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.