Saturday, June 30, 2007

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

I'm having a hard time deciding if I liked this book. It is the story of Erin's teen years starting with the accidental death of both of her parents. The story is gripping, harrowing, and deeply emotional. Erin and her older sister are left to fend for themselves and baby brother, Trent, while their family and many friends desert them. My ambivalence is due to two smaller aspects of the book. First off, she thanks about 50 people in her acknowledgements section, but not her sister. This made me wonder about her motive for telling the story. Second issue: At one point in the story she is introduced to the works of Sylvia Plath by her teacher, Mrs. Ockenden. As she is comparing her life to The Bell Jar, she points out the coincidence that there is even a character named Mrs. Ockenden in the book. This would never work as a literary device in a work of fiction and I found myself doubting the veracity of some of the story. Two minor details, but ones that made me a little wary. Altogether, I think it was a well written memoir and I'll be interested to hear what everyone else thinks. I'll give it a YAY for now.

The Web of Fire by Steve Voake

This is a sequal to 2006's The Dreamwalker's Child. It seemed like a very normal sci-fi novel to me, except that the fighters ride bugs and travel between worlds. This did not do much for me at all, so I say NAY.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Glacial Period by Nicolas De Crecy

This graphic novel is part of a series each with a different vision of the Louvre museum. It takes place far in the future when ice has long covered the museum. A group of explorers discover the buried artifacts and try to make sense of them. Their interpretations are nonsense and farcical. The art work was OK with many master works in the background. I think most teens will have a hard time relating to this book. Nay for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thirteen Reasons Why

I may be jumping the gun here, but a teen pressed the Razorbill (Penguin's cutesy new teen imprint) ARC into my hands and said "you must read this." If its not on the list I think we should consider it. Basically, its a whole lot of awesome.

Premise: Girl commits suicide, but not before she makes seven cassette tapes, and a list of thirteen people to send them to. Thirteen people who contributed to her decision to die. Clay Jenson has just opened his surprise package. He's not the first, and he won't be the last.

This is a first novel (published) by Jay Asher who apparently worked as a part time youth librarian (no, I am not stalking him). Chris Crutcher loved it, and so do I. Yay.

Peak by Roland Smith

Peak Marcello finds himself facing jail time for scaling a skyscraper in NYC. As part of a plea deal, Peak is remanded into the custody of his father, the world famous mountain climber, Josh Wood. Josh is a narcissist, self absorbed and self promoting and has been largely absent from Peak's life. Josh sets up a climb of Everest, determined to make Peak the youngest climber to summit, if they can do it before his 15th birthday. Along the way, Peak learns what and who is important to him and makes some decisions that could change his life.
This was a well-written, fast-paced adventure that will definitely appeal to teen boys, especially the post Hatchet crowd. I don't know if it's the best of what is out there, but I can see giving it consideration. Yay.


Ambergate is Patricia Elliot's pretty good fantasy sequel to the novel Murkmere. British readers might pick out that Ambergate is located in a fantasy version of England, and the novel is definitely a Dickensian fantasy with character names like Scuff and Titus Molde.

The novel's heroine is a poor escaped orphan working on the estate of the last book's heroine, Aggie, three years after Murkmere. I didn't read the first book, so I don't know how much more I would have gotten from the story if I had, but there were moments when I felt the novel tossed in characters it expected us to remember and get "ah ha!" moments from. I found certain aspects of the story intriguing, but I don't think it's award-winning. Nay.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones

I would say that this book is a cross between a myth and science fiction, as many of the characters are Greek Gods and Godesses. The children play a game that requires them to travel throughout a "mythosphere" even though they are forbidden to do so. Hayley has been living with her Grandparents, believing that her parents were dead, when they send her away to live with other relatives. Through this game she reconnects wth her parents and discovers the secrets that took them away from her. I found this book to be very confusing and didn't enjoy it at all. There were too many characters to keep track of and the explanation of the characters links to Greek myths came at the end of the book, when I felt it might have been more helpful to read it before I started to read the story. I felt that it was merely a story and had no emotional connection for me; I didn't care that much about what happened to any of the characters. NAY.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Falling by Doug Wilhelm

Matt used to be a basketball superstar, but now he won't play anymore and no one knows why. Katie is inquisitive and growing ill-at-ease with her formerly tight circle of friends. Despite being from the same town, they fatefully meet in a chat room and the rest... well, the rest is a poorly written mishmosh with no sense of a realistic voice for a teen. Once the author jumped completely out the alternating narrative into a present tense history of their town that sounded like a high school report and started waxing all After School Special about the drug trade going through this small Vermont town, I was done. A big NAY.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Cute story about a "fantabulous" pair of friends who attend a prestigious theater summer camp. Demi is a gay, black young man who doesn't feel accepted at home. Sadye is a straight, white young woman who doesn't know if she has what it takes to be a STAR. The story was a fun romp through the uber-competitive, touchy-feely world of theater wannabees. The theater culture references will date this book (i.e. calling something Kristinish after Kristin Chenoweth from Wicked) and the characters were often predictable. Nice book to have on the shelves, but NAY for Thumb's Up.

True Talents by David Lubar

There is no question that David Lubar is a talented, funny author. True Talents, a late coming sequel to Hidden Talents, offers his same usual humor, adventures, and one-liners. But this book is primarily for the upper elementary, early middle school set. I give it a NAY for Thumb's Up.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know - Sonya Sones

I have to admit I am a going to be bias with this author, I love her work. This book was a very quick read and very teen appealing.

14-year-old Sophie, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, teen, describes her surprise when she is drawn to Robin, the school-appointed loser who makes her laugh. In this sequel, Robin picks up the narrative in rapid-fire, first-person free verse as he describes their school's reaction to the relationship: "They're gawking at us / like Sophie's Beauty and I'm the Beast." Sophie compares the two to outlaws: "It's just you and me against the world." But after Sophie's friends dump her, Robin feels guilty for the "random acts of unkindness" she endures: "Sophie may feel like an outlaw, / but thanks to yours truly, / what she really is / is an outcast." A talented artist, Robin finds escape in a Harvard drawing class, where a new friendship threatens his closeness with Sophie.

Great books, I give it a Yah! : )

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Here's the description from amazon (which is better than a description I could come up with!):
"Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?
An engrossing thriller with darkness and humor, freaks and geeks, Evil Genius explores the fine line between good and evil in a strange world of manipulations and subterfuge where nothing is as it seems."

I really liked it & completely agree with the description above. I give it a YAY! Definitely has boy appeal.

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

What do you get when five freshman rejects simultaneously end up in detention (for various reasons) with a music teacher who--due to budget cuts--has no orchestra to conduct? The start of a revolution.
Meet Charlie, Wen, Mo, Olivia, and Stella, alias Lemonade Mouth--Rhode Island's most unorthodox rock band. A great book with a great message, downgraded slightly for confusing narrative from about 20 different perspectives. MAYBE.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker

This seems to be a vanity piece for Parker. I like the Spenser books and the repartee between his adult novel characters, but this book fell very flat. It is essentially the story of a group of friends who have an upstart basketball team in 1946 Massachusetts. Throw in the cute girl, who is dating one of the guys but of course likes the protagonist, the gratuitous mentions of radio shows and 1940s pop culture, and the unlikely Cinderella story of the unchoached b-ball team, and I was already bored. Oh, by the way, there is a disturbing mystery regarding their 8th grade teacher and a creepy man in a Ford Tudor, that the kids solve with no violence and a happily-ever-after for all. NAY.

Mud Girl by Alison Acheson

Aba's mom deserted her and her dad a year ago. Dad has done nothing but sit on the couch ever since. A Big Sister comes into her life and Aba meets a guy who has a son and befriends them both. I wasn't thrilled with this book. it took me a while to get into it. It just meandered along. I didn't like Aba too much, especially how she treated the Big Sister. She did grow as a character by the end, but I'd give it a NAY

A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

Fifteen-year-old Shell takes care of her drunken father and her younger brother and sister after their mother dies. She and her life in a tiny Irish village are both rather simple -- until a new priest arrives in town, she and her one friend have a falling out, she gets involved with a boy, and ends up in the midst of a huge scandal unlike anything her quiet home has ever known. I think for different readers the very Irish language could either be a detriment by making it inaccessible, or attractive because it gives the book such a sense of place. Also interesting to note that it was based on a true story. Yet another MAYBE from me.... (I can't believe I haven't run across any YAYs yet, but it's really got to knock my socks off for me to give it a thumbs up!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

This book took me a little while to get into, but I am glad I pushed through it because it ended up being a great story about a 7th grader named Holling Hoodhood who realizes that the world doesn't revolve around him and all of the choices that world has to offer. I thought that it had the right mix of comedy and seriousness in dealing with topics such as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, The Vietnam War, and dealing with teachers, parents and fellow students whom you feel have it in for you. I give this book a YAY.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in California by Mary Hershey

I seem to be on a run of books that are solid and quite enjoyable, but I'm not certain how much to get behind them. With this one though, I'm giving this smart and funny book a YAY. Alastair is a teen who gets sent to say with his Dad and new Step Mom in California. He absolutely does not want to be there or get along with anyone, but he meets a girl that gets him to join a swimming competition. As the story unfolds the story behind his amputated leg also comes out. This is a quick moving story with some realistic characters and I give it a YAY.

Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This is basically a mash-up of teen chick-lit and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Maggie has always tried to ignore the fact that she may have some mysterious powers, but when strange things begin happening at her school she can't help but investigate. And, of course, two handsome lads are in the picture as well. This is actually a charming book, because Maggie is a neat character and there are lots of funny pop culture references, especially about Nancy Drew. While I will recommend this to some of my patrons, I think it is just a MAYBE here.

Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin

Stan Smith, by some people considered a genius, has graduated from high school, but he is working at a video store and has no plans for college. Stan narrates this fairly funny story with an incredibly sarcastic outlook. I enjoyed it to a certain extent but there is not much depth here and the constant snarkiness got a bit old. Decent book, but I'd say NAY.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage by Alma Alexander

Thea lives in a world much like our own, except for the fact that everyone does magic. Everyone but her, and since she is a fabled seventh child of two seventh children, her lack of magic is particularly tough to bear. Her father send her packing through a portal to a Native American teacher to try to find her magical gifts. Thea spends the first half of the book learning off in the spirit world, and the second half saving her world from some nameless menace that doesn't even show up until the last third of the story. A rambling, inconsistent book -- NAY.

The Wolf by Steven Herrick

Even though I'm a hard sell on novels in verse, this one does work, as it allows the narrative to bounce easily back and forth between the two main characters: Jake, whose father has him convinced that there is a wolf living near their farm even though wolves don't live in Australia, and Lucy, Jake's neighbor who gets Jake to go looking for the wolf with her as a way to avoid her abusive father. There are even a handful of poems thrown in from the point of view of Lucy's annoying younger brother, Peter. A decent, fast read, but not award-worthy, so NAY.

An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

I think that this is very important information for teens to have, and I'm glad that Al Gore has adapted his earlier work for teens. It's informative, colorful, and easy to get through. However, I have to give it a NAY because a) it's just not that riveting a nonfiction read and b) I'm not even entirely sure it qualifies since it's an adaptation of an earlier work. But be sure to have it in your collections!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ordinary Ghosts by Eireann Corrigan

Couldn't get into this story AT ALL. Took two weeks to read 100 pages and decided that at least in my book, it's definitely NOT Thumbs Up caliber. NAY.

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

Katy's dad, Rat, is a drummer in the legendary band Suck and lives in LA. Katy lives with her mom in Montreal, but is sent to stay for a few weeks with her dad that she doesn't know well. Those weeks turn into the whole summer, with a move at the end of it. Everyone in LA is into music and Katy is not; or so it seems! She's so boring her nickname is BEIGE. Katy works hard at being "the good girl" and bottles up a lot of her emotions, but towards the end of her summer she is expressing herself more freely with her father, her friends, and herself. I give this book a YAY! I want to read more about Beige and her new life in Madrid.

Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer

This book read like an afterschool special. Kate is pulling away from her mother's fundamentalist church following the death of her father. She begins to experience the world and realizes that there are issues like homosexuality, dating, and environmental rights that are not as black and white as she'd been taught. She follows her heart, finds a caring pastor at a new church, a kooky-yet-supportive great aunt who helps her deal with her father's death, makes friends, joins cross country, and has a first dating experience. I am not sure if you could add anymore issues to this book. Like an afterschool special, I wanted to find out how it ended, but it is not award material. NAY

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden

This title is very clear as to what the book contains.... short stories about gay and lesbian characters and their struggles... and the stories take place during different time periods, from the 1950s on. At the beginning of each time period, there is an essay that explains what was going on in the world/America and what that time period was like for gays and lesbians. I enjoyed the stories as well as the essays but I kept finding myself wanting to learn more about the characters and how their situation changed as they got older. I really would have loved if some of the stories were full length novels. This is a YAY for me.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Dangerously Alice

I hope this doesn't make me a bad librarian, but I've never read any other "Alice" Books. As a result, the first half of this novel was pretty rough on me. Naylor doesn't provide much, if any, description of her character other than "African American" and "braces". Alice has friends, and then she has frenemies, her family, the cancer kid, the mentally impaired kid, and then there are the boys Alice knows and has or has not dated. I feel like a need a crib sheet with all the past happenings that fills these characters in for me. Alice, like all awkward teens in novels dealing with school social scenes, dwells on her frenemies, who refer to her as DD and MGT. I don't think teens today would ever actually use the phrase, "Dry as Dust".

That said, I found the second half of the book very interesting, especially the frank explorations of sexuality. The boring, mundane little world Alice inhabits finally became a little more real at these moments of excitement, awakening, and embarrassment. Its a bit like Judy Blume, updated for the smart girls. If I was making a best of list for the Alice Books, I am sure this one would be on there, but this one gets a Maybe Nay for Thumbs Up.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

God of Mischief

God of Mischief by Paul Bajoria is a novel that feels like it appeals to a young audience, despite some grisly aspects of the story. I found myself lacking sympathy for the orphan heroes who feel thrown together in a plot full of unrelentingly boring and rather gross perils. The female narrator lacked emotional depth. Nay.

Harley's Ninth by Cat Bauer

A day in the life of sixteen-year-old Harley, in which she thinks she might be pregnant, connects with her famous Broadway stage designer father, fights with her up-and-coming rockstar boyfriend, is reunited with her long-lost talented grandmother, and caps off the day with her own art exhibit in a New York gallery. Yet another fantasy masquerading as realistic fiction. I know that teens like to read about things outside of their own reality, but I tire of these books that make it seem so easy for teens to become famous without a lot of hard work. Plus the characters all seemed hastily sketched. NAY for me.

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age edited by Arieal Schrag

I thought this was a completely uninspiring collection of comics about life in middle school. Yes, they're awkward years, but this book was just ugly. I didn't enjoy any of the art, and none of the stories grabbed me, either. NAY.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Decoding of Lana Morris

There is something disgusting about this book. Maybe its the discussions of poop. Maybe it's the thumping box-spring of the one-armed, cuckolding foster mother. Maybe its the fact that the main character agrees to ride in the car trunk of a guy who smokes pot while driving. Maybe its the special needs kids with all their painfully awkward foibles. There were many moments reading this novel when I thought: ick.

Despite my squeamishness, I couldn't stop reading it. Sadly, the end didn't quite live up to the rest of the story. Maybe?
Update: My mom loves it. I suppose that's a positive.


In order to read Breathe, I had to read Undine first, because the whole thing just didn't make sense. After reading Undine, I realized that Breathe was a wet, murky, mess anyway. Nay.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

15-year old Meredith learns that three years in prison has not changed the abusive father who raped her. Now he is getting out and coming home. Meredith wants to run away, but she can't leave her father free to abuse other children. I couldn't put this one down. It is a well written, suspenseful and disturbing read. I give it a yay.