Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Blast of Books II

So every now and then I get so behind on my blogging, I have to blast you with a bunch of books at once... and heeeeeeeere we go!

Flash Burnout-- L.K. Madigan

Blake is a photographer who captures the gritty and hideous in a beautiful way. His photography pal, Marissa, is just the opposite... she takes beautiful things and makes them quirky and interesting. One day Blake captures the image of a drugged out streetperson... who ends up being Marissa's missing meth-addicted mother. This book is an emotional journey about friendship, family, growing up before your time, and the power of art. Bonus: it takes place in Portland, OR.

Stitches-- David Small

For whatever reason, I really love GN memoirs... and David Small's is just another to add to my list! Poignant, honest (brutally at times), and deeply revealing, this book is just as well-written as it's well-drawn. Small tells of his struggle with cancer, his abusive parents, and how he overcame both and finally found his voice.

How Beautiful the Ordinary-- Edited by Michael Cart

In this collection of short stories, we get to read works by YA author superstars including Francesca Lia Block, David Levithan, Julie Anne Peters, William Sleater, Emma Donoghue and more. It's a collection of coming of age stories, mostly coming out stories to be precise, and for the most part it's quite a good read. Is it memorable? Not really. Still, there are lots of teens out there that hunger for honest tales of growing up and I think this book will have a fairly wide audience.

Tangled-- Carolyn Mackler

Told from the perspective of four different teens, all in alternating chapters, we learn that life isn't perfect for anyone, despite outward appearances. Contrived and unoriginal at it's worst, touching and relatable to teens at it's best, I think Mackler's fans won't be toooooo disappointed in her latest effort. At least it has a good message that isn't nauseatingly heavy-handed.

Lips Touch: three times-- Lani Taylor

I have to admit that this was my favorite out of the bunch. It's a collection of three stories, all based on a traditional tale or poem, and illustrated by her husband. I will confess that I am biased about this because the first story was based on Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" which is my favorite Victorian poem. But still, the writing was amazing, and the stories were strange, creepy, and just plain good. This would be a great book to recommend to the teen who thinks they only like adult books because YA books aren't well-written enough. Oh and it was nominated for a National Book Award in 2009.

Monday, March 22, 2010

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead-- Julie Anne Peters

Parents are definitely not going to like this one!

Daelyn is done with this life... so done with it that she's attempted suicide (and failed) multiple times, just adding to her sense of worthlessness. Luckily, she finds a website called Through the Light, which guides you step by step through your suicide process. After years of being bullied, harassed, abused, and overlooked Daelyn is ready to die. Since her first two wrist-slitting attempts were failures, and drinking bleach and ammonia didn't work either, she really wants to find a successful means to her end. Through the Light details all the different ways to end your life, how hard they are to execute, and how painful they are... this is the part I expect parents will hate.

But as her day of death draws nearer, Daelyn finds herself drawn into the lives of two other people. A homeschooled boy, Santana, won't give up on her, even though she is in a neck brace and can't speak. He sees a spark of life in her that she doesn't see herself, and wants to unravel the mystery that is Daelyn. And Emily, a chubby teased girl at school tries to befriend Daelyn too, and refutes all of Daelyn attempts to snub her.

But in the end, will the efforts of others break through Daelyns dark cloud of a lifetime of depression? And if she does end up going "through the light" which light will it be, life or the afterlife?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

For Keeps-- Natasha Friend

Josie and her mother Katie are extremely close. Maybe it has something to do with their small age gap... Katie had Josie when she was a teenager. Maybe it's because Katie can't seem to keep it together and Josie is the mature influence in her own mother's life. Or maybe it's because (gasp) sometimes mothers and daughters really DO have a good relationship.

Josie's father has never been a part of her life. He moved away with his family when Katie was just barely pregnant with Josie, which is just fine with her. Josie and her mother make a perfect team, and her best friend Liv and her two dads round out their group. But when Josie saves the life of a man who was a regular at her place of employment, a local coffeeshop, everything begins to shift. The man she saves turns out to be her grandfather, and a whole new family is revealed to Josie, whether she likes it or not. Add in her romance with soccer star Briggs, her own strong role on the soccer team, and some life-changing decisions, and you've got an understanding of Josie's complicated existence.

I've read just about everything Natasha Friend has written. Something about her writing really sucks the reader in, the same way Sarah Dessen's characters do. But the difference between Friend and Dessen is that after I've finished a Natasha Friend novel, I tend to forget all about it. But don't get me wrong... I will still totally read anything she writes. Funny how that works.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Goldsmith's Daughter-- Tanya Landman

Maybe it's leftover from my childhood, but I am still drawn to stories of ancient times... you know ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans...

The Goldsmith's Daughter is a tale of the Aztecs, during the time when the Spanish begin their conquering. Itacate was born to a wealthy craftman father and a peasant mother. Her mother died giving birth to Itacate and her twin brother, and it was believed that Itacate was born cursed because she appeared to be dead when born, then miraculously started to breathe. Over the years, no sign of the prophesied curse emerged, and Itacate began to secretly assist her goldsmith father with his work. Her talent was noticed by the great emperor Montezuma, which frightened Itacate because goldsmithing was forbidden to women. Montezuma commissioned two statues of the gods, and Itacate deeply connected with the art and spirituality of her task. Her work was prominently displayed at the temples, but credited to her father.

But just as Itacate felt her life started to have meaning, the Spaniards invade her city and all that she had worked for was lost. Montezuma allowed the Spanish to move right into the palace, and to influence his decisions. And when a Spanish goldsmith wins her love, Itacate must learn how to survive in a completely different world than she has ever known.

This books was written in simple, straightforward language. The author admits in a note at the end, that she twists some aspects of history to make her story work. I found this book to be an easy read, not super compelling, but the plot moved well enough to hold my interest. I also think there aren't many similar books to this one (meaning based on the Aztecs), and it's nice to have a book like this to offer to teens who want historical fiction about ancient civilizations.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Very LeFreak-- Rachel Cohn

For those of you who luuuurve to read books with quirky and interesting characters, and you aren't annoyed by their alarming ignorance of their own flaws, then you are in luck.

Meet Very LeFreak. Born to a free spirited pyromaniac mother and an unknown father, Very has traveled the world and lived the gloriously unstable life every kid dreams of having... until they actually do. Very's mother dies at the end of her high school years, and she goes to live with her one remaining relative, an elderly aunt who pulls some strings to get Very a scholarship to Columbia. We meet Very during her college years. She is 100% and totally a technology nerd, a total hottie in that Botticelli woman way, and is the center (and usually creator) of every social event. She sleeps with her iphone, ipod, and laptop. She has a supersecret online romance with someone names El Virus. She and her friends create The Grid, which is an underground social networking site the students use to plan parties, flashmobs, and other not-exactly-legal but extremely fun activities. But when Very stops living IRL and can only communicate through her various means of technology, her stability at Columbia begins to crumble... she is losing her scholarships, her friends, and the only hint of a normal life she has ever had. So finally, her friends plan an intervention... and Very gets sent to technology rehab.

Even though this book is about college students, I do see it's place in the YA collection. Cohn has written several other YA books and her readers would look for her latest in the YA section. Plus, the subject matter is more relatable to teens and young adults than it would be to other readers. Very is a quirky character (how could you not be with a name like Very LeFreak). I predict that some teens will *love* her and others will be totally annoyed by her. As much as I tried not to, I fell into the love category. I would recommend this book to readers of Cohn's other books, fans of Anne Brashares or Sarah Dessen, and to teens who like books that feel very "now" and up-to-date with technology.