Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“What I Saw and How I Lied” by Judy Blundell November 29, 2012

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

284 pages; published November 2008

The Basics

After the post World War II of return of her officer step-father, Joe Spooner, Evie’s family takes off to Florida abruptly. Everybody seems to be hiding something, and things get even more complicated when they are joined by Peter, a handsome young GI who steals Evie’s heart and seems to hold a strange thrall over Joe.

Review

It sucks to be a teenager with self-absorbed, self-indulgent parents who lack any sort of moral compass. So, Evie’s life sucks. Her slutty mom and overbearing step-father are really very unpleasant people, not directly to Evie, but really in general. But Evie’s kind of sweet. She’s got a lot of things figured out but misses some key points as a mystery starts to brew around her parents, who seem to be hiding from something after dashing the family off to Florida. Things get really complicated when a GI from her step-father’s unit runs into them down in Florida (or tracks them down?) and begins romancing Evie. I read this for a teen book discussion group and thought it was interesting that the main concern of every teen there was why on earth Evie was allowed (even encouraged?) to have a romantic relationship with a shady 25-year-old. I would refer back to the parental lack of moral compass. As the mystery fully unfolds, I gained a new appreciation for Evie who becomes quite the interesting and multilayered character.

Random Thoughts

There is an interesting dimension in this book that explores the strong anti-Semitism on American shores during the era. Sad to consider that the same solider who helped free Jews from Nazi control could not tolerate to sit at the same table at Jews back home.

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Deep Thoughts November 28, 2012

Filed under: Quotes — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:24 am
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“Butter” by Erin Jade Lange November 26, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:53 am
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Butter cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

294 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

Butter is overweight. Very overweight. In a fit of despair about his size and his inability to connect with the girl of his dreams, he decides to commit suicide by eating himself to death on New Year’s at midnight – live, online.

Review

This is an incredibly uncomfortable book to read. Butter had always been obese, but has hit an all-time high. He is smart and charming and an incredibly talented saxophone player – but few people know that. Butter may not really realize it. He is isolated at school, coddled by his mother, ignored by his father. He’s chatting online with the most beautiful girl in school, but is slowly realizing that she wants to meet and he can’t let that happen. After one devastating incident, he decides the only way to get out of this is to end it all.

Butter creates a website – ButtersLastMeal.com – and lays out his plan to appear live at midnight on New Years and eat himself to death, ending with a whole stick of butter. The response is so bizarre, yet so believable in the detached but voyeuristic environment of the web. Butter becomes a person of interest, invited at last into the popular circles he once watched across the cafeteria. He has friends and is invited to outings and parties as, online, schoolmates are egging him on and suggesting lists of possible items to be part of the last meal. He even gets to know the object of his crush in real life. And yet, even Butter knows the popularity that is bringing him new-found happiness all hinges on a single point – they want him to go through with it.

The story is surreal and monstrously painful, but – like the morbidly interested classmates – you can’t look away.

Random Thought

The writing in this book is excellent and the story is brilliantly told. It is not fun, but it is worth it.

 

A Poem: “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas November 23, 2012

Filed under: Classics,Poetry — hilariouslibrarian @ 3:03 pm
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Why?

Because this poem is central to the action in “Matched” by Ally Condie and because it is a rousing cry of the soul.

The Poem (source: Poets.org)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Want to hear the poet reading it?

 

“Matched” by Ally Condie

Matched cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

369 pages; published November 2010

The Basics

Everything in Cassia’s world is controlled by The Society and Cassia is a model citizen, living by the rules. She is excited to find out who has been chosen as her Match. But she’s not ready for what happens. Her microchip shows her not one, but two boys. The Society never makes mistakes, but they have this time – and it is a mistake that throws Cassia into a wild tailspin.

Booktalk

Cassia lives in a world where everything is decided by The Society – what she reads, the art she sees, the music she listens to, what she does at school, what she eats, how she exercises, where she will work. They even monitor her dreams. Now, on her 16th birthday, The Society has used carefully statistical analysis to determine who Cassia should marry – which boy is her Match. But when she is shown not one, but two options, Cassia’s clear, simple life path becomes jumbled and confused. Although she is told sweet, safe Xander is the one she is really meant to Match with, she finds herself drawn to Ky, whose dark and mysterious past is the source of much intrigue. The pot is stirred further when her grandfather encourages mild subversion, sneaking her a copy of a poem not in the approved 100. Cassia finds herself wondering – for the first time in her life – whether The Society really knows best.

Random Thought

I’m not the biggest fan of romance and page after page of girls mooning over boys, but I was riveted by many of the ideas of The Society. In order to combat all the chaos and noise of life in the “old world” (ours), The Society chose 100 songs, 100 books, 100 poems, 100 pieces of art and they have become what is. Nothing new is created or permitted. Also, everyone in The Society dies at 80 and the discussion of that dictum was though-provoking to say the least.

Wait! There’s More

This is the first in a trilogy that is now complete with Crossed (2011) and Reached (2012).

Awards/Honors (source: GoodReads.com)

  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
  • Teen Buckeye Book Award Nominee (2012)
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)
 

“Zom-B” by Darren Shan November 19, 2012

Zom-B cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

174 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

B is a street-wise bully being raised by a violent, white supremacist father in London. Amid growing reports of zombie attacks in a small Irish village, B is backed into several situations where it is called into question of how deep B’s personal racist sensibilities run. And then, the zombies attack.

Review

This book was quite a surprise. Written by a master of young adult horror, it’s remarkably light on the spurting blood and the brain eating … until it’s not.

Although the zombies are milling around the edges from the beginning, but meat of the book is spent on B and B’s response (or lack thereof) to a father who spews disgusting racial hatred at every turn and beats on B and B’s mother if they mount the slightest challenge. B wanders between mirroring the father’s nastiness and being sheepish about it and wondering if – perhaps – dear old Dad isn’t pretty reprehensible. B’s thoughts get really stirred up after visiting a Holocaust exhibit and getting a talking-to from a respected teacher.

“I know Dad’s no saint but I’ever never thought of him as a monster. But if Burke’s right, and I take Dad’s side, the way I’ve gone along with him for all these years, won’t that make me a monster too?”

And speaking of monsters, the zombies continue to close in as Dad pooh-poohs the gruesome footage of an attack in Pallaskenry, Ireland until the zombies – as the reader knows they will – finally descend on B’s school and the nightmare-inducing grossology lesson begins.

While not at all likeable, B is an compelling character and “Zom-B” is an exciting set-up for a new series.

 

 

“Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom” by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin November 17, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,GLBTQ,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:37 am
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Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

257 pages; published March 2012

The Basics

Alternating chapters tell the story of Tessa Masterson – a small-town girl who wants to take her girlfriend to prom – and Luke – Tessa’s best friend who is rebuffed and learns the truth about Tessa’s sexuality when he opens his heart and invites her to be his prom date. Tessa sets off an unprecedented community controversy as anti-gay forces go on the attack.

Booktalk

Tessa Masterson was just another senior in high school. Like most of the kids in her class. she wanted to go to prom. But when her best-friend-since-they-were-kids, Luke, asks her to go with him, the truth tumbles out. Tessa can’t accept his invitation because she doesn’t feel “that way” about Luke or any other boy. She wants to go to prom – with her girlfriend, both wearing tuxedos.

The firestorm that follows would be comical if it weren’t based on a true story – an anti-gay boycott of her parents’ hometown grocery story, a media frenzy, protests to the school board, attacks on the Masterson home. The most carefully explored journey, however, is Luke’s. First, he deals with a sense of betrayal and disappointment because his friend kept such a big secret from him. Then, he has to decide what to do about it.

Best Quote that Seems to Sum Things Up in Very Few Words

“I don’t think this girl is going to turn anybody gay. Let her dance, for Chrissake.”