Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category


I can’t believe that I never published this post.

Rising country star seventeen-year-old Lilah (Dee) Montgomery is on her summer tour and takes her best friend, bad-girl Reagan O’Neill with her. Reagan, coming off bad relationships, has resolved to reform beginning this summer. When the tabloids print a photo of Lilah and her ex-boyfriend with hints of her pregnancy, her good-girl image is tarnished. Her publicist signs Matt Finch as an opening act, replacing the local area talents, hoping to divert media attention with speculation that Lilah and Matt are a couple. Matt, in a brother band, the Finch Four, several years earlier, is currently under the radar. His good looks and squeaky clean image are enough to start new rumors. The only problem: no matter how much Reagan tries not to, she’s falling for Matt and vice versa. Can she have a relationship with a ‘good’ guy? If the media finds out, how will that impact Lilah?
Open Road Summer, Lord’s debut novel, is truly fun ‘chick-lit’. Lilah, Reagan and Matt are characters readers will immediately like. Lilah’s pain at leaving her ex-boyfriend, who let her go to follow her dream, will pain readers. Reagan’s uncertainty about life and love will resonate with teenage girls, whether ‘good girls’ or ‘bad girls’. Readers will want Matt’s and Reagan’s relationship to thrive. Lord also provides a realistic look at the lengths paparazzi and the media will go to invade a star’s privacy.

Open Road Summer, published last April, is a well written beach read. And since much of the country is under mounds of snow, tack a picture of the ocean and palm trees on your wall, put some logs in the fireplace to heat up the room and pretend you’re lying on a beach somewhere.

By the way, Emery Lord has a new book coming out in March 2015, The Start of Me. I’m ready to give it a go.

Read Full Post »

IllMeetYouThereAlex and Josh are lost souls for two very different reasons. Josh just returned from Afghanistan minus a leg. The all American boy, good at sports and getting girls, is not quite what he used to be. That’s before you consider the nightmares and how he stiffens when he hears loud noises, such as fireworks.

Alex, on the other hand, lost her father five years earlier and her mother has been on a steady decline ever since. Now, having lost her job, her mother has taken to staying in their trailer and is seeing a total sleazeball who encourages her to drink. Alex is wondering whether she’ll have to be the family’s total support and be forced to turn down her full scholarship to San Francisco State.

Somehow, though, at Josh’s ‘welcome home’ party in July, the two seem to connect. What a contrast, Alex the ‘good girl’ never drinking (because her father died in an auto accident when driving while intoxicated) and Josh, who will chug a beer and crush the can.

Alex, for some reason, brings out Josh’s softer side and Josh makes her feel safe.PurpleHeart

In I’ll Meet You There, readers will feel the complexity of Josh and Alex’s relationship and the insecurity each feels. Alex, having never had a boyfriend and Josh, needing to shed his image of chasing everything in a skirt, are unsure both of their feelings and how to act upon them.

ThingsABrotherKnowsDemetrios touches on the PTSD that Josh faces after returning from the war zone. Although it is not the premise of the book, it certainly plays a role in Josh’s (and Alex’s) life. A more pointed and wonderful book dealing with PTSD is Patricia McCormick’s Purple Heart. Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt is also worth reading.

I’ll Meet You There is a poignant story bound to, at different times, bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.

Read Full Post »

GirlDefectiveThe Martin children are named after birds: fifteen year old Skylark (Sky) and eleven year old Seagull (Gully). Their mother left them when Sky was 10 to become a performance artist…in Japan. She has little contact with her former family. Their father never moved past the 1970s, owning a record shop that won’t stock anything past 1980, won’t stock CDs and won’t sell on the internet. He spends most days on the verge of drunkenness.

Unfortunately these circumstances leave Sky with primary responsibility for Gully who is autistic. He wears a pig snout most of the time which, as you can imagine, doesn’t endear him to his schoolmates. He fancies himself a detective and when a brick is thrown through the store window, he makes it his business to track down the perpetrator. She also helps out at the record store, which doesn’t get much traffic.

Sky’s only friend is a world-wise nineteen year old, Nancy. It must be true that opposites attract because Nancy is everything that Sky isn’t.

When Mr. Martin hires Luke Casey to work at the store for the Christmas season, Sky is miffed. When it turns out that Luke’s younger sister drowned after drinking and posters of her keep cropping up all over town, Sky is intrigued. The fact that Luke is cute doesn’t hurt.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell is a story about growing up, both teens and adults. Sky must learn what the world is all about (on her own and through Nancy) and her father has to move into the new century and take on his fatherly responsibilities. Howell’s characters are good, although at times I’d like to hammer Mr. Martin for foisting Gully on Sky all the time, and her writing is descriptive, at some points exceptional (“Night fell soft as a shrug. Even the palm trees looked tired, like showgirls standing around waiting for their pay.”). Any story rooted in music is a plus, especially 70s and 80s music. Of course, since this takes place in Australia, I don’t know some of the musical references, but that’s OK.

All in all, Girl Defective is a fun book.



Read Full Post »

There are some books that are so hard to describe and I’ll Give You the SunIllGiveYouThesun by Jandy Nelson (the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature) is one of them. So the best thing for me to do is keep my description very brief, lest I ruin the book for you. Jude and Noah are twins. At the beginning of the book, at age 13, they are as close as twins can be, knowing how the other feels, thinking what the other thinks without verbally communicating.

Noah is a geek with few friends. He draws constantly, both in his mind and on paper. Jude is beautiful and popular, and as most teenagers will, she rebels against her mother by wearing short dresses and lots of make-up. She too has artistic talent.

Jude sees the ghost of her paternal grandmother, Grandma Sweetwine, on occasion (as did her mother).  Grandma Sweetwine compiled a ‘bible’ of home remedies, superstitions and more, such as “A person in possession of a four leaf clover is able to thwart all sinister influences.” Jude believes these remedies and carries onions around for good luck or sucks lemons to dampen love.

But things change very quickly.

There are so many things that make this book special, the least of which is that Noah’s story starts at age 13 and Jude’s starts at age 16. Each of the characters have such distinct personalities. They are each hiding something major that will have a huge impact on other family members. Some of the characters seem larger than life. Noah talks in colors. Jude talks in home remedies. Grandma Sweetwine floats around in flowery dresses.

Nelson’s use of language, especially when describing what Noah sees and feels is unique. Her plot is unusual. Her characters are vivid. While I found the beginning a little slow going, by page 50 or so I didn’t want to put it down. So, if you’re looking for a book like no other that you’ve read, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson will be that book.

Read Full Post »

TellMeAgainTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, is a pleasing, low key romance–much more low key than her debut novel If You Could Be Mine. Leila knows her crush on girls would devastate her Iranian born parents…confirmed by the fact that a neighbor disowned their son when he came out. As a result, she can’t tell her parents or her perfect sister, Nahal, the apple of her parents’ eyes, so she thinks. She doesn’t want to be disowned, unloved.

When a new, beautiful girl, Saskia, transfers to her school and shows interest in Leila, she’s ecstatic. She can’t stop thinking about her, her looks, the smell of her hair, the feeling as their arms brush together. She has high hopes that Saskia will become her girlfriend. But Saskia is erratic, sometimes encouraging, sometimes conniving and sometimes hurtful.

At school, all students must have an extracurricular activity. Since Leila’s no athlete, it takes little encouragement from Saskia to convince Leila to drop soccer and try out for the school play together, Twelfth Night. Although she doesn’t get a part (and Saskia does), Leila agrees to work backstage where she meets Tanya, Simone and Christine, the rumored stereotypical ‘backstage lesbians’.

While all of this is going on, Leila reconnects with a childhood friend, Lisa Katz, who had migrated to the ‘in crowd’ at school, leaving the Lisa/Leila friendship in the dust.

(Possible spoiler) I’ll admit that parts of the story are predictable, as is the ending (but it’s the ending you want). But that doesn’t detract from this sweet story. Leila is like any sixteen year old in the throes of love, regardless of whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual love, whether you’re a guy or a girl. Her insecurities about romance will resonate with most teens, since both genders go through the heartbreak of romance at some point in their young lives.

Additionally, we all think we know our siblings, only to find out they’re totally different than our image of them. Nahal is no exception.

And finally, the book reinforces the unconditional love that a parent has (should have) for a child.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel will make any romantic feel good, which is certainly how a crush should feel.

Read Full Post »

Better late than never, right?  Here are my picks for the 10 best YA books that I read in 2014 (in alphabetical order by author’s last name):

ImpossibleKnifeOfMemoryThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – Hayley and her father have been traveling as he looks for a place he can settle down in after returning from Iraq. As they try to settle in his hometown, Hayley attempts to balance a normal teenage life including school, friends, and a new boyfriend with constantly worrying about worst-case scenarios she and her dad could face.

TornAwayTorn Away by Jennifer Brown – When a tornado strikes Jersey’s hometown in Missouri, her house and neighborhood are destroyed, but her losses cut much deeper: her mother and five-year-old sister are among the many killed in the storm.

LastForeverLast Forever by Deb Caletti – Tessa, a high school junior, has been having a hard time since her mother died a few months ago. Her mother’s last gift to her is a one-of-a-kind heirloom plant that Tessa must protect. When her father decides they should go on an unplanned adventure to the Grand Canyon, Tessa brings her mother’s fragile plant along for the ride.

VeryNearlyHonorableVery Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson (more middle grade than YA, but wonderful just the same) – Fledgling pirate captain Hilary bravely engages in nonpiratical behavior to rescue kidnapped friends and expose chicanery in high places. Hey, don’t forget the gargoyle!!!!!

ReturningToShoreReturning to Shore by Corrine Demas – A thoughtful teen reconnects with her nature-loving father on Cape Cod. Fourteen year-old Clare is less than thrilled with her mother’s plan to have her spend three weeks on a remote island with her father, Richard. She hasn’t seen him in twelve years, and they only speak on Christmas. This coming of age story takes place on Cape Cod. What could be bad????

SeptemberGirlsSeptember Girls by Bennett Madison – Before the school year is over, Sam’s dad quits his job and takes the 17-year-old and his older brother, who’s home from college, to a sleepy Outer Banks beach town for the summer. Sam’s mom left abruptly months earlier and the three are still reeling from her sudden departure. Ensconced in a rundown rental, the boys spend the summer partying, swimming, and trying to get to know the beautiful, blond, ephemeral-looking girls who seem to be everywhere in town.

PositivePositive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl – Rawl’s journey from secrecy to acceptance of her HIV-positive status, thanks to her friends and family, makes for a compelling memoir. As a child, Paige saw her daily doses of medicine as normal—not strange at all. It wasn’t until she was in sixth grade that her mother told Paige that she had been born with HIV. That revelation ends her idyllic life in Indianapolis forever

WeAreTheGoldensWe are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt – Sisters Nell and Layla were once so close Nell thought of them as Nelllayla. But as they enter high school, the two siblings are drifting apart and Nell feels a tremendous sense of loss. At first, Nell is not sure why, but then she learns Layla’s secret. Nell is having her own struggles after she hooks up with a boy at a party.

BrownGirlDreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – A multiaward-winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer. Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina.

FallingIntoPlaceFalling into Place by Amy Zhang – High school junior Liz Emerson hovers between life and death in the hospital after purposefully running her car off the road, while friends, teachers and curious classmates gather to stand watch and hope for the best. Strategically timed flashbacks to weeks, days and minutes before the crash, some voiced by Liz’s platitude-spouting childhood imaginary friend, reveal a wealthy, popular girl tortured by regret over her cruel actions against others. The amazing thing is that this was written by a teenager.

These are just the 5 star books. If I included the 4 1/2 star books, we’d be here until 2016.


Read Full Post »

Sixteen year old Devorah Blum is a such a good Hasidic girl, she’s nicknamed LikeNoOtherfrum Blum. It is nearly Rosh Hashanah and she’s at the hospital awaiting the arrival of her 18 year old sister’s first child. She’s in the waiting room sitting next to her brother-in-law, Jacob. It’s hurricane weather outside.

Taking the elevator down to the cafeteria, the electricity goes out and the elevator stops. That’s a problem in and of itself. However, the even bigger problem is that there is a 16 year old boy, Jaxon, in the elevator as well, and good Hasidic girls are not allowed to be alone with members of the opposite sex, regardless of the circumstances. As Devorah squats in the farthest corner of the elevator car, long dress draped over her legs, Jaxon starts talking to her. Against her better judgment, she begins to respond, his easy going manner and genuine interest a far cry from what Deborah’s used to.

As any astute reader will surmise, Jaxon is not Jewish. Additionally, he is Black, so he’s got a double negative against him. Before you know it, there’s an attraction between them and they are sneaking off to see each other, the consequences (especially Devorah’s), if found out (and you know they will be), be damned.

LaMarche paints what I’d consider a realistic picture of Hasidic life and thought, and the actions taken when a young girl rebels against Hasidic life. (Interestingly, I don’t recall reading any books about males exploring outside their very insular life. If you know of one, I’d be interested.) Having witnessed first hand what the Hasidic community will do when someone dates outside the religion, the actions taken by Jacob and Devorah’s parents do not surprise me.

While I thought at some points that Devorah’s actions and transformation were not realistic, I discovered, as I thought about it, that my thoughts changed. When a girl who is brought up all her life knowing she’ll get matched to a suitable mate and ‘learn’ to love him after marriage, experiences a physical and emotional attraction to someone for the first time, she could very well consider it love. (It might or might not be.) And given Devorah’s spunk, she’ll pursue it as aggressively as she can, bearing in mind the tug of war she’s having between her upbringing and family vs. her freedom.

And when a young man meets a girl who is so not the average girl he’s used to meeting, he too may interpret it as love, whether or not it truly is, and pursue her aggressively.

Like No Other is a powerful story. I can understand both Jaxon’s and Devorah’s emotions, their longing for each other. Devorah’s struggle to align her religious upbringing and beliefs with her desire to explore the outer world is true. Contrast that with Jaxon’s more liberal, more understanding family and you can understand Devorah’s turmoil.

I just need to say that insularity of Hasidic Judaism is not unique. There are many nationalities and religions that frown upon young women venturing out on their own, where parents determine the lives that their daughters, especially, will lead. And therefore, this book should resonate with young girls wherever they may be.

We, more liberal folk, tend to think that the whole world is in the 21st century, but clearly that is not true. Definitely give Like No Other a try.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers