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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

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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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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