Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Fake ID” by Lamar Giles February 10, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:45 pm
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Fake ID cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Nick Pearson is thrown into a tailspin when Eli Cruz, his only friend in his new town of Stepton, Virginia, is killed just as he is about to break the story of a huge community scandal. Nick’s search for truth is complicated by his need to keep more than a few secrets of his own.

Booktalk

Nick Pearson isn’t feeling at all like himself – with good reason. In the four year since his family joined the Witness Protection program, he’s had five identities, five made-up backstories, and five new homes. Now, he’s arrived in Stepton, Virginia and the wheels are really coming off. Nick’s formerly mob-connected father is acting more suspicious than ever. His mother is cracking under the pressure. And his new friend, Eli Cruz, is convinced that something about Stepton is rotten to the core. When Eli turns up dead, Nick has to face facts. Eli was right. And since it looks like the mayor and the police are in on whatever diabolical scheme has been cooked up, it will be up to Nick and Eli’s stunningly beautiful sister to sort fact from fiction.

Random Thoughts

  • How many people are there – really – in the Witness Protection program? Like attending boarding schools, I suspect this is one of those things that happens more in literature than in real life. Then again, how would I know?
  • To be honest, this won’t rate as the book of highest literary quality published in 2014, but it was fast-paced, well-written, and definitely entertaining.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who have a hard time finding something to read
  • Mystery fans
  • Readers interested in a new voice in young adult fiction

 

 

“Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys January 22, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Mystery — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:54 am
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Out of the Easy cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

346 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Josie Moraine is a survivor. Raised in New Orelans and the daughter of a prostitute, Josie has mapped a plan of escape to a different life when she is pulled into the aftermath of the murder of a charming gentleman visitor to the French Quarter.

The Booktalk

Smart, determined, highly ethical, and strangely innocent might not be what you’d expect from the daughter of a prostitute who grew up in the French Quarter of New Orleans – but it’s what you get from Ruta Sepetys’ “Out of the Easy.” Josie Moraine, having been failed in every possible way by her stupid harlot of a mother, has been raised by a harsh, but caring madam, a kindly taxi driver, and an eccentric bookstore owner. She has become a bright, resilient young woman determined to find her way out of the Big Easy and into a better life. But little tendrils of French Quarter scandal keep twisting around her and pulling her down – the murder of a visiting Southern gentleman, the seediness of the brothel, her mother’s gangster boyfriend, and the mysterious illness of her bookstore owning patron. The excitement begins on the first page and never lets up as Josie navigates an emotional roller coaster and tries to find her way “Out of the Easy.”

Random Thoughts

  • Given the French Quarter and brothel as primary settings, this is a surprisingly clean book.
  • There should be some kind of award for Truly Appalling Fictional Parents and Ruta Sepetys should win it this year for writing Josie’s awful, pathetic, shallow, mean, stupid harlot of a mother.

I’ll recommend this book to …

  • Readers looking for some slightly titillating excitement
  • Fans of mysteries
  • Anyone who likes a hard luck or horrible parents story
 

“All the Truth That’s In Me” by Julie Berry October 22, 2013

All the Truth That's in Me cover

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The Facts

274 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

A tiny town has been shattered by the murder of one of its girls and the kidnapping and mutilation of another. Judith is the one who returns, but finds no place in her family or the town horrified and confused by the discovery that her tongue has been cut out. Unable to speak the truth, she watches and contemplates.

The Booktalk

One small Puritan town. Two girls disappear in the same week. One is found floating, naked in the river. The other returns after two unsettling years. Her tongue is cut out. She is wrapped in silence and secrets.

Reviled by the community as “damaged,” now-mute Judith drifts ghostlike along the edges of her society, watching and listening. Most closely, she watched Lucas, a boy she has loved since childhood. He is the only source of kindness she still has.

When the tiny village comes under attack, but Lucas and Judith respond in the only ways they can think of – saving the village but shattering the uneasy balance of their lives. Loyalties shift.  Questions are asked. But no one is ready for what happens when Judith reveals All the Truth That’s In Me.

Random Thoughts

  • The dreamy style of this book is captivating. The story burbles out in small snippets, organized into chapterlets as small as a single line, and flows like water through a rocky creekbed until it trickles down to the riveting conclusion.
  • Although set in Puritan America, the book has some unmistakably contemporary sensibilities. Still, the setting somehow works in the end and the book becomes a memorable ride through the scandalous side of Puritanical life.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Readers asking for creepy mystery stories
  • Girls who like love stories
  • People interested in unique writing styles
 

“The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson October 9, 2013

The Name of the Star cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

372 pages; published September 2011

The Basics

On the very day that Rory Deveaux moves from Louisiana to London, someone starts recreating the Jack the Ripper murders. As Rippermania grips the city, Rory gets drawn into the center of the increasingly strange mystery.

Booktalk

Louisiana native Rory Deveaux is a fish out of water when she shows up to the London boarding school where she will be spending her final years of high school. It’s hard to say which is funnier – her wacky stories about the bayou town and redneck neighbors she left behind, or her hilarious observations about the strange life of English schoolchildren.

But Rory’s new life also has a dark side. On the same day she landed in London, a killer began recreating the Jack the Ripper murders in gruesome detail. Then Rory comes face to face with a mysterious stranger on a dark London night – a stranger no one else can see. As news spreads of her odd encounter, she finds herself pulled ever deeper into the baffling and vastly creepy mystery.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is just #1 in the Shades of London series. #2 in the series – The Madness Underneath (February 2013) is also very satisfying; #3 – The Shadow Cabinet – is due out in 2014.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Mystery lovers
  • Fans of ghost stories
  • Anyone with a sense of humor
  • Readers fascinated by famous serial killers like Jack the Ripper
  • Honestly, anyone who asks for a good book. I loved it that much!

 

 

“Starglass” by Phoebe North August 18, 2013

Starglass cover

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The Facts

448 pages; published July 2013

The Basics

Born on the spaceship Asherah, Terra will soon be part of the first generation to arrive at Zehava and populate a new world. But Terra and others chafe under the totalitarian rule of The Council which guides them. Forced toward a career in botany and a loveless marriage, Terra’s rebellious spirit grows after she witnesses the murder of an innocent man by the Captain’s Guard.

Booktalk

Terra is a lot like the characters in other stories, maybe even like people you know. She is mourning the death of her mother. Her father is a drunk who embarrasses her on a regular basis. She feels awkward in school and around boys. She’s jealous of her much-prettier best friend. But Terra’s life is unique because it has been lived entirely on a spaceship bound to populate a new planet. Launched 500 years before by a group of secular Jews in an effort to preserve Jewish culture, the Asherah will be landing soon on Zehava. This is just as Terra is approaching her 16th birthday – leaving school to start a career chosen for her by The Council and desperately agreeing to marry her father’s talmid (apprentice) so the same Council won’t choose her husband as well.

With all this weighing down on Terra, she takes a wrong turn on the way home one evening and comes face-to-face with a horrifying sight – members of The Captain’s Guard murdering a man in cold blood. The revelations that come next will shake Terra – and all of Asherah – to the core.

 

“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters August 9, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Mystery,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:16 am
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In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover

Images courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Facts

387 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

In 1918, Americans were surrounded by death. With loved ones dying far away in World War I and stricken by the Spanish Flu right next door, nearly everyone was raw with grief and fear. So-called “spirit photographers” stepped in, offering to conjure the dead to be photographed with the living. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black’s aunt has fallen into the thrall of spirit photography, seances, and peculiar home remedies meant to protect a body from the influenza germs. A committed scientist and skeptic, Mary finds her own beliefs challenged when she is confronted by the confused, wretched spirit of her first love.

Booktalk

Here’s what you have to understand. Living in 1918 in the United States was terrifying. The Spanish Flu was killing thousands of people. At the same time, soldiers were dying in droves in Europe fighting in World War I. People were desperate – to do something that made them feel safer and to express their sadness about people they had lost. Mary Shelley Black is 16 years old, in the thick of the Spanish Flu outbreak and waiting for her first love who has gone off to war. She’s sensible, smart, and science-minded, but she’s scared too. Still, she knows something is off about her aunt’s obsession with having photos taken by an old family friend who has become a “spirit photographer,” someone who claims to be able to call up the dead to be photographed with the people they left behind.

The situation becomes even more puzzling when Mary Shelley learns that her own young soldier has died and – despite her skepticism – Mary is visited by his frightened and nearly incoherent ghost, drawing her deep into mysteries of the spirit world and questions about his death.

Random Thoughts

One of the many wonderful things about this book is the use of eerie historic photos of people in gauze masks (to protect them from the flu) and examples of spirit photography that are inserted as chapter headers.

 

“Money Run” by Jack Heath May 28, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:44 am
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Money Run cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Ash is a 16-year-old master thief. Benjamin is her super-techie-genius sidekick. Together, they are planning the daring, high-stakes heist of a lifetime – ripping off the super-rich, super-crafty Hammond Buckland. When a deadly assassin and a team of government agents get added to the mix, it’s clear that nothing about this mission is going to be easy.

The Booktalk

Hammond Buckland is not just rich, he’s super-rich, crazy rich, so rich he doesn’t know what to do with it all. Ash – ingenious teen thief – wants some of what he’s got and she has chosen today to steal $200 million dollars she knows is hiding in his fancy office building. It’s the most ambitious heist she and her techie-backup Benjamin have ever tried. Ash knows it’s going to be a challenge. She loves a challenge. But she never could have bargained for what she gets – a wild cat-and-mouse game involving a dangerously evil assassin, mysterious passageways, suspicious powders, and one flying car.

It’s non-stop action with endless mind-boggling twists on this Money Run.

But Wait … There’s More

Billed as #1 in the Ashley Arthur series, Money Run offers a great lead in to more adventures with a charming youthful criminal duo. Second in the series, Hit List has been released in Australia.