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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Emma Sasha Silver is fourteen when she is blinded by a backfiring fireworks at a town BlindFourth of July celebration. For the next six months she remains a lump on the gold couch in her living room, doing little to learn how to live in her dark world. It is then that her parents (doctor father, artist mother) decide to send her to the Briarly Academy for the Blind. It is there that she learns to cope with many of the physical day to day tasks of living. However, it did little to enable Emma to cope with the psychological trauma of blindness after being able to see for fourteen years.

A year after “the accident”, Emma is now mainstreamed into high school. The excitement of this remarkable achievement is overshadowed by the drowning death of Claire, a friend and classmate. Adults and grief counselors, rather than addressing the death head on (suicide? accident?) offer only platitudes and half truths.

But Emma wants to know more…why? What happened? What caused Claire’s death? How can kids help each other avoid getting to the point of suicide? She organizes a group of kids to meet and talk. Will it help? You’ll find out.

There’s a lot to like in Blind by Rachel DeWoskin. Firstly, it’s the first teen book that I know about that deals with blindness and it handles it very  well. The range of emotions. The techniques for getting around (organizing clothing with Braille labels, a place for everything and everything in its place). Emma has six siblings from older sisters Leah and Sarah to Babiest Baby Lily. Of course, Emma’s first thoughts are me, me, me. Why me? How can I live? Who will love me? But there comes a time when Emma realizes that her entire family has been affected by her blindness and she begins to see outward.

At first I thought the death of Claire was an obstacle in reading the book. There was a significant story just in dealing with the blindness and its impact on everyone. But later I realized that the contrast between what Emma went through and the “unknown” that Claire went through is an important part of the story. What makes a survivor? Why can one person live and thrive after becoming blind while another potentially ended her life on purpose without enduring anything nearly as catastrophic.

The characters in Blind are great. They run the gamut from best friend Logan who helps Emma manage getting around to some cynical classmates to Emma’s sisters, some understanding, some gruff. It’s interesting to note that the younger ones sometimes have the most honest perspective…but we all know that…out of the mouths of babes.

So, while I think Blind is a wonderful book and definitely worth reading, I do have one small criticism. A little bit better editing and deletion of about 50 pages would have made it a tighter, better book.  But, hey, if that’s the only criticism, that’s not bad. Blind is a welcome addition to YA literature. It opened my eyes. (Please forgive me for that one. I just couldn’t help it.)

 

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RememberMeRemember Me by Romily Bernard is the second in the Wicket Tate series, the first being Find Me…which I loved, by the way. Wicket and her step-mother, Brenda, are attending Judge Bay’s Carnivale party, a function to announce his re-election candidacy. Bren’s there because he expedited the adoption papers for Wicket and her sister, Lily. Wick is there at Detective Carson’s orders to ‘get something’ on the Judge. As the Judge is about to announce his candidacy, he opens a large curtain and instead of finding his re-election poster, he finds a dead girl with Remember Me scrawled across her chest.

Thus starts an action packed adventure that has Wick hacking into computers, breaking into buildings, getting beaten up, tasered and more. The suspense and spine chilling begins on page 1 and ends at the end of the book–non-stop.

I really liked the beginning, but, have you heard the phrase “Too much of a good thing?” Well, so I felt with Remember Me. There are multiple (too many) threads that jumble the story. There’s too much breaking and entering, too much hacking and it just seems too easy.

Given that you have to suspend belief to enjoy Wick’s antics, I still found the characters unbelievable. Wick is too whiny for a girl who breaks and enters. Bren, who truly loves her step-daughters, steps out of character at the end. And I won’t even go into the ending except to say that while understand that it needed to let the series continue, I just didn’t like it. Not one bit!

To get the full flavor of Remember Me, you should read Find Me. The same characters are in both and the back story is important for the current book.

I still love the concept of these books. I just wish that the next books would go in a different direction.

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For some reason our library has Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng EverythingINeverToldYouclassified as a mystery and, if you assume that you don’t know how sixteen year old Lydia died and want to find out, then it is a mystery. But really it’s not. It’s the story of longing and desire and fitting in vs. being different.

It is in the late 1960s that Marilyn, a college junior, meets and falls in love with James Lee, her teaching assistant. After a brief relationship, Marilyn finds herself pregnant. She and James get married and her dreams of medical school are washed away. Her mother is a home ec teacher and her credo for success in life is keeping a happy home, cooking the right meals and having everything spic and span. Coming from a ‘proper’ Southern family, the thought of Marilyn’s marriage to a person of Chinese descent is abhorrent, or at least, improper.

By mid-1977, the Lees have three children, Nathan, off to Harvard in the Fall, Lydia, a high school junior and apple of her parents’ eyes and younger Hannah, all but forgotten, relegated to a bedroom in the attic. It is with shock, that the family wakes up on May 3 and Lydia is nowhere to be found. When she doesn’t turn up, the Lees call the police who, as we all know, say this happens all the time and Lydia will return soon. Two days go by and still no Lydia.

A neighbor mentions a lone row boat out in the middle of the nearby lake which prompts to police to drag the lake, unfortunately finding Lydia’s body in the process. The police ultimately rule the death a suicide but Marilyn ‘knows her daughter’ and she wouldn’t do such a thing.

Everything I Never Told You probes the secret lives and thoughts of Lydia, Nathan who is virtually ignored by his parents, Hannah who has found a way to be invisible, James, who grew up ‘different’ by being Chinese in a Caucasian world and always wanted to blend in and Marilyn, whose aspirations and dreams were shattered and vowed never to let that happen to Lydia. All of this is seen both in the aftermath of Lydia’s death and in the years preceding it as well.

More psychological introspection than mystery, Everything I Never Told You is just plain sad. In this age when teenage suicide is so prevalent, when the pressure on teens to succeed in school and in life is so strong, when I’m sure many parents’ unachieved dreams are hoisted on their children’s shoulders, this book is a strong supporter of let kids be kids for a while longer…they have their whole adult lives to be grown ups.

It’s funny (or sad) that not much has changed since 1977, only the pressure on kids today has multiplied geometrically. Everything I Never Told You is worth the journey.

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OK, get your tissues out now. It’s sad. Livvie and Zoe are best friends and have been since they were young. MaybeOneDayThey started taking dance lessons together and progressed all the way up to the NYBC. That meant every day after school in New Jersey they would trek into Manhattan for several hours of ballet lessons. Until one day, their world was pulled out from under them, or so they thought. At the end of the summer before sophomore year, they were both told that they wouldn’t be continuing at NYBC…subtitle: they weren’t good enough.

Livvie, as part of her community service requirements, decided to teach ballet to underprivileged children in Newark. Zoe just foundered around, trying a little of this or that, but not finding anything to replace dance.

Remember I said, they thought their world was pulled out from under them? Well, now it really was. At the beginning of junior year, Livvie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Maybe One Day is the story of Livvie and Zoe coping with Livvie’s illness.

Kantor does a great job (I imagine since I haven’t experienced it) of running through the gamut of feelings experienced by both Zoe and Livvie, their families and friends. Shock, denial, disbelief in a God who would cause/allow such a thing. Zoe’s and Livvie were inseparable, at home, in school, at dance, so of course Zoe is the conduit of information for their classmates. Do you go into all the details or just say “she’s fine”?

Livvie and Zoe are remarkable characters, more like sisters than friends. Readers will feel their closeness and one happens to one, happens to the other.

Kantor has written Maybe One Day in a light tone…almost summer beach read light. But the story is anything but. This book may be overshadowed by the phenomenal success of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. But I hope it doesn’t. There’s room in YA literature for many books with cancer as the main topic…books coming from different directions.

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IfYouCouldBeMineIt boggles my mind that a country could accept (and even pay for) sex change operations yet consider homosexuality a sin. Apparently there is nothing in the Bible that says a person can’t change the gender of his/her physical body, but there is something that says having sexual relations with a person of the same sex is a mortal sin.

Sara Farizan in her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine makes this abundantly clear as seventeen year old Iranians Sahar and Nasrin are in love but must keep their feelings secret. It comes as quite a shock, especially to Sahar, when it is announced that Nasrin’s parents have promised her hand in marriage to a doctor, Reza. The wedding is in three months. Sahar cannot think of living life without Nasrin and while Nasrin says they can still see each other after the wedding, Sahar knows it can never be.

Sahar contemplates all options to cancel the wedding and claim Nasrin as her own, including undergoing the long and painful sex changes operations. She is introduced to transgenders through her cousin, Ali, who is gay. None of these people say life is easy after the changes, but at least they are in the body they should have been born into.

Sahar wonders whether her father, who has been in a depression for the several years since Sahar’s mother died, would even notice if one day she came home sporting a beard. Or would he disown her?

This is certainly a new and relevant twist on teenage sexuality. Sahar and Nasrin are two distinct personalities, one serious and determined, the other flighty and always in need of attention. So, it comes as no surprise, although in my mind it was a bit far-fetched, that Sahar should consider drastic measures to keep Nasrin. Farizan also brings up the question: would someone who loves you romantically as a woman, feel the same way if you were a man? Good question!

While, if you read this blog regularly, you know my absolute favorite books on this subject, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is certainly up there on the list. It is an absorbing read.

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EverythingLeadsToYouThe summer time is a time for romance and Nina LaCour supplies it in Everything Leads to You. Morgan has just broken up with Emi for the sixth time but they can’t avoid each other since they work at the same movie studio, designing sets. Emi’s best friend Charlotte works there as well.

It is the summer after high school and Morgan, Emi and Charlotte are working on the same movie. While looking for pieces for a set at an estate sale at the home of a famous and reclusive cowboy actor, Clyde Jones, Charlotte buys a Patsy Cline album as a souvenier. At home she takes it out to listen and a letter drops out. Reading it, Emi and Charlotte discover it is to Clyde’s daughter, Caroline, a daughter no one knew he had. It also refers to his grand daughter, Ava. Charlotte and Emi decide they need to find Caroline and give her the letter.

From the above, you can’t tell this is a love story, but it is, trust me. Giving any more away will ruin it. Charlotte and Emi spend the summer working on a movie, searching for Caroline and Ava and staying in Emi’s brother, Toby’s, apartment while he is away in Europe scouting locations for another movie. His parting words were, “Do something epic while I’m gone.” And indeed they do.

Emi is a great character, self confident in her work, but crumbling at Morgan’s advances to get back together. I’m assuming most people can relate to that. She’s also unsure of her new love, who Ms. LaCour doesn’t hide, but I will. The trio of Emi, Charlotte and Morgan are talented and they bring to light how rooms in movies are decorated, something we rarely think about.HoldStill

There are no surprises (well maybe some surprises) in Everything Leads to You, but there doesn’t have to be to make this a fun book. It is your classic beach read.

If you’re looking for something from Nina LaCour with a little more ‘meat’ in it, try Hold Still. In my Librarything review, I likened it to 13 Reasons Why and the Hate List. No bad company, huh?

 

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BreakfastServedAnytimeAs I was reading Breakfast Served Anytime, Sarah Combs’ debut novel, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. I liked the beginning, got a little bogged down in the middle and then had the epiphany at the end. The book is going to mean different things to different people.

Kentucky born and raised, Gloria Bishop got accepted to Geek Camp, sponsored by the University of Kentucky for four weeks after her junior year. Her course: Secrets of the Written Word. Trying to attract and retain in Kentucky its best students, those accepted get a full four year scholarship upon graduating high school. Gloria’s best friend, Caroline, is off to New York for ballet during the summer, the plan being that they both hit the Big City for college.

Gloria is, however, a shy girl and finds anticipation of exciting and extraordinary events sometimes more exciting than the events themselves. Upon checking into her dorm, she immediately forms judgments on her roommate, Jessica, (rich, confident, huggy and not Gloria’s type) and the first guy she sees from her dorm window, nicknamed the Mad Hatter, for obvious reasons (obnoxious, self-absorbed). It turns at that the Mad Hatter is one of four people in Secrets of the Written Word. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

However, in one respect I will give a spoiler. Although this takes place in high school, it reminded me of middle school and Merle J (I wonder where she is now). Somehow, we decided that Merle was my ‘best enemy’.  We used to taunt and torment each other constantly throughout middle school…yet always with an underlying smile. I wonder what that really meant. So Merle, if you’re reading…. (I’ll let you guess who I’m referring to in the book.)

I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a book taking place in Kentucky. So, while writing a book about camaraderie and friendship, Combs also manages to throw in the issue of coal mining vs. the environment in a manner many of us don’t typically think about.

I’m not going to comment on the Breakfast Served Anytime part of the book. You can find out for yourselves its significance. Neither will I comment on the blue butterflies on the cover, other than to say that, according to the book, they have a life span of 115 days.

So, my final thoughts on Breakfast Served Anytime? I liked it, primarily because it brought back memories that I hadn’t thought about in decades…and pleasant memories at that. For you ‘mature’ YA lit readers, I’d love to know what memories the book might have rekindled. And, for you YA YA lit readers (if I have any following this blog), I’d like to know the same thing. Lastly, what can be bad about a place serving breakfast any time?

Having said that, I’m off to bake Snikerdoodles. A place serving dessert any time can’t be bad either, huh?

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