Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm Outa Here! (Briefly)

Hey y'all!

Just wanted to let you know that this will be my last until January... I am taking off for the sunny land of Thailand, and won't be blogging while gone.

Cheers, and I'll be back in 2010!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson-- John Green and David Levithan

Meet Will Grayson: He's the quiet almost-but-not-quite popular kid whose BFF Tiny is the biggest, gayest force in his small world. Will Grayson, his crush Jane, and Tiny take off for Chicago to catch an amazing band. When Will Grayson's fake ID doesn't work, he's reduced to passing the time in a very unlikely place...

Meet Will Grayson: He's the kid in all black, on antidepressants, and a closeted gay guy in love with his internet boyfriend Isaac. When Isaac proposes they meet IRL, Will Grayson travels to Chicago and finds the proposed meeting place, which is a very unlikely location...

Will Grayson stumbles upon the other Will Grayson... and when two universes collide, all kinds of unlikely things start to happen. Throw in some unrequited love, musical theater, lies, and recovery and you have this story. It's told in chapters narrated by alternating Will Graysons and each have a distinct voice and personality.

I enjoyed this book. It's a quick read and thankfully the concept of the two Will Graysons doesn't wear on the reader. The end was a little cheesy, but hey, you can't have it all, right? I would recommend this book to teens who like coming of age type stories, other books by either of the authors, positive coming out stories, or quirky concept type books.

This book will be published in April 2010.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beautiful Creatures-- Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan Wate dreams of the day he can kiss his sleepy southern town goodbye. His mother died last year, his depressed father literally never leaves his study, and the family housekeeper Ama is getting crazier by the moment. When beautiful outsider Lana moves to town, Ethan can't get her out of his mind. Ama warned him to stay far away from Lana and her family, but Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her.

When I say Ethan can't get Lana out of his head, I truly mean that. They have a strange telepathic connection, and from the moment he meets her, Ethan's life is totally changed. He no longer cares about being popular, being a basketball star, or any of his friends except his BFF Link. Add in some voodoo, Daughters of the Revolution, magic, and graves and you've got Beautiful Creatures.

I'm kind of torn about this book. On one hand, I did enjoy it, and there will likely be a sequel which I will likely read. On the other hand, it was advertised as a southern gothic book, and while it was indeed southern, I felt it was a bit lacking in the gothic part. Either way, I would recommend this book to teen girls who are into the whole supernatural fiction thing, especially if they want books about witches.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hush, Hush-- Becca Fitzpatrick

Well, there's one good thing I can say about this book... I've finally found a read-alike for Twilight that has the same stalkerish boyfriend, inexplicable draw, and kindof sub-par writing.

Is that mean to say?

Nora is peeved to learn that she has a new Biology partner... weirdo (but hottie) Patch has been assigned to her and seems to know everything about her. Even though she is afraid of him, Nora finds herself strangely attracted to him. When horrible accidents keep occurring, Nora finally has to admit that she is in over her head... but is Patch to blame for all the attacks, or is a darker force at work?

So this is a supernatural fiction love story. While Patch is no Edward Cullen (and he's a fallen angel, not a vampire), the same teens who liked Twilight will probably like Hush, Hush. Honestly though, I think Twilight was better. Personally, I struggled with this book. I really hope that Twilight has not spawned a whole group of stalker boyfriend romances... Twilight was pretty innocent, but Nora often fears for her safety with Patch, which takes on a much more sinister twist. Some people are saying this book is a read-alike for the (far superior) Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare... but I think the only resemblance is the whole angel on earth thing. Still, the cover's pretty cool, huh?

Viola in the Reel World-- Adriana Trigiani

What happens when your documentary filmmaker parents take off for a year in Afghanistan? You have to leave your Brooklyn home behind and spend a year in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere: South Bend, IN.

Viola is never seen without a camera in hand. She views life through the lens of a digital video camera, and will one day be a famous filmmaker. Settling into dorm life isn't easy, especially when only child Viola has to share a room with three other girls. But when she finally puts her prejudices aside and really starts living her life, Viola finds that friendship is powerful... maybe just as powerful as a really excellent movie.

I found this book to be pleasant, but not groundbreaking in any way. It's a great read-alike for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants readers, or really any girl who wants a clean book about friendships. I was bored by the way the plot threads easily wrapped up, but teens might appreciate that they weren't left hanging at the end of the book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Steal a Car-- Pete Hautman

Well, I guess I can say this book will be great for reluctant readers... but I didn't really like it much myself.

How to Steal a Car is about Kelleigh's foray into auto theft... sortof. For reasons not made clear to the reader, Kelleigh decides to rebel against her parents. First, she "steals" and returns her father's Lexus. Then so moves on to her neighbor's Caddy, etc. Finally she hooks up with drop out Markus and he decides to pay her to steal some nice cars out of a parking lot.

And that's basically the whole story.

Ok, sure, there are more plot details than I am describing, but so much is left out... and the stuff that's missing is what would make the novel compelling. The characters are flat, I can't find any motivation for rebellion or dissatisfaction, and the main character Kelleigh is sortof annoying... not a good combo.

Still, this book could be good for the reluctant reader, especially girls, and is a nice nongirly book for the most part.

Breathless-- Jessica Warman

I have to admit that I love this cover. Something about those underwater shots always grab me. Anyway, on to the book!

Katie's family wasn't always rich. They used to live in a cottage, hang out together, and be a "real family." But as her father started to make more money, he became more controlling... her mother in now an alcoholic, and her brother suffers from drug induced schizophrenia. When he tries to kill himself, Katie's father decides to ship her off to boarding school rather than deal with a family embarrassment... and her brother is shipped off to a mental institution.

Swimming has always been Katie's escape. When the captain of the swim team at her new school asks Katie what her best swimming stroke is, Katie shrugs and says all of them... and it's true. We follow Katie as she succeeds at swimming, but basically fails at the rest of her life. Compelling supporting characters, like her roommate Mazzie and her brother Will, really round out the story. I was tricked into thinking this was going to be another one of those rich girl boarding school books, but it's not... it goes deeper than that and teen readers will likely become engrossed in Katie's struggles.

I would recommend this to teen girls who like family dramas, boarding school books, stories that include lots of teen partying, and sports (swimming especially).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Andromeda Klein-- Frank Portman

Yes, I've finally done it.

I finally finished reading Andromeda Klein. So, I've kinda had a bad attitude about this book... I wanted it to grab me from the beginning (it didn't). I wanted it to be compelling (it wasn't). I wanted to like the protagonist (I did. YAY. Small victories.)

So, I read the first two hundred pages on breaks, on the elliptical machine, in line at the grocery, you know all those places where you need to distract yourself from reality a little bit. That wasn't the best way to read this book. Last week I needed to drive to a library branch that is over 2 hours away, each direction, so I listened to the book on CD. And that's when I really started to like it.

Andromeda Klein is a teenage occultist. NOT a wicker girl (wiccan) or a bacon (pagan). She works at the the international house of bookcakes (library), sneaks her dead BFF's little brother bagel worm agony (girly mags) in exchange for some of her weegie (spooky and magical) possessions. After some consumption of christmas trees (gin martinis), she meets a boy who's an emogeekian (emo occultist) and at the urging of Huggy, (her holy gaurdien angel otherwise known as alterverse AK) Andromeda agrees to take Byron the emogeekian on as a neophyte as long as he helps her save the library books from the sylvester mouse list (aka extra hours weeding list).


So you can see why this book was a struggle at first. It's told from Andromeda's perspective, so you have to really get used to her special lexicon in order to understand what the heck she's talking about at all. Also, there are hundreds of pages of Andromeda's perspective on all things occult. As a person who has a decent amount of knowledge on such topics, even I was pretty floored by the sheer mass of it all. Still, there was something charmingly compelling about this book, and no matter how much I wanted to toss it out the window, I just kept coming back to it. And, when listening to the audio, the lexicon isn't as much of a struggle and the funny party came shining through. So yay! I've officially read all of the Mock Printz books for this year!

I would recommend this book to... um...well... that precocious teen who won't stray from the 133s who is obsessed with all things occult and doesn't mind dense reading. I'm sure there's one or two out there, right?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Destroy All Cars-- Blake Nelson

Anyone looking for a slightly humorous and slightly delusional alternaboy saving the world book? Cuz I've got one for you...

James hates cars. He hates consumers. James cuts holes in his sweaters and puts duct tape on his converse so his stuff doesn't look new. He hates food drives and petitions and every other do-gooder activity that is wussy. He likes action! He thinks we should destroy all cars! But he's not quite sure how to get to school without one...

Destroy All Cars is basically the story of an impassioned high schooler who has great vision for change, but is too lazy for action. He is still in love with his ex, Sadie, who is just the opposite. She might not rage about gas guzzling SUVs, but she does organize food drives, groups to fight the paving of wetlands, and volunteers at local shelters. She can't understand why James won't get in on the action too... and so he does, but only to try to win her back.

Personally, I got annoyed with James. He is such a poser! I know that's kindof Blake Nelson's point and all, but I almost felt like he was making fun of teenagers in a subtle tongue-in-cheek way. I am very curious to see how well teens like this book and if they feel teased. Has anyone else read this yet?

I would recommend this book to boys (and girls, but boys especially) who enjoyed The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian or Teen Inc by Stefan Petrucha.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hold Still-- Nina LaCour

Caitlin and Ingrid were BFFs. They did everything together and really had no need for anyone else in their lives. But then Ingrid committed suicide, leaving Caitlin alone, confused, and rebellious.

Ingrid leaves behind a journal just for Caitlin, and slowly but surely Caitlin reads it and learns a little bit about Ingrid's motivation. Caitlin needs to learn how to live again, how to make friends, and how to let people in.

Honestly, there is nothing truly innovative here. I just didn't quite feel Caitlin was authentic, and even though we get glimpses of Ingrid through her journal entries, she doesn't feel real enough to spark such a depression in Caitlin. A side character, Dylan, is a bit of a bright spot in this tale, but even she isn't really a unique character either... Dylan is a lesbian who is portrayed not stereotypically but just typically...

Still, there are girls out there who are always looking for the next tearjerker. This one might fit the bill. I would recommend this to girls who liked the BFF suicide part of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why, Black Box by Julie Schumacher, You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn, or Stay with Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr.

Hate List-- Jennifer Brown

Valerie loved her boyfriend Nick. He was not your typical high school guy... he was on the fringes, he was interesting, creative, and defended her from the bullies at school. He was her best friend. Was. Nick committed suicide, but only after he brought a gun to school, shot his classmates and teacher, and even shot Valerie in the leg as she tried to stop him.

When we meet Valerie, she is dealing with the aftermath of the shooting. She is completely overwhelmed with guilt and sadness from the incident. She misses her boyfriend of 3 years and can't figure out how she never knew he was capable of murder-suicide. She is totally ostracized at school even though she was also a victim. But worst of all she is full of guilt about the Hate List.

You see, when something bad would happen to Valerie, like her parents fighting or getting ridiculed at school, she would add a name to the hate list. For Valerie, it was a way to escape and displace her anger, but for Nick, it was a concise list of who deserved to be punished.

What makes this book different than other "school shooting" type books is Valerie's perspective. I felt this story gave a more well-rounded view of how and why something like this can happen without parents and friends picking up the clues. I would recommend this book to fans of Strasser's Give a Boy a Gun, Hopkins' Burned, or Endgame by Nancy Garden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Love is the Higher Law- David Levithan

Love is the Higher Law takes place in New York City on September 11, 2001. This story is the tale of three teens, Claire, Peter, and Jasper, and their experiences with the biggest attack on the USA that most American youth have lived through.

Their story overlaps, though not too strongly until about halfway through the book. Just like many New Yorkers, Clarie, Peter, and Jasper are affected by the attacks on the twin towers differently, but strongly, and even months later are feeling the affects of the tragedy.

Honestly, I struggle with Davie Levithan. He has moments of brilliance (one or two of his short stories in How They Met) but mostly his books are a bit meh. Still, this is a really great short book for teens who want to read 9/11 fiction, teens who feel connected with NYC, or those who want a book with gay characters in it.

Fire-Kristin Cashore

So I have been waiting to read this book since December of 2009, which is when I read Cashore's first book, Graceling. I literally read this book cover to cover. Full disclosure: I was home sick this weekend with a headcold, so I also read three other books cover to cover, but this one was worth the time investment!

Fire is a monster, a beautiful and compelling monster. In Fire's world both animal and human monsters exist, and both species are extraordinarily colorful (think bright blue tigers), heartbreakingly gorgeous, and posses a compulsion that makes everyone instantly desire them. Fire got her name because her hair looks like dancing flames. The novel is told from her perspective. And, just like in Graceling, the female protagonist is strong and powerful. But, unlike Katsa (from Graceling) who is a physically strong and valiant fighter, Fire possesses an intense mental fortitude and prowess.

This book contains all the elements of a really great fantasy novel: unusual land and creatures that aren't toooo strange, strong heroes and heroines, espionage, royalty, warfare, and love. But what sets it apart is Cashore's ability to write a character who is so heartwrenching, you feel like you know her personally.

Fire is a companion novel to Graceling, and it can fully exist on it's own. But do yourself a favor: read them both. Both books will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna books, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series, or fans of fantasy fiction in general.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When You Reach Me-- Rebecca Stead

Fans of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: this book is for you. It's also for those of us who want a charming story with a slight mystery and a touch of fantasy.

Miranda lives in New York City in 1979. Her mother is a hippy turned almost-lawyer and they live in an apartment building in a safe-ish neighborhood. Each day on the way home from school, Miranda passes the Laughing Man, a homeless guy who is harmless but crazy. When her best friend Sal ditches her, Miranda must look for other friends besides Charlie, Meg, and the other characters in A Wrinkle in Time. This story is told from Miranda's perspective, and because of this, we view her world through L'Engle tinted glasses... but it's subtle and even if you aren't a fan of the book (or read it so long ago you can't remember anything about it, like me), you will still be engaged by Miranda's story. When You Reach me is a touching tale of what life used to be like, of middle school, and of friendship.

Readers of this blog will know that I don't often read this sort of book... but I'm glad I did. After all of the angsty stuff I fill my brain with, this book was a well-written and welcomed break. It's definitely for the younger end of YA... in fact my library has this book cataloged as J. Fans of Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars will enjoy this book.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jumping off Swings-- Jo Knowles

Ellie is the girl that boys talk about in locker rooms. She's pretty but not gorgeous, she's approachable, and she's-- ahem-- generous with her time and body. But what they don't know is that she's immensely vulnerable and is looking for that intimate connection that will make her feel loved... and she's just sure that the next guy will be the one to give that to her.

Josh is an embarrassed virgin who can't take locker room teasing any longer. He sees a chance to shrug off the V-word forever and has an humiliatingly short encounter with Ellie in the back of his parent's van at a party. He runs away with shame, leaving Ellie to deal with the aftermath...only the aftermath is worse than just tears or a mess. This one night stand leaves Ellie pregnant and totally emotionally destroyed.

I know that teen pregnancy has become something of a trend, but this book treats this subject more honestly than some. It's told from four perspectives: Ellie, Josh, and their two friends Corrine and Caleb. This book shows how a simple decision doesn't just affect one person, and how no one's life is as perfect as it seems.

I would recommend this book to teens who liked the teen pregnancy aspects of I Know It's Over (K.C. Kelly Martin), Impossible (Nancy Werlin), and Someone Like You (Sarah Dessen).

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Monstrumologist-- Rick Yancey

Deep in his basement, the Monstromologist hangs an Anthropophagi from hooks. A grave robber knocked on his door in the middle of the night and delivered the beast to the only person he knew that could deal with something so grotesque. The anthropophagi is a hideous beast, profoundly strong, extraordinarily vicious, and it only eats one thing: live human flesh.

Will Henry is a young boy who lives with Dr. Warthrop, the Monstrumologist. He is an orphan, and Dr. Warthrop calls upon him for both mundane and horrifying tasks. Will Henry cooks all the meals and goes to the market, and he also helps Dr. Warthrop dissects monstrous beasts and hunt them down. The story is told through a series of journals Will Henry kept, and readers fall instantly into his world of macabre and midnight horrors.

In my opinion, this book epitomizes what's needed in YA horror right now. With the vampire and werewolf craze upon us, it's always good to find a true horror book that isn't a thin veil for romance. This book can be graphic in its descriptions of blood and guts, and even truly frightening at times, but all of it is appropriate for the genre and the purpose of the book. I would recommend this book to teens who like horror but don't want fluff, fans of Darren Shan's Demonata books (but are also good readers), or to teens who like classic horror like Frankenstein or Dracula.

P.S. Don't you love the cover?
P.P.S. This is a Mock Printz book too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Distant Waves--Suzanne Weyn

Suzanne Weyn's Distant Waves is being marketed as a story of the Titanic. And, I guess it loosely is... however, to me, it reads more like a story of the paranormal.

The story is told by Jane, one of the 5 Taylor sisters who live in Spirit Vale, a famous clairvoyant community. After a chance meeting with Nikola Tesla, Jane becomes intrigued with all things science and follows his career closely. Her sisters Blythe and Mimi are obsessed with the finer things in life and strive to escape the strangle-hold Spirit Vale has on them. Twins Emma and Amelie are more like their mother who became famous by communicating with the dead. Amelie doesn't speak, but communicates to Emma telepathically, and both girls have some type of true clairvoyance skills. Throughout the book we meet interesting historical characters, like Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry Houdini and more.

It isn't until the end that we see why the subtitle of this book is: A Novel of the Titanic. It was an interesting and well-written piece of historical fiction. But is it really a novel of the Titanic? What do you think?

I would recommend this book to teen girls who liked How it Happened in Peach Hill by Martha Jocelyn, the Luxe series. Oh, and it's on our Mock Printz list.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia-- Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia is technically a graphic novel... but honestly to me, it feels more like a picture book for teens. I think teens need more picture books, so I was please to see this one!

Tales is an illustrated short story collection... some stories are told in mostly pictures, and others in mostly words. His art is so fantastical and realistic at the same time. One story is written/illustrated in bits of torn paper. Some of the stories are one-page short, while others take longer to tell. Overall, the collection is sweet, nostalgic somehow, a teensy bit creepy, and all together odd. It's perfect for those teens who mostly read graphic novels but are trying to read longer works and also great for beginning graphic novel readers. We have placed this book on our Mock Printz list, and I am interested to see if people think it's a strong contender!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mock Printz 2010!

A fabulous local school librarian and I collaborate on a Mock Printz event in January. This is our second year, and we are hoping it will be a success! We gather with teachers, teens, and librarians to discuss the ten titles on our list and choose which book we think should win the actual Printz Award.

I thought I would post our reading list here, just in case you wanted to read the books too. It is always a tricky process choosing the books... is it just me, or are all the good books published at the end of the year?? Inevitably, there will be something we missed, but we have to get the list to participants early enough for them to read all 10.

We create our list by frantically reading as much as we can, reading reviews, and gathering opinions of library staff through listserves, etc. I haven't blogged all these books yet, but I will go back and link them when I do. Let me know what you think!

Wintergirls-- Laurie Halse Anderson

If I Stay-- Gayle Foreman

Marcelo in the Real World-- Francisco X. Stork

Andromeda Klein-- Frank Portman

Punkzilla-- Adam Rapp

Distant Waves-- Suzanne Weyn

Tales from Outer Suburbia-- Shaun Tan

When You Reach Me-- Rebecca Stead

The Monstrumologist-- Rick Yancey

Liar-- Justine Larbalestier

Tricks-- Ellen Hopkins

Guess what? Ellen Hopkins will be visiting my library soon! To prepare, I thought I would read her latest book, Tricks. I made the mistake of reading it before bed... and let me tell you, this is not a cheery bedtime read.

Tricks is a verse novel, just like her other works. It's the story of five teens from all over the USA. Even though each teen is vastly different and was raised in a unique way, they're stories all have a similar theme: sometimes sex isn't just about love... sometimes it's about power, freedom, money, punishment, torture, individuality, exploration, or intimacy. And somehow, in the end, the teens' lives intersect in a mostly tragic but slightly hopeful way.

I can't say that I loved this book... I struggle with the verse novel format, and to be honest, I had a hard time keeping the characters straight at first. Still, I know why teens love her: Hopkins writes about real hard living. Some teens are really drawn to the gritty realism she so clearly writes. I would recommend this book to boys or girls who like verse novels, edgy topics, or want to read something about teen prostitution (don't laugh, I've totally been asked for this!!).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Liar--Justine Larbalestier

So the other day at work I was going through massive piles of mail, and there at the bottom of my pile was an ARC of Justine Larbalestier's Liar. There has been lots of chatter on the internets about the cover of this book. The ARC I received had this cover:

Here's the controversy: The main character of the book, Micah, is biracial (her mother is French-American, and her father is African-American) and has very short course, curly hair. Everyone who read the ARC (including the author herself) was outraged by the way the publisher took liberties with the cover. Because of this, the cover now looks like this:

MUCH more accurate in my opinion... it's kind of interesting to read about this controversy, but what I really want to talk about is the book itself... because it's GOOD.

Micah is a pathological liar. This is a very big problem, not just for Micah, but for us-the-readers. You see, this book is told in the first person... everything is narrated by Micah and at the beginning of the book she swears she will tell us the 100% truth-- except she lies to us right out of the gate. She's sorry she lied, but she just can't help it.

Micah believes her lying was passed down through her family genealogy, just like the mysterious body hair she grows and her remarkable running skills. Her classmates, parents, and teachers however do not agree. When the boy with whom Micah was secretly making out and going for midnight runs in central park turns up dead, all eyes are on her. This book is part mystery/thriller, part coming of age story, and a tiny sliver of fantasy.

Oh, and there is a plot twist. That's all I'm saying. I wish I could say more, because there are lots of things I feel like saying about said plot twist, but I am being nice and not spoiling it for you. It's also hard for me to explain why I liked this book so much without telling you all of the book's secrets. So I guess you're just going to have to read it to find out.

I think I liked this book so much because Micah was a truly new character. She is unique, and even though she is totally unreliable as a narrator, it's that added level of mystery that makes the story so compelling. I would recommend this book to teens who like character driven stories, mysteries, and paranormal tales.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six Word Memoirs

Six word memoirs. Whoever thought of doing this is a genius! Actually, I know who thought this up (Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith of Smith Magazine).

Here's how it works: sum up your life, yourself, whatever in six words only. Those six words then become your memoir. This book holds 600 six word memoirs, all of which I read in less than an hour. It's truly amazing how much you can share in six words only. I really think teens will enjoy this quick read, and hopefully it will inspire them to write a six word memoir of their own!

Here are some samples from the book:

"A boy wizard saved my life."
"Hung myself. Sister found me. Alive."
"Spend more time reading than living."
"Lost my shoes. Found winged sandals."
"Family nights are secretly my favorite."
"Perfectionist poets don't make good money."
"A never-ending series of marvelous misadventures."

Do you have a six word memoir? Here's mine: "Book witch eats love for dinner."

Shiver-- Maggie Stiefvater

Move over vampires, and make room for the werewolves... and I'm not talking team-Jacob either.

In Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater creates a cold, wintry Minnesota world in which werewolves inhabit the forests. Grace was attacked and bitten by those very wolves when she was a child, but was saved by a wolf with striking yellow eyes. Throughout her life she has felt a special attachment to this wolf, and spends winters on her back porch waiting for him to visit her.

Sam, the yellow-eyed human, is in love with Grace. He spends his summers wishing she would notice him in this human form... and one day she finally does. Grace immediately feels that Sam is her wolf, and figures out his secret. They begin their love affair in earnest, because the cold weather is what makes Sam turn into a wolf, and once he turns into a wolf this last time it's likely he can never shift back.

This tale is told in alternating chapters (Grace and Sam narrate) and is a suspenseful story in addition to a romantic one. I enjoyed it; I feel like it's a slightly new twist on the werewolf thing, but it didn't blow me away. I have a few issues with the plot... Grace's parents are so uninvolved it's almost comical, and a few plot twists take away from the stark realism Stiefvater was going for (I know it's a fantastical type story, but she really does try to make the were-thing seem plausible). Overall I would recommend this wholeheartedly to Twilight fans, or teens looking for a werewolf book. The romance is mostly clean, but not totally. I am interested in reading the sequel, which comes out in the fall of 2010.

Monday, September 28, 2009

After-- Amy Efaw

Devon is a straight-A Student. She is an Olympics-worthy soccer player, and takes care of her emotionally immature mother. She has a handful of close girlfriends, but stays away from boys. Devon's mother had her when she was a teen herself, and Devon wants nothing to get in the way of her dreams of success.

But if Devon has it all together, why would she be sitting in a jail cell waiting for a meeting with her court appointed lawyer? Why is she bleeding profusely? And why, WHY did she throw her baby in dumpster outside her apartment building only moments after giving birth on her own in her tiny bathroom?

In this horrifying novel, Amy Efaw paints us a picture of Devon's life and how she could possibly convince herself that she wasn't pregnant even at 9 months. Though she never justifies Devon's actions, the reader does feel sympathy for her (or at least I did). This is a tough read, and I think it will be a tricky sell to teens. Some girls will really embrace this tale of angst, trial, and desperation. Others will be too horrified by Devon's actions. Personally, I was sucked in by the story, but was really left wanting for more. Efaw did an okay job of telling the story, but to me, she ended it before I was satisfied with the conclusion... not in a "leave the reader hanging" kind of way, but IMHO a "couldn't figure out where to go next" kind of way.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary--- Nick Burd

The Vast Fields of Ordinary is one of those stories that just makes your heart break... because when it comes down to it, all we really want out of existence is for people to be kind to us... and Dade doesn't get the kindness he deserves.

Dade is gay. He is in-the-closet mostly, but there are a few people in his life who know about his gayness. There's Pablo, the asshat jock stud dude who cruelly ridicules Dade in public, but has sex with him in private. And then there is also Lucy, the awesomely confident lesbian who is staying with her aunt for the summer. But really, to everyone else, Dade is the guy they all tease about being gay but aren't really sure that he is. Dade finds himself totally trapped by a world that does nothing for him and expects everything in return. But when he meets Alex Kinkaid and learns about what it's like to love and be loved, everything shifts for Dade. He doesn't want to be closeted, teased, or hurt by anyone anymore (especially his parents). And of course, now that he is finally experience true joy and freedom, Pablo won't leave him alone.

This book is truly moving, tragic, lonely, and lovely in some places. There is an underdeveloped storyline featuring a young girl who is abducted, and while I can see what Nick Burd was trying to do with it, I don't think he succeeds. Still, this is a great first novel, and I will happily read anything else he writes. I recommend this to older teens (because the characters in the book are just graduating high school).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Summer I Turned Pretty-- Jenny Han

Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti fans rejoice. Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty will fill the void while waiting for their next books to come out!

Belly has always been a gawky, one-of-the-boys kind of girl. She has never been considered traditionally pretty, that is until this summer. Belly has spent every summer of her life at the beach-house with her mom and brother, and her mother's best friend and her two sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Belly practically measures her life in those summers. All of those other summers, Belly has spent scrambling behind the boys trying to be included in their romps and parties. But all of sudden this summer Belly is getting all sorts of attention from boys... maybe more than she was counting on.

While this book is summarized easily in a paragraph, the feeling it leaves you with is very hard to capture... it's one of those non-schmaltzy romances which are so hard to find and so appreciated when you do find them. While there are definitely some slightly saccharine parts, Belly is a strong girl who doesn't let those boys boss her around, and this makes the book really stand out from the other teen girl romances.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Maze Runner-- James Dashner

So is it just me or is everything a trilogy these days?

Apparently this book, The Maze Runner, is the first in a trilogy... and I'm moderately excited about that.

This first book in the series was a major page-turner. It begins with Thomas waking up in an elevator-like box in pitch-black-darkness. He can't remember anything about himself but his name, and although he can't see, he can tell that he is traveling upupupupup...

When Thomas arrives at the top, and the door to the box is opened, he is greeted by a Lord of the Flies-esque crew of boys who reluctantly show him the ropes. Apparently they all arrived the same way, no one remembers anything about their history, and they all only know their first names. In order to survive, the boys have created a mini-society and each person has an important role to play. Thomas is most intrigued by the maze runners, the kids who literally run through the maze that surrounds their domaine each day looking for an exit. To make things even more impossible, the walls to the maze move multiple times a day and there are strange murderous creatures roaming around waiting to kill you (think Labyrinth minus Bowie and puppets, plus puss filled robot mosquito thingies).

But one day the box opens up to reveal a girl, the first in two years... and she can telepathically communicate with Thomas. All she knows is that she is harbinger of the endtimes, and the boys must make an escape right away or they will all die.

This is a quick-read and I predict it will be pretty popular with boys. It's reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and other books where the adults are gone and the kids survive on their own. This book will be published on October 16, 2009.

Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith-- Deborah Heiligman

So, if you've been reading this blog for a while now, you will know that I don't read much nonfiction. It's not that I don't like it... it's just that I love a good story...

I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't read a good nonfic in a while to a friend and she recommended this book to me. I'm so glad she did because it was exactly what I wanted: A Good Story.

Charles and Emma is the tale of the lives of both Charles and Emma Darwin, in a nutshell. It starts with something the reader will learn is quintessential Charles: a Ben Franklin-style list of the pros and cons of getting married. This illustrates a challenge Charles will face his whole life: should he go with his gut instinct and what his heart dictates, or should he trust logic, science, and rationality. He ends up deciding to be irrational, and marry... but it was the last irrational thing he ever did.

This book takes the reader through the happiness and struggles the scientist Charles and his religious wife Emma endure together. One of my favorite things about this book was that it illustrated how crucial and essential Emma's input, guidance, and skills were to Charles scientific publications. She was very intelligent, edited all his work, and even though she was a firm Creationist, she was happy to debate with him and further his Evolutionary discoveries. Often historical accounts tend to leave out what the wives and children do, but this book focuses on Charles's relationship with his family. They were a crucial part of who he was, and under-recognized in the world of science.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes nonfiction, memoirs, or historical romantic fiction (but be sure to be clear that this is NOT fiction and a little slower paced that fiction would be) . I can't wait to offer this to a teen who needs to read something nonfiction for school, but wants it to be "good".

Monday, August 31, 2009

Going Bovine-- Libba Bray

So, a few years ago at a conference I had the privilege of hearing Libba Bray speak. I don't exactly remember what she said, or even what the topic of the presentation was, but she literally had me crying with laughter. I was never a big fan of her Gemma Doyle trilogy (although many, many people are), and after I heard her speak I thought to myself, Why doesn't she write something funny?? The woman is obviously hilarious!

Well, guess she hear my private brain-thoughts because Libba Bray has written something humorous! Going Bovine is 16 year-old Cameron's journey to save the world and find the meaning of life... before he's dead. Somehow, Cameron has contracted Mad Cow Disease, and we-the-readers travel with him through a series of possible hallucinations or just really twisted realities. In order to save the world from the Wizard of Reckoning, Fire Giants, and to seal up the whole in the universe that Dr. X accidentally let the evil sneak through, Cameron has to put his trust in Gonzo (the dwarf of destiny), Balder (a viking god turned yard gnome), and Dulcie (a punk rock, sugar lovin' hottie angel chica). Their ragtag crew travels all over the South in a falling apart Caddy and *must* get to Florida before Cameron's E-ticket to the Magic Kingdom expires.

Overall, this book is silly, laugh-out-loud funny, and will be easy to recommend to that teen who just wants to read "something funny". However, there are some poignant moments, and I did feel emotionally pulled at some points while reading. I think Libba is quite a good writer... some parts of the book felt a little long (it is almost 500 pages after all!), but the way she wrote her character's thoughts and dialog was just perfect. I would recommend this to teen boys or girls who enjoy humorous writing, and who don't mind mild drug, alcohol, and sex references.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once was Lost-- Sara Zarr

Sometimes it seems like YA fiction with a religious theme fit into three basic categories: christian fiction, stories about teens in religious situations typical Americans find oppressive, or books about rebel, atheist, pagan teens. This is a generalization, and know there are notable exceptions, but Once Was Lost took me pleasantly by surprise... even though I do enjoy Sara Zarr's writing.

Once Was Lost is Sam's story. She is a PK (preacher's kid) who has spent the last year taking care of her alcoholic mother and hiding her mom's problems from the sharp eye of her father's congregation. Sam's not sure about a lot of things anymore, but she mostly isn't sure if the God her father preaches about is the God for her... if he even exists, and if he does, why are all these bad things happening? When Jody, the young choir soloist, suddenly goes missing, the whole town is in an uproar. All signs point to crime, and Sam takes Jody's disappearance extremely hard. All at once, everything Sam thought she knew to be true seems wrong and she has lost her place in the world. But sometimes getting lost is the only way to really find oneself.

I appreciated the way Zarr told this story. She could have really been down on organized religion, or made Sam's struggles seem trite or too black-and-white. Zarr handled the subject with a dignity and accuracy, and I think a lot of teens who are learning to think about religion for themselves for the first time will really identify with Sam. There is also an element of suspense to this story that keeps the reader enticed. Once Was Lost will be published in October 2009.

Punkzilla-- Adam Rapp

Punkzilla is Jamie, a 14 year-old boy who lives the crustpunk, street kid life in Portland, OR. After his militant, homophobic father enrolls him in military school, small-for-his-age and androgynous looking Jamie runs away in hopes to find a better life for himself. He lives in abandoned warehouses in Portland with other kids, and writes letters to his gay and dying of cancer brother, Peter. Peter sends Jamie bus money, so he can come visit him in Tennessee before he dies. Most of this story is told through Jamie's unique letter writing style, as Jamie writes letters to Peter he never plans to send, describing his bus journey and what the life of a Punkzilla is like.

I have to say, this book was intriguing but a bit challenging to read. Adam Rapp really does a good job writing in Jamie's style. I truly felt like I was experiencing things through Jamie's perspective, and even though the lack of punctuation and made-up words were sometimes a stumbling block, they made the story richer. This isn't a feel-good story, and the content might be better suited for older teens, but its grittiness isn't over-the-top or inappropriate for the story Rapp was trying to tell. It's one of those books that will linger with you for a while, for better or worse.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Plague-- Joanne Dahme

So I feel two ways about the title of this book... on one hand I like that I know exactly what I am about to read (a book about the plague, obviously). On the other hand, there have been so many books written about the plague and I wanted something to entice me further.

Nonetheless, I read the book.

The Plague is overtaking England. Nell and her brother George have lost both of their parents but have somehow survived. While following the funeral cart down the road, the King spots Nell and realizes she is almost an exact double of his daughter, Princess Joan. But when Nell, George, and Joan travel to Spain where the Princess is slated to wed a Prince she has never met, something terrible happens. The Plague has somehow crossed overseas and killed Joan before she meets her future husband. In order to maintain the truce that was built through the engagement, Joan's brother, known only as The Black Prince, forces Nell into impersonating the princess and following through with the betrothal. But Nell is afraid for her life and for George, and tries to escape a destiny that wasn't hers in the first place.

I thought this book was just ok. I would recommend it to teens who like historical fiction, but it would be a hard sell to that teen who wanders in and wants you to find them A Good Book. The writing isn't exceptional and the characters are a slightly flat and sometimes annoying. There is a fantasy twist, which is what saves the book for me, but overall The Plague is just ok.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Along for the Ride-- Sarah Dessen

For those of you who have read this blog from the beginning, you will know that I really love Sarah Dessen... I read her personal blog too, and learned a bit about her process while writing Along for the Ride. While this isn't my favorite book she has ever written, I still quite enjoyed it.

Like all of Dessen's novels, the protagonist is a girl who is smart, witty, and complex. Studious to a fault, top-of-her-class Auden decides to experience life a little more fully by living on the coast with her deadbeat dad, his new wife and baby. Auden's never been a girly-girl. She never dated in high school, and was raised by a feminist mother who taught her that beauty is on the inside and that a smart woman is a powerful woman. When Auden meets Heidi, her dad's new trophy wife, she immediately judges her... but when night-owl Auden meets other girls her age who happen to be beautiful AND intelligent, she has to rethink her preconceived notions... oh, and of course, it wouldn't be a Dessen novel if there wasn't a beautifully imperfect boy around the corner.

So as usual, it's nearly impossible to sum up this Sarah Dessen novel without making it sound boring and cheesy. Her books are never totally straight-forward, which makes them a pleasure to read, but hard to summarize. Still, if you are a fan of well-written books that deal in relationships (romantic, familial, or platonic) this book is for you. It's also a good book to recommend to teens who like to read romance, but don't want mushy-gooshy or graphic sex in their novels.

Same Difference-- Siobhan Vivian

Poor little rich girl heads off to Art School and comes home an expert on that which is Real vs that which is Corporate.

But not exactly...

Same Difference is a simple and predictable novel, but an entertaining read none-the-less. Emily grew up in a subdivision of McMansions in a suburb of Philadelphia. Her best friend Meg lives across the street. Their favorite activities include going to Starbucks, hanging out by the pool, and looking for a boyfriend. But when Meg finds a boyfriend, suddenly Emily is the third wheel. She decides to take an summer Art intensive in the city, and there she meets wildchild Fiona and superhot professor's assistant Yates. Suddenly, her sheltered square-box life in Cherry Grove isn't so special, and Emily looks for ways to become her own unique person.

While the plot of this book was definitely not something new, I did enjoy it, and I think teen girls will too. I would recommend this book to teen girls who like books on finding one's place in the world, and reconstructing one's identity.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Skunk Girl--Sheba Karim

If there's one thing most people can agree on, it's that high school was a challenging experience socially and developmentally. For Nina Khan, growing up in a lily-white suburban community made her experience especially challenging. Nina is an American-born Pakistani Muslim teenager, and her parents are strictly committed to instilling proper values into Nina.

Nina has not only grown up in the shadow of her perfect-S.A.T- scoring-Harvard-attending sister, but her two best girlfriends are gorgeous in that all-American way. Nina isn't allowed to go out at night, attend sleepover parties, have friend that are male, date, or get into the drinking-drugs-flirtation trouble that most high schoolers experience. Although she isn't in love with her strict lifestyle, for the most part it works for her. She is moderately happy, and has two amazing friends. But when Italian-born Asher moves to town, Nina begins to thoroughly question the morality imposed on her by her parents, while simultaneously dreaming of ways to make Asher like her.

The title Skunk Girl comes from a scene where a classmate notices a stripe of hair Nina has growing from her neck down her back. There are many scenes discussing how Nina feels about her ethnicity, most of them negatively discussing her large amount of dark body hair.

I think this book definitely has place in library collections, as it gives a window into a culture and religion that is often unknown or misunderstood. It felt a little light, and the end wrapped up rather unbelievably, but not all books focusing on cultural differences need to be heavy and depressing. This book is not an award winner (IMHO) but a just-fine read. I would recommend this book to teen girls who want a love story, a tale about cultural differences, or growing up Muslim.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fragile Eternity-- Melissa Marr

So Fragile Eternity is the sequel to Wicked Lovely... and touches on some of the themes in Ink Exchange, which was more like a sidestep in this series.

And, just like Wicked Lovely, I liked it, but didn't love it. (You can read all about what I thought of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange here.)

While Wicked Lovely was told from Aislinn's perspective, Fragile Eternity is told mostly from her partner Seth's. I feel like Melissa Marr did a good job of making the story interesting; readers can get reinvested in a series if a new perspective brings it back to life. In Fragile Eternity we learn about Aislynn's physical longing to be with the Summer King, Keenan, the way the Summer Queen should. We also learn how hard it is for Seth to watch his girlfriend literally glow whenever she is around Keenan. This is partially why Seth takes on the dangerous quest to find Sorcha, the high queen, and beg her to make him Fairy. But when Seth takes that journey, he shifts the fabric of the universe, and nothing will ever be the same. Although it doesn't clearly state this at the end of the book, the reader is left feeling that another book is in the works, because there isn't a clear resolution at the end.

So there you have it. Not a very inspired blog post, I'm afraid, but then again, I wasn't super inspired by this book either...

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy, especially girls.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dope Sick-- Walter Dean Myers

Lil' J is a good kid... mostly. In some ways he is a product of location and circumstance, but in the end, aren't we all responsible for our own choices? When a bad bad decision leads to life-threatening a situation, Lil' J hides away in an abandoned warehouse hoping that somehow he will make it out alive. He didn't expect to meet Kelly, a squatter who eerily knows details about Lil' J's past and future... and can show them on his TV set. While this is realistic fiction, a small element of sci-fi is seamlessly blended in, and it makes for a much richer story.

I really enjoyed this book. I love how Myers uses street slang dialog in a way that people who are unfamiliar with it can still understand the conversations. Also, while the story does have a resolution, there is no pretending that all things end up perfectly. This is where Myers excels... he writes that perfect blend of hope and realism that doesn't read as fake and impossible. Guys and girls who like urban fiction will enjoy this book. I can't wait for this book to come out in paperback so I can purchase it for the Juvie boys... they will love it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Blast of Books!

So the past two weeks have included several hours of flying to two different destinations... which means I had a lot of time to read! I thought I would try something new and write a brief blurb about each book, rather than an extended entry like I usually do... this way I can touch on all the things I read.

Willow-- Julia Hoban

One night Willow's parents, internationally famous anthropologists, drank too much wine at dinner. They asked their teenage daughter, Willow, to drive them home from dinner. Willow lost control of the vehicle and they both died. Willow survived, but is completely emotionally destroyed by the accident. The only way she feels alive and safe is through cutting, that is until an exceptional boy comes along. Perfect for fans of Cut.

My opinion: bleck on the knight in shining armor thing, also it's a bit awkwardly written. However, I know teen girls will eat this one up.

The Compound-- S.A. Bodeen

The Compound is a near-futuristic sci-fi tome that is told from the perspective of 15 year old Eli. He and his family have been living underground in an extraordinary bomb shelter after his billionaire computer genius dad (think Bill Gates) gets word of nuclear attack and rushes his family to the compound he had the foresight to build. Perfect for fans of Life as We Knew It, and even The Host.

My Opinion: Great for both boys and girls. It's definitely a page-turner, but at the end I was left wanting more (could be a good thing?). I could tell this is the authors first novel; she could work on her craft a bit, but it was an enjoyable first book.

Karma for Beginners-- Jessica Blank (no released cover yet)

Tessa's mom is one of those wandering types who bounces from town to town looking for meaning and inspiration-- mostly through men. When she moves them to an ashram in the Catskills and becomes deeply involved with the Guru, Tessa is left on her own. She meets a boy who introduces her to all forms of debaucherous escapism, and tries to find her own meaning for existence before she gets carried away by the desires of others. Fans of Patron Saint of Butterflies, and maybe Outside Beauty might like this book.

My Opinion: Meh. Not terrible, not great. I don't see this particular book being very popular with it's intended audience.

Secrets of Truth and Beauty-- Megan Frazer

This is Dara
's story. She was once a child beauty pageant princess, but has grown into adolescence as a pretty but quite overweight teen. After a tragic (in that petty highschool way) incident, and a complete lack of compassion from her parents, Dara travels to find her long lost lesbian sister, who is shunned by the family and lives on a goat farm. This is a story of self-discovery, overcoming life's challenges, and beauty in all forms.

My Opinion: There are a lot of stories about the overweight teen girl finding her voice and confidence these days. See an older post with a list for more. Still, I did find this fairly original and I think girls will like it. Thankfully the ending wasn't toooo schmaltzy.

Girl in the Arena--
Lise Haines

Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators... kindof. Lyn's family is a part of the Neo-Gladiator culture, and her mother has watched seven of her husbands, therefore seven of Lyn's fathers, be killed in the arena. After the seventh man dies, and Lyn's mother severely falls apart, it's up to Lyn to pull them through. Ceasar's inc, the corporation that runs the Neo-Glads, is corrupt and putting everything Lyn holds dear on the line for money and publicity. When it comes to fighting to the death to save her family, Lyn feels prepared to do so... unless her techie best friend can come up with a way to save her.

My Opinion: I li
ked this book. I won't rave and wax poetic about it ala Hunger Games, but it was good. Not perfectly written, but I predict this will be very popular with teens. It's a teeny bit sci-fi, but mostly realistic fiction. Although the main character is female, I think both boys and girls will enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

King of the Screwups-- K. L. Going

Liam Geller is everyone's best friend. He throws the best parties, has a supermodel mother, and always gets the girl. People can't hate him because he's just such a nice guy. It's like friends and popularity fall right into his lap...

The only person who doesn't think this is great is his father. Liam's dad is a high-powered banker who has no need for his socially advanced but scholastically lacking son. In fact, it seems like every opportunity he has to finally win his father's love, Liam epically fails and embarrasses his dad publicly. After an incident involving booze, a hot girl, and his father's desk in his office, Liam is sent away to live with family. If Liam can't reform his uber-popular party boy ways, he'll be sent to boot camp.

Liam's only saving grace is that his mother sends him to live with Aunt Pete, his cross-dressing glam-rocking Uncle who lives in a trailer park in nowheresville. If Liam can succeed there, he can succeed anywhere... but the question remains, will Liam win his father's love or will he only win the crown of the King of the Screwups?

I won't lie to you... I enjoyed this book but didn't love it. If it were written by any other author I might just accept it for what it is, but this is K. L. Going, author of awesomeness like Saint Iggy and Fat Kid Rules the World! This is basically a fluff book with a good heart, and we all need some of those books, but I have to admit I was left wanting for a bit more. Either way, I would recommend this to girls and guys who like K. L. Going, Tim Tharpe's Spectacular Now, James St. James's Freakshow, or Meagan Brothers' Debbie Harry Sings in French.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rage: A Love Story-- Julie Anne Peters

So there I was in my office, opening my big stack of mail and low and behold, a big stack of ARCs (Advance Reading Copies of books... you know the sneak peaks of books librarians sometimes get) had arrived! AND ever better, there was a book by one of my favorite YA authors, Julie Anne Peters! I audibly yelped for joy and then proceeded to read the book cover to cover on an airplane over the weekend... but remember folks, just because a book is a page-turner doesn't mean it's amazing...

Johanna is a smart, responsible girl. She took care of her mother when she was sick and dying, she constantly watches out for her party-girl best friend, works hard for good grades and pocket money, and hopes to go to college and get on with her life. Honestly, she's pretty vanilla-bland-whitebread, except for her secret fantasies about Reeve Hartt.

Reeve is fierce, uglybeautiful, violent, passionate, and basically the opposite of Johanna. When Johanna gets conned into tutoring Reeve's brother, Johanna pursues Reeve until she just can't say no any longer. Their relationship is tumultuous to say the least, and full of challenges due to Reeve's abysmal home life and violent, erratic behavior. Don't expect a picture perfect happy ending (who would, with a title like Rage: a love story?), but the book does resolve itself in an acceptable way.

So what's my problem with this book? I just didn't love it. I feel like Peters is starting to rely on some old familiar tricks. I saw a lot of similarities between this book and Define Normal (the tutoring, the alternative chick, the "normal" chick etc) and also Far From Xanadu (the wild amazing pixie girl love interest). Also, although the story is narrated by Johanna, I couldn't get a good mental picture of who she was. I did, however, feel very intrigued by Reeve's story and would have preferred to hear about it from her perspective. Am I let down because I have too high of standards for this particular author (I *loved* Far From Xanadu), or was the book just not that great?

I would offer this book to teens who want books with gay characters (that isn't a coming out story), less than perfect love stories, or books about screwed up families.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World-- Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo has a few special interests: he loves horses, classical music, and religious theory. He lives in a tree-house in his parent's back yard, wears blue pants with a white button-up shirt every day, and cannot feel emotion the same way most people do. Oh, and he hears intensely beautiful music in his head, which he calls internal music, and because of this most people think he has Asperger Syndrome. He doesn't; he just lives in a world that's pretty different than the one most people live in, and it's easier on people like you and me to label him in some way.

Marcelo's father hates that his kid is "special." His father, Arturo, is a high-powered attorney and wants Marcelo to work at his law firm for the summer... to join the real world, and to normalize before he sends to him the regular public high school instead of the small special school Marcelo was previously attending. While working in the mail room at the law firm, Marcelo finds that he can feel emotion he never knew existed, and meets people who challenge his ways of thinking. When an issue of morals and good choices arises, Marcelo must decide what to do: should he protect his father's career and pretend that he has no knowledge of the situation, or should he fix the problem at his own family's expense.

Honestly, it's hard to summarize this book. Most of what makes it so good is the way it's written and how the characters relate to each other. I read this soon after I read Anything but Typical, and while they are different stories, it's hard not to compare them in my head as the characters have similar cognitive issues. Anything but Typical was more well-written, but Marcelo in the Real World was much more moving. Has anyone read both, and what did you think of them?

I would recommend this book to fans of Anything but Typical, Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-time, and even Wendy Mass's A Mango Shaped Space.

Mortal Instruments Trilogy-- Cassandra Clare

So you might have noticed I haven't blogged since early last week... and for that I do apologize... but I swear it was for a good reason! I kinda fell down a rabbit hole and couldn't come back out until I ate the Mortal Instruments books for dinner. And boy were they yummy!

Book 1: City of Bones

Meet Clary Fray, a teenage girl who lives with her mother in Brooklyn. For most of her life, things have seemed rather ordinary, until one day she witnesses three tattooed teens murder another teen... but when the murdered teen's body literally disappears before her eyes, Clary knows something supernatural is going on. Mysteries pile up, her mother is abducted, and out of the blue Clary is attacked by something preternaturally evil... a demon. Almost dizzyingly fast, she discovers there is a band of Shadowhunters, a race of beings akin to angels, whose whole purpose in life is to slay demons. Think Buffy but without the vampires... well not entirely without vampires, but I don't want to give too much away. Clary and her best friend Simon befriend a small group of Shadowhunters and try to find Clary's mother... learning that Clary was born into this life in a way she never knew before.

Book 2: City of Ashes

In this book we dive more deeply into the world of the Shadowhunters. Clary and her friends unravel a larger plot of evil than they earlier expected. Her mother's disappearance is not random; a Voldemort-like villain named Valentine is trying to gather the mortal instruments so he can call upon the Arch Angel and purify the race of Shadowhunters once and for all. Clary is slowly falling in love with Jace, her Shadowhunting partner, and while he returns her feelings, there is a major moral and social issue that keeps their love contained. While many second books in a trilogy serve as only a bridge between the first and third, City of Ashes definitely holds its own and drives the reader frantically to the third book.

Book 3: City of Glass

As Clary is learning to control her Shadowhunting power, the rest of her friends travel through a portal to find the last clue which will lead them to Valentine. Although they were trying to protect Clary who has little experience fighting demons, Clary is determined to find a way to defeat Valentine so she can find her mother and basically save the entire human race. Teaming up with the Children of the Night (Vampires), and the Children of the Moon (Werewolves), Clary battles to the death to save the world as she knows it. Twists and turns in the plot will keep readers motivated, and let's be honest, the battle scenes are pretty awesome too.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series. Although some of the elements of this urban fantasy tome were not original, they still felt fresh because the characters were so multidimensional. No one has good intentions 100% of the time, and even the uber-villain, Valentine, can almost seduce you into believing he has the universe's best intentions at heart. Clare touches on some taboo topics in these books, and I admire her dedication to her story, even if there are elements some people might not like. I would recommend these books to fans of supernatural and urban fantasy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Chosen One-- Carol Lynch Williams

The Prophet is not questioned. The Word Of God is not disputed. The Prophet only speaks words that God has given him in a vision. God told The Prophet that 13 year-old Kyra is to be her 60 year-old Uncle Hyrum's 7th wife.

Kyra has spent her entire life in an isolated community of fundamentalists. She spends her days working their tiny plot of earth, taking care of her 20 brothers and sisters, and finding moments to sneak away and discover herself. One day she happens upon the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels... and she learns there is a world beyond the fences that surround their property. When The Prophet decrees she is to marry her Uncle Hyrum, everything in Kyra's mind and body rebels. But no matter what she does, her plan to escape this fate is thwarted. When she is left with the choice to either destroy her family but save herself, or stay and marry her old uncle, she is more than conflicted. Who could choose rationally when faced with violence, abuse, and the though of losing everyone and everything you know forever.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written and very engaging. There were parts of the plot that were semi-unbelievable, but that is to be expected out of a book that covers such taboo topics. I would recommend this book to teens who like the T.V. show Big Love, and who enjoyed books like The Patron Saint of Butterflies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

After the Moment-- Garret Freymann-Weyr

A little back-story: So, I am a huge Garret Freymann-Weyr fan. She wrote My Heartbeat, which is a touching story about a young girl whose older brother is gay. She also wrote The Kings are Already here about a young ballet dancer and a chess prodigy, and and my personal favorite Stay With Me which is about sisters, love, and hotels.

So why why why didn't I love After the Moment?? It has all the elements of a good book... interesting characters, a slightly off-kilter plot-line and format, and resolution at the end that leaves the reader satisfied yet still wanting more. It's like all the parts and pieces were great, but put together they just didn't work.

After the Moment is Leigh's story, mostly. When his step-sister Millie's biological father passes away, Leigh goes to live with his father and step-family to help Millie normalize after her tragedy. While living there, he falls in love with a recovering anorexic girl named Maia. Leigh learns about himself as a person as he helps the two women in his life come to terms with their own life's problems.

I guess my issue with this book is that Leigh is the center of the plot, yet he is the most uninteresting character. He is spineless in a frustrating way, and almost greeting card perfect. He kind of reminds me of the way that Chase Crawford acts (he plays Nate on the Gossip Girl TV Show... am I loosing you here?)... you know, pretty to look at but bland and not particularly talented. Also, there are many characters to keep track of, and the most interesting part of the book are these little flashes to the future, and they are way too infrequent.

So I guess what I will say in summery, is that while this is a decent book, it's not great. I'm not sure that it has all that much teen appeal, but the more mature teen reader might like it. Also, people who like a nontraditional, not schmaltzy love story might enjoy it too.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Shine Coconut Moon-- Neesha Meminger

September 11, 2001. New Jersey. Fear, racism, fear, aggression, fear.

Samar is a 17 year old Indian-American girl. She was raised to be American, and knows almost nothing about her culture and family. Her mother separated herself from her strict parents and wanted to avoid the racism and pigeon-holing dark skinned people receive in the United States, so she raised Samar to be American through and through. Samar has only white friends, a white boyfriend, and lives a happy lilly-white life... until a man in a turban shows up on her front steps and changes everything.

Set just after the 9/11 attacks, Shine Coconut Moon tells the story of Samar, a girl who has longed for a big jovial family her whole life. After the attacks, her Uncle Sandeep reaches out to Samar and her mother, begging them to contact their family again and to put the past behind them. After 9/11, Samar's classmates begin to look at her differently and some even react violently to Samar and her uncle. But meanwhile, Samar finds solace in learning about her roots, making Indian friends, and exploring what it's like to have a family.

There's a lot of good stuff in this book. My only gripe is the author was so heavy-handed in the way she wrote about actions and emotions... don't tell me about it literally, describe the scene so I get the feeling without it being so in-my-face. This is Meminger's first novel, and I bet she will improve with later work. All in all, it's a good but not excellent book that describes the horrible fear and violence that occurred for many nonwhite people after the 9/11 attacks. I would recommend this to girls who want to read about other cultures, especially India, or who enjoyed Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier (which I loved).

Wherever Nina Lies-- Lynn Weingarten

Beautiful, artistic, blue-haired, wild-hearted and beloved... that's Nina. She was slightly off-kilter, lived in a world of intensity and art, and was prone to creeping out her bedroom window to experience night-time fun. But one day she didn't come home, and that day Ellie's world changed forever.

Ellie always idolized her older sister Nina. Sure, they bickered, but most sisters who love eachother that fiercely fight a little too. When Nina disappeared, Ellie knew she didn't just run away... she knew in her heart that Nina was still out there, and that she needed Ellie's help. Her friends wanted her to forget Nina, but when bits and scraps of clues leading to Nina's location kept popping up, Ellie just couldn't let go of the thought that Nina was out there, somewhere. When Ellie meets Sean, a guy whose brother died not too long ago, she feels akin to him. Together they search for Nina, and Ellie uncovers a shocking truth that changes everything forever.

This book is a bit of a thriller, a mystery, a love story, and a tale of sisterly love. It's not bound to be a classic, and it's not much different than other books of similar genres, but teens will like it. The plot was interesting enough to keep me engaged, and although I guessed the big secret right away, I'll bet some teens will be shocked by it. I would recommend this book to girls who like mysteries and thrillers that aren't violent.