Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“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.
Advertisements
 

“Bad Taste in Boys” by Carrie Harris May 4, 2013

The Facts

201 pages; published July 2011

Bad Taste in Boys cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Basics

Kate Grable is a science nerd and volunteer medic for the tragically bad high school football team. When the desperate Coach starts injecting the players with a new kind of steroid, instead of improving their win record, he turns them into flesh-loving zombies. Kate is either going to save the day or have her lips chewed off.

The Booktalk

I think the really important lesson of Bad Taste in Boys is that it’s very stupid to inject yourself or others with something when you don’t really know what the something will do.

Here’s the truth of the matter. This is a very silly book. But it is also just plain funny. And it has zombies.

The zombies are created right under the nose of Kate Grable, a wannabe doctor who manages the Ace bandages and EpiPens for the totally awful football team at her high school. The job also gives her important proximity to Aaron, the untalented the totally adorable quarterback. After Kate says heck no to injecting players with some mysterious vials of liquid, the Coach does it himself and – boom – zombie football players.

The change comes on kind of gradually and in some cases, it’s hard to notice. Until fingers come loose and feet start flying. Oh, and until the newly minted zombies start supping on human flesh. But Kate does notice and – having lost part of a lip to a linebacker – she plunges in to unravel the medical mystery and try to save the day.

Random Thoughts

This is far more of a campy, fun read than a hard-hitting, award-winning novel. However, I absolutely give it my personal award for Awesome Cover Art on a YA Book. I mean come on, look at those lips!

 

“Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things” by Kathryn Burak December 29, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Poetry,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:38 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Emily's Dress cover

Images courtes of GoodReads.com

The Facts

232 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Claire’s father hopes that distance from Rhode Island and a new start in Amherst, Massachusetts will help Claire heal from two terrible losses – her mother and her best friend.

Booktalk

Claire has just moved to Amherst, Massachusetts and frankly, she’s going a little nuts. To say the last year was difficult is saying far too little. The loss of her mother to suicide has been compounded by the unsolved disappearance of her best friend – in which she was a suspect.

Now, she’s a year behind in school. Amherst is supposed to give her the chance to start in a new place, get her bearings, and figure out how to go on. Likable, smart and funny even in the depths of her grief, Claire  develops some connections – with a new friend at school, with a student teacher from her English class, and with long-dead poet Emily Dickinson. When she starts visiting Emily Dickinson’s home-turned-museum at night, she doesn’t even really mean to break in and she certainly doesn’t mean to – in a moment of surprised panic – steal Emily’s famous, historic dress.

Random Thoughts

This book is not just about a girl dealing with grief. It is also a mystery and a romance and a teaser for Emily Dickinson’s haunting poetry and funny and hopeful. It’s complicated in a good way and so, so enjoyable.

 

“Far From You” by Lisa Schroeder December 24, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Poetry,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Far From You cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

355 pages; published December 2008

The Basics

Alice misses her mom – who died of cancer a few years ago – and resents the heck out of her new stepmother, the father who has re-focused on his new wife, and now the baby they’ve decided to add to the family. All her emotional turmoil comes to a head when she gets trapped in a snowstorm with her stepmother and half-sister. Suddenly, survival is more important than anything.

Review

Lisa Schroeder tells a riveting, emotion-packed story in simple, pared down concrete poetry. She explores the experience of Alice, who is feeling badly out of sorts. Despite having a new boyfriend, a best friend, and a loving (if distracted) father, she is almost completely overwhelmed by the loss of her mother. Then, things start to go really wrong. Her friend gets tired of her maudlin obsession. Her father and stepmother have a new baby, leaving her feeling like she doesn’t have a place in her own home. And then, on a road trip from California to Seattle, the unthinkable happens. She, her half-sister, and her step mother get stranded in a snow storm. Faced with a true life-or-death situation, Alice finds herself able to see her loved ones – living and dead – in a new way.

Random Thought

I’m not a poetry fan and tend to be leery of stories told in poetic form, but I found this concrete poetic narrative both engaging and memorable.

 

“The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls” by Julie Schumacher October 8, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls cover

Images courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published May 2012

The Basics

Here’s what you know from the beginning. Four couldn’t-be-more-different girls (a Popular Girl, an Unpopular Girl, a Smart Girl, and a Strange Girl with Secrets) are forced into a summer mother-daughter book club. And somebody dies. But there’s a lot to learn before you know who and why and what’s really going on.

Booktalk

Adrienne Haus started her summer as one super-frustrated young lady. Because of a broken knee, she’s been left behind while her best friend goes on an epic camping adventure. Back home, Adrienne’s mother commits them to participating in a mother-daughter book club with three other girls – also stuck in lame West New Hope, Delaware this summer – who could not be less like the kind of people Adrienne wants to spend time with. Suddenly, she’s thrust into some  kind of friendship with super-popular Cee-Cee, super-smart Jill, and super-weird Wallis, trying to figure out what’s what while also preparing for 11th grade English class.  There are confusing situations, a cute boy, deep discussions, not-so-deep discussions, missing items, strange figures in the mist, and more confusing situations. Then somebody dies. But before you know who, you get to know and like all the more-interesting-than-you’d-think-from-the-surface members of the Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.

Random Thought

Mostly funny, sometimes sweet, and definitely unexpected. A great summer read, with just enough provocative insights to entice some readers to go on to enjoy the same excellent novels by and about women read by the Unbearable Book Club:

  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula. LeGuin
 

“Chopsticks” by Jessica Anthony, illustrated by Rodrigo Corral May 19, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Graphic Novel,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,
Chopsticks book cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

272 pages; published February 2012

The Basics

Told in the format of an extraordinarily detailed scrapbook, Chopsticks explores the mental deterioration of Glory, a teen-aged piano prodigy who has lost touch with her life and her gift in the wake of her mother’s death.

Booktalk

Glory is a piano prodigy, pushed relentlessly onto the world stage by her father. Glory is a grieving teen, missing her mother. Glory is in love, with Frank, the rebellious boy who moves in next door. Glory is lost in her mind, stuck in the repeating pattern of playing Chopsticks over and over and over. Now, Glory has disappeared.

This is a beautiful story and a beautiful book. Absent any traditional text, Glory’s story is laid out in photos, pictures, letters, news clippings, screen shots of texts, graffiti, postcards, grade reports, letters and more. The reader is pulled into the heart of the story, leafing through Glory’s family albums, reading her most heartfelt letters, viewing Frank’s dark, angry artwork. The experience is both lovely and sad.

 

“Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words” by Rachel Coker March 31, 2012

Interrupted cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts:

320 pages; published February 2012

The Basics:

Alcyone (Allie) Everly’s world revolves around her mother and the quiet life they share, gardening, housekeeping, and reading Emily Dickinson. When her mother’s memory and health disintegrates, Allie finds herself alone and shipped off to Maine to be adopted by a kindly widow. Determined to stay loyal to her mother’s memory, Allie turns inward, rejecting the care and love offered in her new home.

Book Talk:

Can you imagine how scary it would be – at age 10 – to have your mother’s memory start to come and go? Can you image how sad it would feel – at age 14 – to find yourself alone in the world and shipped off to be adopted by a total stranger? Alcyone Everly doesn’t want a new mother or a new home. She wants to go back to protecting and helping the mother she loved. She hides within the pages of the journal she still writes to her mother and pushes everyone away, even the neighbor boy who has loved her and been loyal to her all her life. Her adoptive mother continues to pray that with God’s help she can soften Allie’s heart. Will it be possible to restart this life that was Interrupted?

Random Thought:

This is a sweet, gentle story that holds no real surprises, but the writing is solid and it’s a enjoyable first effort from a 16-year-old debut author.