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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

The Sun is Also a Star, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Michael L. Printz Award, by Nicola Yoon is a new spin on love at first sight, love in a day, etc. Natasha Kingsley is trying to save her family from deportation back to Jamaica. Daniel Jae Won Bae is on his way to get his haircut before his Yale admissions interview when fate intervenes. Seeing her from afar, he is intrigued by her, her huge afro, her absorption in the music she’s listening to through her big headphones.

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Shy, he can’t go up to her and introduce himself, but fate steps in again when he saves her from being hit by a car as she crosses the street. Daniel, the poet, has fallen in love. Natasha, the pragmatist and scientist, hasn’t come close.

But, events work themselves out and they spend the day together. Yoon not only tells their story, but also ancillary stories: the security guard at USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service), the secretary for Natasha’s immigration lawyer, their parents and siblings. Chapters alternate between Daniel and Natasha, with asides about various people, theories, etc.

Yoon also explores the complicated Korean American family dynamics and Jamaican American family dynamics–the thought of greener pastures in America and the wish of immigrants that their children have a better life than they had.

Will Daniel go to Yale? Will Natasha stay in the United States? Will it require a parallel universe to keep these lovebirds together? The only way you’ll know is by reading The Sun is Also a Star.

For a similar, totally enjoyable book about love in a day, try Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

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OK, so I have to put my two cents in. Is The Sun is Also a Star award worthy or finalist worthy? I don’t know. It certainly was an enjoyable read. The characters suck you in and never let go. It does deal with complicated issues such as family dynamics, parents forcing careers on their children, deportation, love. Yet, despite this, I found the book to be light and fluffy. Since both the National Book Award and the Michael L. Printz Award are “literary” awards, I’m not sure The Sun is Also a Star fits the categories. If this was a popularity contest, by all means. So, you decide for yourself. Let me know your thought.

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Times were tough in 1907 England and Beck’s mother did what she needed to survive. One encounter with a passing sailor resulted in Beck’s birth. He never knew his father. One month before his eleventh birthday, “…his grandparents and his mother and his daft kindly uncle all died in the flu epidemic. Anne [his mother] was the last to go.” Beck was taken to the Catholic orphanage, “…run by the methodically cruel Sisters of Mercy.” Being of mixed race, Beck was victimized both by the Sisters as well as other orphans. One March morning in 1922 he was transferred to the Christian Brotherhood Home for Boys. However, his tenure was short lived when he spurned the advances of one of the priests. He was unceremoniously put on a vessel bound for Canada to work on a farm, an activity totally foreign to him. His sponsors were cruel and bigoted and at the first opportunity, Beck escaped to wander through Canada trying to survive.

Beck, started by Mal Peet and completed by Meg Rosoff after his death, is a marvelous tale of a boy beaten down at every turn, whose self-image is destroyed by his ‘protectors’, trying to find his way in the world. It is an adventure story as well as a love story, although love is a foreign concept to him. Both Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff both are excellent writers as you can see by the quotes I included in this review. Readers will feel Beck’s torture, both physical and emotional. They will experience his physical hardships but will also rejoice when he discovers what true love is. Beck will be enjoyed by fans of Mal Peet, historical fiction and adventure.

Tamar and Life: An Exploded Diagram are the only Mal Peet books I’ve read, both of which I enjoyed. They are vastly different books from each other as well as from Beck. The publisher’s description of Tamar is: “When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever”. It, too, is full of adventure, has a romantic component, and is extremely well written. It is one of my favorite books.

My suggestion is: read any Mal Peet books you can get your hands on.

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The best way to describe What Light by Jay Asher is that it is suitable for one of those Hallmark or Lifetime Channel cheesy Christmas romance movies. So, the less said about it the better.

Synopsis: Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. From Thanksgiving through Christmas they relocate to California to sell the trees. The farm and lot have been in the family for generations.

As a result of this lifestyle, Sierra has two sets of friends, one set in each state and gets emotional every time she has to leave one for the other. She’s also avoided entanglements in California, knowing she’s a short timer.

This year is the exception. She meets Caleb, a boy with a shady past. Her overly protective father, now has cause to be even more protective.

What Light is ready made for TV, cheesy plot, semi-tearjerker ending, set at holiday time. Quite the change from Asher’s overly serious, suicidal Thirteen Reasons Why. I had nothing else to read so I kept going, but luckily I’m not diabetic because the sugary sweetness of the book would have put me in a coma.

If you go for this sort of book (guilty pleasure or not), go for it. Otherwise read Sarah Dessen or Emory Lord or Morgan Matson.

The end.

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Although The Warden’s Daughter is about a child growing up inside prison walls, the resemblance to Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts ends there. The latter is a humorous book, with some serious overtones while the former is a sensitive look at a girl looking for a mother, with some humor included.

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Cammie’s mother sacrificed her own life to save Cammie, when she was just an infant, from being hit by a milk truck. Her mother pushed the carriage Cammie was in across the street, while taking the full impact of the vehicle. Cammie incurred only minor bruises.

Since then she and her father have had a series of ‘trustees’, responsible convicts, tend their house, cook their meals, dust and clean. At age 12, however, Cammie decides she needs a real mother and Eloda Pupko, the current trustee, is a good choice. Yet no matter how much she cajoles, schemes, manipulates, Eloda keeps her distance, remains aloof.

The story is told by Cammie when she is in her mid-60s (although it is not always apparent). It story evokes 1959, on the cusp of Cammie’s thirteenth birthday. American Bandstand and the songs of the late 50s play a big role and will bring back memories to those adults choosing to read The Warden’s Daughter.

But Eloda and Cammie, a confused twelve year old with flowing hormones which make her irrational at times, are the main characters. Eloda is the gruff but caring housekeeper and Cammie is the unhappy almost teen who gets excited one minute about her best friend, Reggie, getting on American Bandstand and the next is kicking all of her friends out of her birthday sleepover because one of them starts crying because she forgot to bring a toothbrush and her mother won’t let her use any but her own.

Jerry Spinelli, known for Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, always comes up with a good story. The Warden’s Daughter is sensitive and fun and shows there is a good side to everyone.

 

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What happens when two people are attracted to each other, but only one knows a secret that can strain that attraction? Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake delves into this subject and comes to a realistic, not a sugary sweet, conclusion.

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Sam and Hadley come from broken homes. Each had a parent who had had an affair, the result of which dramatically altered their families and their lives. Each ultimately moved from their home town of Nashville to a suburb, Woodmont. Each blames the offending parent for ruining their lives. Hadley finds comfort in hooking up with random guys, showing no interest in developing any kind of relationship. Sam just blows up.

The two are paired for an English assignment. Hadley, having learned that a boy she hooked up with at a party had a girl friend (she does have some scruples) trusts no boys. Sam has heard a bit about Hadley’s reputation and is dubious. But there is an attraction, only Sam knows something that could doom any budding relationship.

Sam, his younger sister, Olivia, and his best friend Ajay, as well as Hadley and her best friend, Kat, make a good ensemble cast. Their reactions to the philandering adults is understandable, however, the adults’ reactions to their children is hard to understand. Everyone is emotional. Everyone is upset. But still…

I give the author credit for not necessarily taking the easy way out, but coming up with a realistic ending. My only criticism with the book: it was 50 pages too long. By the end, I was skimming.

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When Lina’s mother, photographer Hadley Emerson, is on her death bed, she makes Lina promise her one thing: that she will spend a year in Florence. Hadley’s year there was the best year she ever had. She then begins talking about Howard, a boyfriend who still lives in Florence, who she has never mentioned in Lina’s seventeen year life. Lina begins to wonder why Howard is being brought up all of the sudden.

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Hadley dies in the middle of the school term and Lina decides to finish out the term living at her best friend Addie’s house. Before she is reluctantly ready to go, her grandmother tells her that Howard is actually her father. How could this be…that he could be her father and never, ever contacted her?

It is with reluctance and trepidation that Lina flies off to meet her father for the first time.

There is something to be said for the predictable…as long as it’s readable, both of which are Love & Gelato, Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel. Of course, how could you be in Florence (or any part of Italy for that matter) and not meet up with romance and heartbreak? Lina meets up with both.

Welch also throws in a few (predictable) curves but that doesn’t diminish Love & Gelato‘s enjoyment factor. Lina and her love interest, Ren, are good characters, as is Howard. If you’ve ever been to Italy (as I was a long, long time ago), the book conjures up some of those long forgotten memories and visuals.

And you can’t forget the taste of gelato. Even thinking about it makes my mouth water. So, even though winter is closing in, there is always room for gelato…and love.

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Anything by Ellen Wittlinger and anything taking place in Cape Cod is worth at least a glance. So, of course, Local Girl Swept Away was on my reading list.

Lorna is the ring leader. She leads and her court (Finn, Lucas and Jackie) follow. She needs their adulation. They need her spontaneity and lust for life. So it wasn’t uncommon for the foursome to go out on the rocks at the edge of Provincetown in the driving rain, Lorna, as surefooted as can be, speeding ahead of the others. However, they stood motionless when all of the sudden Lorna disappeared and moments later they saw her white jacket drifting in the water, floating away from them.

Lucas, the poorest swimmer of the group, dove in but the tide pushed him back to shore. Finn, Lorna’s boyfriend, stood motionless, as did Jackie.

Local Girl Swept Away tackles many things, foremost the remaining trio’s attempts to live life without Lorna to guide them and goad them. A huge part of their lives was lost.

Entering their senior year in high school, college applications loom. Jackie, the daughter of a fisherman, wants to go to art school, an impractical career for a ‘poor’ girl. Finn whose parents are wealthy, faces the opposite opposition, wanting to become a fisherman rather than attend college.

The foursome are all interesting characters and a few others are thrown in as well. Having been to Provincetown, Wittlinger’s description of the town and its residents, both permanent and seasonal, brings back great memories. Herring  Cove Beach and Race Point (which she doesn’t mention) are two favorites. As Wittlinger says in her author’s note, “[Provincetown] is a three-mile long hodgepodge of a town where variety is the spice and diversity is the norm. There is no place like it.” It is the perfect place to people watch.

My first Ellen Wittlinger book was Razzle and then I was hooked. Blind Faith is one of my favorites although they all are great reads. I hihgly recommend Local Girl Swept Away.

 

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The Gray quintuplets have lived their whole lives on Whidbey Island, Washington. It seems like they are more a part of the island’s ether than merely its inhabitants. The four boys and one girl, named after Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack (Peter, Frank, Lawford, Sammy and Marilyn, aka Pixie), are an integral part of the community, performing search and rescue operations and owning the bloodhound with the best nose in the state.

Bazillionaire Rupert Shepherd’s family are weekend and summer residents, owning the adjacent land that separates the Grays from the sea. Ten year old Grant Shepherd is a constant Gray visitor, especially on Sunday nights, hiding to delay his trip back to the mainland. So when Grant is missing one Sunday evening, Rupert immediately suspects the Grays of having a hand in it. However, this is the one time Grant is not there. While no one knows where he is, Pixie was the last Gray to be with him, earlier that morning, stating he was afraid of something.

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Useless Bay  combines the perfect proportions of mystery and mysticism in this absorbing missing person story. While searching for Grant, Pixie communes with the long deceased Joseph Whidbey, skipper of the HMS Discovery, who in 1792 discovered the island bearing his name. There is an ample amount of search and rescue hampered by wind and driving rain, mystery as bodies are discovered, a touch of romance and a good dose of danger. Astute readers will figure out ‘who done it’ about two thirds of the way through the book, but that doesn’t dampen (yes, pun intended) the reading pleasure. Useless Bay is a perfect read for middle and high schoolers when the wind is howling outside and the rain is pounding against the windows. This is one of the few  teen mysteries I really liked.

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There are books about rape that detail the deep emotional impact on the victim, most notably Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a serious book detailing how the victim turns inward, feels ashamed even though it isn’t her fault, feels like she has no one to turn to and becomes unsure of friends as well as strangers.

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EXIT, Pursued by a Bear by E. K.Johnston is no less serious but takes a totally different stance. Hermione Winters is raped during a dance at cheerleader camp. She was given a drug, pretty much knocked out, dragged into the woods, left half submerged in the lake and remembers nothing about the event. When she is found in the lake, she is immediately whisked to the hospital where she is examined. However, the samples that were obtained were compromised because of the time she spent in the water. Thus, there was nothing to warrant taking DNA samples from the boys attending the camp.

Unlike Melinda in Speak, Hermione  is a strong individual, has a strong support system in family, friends (especially her friend Polly), therapist and teammates and is determined to break the curse of Palermo Heights School (read the book to see what it is). She will not let this incident ruin her life, her plans or her friendships.

Johnston doesn’t ignore the trauma of rape. Hermione definitely feels the  impact of this crime, but she’s determined. At first she’s afraid of the boys on the team. Could one of them possibly be the rapist? Is she going to get pregnant? Is it important to ‘get revenge’ on the perpetrator? A slew of thoughts go through her head. She’s emotional, getting unpredictable panic attacks.

I think, in Speak and Exit, Pursued by a Bear, you have the two extremes. In Speak, Melinda is traumatized. In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Hermione is determined to live her life, despite this unspeakable event. Every victim reacts differently to every crime. However, reading about a rape victim who successfully conquesrs the trauma may not be a bad thing. You can’t reverse the act. You can’t forget the situation. But maybe you can bulldoze your way through it and be the person you want to be.

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Summer Everett can have two different summers (cute play on words???) depending on which path she chooses. She is at the airport waiting to board a plane to France to visit her father, a prominent artist, for the summer. (Her parents are divorced, as you may gather.) Her cell phone rings, the display showing ‘caller unknown’. Should she answer?

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Her mother, a college professor of philosophy, often expounded on the theory of alternate universes where another version of yourself is living an alternate version of your life, as mother and daughter sit on their front porch in tiny Hudsonville, NY gazing at the stars. A firm believer in the ‘what if’ theory, what if it’s an omen?, Summer is unsure what to do–ignore the call or answer it knowing that doing so will force her to miss her plane. Two Summers explores the alternatives.

This summer is supposed to be the summer of love for Summer and her best friend, Ruby. Almost sweet sixteen and never been kissed, the shy Summer hopes to rectify the situation. Will she find love this summer and, if so, where?

Given the above, what can you deduce? First, love is in the air somewhere. Where and when it will arrive and for how long it will last is one reason to read Two Summers by Aimee Friedman. Secondly, you know Summer is going to go through a major life change, have an epiphany this summer. What it is is the second reason to read Two Summers.

Two Summer proves that a book that is reasonably predictable is still enjoyable. Come on, we’ve all read books with alternative actions–should I do this or should I do that? (Think Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, which has the same chick-lit feel) And just because we have a fairly good idea of the ending, doesn’t make the trip any less enjoyable.

Yes, I did say chick-lit before. If you prefer the term ‘beach read’, that captures the spirit equally well. If you’d like a light-hearted romp through France or a closer to home tale of friendship, family and love, I’d recommend Two Summers this summer.

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