Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leftovers by Laura Wiess

Leftovers, the sophomore showing by Laura Wiess, will certainly mark her place as an up and coming author with a great ability for telling some of the grittier aspects of being a suburban teen. Ardith and Blair are best friends who have long felt on the outside of society. From the beginning, the reader knows that there has been an act/crime committed by the girls and that they are trying to explain/confess to an injured adult with whom they appear to have an intense, if not intimate, relationship. Told in alternating voices, we learn of Ardith's free-loading, drunk parents who don't protect her from the advances of a parade of males in the house and "poor, rich" Blair's descent from relationship curious teen to abused and angry young woman. Wiess hits the mark with some of the most frank discussion about what societal expectations mean to young women in high school, how friendships at that stage of life take on a super-importance, and what can happen when people feel they must fight to survive through a typical high school.

I give this a YAY. I'd love to see it as top 20, but I don't know if it will be the top book of the year. It is a bit glitzy (MTV paperback format seems to do that to me), but I do think there are truths, that if they are not timeless, are certainly important to understanding modern high school hierarchies.

Monday, December 29, 2008

How Not to be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler

Sugar Magnolia (aka Maggie) Dempsey has never lived in a place for more than 8 months at a time. Her parents move her around to see the world. This last move saw her leaving a best friend and a first love behind, so, with a broken heart Maggie has decided she can not handle leaving friends and a boyfriend again. She decides she is going to be as unpopular as possible so she won't be able to make any friends that will break her heart this time around.

This book is really funny, Maggie is very likable, but it is also very predictable. Really good book to add to the collection, but I don't really see it being an award winner. Nay.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Traitor Game by B.R. Collins

Michael and Francis created a fictional world of Evgard together. Both misfits in their school they are the best of friends but when someone else finds out about Evgard, Michael feels betrayed. It flashes back and forth between the real world and the imagined world of Evgard. It got confusing. Francis is forced out of the closet. I'm a big nay on this one.

The Lost Island of Tamarind by Nadia Aguiar

Maya is 13 and lives with her parents and two siblings on the sea. All she wants is to live on dry land and go to school like a normal girl. But soon a storm hits and her parents are washed overboard and she, her brother and baby sister end up on a magical island with wild children, pirates and sea monsters. A great adventure reminiscent of Peter Pan. Also very young. I vote nay.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena

Loved it! Danny is spending the summer in National City with his Mexican relatives while his mother tries out living with her new boyfriend in San Francisco. Danny has essentially stopped talking; his heart is broken by his father's abandonment three years earlier. The only thing that Danny really seems to care about is baseball, yet even his passion and talent for the game can't earn him a spot on the team at his private prep school back home. During one intense summer Danny comes to terms with his depression and anger, perfects his game, hangs out with his cousin Sofia and her crew of tough-yet-caring gangsta friends, finds first love, and discovers what really happened with his father.
This one is great!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lucky by Rachel Vail

"It's all good . . . and lucky Phoebe Avery plans to celebrate by throwing an end-of-the-year bash with her four closest friends. Everything will be perfect—from the guest list to the fashion photographer to the engraved invitations. The only thing left to do is find the perfect dress . . . until Phoebe goes from having it all to hiding all she's lost." (beginning of tease from Harper Collins)

Phoebe is in a rich family. Her friends think she is super lucky about everything. Phoebe accepts this judgment and feels guilty that she doesn't always see herself as so lucky. Phoebe reveres her mom and isn't used to hugging her.

Whoever made the guess that this wouldn't be Thumbs Up material just based on the rich girl loses everything plot line was right. It did have a redeeming speech at the end, but if I hadn't been stuck on a plane without enough other books, I wouldn't have persevered.

Big Thumbs Down. (it may be popular with the Princess Diaries readers) My battery is dying so that's all I have for now. spotty review - sorry

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

This is part two of the Octavian Nothing story. This is an important story, but it doesn't stand on its own. Octavian escapes from the his "masters" after apparently helping the Rebels during the Revolutionary War. He enlists in Lord Dunmore's British Ethiopian Regiment which promises freedom when the war is over. He find that war is hell and no one keeps their promises. It ends on a somewhat hopeful note, but this is 1776. The Civil War is still 85 years away, so no matter how hopeful it is, slavery still exists. I listened to this and MT Anderson gives a good historical background in an afterword. But I give it a nay for not standing on its own.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is a wonderful biography of Billie Holiday, written in prose, with her song titles as poem titles. I really, really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of Our Own, Syliva which really made me want to read more about her. All of our libraries have this biography in juvenile, though. The subject matter is actually quite mature! (you know, prostitution, dropping out of school, drugs, etc) I'm going to give this one a NO, because I don't think it'll win, but if you can buy it for your collection, it would be worth it.

Generation Green by Linda Sivertsen

This nonfiction book is well done, and of interest to teens. The subject matter is treated well, and the book is easy to read. However, I don't think this is one of the best books for teens. I give it a Thumbs Down.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Sutter Keely is the typical fun drunk--life of every high school party! He has had lots of girlfriends along the way, but singles out shy Aimee Finecky to befriend. Sutter's motives are pure, but his actions have unexpected consequences, and in typical teen fashion, he just sort of goes along with what life gives him. Naked girl in his bed? Well, why not do the deed? :) Large 7-up? Why not add some whiskey? This book very realistically portrays the beginning of an addiction, and all the wishful thinking that goes with it. I can easily see Sutter 20 years from now, hanging out at the local bar like his dad, surrounding himself with people who love the good times as much as he.
Sutter profiles the life of his buzz, like any good addict. This book focuses on the upswing of the buzz, Sutter's high school life, and in a way, it shows the downer side of the buzz, the adult fully entrenched in his addiction (Sutter's dad). Very realistic, touching, funny and sad story. I give it a Thumbs Up!

You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn

Cousins Miles and Laura grew up like sisters, but as they got older they grew apart. Laura was beautiful loved, Miles ended up heavy and an outsider. Then Laura kills herself and Miles has to deal with life without Laura.

The premise of this book was promising, but I think that there were a few too many things going on. There was a lot of politics about D.C. getting statehood and Miles seemed to be really supportive of that, but then not at times. Also, I got very annoyed that Miles would say she was going to change, to try to make her life better, then not even seem to try. Also, Miles really cares for Jim, Laura's adoptive father, but we don't really get to know him. There are a lot of characters for a book that is just over 200 pages. I am a maybe for this one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kendra by Coe Booth

Kendra has lived most of her life without her mom and looks forward to the day when her mother, Renee, finishes her Doctorate and she can live with her. The day has come but Renee doesn't seem to want her. Kendra is 14 and Renee was only 14 when she had her. And she is at an age when she needs a mother not just her grandmother. Kendra's father tries to be there for her but when she starts to make poor choices that damage her relationship with her best friend she doesn't seem to have anyone to turn to for help. Though a companion to her previous book "Tyrell" this book stands completely alone. This is an excellent book about a girl just looking for love and figuring out who she is. I give this a Yes!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guinevere's Gift by Nancy McKenzie

This is the first book in a series about a young Guinevere who is an orphan living on the mercy of her aunt. A prophecy fortold that she would marry a great king so even though people are out to over throw her uncle's kingdom she is under protection, which is good since she is so head strong and has great potential to be a great queen. Good start to a good series not great. nay.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

I really enjoyed this book, and while there is a planned sequel (I think based on something at the end of the book) I think that it stands on its own. The biggest teen appeal will be the author's name, but if teens give it a chance I think they could really get into it. The protagonist is a bit young (13) but the story is strong. I give it a Thumbs Up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

I don't like writing an entry for a book I haven't finished but it hasn't stopped me in the past and I guess it's not stopping me this time. Liga's life is terrible. She's repeatedly raped by her father and forced fed concoctions designed to make her abort. When her father dies she is already pregnant. after she gives birth she is gang raped and has another child. Living in a world she hates and hates her, she ends up in a different one that is heavenly. There is also a man who is transformed into a bear who briefly lives with her family. I put this down and picked up so many times and only got a third of the way through. Sorry, but I'm a nay.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Devil's Breath by David Gilman

In this first book in the Danger zone series, Max Gordon's father is missing somewhere in Africa and Max is determined find him. So he leaves his British boarding school for Namibia. On top of it someone is trying to kill him too. A great adventure that involves Bushman prophecies and saving a people. It reminded me a bit of the Alex Rider books but with a Eco twist. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to those who love adventure but I'm nay for now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye

Nye's poems and short prose make for a quick read, and I've always enjoyed her work since hearing her speak, but I didn't see anything all that special here. A good read for anyone who likes poetry, but a NAY for Thumbs Up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wake by Lisa McMann

Janie falls into other people's dreams as an unwilling witness. Then she becomes a participant in the gruesome, chilling sequences.

The cadence of dialogue faltered when Cabel and Janie spoke about sharing his dream. Most of the details are not from happy dreams. Wake poses an interesting premise told well from older teen perspective. The scene of her heading home after homecoming is sweet. I also like that she recognized Cabel all the way through. Talking to the "new kid" cracked me up and captured the agony and adrenaline rush of puberty. Readers fascinated with dreams and/or psychology will enjoy parts of this journey. I'd like to see how this weighs in with other titles. MAYBE

Monday, December 1, 2008

Saga by Conor Kostick

Saga has generated sentient beings within its gaming realm dependent on computers back on Earth. Humans unexpectedly have access as players and play by different rules to those within Saga. The Dark Queen is ruthlessly manipulating humans and players alike compromising their survival.

The concept of a world within a world with regenerating players and humans will appeal to gamers, and sci fi readers. There's airboarding (like skateboarding), punk music, pseudo-anarchists (who form a guild) and castes of a dystopia. Although Saga follows Epic, I was able to follow the backstory that was incorporated into Saga without feeling I had missed out on too much.

Interesting messages about authority, loyalty, pain, weakness, understanding, trust and defying the system.

I didn't think I would vote for it when I started the book, but was sufficiently engrossed to now consider it a MAYBE.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

Kate is a mixture of her divorced parents. Both parts practicality and passion for Shakespeare. After her heart was broken, she swore off love. But now she was won an essay contest that sends her and her Shakespeare scholar father to Verona Italy for the summer. Classmates are trying to fix her up. She and a fellow classmate are tricking the rest. A lot of Shakespearean twists and turns are sprinkled through out the book. That being said, I can't finish it. I've tried to read it several times now and just get bored. It probably doesn't help that I don't care for Romeo and Juliet and the comedies of Shakespeare's I've read. And this book has a lot of that flavor. I think you have to be familiar with Shakespeare and appreciate him to appreciate this book. I'm nay.

Triskellion by Will Peterson

I realized that I didn't post on this book. I don't remember a lot of details other than my impression, so to push things along for our December meeting, I'm posting the Kirkus review which nicely sums up the plot (with a few ***spoilerish*** details)

Author Mark Billingham and television scriptwriter Peter Cocks collaborate on their debut novel, the first of a planned fantasy trilogy. Fourteen-year-old New York City twins Rachel and Adam are uprooted to spend the summer in the home of a grandmother they barely know. A group of hostile characters inhabits her isolated English village, lending a mood of mystery and threat. Gabriel, a shadowy outcast teen who readily participates in the twins' shared extrasensory mental dialogue, befriends them but has a plan of his own, aided, inexplicably, by hordes of bees. Digging beneath an ancient chalk circle in the village, a television show archaeology crew recovers part of a three bladed talisman, the Triskellion; a group of evil Morris dancers makes every effort to steal it for their own purposes, as the twins quickly realize that even their grandmother may be plotting against them to protect some long-hidden secret. Told in brief but exciting episodes, the breathless pace helps to make up for the rather flat personalities that people this often suspenseful but somewhat predictable novel. (Kirkus)

Triskellion has flavor of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and the dark extrasensory abilities of human and animals that Mary Stewart included in some of her books. It will serve as readers advisory suggestions for this genre, but I don't think it is TU award worthy. NAY

Escape the Mask by David Ward

Escape the Mask by David Ward is the first book in The Grassland Trilogy. The story opens in a cave, a series of holding cells for new arrivals, told from Coriko's perspective. Coriko is suffering a punishment - a night of fear in the cave that is flooded by water to cull the weak. Coriko hisses instructions on how to survive the surging ocean to two new captives. The cells are fuller than normal, and Coriko notices others changes among their captors' behavior.

Ward combines slavery techniques of intimidation, divison, punishment for not reaching quota, and isolation to create a sensory deprivation cut off from the rest of the world for the young captives. The children depend and trust few others than their mates. The book conveys desperation, the best and worst of human nature, and longings for belonging.

For those who want the tension of good/bad, other realms, war and humanity, captive and escape, it could be a readers advisory selection. It has some gruesome images, but not uber grotesque in detail, so seems ok for younger teens who want aspects of war and battle. I don't think the title stands on its own, doesn't have enough depth, and doesn't warrant the TU award. NAY

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Bod's family was killed by the man Jack. He now lives in the graveyard that he toddled to the night his parents were killed and is protected by the ghosts that haunt the graveyard and his guardian who is neither living or dead. Jack is still after Bod but can only get to Bod if he leaves the graveyard. This book has been my favorite so far. The story is full of quirky characters and is full of snap shots of Bod's life from the night his parents were murdered through to the night when it was safe for him to leave and live his life. I didn't want it to end. I give this a big TU!

Metro Survive by Yuki Fujisawa

This was a fast past, very interesting story. Mishima is a bit of a pushover and ends up getting trapped underground because of an earthquake.  He slowly becomes a leader of the others trapped there (although I get the feeling that the transformation isn't yet complete).  I had a hard time putting it down.  But it definitely doesn't stand alone - being number 1 in a manga series, I can't say I'm surprised by that.  I vote NAY.

Friday, November 21, 2008

City of Time by Eoin McNamee

This is the second in a planned trilogy and I haven't read the first, so it was a little confusing, although there were attempts to explain things. It's a complex story of a society in which time is literally running out. Owen, the grandson of the Navigator who has mapped time, must save the world from the Harsh who want to destroy it. I think if I want to fully understand this world, I need to read the first book. Nay for not standing on its own

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Alter and Dean Hespiel

I'm not a fan of graphic novels, in general. This book is a depiction of a man, Jonathan, who, after running from the police and burying himself in the sand, reviews his pathetic life. He began drinking at age 14 and his alcoholism followed him until his forties. Even when he doesn't drink for several years, he's not free from the alcoholism. It is a very realistic and cautionary tale. It's supposed be humorous, but I didn't see it. Just very bleak. Besides that, I didn't think it is an appropriate book for teens, and therefore Thumb's Up. It is written from the viewpoint of an adult looking back on his life. Big Nay for me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Everything You Want by Barbara Sharp

Emma's family wins the lottery and their family life changes for ever. From the blurb I was looking forward to this book. However, I was disappointed, the storyline seemed weak and I felt that the characters were undeveloped. I am voting NO for Thumbs Up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Megan Brothers

When we meet Johnny he is in the middle of an drunken, goth dressing teenage-hood. He plummets into self destructive behaviors, that eventually lead to his mother sending him to live in South Carolina with an uncle he barely knows. As Johnny tries to set his life back on track, he becomes obsessed with Blondie singer Debbie Harry. So much so that he begins to realize he is actually longing to be her. But Johnny is pretty sure he isn't gay, especially since he's really into ubercool Maria.
This is an interesting take on some of the gray areas of sexuality and gender. As far as I can recall, it is the first contemporary transvestite teen book I have read. Brothers does a good job of exploring this often misunderstood topic. The writing was good, but not earth shattering. I think this book's importance is more topical than literary, but that that is enough to give it a Yay!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau

Jamie is 14 and is constantly mortified by her pot smoking and naked swimming parents. She feels her parents should be angry when they learn she is sexually active with her 17 year old boyfriend. She wants to scream when her mom wants to compare diaphragm sizes with her.
This book finally made sense to me when I realized it was an adult book with teen appeal. Most of the way through it felt like a book targeted to adult reminiscing about the 70s. Which, ultimately, it is. I think this will have very limited teen appeal. And at times can get pretty graphic. I'm nay.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar

Nazia is a young good Pakistani daughter, goes to school, does what she is told and is looking forward to her marriage to her betrothed. But her father is injured on the job and will no longer work so Nazia is good daughter and drops out of school to help her mother clean houses so they can pay the rent. She soon realizes that she wants more than to be a good daughter. She wants to return to school and not marry her cousin. She learns a lot of lessons and realizes that she must be true to her self. It is definitely a book about empowering women and how they are the cornerstone of the family. I was disappointed in how few positive male characters there were. A good book but I leaning more towards a nay.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress by Maria Padian

Brett is a typical 8th grade girl in Maine. Her mouth gets her in trouble and she loves her grandma, soccer and vocab words. In this book she looses her best friend, her grandma gets sick and she gets banned from soccer. She has to learn who her true friends are. It is a good story that is already out of date as of last night (Nov. 4th). There are several references to 12 states allowing medical marijuana, there are now 13. Each chapter is titled by a vocab word such as "in-ter-lop-er" and vocab words and their definitions are also sprinkled through out the book. One of her classmates doesn't know the word "provoked" which seemed odd to me (but that could be just me.) On the whole it was a good book with a terrible cover. I don't think it does the story justice. I'm nay for now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Viper Within by Sam Mills

Jeremiah, a high-school student sociopath has formed a new religion and persuaded a handful of misfit students to join it. Their plan is to kidnap a terrorist and demand that the government meet their demands for her release. Jon is the last member to join this group and he finds himself faltering at the initiation tests required of him. Jon realizes the truth that the kidnap victim is an innocent Muslim student. He begins to disbelieve everything that Jeremiah has ever told the group and tries to help Pradna escape. This is a very powerful, disturbing book. A great deal of violence and torture. Many British references and current events referred to. I am voting NO

The Postcard by Tony Abbott

One phone call changes Jason's summer vacation and life forever.When Jason's Grandmother dies, he's sent down to her home in Florida to help his father clean out her things. At first, he gripes about the heat, being away from his best friend, but whilst packing up her belongings he discovers some interesting items. He soon discovers a mystery surrounding his grandmother's past.
Together with a new and unusual friend, Dia who is just as excited to solve these clues, they unearth his Grandmother's secret. I'm voting a strong MAYBE on this.It is a little young , but quite the page turner.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire by Donna Getzinger

This is a nonfiction book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.
This book was a well written and moving account of factory conditions and the union movement of the day that led to the death of 146 people and then its aftermath. Well written with appropriate photographs, I enjoyed this book or at least as much as you can about such a horrible tragedy. The account of the fire itself was horrible. (I was tearing up during certain passages) If I knew it would have more teen appeal I would give it a thumbs up but I don't think it would so I'll have to say nay.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Blood by Peter McPhee

After a serious bullying incident in Scotland, Callum and his family move to Scotland. The bullying continues until Callum is able to stand up to his bullies. The characters seemed flat to me and I found myself not really caring. Consequently, I'm voting NO.

Rose By Any Other Name by Maureen McCarthy

During a road trip with her mother, to see her dying grandmother, nineteen-year-old Rose gains a new perspective on the chaos of the previous year. Her Dad had left her Mom, it was the end of a long-term friendship with Zoe, and her own bad choices that had dramatically transformed her near-perfect life. I really enjoyed this very raw book, the characters seemed very real. However because of the edgier side to the book, I am voting a MAYBE on this to see what others think.

Things That Are by Andrew Clements

This is the third book in this series by Andrew Clements. I do feel that it does stand alone as a very good exciting read. The story revolves around blind Alicia. However, though I enjoyed it as much as the previous ones, I feel it's a little young for Thumbs Up and therefore voting NAY

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

I want to start by saying that I don't like the cover, I think it could scare some readers away. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It is about 3 teens writing about their most excellent year. TC and Augie are brothers in all but blood and Ale is a new student who's father is an ambassador. Told in IMs, phone calls, diary entries, e-mails, letters, it follows their love, self discovery, missions, and friendships. Though the book has many threads and story lines, (what lives don't?) it all comes together. The characters are well fleshed out including supporting characters. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, especially with such a ridiculous cover. I give it a thumbs up!

Chalice by Robin McKinley

I admit it, I'm a McKinley fan so when this showed up on my starred Kirkus reviews, I thought YES! I must say I feel like I've read a lot of bee-related stories lately, and I'm not really sure why bees have become a popular plot device, but I think McKinley's choice of making her heroine a slightly crazy beekeeper works in this cozy fantasy world. As usual, McKinely drops the reader into the story abruptly, without a full understanding of what is going, much less the rules of the new universe the characters inhabit. What is clear from almost the beginning is that this is another beauty and the beast story, only in this case the beast is a walking, talking pillar of fire.
I thought it was delicious. The Blue Sword it isn't, but Chalice is head and shoulders above many other fantasy books I've read this year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Skim by Mariko Tamaki

I really enjoyed Skim - both for its cinematic, emotional illustrations and its undaunted conversational dialogue. The storyline unfolds through the main character's lived and recalled experiences in her diary. There is a lot of internal conversation and struggle - confusion - that we all know so well. The images often speak volumes - and are breathtaking.

The caveat - when I say undaunted language - I mean it. This book has ALL the ingredients to make it controversial. Which made me love it all the more. Definitely on the upper tiers of YA.

I'm giving this one a Thumbs Up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

Rosemary has been teased at school for years because of her weight. Her aunt is also hard on her but one year right after Christmas she decides to do something about it. With the help of a therapist and a new friend, she slowly works the weight off and gets her first boyfriend (he liked her before she lost weight). But is about more than just weight loss, it is more about her coming to like herself and also her relationship with her cancer stricken single mother. A good book, that except for a reference to the show Divine Design, should stand the test of time but I don't see it as a TU. I'm nay for now.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse

Joseph is very lucky...blessed, even. His parents are Russian immigrants who realize the American Dream when they invent the teddy bear, but in typical teenager fashion, all Joseph sees is that he has to watch his younger brother and sister instead of playing stickball with the guys, his friends treat him differently, and his parents don't have time to take him to the new amusement park at Coney Island because they're too busy making bears. In contrast, the author includes little vignettes about the children who live under Brooklyn Bridge. I liked this story, but I also didn't. There were times when I could really feel Joseph's pain, but also many times when I just wanted to scream at him for being so ungrateful, and the bits about the homeless kids seem completely random, only just starting to make sense about ten pages before the end of the book. NAY.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

House of Dance by Beth Kephart

This is the story of Rosie, who is spending the summer sorting through her grandfather's things before he dies of multiple myeloma, trying to reconcile the differences between him and her mother while her mother falls for a married man, and learning to ballroom dance so she can give her grandfather one last gift--a connection with his past and the music and dance he and his wife once loved.

The prose here is beautiful, lyrical, and flowing, so much so that I had a hard time putting this book down, but there were a lot of things I didn't like. The resolution came a little too quickly on some plot lines but not at all on others, and it felt like there was a lot of detail poured into some places while sorely lacking in others. Given more detail about Rosie's dance lessons, this book could really fly with fans of Dancing with the Stars, but the detail centers more around the people Rosie meets at the dance studio than the dance or the learning process itself. A beautiful, sweet story, but not Thumbs Up. NAY.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend

Grace is living in NYC after living years on her grandparents' farm. She isn't liking it, missing all of the wildlife she would interact with daily until she finds a pet shop specializing in reptiles and amphibians. She adopts an iguana even as she fights her developing body. Parts of this book seem uneven. One moment it reads really young and the next moment it reads a little more mature and then back again. It was good but not great. I vote nay.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

In this retelling of the six swans (only 3 in this book) , Alexandra is the sister who must save the day and return her brothers into human after evil stepmother killed her mother and father. She has to find the magic in her that her mother never bothered teaching her and didn't know she even had.
Good story but not great. I vote nay.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Conception by Kalisha Buckhanon

Where to start!!! I am blown away by this novel. Taking place in 1992, Conception follows the story of Shivana, a young woman living in Chicago's South Side, leading up to and including her unplanned pregnancy. The father is the married neighbor for whom she babysits, the only person in her life who makes her feel desired and appreciated. Shivana has never known she can have dreams of more than the stereotypic unwed, Welfare mother. As she struggles with her depression, poverty, rage, and potential she meets Rasul, a young man she thinks she can "real love" not "hot love". The other narrator of the story is Shivana's unborn fetus, a soul who has had three other mothers and never made it to birth. The soul's story weaves through Shivana's, detailing quite a bit of history including slavery, lynchings, and police brutality. The soul is pleading for Shivana to hang on and give birth, an option Shivana is not sure she can manage.
Without giving away anymore of the story, this is one of the finest novels I have read in a while. Shivana's voice and plight are real and painful. The writing is captivating, not an easy read, but one that had me sucked in entirely. The blending of the fetus' past and present was seemless and gut-wrenching. Oh my, this novel did a number on me!
However. I have no idea why this is being marketed as a teen book. I see this as a shoe-in for an Alex Award, but I am afraid that many libraries (particularly schools) will not place this in the teen area. Buckhanon does not shy away from sexual references ("unprotected, into my silky young softness for the second time that night."), there is intense deliberation about abortion and what to do if one can't afford it. ("Help me. Get rid of it" "What you mean, Shivana?" "Girl, just jump on me" "Uh-uh! Nooo! Don't even ask. I ain't tryna kill no baby..."), and obviously no chance of a happy ending. Not that I believe we need to be plying teens with happy endings or safe books, I just wonder how we can get this out there.
Do I think it was the best book I have read in a long time--yes. Do I worry about Conception's ability to be accessed by teens--double yes. Does it fit our criteria--oh yes. I am going with a YAY, and can't wait to hear what others have to say.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Savage by David Almond

The first word that comes to me with David Almond's work is unsettling. The Savage certainly falls into this category. This novella is an amazing blend of graphic novel/bildungsroman. Following his father's death, Blue is encouraged to use writing as a therapeutic medium. The result is his story about the Savage, a boy with no words, no love, and a thirst for killing. Each of the parts about the Savage are illustrated by David McKean (of Coraline fame) and is written in halting, misspelled prose by a younger Blue. The Savage is able to show the anger and rage Blue has building, but even in the safety of his story Blue cannot commit harm to others. And just as Blue's real-life terrors are escalating, the Savage appears in his real world.
Only 80 pages. So much involved. I think this one is genre bending, important, and ground breaking. I worry about the teen appeal, age appropriateness, and the brevity of the story. Going with Yay for now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Facts of Life by Gary Soto

In this collection of Short Stories by Gary Soto, he explores moments in teens' and pre-teens' lives. One boy decides not to choose between living with one of his divorcing parents. Another girl tries to cope with learning that she is an illegal. Definitely on the young side of the TU spectrum (the main characters are 11-13). And like any short story collection some are better than others. Good and enjoyable but not great. I give it a nay.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Snakehead by Ann Halam

If you haven't read Siberia by Ann Halam, you're missing out. I think this author has a fun, unique voice in teen literature, and I hope other people get a chance to read her newest deviation from the norm, Snakehead.

When Perseus first meets the beautiful, North African princess Andromeda, she's busy hiding her identity, and he's trying to live a normal life as a half-mortal, half-god. Both teens are feeling a little lost, and their predetermined fates weigh heavily upon them. Will they sacrifice everything for the good of civilization, or just to humor the gods?

Halam winds back and forth between historical fantasy and historical fact (Perseus and Andromeda hitch a ride on the Argo, but all the girls on Serifoes bare their breasts in public, as was customary at the time), mixing modern and antique language (Perseus's peer group is made up of "yacht club kids" but Andromeda's false name is Kore, or Girl in Greek ). This one is fine for the 7th grade and above. The rape of Medusa is mentioned without description, and there is a reference to "rejected sacrifices" referring to the loss of virginity, but that's about it. There is no description of the bare breasts other than their existence.

There are a few problems with the book: uninspired cover art and somewhat slow start are the easiest to point out. I set it down for several weeks after the first few chapters, but once I picked it up again, I finished relatively quickly, racing towards an expected ending(I know the myth), but looking forward to finding out how the author was going to twist it. Strange to say, I really felt the author could have used some pointers from Stephanie Meyer and explored the teen romance with a little bit more detail. After Twilight, wicked looks and jolts of excitement just aren't enough.

YAY, but I'm looking for other opinions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Take Me There by Susane Colasanti

Three good friends attending a design high school in Manhattan relate how one week changed their respective lives. Rhiannon gets dumped, gets humiliated, and gets supported by friends, Nicole enters a flirtation with a teacher and must confront the shadows in her past, and James finds that he is falling for Rhiannon.
Told in alternating voices (same day of the week from each of the teens perspectives), this book sucked me in! I spent the entire (and I mean from 9-noon) morning reading this on my couch. The diaglogue may be it's biggest pitfall, because Colasanti completely captures the cadence and catch-phrases of this generation of teens. This will ultimately date this book, but man, is she spot on!
I'm not sure this has great literary value, but it was a fun, insightful, and sometimes heartwrenching read with huge teen appeal . I'll go Yay for now.