Monday, February 23, 2009

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Jennifer Harris was able to change her life after her only friend, Cameron, moved away when she was 9. She lost weight, changed her name, and moved. Now she is 17 and senior and high school, has a boyfriend and tons of friends but now Cameron has returned turning her life upside down. Secrets come out about his abusive father. They have to confront past memories with out letting anyone else know. Cameron ends up staying with her parents while they try to get everything straightened out but in the end he decides to return to California (where the rest of his family is) to help his brothers and sisters. A quiet novel about the strength of childhood friendships

Chanda's War by Allan Stratton

This compelling book tells the story of Chanda, who due to her mother's recent death, is responsible for the well-being of her brother and sister. Encouraged to make amends with her estranged family, Chanda travels to a nearby town from which her brother and sister are stolen by a group of rebels. This book is, in large part, a book about child soldiers in war-torn Africa. More than that, however, this is a family story and one of courage and adventure. The narrative is well-constructed and Stratton keeps you wondering with each page what is going to happen.

Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Danielle has never known a life without stealing. She and her mother live on the run, stealing silver, and never letting anyone know the real them. Then they come to Heaven, and Danielle starts gets a taste of what she has never had, realizing that she wants a life without stealing, without silver, and without fake names or IDs, she just wants to be normal. But, will she ever be able to?

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Kidnapped at 10 from a school field trip, and held captive by a psycho child molester until age 15, "Alice" has to choose her replacement, knowing she would rather be dead than alive.

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena

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.

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by e. Lockhart

This is one of those boarding school books I loved as a teen,
with a new twist. Frankie gets the hot guy as her boyfriend,
but instead of losing herself, she actually finds herself. There's a
lot of intrigue, too, because there's a secret society and a mystery to solve.

Venomous by Christopher Krovatin

Chris Krovatin (rhymes with "Satan") has written a touching, humorous, meaningful novel profiling Locke (stockinbarrel), a teen with a huge anger problem which he refers to as his alter ego, Venom. Locke beats the s*** out of people--so bad, they are barely alive after! Locke also loves his little brother and wants to set a good example for him. The novel alternates between Locke's story and the story of Venom, which of course becomes the story of Locke as well. Along the way, Locke makes some friends, falls in love, beats somebody up, gets a tattoo, and basically lives his teenaged life.

Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher

Leon has faced his share of bullying in his 17 years but he still manages to keep his odd sense of humor though he never seems to get the girl. His new locker neighbor has seen even more bullying. When Melody was a child she was severely scared when a kerosene lamp exploded in her face. They soon become fast friends and then a little more though he does deny it for awhile. But he still holds a flame for the class beauty Amy and it soon lands him in the fire.

Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon

When Ben is a young teen his father tells both him and his mom that he is gay. Bens mom splits and Ben is left with his father, feeling like his very existence is a result of his dads lie. Now Ben is 17, and after he has been acting out with drugs, drinking, etc, for the last few years His father with his boyfriend Edward, also known as Ben's "Momdad", make the decision to move the family out of Spokane to rural Montana so they can live with Edwards rather strict mother, in the hopes that a new life will help straighten Ben out. Unfortunately the whole family sticks out like a sore thumb and Ben does not really fit in very well as the only skateboard punk in a town full of cowboys. As if this is not enough, he soon starts to realize that there are some dark secrets involved with his 11 year old neighbor Billy. Now Ben has to try and come to grips with his own situation all the while trying to fit in to his new surroundings and try to help his young neighbor.

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin is only weeks away from graduating high school, moving on to a good college and starting a successful life. However, he hits a little snag before that can happen. The unrequited love of his life, Margo Roth Spiegleman, who just happens to be his neighbor and childhood friend, un-expectantly shows up at Quentin’s window in the middle of the night. This visit sparks a night of pranks, revenge, and fun. It is one of the best nights of Quentin’s life, but it also sets him on a mysterious search that will change how he looks at the world forever.

Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman

In this funny story, Mitchell's best friend David comes out of the closet (only to him), they take girls to the prom, Mitchell gets dumped and then realizes he is better off dating his sister's best friend. He also turned in a mildly risque film project in place of an essay on "The Grapes of Wrath" because he didn't want to read the book And he still has to come to terms with his best friend being gay.

Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

Agnes wants to be a saint. Honey is absorbed by learning about and seeing butterflies. They live in a religious compound, Agnes has two parents and a brother on the compound and Honey is an orphan. The brainwashing and blind following of the seemingly hypocritical "father" of the group is bile-fetching.

It is amazing that Honey would have such a sense of self and right despite the limited positive adult role models among the brainwashing. The alternatives to living in the commune could have been more detailed, but perhaps that would have come across as preachy. Although Honey saw the hypocracy of Veronica and Emmanuel, no other Believers question it. Following the events in Eldorado, some folks might be up in arms against this book, others against cult communes.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Based on a Norse Myth, a young girl, whose mother neglected to give her a name, has an encounter with the White Deer and can now talk to animals. A White Bear, called an isbjorn asks her to come away with him for a year in exchange for making her family wealthy. She goes with him to an ice palace and learns that everyone there is under an enchantment woven by the troll queen, of whom they are all terrified. She doesn't quite make it the year and tries to undo the consequences of her disregard of the instructions given her.

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.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Fantastic techno-geek adventure wherein Marcus (a consumate hacker and rule breaker) is the target of intense scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security. Rather than lie low and let the DHS run his life, Marcus and friends fight back by waging a cyberwar on an alternate internet. Fast paced, very hip, great teen appeal.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Twelve year old Addie's parents' recent separation has split not only her father-in-law and mother, but Addie from her step-siblings. A driving force between the break-up is likely whatever mental illness drives her mother to spend all her waking hours on the Internet looking for "business opportunities". Dwight, the step-father, has without obligation sprung for a yellow trailer in the city in which mother and daughter will live, and sends monthly checks that usually catch flight once they're in "Mommers'" hands. At a service station across the street friom the trailer, Addie befriends Soula and Elliot. Soula is in chemo, and Elliot dates the owner of a local restaurant. When her mother's business opportunity finally arrives, Addie is often left home alone for days on end. She even resorts to packing empty cereal boxes with thumbtacks to cover when her grandfather comes over to check up on her. She has managed to mature beyond her years, but maturation isn't enough to avoid a terrible accident that will eventually alter her and her family's way of life.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12. She helps take care of her mother and sister by hunting, even though it is illegal. When the drawing for The Hunger Games comes up, 12 year old Primrose Everdeen, sister of Katniss, is called to be the girl representative for District 12, Katniss runs up to take her place. Now Katniss is literally in the game of her life, can her hunting and survival skills keep her alive, when 23 other people are hunting to kill her and claim victory for their district?

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.

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
This first novel by author Bodeen is a truly gripping thriller. Eli, 15 years old, and most of his family have been locked away for the last six years in a massive underground shelter built by his billionaire father. Life on the outside has been destroyed by a nuclear war that also claimed the lives of Eli's twin brother and grandmother who were unable to make it to the shelter in time. They have 9 years to go before the door to the shelter can be unlocked but they are running out of supplies and won't last much longer. But then Eli makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

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.
Top Twenty Titles Announced!
We have chosen the top 20 titles for Thumbs Up!
They are:
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains
Bodeen, S.A. The Compound
Brothers, Meagan. Debbie Harry Sings in French
Collins, Suzanne. Hunger Games
Connor, Leslie. Waiting for Normal
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother
Gaiman, Neil. Graveyard Book
George, Jessica Day. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
Galante, Cecilia. Patron Saint of Butterflies
Goldman, Steven. Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about the Grapes of Wrath
Green, John. Paper Towns
Harmon, Michael B. Last Exit to Normal
Katcher, Brian. Playing with Matches
Krovatin, Chris. Venemous
Lockhart, E. Disreputable History of Frankie Landau- Banks
Pena, Matt de la. Mexican White Boy
Scott, Elizabeth. Living Dead Girl
Scott, Elizabeth. Stealing Heaven
Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Wars
Zarr, Sara. Sweethearts
I'll set up a new post for each of these titles so we can start blogging fresh!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Falling Hard edited by Betsy Franco

Falling Hard is a collection of 100 love poems by teenagers.  A few of these have been published previously, most have not. A very interesting collection and a range in quality (in my opinion).  A view of love from many angles. Includes poems from gay/lesbian/bi viewpoints. There were a few that I really liked and it is a neat collection for teens to hear about love from other teens . . . but as a whole, I think not Thumb's Up. Nay

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

March Toward the Thunder by Joseph Bruchac

The story of 15 year old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki Indian from Canada, who joins the Irish Brigade during the Civil War.  Meeting up briefly with several prominent historical names such as Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, and Walt Whitman as well as touching on issues of the times: a hidden female soldier, black soldiers, the war doctors, and the destructive force of of bombs (such as they were), this story was a very good historical novel that not only makes you feel like you are there and seeing war from their time frame but that also has historical notes and a bibliography at the end.  I vote Yay.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Based on a Norse Myth, a young girl, whose mother neglected to give her a name, has an encounter with the White Deer and can now talk to animals. A White Bear, called an isbjorn asks her to come away with him for a year in exchange for making her family wealthy. She goes with him to an ice palace and learns that everyone there is under an enchantment woven by the troll queen, of whom they are all terrified. She doesn't quite make it the year and tries to undo the consequences of her disregard of the instructions given her. I found this a delightful book and a page turner. I give it a yay

The Shepherd's Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter

Amani, a Palestinian girl, dreams of being a shepherd like her grandfather, and though it is a dying occupation, she is home schooled and her grandfather teaches her the craft. After his death, she starts school determined to learn English so she can communicate with the settlers that are taking over the land where her sheep graze. Her father is arrested and she makes friends with a settler's son. Both are powerless. A quick read that sheds light on a current topic, giving it a human side. Good book but timely not timeless. I'm nay.

Caught Between the Pages by Marlene Carvell

PJ Barnes is, in many ways, a typical high school student. At least the kind who is this close to failing - because he doesn't care. Not a lot of friends and not doing his homework - things start to unwind the day he finds that he has his teacher's journal. Reading it and dealing with life: druggies pressuring him (not to take drugs though), the jerk captain of his soccer team, his mentally not present step-father, and his mother getting in a car crash.  What would YOU do?  A fun read - reminded me of my brother (reasons for not doing homework).  But not TU.  Nay.

The Lab by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is a 16 yr old secret agent superhuman. He's the best of the Deck and determined to "uphold justice in a completely corrupt world." as a toddler he escaped from a lab in which he was created and one of his clones is actually one of the Jokers (the Deck's leaders). He gets caught on one of his most dangerous missions ever: freeing hostages from a robot factory that will soon be killed. Some of the italicized dialog radio communication was difficult to keep strait who was talking. Great action, fun read from a new Aussie author. Good but not quite TU.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Black Box by Julie Schumacher

When Dora, Elena's older sister, is diagnosed with depression and has to be admitted to the hospital, Elena can’t seem to make sense of their lives anymore. At school, the only people who acknowledge Elena are Dora’s friends and Jimmy Zenk—who failed at least one grade and wears blackevery day of the week. And at home, Elena’s parents keep arguing with each other. Elena will do anything to help her sister get better and get their lives back to normal—even when the responsibility becomes too much to bear. 

Good book, but lacked some details that would have made me care more about the character.  I just found it really hard to believe that Elena had absolutely no friends at all in her school or from her old school.  This was a quick read, and I think it has teen appeal, but I am going to say nay for TU quality.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Mina is 16 years old and now has to take Vampire classes in order to decide to either become a bloodsucker, like her parents, or get her memory wiped of all things vampire. At the classes she meets a couple of cute guys, one with more personality than the other. She has great friends, good parents and an odd ball uncle. Really fun read with vampire myths and truths sprinkled throughout and the saga of her Bram Stoker paper. Just not TU. I'm nay though I really liked the book.