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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

DarkSongAmes Ford lives the privileged life. Huge house with a movie theater, new clothes, all the electronic devices she could want and family vacations. The perfect family…until it all fell apart. Her father, Randal, got caught using his clients’ investment accounts to play the market and lost everything; his job, his retirement funds, his house. The family disintegrates, with a large portion of the animosity shown toward Ames–the spoiled rich kid who can’t conceive of being poor.

Ames and her family are forced to move from Boulder to Texas, into a rental slum owned by her paternal grandparents; grandparents she never new she had. In lieu of three months rent, the family has to fix up the dilapidated, filthy abode. However, help arrives in the form of Marc, a 22 year old who’s a friend of an online friend, etc.

Marc understands the alienation that Ames feels. Her mother yells at everyone, but her the most. Her father chugs beer and Jack Daniels rather than helping and has, on two occasions, almost hit her. But Marc was there to save the day. He’s her hero. But is he too good to be true? What are his secrets?

The first Gail Giles book I read was Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters DeadGirlsand I loved it. I think I read it twice. Shattering Glass I couldn’t get into and, while I remember reading Playing in Traffic, I don’t remember much about it.

GirlsLikeUsSo, while it was nice to enjoy a Gail Giles book again (and I’m looking forward to Girls Like Us coming out later this month), there were things that didn’t ring true. The speed with which the Fords move from Boulder to Texas (it felt like minutes after learning of Randal’s predicament), the immediate and dramatic change in her mother’s relationship with Ames. and the neat ending (hopefully this is not a spoiler). On the other hand, Marc did ring true for me…I won’t tell you more since I don’t want to spoil anything more than I might have already.

I like Gail Giles writing and her ability to tell a story and I’d still recommend this book, but it’s not up to the standards of Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters, which is a MUST read.

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I was lying awake thinking the other night (I don’t know why) that if I had to pick six books to show someone who grew up on Lois Duncan, the width and breadth of YA literature today, which books would I choose? Everyone has their favorites and there are obviously multiple combinations of six books to illustrate my point, but here are mine.

SmallDamagesLiterary YA FictionSmall Damages by Beth Kephart (or any Beth Kephart book). Beth takes pains to get the words right and the result are wonderful, sometimes ethereal prose narrating engrossing stories.

WintergirlsIssue Driven FictionWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (or any of her books). Speak, about rape, is obviously the most well known, with the movie starring a young Kristen Stewart, but all of Anderson’s books deal with real issues faced by teens.

KeepingYouASecretLGBTQKeeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters.  Keeping You a Secret is one of Peters’ earlier books portraying lesbian relationships and remains one of my favorites to this day. However she deals with all sorts of gender issues, from Luna (transgender) to gender neutral proms.

 

 

RevolutionHistorical FictionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Donnelly, whose earlier work, A Northern Light won the Carnegie Medal, goes back and forth between current day and the French Revolution.

EonScience Fiction/FantasyEon: Dragoneye Reborn and Eona: The Return of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. Goodman combines action with signs of the zodiac in a spine tingling fantasy.

FaultInOurStarsIllnessThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green discusses the relationship between two teens having debilitating and potentially fatal diseases.

 

 

 

 

As we who read YA literature know, it has come a long way from the Lois Duncan days. And while Lois Duncan’s books play a significant role in the reading lives of teens, even today, there is a whole big wide world of YA literature out there begging to be read. I know I’ve left out great YA authors such as Lauren Oliver, Jordan Sonnenblick, Jennifer Brown. The list is endless.

I’m sure your List of Six is different than mine, so feel free to send me yours. I’d be interested.

 

 

 

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Faking Normal, a debut novel by Courtney C. Stevens, is about two FakingNormalbroken teens, one exhibiting all his hurt, one hiding hers. The interesting thing about this book is that the cause of one pain is evident from the start; the cause of the other is revealed slowly but surely.

In the same vein, one outcome of the book is predictable from the beginning and the other has a twist. This caused me to raise my eyebrows and say, “Oh my, I didn’t see that coming.” But, it follows the story, so cudos to the author.

Alexi Littrell and Bodee Lennox are the two main characters. One is strong; one is weak. But together they make quite the pair.

I really don’t want to say too much about this book. I know, I really haven’t told you much. But to my mind, it’s better to start without any knowledge and let Ms. Stevens unfold her tale to you. She has conjured up two characters you won’t easily forget.

So, it’s Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens.

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I love poetry. I hate poetry. I love poetry. I hate poetry….I love poetry that I can understand, AndWeStaynot those deep poems with hidden meanings. And for some inexplicable reason, it is comforting to both write and read poetry.

In And We Stay, Jennifer Hubbard’s second novel after Paper Covers Rock, Emily Beam’s ex-boyfriend, Paul, shoots himself in the school library while standing in front of her. Did he mean to do it all along? Did the fact that she broke up with him two days before (on her birthday, December 10) spur him to do it, or was it inevitable? In the aftermath of this tragedy, Emily’s parents enroll her in Amherst School for Girls, hundreds of miles away from what appears to be their Midwest home (although the state is never mentioned).

There’s always a story surrounding a mid-year transfer, but Emily doesn’t want to share her secret(s). She stays aloof from her roommate, K.T. and other kids in school. However, when a teacher gives her a book of poems by Emily Dickinson, it reinvigorates Emily’s B.’s poetic desires. She becomes obsessed and inspired by Ms. Dickinson, who shares birthdays with our Emily.

In a marvelous fashion combining prose and poetry, Jennifer Hubbard fleshes out Emily Beam. In flashbacks, she recreates Emily and Paul’s relationship, how it started and what led to that fateful event. She describes Emily’s growth and her ultimate connection to her new schoolmates. Her poems are beautiful and add an aura to the story that would be sorely missed without them. Emily, K.T., Paul and all the supporting characters have real personalities. Emily’s transformation is evident.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like And We Stay, and despite all the positive reviews, I hesitantly began reading, at which point I was sold. And We Stay should be on everyone’s reading list.

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SeptemberGirlsI was reluctant to read September Girls by Bennett Madison. I heard it was something about mermaids and I thought it wouldn’t interest me. But I needed something to read so I picked it up. I found September Girls to be a tender love story tinged with fantasy.

Sam’s father decides that the boys, Sam, his father and his brother Jeff, should summer in the Outer Banks. It’s been six months since Sam’s mother abruptly left the family, basically to find herself, without the company of men. So, off they go, a trio of unspeaking men. When they get to their destination, they find a town inhabited by the most beautiful girls they’ve ever seen, all perfect, all blonde, all able to toss their hair alluringly. There is something mysterious about them all, besides the fact that they look very much alike.

The story unfolds primarily through Sam’s narrative, interspersed with the story of “we“, the September Girls, the myths and legends that rule their lives.

September Girls is a story of love, of accepting, of sacrifice, of destiny, of growing up. As we (I) age, we want those perfect relationships that sprout and grow almost unannounced. Madison says it so well.  “So I waited, and it happened. The way you put your hand on my shoulder. The way you smiled at me when I was talking, the way I’d tell a joke and not even realize it was a joke until you were laughing. The way you kissed me, the way I saw you ambling toward me down the beach, still in the distance. In your small movements and gestures, something happened: the girl you thought I was began to acquire form…and she was beautiful in a way that had nothing to do with what I’d thought of as beauty.”

This is the love I want. I wonder whether it exists other than in books.

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TornAwaySixteen-year-old Jersey survived the tornado that hit Elizabeth, MO alone in her basement, under her stepfather Ronnie’s pool table. Her mother, Chrissy, and 5 year-old sister, Marin, were at dance class and were not as lucky. After several days Ronnie appears. Their house and belongings are destroyed. The only saved relics are Marin’s favorite purse and a ceramic cat with the number 6 on it, one of 16 anonymous birthday gifts Jersey assumes were from her father, Clay, who abandoned her at an early age. It is a complete shock when Ronnie says he is too emotional to care for her and she must move to another city to live with Clay’s extended family. They make it known that they do not want her but will take her as a family obligation. Jersey and her two teenage cousins clash immediately and Jersey is forced to leave. Instead of taking her back, Ronnie takes her to Chrissy’s parents, who Chrissy said disowned her when she married Clay.

In Torn Away, Jennifer Brown, author of Thousand Words, The Hate List and Perfect Escape describes in realistic detail the physical and emotional wreckage of storm victims. Not only has Jersey lost her home, immediate family and friends, but she is forced to live with people who do not want her or people she believes have disowned her mother and never tried to maintain contact. Along with acclimating to new families, Jersey also learns that ‘truths’ her mother told her may not have been so. Torn Away is vivid and emotional as Jersey comes to terms with her grief, new life and new knowledge.

For my review of Thousand Words, click here: http://2headstogether.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/thousand-words-by-jennifer-brown/. As you can see, Jennifer Brown does not shy away from controversial topics.

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As 2013 meandered into 2014, there were four books I was looking forward to reading:

ImpossibleKnifeOfMemory1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – published in January. I’ll review that shortly, but suffice it to say, it lived up to my expectations.

2. Panic by Lauren Oliver – to be published in MarchPanic

GoingOver

3. Going Over by Beth Kephart – to be published in April. I’m so excited because I have an advanced reader’s copy in hand. Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait.

4. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters – to be published in June. My wonderful daughter got me an advanced readers copy of it at ALA Midwinter Conference.LiesMyGirlfriendToldMe

So, going into February, I will have read three out of the four books I’ve been looking forward to. What can be better than that? Four out of four? Hey, I’m OK with waiting until March for Panic.

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Fake ID by Lamar Giles (not to be confused with Fake ID by Walter Sorrells) is a FakeIDrefreshing teen guy mystery. More of these are needed–and this is prime for a series. Nick Pearson is the new kid in school. On his first day, he accidently bumps into Reya Cruz in the gym. Unfortunately, Reya’s former boyfriend, Lamar, hasn’t gotten the hint that they’ve broken up and he’s the jealous sort. So, in the locker room, Nick gets jumped by Lamar and his friends. Nick’s ass is saved by Eli, the geeky head of the school newspaper.

Nick and Eli become sort of friends and Nick gets roped into working on the newspaper. Several weeks later, Eli is found dead on the newspaper room floor. It’s deemed a suicide but Nick feels/knows differently because Eli was working on a major story. Nick, for several reasons, feels compelled to find out who the murderer is.

FakeID1There are surprises in the beginning that I don’t want to spoil. There is action, suspense, romance going on in Fake ID, in just the right proportions. Lamar Giles is a good writer. I felt that I knew Eli and Nick and the other characters. There are twists and turns that I never saw coming. I really enjoyed Fake ID.

P.S. I also enjoyed Fake ID by Walter Sorrells.  Both books will appeal to the same audience.

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17&GoneIt was on a snowy lane that Lauren first saw the poster about Abby Sinclair’s disappearance tacked to a pine tree. Soon after, she saw the ghost like appearance of Abby in the back seat of her van as she was on the day she disappeared. She was wearing a camp t-shirt, red shorts with white striping, had leaves in her hair and bruises on her knees. Although she lived in New Jersey, she was a counselor in training at a camp Pinecliff, New York. Abby was 17.

The next vision to appear was Fiona Burke. Fiona, nine years older than Lauren, used to babysit for her. She ran away, leaving Lauren in the Burke house by herself, locked in a closet. Fiona was never heard from again, but Lauren sees her and Fiona speaks to her. Fiona was 17 when she disappeared.

There’s Natalie, Shyann, Isabeth and Madison. All 17.

There are so many 17 year olds who disappear, either by running away or by being abducted and they are starting to make themselves visible to Lauren. But she’s not sure what she’s supposed to do about it. Then the dreams start.

I ended my 2013 reading with 17 & Gone, Nova Ren Suma’s latest (and I think best) YA novel, after Imaginary Girls and Dani Noir. It is absorbing. There is tension as Lauren interacts with these visions. There is concern for these poor girls. There is a surreal atmosphere to Lauren’s life, both real and imagined. There is a twist which I didn’t see coming. This will definitely make by 2013 Top 10 List.

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ImpossibleKnifeOfMemoryI come from the post-World War II generation. My father and two uncles were in the war but they never talked about it. I have photos of my dad in uniform looking so distinguished and photos of him stepping off an airplane or in an office, all smiling. I think my uncles had it worse than my father, combat-wise. But they never talked about it. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was sleep away camp.

Talking to the WW II veterans at our library for our Oral History Project, they all have stories, some happy, some sad, but they all talk about it and smile. There is a far away look in their eyes sometimes. But, by and large, it seems that the memories are fond ones.

But looking at old newsreels and documentaries we know it wasn’t a pleasure trip our soldiers took. Now compare the means we used to wreak devastation in that war with all the new, more effective, more ghastly means we have now and it’s no wonder that our soldiers suffer post-traumatic stress disorders when they return home.

That’s what Laurie Halse Anderson addresses so well in The Impossible Knife of Memory. Seventeen year old Hayley’s father, Andy, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and came home a shadow of his former self. For a while he drove a big rig with Hayley in the passenger seat. But he spontaneously decided to return to his boyhood home so that Hayley can finish high school like a normal kid. Unfortunately with a tormented father and no mother, her life was anything but normal. Being on the road and home-schooled, she didn’t know the rules of high school nor of boy-girl relationships. Add to that the uncertainty: will her father wake up, will he be sober and sane or tormented and drunk? Must she walk on eggshells?

Then enter Trish, Hayley’s surrogate parent for a while whose relationship with Andy was troubled and who walked out on them. Do Hayley or Andy need this?

As with Speak and Wintergirls, Anderson wonderfully, readably, delves into a difficult, relevant, contemporary topic. The characters come alive. You are in Hayley’s living room after Andy’s trashed it because he learned an Army buddy was killed in action. You are there, on the edge along with Andy. There are few books that, as you read, you feel that you are alongside the main character and this is one. The Impossible Knife of Memory will stay in your memory for a long time.

Read the New York Times Book Review write-up by Jo Knowles: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/books/review/laurie-halse-andersons-impossible-knife-of-memory.html?_r=0

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