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".