Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Over and Under-- Todd Tucker

It's summer time, 1979, in rural southern Indiana. Weather's so hot it's impossible to wear shoes, and there's nothing better to do than go fishing and traipsing through the woods with your best friend. Over and Under is a Stand By Me-esque tale of Andrew Jackson Gray and Thomas Jefferson Kruer. The boys have been best friends since birth, and spend their days and nights exploring the woods, caves, and other environmental wonders of southern Indiana. When the Borden Coffin Factory workers strike, Andy and Tom suddenly find themselves on opposite ends of an issue that goes way over their heads. Tom's dad is a line worker at the factory and Andy's dad is in management. Weave in some good old Indiana boy adventure and late 1970's politics, and you have Over and Under.

Personally, I didn't love this story... it just isn't my favorite type of fiction. Being a (former) Indiana gal myself, I did kind of appreciate the way Tucker wrote his characters. Yes every boy knows how to shoot a gun by age 12 (at the latest), and the summer thunderstorms are thrilling. I can think of a whole grip of boys I used to bring books to on the bookmobile who would love this story. But mostly it strikes me as a tale other adults would enjoy. Don't get me wrong-- this novel is definitely YA-- it's just loaded with that type of nostalgia only adults really have.

I think boys will like this story, especially those who live in a rural area and are always badgering you about gun books (not urban, but country type gun books)... if you have patrons like this, you know who I am talking about! I'll be interested in what others have to say about this book.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everything Beautiful in the World-- Lisa Levchuk

Set in the 1980s and told from the unreliable perspective of Edna, Everything Beautiful in the World is a story about finding love in the midst of pain. Edna's mother is hospitalized with cancer, and every time she tries to visit her mother, Edna's body totally shuts down and she becomes terribly ill. Once a highly intelligent girl, she can now barely piece together logical sentences and is basically flunking out of school. The one class she excels in in ceramics... taught by Mr. Howland.

Edna and Mr. Howland have a secret place in the woods the like to visit. The also have a secret place in the back of his office, and even in his house. When friendships fail her, and her father no longer speaks to her, Mr. Howland is the only light in Edna's life. Until he isn't.

To be frank, I had a really hard time with this book. This is Levchuk's first book and honestly, it shows. The metaphors were cloyingly heavy-handed, the characters more like caricatures, and the plot never delivers any strong points. Also, thought the book was set in the 1980s, this had zero importance to the plot and almost seemed arbitrary. If you have a request for a teacher-student romance then I guess this would fill that need, but it pales in comparison to Barry Lyga's Boy Toy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs-- A.S. King

ARRRRGGGG MATEY! X marks the spot for this pirate tome, and trust me, it's worth a few pieces of eight!

OK, sorry, couldn't help myself... it's the end of a really long work day and pirates are just too fun to pass up.

The Dust of 100 Dogs isn't your typical pirate book. We hear the story of Emer Morrisey, an Irish lass who escapes a life of abuse during Cromwell's invasion of Ireland by slipping onto a ship headed for the Caribbean. We read about Saffron Adams, the modern day incarnation of Emer, who detests her mundane family life in New Jersey and wants nothing more than to return to Jamaica to find her buried treasure. And we also hear the voice of a few different dogs... all incarnations of Emer/Saffron. You see, after she reaches the Caribbean, Emer becomes the scourge of the seas, the most fierce and accomplished pirate to ever intercept Spanish treasures. Just when she is reunited with her true love and about to leave the pirate life behind her forever, she is cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs. This means she has to live one hundred lives as a dog before she is reincarnated as a human and can regain her human existence again.

Sound confusing? Trust me, when you are reading it, this story makes perfect sense. I love the twist on the modern pirate story. There are plot twists and red-herrings throughout, which make this tome a page-turner. King has a very distinct voice for all three of her narrators, and it's hard to choose which of the three incarnations I like the best. I would recommend this to both boys and girls who enjoy pirate stories, especially those who liked Rees's Pirates! and Star-Crossed by Linda Collison.

Dirty Laundry-- Daniel Ehrenhaft

Boarding school. Kidnapping mystery. Undercover Hollywood actress. High School musical production of "Grease". That about sums it up.

Actually, it really doesn't. While Dirty Laundry doesn't tell a new or innovative story, it was still a fairly engaging read. Beautiful senior Darcy Novak goes missing during the first week of school while she is walking to the on-campus laundromat. The Winchester School is a collection of freaks and geeks who have been kicked out of every other boarding school on the east coast. When their lone "normal" girl, Darcy, goes missing, the whole school is in an uproar. Enter Carli, a teen Hollywood actress who is going undercover to study for a role, and FUN (short for Fellini Udall Newport) who is on his third strike for his fabulous art-erm-graffiti that covers the school walls. Together, with the help their roommates, Carli and FUN aim to solve the mystery of Dary's disappearance before her kidnapper snatches another victim.

Honestly, the best thing about this book was that it's a relatively tame mystery. I know some teens really like mysteries, but don't like the violence or murder that often accompanies them. I would easily recommend this book to older or younger teens. It's fairly light, has a bit of comedy, and the characters are engaging enough to keep you reading, even though they are slightly stereotypical and maybe a little flat. I'll bet the same type of reader who enjoys Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You would enjoy this book too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This is What I Want to Tell You-- Heather Duffy Stone

Noelle, Keeley, Nadio. They are the heart and soul of each other. But when Nadio and Keeley fall in love, where does that leave Noelle?

In this tenderly written coming-of-age tale, twins Nadio and Noelle discover what life is like as individuals for the first time. Nadio and Noelle live in the carriage house behind the manor where Keeley lives with her wealthy professor parents. Since she was a little girl, Keeley has spent most of her time with Noelle and Nadio. Noelle and Keeley are inseparable bundles of joy and energy, and Nadio is like their quiet cornerstone and foundation. When Keeley leaves for a summer in Oxford, Noelle feels like she is being left behind and understands her socio-economic situation for the first time. After Keeley returns, she and Nadio fall madly in love, and the consequences it has on Noelle are dire.

While the story line is nothing new (love triangle, hello?), This is What I Want to Tell You is gently written and the characters' voices are distinct and compelling. Teen girls will eat this book up, and it's a quick read. I would recommend this book to girls who are fans of Sarah Dessen, coming-of-age stories and/or romance, and teens who enjoyed Rachel Cohn's You Know Where to Find Me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eternal-- Cynthia Leitich Smith

Are you sick of vampires yet? If so, that's too bad because more and more vampire fiction keeps rollin' on into the YA section of your library! Luckily teens still seem into the genre, and we now have more to offer them than Twilight and Anne Rice.

Eternal is the story of Miranda, who is an Eternal. Don't call her a vampire (that's liable to get you killed), and if you double-cross her you might end up beheaded by the Dracula. Abducted and in some ways liberated from her mundane human existence, the Dracula "adopts" her, raises her in his image, and hopes that one day she will take over his kingdom. Dracula isn't a person, rather a title, and it's the most respected one among the Eternal population. Miranda is mostly happy with her brutal existence... it sure beats being a wallflower. Still, something is missing...

And then, she meets Zachary. The first thing to know about Zachary is that he is heartwrenchingly gorgeous (Duh. I mean this is a teen novel right? The male heartthrob isn't going to be anything less..) Zachary is totally 100% completely in love with Miranda... in that Edward and Bella way, actually. You see, Zachary was Miranda's guardian angel, but thanks to a few complications, he is now on earth and has to win back her soul before he can return to heaven. Zachary has know Miranda since she was born, and even though she was never aware of his existence before, they have an undeniably magnetic connection.

So, while it's not a totally new tale, I did enjoy this work of vampire fiction. It kinda felt like a hybrid of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Meyer's Twilight. Kinda. I would recommend this book to teens who enjoyed the aforementioned tomes, or who are looking for vampire/supernatural creature fiction in general. While this book is definitely a stand-alone title, it takes place in the same world as Leitich Smiths first novel, Tantalize.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

3 Willows-- Ann Brashares


I did it to myself, really. I knew, in my heart, that 3 Willows just couldn't be that good. Still, I thought I should give it a chance and not prejudge the book based on all the terribly Traveling Pants sequels. I mean, after all, I did like the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book before The Pants took over the universe.

3 Willows tells the story of Polly, Jo, and Ama. The three girls were best friends all through elementary school, but when Jr. High struck, they went their separate ways. Jo is the hot popular one (aka Bridget), Ama is the beautiful scholastic one (aka Lena), and Polly is the curvy artsy raised by a single mom girl (hybrid of Tibby and Carmen). All three girls have separate adventures during the summer, learn a lesson, and decide they need their real friends after all. Cue the "aaaahhhhhs".

What made this story even worse, is that Brashares kept bringing up the Traveling Pants girls. Lena and her sister Effie make an appearance, as does Bridget and Tibby's siblings and boyfriend. I mean, really, just let it go! Even the cover of the book felt dull and uninspired.

I am curious to see if girls enjoy this book. My guess is die-hard Traveling Pants fans and young girls who like clean romance will enjoy it. But I think most girls will enjoy another series a little more... this one just feels blah and recycled. Anyone else read it? What do you think?