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.