawn into a horrific army.  Based on a true and overlooked tragedy, the sinking of the MV Wilhelm- Gustloff killed more people on one vessel than any other recorded event.



Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Once called “America’s Fattest Teen”, Libby has recovered to the point where she can attend a normal high school. There her life clashes with fellow student Jack, who suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness).  Libby’s voice is inspiring, challenging, and complex. Although she still faces challenges, Libby’s self- acceptance represents hope and success to those struggling with mental issues. Her character made me evaluate how I view my own appearance and other’s opinions.


How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

When a white man shoots an African-American teen named Tariq, everyone has a different perspective on the event. Was Tariq part of the local gang? Was he holding a gun or merely a candy bar? Was the act a hate crime?  In the aftermath, young men and women of Tariq’s community must decide how to react-in anger, grief, and courage. This novel highlights the fact that gangs and substance abuse still haunt neighborhoods today, and explores what happens in the weeks following a shooting like this one might see on the news.


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4 Reasons to Connect with an Author

Over the past few years, I have had the honor to connect with local author Felicia Bridges. As the writer of the series International Missions Force, she creates inspirational adventure stories of teens and their relationship with God. Her current titles include Czechmate (featured previously on this blog), BoliviaKnight, and an upcoming third novel. Bridges has been so kind and inclusive to me since I expressed interest in her works. I’m sure not all authors have the time or resources to respond to readers. However, if you know of someone who writes, visits a career day, or can find someone to contact through social media, I would highly recommend reaching out.

  1. They inspire you to write your own stories. After reading Bridge’s first book, I actually crafted a short story of my own missions trip. For me, seeing a woman pursuing her calling and being published pushed me to work more.
  2. You can ask them questions about writing/editing/publishing. During the launch of her first book, Bridges took questions about her journey toward becoming an author. I have messaged her questions of my own about publishing and other career ideas. In order to learn more about careers I’m interested in, I’ve also shadowed a lawyer and a advertising accounts manager. Although not everyone will respond positively, showing initiative and being polite might lead to a valuable opportunity.
  3. You might even be able to read/ help with an early draft. I was so excited to read a draft and make comments on Bolivia Knight.
  4. You get practice writing. If an author invests time with you, one of the best things you can do to help them succeed is to write their book a thoughtful review or endorsement. Try Amazon, your own social media, or blog. Evaluating a text and articulating what you liked about it sharpens your own literary skills. Writing about any topic can improve your ability to think and communicate clearly.

My endorsement of BoliviaKnight (bottom of back cover).

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The Unexpected Everything

Politican’s daughter Andie has learned the importance of planning and personal drive in achieving success. Yet she hasn’t learned how to deeply connect with people like her busy father or the cute stranger she walks a dog for. When one rumor destroys her summer plans, Andie discovers how to process uncontrollable events and her own emotions.

By: Morgan Matson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

My Rating: 4 of 5
While I have been positively rating many books recently, this book was on the list of Top YA Fiction of 2016. Even if you aren’t a dog person, you still might want to pack this perfect-for-summer novel alongside sunscreen and a towel. The plot might be lacking, reminiscient of a cheap rom-com, but the development of nuanced themes adds depth and emotion. It explores father-daughter relationships, the need for vulnerability for intiminacy, and accepting the unchangeable. Andie’s attitude toward  interpersonal relationships grows throughout, and the ending hits a satisfactory note. However, the theme of taking chances is a cliché addition. Flowing from almost every YA work of fiction, either risk-taking must be present for a storyline to move or authors over-associate the idea with teenagers.

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Czech Mate


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Czech Mate, Book One of the International Missions Force

By: Felicia Bridges

Rating: 4 out of 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Christian

Read this if you enjoy: The River of Time Series by Lisa Bergen, The Young Women of Faith series by Nancy Rue

When her father finds an assistant professorship in Prague, Nicole Wise and her family follow God’s calling from America to the Czech Republic. Although Nicole is eager to share about Jesus’ love with her new friends, the reemergence of the Communist Party threatens their safety. After her parents are captured, her younger brother Adam and a young Romani man named Jakub must prove the Wise’s innocence.

The debut full-length novel Czech Mate by Felicia Bridges brings Prague to life with careful description, action, and a realistic heroine. Closing many of the chapters is a side story with features drawn from legend that deals with the consequences of pride and rash decisions. Nicole’s bravery inspires action as she works to save her parents and the lost Czech in her school. Her flaws align with a understandable fear of the unknown, and her strengths serve as a role model for any teen. In a similar manner to how a crime drama might lead one to investigate a career in criminal justice, this book has the ability to raise interest in foreign missions. The author’s passion for everyone to hear of God’s love flows throughout, as well as her trust in God’s omnipotence.  I look forward to seeing how both the author grows and the thread of the story continues in the upcoming sequel, Bolivia Knight.

I was able to meet with the author and attend a book launching party! Her blog is here:

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Her sequel, BolviaKnight is coming soon and I had the wonderful opportunity to write an endorsement for it: Emotional and tense, Bolivia Knight is an exciting read with unforgettable characters and a packed plot. Bridges weaves another story of courage and high-stakes adventure with snippets of legend in her latest installment to the International Missions Force Series. I loved immersing myself in Peter, Kasey, Hector, and Ranza’s world and would recommend this book to all ages!

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The Vanishing Season

Door Country, Wisconsin, seems quiet and dull to Chicago native Maggie after moving into a Victorian fixer-upper with her parents. But life takes an exciting turn once she meets Pauline, the lively and charismatic girl from the mansion next door. Mysterious disappearances, an unexpected love, and betrayal all lead to the startling conclusion of The Vanishing Season.

The Vanishing Season

By: Jodi Lynn Anderson

My Rating: 3 of 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Read this if you enjoy: The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, Fracture by Meghan Miranda, If I Stay by Gayle Foreman


I enjoyed this book so much that I read it all in one sitting. While the beginning was a bit mundane, the plot picked up at a tremendous pace with the introduction of conflict. Maggie is an intelligent, practical dreamer who does her best to hide her envy and appear optimistic. Pauline has it all-looks, money, and a boy who has always loved her. But her childlike manner hides discontentment and jealous of her own. The names “Maggie” and “Pauline” may sound outdated, but their characters are written with considerable depth. A love triangle eventually forms, but it to be unique, heartbreaking, and emotional engaging. It’s neither annoying nor cliche to me.

What I didn’t like about the book is often it felt too passive. Until the past few months, I haven’t read as many realistic fictions because sometimes it feels as if nothing actually happens. I should warn that the cover and inside blurb are misleading. With the exception of several pages in which a ghost wants to go toward the light, this is not a ghost story. I am also confused where the subplot about vanishing girls mentioned on the cover went! The whole missing persons idea could have been cut out. It doesn’t majorly affect the main characters, and the author stops writing about it two-thirds of the way through the book with no explanation. Although there are some changes I’d like to make to the book, the suspense and emotional complexity made it worthwhile reading.

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