Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“The Boundless” by Kenneth Oppel October 27, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Magical Realism,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 6:14 pm
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The Boundless cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published April 2014

The Basics

After witnessing a murder while traveling on the maiden voyage of the most elaborate train ever conceived, Will Everett is on the run from a gang of scheming brakemen, jumping from car to car in the night. His only asset is his wit; his only allies, a gaggle of circus freaks; and his biggest challenge, the very real sasquatch and bog hag lying in wait along the way.

Booktalk

You would have thought Will Everett experienced enough excitement for a lifetime after a chance encounter led him to pound the final spike into the TransCanadian Railway and then survive the avalanche that followed.

But only a few years later, he launches into the adventure of a lifetime on The Boundless, a train of epic proportions making its first trip across the same TransCanadian Railway. A murder witnessed sends Will on the run, careening through the night across the top of the train, hiding out in a circus, and being pulled into a web of double-crossing intrigue. In a world where sasquatch and bog hags are real, an escape artist is his only true friend, and brakemen are out for blood, Will needs every ounce of his courage to survive his ride on The Boundless.

Random Thoughts

  • Kenneth Oppel has really outdone himself here, with quirky characters and madcap action that deliver high entertainment value all around.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Middle grade readers, especially boys
  • Fans of adventure
  • People who think trains are cool
  •  Kids who secretly (or not so secretly) believe Big Foot is real
  • Anyone who ever wanted to run away to join the circus
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“Of Metal and Wishes” by Sarah Fine September 16, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:25 am
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Of Metal and Wishes cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Wen’s life is disintegrating. After her mother died and she was forced to move into the compound of a factory where her father serves as the doctor, she gets drawn into the social tension that grips the Itanyai workers when 200 Noor willing to work cheap are brought in. As illness and injury grip the compound, Wen is drawn into the mystery of the “Ghost” who haunts the workers.

Book Talk

It starts as an angry impulse. Wen is embarrassed after one of the new, barbaric Noor workers lifts her dress and shows her underthings in the factory cafeteria. She impulsively approaches the shrine other workers have set up to communicate with the factory Ghost and – while also proclaiming her disbelief – challenges the Ghost to avenge her. When the Ghost grants her wish in a terrible way, the ripple effect of her flash of anger lead to death, social unrest, a budding forbidden romance, and the slow reveal of all the factory’s many dark secrets.

Random Thoughts

  • The author has taken the concept of the Phantom of the Opera and moved it to a startling post-industrial Asian setting. Her creative re-telling and the beauty of the writing create something deeply compelling.
  • This was an intense book. I was at turns enthralled and disturbed, thoughtful and grossed out.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is a series opener. Of Dreams and Rust is set for publication in August 2015.

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of Phantom of the Opera
  • Readers who love romantic stories
  • People with a high tolerance for gore
  • Older teens who love fantasy and dystopia
 

“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart June 16, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:39 am
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We Were Liars cover

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The Facts

227 pages; published May 2014

The Basics

Cadence returns to the private island hideaway where her wealthy family spends their summers, but things are different this year – her 17th summer. Two years ago, she was hurt on this island. Her injuries still plague her. The details of her accident still elude her. This summer, she is here to heal and to try to remember.

Booktalk

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are the Liars – four teens tied to a beautiful, wealthy family that summers on a private island near Martha’s Vinyard. The setting is idyllic, but the family is flawed. There is rivalry, angry, and a dark, dark mystery. The mystery surrounds Candence, who is terribly ill, suffering crippling headache, general fragility, and an inability to remember the terrible accident she had on the island two years previously. Slowly, Cadence unknots the threads and weaves the story back together. But who knows if what she remembers and what she says is true? After all, Cadence and her friends are Liars.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is beautifully written, with prose that drifts into lyrical, trailing ends, reinforcing the sense that the narrator is finding reality to be a bit slippery.
  • The blurbs urge readers who are asked how the book ends to lie. I would add – don’t peek at the final pages. The twist at the end is huge and far more effective if it comes as it should – as a complete surprise.

I’ll Recommend This Book to …

  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Teens who like puzzles and books with twists
  • Readers fascinated by the lifestyles of the wealthy
  • People who like gut-wrenching romances and books that make them cry
 

“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

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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

 

 

“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

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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!

 

 

“Nine Days” by Fred Hiatt September 22, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:45 am
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Nine Days cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Ethan – a high school student with a lively interest in Chinese culture and politics – befriends Ti-Anna, a fellow student and daughter of a prominent expatriate Chinese dissident. When Ti-Anna’s father first travels to Hong Kong and then goes missing, Ethan and Ti-Anna make the wild decision to run away to Hong Kong to find him.

Booktalk

What would you do if your father was missing? How far would you go to save him?

Ti-Anna, whose father is famous for speaking out against the Chinese government, already has a lot to worry about. She confides in her best friend, Ethan, that she knows the Chinese are watching her father, even though he has moved to the United States. As they become close friends, Ethan’s interest in China and in Ti-Anna grows. Despondent one day, Ti-Anna reveals that her father is missing. He traveled to Hong Kong hoping to advance his anti-government cause and never returned. The family’s few contacts in Hong Kong will not talk by phone or e-mail. The only way to help, Ti-Anna says, would be to go to Hong Kong.

Ethan latches onto her desperation and hatches a plan that takes them halfway around the world and into a situation far more frightening and complex than either is ready for.

Random Thoughts

I very much appreciated that Fred Hiatt doesn’t rely on silly devices like teen characters with near super-powers or access to fantastic resources. The only extraordinary powers Ethan and Ti-Anna have are determination and devotion.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Adventure and action seekers
  • Youth interested in China and other Asian cultures
  • Parents who are worried about sex and language; this one is squeaky clean