Sunday, January 27, 2008

Defect by Will Weaver

Okay, I'm tired, so I'm copying and pasting from Amazon:
David's odd appearance makes him a target for bullies, but what sets him apart most is his secret: he can fly. After persistent hazing, he is moved to an alternative school, where he meets Cheetah, a girl with epilepsy. David and Cheetah, both medical anomalies and social outcasts, begin a strong friendship and, eventually, a romance. When David's flying is observed in public, everyone wants a piece of him—doctors, religious fanatics, the press. With the steadfast support of Cheetah and his compassionate and loving foster parents, David must decide whether to undergo corrective surgeries to remove his collapsible wings, giving him a more "handsome" appearance. The eerie cover and enticing premise will draw readers in for a big payoff. David struggles with his ability: Is it a gift or a curse? Will he be different if he looks different? Does God have a plan for him? Teens struggling with social stigmatization and medical issues will find a champion in David.
A quick read, and would make for interesting discussion material, but not award-worthy. NAY from me.

Crush: Love Poems by Kwame Alexander

Oh. Dear. God. This was like every bad open mic I've ever been to all rolled into one painful experience. It hurts that this book has been published and that people have given this dreck good reviews. I can't say NAY loudly enough.

Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel

Oppel presents an anthropomorphic evolution experience of two mammal species during the twilight of dinosaurs. Dusk is a chiropter (early bat) newborn who defies his colony by flying not just gliding.

Intelligent design followers will not like the evolution elements in this book, but there could be some debate about the source of the voice Dusk hears in his visions (hallucinations ?).

I've read 175 pages and can see an audience for the book, but don't think it is TU caliber. NAY

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hero by Perry Moore

Who is that masked man? In this story there's a mix of admiration and embarrassment when family members belong to The League. Thom's father is frequently recognized and shunned as a disgraced superhero. Thom keeps his emerging superpowers and sexual identity concealed from his single-parent father. They grow increasingly apart when the world needs more superheroes.

Please read for discussion! It is a fun romp in some places, has quirky, lovable and not so lovable characters. Some superheroes are out to save the world, others are looking for celebrity. The ego stuff reads straight out of comic books of yore (so it sticks with the genre, but is it literary enuff?). Hooray for an ordinary, gay, teen (and superhero) who has to deal with a homophobic father and without the support of many friends.

Is it top 20 fare? not 10, but maybe 20. MAYBE

Powers by Ursula LeGuin

I'm over 100 pages in, not much has happened and I'm having a hard time keeping all of the characters straight - there seems to be an abundance of them. So I'm giving up and calling it a NAY.

Cassandra's Sister by Veronica Bennett

Bennett writes in a style similar to Jane Austen, imagining what her late teen and 20s would have been like. The characters speak with reserve according to social decorum and frequently on the topic of marriage. I am a Jane Austen fan, and the book was enjoyable, but I wasn't particularly moved or absorbed by the story or the writing. Jane's tale is a little sad and I am slightly curious how much of Bennett's imagination of Cass and Jenny were based on research (she briefly touches on this in the epilogue). Bennett notes that Cass destroyed as many of her sister's letters as she could find upon Jane's death "in the hope of keeping private details secret".

The parallels in Jane's life that appeared in her stories are interesting, this layer in the tale would pass by a non-Jane Austen reader (or at least movie watcher) diminishing the effect of Cassandra's Sister. The historical fiction component includes bits from the French Revolution, war with Bonaparte, commonplace of military careers, societal rules governing relationships and women's roles, as well as a brief mention of Britain in the West Indies.

NAY for Thumbs Up

Spud by John van de Ruit

Chronicles the life of a young teen during his first year at boarding school; takes place in Africa in 1990 - apartheid is ending; a lot of hazing of the first years at the school. NAY for me. I didn't feel the storyline had enough structure; characters were flat.
Every review (there are 8) on amazon has loved it & given it 5 stars - so maybe I'm way off here. Anxious to hear what others think.

here's description from amazon:
It’s 1990. Apartheid is crumbling. Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison. And Spud Milton—thirteen-year-old, prepubescent choirboy extraordinaire—is about to start his first year at an elite boys-only boarding school in South Africa. Cursed with embarrassingly dysfunctional parents, a senile granny named Wombat, and a wild obsession for Julia Roberts, Spud has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home.

Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes readers of all ages on a rowdy boarding school romp full of illegal midnight swims, raging hormones, and catastrophic holidays that will leave the entire family in total hysterics and thirsty for more.

Winner of South Africa’s Booksellers’ Choice Award 2006

Bad Tickets by Kathleen O'Dell

I really enjoyed this book. Takes place in the sixties - a coming of age / identity story. It wasn't very predictable, it was realistic (although that's easy for me to say, not having been around in the 60's). YAY.

From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—It's almost summer in 1967 in Oregon, and Mary Margaret Hallinan, age 16, eagerly anticipates the end of the school year. The formerly good Catholic girl has changed since Jane Stephens arrived at Sacred Heart Academy after trying to run away with a boy. Mary Margaret strives to avoid her mother's unhappy life (five children, a miserable husband, and piles of laundry) and goes against her better instincts to follow Jane's overly confident lead. Their escapades move beyond escaping school at lunch and into smoking pot at the home of some college boys. Jane encourages Mary Margaret to find a "good ticket" among the guys at The Rainbow House. Anxious to find her own ticket, Jane is blind to the truth that the guy she wants doesn't want her, while Mary Margaret finally ignores Jane's opinion and makes her move on Mitchell, her longtime crush from school. With a style reminiscent of Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen, O'Dell shows readers how Mary Margaret learns some truths about herself, her mother, her former best friend, Jane, and what it means to have a good ticket. Older teens will enjoy and relate to this humorous and engaging story with just a bit of spirituality.—Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Mary Margaret Hallinan is a good Catholic girl until she meets Jane. Jane is a risk-taker, someone who instructs Mary Margaret to say yes to life. In this case, yes means heading into Portland to partake of the hippie lifestyle, complete with plenty of marijuana. With insight and humor, O'Dell gives the good-girl-bad-girl story new depth. Everything is done well. The 1967 setting is freshly evoked, even as it shows that time hasn't changed the way friendships twist and turn. Equally interesting is O'Dell's take on romance. Mary Margaret finally turns her longtime crush, Mitch, into a boyfriend, though Jane thinks Mitch is a "bad ticket," someone who will lead Mary Margaret nowhere. Mary Margaret knows a lot about going nowhere. Her mother married her genial father when she became pregnant, and now, five children later, she fights with her daughter and tries to make the best of her diaper-filled life. Thanks in part to Jane's helping her see life differently, but mostly because of own her strength of character, Mary Margaret is able to shape her romance with Mitch into a relationship of equals. The schoolgirl in the mini skirt on the cover may attract readers, but the picture doesn't do justice to the strong female characters inside.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

November Blues by Sharon Draper

Sixteen-year-old November's boyfriend died as a result of hazing when he was attempting to join a school club. Two months after his death November finds out that she is pregnant. This book provides a very realistic look at teenage pregnancy and all that teenage girls go through (i.e. their feelings of how their life will change forever, the reactions of parents and friends, sickness and what their bodies go through, etc). I guess I do think this was a good book, but at times it felt a bit too contrived for me. This book was a CSK Honor book this year. I also forgot to mention that it's a sequel to THE BATTLE OF JERICHO. Right now, my vote is NAY. I would love to hear what others think about this one.

Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury

This is a fictional account of what happened to a Boy Scout troop that was caught out on a Hawiian volcano when an earthquake and tsunami hit in 1975. I have a hard time seeing the appeal of this book for anyone over the age of 12 and found the writing to be standard, but unremarkable. Most of the character descriptions made me what to shout "SHOW me, don't TELL me". Not a bad book for a younger audience than ours, but not TU worthy.

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Here's what PW said:
Publishers Weekly Review
With a quote from The Age of Innocence as an epigraph and an enthusiastic blurb from the creator of Gossip Girl on its back cover, this lavishly produced debut makes no secret of its twin influences. The story opens in 1899 with the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, a well-bred beauty said to have plunged to her death in the Hudson River. The narrative then travels back several weeks, tracing the relationships and events that have led to the somber assembly. This tangled web includes not one but two sets of star-crossed lovers; an upstairs/downstairs romance; a scheming social climber; a bitter servant girl; and oodles of money, all set in a Edith Wharton via Hollywood vision of Old New York. The dialogue has its clunky moments, and the plot twist that drives the tale is telegraphed from the very start, but readers caught up in the fancy dress intrigue are unlikely to mind much: it's all part of the dishy fun. Needless to say, the ending paves the way for at least one sequel. Ages 14-up. (Dec.)
Sort of like General Hospital winning an Oscar......
Nope, no way, nay

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rosen

Nina has hemangioma. Children taunt her with Big Eye Little Eye and bark at her like a dog. Her best friend, Patty, even overweight, has boyfriends and Nina doesn't. Her father loves his family in his overbearing and controlling way.

About half way through I was ready for Nina to break out of her poor me cycle and have major events happen in her life. Rosen has written a solid novel, but I wonder if adults might relate to it better than teens. If it had been a movie, Nina would have been narrating it as a flashback with adult wisdom, experience and the mellowing of years. The last page has a revealing realization for Nina as she is reflecting on her childhood "It seemed there was a gap between memory and reality, and that made me sad". This felt like a coming of age tale in retrospective.

I liked the aspects of Jewish culture that didn't feel added on or kitched up. It felt like a natural component to the family and the way they spoke to each other and some perspectives/philosophies of the world.

Rosen has hemangioma too, but her website assures readers that the book is a work of fiction. (she included a photo of the "original crooked pots" below) The authenticity of much of the story felt strong and sure. Good for a different audience. NAY

Monday, January 21, 2008

before, after, and somebody in between by jeannine garsee

Please read this for more input/discussion. Could be a top 20 contender.
I would place this higher than many "problem" novels on the TU scale. Better than The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, but with similar themes, drunken mother, young teen fending for herself, adults not coming through, adults who do come through for Martha, poverty, a struggle for survival, (misplaced?) loyalty to neglecting parent.

Sometimes Martha won't let herself follow her passion of playing the cello. She fights against and at the same time internalizes her mother's messages of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Martha's transformation has some echoes akin to Twisted. It is a tough book, not a light read, but certainly a high "B" list contender for the top 20.

A few things niggled in my brain - is a cello light enough for a 14 year old to lug with her backpack 30 blocks ti school? So I looked it up. A weighs roughly 5 pounds + case (7-15 pounds). So not super heavy, but bulky. Some people won't walk 1/4 mile, so 30 blocks to a suburbanite/small town person seems a far distance even without the weight and bulk of a cello in a case.

Jerome's transformation at the end seemed really abrupt, but I suppose that was Martha's experience of it, so we had the same experience. I didn't see how he abandoned her like she felt from that brief interchange.

I was angry/irritated with Martha covering for her mom and Wayne and some of the ugly things that went on, but the Alanon meetings identified and addressed that behavior as "normal" and gave some alternatives to break the destructive cycle. I was glad Garsee had Martha start taking matters into her own hands (sort of round-a-bout)

A child's craving for attention, love, survival, reactions from fear, and the power of reaching out to someone else make this a powerful debut novel.

Avenger by Andy McNab & Robert Rigby

This is book #3 in a series where teenagers are working as secret agents to save the world. I don't feel it's award worthy - NAY.

Blood Brothers by S. A. Harazin

This is a story of two best friends who are very different. Joey has it all - a family, good looks, friends, money, intelligence and is on his was to Duke. Clay's mom died when he was born, his dad isn't around much, he has low self-esteem, has to work at the hospital to help pay family bills, has no real friends (other than Joey). Their big plan is to take a bike trip cross-country. Clay doesn't have the money and then Joey makes a life-altering mistake - he smokes "weed mixed with PCP and other". Clay finds him out-of-control in the shed and there is a struggle - Joey ends up in the hospital in a coma. The book is about responsibility - who is responsible for Joey being in the hospital, about choices - why teens go to parties, how they choose "friends" and when to tell the truth about yourself and others. The hospital scenes are real, from everyday stuff to tragedies. The characters are real. It is fast-paced and would appeal to both boys and girls. I give it a YAY.

Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani

This is a delightful book about a teenage American born Indian girl. Her parents have"traditional" hopes for her, including college and a summer of service in India. She was to be a part of the fashion world. She has applied for an internship at "Celebrity Style" but instead ends up the babysitter for the publisher. Throughout the story she learns some hard lessons about racism, nepotism and the realities of the celebrity lifestyle. The book reveals some insight into the world of journalism, life as an Indian teen trying to honor the traditions and culture of her background and how some plans that don't go as planned, turn out for the best.
This is a wonderful read. I would buy it for my girls. Not sure it is an award winner. So, for now I give it a Maybe.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Pilgrims of Rayne (Pendragon) by D. J. MacHale

I like to think an author knows his own work. In the preface, MacHale advises the reader twice to start at book one in the series (and presumably read two through seven too) before reading book eight. Then he has the main character say the same thing again on page 4.

I stopped reading at the third warning to read the other books in the series. I am going to take MacHale's word for it - that #8 doesn't stand alone and vote NAY just for that reason.

Lobster Land by Susan Carlton

Charlotte lives off the coast of Maine with her family whose members are named after Charlotte's web. Her boyfriend is Noah who she has known forever. She has secretly applied to boarding schools to escape the island. The story takes place over the course of one week. Her voice is very funny and refreshing but a totally forgettable story. It was very hiliarious in parts but not award worthy but would have in my collection. Nay

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley

Merilee leads a Very Ordered Existence. V.O.E., for short.

Her schedule (which must not be altered) includes, among other entries:

  • School (horrendous)
  • Litter patrol (30 minutes daily)
  • Lunch (PB&J and a pickle)
  • Bottle return (Friday only at the Piggly Wiggly)
  • Dame Fiona’s meditation show (Saturday only, 6:00 AM)

The V.O.E. is all about precision.

Merilee does not have time for Biswick O’Connor.

Merilee does not have time for Miss Veraleen Holliday.

He with his annoying factoids and runny nose. She with her shining white shoes as big as sailboats. Both of them strangers who, like the hot desert wind that brings only bad news, blow into town and change everything.
(jacket flap description)

Merilee collects secrets. She learns them through observation and giving people purple Tootise Pops. She doesn't share the secrets. Even when it might help.

Merilee reminds me of Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Her family and friends have some pretty big issues in their lives. I couldn't quite figure out her dad who seemed absent even when he was in the room, but Uncle Dal and Grandma Birdy play key roles in her life with their own pasts and struggles.

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous
is not a light read, although it has some humorous moments. I struggled in the first third of the book to relate to Merilee, but by the last third I was pulled along by the story and wanted to know how it ended. Merilee observes people keenly, and sometimes hesitates to practice her keen insight in action or words.

I conflicted about this one. Sometimes Merilee's rhythm doesn't seem consistent with her VOE, but that can also move the story along. The vibrant and eccentric characters in Jumbo, TX add texture as well as noise.
I think I've given YAYs to lesser books (although I didn't know it at the time). I am going with a MAYBE for the top 20.

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

While this was a good magic-based adventure, I don't think it stands up to our criteria. It is a companion book to The Warrior Heir, but quite a bit of the world building appears to have taken place. I wasn't lost, just felt that it was a continuation. And the ending certainly implies that another episode is coming along. The writing is fast-paced and enjoyable, but I didn't feel much of a connection to any of the characters. It will date itself with the use of current technology. If it had been earlier in the year, I might have considered this as a Maybe, but after reading others, I'm going with a Nay.

Sherman Alexie Video

For your viewing pleasure. :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Last Dance at the Frosty Queen by Richard Uhlig

Arty can't wait to blow the popsicle stand that is his hometown. He has a plan of escape after graduation and just needs to collect his back pay from his work on Doggie Joggie outfits - an over anticipated wonder that would put Harker City on the map to launch his liberation. Set in 1988 there are amusing pop culture references and the witty names for his vehicle are fun.

I thought Last Dance at the Frosty Queen was going to be a male version of Beauty Shop for Rent: . . . fully equipped, inquire within by Laura Bowers and it missed the mark broadly. Arty and his family and community reminded more of the pathetic Going Nowhere Faster with passiveness, aggressiveness and sex thrown in. I didn't find much convincing character development and
the ending was convenient and pat.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kissing the Bee by Kathe Koja

This slender book tells such a basic story: teenaged love triangle. But Koja tells it so simply and so beautifully. A lovely little surprise of a book, and a definite YAY from me.

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White

Meg Powers is the teenaged daughter of the President of the United States. Apparently this is the third book about Meg, and when the book opens, she is recovering from being kidnapped and left for dead by terrorists. The book does a decent job of catching the reader up, but the author has a quirky writing style that I think is supposed to make the reader feel like we're thinking right along with Meg, but instead left me wondering where the heck the verbs are and whether those sentence fragments were supposed to mean something. A definite NAY. I think the only thing it has going for it is that the President is Meg's mom, not her dad.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Penalty by Mal Peet

This companion novel to Keeper (2005) picks up the story of South American sports journalist Paul Faustino, who is drawn into a wild, esoteric mystery after a young soccer prodigy disappears. Peet's experimental narrative leaps between Faustino's contemporary viewpoint and the historical voice of an African man who survived the Middle Passage and the graphic brutality of slave life. Engberg, Gillian (from

Peet writes well and Penalty stands on its own (I haven't read Keeper, but didn't feel like I was missing out although my understanding might be deeper for having done so). I wanted Penalty to be more rooted in historical fact like Tamar. Penalty was gripping and jumping from slavery to present day gave deeper meaning to the legacies of voodoo/Veneration and slavery/social power. Peet explicitly writes in the author's note at the end of the book that the story is set in his own imagined country, often assumed to be Brazil. His details of slavery don't match some of what I've learned about that part of the slave route - he writes about a slave "hospital" where people recovered from the arduous ocean journey in the slave ships and were fattened up for sale. My understanding is that people were treated as even more expendable commodities in Brazil/South America than in North America because it was the closer port, cheaper shipping costs, and harsher climate for longevity. Slaves were only expected to live 1-2 years (from what I remember Ray Kamalay lecturing on).

Between Tamar and Penalty, Tamar is far superior. I was more invested in the characters and felt greater historical authenticity (as Peet intended, so that's my preference not his failing). The cultural details were interesting, but I couldn't tell if Peet was conveying real vs. imagined details. Penalty doesn't have topics I would naturally seek out, so I wanted to gain something for the effort of reading about voodoo and slavery. For a created religion, I wanted more information from Peet about the spirits and the pull they had over people and the sacrifices/practices. A very good book, with YA and adult appeal, especially for those with an interest in the occult. Not a TU top 20. NAY

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Thief Queen's Daughter by Elizabeth Haydon

This is the second novel in the Ven Polypheme series. It doesn't stand alone, and it should be in the Juvenile section. Nay.

Useful Fools by C. A. Schmidt

I couldn't really get into this one. NAY for me.

Red Glass by Laura Resau

I really enjoyed this book. Sophie and her family become the guardians of Pablo, a 6-year-old whose parents perished trying to cross from Mexico into Arizona. When the family decides to adopt Pablo, Sophie embarks on a journey to Oaxaca to meet Pablo's extended family and get the adoption papers signed. Her tripmates include her great-aunt Dika (a refugee from the Bosnian war) and Mr. Lorenzo and son, Angel (refugees from la violencia in Guatemala). The journey turns into one of self discovery as Sophie faces her lifelong anxieties and falls in love with Angel.
I thought Resau's language was lyrical and her character development was nuanced and interesting. While there could have been a little more editing, this is still a gem of a book. I really would like to see this one get some more attention. Yay.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tin Angel by Shannon Cowan

Tin Angel by Shannon Cowan
Although this book is well written, I don't think it meets the criteria to be a Thumbs Up! winner. This is the story of Ronalda, a 14 year old possible murderer, and her depiction of the events leading to the death of the family's benefactor. This title reminds me quite a bit of Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy, which has more character development than this title. I give it a NAY.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer

I read this book without any expectations. I spent the whole weekend watching football playoffs and reading and was sort of disappointed in the books I read. I hadn't read anything or reviews about this book and I LOVED IT!!!! Oh my gosh, there a few priceless scenes that should get academy awards if they awarded them to teen literature scenes. Where has this author been my whole life? In Australia.
This book is about bullying (I know you are thinking, been there done that in teen lit) but this is just so refreshingly different that...could I be speechless. Well, I won't even give a plot in order to not give anything away. Please read this book by next meeting, can't wait to hear others opinions! A thousand YAY's for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anything but Ordinary by Valerie Hobbs

I absolutely loved this book.
From the moment their romance begins in eighth grade, Winifred and Bernie are individualists. They pride themselves on being different, and have each other for support through the tough years of high school. So when they consider college, they send off for the same catalogs, promising never to separate.
But Bernie’s mother dies and Bernie more or less drops out of school, becoming an ordinary guy working away in a tire shop, while Winifred goes about as far from New Jersey as a girl can go: the University of California at Santa Barbara. College is a culture shock to Winifred, but her three savvy roommates teach her how to fit in. By the time Bernie catches up with her again, Winifred has become, well . . . ordinary. Can they rediscover their true selves – and true love?
The story is told from alternating viewpoints and readers are left wondering right up to the end what will become of their friendship. I found this to be a realistic story with believable characters. I think it will appeal to both boy and girl teens. YAY!

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Bliss is your average dying-to-be-punk teen in a hick town in Texas, who spends her days shoplifting at Wal-Mart with her Arab-American BFF Pash, and loathing her beauty pageant-crazy mom. But Bliss finds a new reason for existence when Pash gets a car: roller derby. On their first illegal foray into Austin to see The Lone Star Derby Girls, Bliss is recruited to join the team. There are moments of awesome in the book, but the constant quirky dialog can be a bit waring, and the outcome is all very predicable. Not a bad book, but not an award-winner. NAY.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis

This is a book for reluctant readers who want a quick read but with a lot of psychological suspense that keeps you reading just to find out what happened. This unique book, sort of told in verse, is about a boy named Logan who witnessed something dramatic last year that caused his family to move. Many rumors surround Logan at his new school and nobody really knows what happened to Logan and his best friend Zyler. This book will have widespread appeal, the plot moves swiftly, but honestly, I can't decide if I really loved it, liked it, or just thought what the ???? No closure at the end. I say Maybe. Interested to see what others say.

In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth

Erin is about to turn 16. She lives in a house with her dad and two brothers. Her dad announces he is getting married and Erin wants no part of a "new mom. " Instead she desperately wants a connection with her late mom, a mom she has no real memory of because her dad never talks about her. The only thing she knows is that her mom loved Harper Lee and Erin has read To Kill a Mockingbird over and over. She decides to run away from St. Paul, Minnesota to Monroeville, Alabama in search of Harper Lee. Her only available transportation is a Greyhound bus. Erin meets a variety of interesting characters along her journey, including large, redheaded, twentysomething Epp Gobarth, who listens and, out of concern, joins her on her mission. Nice story, and Erin's character does grow-some. It does have a predictable ending. I give it a MAYBE.

The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Laskas

This is a story about a Willa Lowell and her family during the depression. They live in a mining town that is dying. The black dust from the coal is everywhere. Families struggle to find food. Clothes are threadbare. Older children, including Willa have had to leave school to help their families survive. Yet even in these conditions, it is a story of strong family love and support. Hope arrives for Willa, who dreams of a better life, in the character of Miss Grace. She moves in and brings with her the world of books and a desire to help Willa learn about the world outside Riley Mines and what it had to offer. Willa's family is offered a chance to escape the mines and move to a better place. Willa is excited until she discovers that there is a price and that she will have to leave people behind that mean a great deal to her. It is a story of love and courage and hope. I give it a YAY with a reservation that I am not sure how wide spread the reader appeal will be.

Safe by Susan Shaw

This is the story of a girl who has just finished the 7th grade. She lost her mother at a very young age and on the last day of 7th grade she loses innocence and herself - she is raped, beaten and dumped for dead. The story takes the reader through the summer and her initial shock and denial of what has happened. Tracy and her father must deal with the police, their own feelings and the reactions of others. Tracy rejects therapy and her best friends efforts to help her through her fears. Tracy returns to school in the fall and spends the year of finding a place to escape - her piano lessons and then through the music and the determination of her father and friends, a way to grieve and begin to return to normalcy. I found this to be a very powerful book. It is sensitive in its telling and realistic in the stages of grief and recovery. I give this a big YAY.

Kiss and Blog by Alyson Noel

I'd already guessed by the title that this book would have timeliness issues, then she throws in a Nicole Ritchie reference in the first chapter among other Gossip Girly lingo. Moreover, it's a glorified beach read: geeky girl loses BFF to popular crowd, starts mean anonymous blog under the name Eleanor Rigby (because her mom is a hippie and she grew up with the song) to out her ex-BFF's secrets to the world, falls in love, discovers that she doesn't feel better having destroyed ex-BFF (code named PP for Princess Pink) and renounces blog. I'd humbly offer that no one else uses up their time with this for TU. NOT award caliber. NAY

Fight Game by Kate Wild

A Gypsy teen named Freedom gets caught up in an underground fighting world complete with arch villain, zombie-like fighters, and beautiful women. It reads like a Brit noir thriller, and I'm really enjoying it. Probably not award worthy, but a fun read I would recommend to Artemis Fowl lovers. Freedom's not a genius, but he's strong, smart, and he's fun to root for. NAY.

Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint

Truthfully I was hoping someone had already started this posting. I'll be honest and report that I stopped reading at page 100. The writing seemed juvenile, the premise of the Littles wasn't convincing, and the characters were cardboard-y. I was expecting much more edge and grit judging by the cover (ahem).

Both Voya and Booklist cite this book as a gateway to de Lint's Newford series, but the readership likely to be engaged by Little (Grrl) Lost seems quite young. I kept remembering Mary Norton's Borrowers from my fourth grade real aloud circle and wondered what de Lint's rules were and what their game was.

We are all trying to get through our lot in preparation for selecting the top 20, so the pressure is on to slog through. I can't see this making it, but I am prepared to read on should another reader contradict my possibly premature assessment.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

This book is beautiful, well-written, and probably a classic. However, I'm not sure it stands alone. It is very much the conclusion of the trilogy and much of the world building and relationship building has already happened. Nay for TU, great for collections.

Runner by Robert Newton

Australia, 1919
Charlie Feehan is living in poverty with his widowed mum and baby brother. He gets a job running for Squizzy (real life Aussie mobster), and life gets better, then worse, then he makes it on his own. Not a bad book, but not award worthy.

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

I listened to the audio version of this collection of "magical" stories that came from other previously published works of Gaiman's. They were not anything spectacular and at times I found my attention drifting, so that alone would lead me to give it a NAY.

Cover-Up Mystery at the Super Bowl - Feinstein

Good , quick novel for the boys. I can't see a lot of girls willing picking this one up.
Teen reporters Steve Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson uncover a plot with the Super Bowl.
They know that the entire offensive line of the California Dreams have failed their doping tests and that the Dreams' owner is trying to cover up the test results. These two teens are sitting on the biggest sports scandal of the decade. What they don't know -yet - is how to prove it.
Sort of far fetched to think two teen reporters would come across such scandals but .....I guess you must remeber it is fiction.
I give it a Maybe because I don't feel it has both girl and boy appeal. The audio edition was well done.

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Okay this book was your typical teen dying, sad, depressing, and totally predicitable. Maybe it is just because I am older and try not to read things that make this world even more depressing than it is, but this book was not that good. The main character was the only character I felt was more than one dimension. I give it a Nay, but I am sure that all the teenage girls who love this type of book will eat it up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Saints of Augustine by P. E. Ryan

Sam "broke up" with his best friend, Charlie, without telling him why. Then they each spent a difficult year without a best friend. Death, divorce, substance abuse, homophobia, sexual identity, self-reliance and trust fill out this memorable book.
Quick read and hopefully of interest to boys. Second tier YAY. (which means I doubt it will get to top 20 - I am anticipating more great reads from the other groups...)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

I just felt this was too heavy. NAY for me.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Undercover by Beth Kephart

Elisa is used to flying under the radar, at school and at home. She uses her perceptiveness to make poetic observations about life and creates a semi-side job as a writer of love letters for boys looking to woo girls. Things change her tenth grade year when she falls for one of the letter customers, her dad leaves the family, and she teaches herself to ice skate. Plus, her brilliant English teacher has them reading Cyrano de Bergerac, with Elisa making obvious identifications with the play. The book leads to a climax where Elisa is poised to compete in a skating contest, she has asked her father to come home, and the girlfriend of her crush is seeking revenge.
It was a decent book, but not award-worthy. Nay

First Shot by Walter Sorrells

David Crandall attends a prestigious prep school in Maine, as have generations of his well known ancestors. His mother was murdered two years ago on the campus and the killer was never found. David starts to suspect that his father, who is also the headmaster, may have killed her. Pretty decent mystery/adventure concept, but Sorrells totally fails to deliver. The first third of the novel was gripping, the rest fell back on cliched mystery ploys, a strange time lapse, and completely unbelievable wrap up. Nay with rolling eyes.

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

San Lee is new in school -- again. His dad's less than respectable choices have dragged San and his mom all over the country, and now San has to decide who he wants to be all over again at a new school. Through the double coincidence of being a) the only Asian kid in schoool and b) the only student to have already covered Asian religion at his previous school, San accidentally stumbles into being pegged as some sort of Zen Master -- and then has to frantically learn as much as he can about Zen Buddhism to make his new persona fly.
Of course, San is doing this to impress a girl, and of course his ruse gains more and more momentum until, of course, he gets busted being a big phony. But somewhere along the way, despite being convinced he's nothing but a fake and a liar, we get to watch San learning about Zen and developing his own unique philosophy.
Once again Sonnenblick is funny and delightful to read, and it's nice to know that some readers might come away from this book with an interest in Buddhism. A MAYBE for now; I'm very curious to see what others think.

Sight by Adrienne Vrettos

Dylan Driscoll is a teen psychic who sees visions of children who have been kidnapped (usually just before they die). She's had these "visions" since she was five, and has never told any of her friends, until her friend's little sister disappears and she must face who she really is.

This book has a pretty awesome concept, but took WAAAAAAAAAAAY too long to get to the point. The action didn't really start until about 50 pages from the end. I'm actually amazed that I finished it. Big NAY from me.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural Edited by Deborah Noyes

Just as the subtitle states, this book is made up of 10 short stories by 10 different "teen" authors. I definitely enjoyed some of the stories better than other, such as "Kissing Dead Boys" by Annette Curtis Klause and "Bad Things" by Libba Bray. I thought the first story, by Kelly Link, was horrible and I almost out the book down right then and there. I didn't find these stories to be all that "spine-tingling" like the book jacket says though. And the teens in my library must agree because it has hardly circulated. I have to say NAY on this one, it just doesn't hold a candle to some of the other titles I have read.

Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

Miracle Wimp is a very snarky commentary on the life of Tom Mayo by the character himself in which he details his trials and tribulations of high school- from wood shop and bullies to dating and driving. This book would be great for boys, especially reluctant readers. I enjoyed the originality of it, but don't think it held much literary merit. I have to give it a NAY for Thumbs Up! consideration.

Someday this pain will be useful to you by Peter Cameron

I will start off by saying that I have been searching for queer novels a lot lately, after I discovered by library's collection of teen lit for questioning teenage boys was non-existent. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice fresh crop of such books in 2007, and this one is currently at the top of my list because its not focused on coming out, its all about being a lonely, smart, sad teenager who makes bad decisions that won't ruin life, but certainly complicate it.

Most of the time books that take place in New York just bug the hell out of me, but this one doesn't drop names every three paragraphs, or talk about how amazing New York is, so I didn't find myself skimming. The language is wonderful. I really enjoyed the sections where James talks to his shrink, or describes the trash cans in his mother's art gallery. It made me laugh in a quiet way. Yay.