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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

ReturningToShoreReturning to Shore by Corinne Demas may be the sleeper book of the year, except I’m not sure if it’s the sleeper for adults or teens. While Clare’s mother, Vera, is on her honeymoon with Tertiary (Clare’s name for Vera’s third husband), Clare is sent to spend three weeks with her father, Richard, in Cape Cod. However, Clare hasn’t seen and has barely heard from him since she was three years old.

As you can imagine, Clare is dreading the visit and wishes that she could spend the three weeks either with her Aunt Eva or Peter, Vera’s second husband and a man Clare considers her father. However, it is not to be.

Since Eva doesn’t drive over bridges, Richard meets them at a service center just before the bridge onto the Cape where Eva drops Clare and heads to Maine. It is an awkward meeting for all concerned and the drive to the remote island on which Richard lives is quiet.

The first problem Clare faces is what to call Richard: Dad, Rich, Richard? What we do know is that Richard has made enough money through an internet startup that he need not work. He spends his time studying endangered turtles.

It is over the course of the following three weeks, as they start studying the turtles together,  that Clare and Richard learn about each other.

I said in the beginning that I’m not sure if Returning to Shore is a sleeper book for adults or teens. While there are many teens who have minimal contact with a parent and vice versa, I’m not sure if a teen will relate to the situation. They would certainly relate to Clare as a person. (I may be wrong on this and would love to hear other opinions.) However, I think the many fathers out there who have reconnected to their children after years of estrangement will relate wholeheartedly to Richard.

As a father who is in constant touch with my daughters, I found the story to be heart warming. I loved everything about it. It’s short (196 pages) and a fast read (one day) but it is filled with love of a parent for a child, a child for a parent and that special bond, especially between a father and a daughter.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this will be included on my 2014 Top Ten list and highly recommend Returning to Shore as your next feel-good, put a smile on my face book. As Ms. Demas spends summers on Cape Cod, I will be looking for her books at Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham come next July.

 

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UnfinishedAddison Stone outgrew her small home town in Rhode Island emotionally and artistically. While descriptions of her personality varied, her art was uniformly lauded and declared to be beyond her age. Both a troubled life and the instantaneous artistic fame at a young age had their impacts on her. She died young, the intent of her fall of the Brooklyn Bridge undetermined (at least at the point that I stopped reading).

In The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone Adele Griffin has her friends and family, teachers and students, boyfriends and boyfriend wannabees describe her life. Peppered with photos of Stone, reproductions of her artwork, newspaper articles, etc. this book tells the story of her short and unfinished life. This ‘multimedia’ approach is rare, although not unique. There’s a book I read whose name I’m having trouble remembering (but I will) which did a similar thing. (The book is Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. See my review at: http://2headstogether.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/chopsticks-by-jessica-anthony-and-rodrigo-corral/)

I’ve been on a string of not finishing books recently (this is the third out of 4) so I really wanted to like it. It’s getting great reviews. However, I couldn’t get through it. The combination of artwork and narrative certainly made the book better, but still, I’m sorry to say I found it boring. Normally I wouldn’t use words like that but that’s the only word I can come up with.

Addison did not have an interesting life and to devote almost 250 pages to it seems excessive. Griffin is a well respected YA writer and I understand and applaud her intention to stretch the YA book boundary. I just wish it had been with a more interesting book.

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Tell Me by Joan Bauer is the sugary sweet story of twelve-year-old TellMeAnna McConnell’s summer at her grandmother, Mim’s, house in Virginia. Her parents are going through a trial separation and her father is staying at home in Philadelphia, her mother is off to her brother’s in New Jersey and Anna goes to her paternal grandmother.

Anna is an actress whose stellar role was as a radish in an after school production. At home she dresses up as a cranberry and dances for a local store at the mall. In Rosemont she’s recruited to dress up as a petunia for the local library. While taking a break and sitting on the library front steps, a van pulls up. An Asian woman gets out and drags a child into the library to use the rest room. The girl is dragged back out and into the van which takes off. Anna feels something wasn’t right and the girl’s big, doe-like eyes showed fear. Winnie, the librarian, also felt something was amiss. Winnie’s grandson, Brad, happens to work for Homeland Security. So goes this unlikely premise.

Rosemont, VA has the small town, east coast equivalent of the Rose Parade and Mim is the organizer. Amidst the backdrop of flowers and the parade, Tell Me tells the story of Anna’s insistence on finding the doe-eyed girl and her hopes of her parent’s reunion.

Tell Me is more of a fable with the moral blatantly displayed on every page…don’t necessarily dismiss what you see. Anna is concerned that she’s made more of the van incident than was actually there. But Winnie and Mim and her father and Brad tell her not to doubt herself.

I’m a big, big, BIG Joan Bauer fan. I’ve heard her speak and the energy and sincerity she displays are unequaled. I love her books, especially Close to Famous, Hope was Here and Rules of the Road. But even I have to say that diabetics should stay away from this one…it’s just too darn sweet. I’ve never met an Anna-like child, so good, so focused on being a radish or petunia, so insistent that something be done about the doe-eyed girl. I’ve never met adults who are soooooooooooo supportive, so indulgent of their children, so mushy.

I’m a parent and I hope that I supported my kids and I know I’ll spoil my grandkids but I’m not even sure that I want to be like Mim.

Aside from that, the plot doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure that grandma can convince Homeland Security grandson that something needs to be investigated…that human trafficking might be involved. Maybe, but maybe no.

So, it disappoints me to say that, while I liked Tell Me, it is over the top on story line, characters and sugar.

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There are books that you don’t put down because you are obligated to read them, either because of a Positiveschool assignment or a journal review, which was the case with the book I read before Positive: A Memoir. Then there are the books you don’t put down because they are so good or so absorbing you want to/need to keep reading, which is the case with Paige Rawl’s story of the middle school bullying she faced and overcame because of her HIV+ status.

At the age of three, Paige and her mother were diagnosed HIV+. Her mother contracted it through Paige’s father and passed it on to her. Their lives would never be the same. There was the regimen of pills to counteract the HIV,  and pills to  moderate the depression and loss of appetite caused by the medication. But that was their lives and Paige knew nothing different. To her, her disability or illness was no different than someone with asthma or allergies. So when she mentioned it to her best friend, Yasmine, in passing (“everyone has something”) the reaction was so unexpected. Within minutes, this knowledge was spread to other students who lost no time in ridiculing her, calling her Ho and PAID, telling her she has AIDS and making life miserable.

We all know the impact of bullying on teens. We read it in the newspapers all the time. Teen suicide is on the rise. Cutting is becoming more prevalent. It was no different with Paige. She went through all these emotions. We also know that schools are ill equipped to counteract bullying, as was Paige’s school. One counselor told her to ‘just don’t tell anyone you’re HIV+”. Another told her “to cut the drama”. She was unable to get satisfaction through our legal system as well, unable to get a trial in order to make her situation public.

Luckily for Paige, she was able to overcome this. She had a very supportive mother and some great friends who stood by her.

Listen, in my mind, bullying doesn’t even have to be directed at a person. Even commenting amongst ourselves is a form of bullying. If you see an effeminate man and make comments to your co-workers, that’s a form a bullying. If you see a man dressed in women’s clothing and whisper, that’s a form of bullying, only because you are not seeing what’s inside that person and you’re denigrating him. And what’s the next step you might take? Openly commenting?

Positive: A Memoir is a low key, eye opening book. Paige is the exception to the rule. She ultimately chose to be an anti-bullying activist and tell people her story. Most young adults aren’t able to make that leap. Most suffer alone, afraid to tell an adult or having told someone, watch as nothing is done, no or minimal action taken.

With an Introduction by Jay Asher and a list of resources and facts at the end, Positive: A Memoir is a quietly powerful book.

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You’ll need your tissue box for this one folks…well at least I did. Zac has had a few rounds and relapses ofZacAndMia leukemia and is now in the hospital (Room 1) recovering from a bone marrow transplant. It’s pretty much isolation other than the fact that his mother stays with him, despite his entreaties for her to go home.

A new patient enters Room 2. Typically they’re older people but this one seems young. Since the walls are thin (6 centimeters according to Zac who is a numbers, statistics person) he can hear the arguing in the next room. When Lady Gaga is put on a continuous loop, as loud as it can go, Zac’s sure it’s a young girl. It turns out that the pain in her ankle wasn’t due to a sprain. It was cancerous.

Unlikely as it is, since they are both isolated, Zac and Mia develop some sort of friendship through the walls and notes passed back and forth via Nina, the nurse.

Zac and Mia are a contrast in personalities. Zac is the old pro at this and wishes he could tell Mia what to do–crushed ice helps, grilled cheese with ketchup when your taste buds dull due to chemo. He’d also like to tell her that statistically, her chances are 98% that she’ll be cancer free for 5 years once her treatment is over. Mia on the other hand is  mad, belligerent, despondent. Yet, at 3 AM, the cursed hour, when both are up, they communicate through Facebook.

If John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars set the kids with cancer standard, Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts is not far behind. The locale is Australia and is peppered with alpaca and kangaroos. It’s poignant, funny, sad, teary. Readers will fall in love with Mia and Zac, absolutely. While no one can understand what they go through unless they’ve been there, readers will get a good idea.

I’m going out on a limb and saying this will make my Top 10 list this year, it’s that good. So, on a day when you’re indoors, it’s dreary out, and you need to involve yourself in a book, sad story, get out your tissue box, put up a hot chocolate, put your feet under the blanket and read. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. But you’ll be better for it.

 

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FallingIntoPlaceIt is amazing to me that anyone can write a book; that they have ideas that they can verbalize for 200 pages and make people want to read them. The fact that a high school student can write a book, and a good one at that, is even more amazing to me. But Amy Zhang did it with Falling Into Place.

Liz Emerson is a high school junior when she plows her mother’s Mercedes into a tree at high speed—on purpose. Unfortunately the attempted suicide failed, at first. A boy who has loved her from afar since 5th grade, Liam, saw the wreckage on the side of the road and called 911. The paramedics come and transport her to the hospital. There is extensive bodily damage, as you can imagine, and several surgeries are required. It is touch and go.

What Zhang did with this book is delve into why Liz is what she is–a bully, an in-crowd bully. No one is immune to her barbs and her influence, even her best friends Julia and Kennie. The chapters go back and forth in time. There’s a chapter “55 Days Before Liz Emerson Crashed Her Car” and then “5 Days…” and then “45 Days…” There are chapters after the accident. There is an unknown narrator in some chapters marked “Snapshot”. However, it works.

Zhang clearly delineates between the kids who truly care about Liz (Liam, Julia and Kennie) and status seeking friend wannabees who visibly weep, congregate at the hospital and talk about how wonderful Liz is. Liz is a real person who sees what she is, wants to change but can’t. She wants to make amends but doesn’t know how. The parents in Falling Into Place do not come off well in this book. They are absent, unobservant, domineering and the impact on their children is evident.

Readers will like the people they’re supposed to like (Liz being among these) and dislike those they were meant to dislike.

If Zhang can write a book like Falling Into Place as a high schooler, imagine what she’ll write as she matures and hones her craft. Read this so you can say you knew her when (and because it’s worth reading!).

 

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Leila is a high school senior on a road trip to see the Northern Lights, starting out in LetsGetLostLouisiana. Let’s Get Lost is her chronicle of four adventures along the way. First she meets Hudson in Vicksburg, Mississippi., the day before his interview for a college scholarship. Her car is limping along and he’s a mechanic in his father’s garage.

Next is Bree in Kansas. She’s on a road trip as well. Her parents recently died and she didn’t get along with her older sister, Alexis, who is now her guardian. So, it’s better all around if she just left.

Elliot in Minneapolis told his long time best friend, Maribel, that he’s in love with her. It’s high school prom night and his declaration didn’t get the desired result.

Finally, Leila meets Sonia. Sam was her sole mate and one true love. Sam died during a basketball game due to a rare heart disease. She swore he’d be her only love but, she’s fallen for Jeremiah, Sam’s sister’s future brother-in-law. Is it a negation of all she and Sam had if she’s fallen in love again? And how will his family take it, a family that’s treated her as their own?

In four novellas, Adi Alsaid recounts Leila’s interaction with these people, people she’s never met before but goes out of her way to help.

The fifth and final novella gets Leila to Alaska and waiting to see the Northern Lights. This time it’s someone helping her to see the light (no pun intended). In every adventure, she asks What’s Your Story? In the final story, you get Leila’s.

Let’s Get Lost is a pleasant read. I’ve never met anyone like Leila, willing to drop everything to help another human being. I wish the world was populated with more Leila’s. It would certainly be a better place. The stories are interesting. The characters are fun. If you’re looking for a fast, easy, put a smile on your face read, Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid will fit the bill.

 

 

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