Thursday, January 29, 2009

Twelve Long Months-- Brian Malloy

So I finished this book on Tuesday, and it's been sitting on my desk at work waiting for a blog post... and here it is, Thursday afternoon and I've already forgotten much of the plot. This can't be a good sign.

Still, I did find things about this book to enjoy. Twelve Long Months is the story of a Minnesota girl named Molly, who moves to NYC to attend Columbia. In her small hometown, she is a nothing-- a nerdy girl (valedictorian, actually) whose chemistry lab partner, Mark, copies all of her tests. Predictably, she is in love with him, and equally predictably, he is totally unattainable to her. When she finds out he is moving east as well, she is elated. Surprisingly, Mark is excited too... but not for any of the reason Molly wishes. After moving into her dorm Molly makes some loyal girlfriends in that we just got to college, but we are already best friends way. When they go out dancing at a gay club, Molly sees Mark... and realizes that the love of her life is actually gay.

The story meanders on. Molly gets a boyfriend. Molly and Mark's characters become slightly fleshed out, but are still a bit too one-dimensional for my personal reading taste. There are a few plot twists. There is resolution at the end, but not the cheesy-fake-everything is perfect kind. And while I did enjoy Twelve Long Months while reading it, overall what I really just want to say is "Meh".

This book might be good for girls who like to read about unrequited love, gay characters, friendship, college, or relationships.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Impossible-- Nancy Werlin

I am always looking for books that have a little bit of magic to take me out of my normal day-to-day. I don't mean actual magic, not hocus-pocus stuff, Harry Potter stuff, or witchie stuff. I mean the magic that transports you from your couch to the time and place in which a really good story takes place. Impossible, by Nancy Werlin, is one of those magical books.

We've all heard that folk song right? You know, the one Simon and Garfunkel made popular...

"Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme..."

This novel is based on that folksong... mostly. Lucy Scarborough is the foster daughter of Soledad and Leo. Her mother, Miranda, is an insane bag lady who wanders the streets singing snippets of the Scarborough Fair song. When Lucy turns 17, Miranda starts pursuing Lucy in earnest; she has an important message for her and will get through to her no matter what. The women in Lucy's family are cursed, and have been for generations. They must accomplish three nonsensical tasks as laid out in the Scarborough Fair song, and will go insane at 18 if they do not succeed. Luckily, Lucy has what the other women in her family did not: very supportive foster parents and Zach, a boy who loves her unendingly. This story is a little bit fairytale, a little bit romance, and very engaging.

I would recommend this book to teens who like retellings of fairy tales, fantasy, fairy-lore, and romance.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Evernight-- Claudia Gray

Ugh, after all my gushing about books at Mock Printz this weekend, it almost feels GOOD to blog about a stinker.

What to say about Evernight? Well first I should admit that I had to force myself to finish this book. For whatever reason, I truly thought if I just stuck with it long enough, it might get good. WRONG. I'm having a hard time not being snarky today, so I'll just put those comments in italics... So the basic premise of this novel is that a gal named Bianca is forced to attend a creepy boarding school called Evernight. Really? Couldn't think of a more subtle same for the school? She decides to run away and gets caught by an alarmingly alluring guy named Lucas. She falls totally and completely, instantly in love with him ala Bella Swan. Greeaaaaat. Another creepy stalker boyfriend guy we are all supposed to love. Hey, I loved Twilight too, but come on, another one?? Bianca is somehow clueless to the fact that all her creepy, beautiful, perfect, rich, pale, and undead classmates are actually vampires, despite the fact they never eat except when they sneak out at night to munch on squirrels. Don't you sneak out to suck down some squirrel blood? I know I do!

But the part that made me throw the book in a fit of rage, and in the process knock myself off the elliptical machine on which I was reading this book, was this:

Halfway through the book, Bianca and her boytoy Lucas are making out, like bigtime. She gets all steamy and then, because she can't help herself, she BITES HIS NECK AND DRINKS HIS BLOOD. WTH? Like she didn't know she was a vampire surrounded by other vampires at the vampire school? She JUST REALIZES that the blood her parents put in her baby bottle and fed her with dinner in place of warm milk wasn't normal?! Puhleeese!

I am sure the author was just trying to keep the reader in suspense, but really, it just made me-the-reader feel like the author thinks I am a giant idiot. Which I'm not. Seriously, I'm not! Also, to add to the pile, the characters were totally one dimensional, the love story was cheesy and lame, and the plot was 100% trite and unbelievable. But if you still want to pass it on to teens, I would give it to teen girls who have read every vampire book in the library and refuse to read anything else. But really, try to get them to read something else. Good luck with that!

Still... reading other blogger's reviews, I am finding that lots of people just loved this book. What am I missing?

Mock Printz Results! (and real Printz too)

Well, the day we YA types have been waiting for has come and gone... we now know which title has captured the prestigious Printz Award for 2009, and who we thought would win at our Mock Printz Event.

First, our version:

My library district, in conjunction with the local schools, hosted our first Mock Printz event. We had a great turnout, and these are the titles we selected as winners:

Mock Printz Winner
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Mock Printz Honor Books
  • Madapple by Christina Meldrum
  • Hunger Games by Susanne Collins
Now, their version

Official Printz Winner

Official Printz Honor Books
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves by MT Anderson
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Nation by Terri Pratchett
  • Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

So you probably have read what I thought about Jellicoe Road, as I blogged about it last November. Honestly, I am a bit surprised it was chosen as the Printz winner, but I do agree it was well written and a good piece of literature. I have been left wondering, however, if it's actually a YA book. In a way, it feels more like an adult book with teen characters. What do you think?

If I, HydroJen, official BookEnvy author extraordinaire could pick the books for the Printz award, this is what I would have chosen: Madapple by Christina Meldrum for the overall winner, and honors would go to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, and The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. But that's neither here nor there, right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looks- Madeleine George

Meghan Ball is massively obese. Aimee Zorn is anorexicly skinny. Both girls are completely invisible to their peers.

Madeleine George's novel, Looks, is told in alternating chapters by Meghan and Aimee. It is impossible to read this book without getting sucked in by the sheer emotional pain both girls are feeling. Sometimes overwhelming emotion from ostracism, abandonment, and betrayal manifests itself physically: like through binge eating or starving oneself. Interestingly, George's fine writing style made me feel much compassion toward the girls, but also a little repulsed by them. It's as though George wanted her readers to feel the same emotions her characters were feeling, and I always admire an author who crafts her words so well.

Overall, is this a new story? No. Is is a worthy read? Very much so. I recommend this book to girls who like stories told from two perspectives, eating disorder type books, or dramas about high school.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kiss of Life-- Daniel Waters

So, if you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember my review of Daniel Water's Generation Dead. Kiss of Life is its sequel, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book! Oh, the perks of being a librarian! The publication date on Kiss of Life is May 2009.

Kiss of Life features our same cast of characters: Phoebe the goth chic who dates zombies, Margi her sex obsessed friend, Collette the differently biotic gal who lives with Margi after her parents disown her, etc. This book picks up right where Generation Dead leaves off... and I won't go into it that much because I don't want to spoil Generation Dead for those who haven't read it yet!

This book mostly focuses on the emotional pull Phoebe feels between her exboyfriend Tommy and her best friend Adam. It also still deals with the way society reacts to the differently biotic (zombies), zombie culture and activities.

As a sequel, this book succeeds because I wanted to read more about these differently biotic folks. The idea that teenagers are raising from the dead and becoming zombies is just too fun for one lonely old book. However, I wish Waters had done something more with this book. Generation Dead was funny as well as touching, and Kiss of Life lacks the light-hearted humor the first book had down so well. Also, Kiss of Life relys on the fact that you have read the first book too much. All the character development that went into the first novel didn't find it's way into this book. The characters felt sort-of flat to me, and because of this I didn't have as much sympathy for their plight as I should have.

Still... if you liked Generation Dead, read this one too. I have a feeling a third book might be in the stars, and you know I'll be reading that one too!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Spectacular Now-- Tim Tharp

This is a book that will evoke strong emotion in all who read it... Tharp's rich language and utterly engaging protagonist, Sutter, draw you in right away. He is an entirely likable guy, which makes disliking his actions all the harder. You see, Sutter is a full-blown drink-whiskey-in-the-morning, two day hang-over, drunk driving mess of a teenager. Yet somehow, the reader can just rationalize his behavior along with him because intentions are truly golden.

When we meet Sutter he is praising the glory of his fat and fabulous girlfriend Cassidy. She proceeds to dump him because he can't seem to put anyone first besides himself (and his 7 and 7). When Sutter meets Aimee he is passed out on the front lawn in an unfamiliar neighborhood after a particularly strong bender. He doesn't think of her as girlfriend potential... he is still half in love with Cassidy and Aimee is kindof a dork anyway. But Sutter feels like Aimee needs him; he wants to inspire confidence in her and help her overcome her dreary home life situation. Tharp's subtly is apparent through this relationship because on the surface it seems like Sutter is taking on Aimee is a project, but really it's Aimee who helps Sutter grow.

I can already see that some people will have problems recommending this book to teens. I wouldn't say this book glorifies alcoholism, but it sure doesn't demonize it. Everything *does not* get resolved in the end, which I really liked because it added a breath of realism to the book. The sad thing is that Sutter reminds me of some people I know... they are in their 20s, not teens, but still very similar. It's that "party-man" attitude; the idea that if you get royally intoxicated you will be the life of the party, the person everyone likes to see, the daredevil who will try anything. Honestly, society praises this type of behavior subtly through celebrity obsession, movies, and TV shows. And, if we are really going to be honest here, who doesn't like the life of the party and sometimes wish we could be that person? This is the crux of why it might be hard for adults to pass on this book to teens; Sutter is so likable and someone people will want emulate him... but he is an alcoholic, unhealthy, and makes dangerous choices.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and wish I had read it prior to our Mock Printz selections. I would recommend this book to older teens who enjoy strong character driven books with wellcrafted language and coming of age type plots.

P.S. I really really wish it had a better cover... I feel like the cover of this book will make it a hard sell...