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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Most of you know two things about me by now: (1) I do like young adult chick litAmyAndRoger (OK, romance!) and (2) I feel compelled to seek out independent bookstores wherever I am and buy something. The problem with working in a library and also reviewing books for library journals is that I have most of the books that I want at my fingertips.

So, when I found myself in Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs this past week it was tough finding a book I wanted to buy. (As an aside, Northshire Books is a great bookstore. Two levels, the upper level children’s and young adult. I could have browsed there for hours…actually I did, on two separate occasions.)

SecondChanceSummerMy purchase, however, finally ended up being Morgan Matson’s debut novel Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, her other books being Second Chance Summer and Since You’ve Been Gone. Although I have a long history reading and loving Sarah Dessen’s books, Ms. Matson is certainly moving up the ladder and is challenging Ms. Dessen for the top YA Chick Lit spot.

In March, Amy was driving and involved in an accident. Her father was in the passenger seat and was killed. Rather than rallying around each other, her mother and twin brother, Charlie, seemed to withdraw into themselves, not talking at all about what happened. What was worse was that she was her father’s favorite. They shared so much and suddenly he was gone.

In an abrupt move, Amy’s mother, a college professor took a job across the country in Connecticut. She left in May after putting their California home on the market, leaving Amy alone in California to finish school and then drive their car to the East Coast. However, since Amy stopped driving after the accident, her mother recruited Roger, a friend’s son to drive with Amy as passenger. Amy, Charlie and Roger used to play together eons ago.SinceYouveBeenGone

Amy needs to get to Connecticut but Roger has an ulterior motive for taking the cross country trip. While Amy’s mother has plotted out a 4 day route, made motel reservations and everything, Amy and Roger decide it might be worth it to take a ‘road trip’. I’m sure you can guess the ending, but in this particular case, the journey (no pun intended) is delightful. Ms. Matson’s inclusion of Playlists, photos, receipts, drawings and more just add to the enjoyment. In an afterward, she mentions that she is a road trip fan and actually took the trip about which she is writing.

By the way, my favorite character is Bronwyn, who plays a small but pivotal role. She a combination of southern hospitality and wisdom.

I’d suggest that Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is a great beach read, but while it is 60+ degrees out (in November), I’m not sure if it’s beach weather. So, instead, settle down on the couch, get a drink of some sort, fluff up the pillow and meander through Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.

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The Vanishing Season is my entree into Jodi Lynn Anderson and VanishingSeasonI had no idea what to expect, other than it got great reviews. I thought it was more mystery, knowing that young girls were vanishing and being found weeks later, floating face down in a lake. But it was far from a mystery. It is a book about growing up, about relationships, about love.

Financial reversals force Maggie and her family move from their high-rise Chicago apartment to a ramshackle house in Gill Creek, Wisconsin that they inherited. Her next door neighbor is a beautiful girl her age, Pauline Boden and she and a boy their age, Liam Witte have been friends since they were young. While love is there, it’s not followed through because Pauline’s mother thinks Liam is beneath them, partly because his father is a little ‘odd’. Maggie, Pauline and Liam become an inseparable threesome.

Around the time of Maggie’s move, teenage girls start disappearing and winding up floating face down in the lake. After Liam and Pauline come home late for curfew one night and her mother, worried to death, has called the police, Pauline is banished to her aunt’s house in Milwaukee until the killer is found.

I’m pretty sure you can guess what happens…to some extent. Because the ending was a surprise to me…but then again, I’m not all that good about guessing endings.

I know the likeability (is that a word?) of characters shouldn’t influence whether or not you like a book, but it does with me and I really liked all the characters in the book, especially Pauline who is a free spirit. (I love free spirit maybe because I wish I was one.) I liked the way Anderson described the location, the characters, the entire setting. She added an element of suspense and also the supernatural, which added to the story, while not overpowering it.

The Vanishing Season is a good story. After having bagged the last three out of four books I’ve read, I was thrilled to read one that kept me going.

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I found a list somewhere of books that take place in one day and thoughtTheBestYearOf YourPatheticLife that was intriguing. I remembered liking Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (actually I like all her books) so thought I’d follow the list a little and see what happens. The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando was the first book I read from the list.

Oyster Point’s high school’s senior class has a tradition, unsanctioned by the school. A week before school ends, there is The Hunt. It’s a scavenger hunt organized by the winner’s of the previous year’s Hunt. Mary, a good student, never any trouble, has decided that she’s going to enter, despite the fact that, if her mother found out, she’d be grounded for eternity.

Her team, made up of students on the fringe, included Mary’s long time friends, Winter who is her best girlfriend, Patrick her best boy friend and Dez, who everyone assumes is gay but nobody talks about it. There are two rounds: in order to qualify for Round 2, you need at least 1250 points in Round 1.

With Patrick driving them around town in his LeSabre, the quartet individually and together tackle some issues, the least of which is they will all be going off in different directions at the end of the summer.

Mary is angry because she didn’t get into Georgetown and Barbone, a ‘dumb jock’ did. He ‘stole’ her spot. In addition, Mary and Patrick her friend-date for the prom had an awkward situation there. Mary is crushing on Carson, who has a girlfriend, Jill, but rumor has it that it won’t be for long and she thinks he may like her. Hey, they spent a lot of time together on prom committee. Barbone and Dez have a, not altogether friendly, history.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life started off a little slow but picked up in the middle and by the end I couldn’t wait to see what happened. The mechanics of the story were good-text messages of the Yeti (the trophy for the winner) advising them of various new items for the hunt, giving clues, etc. made the story that much more exciting. The emotions of the characters were real enough and anyone who remembers their high school years can relate to the need to remember those years as good ones.

While I liked the Smith book a lot better (she’s a more exciting writer), The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life was a pleasant, enjoyable read.

 

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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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