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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

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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Yes, I know. I should have posted this a few months ago. Better late than never???

Andie Walker’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her summer program at Johns Hopkins fell through. Her Congressman father is under investigation. In the five years since her mother died, Andie’s been left in her Connecticut home in the care of sitters while the Congressman is in Washington. Now he’s home, thinking he can be the father he hasn’t been in five years. However, there is an awkwardness in the air. They have nothing to say to each other and now she’s got a curfew.

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The bad news is that the only summer job Andie could get was walking dogs. The good news is that this is the first summer in several years that her ‘group of four: Andie, Palmer, Bri and Toby’, will all be home for the summer.

The bad news is that before she even started her job she got slobbered over by a runaway dog. The good news is that particular dog walker was kind of cute.

Morgan Matson, author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance Summer, is a master of the summer time romance. As you know, I rank her up there with the established Sarah Dessen and newcomer Emery Lord (by the way, her new book When We Collided should be on your reading list).

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When you pick up The Unexpected Everything you know there will be romance and the inevitable breakup, there will be unrest among the group of four, there will be father-child consternation. But isn’t that what you expect in a ‘beach read’, which this clearly is (and I mean no disrespect by it). I will admit that it took me about 50 pages to start getting into the book, but once I did, I didn’t want to put it down.

The cover of The Unexpected Everything utilizes the ice cream theme found on Since You’ve Been Gone. With the addition of a gaggle of dogs (is that what a bunch of dogs is called?), the cover makes the book totally inviting. Ice cream and dogs. Made for summer.

So, if you haven’t read Morgan Matson, you should start. If you have read her books, this is a welcome addition to her library.

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When We Collided by Emery Lord begins with Vivi throwing her pill over the cliff into the ocean and carving “Vivi Was Here” in an old tree trunk. From this beginning we, the readers, are waiting for the inevitable crash in Vivi’s life because we can make an educated guess as to what that pill was supposed to do.

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Vivi should stand for vivacious (which according to the Merriam Webster dictionary derives from the Latin verb vivere or ‘to live’). She is the embodiment of it: sparkling, effervescent and spontaneous. And exactly the opposite of Jonah who, eight months after his father’s unexpected death, is trying with his two older siblings to keep the family of seven together. His mother stays in bed mostly. The ‘littles’ need to be dressed, fed, taken to school. Yet somehow this unlikely couple seems to work, partly because Vivi has seen some dark days.

Vivi is new to Verona Cove, having come from Seattle to spend the summer, and she loves it. It is a quaint little town; one you can really feel at home in, and Vivi wastes no time making her “Vivi Was Here” mark on the town. She inserts herself into the breakfast routine of loner police officer Hayashi while deciding to try the coffee shop breakfast menu in alphabetical order. She gets a job at the local potter’s shop. She envelopes Jonah’s family, having a profound impact on little Leah. Yet we know, the edge of the cliff is approaching.

Narrated in alternating first person chapters by Vivi and Jonah, When We Collided is the story of a remarkable girl and her impact on those around her. While having a major romantic element as do all of Emery Lord’s books, it also has a serious side to it as well, and in her Author’s Note at the end of When We Collided, Lord talks about mental illness, personalizes it, and provides relevant resources.

Emery Lord is part of my triumvirate of teen romance novelists, in the partnership of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.  So I would heartily suggest you read Open Road Summer and The Start of Me and You. And in her author bio at the end of the book, she says she lives with a blind beagle and a spaniel, so she obviously loves dogs. My kind of person.

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On a side note, Matson has a new book out entitled The Unexpected Everything. So there you have it. Your summer reading list has a great beginning.

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Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler is a warm-hearted coming of age story. Ashleigh Walker is going through a lot. Her parents are either silent with each other (and her) or bickering with each other. Living at home is intolerable. School is no better. It is what school has always been to teenagers: a boring pain. She has no boyfriend and no prospects.

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But things are about to change. At a party she meets Dylan, a cute boy who is interested in her. And at school, Miss Murray, the substitute English teacher is making English fun. Moreover, she seems to understand what teens, and especially Ashleigh, are going through. She seems to be able to look right inside Ashleigh and understand her emotions, her innermost thoughts and feelings. The more Ashleigh sees her, the more she wants to see Miss Murray. These feelings confuse her.

In an easy going but engrossing manner, Liz Kessler gets Ashleigh through her parents’ breakup, her sexual identity crisis and her friendships, both old and new. There was something about Read Me Like a Book that made me want to read it straight through. I didn’t, but only because I didn’t have the time.

Ashleigh and her best friend, Cat, are two extremes. The former is more reserved. The latter more wild. Somehow, the combination seems to work for both of them.

All of us need, but few of us find, someone who can read us like a book. It’s gratifying to know that Ashleigh found that person.

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If you want a great book about friendship, Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler is the perfect fit. No major realistic fiction issues. No abuse, neglect, rape, drugs, etc. Quite refreshing, actually.

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Reagan and Victoria are social outcasts for two vastly different reasons. Reagan is what most people would call trailer park trash, despite her 4.0 cum while putting in as many hours as possible at Joe’s diner. Vic on the other hand is of Latino descent in the lily white mid-Kansas town of Charytan. Having been expelled from school in Arizona, her professor parents moved the family to Kansas where they both found jobs at the local community college.

Despite their differing backgrounds, Reagan and Vic become fast friends, although each hide something of importance from the other. Having realized that the only way out of their personal hells is to go away to college, we come upon them (Vic actually) planning their college visits, knowing that they want to go to the same school and be roommates.

Reagan and Vic are a contrast in opposites. Reagan wears the same battered jeans and t-shirts while Vic is into fashion design, making her own clothes and looking gorgeous. Having been through a bad relationship, Reagan is avoiding boys while Vic wants to meet some hot boys. While Reagan is interested in classes and the library, Vic is interested in sororities.

To find out whether their dreams will be fulfilled and what stumbling blocks they encounter along the way (which they do, otherwise, why write the book?), you’d be wise to read Just Visiting, in some ways a more realistic portrayal of friendship and in some ways a more idealistic friendship. Nevertheless, we’d all be lucky to have such a friendship. In the meantime, let’s vicariously enjoy theirs.

P.S. A good end of summer beach read…Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.

 

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Having attended a Jazz Jennings interview during the American Library Association annual conference in June (and having scant prior knowledge of who she is–I’m probably the only such person in the world), I was impressed. She was your typical fifteen year old, other than the fact that she was being interviewed primarily regarding her LGBT advocacy. And while I didn’t have time to stand in the (long) line to get a copy of her book autographed, it sparked an interest. (Lucky thing I’m a librarian and can order books for our collection.)

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I said in my post about Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston that there are serious books describing various, sometimes debilitating, trauma experienced by victims of rape, bullying, etc. However, similar to Hermione in Exit, Jazz has the benefit of strong family and friend support and so her transgender experience is vastly different and probably vastly better than many young girls and boys in similar situations. Both books are very positive.

In Being Jazz, Jazz describes the early feelings of being a girl in a boy’s body, wanting to wear girl’s clothing and play with dolls instead of trucks. She describes not being able to use the girl’s bathroom (it was interesting that the Orlando Convention Center had several unisex bathrooms), not being allowed to play on the girl’s soccer team. Yet, in the background, her parents were fighting the fights required to change the rules. I’m sure many (most) parents of transgender youth don’t have the knowledge or resources (time and money) to do all that the Jennings did.

She describes the onset of depression and how she handles it. She talks about friendship and shows a lot of spunk and self confidence when saying if someone doesn’t love her for who she is, then the friendship isn’t worth pursuing. She talks about the awards she’s won and the people she’s met.

Despite her experiences and the associated maturity, Being Jazz has the feel of being written by a fifteen year old (there’s no ‘with assistance from ___’ in the credits) and that’s good because maybe other fifteen year olds will be inspired by it…more so than if an adult wrote about being transgender.

No such book would be complete without a resource listing. Being Jazz includes the following: websites, depression outreach services, books for kids, books for teens and adults, educational books for parents of a transgender child and movies/tv.

All in all, Being Jazz was an enjoyable and educational read. It could be and should be a primer about what transgender means and how trans kids are no different than any other kid, having the same hopes and dreams.

 

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