Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shelter Me-- Alex McAulay

So I wish there were more books about boarding schools that weren't so off-base. But that is neither here nor there. I've had this book, Shelter Me, sitting on my desk waiting for me to review it for over a week now... but it was just so bad, I don't think I can even produce a well-written review about it! But still, I must try...

Shelter Me takes place in England during WWII. Maggie and her fanatically religious mother were already struggling to make ends meet when a bomb hits too close to home. Maggie's mom sends her to a strict boarding school in Wales, where girls with money have privileges and poor girls are treated inhumanely. And then, well, it's hard to describe. Four girls run away and end up in terrible situations.

Now typically, I shy away from giving away any major plot points... but this book was so terribly bad that I hope you don't read it anyway. This book is being marketed as historical fiction, but really it's a very poorly written novel that doesn't have a path or purpose. In this story there is an evil nun with a melted face who thinks she is god on earth. There is a German soldier with an infant, an odd Mae West-type character who drugs and steals children, a weird dude who smuggles vegetables in caskets, and a whore house... how can we forget the whore house. The worst part is there was no attempt to make the language or thoughts of the characters fitting with the historical time or setting. There were so many uses of modern slang that I literally found myself laughing out loud.

So I honestly wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. But if you had to, I guess you could give it to girls who like historical fiction but don't care if it's inaccurate, or maybe fan of School for Dangerous Girls.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Everything Is Fine-- Ann Dee Ellis

Mazzy's mother is clinically depressed and won't get out of bed.
Mazzy's father has abandoned the family in pursuit of a career in sports journalism.
Mazzy's neighbor Norma won't stop hugging her.
Mazzy's friend Colby won't be her boyfriend.
Mazzy doesn't have any food to eat.

But everything is fine.

This book is a hybrid verse-novel and regular novel. Each page looks similar to the format I have written in above... each line is independent and each chapter is very short, more like a poem. After a tragic accident tears her family apart, Mazzy has to become the parent and caregiver for herself and her bedridden mother. Although we are never told what age Mazzy is, she seems like a child of maybe 10-12. However, people treat her as if she were older and the cover photo shows a girl who is maybe 14-15. While this story sounds quite tragic, Mazzy's voice and perspective are so compelling, you can't put it down. Because if its short length and structure, I am sure this book will be popular with teens, especially girls. I would recommend this book to readers who liked So B. It by Sarah Weeks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beautiful-- Amy Reed

Sometimes beauty is multicolored like a sunset. Sometimes it resembles Peaches and Cream Barbie. And sometimes beauty looks like a badass punkrock chick with pounds of eyeliner, screamin' red lipstick, and ripped up fishnets tucked into combat boots. Cassie wants to be one of those hard-beauty girls, because nobody messes with them.

When 13 year old Cassie's family moves from a tiny town to a suburb of Seattle, she has a rare opportunity to reinvent herself. No longer will she be the even-nerdier-than-the-smart-kids geek. When the most popular, but feared girl in school Alex decides to befriend Cassie, her whole world shifts. She is dosed with acid, and begins spiraling into a drug and sex filled existence. While she is still in all the advanced classes in school-- and acing them, by the way-- her private life is in shambles. Only neurotic Sarah, who was locked in a closet and raped by her father for the first ten years of her life, gets through to Cassie on a personal level... and it isn't until disaster strikes that Cassie's eyes are opened to the life she has been living (if you can even call it living). Oh, and don't forget this: Cassie is only 13.

So, obviously not light reading, right? Honestly, it reminded me a lot of that movie Thirteen. There are a lot of girls who love harsh, realistic books like Living Dead Girl, and the tomes of Ellen Hopkins. So, Beautiful isn't for everyone, and although the protagonist is a 13 year old, I would still only recommend this to older teens.

P.S. I freaking love the cover. It fits the book *perfectly*.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Love You Two-- Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli

Pina's mom has always been kindof embarrassing. She's an overly affectionate hippyish mom who dresses too young and (ew) makes out with her dad in public. But Pina and her brother Leo always know they are loved, and share an inside joke with their mom: whenever she leaves Pina and Leo a note, she always signs it "love you t(w)oo".

So when Pina stumbles upon an email from her mom addressed to her father and some other guy with the subject line "love you t(w)oo", she can help but to read it... and then wish that she hadn't. Pina discovers that her mom is polyamorous... and she has a boyfriend in addition to her husband. At first Pina is enraged and defensive of her father, until she realizes not only does he know about her mother's boyfriend, but he supports her!

Although the plot of the book centers around Pina's mother's polyamory, it's really Pina's story. We get all of our information from Pina's perspective, and details about Pina's life that are quite separate from her mother's story. Pina goes on a quest to figure out life and love, and what family really means.

I have to say, I really liked this book. It was a good story, and I am always pleased when a book can take me by surprise. It felt a little heavy-handed at times, but I guess if you didn't already know what polyamory was you would need the information. I struggled a bit with the Aussie slang and all the Italian colloquialisms (the characters are Italian-Australian), but there was a glossary in the back that helped a bit. But overall, I thought it was well-written and unique. It definitely fills a hole in the collection.

One things though... on the back of the book there is a parental guidance label. Although there are definitely some older teen topics in this book (date rape, drinking), there is nothing explicit or gratuitous in this book. Personally, I don't think reading about rainbow families requires parental guidance.

The Real Printz

The official Printz winners have been announced! As you will see, we weren't too off the mark with our Mock Printz nominations...

The 2010 Michael L. Printz Winner:
Going Bovine by Libba Bray

The Honor books:
Charles and Emma: the Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
Tales of a Madman Underground: a Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes

Oh, and you can read about the award and the books on YALSA's website.

I have to say, I am quite surprised that Going Bovine won the top honor. It was a fun, entertaining read but I honestly thought it could have been better edited. Still, I am pleased to have a Printz winner that I can easily give to teens.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Everafter-- Amy Huntley

So, I can't help it... I love all those afterlife type books. Maybe it's because we can never actually know what it will be like until it's too late to write a book about it... Anyway, Amy Huntley's The Everafter should have been right up my alley. Yet somehow I just couldn't go there with her.

Maddy doesn't know where she is or how she got there. All she knows is that she is floating in an outerspace-nothingness kind of place and there are random objects, like a baby rattle, a penny, a pinecone, etc floating near her. She starts calling the place IS because that's what it feels like, and is pretty sure that she's dead... but she doesn't know how she died. When Maddy touches the object nearest to her, her boyfriend's sweatshirt, she is immediately transported into a memory related to that object. She can relive the moment, even alter it a bit, and then eventually comes back to IS. Over time, Maddy figures out how to better maneuver in her new location of IS and even meets up with a few kindred souls... but basically, the whole plot of the novel is moved and detailed by these objects and Maddy's memories.

So in concept, I can see how this works... but in practice I think Huntley kindof fails. I do think it would have been fun to write a book based on memories and objects, but I think it's less fun to read it. I realize that I can be a pretty harsh book critic, and it takes a lot to wow me these days, but still, The Everafter felt flat to me. I would give this book to teen girls who liked A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, but all of those books are superior in plot and writing to this one (IMHO).

P.S. So here's a bit of randomness for ya: My ARC copy of this book has the title listed as just The After... but upon publishing, it seems this book is now called The Everafter. Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mock Printz Results!

I have to say, our Mock Printz event that occurred on January 9, 2010 was quite a success. We had a fairly diverse group that was half library and school employees and half teens. While we are patiently waiting until January 18th to hear who won the real Michael L. Printz award, I can at least share with you our Mock Printz winners.

The winning title: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Honored titles: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Honestly, I am quite surprised by the outpouring of support for The Monstrumologist... it was one of those titles I thought many of our adult readers just wouldn't like. However, the blending of the historical fiction and horror genres, combined with good character development and fine tuned language won it a place in many peoples' hearts. Personally, I had to make Wintergirls my top choice, as I thought it was an extraordinary piece of fiction, but The Monstrumologist was my second choice... and it's time for a horror book to win the Printz, don't you think?