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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

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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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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