Monday, June 28, 2010

Mercury-- Hope Larson

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel details two young women's coming of age in Nova Scotia, but in vastly different time periods.

1859: Josey lives on a farm with her parents, and one day a traveling salesman type gold prospector, Asa, stops by. He lures in her father, and before she knows it, Asa has integrated himself inextricably from their lives... and Josey's heart. Asa has in his possession a unique necklace that has a bead of quicksilver in it, which ends up in Josey's hands at a key moment in time.

Present Day: Tara loves nothing more than the rickety old farm house her family has owned for generations. But when a tragic fire decimates their home, Tara's mother is forced to sell the land in order to make ends meet. But when Tara hears a rumor that gold is buried on their property, she feels like this is her only chance to save her childhood homestead.

Josey and Tara's stories are told in alternating sections, and Larson does a beautiful job of making each story distinct, but overlap in a way to make the story cohesive. Along with the storyline, details about the girls' lives are included to flesh out the details and make the reader feel involved with coming of age.

I would recommend this book to fans of graphic novels, particularly the stand-alone type, or fans of historical fiction who are looking to expand their reading selections. Fans of Stitches by David Small, Blankets by Craig Thompson, or American Born Chinese by Gene Lee Yang might like this for its coming of age/memoir-esque format.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

White Cat-- Holly Black

This book surprised me. I didn't expect to like it, but it kept getting high marks from review sources I value... so I gave it a chance.

And what do you know? I really enjoyed it!

In this tale of an alternate reality that highly resembles real life, there are curse workers. Curse workers are basically people who can use magic but only to do one thing. For example, Cassel's mother can control people's emotions, his brothers can control memories and even bring about death. Somehow, though his whole family was blessed with the skills to use this magic, Cassel is the one dud. He can't do anything magical, so his mobster family shipped him off to a boarding school where he won't get in their way-- so he thinks.

But there's this white cat who stalks his dreams. And one night this cat causes him to sleepwalk onto the roof of his dorm and come within seconds of plummeting to his death. And somehow he feels a little more awake now, like fuzz has been removed from his head, and he is learning things about himself, and his family, that he never thought possible.

This book is realistic fantasy with action and a little bit of romance. I think a variety of teens will like it, and it's the first in a promising series. I would give this book to fans of the author, Holly Black, or teens who enjoy authors like Melissa Marr, Charles de Lint or any other urban fantasy author.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Every Little Thing in the World-- Nina de Gramont

Sydney's 16 and a goody two-shoes... and pregnant. Her BFF Natalia just found out her parents are really her grandparents and that her older sister is really her mother. The only person who knows about Sydney's pregnancy is Natalia, and all of a sudden her views on abortion just got really complicated.

When Sydney and Natalia get busted attending a kegger, Sydney's parents send her on a long canoeing camping trip in Canada. They don't know she's pregnant and think the nature excursion might help her find what really matters in life. At the last minute Natalia finagles a spot in the group, and over the course of the summer both girls learn more about themselves and each other.

In typical summer camp fashion, other friendships and close bonds are developed, adventures are had, and tough decisions need to be made. But when the summer comes to a close, will Sydney listen to Natalia's pleas to keep her baby, or will she get the abortion that seems like the most logical choice.

Honestly, I was surprised by this book. I was so worried that it would be schmaltzy and unrealistic. I think de Gramont captures what it feels like to be a teen, invincible yet extremely fragile all at once. I would give this book to people who read Sarah Dessen, and fans of Jumping Off Swings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After Ever After-- Jordan Sonnenblick

Jeffery Alper is a leukemia survivor. He beat the disease into remission when he was five years old, but the chemo, radiation, and strong medications have left their mark. He has trouble concentrating, walks with a limp, and feels abandoned by his older brother who took off for Africa for a year.

On the first day of 8th grade, a beautiful accident happens. He notices a girl struggling to pick up her spilled backpack and they hit it off instantly. The next thing he knows, Lindsay from L.A. is his girlfriend and his only real friend besides BFF Tad, another cancer survivor.

Throughout the book we learn about Jeff's coming of age as a cancer survivor, how he is treated by others, and which boundaries he tries to break on his own. After Ever After is a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, but it's totally stand-alone (I never read the first book and didn't feel I was lacking for anything plot-wise). Sonnenblick writes an authentic 8th grade voice, and this is a good book to have in your pocket for that younger teen or tween who doesn't want baby-ish books but isn't ready for bawdy teen lit.