Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“The Symptoms of My Insanity” by Mindy Raf June 27, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:23 am
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The Symptoms of My Insanity cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

374 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Izzy has a lot to worry about – her boobs that are growing at a wild pace (and unevenly?), her mother who says she’s fine but still seems very ill, the deadline for her art portfolio, and Blake Hangry’s unexpected and inexplicable interest in maybe dating her. Add in Izzy’s near-addiction to cataloging her own possible diseases on Symptomaniac.com and a best-friendship that just got weirdly complicated, and you’ve got “The Symptoms of My Insanity.”

Review

Izzy is hilarious. Her wry sense of humor is front and center whether she is suffering through three loud Russian women fighting over her bra size (“Nyet! Nyet! A D, a D. They a DD.”) or awkwardly, but successfully flirting with the guy who just poured a sports drink on her head (“Holy Mother of Gatorade, I just made him laugh.”).  She’s going to need that sense of humor, because she’s got a lot coming at her. Her mom is keeping up appearances, but not actually recovering properly from her stomach cancer surgery last summer. She may be getting worse.

Izzy needs to finish her art portfolio for a bit competition, but instead of being inspired, is obsessively running symptoms – her own (maybe imagined?) and her mother’s (all too real) – through Symptomaniac.com. And just when she needs a friend, her best friend is furious with her for no reason Izzy can understand and her former best friend seems to want her again – well, as cover so she can go to a lame frat party. Izzy certainly has plenty of reasons for starting to feel a little insane, but she’s happy to take you along, laughing (and maybe crying a little) all the way.

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“Rapture Practice” by Aaron Hartzler June 18, 2013

Filed under: Books,Christian,GLBTQ,Memoir/Biography,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:18 pm
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Rapture Practice cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

400 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Aaron Hartzler was brought up in a Baptist family so strict that other Baptists seemed radically permissive by comparison. Wishing to be obedient, but desperate to be true to himself, Aaron struggles to keep his place in his family while spreading his wings.

Review

What made this book striking to read was that throughout the stories of Aaron’s wayward youth, he clearly loves and even admires his family and their singular devotion to religion. However, he doesn’t share it. He chafes painfully under the oppressive rules of his unusually strict household. He can’t see movies. There’s no TV. No listening to any station other than 88.5 KLJC, Kansas City’s home for “beautiful, sacred music.” It’s a religious view that forgives serial killers, as long as they confess their sins and open their hearts to Jesus, but condemns the two  men holding hands while they watch a gay pride parade – two men who kind of look like Aaron.

He never expresses hatred for his family, but he does talk about plenty of confusion and frustration. He constantly disappoints his parents because all the rules, all the restrictions just plain don’t make any sense to him. He just cannot live inside the box they’ve created.

So, he challenges the rules and sneaks out of bounds again and again. The stories as he tells them are equal parts hilarious and heart-rending.

Random Thoughts

This story will intrigue some people because it is so different from their own families. It will move others because it reminds them so much of theirs.

 

“The Selection” by Kiera Cass June 14, 2013

The Selection cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

327 pages; published April 2012

The Basics

America Singer lives in a world defined by strict castes and repressive rules, but she has the ultimate opportunity for caste-climbing. She has been chosen to participate in The Selection, in which she is one of 35 girls who compete on TV to be the next queen of Illea.

The Booktalk

Who doesn’t want to be a princess? Well, America Singer doesn’t. Although she is only a Five in a strict caste system that pretty much deprives everyone below a Three, America has a profession that she likes and a boy that she loves (even though it’s in secret.) So, she is very much NOT excited when she is chosen to participate in the ultimate reality TV courting show – The Selection – in which 35 girls compete to be the bride of Illea’s handsome crown prince, Maxon. America is down-to-earth, funny, and temperamental. She even yells at Prince Maxon the first time they meet. She couldn’t be less suited as princess material. So why is she still around in The Selection?

But Wait … There’s More!

The Selection kicks off a fast-moving trilogy. The Elite was released in April 2013 and will be followed by The One in 2014.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is wildly popular at my library. Given the topic, I was hesitant to read it because I thought it might be too ridiculous, but I enjoyed the character and the writing was spot on. I raced through books 1 and 2. Now, I’m quite impatient for the 3rd.
  • One of the blurbs on the back of The Elite describes the series as, “like The Hunger Games (without the blood sport) and like The Bachelor (without the blood sport) …” It is an apt description.