Apr 08, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
At the suggestion of a colleague, I've read several books by Laurie Halse Andersen. First up was Teacher's Pet in the Vet Volunteers series (2000) in which the main character, who volunteered with her friends at a veterinary clinic, dreaded starting middle school. To Maggie's surprise, the teacher of her favorite subject, lost his vision and had a guide dog. This book gave  excellent insight into loss of sight and learning to work with a guide dog, as well as the learning difficulties that this young and highly-competent animal caregiver has, from assisting her vet grandmother. It was fast-paced and full of dramatic surprises. 
Next up was Saudi Arabia in the globe-trotters club series (2001) which taught me new things, even though it was hard to know how dated the information would be by now. Maybe I didn't realize how in traditional families, men work and socialize with men, and women with women. or that school children started classes at 6 a.m. in order to have a long lunch break during the heat of the day. 
{catalyst, (2002) was a surprising YA story about a high school student who was brilliant in chemistry and socially awkward. Her plan to get accepted into college didn't work out and crashed her fragile self-esteem, when a crisis in the community added to the chaos. She couldn't sleep, over-exercised and didn't eat regularly. This story gave good insight into high-school coping styles that have become all too common.