Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos December 27, 2011

Gantos, Jack. Dead End in Norvelt. Harrisonburg, Virginia.: R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company, 2011. 341 pages. ISBN: 9780374379933.

Dead End in Norvelt cover

Images courtesy of

The Basics:

Jack Gantos is a kid growing up in the fading glory days of the utopian town of Norvelt, Penn. He’s spending his summer stuck between digging a fake bomb shelter and taking dictation from the town’s aging medical examiner as the last of the original residents meet their end.


Jack is fascinated by history. He eats up books about Egyptian wonders and the lost culture of the Incas, but he’s about to spend his summer being schooled in local history. Jack lives in Norvelt, a subsistence-homestead community founded by Eleanor Roosevelt as a way to provide housing and solid living to desperately poor families in the 1930s. As the original residents – and some would say the town with them – die off, they are sent off in style by Miss Volker, the medical examiner chosen by Mrs. Roosevelt herself who write elaborate obituaries for each of her former neighbors.

Between Miss Volker’s strange home remedies for her arthritic hands and Jack’s chronic nosebleeds, the bizarre death of a visiting Hell’s Angel in their town, and the constant interference of a tricycle-riding community policeman, Jack Gantos creates a pleasantly wacky landscape that earns frequent chuckles.

Random Thought:

This fictionalized story is about a real town – where Jack Gantos really grew up. More than anything, I found myself wanting to know more about Norvelt and the principles on which it was founded. Here is one source of such informaton:

Awards and Honors (Source:

  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Fiction title for 2011
  • One of Horn Book’s Best Fiction Books of 2011.

“Blink & Caution” by Tim Wynne-Jones December 21, 2011

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Street Lit,Thriller — hilariouslibrarian @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Wynne-Jones, Tim. Blink and Caution. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2011. 324 pages. ISBN: 9780763639839.

Blink & Caution cover

Images courtesy of

The Basics:

Blink is a Toronto street kid stealing breakfasts at fancy hotels when he witnesses the alleged kidnapping of a mining company CEO. After he steals a discarded Blackberry and money from the man’s hotel room, Blink gets sucked into the increasingly strange crime. Caution is a street kid trying to get away from her crazy junkie boyfriend, but the path she takes forces her to face the reasons she ran from home in the first place. They are about to meet and the results will be explosive.


Blink, you are running scared and don’t know why you do half of what you do. You keep calling that man’s daughter and you’re just getting yourself mixed up in some crazy kidnapping or whatever that doesn’t have anything to do with you. But who cares, right? There’s no one who care for you or cares about you, so you can just do whatever, right?

Caution named herself – as in Slippery When Wet, as in Harmful if Swallowed, as in Watch Your Step, as in Toxic. She has decided she will walk out on Merlin the magician, even though she knows he will come after her and might even kill her. And maybe that’s all she deserves.

When Blink meets Caution, they’re both in over their heads. If they team up, will they pull each other back from the brink? Or pull each other down until they both drown?

Random Thought:

These characters are so compelling, so well-drawn that they’ll crawl into your head and live there long after you reach the final page.

Awards and Honors (Source:

  • Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for 2011
  • Junior Library Guild Selection for Spring 2011

“The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead” by Max Brooks December 10, 2011

Filed under: Non-Fiction,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 1:11 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003. 247 pages. ISBN: 9781400049622

Zombie Survival Guide cover

Images courtesy of


This guide covers all aspects of preparation for zombie attack. A thorough discussion of the zombie virus and its physical effects sets the stage for choosing weapons, selecting and outfitting a survival team, and poring over insights gleaned from earlier attacks.


Advertised as a guide to complete protection, this book lives up to its name. It leaves no stone unturned, no eventuality ignored as Brooks pushes forward with his personal mission of preparing every man, woman, and child for zombie attack which will – sooner or later – come.

Brooks focuses on total preparation – pulling together supplies, arming the team, pre-selecting battle locations, and more. He asks the tough questions, such as these regarding hand weapons:

“1. Can it crush a skull in one blow?

2. If not, can it decapitate in said blow?”

Readers will be riveted – and grateful later – to learn about the finer qualities of the trench spike (“without a doubt the best compact anti-zombie weapon on earth”) and to have some help thinking through whether a bank or a cemetery is the best public place to take a stand against the zombies. (Surprise! It’s the cemetery.) This information will be invaluable when you hear the moans of the hungry undead coming from the other side of your front door.

Wait! There’s More:

To be completely prepared for zombie attack, you should also be sure to read Max Brooks’ other amazing works, “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks” (graphic novel) and “World War Z” (fiction).

Teen View:

“[Brooks] does make some very convincing points, if the world does become overrun by zombies. I’m interested mostly in the survival aspect, but I do find zombies interesting, such as how can zombies differentiate between humans and other zombies. Why don’t they feast on the rest of the zombies? It’s kind of a mindless animal, except that it once was human. There’s just a lot to consider.” – Edward, 18

Random Thought:

I once had the pleasure and honor of hosting an author event with Max Brooks at our library. He is charming, funny, and incredibly generous to his fans. The event was amazingly popular, with people clamoring to get in long after all 285 seats were full. Still, Max took the time to talk with and write a clever, personalize note inside the book of every person who stood in line for the signing. He was “on” until the last person was ushered from the auditorium. I did think he might drop over into a coma, though, before I could drive the two whole blocks back to his hotel. He gave everything he had to make it a wonderful, memorable night.


  • None noted

“Zombies vs. Unicorns” compiled and edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black December 9, 2011

Larbalestier, Justine and Black, Holly (editors). Zombies vs. Unicorns. New York: Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2010. 415 pages. ISBN: 9781416989530

Zombies vs Unicorns cover

Images courtesy of


Twelve beloved, extraordinary authors face off in alternating stories highlighting the perceived glories of super-cool zombies vs. pathetically perky unicorns. The clash of the mythical creatures is mediated by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, who duke it out before the stories, each hoping to persuade the reader of the eternal dominance of Team Zombie vs. Team Unicorn.


Really, half this book just isn’t even necessary. All right. All right. Authors like Garth Nix and Diana Peterfruend and Meg Cabot – I’m sure they’re good people. But the joined the wrong team, plain and simple.

The win clearly goes to Team Zombie, with six stories that really tease out the nuances of the (un)life of the zombie as well as life with zombies, demonstrating the wealth and depth of the contemporary zombie.

In “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Alaya Dawn Johnson shares the beauty of blossoming love between an enchanting living boy and a boy zombie. This love brings the zombie to a higher calling, the strength of their bond lending him a new level of restraint when it comes to flesh eating.

“Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan – set in a corner of the same world that shelters the stories of her Forest of Hands and Teeth series – shows how a zombie apocalypse survivor can really learn to rise to the occasion when set upon both by zombies and pirates.

“Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson takes a unique view at zombie life from the inside, while “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld blends puberty, stirring sexuality, and teen angst with the continuous creeping pull of the zombie horde to devastating effect.

Cassandra Clare explores mixed living and undead marriage in her breakthrough “Cold Hands,” while a pair of high school student government officers-turned-anti-zombie police force patrol and try to keep up appearances in “Prom Night” by Libba Bray.

After all that, who needs Naomi Novik’s sarcastically incompetent unicorn from “Purity Test” or the creepy beastiality of Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” or Meg Cabot’s flower-smell farting, creeper-boy butt-kicking “Princess Prettypants?” They’re just unicorns, after all.

Zombies rule. Unicorns drool.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • Texas Tayshas High School Reading List

“Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick December 8, 2011

Bick, Ilsa J. Ashes.New York: Egmont, 2011. 465 pages. ISBN: 9781606841754

Ashes cover

Images courtesy of


In an instant, the world changes, struck by an electromagnetic pulse that tears through the air, leaving some dead, some seemingly unaffected, and many turned to flesh-craving, wicked fast zombies. Alex, on a lonely hike when “The Zap” hits, must choose carefully who to trust among the survivors as she learns all the ways in which this massive upheaval will bring out the best and very, very worst in those left behind.


Alex has already been through quite a lot in her short life. Her parents are dead – killed together in a horrible helicopter accident. Now, her own body has turned on her. An inoperable tumor is weaving itself into her brain, taking her memories, her sense of smell, and slowly, her life.

Denying that she has a specific plan, she has taken her parents ashes and a gun into the wilderness to say goodbye. She has just met up with Grandfather Jack and his surly 8-year-old granddaughter when all three, along with passing deer and the flock of crows overhead, are taken over by a strange, head-splitting sensation.

When it’s over, Jack is dead. The ground is littered with dead crows. The surly granddaughter is hysterical. And Alex is … better than she’s been in ages. She can remember her parents. She feels stronger. She can smell – almost too well.

Nothing makes sense since “The Zap,” least of all the others of her own age, who are now wandering the woods stinking of death, and driven by a maniacal hunger for human flesh. It soon becomes clear that nothing will ever be the same, almost no one can be trusted, and the struggle to survive will take everything Alex has got left.

Wait! There’s More:

Ashes is just book 1 of the Ashes trilogy. Shadows (Book 2) and Monsters (Book 3) are forthcoming.

Teen View (thoughts about zombies):

Planning how to survive in case of a zombie apocalypse is how Travis, 16, normally spends 7th period.

“I’m going to go to the mall and get some weapons because they have weapons at most malls. I’d want anything, really, swords, guns, crossbows. I prefer far-range weapons. Then, I’ll start running around to find a car and put some spikes on it and the take the car and start driving toward the most unpopulated area I can find. I’d take some food, but if I needed more food, I could always drive back and find a store.” Travis doesn’t seriously think the zombies will come. “We’re too well defended. I just like making fun of zombies,” he says. “It’s just interesting to consider how to survive.”


None yet! This is a September 2011 release.


“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan December 7, 2011

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. 310 pages. ISBN: 9780385736817

The Forest of Hands and Teeth cover

Images courtesy of


Mary lives in a village totally controlled by the Sisterhood, a religious order, and trapped by the thousands of hungry undead who live in the forest surrounding the community. Yet, she longs for the ocean she learned of in stories from her mother during her childhood and can’t give up the notion that there may be something out there for her beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.


Even as her world is coming apart, Mary cannot resist the pull of the forbidden.

Her father is already gone, bitten and pulled away into the vast sea of the moaning, hungry, living dead Unconsecrated who surround her village. Her mother, distraught with grief and love, soon follows, leaving Mary with the stories she has told about a mythical ocean and world beyond the village.

Mary’s brother, in anger, abandons her, leaving her with no choice but to join the Sisterhood that controls all life in the village. There, Mary finds herself assigned to help with the care of a childhood friend who has been badly injured. Even as she knows he is promised to another, she falls deeply and desperately in love. Then she too is chosen for marriage – by her beloved’s brother and finds herself cornered by tradition and expectations and other people’s desires.

Just as she is feeling most trapped, the Unconsecrated break through the fences protecting the village and she escapes with her betrothed, her beloved, her best friend, and her brother as everything they have ever known disintegrates behind them.

Driven by her dreams and hopes about the ocean, Mary drives herself and her companions through an ancient protected path to face what is to come from The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Wait! There’s More:

This is only the first book in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Also look for The Dead-Tossed Waves (2010) and The Dark and Hollow Places (2011).

Teen View (courtesy of YouTube):

Awards/Honors (source:

  • A New York Times Best Seller
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection
  • Named to the 2010 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List
  • A Borders Original Voices finalist
  • #4 on the IndieBound Kids’ Indie Next List for Spring 2009
  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
  • Selected for the 2010-2011 Texas Library Association TAYSHAS High School Reading list
  • A Denver Public Library Best Teen Books of 2009 selection
  • Nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media Association Young Adult Book Award
  • Nominated for the 2010-2011 Georgia Peach Book Award


“My So-Called Death” by Stacey Jay December 6, 2011

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:33 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jay, Stacey. My So-Called Death. Woodbury, Minn.: Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications, 2010. 229 pages. ISBN: 9780738715438

My So-Called Death cover

Images courtesy of


A hard fall off the top of a cheer pyramid knocks Karen Vera into another world. Turns out, she’s genetically indisposed toward death. So, instead of planning a funeral, her parents ship her off to DEAD High where a fellow zombie with a taste for other zombie brains is about to make everything very interesting indeed.


I thought I was on top of the world. After all, I was a 14-year-old cute, blonde cheerleader who out-perkied even the perkiest of other cheerleaders. But it turns out, I was only on top of the cheer pyramid and that pyramid was about to collapse. So, you would think once I fell headfirst from the top of the heap onto the pavement below and most of my brains fell pretty much clean out of my head that that would be the end of my story, right?

Well, you’d be wrong. Apparently, I’m immortal. Not the cool kind of super-power immortal, but the kind that craves brains and has to follow a skin-care regimen to avoid rot. (Ew, gross.) They like to call it death challenged, but basically, I’m a zombie now so I have to ditch my family and go to a special zombie school and if my totally freaky zombie roommate wasn’t bad enough – yikes! Now someone is prying the brains out of other zombie’s heads to make some kind of super-stew. And I’m totally afraid it might be Gavin, the super-cute zombie from the swim team who makes my non-beating heart go pitter-pat.

I have just got to get to the bottom of this. I don’t want someone stealing my brain before I even kiss my first zombie boyfriend and really start to enjoy “My So-Called Death.”


None noted