Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

I was at the American Library Association conference in Orlando last weekend and had a chance to exchange a few (very few) words with some of my author and illustrator idols:

They were all charming, of course. So, now for their latest books:

I’ll tell you that I love the books by these authors (except that I haven’t yet read anything by Laura Ruby but Bone Gap is on my reading list). The Margaret A. Edwards award (contributions to young adult literature) winner Anderson writes about current issues in Impossible Knife of Memory, Wintergirls and Speak. Readers can’t put her books down. Ashes is the third book in her Seeds of America trilogy about the Revolutionary War. She is truly impassioned about her subjects.

Jerry Pinkney is a marvelous award winning illustrator who has done wondrous things with his fairy tales The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare and Grasshopper and the Ants. Children and adults alike will smile as they read these books. He promised to continue as there are so many more fairy tales to tell.

Jordan Sonnenblick uses humor to discuss serious topics such as strokes, old age and cancer in Falling Over Sideways, Notes from a Midnight Driver, and After Ever After. The topics he writes about are ones you don’t see in young adult literature all that often.

Morgan Matson and Emery Lord are the masters of the summer romance (watch out Sarah Dessen!). Matson’s Unexpected Everything (review to come), Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance Summer are the perfect beach reads. (For some reason I’ve bought Matson’s last two books at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY…I’m not from there! Is this a trend?) Lord’s spin on romance and characters is unique in When We Collided (Vivi is such a great character) (review to come) and Open Road Summer. So get your reading chair, beach umbrella and SPF 50 ready.

You’ll have to wait until I read Bone Gap to know what that one’s all about. But if it is a Michael Printz Award winner, it can’t be all bad.

These six authors provide any kind of reading you want (serious, humorous, romantic, illustrious, mythical) to take you through the summer, into the fall and beyond. Happy Reading!


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Another “my parents are divorced and getting remarried” book. In this instance, twelve-year-old Elizabeth (Fizzy) and her mother move out of the family home. Fizzy is a normal pre-teen, other than being a talented chef hoping to have her own television show one day. The simultaneous news that her father and his new wife, Suzanne, are expecting a baby and her mother plans on marrying her boyfriend, Keene, is an unwelcome jolt to Fizzy. With a new baby and a new husband taking all her parents’ emotions, Fizzy feels like leftovers—nobody likes them. Her only confidante is her father’s sister, Aunt Liz. Aunt Liz, a talented chef in her own right, suggests Fizzy enter the Southern Living Cook-Off. Fizzy readily agrees to prove to a doubting Keene that she can win and in the hopes that winning a major competition might make her dysfunctional family love her again.

TheThingAbout Leftovers

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne is a fun read about a serious topic. Blended families are prevalent and pre-teens and teens need to realize that, although their parents may be focusing their attentions on new families, it is not to the exclusion of the old ones. In addition, step-parents can love their step-children if given the chance. Learning to adjust to step-parents’ idiosyncrasies can be daunting. Having a support person, as Fizzy has in Aunt Liz, can make the transition easier. Children of blended families will relate to Fizzy’s thoughts and emotions. A thought provoking read for parents and children.


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Amy Zhang was in high school when she wrote her debut novel, Falling Into Place. She has followed this up with another ‘not-put-downable’ book, This is Where the World Ends.

Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. That is how the world should be forever. Two opposites attracted. Janie, the imaginer. The doer. Micah, the follower. The support.

They lived next door to each other, bedrooms facing. Janie would slide a shelf between the rooms and shimmy across. They knew each other inside out…best friends, but nothing more. A world unto themselves.

Until it all fell apart. Right before the beginning of senior year, Janie moved across town to a bigger house that she hated. But she had no say in her parents’ decision. Although still at the same school, things had changed…dramatically.

Janie and Micah’s alternating narrative, the Before and the After, chronicle the disintegration of life, the apocalypse. The Journal of Janie Vivian, words and drawings, embedded in the story, mark the transition from fairy tale to harsh reality.

I’d say Amy Zhang is an author to watch, but with two great books to her credit she has already earned our respect. Now it’s a question of waiting…for her next novel. I know I am.


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Despite commitment issues…with trilogies, that is…I was convinced to read Madly by Amy Alward, the first in the Potion trilogy. I’m glad I did. Will I read volumes 2 and 3? I can’t commit!


When Princess Evelyn mistakenly drinks the love potion she prepared for Zain, she falls in love with the first person she sees, which happens to be her reflection in a mirror. Of course the royal family can’t have this. Plus it’s wreaking havoc with her magic…and her life.

The King calls a Wilde Hunt, an ancient tradition in which alchemists the world over try to find the exact ingredients for the antidote, for anything less will kill Princess Evelyn. Taking place in the current century, the Hunt pits the Kemi family, primarily Samantha Kemi apprenticing as an alchemist to her grandfather, who hails from a long line of famous, old-school alchemists against the ZoroAster corporation, a manufacturer of synthetic potion ingredients.

Madly nicely blends the old and the new. Characters zip around in cars and trucks, fly on airplanes and teleport. They communicate via social media, telecasts, cell phones, etc. Yet they use Bunsen burners, test tubes, and mortars and pestles. They look for ingredients including flowers, unicorns, abominable snowmen…the things fairy tales are made of. There is danger at every turn.

And what would a fairy tale be, old or modern, without a wicked witch and a love interest, both of which are here in full force. For a fun read, fairy tale, adventure, romance, try Madly out. You may be bewitched.


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Victoria woke up in a white hospital bed. The problem is that she wasn’t supposed to wake up. The night before she took an overdose of sleeping pills that she’d been accumulating. She was found by the elderly Juanita, her nanna, who she deeply loved. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

Books about attempted suicide, the post-attempt individual and group therapy sessions and the bonding of the teens in the group are not uncommon. However,  put in the hands of Francisco X. Stork (author of Marcelo in the Real World) The Memory of Light is more than a young adult novel about depression. One reason it that it is semi-autobiographical, as per the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Stork was 24 years old when he took 60 sleeping pills in his suicide attempt. That knowledge makes the book more meaningful.

Also, Stork has created a diverse cast of characters. Vicky’s roommate is Mona, who comes from a broken home and is searching for her little sister Lucy. She needs meds to control her mood swings. Gilbert hears voices and there is the fear that he is schizophrenic and E.M. has an uncontrolled temper.

The contrast in illnesses is also a contrast in life. Vicky seems to have the idyllic life–coming from a wealthy family, having everything she could possibly want, private school, plentiful opportunities. Gilbert, on the other hand, has to help his grandfather with his gardening business because Antonio is getting on in years and can’t do it by himself. Gilbert’s grandmother is showing the signs of schizophrenia that Gilbert is starting to exhibit. E.M. comes from a family in which his father physically abused his mother.

The Memory of Light is realistic in its depiction of mental illnesses. In its realism, there aren’t necessarily the happy endings we typically read. However, Stork provides hope to those individuals who accept and treat their illnesses, whether it is depression, schizophrenia, or a myriad other illnesses.

Stork implores teens, especially, who know or suspect something is wrong or who just know they are hurting to talk to an unbiased individual or professional, someone who won’t judge them. Mental illness knows no income or educational or racial boundaries. Sometimes the pressures of day to day life in school or at home are too much.

I could not put The Memory of Light down. It was that good.

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It is the tail end of World War II. Throughout the war, the Germans headed east through Poland and Prussia while the Soviets headed west through Lithuania and Prussia, destroying everything in their path. The result, hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. Truth be told, both armies showed a barbarism that is unequaled.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys folds the wandering of refugees into the story of the “deadliest disaster in maritime history, with losses dwarfing the death tolls of the famous ships Titanic and Lusitania.” Told in first person by four dramatically different people, the plight of refugees is vividly told by the characters and experienced by the readers.

Emilia, a pregnant Polish teenager, is saved from the rape of a Russian soldier by Florian, a disillusioned and deserting German soldier who has taken retribution against his superiors for their duplicity. Joana, a Lithuanian, is traveling to find her mother after years of separation. Alfred is a foolish, dimwitted German soldier who has seen the light of Hitler’s words and fancies himself medal-worthy, although he is far from it.

These four end up in the port of Gotenhafen and board the evacuation ship the Wilhelm Gustloff carrying 10,000+ passengers, which was ultimately torpedoed by a Russian submarine.

Characters in Salt to the Sea run the gamut from the self-centered, fearful of everyone Eva to the selfless old shoemaker Heinz. While you can understand Eva’s survival instinct and don’t dislike her for it, it is Heinz that comes through as the shining star, the wise old man always with words of comfort and encouragement.

The alternating chapters by the four individuals works well.  The writing and storyline keep readers wanting more. Salt to the Sea is heartbreaking at times, poignant at other times, scary most of the time.

My only criticism, and it isn’t a big one, is that the background of the story is included in the Author’s Note at the end. Having very little knowledge about the war in Prussia, a little history at the outset would have been nice. However, Sepetys includes a list of resources used in researching the book which was several years in the making.

There is no happy ending because how can there be with the devastation and destruction brought about by the war? But there is hope because there are people who tend to others before themselves, although they are vastly outnumbered.

Although it is the beginning of the year, I’m sure Salt to the Sea will be on my 2016 Top Ten list.



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Parker Grant is blind. Three months earlier, at the beginning of summer vacation, her father died. Her aunt, uncle, and two cousins moved into her house to avoid the necessity of Parker having to learn a whole new routine. Right now she’s practically self sufficient. Each morning she walks by herself to the local park and sprints laps. NotIfISeeYouFirst

Parker has a set of rules, some of them necessitated by her blindness, such as Rule #2: Don’t touch me without asking or warning me. I can’t see it coming. I will always be surprised, and probably hurt you. But it’s Rule #INFINITY–There are NO second chances. Violate my trust and I’ll never trust you again. Betrayal is unforgivable.  —  that will be tested in the upcoming school year when two high schools merge into one and she again comes in contact with Scott.

When they were 13, Scott and Parker were a couple…until he betrayed her trust. Then she shut him out. Now they are in the same trigonometry class. Are the feelings still there, three years later?

I liked Not If I See You First for several reasons. One reason is that it shows that blind people can be fully functional. Parker runs track, can help in the kitchen, and is a good student. While, yes, there are some areas in which she needs an assist, for the most part, she is self sufficient, spunky and independent.

I also liked the book because of the characters. Parker has a devoted group of friends in Sarah, Faith and Molly. They embrace her and are there for her through thick and thin. It’s the kind of friendship that most of us want.

I like Linkdstrom’s writing. It’s easy going. The story is interesting and unusual.

Finally, there aren’t many young adult books about people with disabilities, especially blindness. Blind by Rachel DeWoskin is the only one that comes to mind. So this is an area that needs more books.Blind

I will admit that the ending was a cop out, in my opinion, but that’s a minor criticism. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom should be on your reading list.

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