Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Books Read in 2008

Well, it's that time of year again, folks! In the back of my journal, I write down the title and author of every book I read. Once a year, I type it all up and post it where other people can see it and make fun of me for being a giant nerd. The books with *** at the beginning were my favorites. Many of these books I have blogged about, and I will hyperlink them... if you would like me to blog about a title that I haven't gotten to yet, let me know in the comments, and I will get right to it! Some of my favorites I haven't blogged about because they are a part of our Mock Printz event... stay tuned for comments about those books and that event!

Books Read in 2008


The Off Season—Catherine Murdock

*** Naomi and Eli’s No Kiss List—Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Milk Eggs Vodka—Bill Keaggy

Jinx—Meg Cabot

A Lifetime of Secrets—Frank Warren

It Had to Be You—Cecily von Zeigesar

*** Billie Standish was Here— Nancy Crocker

*** Your Own Sylvia—Stephanie Hemphill

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac—Gabrielle Zevin

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive—Alexander McCall Smith

Cupid—Julius Lester

Heaven Looks a lot Like the Mall—Wendy Mass

Plenty—Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

Carpe Diem—Autumn Cornwell


Girl 2 Girl—Julie Anne Peters

Such a Pretty Face—Ann Angel, ed.

Just in Case—Meg Rosoff

Such a Pretty Girl—Laura Weiss

Dear Author—Jean Kaywell, ed.

Chloe Doe—Suzanne Phillips

Beyond the Billboard—Susan Gates

Kat got Your Tongue—Lee Weatherly

Rhymes with Witches—Lauren Myracle

*** Tantalize—Cynthia Leitich Smith

A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life-- Dana Reinhardt


*** Sight—Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Elsewhere—Gabrielle Zevin

*** Freak Show—James St. James

The Invisible—Mats Wohl

Fendi, Ferragamo, and Fangs—Julie Kenner, Johanna Edwards, Serena Robar

Ironside—Holly Black

Skin—Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Sisters of Isis: the summoning—Lynne Ewing

*** The Spellbook of Listen Taylor—Jaclyn Moriety

The Almost Moon—Alice Sebold

Mixing It—Rosemary Hayes

The Poison Apples—Lily Archer

Teen Inc—Stefan Petrucha

Boy Toy—Barry Lyga

*** You Know Where to Find Me—Rachel Cohn


Lessons from a Dead Girl—Jo Knowles

*** Looking Glass Wars—Frank Beddor

Bounce—Natasha Friend

Kiss Me, Kill Me—Lauren Henderson

Prey—Lurlene McDaniels

*** Snitch—Allison van Diepen

This is What I Did—Ann Dee Ellis

Every Crooked Pot—Renee Rosen

Crimes of the Sarahs—Kristen Tracy

Feathered—Laura Kasischke


*** Lock and Key—Sarah Dessen

Once Upon a Time in the North—Philip Pullman

Seasons of Ice—Diane les Bequets

The Unspoken—Thomas Fahy

*** The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks—E. Lockhart

Project 17—Laurie Faria Stolarz

Anahita’s Woven Riddle—Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Adoration of Jenna Fox—Mary E. Peterson

Being—Kevin Brooks

*** Generation Dead—Daniel Waters

First Kiss, then Tell—Cylin Busby, ed.

*** Vampire Academy—Richelle Mead

All-in—Pete Hauseman


Little Brother—Cory Doctorow

13 Little Blue Envelopes—Maureen Johnson

Gauken Alice #1—Tachibana Higuchi

What I Was—Meg Rosoff

Give a Boy a Gun—Todd Strasser

*** Paper Towns—John Green

Rosewater and Soda Bread—Marsha Mehran

How to Be Bad—E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle

The Dead and the Gone—Susan Beth Pfeiffer


Dear Julia—Amy Bronwen Zemser

Body Drama-- Nancy Redd

Dream Girl—Lauren Mechling

Every Soul a Star—Wendy Mass

Jars of Glass—Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

*** The Host—Stephenie Meyer

Road of the Dead—Kevin Brooks

*** Vibes—Amy Kathleen Ryan

Blood Roses—Francesca Lia Block

Seeing Redd—Frank Beddor

*** Chains—Laurie Halse Anderson


Breaking Dawn—Stephenie Meyer

Bliss—Lauren Myracle

Boot Camp—Todd Strasser

Newes from the Dead—Mary Hooper

Deadly Little Secret—Laurie Faria Stolarz

*** Debbie Harry Sings in French—Meagan Brothers

Gone—Michael Grant

Appetite for Detention—Sloane Tanen

*** Wake—Lisa McMann

Frostbite—Richelle Mead


Cheated—Patrick Jones

The Carlyles—Cecily von Zeigesar

The Declaration—Gemma Malley

Ala Carte—Tanita S. Davis

*** Patron Saint of Butterflies—Cecilia Galante

Unraveling—Michelle Baklini and Lynn Biederman

After Tupac and D Foster—Jacqueline Woodson

Ridiculous/Hilarious/Terrible/Cool—Elisha Cooper

*** Living Dead Girl—Elizabeth Scott

Good Enough—Paula Yoo

Big Fat Manifesto-- Sarah Vaught

*** My Most Excellent Year—Steve Kluger

*** Madapple—Christina Meldrum


Cycler—Lauren McLaughlin

*** Skim—Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

*** Hunger Games—Suzanne Collins

The Luxe—Anne Godbersen

Rumors—Anne Godbersen

Seaborn—Craig Moodie

Girlwood—Claire Dean

Absolute Brightness—James Lecesne

Exodus—Julie Bertagna

The Truth about Chuck Norris—Ian Spector

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side—Beth Fantaskey

I Know it’s Over—C.K. Kelly Martin


Black Box—Julie Schumacher

*** As Simple as Snow—Gregory Galloway

Sprouted Baking—Janie Quinn

How They Met and other stories—David Levithan

The Good Neighbors—Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

Jellicoe Road—Melina Marchetta

Wicked Lovely—Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange—Melissa Marr

*** Marked—P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Chosen— P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Betrayed— P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Untamed— P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast


*** Spud—John van de Ruit

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone—Stephanie Kuehnert

Hero—Perry Moore

*** Graceling—Kristen Cashore

Let it Snow—John Green, Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson

Audrey, Wait!—Robin Benway

*** Pretty Monsters—Kelly Link

City of Bones—Cassandra Clare (still reading this one, but will update if it deserves ***)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Graceling-- Kristin Cashore

Usually I try not to blog about books that are already gaining lots of notoriety among librarians and other literary types, but in this case, I must spend some time on Graceling.

Truly, this has been a stellar year for those strong, tough, smart female characters that I love reading about. In fact, many of the books I recently have blogged about feature them. Graceling is no exception. Graceling takes place in a fantasy world, no not the kind with dwarfs and dragons, but in a world that feels slightly ancient, smaller, and just-different-enough from ours to be interesting. The protagonist, Katsa, is Graced. To be Graced is to be different, to be inordinarily skilled in some way, to be alltoghether unique in the world. Some people are graced with things like extraordinary swimming or climbing skills. Some can controll moods and read minds. Some can sence the weather. Katsa is an extremely skilled fighter. She never tires, never hungers, does not feel pain or cold, and never ever looses a fight. Ever. She is the neice of the King of the Midlunds and he sends her on assasination and coersion missions frequently. But when Katsa meets another Graceling who uses his skill in an entirely different way, her whole world is opened up and she looks at life with a totally new perspective.

I really appreciated many things about this book. It feels like a traditional fantasy novel, but doesn't repeat the same story over and over. There are scenes in this book that pull at your emotions and make you wonder what you would do if you were in that situation. I loved how fiercely Katsa defended her independance. Although it is expected of all women in Katsa's society to marry and procreate, Katsa ademently defends her rights to her body and life. I really apprecaited that subtext to the story because some fantasy books have slight underpinings of that type of traditionalism. The supporting characters were just as intriquing as Katsa, and I wouldn't mind reading entire books about them too!

I hear this is the start of a series, which makes me happy beacuse like a typical teenager, once I get into a story, I want to read more *just like it*. I would recommend this book to girls and boys who like fantasy, adventure, The Hunger Games, and Tamora Pierce books.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone-- Stephanie Kuehnert

I have met hundreds and hundreds of teenagers in my line of work and they all have one thing in common: they are passionate about music. Really. Ask ten teens what their favorite book is, and there will be a few who won't come up with anything. Ask them who their favorite singer/band is and they will struggle to narrow down their list.

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Huehnert is sure to be a hit with older teens... but make sure to get it into the right teens' hands. It's a brutally honest tale about Emily Black, a who grows up in nowheresville, Wisconsin. She was raised by her musician father and music is literally the driving force behind her life. Emily loses her virginity at 14, drunk, to a "rock-god" who ultimately disappoints her. Swearing to never feel powerless because of a man again, Emily forms her own punk-girl band, rocks harder, parties longer, and is more talented than any other musician on the scene. Although she is emotionally crippled by being abandoned by her mother as an infant, Emily trudges her way top and finds solace in the one thing that has never failed her: music.

I was really surprised by this book. I picked it up looking for a light read this weekend, but found it to be engrossing and ultimately a harder read than I thought. Reading about the abuse Emily puts up with, really does to herself, was challenging. I did feel drawn by the magnetic pull of an underground music scene, and there were times I wished the characters were real people so I could pull them out of the drug and sex induced coma they kept throwing themselves into. I think teen girls who like edgy fiction, music (especially punk), books about drugs, and strong female characters will like this book. I would recommend it to readers of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, punk rock bios, or other musical fiction.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Spud--John van de Ruit

I just can't help myself, I have to blog about another boarding school book. Help, I'm obsessed!

Spud is set in South Africa just as apartheid is coming to an end. John "Spud" Milton attends an all boys boarding school and we learn about his adventures with his dorm-mates, The Crazy Eight, through his witty, enticing, and thoroughly entertaining journal entries. We can live vicariously through his words as The Crazy Eight sneak out for night swims, go ghost-hunting, endure birthday hazings, dream about girls, endure zany professors and parents, and more. While this book was a bit of a slow start for me, I think teens will like it.

Throughout this book, I had this nagging feeling, like it reminded me of something but I couldn't put my finger on it. At the end, I realized: this book totally reminded me of the Dead Poets Society movie! And although thematically different from Looking for Alaska, Jellicoe Road, and What I Was, readers who enjoyed those books will also like this one. What makes Spud stand out to me, however, is the subtle messages about friendship, culture, and society that are told in Spud's journal entries. Still, what I like the best about this book was that it made me laugh out loud. I must have looked like a crazy person when I was reading this in a waiting room the other day.

This book would be good for both boys and girls, though older teens might get more out of it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange-- Melissa Marr

Ahhh, urban fantasy. There is more and more to choose from these days!

Wicked Lovely is a modern version of an old tale. You know, that old tale about a fairy king finding a mortal to be his queen etc etc. Holly Black wrote a version of this story in her novel Tithe a few years ago. Anyway, just like most retold folk and fairy tales, the story isn't new and usually there are many other retellings. The author just needs to make sure their version isn't too similar to everything else... or to the original story. In Wicked Lovely, Aislinn is one of the rare humans gifted with The Sight, aka she can see fairies. When the summer king claims her for his own, she has to make choices and sacrifices to preserve the existence of both the fairy and human races. Although the story was paced well and held my interest throughout, I kept feeling like I was reading a slightly tamed-down version of Tithe. I know there are many, many differences between these two books, but as a reader, I felt that I shouldn't be quite so reminded of Black's novel.

Ink Exchange, in my opinion, was better. I didn't *love* it, but I did hold my interest, and teens who are into urban fantasy and fairy stories will like it. The story felt fresher. Leslie, who was a minor character in Wicked Lovely, comes from a terribly broken home. Her father is an alcoholic, her brother is a drug dealer and abuses her, and she has to work as a waitress to bring in enough money to pay the household bills. Wanting something for herself, Leslie decides to get a tattoo. Little did she know that the tattoo artist is a halfling, and he tattooed her with an ink made of fairy blood, fairy tears, and shadows. Leslie is now intimately connected with the leader of the Dark Court, who is the enemy of her friend Aislinn (main character of Wicked Lovely), and has to fight for her autonomy once again.

Both books have strong female protagonists, and don't treat right and wrong like dichotomies. I like that Marr writes the "evil" characters in a multi-dimensional way. Also, there is a gritty edge to the books that adds to the overall ambiance.

I would recommend these books to teen girls (boys may like them too if they can get past the female protagonist thing) who like urban fantasy and/or books like: Charles de Lint's The Blue Girl, any Holly Black, Herbie Brennan's fairy books, O.R. Melling's The Summer King, any Francesca Lia Block, and Will Shetterly's Elsewhere and Nevernever.

P.S. Don't you just *love* the book covers?

Monday, December 1, 2008

House of Night Series-- P.C. and Kristin Cast

What am I thankful for? I am thankful that I got to spend the weekend following Thanksgiving reading books in the bathtub! Seriously, what could be better?

The series I couldn't get enough of was House of Night by mother-daughter team P.C. and Kristin Cast. There are four books currently published (Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed), and according to their website, there will be nine total in the series.

House of Night is the name of the series, but also the name of the boarding school Zoey Redbird attends. After being tracked by an adult Vampyre, Zoey has to leave her normal, human life behind and join the other fledgling vampyres at the House of Night, where vampyres get a crash course in what to expect when they officially go through the change (transitioning from human to vampyre). We soon find out that Zoey is more than just a normal fledgling. She is chosen by the Goddess Nyx to be her high priestess, and the Goddess has gifted Zoey with the power to harness the elements to accomplish her goals. This is not your typical vampire story, and I think it will appeal to Twilight fans.

What made this series enjoyable for me was the magic and religion that was present. The vampyres practice Wicca, and although they don't officially call it that, the presence of Wiccan traditions (like casting a circle, calling the elements, etc) are central to the plot. Usually Wicca and witchcraft are terribly misrepresented in teen fiction (Rhymes with Witches by Lauren Myracle anyone? Ug.) Although the main character Zoey got on my nerves a bit with her goody two-shoes attitude, it was great to read a story with a strong female main character who is a Goddess worshiper. This is not a work of fine literature, but teens will love this series. AND it's a perfect bathtub read.

I would recommend the House of Night series to teen girls who liked the Twilight series, Stolarz's Blue is for Nightmares series, stories about romance or friendship, or Wicca and vampires in general.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Off Topic: Twilight Movie

So I can't help myself... I have to post something about the Twilight movie.

First, I will say that I have read all the books and I'm not gonna lie to you... I love them. They are not lovely examples of fine writing, but the series has done for YA lit what Harry Potter did for children's lit; Twilight brought books into pop-culture, teen boys and girls alike are gaga for the books, and kids who have never read a book longer than 100-200 pages are eating up these l-o-n-g tomes.

I have been hearing so many people rip into this movie. I have a bunch of friends in their late 20s who feel like they have the inside scoop on what makes a movie great... you know the type. These are the people who like to sit around with a glass of wine and talk about how much better it would have been if (insert obscure director's name here) had directed it. They talk about how unrealistic it is, about how stupid the vampires' makeup looked, how cheesy some of the lines were, how wooden the acting was...

But do you know what I say? I say WHO CARES! Truly. I know it wasn't a perfect movie... heck it wasn't even a great movie. But neither were the books and that doesn't stop the YA Librarian and avid teen fiction reader in me from loving them! The movie really got one thing right: it will appeal to the target audience, TEENS. Teens in the theater were swooning at every appearance of Edward (actually my 26 year old sister was swooning too), they cheered during the baseball scene, they giggled when Bella and Edward were kissing. Some of the lines from the book have become almost a cult secret language; you know, the lion laid down with the lamb stuff. Even though it was cheesy on film, it was really important to fans of the book; I'm glad they left it in.

I am happy to hear that New Moon has been green-lighted. I truly hope they get a bigger budget for the film so the special effects are more believable. Also, as I live in the Pacific Northwest, I hope they continue filming it in our gorgeous location! What I hope the most, however, is that all the adults who are tearing Twilight into shreds go easier on New Moon. It's a teen movie! I'm definitely not saying that makes it less of an art, I am just saying you can't judge it with the same criteria you use for movies with an older target audience.

What did you think??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jellicoe Road-- Melina Marchetta

I finished reading Jellicoe Road about five days ago, but I have been waiting for some inspiration before I posted about it on my blog.

The inspiration hasn't really come to me yet.

Still, this was a GOOD BOOK. So I owe it some type of conversation, right? Then why can't I muster up excitement to spread the word about it? Hmmm.... anyway, about the book: Jellicoe Road takes place in Australia, at a boarding school. It is mostly narrated by Taylor, the protagonist, but the story of four teenagers who went to the Jellicoe School a generation prior is interspersed throughout the story. Taylor was abandoned by her drug addicted mother at a 7-11 on Jellicoe Road when she was very young. The school housemother, Hannah, took her in and raised her, yet somehow always kept her at arms length. Now a senior, Taylor is in charge of her dorm. She has been selected as the school's representative for the Territory Wars that happen ever year between the townies, boarding school students, and the cadets who participate in outdoor school/wilderness training on the Jellicoe School property. Even though she is supposed to be leading her school to victory, Taylor can't get past her mysterious family history, the emotions she feels toward Hannah and the leader of the Cadets, and her own personal drama.

Overall, this story is well-written and interesting, but somehow I don't see many teens being drawn to it. Taylor is a character teens might like, but the way Marchetta intersperses the secondary story of the four teens from the past gets a little fuzzy and confusing. Until about the last quarter of the book, the secondary story is not compelling and slows the pace of the book somewhat. That being said, I did enjoy this book (being a graduate of a boarding school high school, I always like reading books that take place in boarding schools) but would only recommend it to teens who are good readers and who like to really think about what they are reading. Teens who liked Marchetta's Saving Francesca, Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell, and maybe Green's Looking for Alaska and Rosoff's What I Was migh enjoy this book.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Black Box-- Julie Schumacher

Black Box is one of those books that adults want teens to read... and in this case, because of the cover art and the length (under 200 pages), I'll bet that teens actually pick this book up. Black Box is told from the perspective of Elena, but it's really a story about her sister Dora who is suffering from severe depression. Elena and Dora used to be inseparable before Dora became depressed, and Elena takes it upon herself to become her sister's guardian. After Dora attempts suicide, and her parents finally take her condition seriously, Elena is forced to rediscover her own identity. She needs to separate herself from her sister's condition, and find a way to love Dora without taking on her problems. Thanks to a surprisingly supportive relationship with the town screw-up, and to the strength she finds inside herself, Elena finds her way out of the dark place she traveled while absorbing the suffering of her sister Dora.

This story is a really honest portrayal of depression. Julie Schumacher worked hard to not overromanticize depression or falsely depict it for the sake of fiction. This is definitely not an uplifting story, but it has an honestly that teens will appreciate. I would recommend this book to teens who like real life stories about hardships growing up, maybe those who like Child Called It, Ellen Hopkin's books, even Go Ask Alice (yes teens still read this!!), or Vizzini'z It's Kindof a Funny Story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How They Met and other stories-- David Levithan

I am pretty picky when it comes to short stories... so many of them read like novels that didn't really work, so the author turned the piece into a short story. I was very pleased to find that David Levithan's collection was quite good. Levithan really seems to get what makes a short story appealing to readers. Even though some were more captivating than others, each story in How They Met had a unique tone and good character development. (My personal favorite was Starbucks Boy).

Levithan says at the beginning of this book that these are stories about love, not love stories. I would have to agree... love stories makes me think about romance, while stories about love makes me think of relationships. And, in each of his stories, relationships between friends, lovers, family, etc are the key element.

Although I am not a huge fan of his other work, with the notable exception of the two books he cowrote with Rachel Cohn (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Eli's No Kiss List), I can easily recommend this book with few reservations. Levithan is known for writing novels with gay characters, but this book talks about all types of relationships, including hetero and homosexual, and many things in-between. Because of this, I believe this short story collection will reach a wider variety of readers than some other collections I have read in the past.

Teens who liked Julie Anne Peters' Girl to Girl, Francesca Lia Block's Blood Roses, 21 Proms and This is Push: stories from the edge (both edited by Levithan), or Meg Cabot's Prom Nights from Hell should enjoy this book. I would also recommend How They Met to fans of Cohn and Levithan's cowriten novels, readers of romance in general, and readers who appreciate not-so-mainstream lovestories.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jessica's Guide to Datingon the Dark Side-- Beth Fantaskey

I wonder if I am going to get hate-comments about this post.

What can I say about Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side? Apparently most of the librarians on my listserves just love this book. I, however, did not love it. It is all trendy YA themes lumped into a novel: Vampires? Check. Embarrassing hippy parents? Got 'em. Slutty BFF? Yup. Weak and annoying heroine who becomes strong and self-assured at the end thanks to a man? Right here!

Maybe I am just spoiled because I have read so many good books for our Mock Printz event recently, but the last few books I have read just aren't wowing me.

Still, teens who haven't grown sick of over-played YA themes might want to take a bite outa this book (the puns, the puns, they're killing me!). I would recommend this book to teen girls who enjoy vampire fiction, specifically vampire fiction like: Fendi, Ferragamo, and Fangs, Dating for Demons, Dead is the New Black, the Mary Janice Davidson vampire books, etc.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Exodus-- Julie Bertagna

It is the year 2100. The polar icecaps have almost completely melted. The world entire world, with the exception of the tallest mountain peaks, is covered with water. And somehow, 15 year old Mara Bell must save her people from certain death as global warming has caused flooding on her tiny northern island, Wing, and there is literally no where to go but onto the open water. Mara and only one boat-load of her people arrive at New Mungo, a towering city in the sky built on what was previously known as Glasgow. However, New Mungo does not accept refugees, and they are stranded with the other poor and abandoned folks below the city. Mara, and the allies she makes called Treenesters, must somehow infiltrate New Mungo to save the poor, the young, and the refugees.

In theory, this an interesting book. With global warming affecting our climate, habitats, and yes our polar icecaps, the background for this novel is quite believable. However, the author does not give readers enough character or plot development to really entice them. Mara forms these incredibly strong bonds with people in a matter of hours, and the reader is left feeling unsure about why she would potentially sacrifice her life for them. Also, the things that are most interesting in post-apocalyptic stories like this one were totally left out. We don't really learn about how the people survived, how they built New Mungo, etc. When Mara does enter New Mungo, the technology is mind-blowing, but Bertagna does not describe it in a satisfactory way. There is nothing about this book that hasn't been done better in other books for teens.

Still, as it wasn't a terrible book, and teens might find it more interesting than I did, I would recommend it to teens who enjoyed the following books for the reasons listed:

For teens who like...
  • the weather setting of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew it and The Dead and the Gone
  • the cool hoverboard scenes in Westerfeld's Uglies books
  • the technology vs. primitive living that collided in Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games
  • the kids take the lead in crisis themes in Michael Grant's Gone

Be warned... the books I listed above as read-similars for Exodus will probably be enjoyed more by teen readers that Exodus will be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Truth about Chuck Norris-- Ian Spector

So I have a funny story to share with you. Recently I observed a Young Adult Advisory Board (YAAB) meeting at one of our branch libraries. The YAAB leader, Holly, is much loved by this group of about 20 teens, but they tend to get a little rowdy, especially after soda and candy. Holly often has to shout to be heard over their not-so-dull roar, and at this most recent meeting, one of her loyal YAAB teens decided to interviene on her behalf. The teen stood up on her chair and shouted "Give Holly the respect you would give Chuck Norris!!" and instantly it was silent in the room. I couldn't believe it! The teens not only knew who Chuck Norris was, but they *LOVE* him. Apearantly, all the teens had read this book, The Truth about Chuck Norris: 400 facts about the world's greatest human. According to this branch library's YAAB group Chuck Norris is the funniest, awesomest topic that anyone could ever discuss. Has anyone else experienced this Chuck Norris phenomena?

And after that meeting, I figured I better read the book myself. Here are a few "facts" listed in the book for your reading pleaseure. Most of the entries in the book revolve around these four topics: Chuck Norris's beard, his genetailia, roundhouse kicks, and sex. Just a warning: some are pretty tasteless/offensive (by which I mean totally funny to teenagers and to this librarian who thinks like a teen).

"Chuck Norris's dog is trained to clean up it's own poop because Chuck Norris will not take shit from anyone."

"The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain."

"When Chuck Norris was denied a McGriddle at McDonald's because it was 10:35, he roundhouse kicked the store so hard it became Wendy's."

"Chuck Norris can impregnate women with only a glance. He can also do this to men."

"Chuck Norris eats coal and shits diamonds."

"When he is alone at night, Chuck Norris likes to wear slippers with bunnies on them. Real live bunnies."

"If you drop a phonograph needle on Chuck Norris's nipple, it plays the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds."

"There are three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way, and the Chuck Norris Way. The Chuck Norris Way is the same as the wrong way, but with more roundhouse kicks."

"Chuck Norris's beard has a representitive in congress."

"Chuck Norris is so American, he can eay tyranny and shit apple pie."

"Ozzy Osborne once bit the head off a bat. Not to be outdone, Chuck Norris then bit the head off of Batman."

"Rosa Parks refused to get out of her seat because she was saving it for Chuck Norris."

And my personal favorite...

"Rainbows are what happen when Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks Richard Simmons."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Absolute Brightness-- James Lecesne

Have you ever read a book jacket that gave away such a crucial plot point, it made you wonder what else could possibly happen that was more significant? Absolute Brightness tells you right off the bat that the boy pictured on the cover, Leonard, disappears in a tragic way. Somehow, knowing in advance that it was going to happen made the anticipation while reading the book even stronger.

Phoebe is living on the Jersey Shore with her beautician mother and sister Deirdre who is recovering from sexual abuse. Although life is not easy on their family, the three women are managing to find their own way. Phoebe is a magenta haired, vocal black sheep in her family, until Leonard shows up and slightly displaces her spotlight. Leonard is Phoebe and Deirdre's cousin, and he comes to live with them after his mother dies and no one else will take him in. Leonard is instantly loved by the elderly women who frequent Phoebe's mother's beauty shop, and despite some ingrained homophobia, the community begins to really accept Leonard and his colorful personality. Meanwhile, Phoebe finds herself a bit lost, and blames Leonard for it. She ends up with the wrong kind of guy (REALLY wrong) and does everything she can to just make Leonard disappear from her life... until he really does. And it's only after Leonard is gone that she realizes how much love and respect he had for her... and how much she had for him.

Absolute Brightness was quite well written, and although there were times that I felt the plot could have moved a little faster, I was very invested in the characters and outcomes of each of their stories. This book does not shy away from tough topics, and really focuses on the idea that ethics and morals are not a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. The author raises tough questions, and whether readers agree with Lecesne's assertions, they will be drawn in by his storytelling.

I would recommend this book for both guys and girls who enjoy mysteries like those written by Kevin Brooks or Carol Plum-Ucci. It would also be good for teens who like to ponder ethical decision-making and want to read stories about middle class people rather than the influx of rich kid books we have been seeing recently.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girlwood-- Claire Dean

One of my favorite school librarians once told me that she always reads the author bio before she starts a book. Inspired by her, before reading Girlwood, I decided to check out Claire Dean's brief bio in the back of her book. This is what it says:

Claire Dean writes from a bright green house behind an ever-growing garden in Idaho. She was inspired to write Girlwood for her daughter who asked for a story about good stuff. "When I asked her what she meant, she said, 'You know, about hope and magic and fairies and girls.' Good stuff indeed."

I don't know why, but that really touched me... it made me really excited to read the book. Okay, enough with the sap, on to the book.

Girlwood takes place in Idaho in a town that was once on the edge of a massive forest. Developers are clearcutting in order to make room for million dollar houses, and Polly and her grandmother Baba are doing everything they can to stop this. When Polly's sister Bree runs away, Polly and Baba are convinced she is living in the woods. There is subtle magic throughout the book... Dean alludes to fairies and dryads; Polly can see auras, her Baba is a healer, and her friend Olivia can talk to wolves. Still, even with the subtle magic and supernatural references, I would consider this book to be realistic fiction. There is something quite moving about the way Polly and Baba care for the trees and the forest, and reading this book made me want to run outside and climb the tallest tree I could find.

This book reminded me of Madapple, which I read for our Mock Printz event but didn't blog about because I want to let your opinions be uninfluenced by moi. The protagonists of both Madapple and Girlwood have great knowledge of wild plants and their uses, both for physical and spiritual healing. Also, in both books, each chapter starts with a brief description of an herb, flower, or tree, and lists the folklore and the healing properties of each plant.

Although Girlwood wouldn't make my list of favorite books of 2008, nor was it incredibly well written, I quite liked it, and would be happy to pass it on to teen girls. It would be appropriate for a wide range of ages; I would say 12-18 even though Polly is only 13 years old. Girls who like books about magic (especially earthbased magic like Wicca, not the Hollywood-witchcraft-magic type stuff), nature, stories about friendship, stories set in the Northwest, and elementals like fairies, should enjoy this book.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seaborn-- Craig Moodie

What is more peaceful than sailing the Atlantic Ocean on a calm summer day, sketching, and listening to seabirds calling? In Seaborn, Luke and his father escape their familial chaos by leaving land behind and sailing their rig along the east coast of the United States. In order to prolong their distraction from real life and the mainland, Luke's father proposes that they find the Gulf Stream and head toward open ocean. When the weather suddenly turns for the worst, and Luke's father is thrown overboard by enormous crashing waves, Luke finds himself alone and sailing a badly damaged boat in the middle of a tropical storm. Luke's survival is in his own hands, and somehow he must find a way to be rescued.

Seaborn has a great premise... teens eat this kind of survival-natural disaster fiction up. However, I was disappointed in the execution of the plot. Moodie spent way too much time setting the story up. Almost 3/4 of the book takes place before the big storm hits. The reader only gets a few chapter's worth of Luke's survival efforts, and the story wraps itself up very tidily and quickly. The most interesting and compelling part of the story for teens (and for this reader who had the mind of a teen!) is how Luke fixes his boat, finds food to eat, and searches for rescue. All the set-up about Luke's family and friends back home do nothing to entice the reader, and don't even tie into the events that conclude the book.

Still, even though I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I would recommend it to teens who liked Life as We Knew It, books by Will Hobbs and Gary Paulsen, and books about boats and sailing. This book would probably be enjoyed mostly by boys and is appropriate for tweens as well as teens.

The Luxe and Rumors-- Anna Godbersen

One of my librarian friends once admitted to me that Anna Godbersen's Luxe series is her guilty reading pleasure. As I am all about guilty pleasure reading, I thought I would give the series a try. I am currently on hold for the third book in this series, Envy, but I read The Luxe and Rumors this weekend.

The Luxe takes place in the very late 1800s, right at the turn of the century. The series is set in New York City and is told from the perspective of four characters: sisters Elizabeth and Diana from an old-money family, their lady's maid Lina, and a nouveau riche socialite, Penelope, who lets nothing stand in the way of her desires. While not extraordinarily well written, the story is compelling enough to keep readers turning those pages. The Luxe ends with a cliffhanger that leads nicely into the next books.

I appreciated a few things about these books... first, I am glad there is a series about socialites that isn't so sex-designers-drugs-booze, etc. I personally enjoyed the Gossip Girl series when I read it a few years ago, but have a hard time recommending it to teens in our more conservative communities. The Luxe still has the scandal and intrigue, but is much more of a clean read than Gossip Girl. Also, The Luxe brings in the historical fiction aspect, giving it a wider readership.

I would recommend The Luxe series for readers of Gossip Girl, The A List, The Clique, The It Girl, anyone who likes a rags-to-riches story, and those who enjoy historical fiction/romance. I would even recommend it to teens who enjoy Jane Austen, but are looking for a beach and bathtub read rather than a classic novel.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cycler-- Lauren McLaughlin

I really, really wanted to like this book.

But I didn't. *sigh*

Jill is a stereotypical high school girl. She is obsessed with prom, engages in witty banter with her delightfully artsy best friend Ramie, feels misunderstood by her father, and strives to get straight As. Oh, there is one thing that really differentiates her from all the other girls... once a month, for four days, Jill turns into a boy named Jack. The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Jill and Jack.

So, the premise is simple, maybe not super original (anyone remember the 1980's "Classic" Willy/Milly?), but still interesting. The book itself however, was a major disappointment. First, the book opens with an fairly graphic description of Jill physically turning into Jack. I am not at all squeamish or prudish, but the opening scene made me want to put the book down, which is really the opposite reaction an author wants a reader to have! Also, Jack's character was so one dimensional, I had a hard time getting through his chapters. The most disturbing portion of the book was when Ramie let a boy she caught spying on her through her bedroom window into her house and had sex with him... without even knowing his name, let alone all the other things one hopes people talk about before having sex for the first time.

However, the biggest issue I take with this book is the slightly homophobic undertone it has. I do think that Lauren McLaughlin really did not intend for it to be there; actually I think she tried really hard to make it *not* homophobic. Still, there was a bit of stereotype perpetuation and I feel she used sexuality to solve the plot problem she created for herself when she wrote a character who is biologically a cycling hermaphrodite. Maybe I am taking it all too seriously, but I think teens who are sensitive to this type of pigeonholing will pick up on it too.

Overall, I must say this is one of the most disappointing books I have read in months... but still, as always, I'll bet I can find many teens who would enjoy this book. That's one thing I love about giving books to teens... most of the time they aren't looking for fine literature, and really just want an interesting story. I would give this book to girls who like light reading, romance, and comedy... maybe girls who enjoyed E. Lockhart's Fly on the Wall (a much better book IMHO). Be sure to keep your audience in mind when recommending this book because Jack's sections are full of masturbation and porn references.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mock Printz Tralaalaa

Many libraries host Mock Printz Award workshops, and this year my library district will host one too! Thanks to the interest and encouragement of local media specialists, I am happy to coordinate this event. A school librarian and I compiled a list of ten titles that we feel are contenders for the Printz Award. If you need more info about the Printz, check out ALA's site. (Although I am hearing they are having trouble with their site, so if the link doesn't work try again later...)

Because we worked on this list as a team, there are a few titles that I have not read... so I have been busily reading those books. Since I don't want to sway anyone's opinion of these books before we engage in our Mock Printz workshop, I have been refraining from blogging about them. However, I thought I could at least post our list so you can see what I have been reading. Hey, maybe we can have our own mini-Mock Printz workshop over the internets!

FVRL's Mock Printz Reading List

The Hunger Games-- Susanne Collins
Little Brother-- Cory Doctorow
Newes from the Dead-- Mary Hooper
My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park-- Steve Kluger
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks-- E. Lockhart
Madapple-- Christina Meldrum
The Adoration of Jenna Fox-- Mary E. Pearson
Skim-- Miriko Tamaki
After Tupac and D Foster-- Jacqueline Woodson
Good Enough-- Paula Yoo

Extra Credit: Paper Towns-- John Green (we made this one extra credit because we absolutely could not come to an agreement about whether it should be on the Mock Printz list or not... so we decided to let others make the reading decision!)

Full disclosure: I have already blogged about a few of these titles before we chose them for the list... so just ignore those old posts if you are going for the unbiased approach to this exercise! I do have some favorites on the list, and I do have my opinions on which are actual contenders for the award and which just round out the list nicely... if you really want to know my secret top three, I'll tell you (but you'll have to burn the note after you read it...)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living Dead Girl-- Elizabeth Scott

Without a doubt, this is the most gut-wrenching, painful book I have read this year. Maybe ever...
I had nightmares last night after I finished it... not because it was gory or gruesome in the way some YA horror can be, but because I know abuse like what is portrayed in Scott's novel exists in this world... which makes it much scarier than a ghost story.

Living Dead Girl is told by 15 year old "Alice". She was abducted when she was in elementary school on a field trip, and has been help captive by Ray, a man who abuses her in every way imaginable. Because he prefers her to look young, he literally starves her, makes her wear the same frilly nightgowns she wore when she was a small child, and goes through drastic measures to stave off her puberty. Ray murdered his last "Alice" when she was 15, and the current Alice, the protagonist of this story, considers herself a living dead girl: not only is she totally dead inside because of years and years of horrific torture, but she knows that any day now she will be murdered to make room for a new and younger "Alice".

As you can tell from the plot summary, this book addresses some serious issues (sexual abuse, kidnapping, pedophilia, etc). However, the most powerful parts of this novel come from Alice's descriptions of the way other people treat her. When she goes into the esthetician for her full body waxing, the esthetician can see all the bruises on her starved body. Does she reach out to help her? No. Alice talks about how the people in her apartment building just look the other way, and on the bus they would rather see right through her than help her.

It made me think about how many people exist in our society that are just waiting for one person to offer them help... just one person to help them navigate their way from hell back to earth again. Then, on the way to work, I heard a special on NPR about Oregon's statute on limitations on child molestation and got angry all over again...

This is a powerful, horrifying, extremely well written book. It is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big Fat Manifesto-- Sarah Vaught

Is it just me, or does it seem like there is a rise in books about teens with alternative body types? Maybe I am just noticing them more... but it seems like the eating disorder fiction trend has swung a bit from the anorexia-bulimia bend to an overweight-chubby-obese focus. Honestly, I think teens will want to read both types of books, and "issues" fiction has always been popular with the teens I see.

Big Fat Manifesto is a well written book about a girl named Jamie who is fat. She prefers the term fat, and she isn't just a bit overweight... she is at least 300 pounds and comes from a family who is also dealing with weight issues. She is a journalist and starts a column in the school paper to speak honestly about what life is like when you are physically larger than most of the population. Jamie is popular, has a boyfriend, and is an actress (though only gets to play the villain or "character" roles). Jamie's open, honest, blunt, and slightly bitchy voice is really what makes this book enjoyable. Also, there are some heart-wrenching scenes where the reader can really understand how hard life can be when you don't fit into furniture (like the desks at the ACT testing center or airplane seats), clothes (everything in 4X is designed for old ladies), or your friend's car.

Vaught doesn't not glamorize obesity, but she does a great job of making someone who is not obese understand the emotional issues that might go along with being overweight. In our thin-fascinated American (world?) culture, it is easy to poke fun at overweight folks, all in the guise of concern (health! stress on resources! diabetes!). I would be interested in hearing what teens think about this book. As an aside, it is nice to read a book with a severely overweight character who is not 100% ostracized from all things normal... Jamie has friends and a boyfriend, which is not a common thing in other books like this.

Just because:

Here is a brief list of fiction about teens with body issues... overweight, underweight, eating disorders etc. Got some to add? Let me know!

Large and Small: a short booklist of eating disorder fiction


Fat Kid Rules the World-- K.L. Going

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes-- Chris Crutcher

Big Fat Manifesto-- Sarah Vaught

Vibes-- Amy Kathleen Ryan

The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things-- Carolyn Mackler


Mercy, Unbound-- Kim Antieau

Skin-- Adreinne Maria Vrettos

Skinny-- Ibi Kaslik

Lovesick-- Jake Coburn

How I Live Now-- Meg Rossof

Perfect-- Natasha Friend

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Patron Saint of Butterflies-- Cecilia Galante

I'm not sure why, but I kind of have a fascination with religious cults... they are interesting to me for some reason, and this is why I picked up an ARC for The Patron Saint of Butterflies while at ALA this summer.

This novel is told from two perspectives: Agnes and her cousin Honey. Agnes truly believes that if she is good enough, she will be a saint one day. She performs horrifying acts of self-torture to punish herself for sins like running, going outside on a holy day, and little white lies. She totally believes the message of the cult leader, Emmanuel, and respects him more than anyone but God. Honey however, has been viciously abused by the leaders of their cult and dreams of escaping one day. She was abandoned by her mother when she was a baby, and knows no other life than Mount Blessing. One day something terrible happens, and Honey and Agnes find themselves at one of life's crossroads: escape to the secular world rift with sin and temptation, or stay at Mount Blessing and endure the punishments doled out by Emmanuel.

Together, their story is rich and full of different perspectives. The author, Cecilia Galante, grew up in a religious cult similar to Mount Blessing, where Agnes and Honey live. When I read that bit about the author, I wasn't surprised, because she treats the cult context with transparent honesty and respect, but definitely not reverence. It bothers me when authors demonize an institution totally, because in real life, there is almost always some good and some bad in everything... nothing is 100% pure or 100% evil. I liked that Galante alluded to some of the positive aspects of communal living as well.

I would recommend this book to girls (boys might like it too, but the book is notably female character driven) who like duel narratives, stories about religious experience, or tales of overcoming obstacles. It is definitely clean, realistic fiction, but people with strong conservative religious backgrounds /may take offense to the negative portrayal of some aspects of Mount Blessing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cheated-- Patrick Jones

Sometimes your parents let you down. Sometimes your teachers, friends, even the police let you down. And sometimes, you even let yourself down.

At the root, this is the basic message of Cheated by Patrick Jones. This novel tells about Mick, a high school boy with only a couple of friends and parents who consistently let him down. First his dad cheats on his mom and when Mick catches him, his father makes him swear not to tell his mother. Then, in a drunken fog, Mick cheats on the only bright spot in his life: his girlfriend Nicole. When Mick and his only two friends (one who has a major violence problem, and the other who is a pathological liar with a screwed up family) commit a horrific crime while drunk, Mick has to make a difficult choice. Does he tell the truth and save himself, or does he remain loyal to the only people he feels really care about him: his friends.

Overall, I think this is a book teenage boys will enjoy. It is a little to simplistic and underdeveloped for my personal taste, but sometimes teens appreciate a straight-forward book like this. One thing that did really bother me about this book is that all the adults are portrayed extremely negatively... it is just too one sided and unrealistic. I am sure Jones was trying to write the adult characters through a teen's eyes, but it made the book flat and one dimensional for me.

I would recommend this book to teen boys who want stories about kids who commit crimes, are social outcasts, or are incarcerated. Don't laugh! I get requests for books about those topics all the time, belive it or not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sorry about the font colors!

OK I get it now!

Someone told me that the font colors I have been using are really hard to read... and I was confused because in order for them to show on a black background, I have to use light colors. Anyway, as a test I subscribed to my own blog on bloglines, and sure enough, it transfers over my font colors!

I am going to work on finding a way that my text shows on both black and white backgrounds! Sorry for all the eyestrain!

Debbie Harry Sings in French-- Meagan Brothers

Debbie Harry Sings in French? What an awesome book title, wish I'd come up with it! ;-)

In this book, the main character, Johnny, is a recovering alcoholic... and he is still in High School. After his father dies, Johnny finds solace in bottle after bottle of booze. After he nearly overdoses on a lethal combo of drugs and alcohol, his mother sends him to rehab, and then on to live with his uncle. While in rehab, a girl give Johnny a Blondie mix tape... and Johnny becomes obsessed with Debbie Harry (lead singer of Blondie). She becomes his strength. Whenever he is tempted to take a drink of alcohol, he imagines that he is Debbie Harry-- strong, tough, hot, ass-kicking, confident, and beautiful in that hard rock-n-roll way. It's not that Johnny is in love with Debbie Harry... he wants to BE Debbie.

Johnny is adapting well to his new life with his uncle. He even falls for a girl, Maria, who encourages his Debbie preoccupation. For me, this is why the book is so good. Even though Johnny enjoys cross-dressing, his girlfriend is not threatened by this. Of course, there are times in the book where her faith wavers, but the main story this book tells is that just because a person explores gender roles, it does not mean they are gay. I really think this is a common misconception... many people assume that a man who is dressing like a woman is gay (or a woman dressing as a man). This often not the case. Cross-dressing is more about gender then it is about sexuality, and this book does an excellent job in clarifying that misconception while wrapping the "lesson" in a really compelling and engaging story.

Can you tell I really enjoyed this book? P.S. The non-book cover image is a photo of Blondie (Debbie is the hot blond of course) just so you can get a feel for the look Johnny is going for...

I would recommend this book to teens who enjoyed Julie Anne Peters' Luna or Ellen Wittlinger's Parrotfish.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gone-- Michael Grant

Rarely do I find a book that I could recommend to teens of any age and gender. However, Gone by Michael Grant is one of them. Grant is the coauthor of the popular children's series "Animorphs", but this book is decidedly teen.

In Gone, a giant impermeable dome surrounds the Perdido Beach area of California... but even more alarming is the fact that all people over the age of 14 have disappeared. They literally vanished, all at once, and never returned. Gone is the story of the children who were left behind, how they cope with a world without adults, and the micro-society they form. And, on top of everything else, some of the kids have developed superpowers, like shooting fire out of their hands, superfast speed, and super strength. However, not just the kids are developing powers. Animals are mutating too, and are becoming more dangerous to humans every day. How did this happen? How will they all survive?

While the book is decidedly science fiction (superpowers and an altered universe, hello?), it actually reads very realistically. There are both male and female main characters, although the story is narrated by a boy, and I feel both boys and girls would be interested in it. It is definitely a clean read, and there were places where the author could have dirtied it up a bit and chose not to. It is kind-of a newer, hipper, more scientific, and more full of adventure Lord of the Flies. I would recommend this book to any teen within the 12-19 age bracket. Also, I just learned this will be a 6 part series, and the newest book will be published each summer. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Appetite for Detention-- Sloane Tanen

Who says that picture books are for kids?? Over the years, there have been many picture book style books for teens, but Appetite for Detention was particularly fun to read. Sloane Tanen has written a bunch of similar books for children, but this title is definitely for a teen audience. What makes this book so fun is the contrast between the pictures and the text are particularly good.

When you see fluffy little chicks you don't usually think about Juicy Couture handbags, eating disorders, depression, the SATs, gym glass, detentions, school dances and kisses.
I recommend picking up this book and perusing the pictures. In order for teens to find it, it will need to be on display or pointed out to them by a library staff person. I think teens who are looking for a fun, super-quick lighthearted read will enjoy this.