Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Like No Other” by Una Marche February 24, 2015

Like No Other cover

Images courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Facts

368 pages; published July 2014

The Basics

Devorah, an obedient member of the Hasidic Jewish community, steps onto the wrong elevator at the wrong time. A power outage thrusts her into forbidden conversation with Jaxon, the hard-working, nerdy son of West Caribbean immigrants. Unable to stop thinking about each other, Devorah and Jaxon risk everything for an ever-deepening romance.

The Review

I like the teen romance aspect of this book. Jaxon and Devorah were easy to enjoy as characters and easy to root for as a couple of Romeo and Juliet-style star-crossed lovers. The true fascination of the book, however, was Devorah’s questioning of her ability to live within the bounds of a strict religious community – in this case, Hasidic Judiasm. Devorah is a good girl who had always obeyed the many rules of her faith. After a perfect storm of events leaves her stuck in an elevator with Jaxon, a boy not only from different cultural roots but from a completely different lifestyle, she finds herself pulled to him. Something in her compels her to pursue a secret relationship that changes her view of her family, her faith, and her future. This book has great characters, fascinating cultural insights, and an ending that is, well, like no other.

Recognition and Honors (Source: Goodreads.com)

  • Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer 2014
  • Indie Next List Pick, Summer 2014
  • 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Guide Selection
  • Entertainment Weekly YA Novel to Watch Out For

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of contemporary romance like Eleanor & Park
  • Readers with a flair for the dramatic
  • Anyone fascinated by the question of how youth respond to strict upbringing
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“I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister” by Amélie Sarn, translated by Y. Maudet October 4, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:48 am
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I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

152 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Devout Muslim Sohane struggles to deal with her grief and conflicting emotions about her more worldly sister, Djelila, who has been killed by religious extremists.

The Booktalk

Heart-shredding sadness abounds in this gorgeously written story of two French sisters of Algerian descent. Sohane is older. A devout Muslin, she has made the choice to wear a hijab (headscarf). Her family is baffled, the women in her community are indignant, and her school expels her. Her younger sister, Djelila, is on another path, rejecting their Algerian and Muslim heritage, wearing jeans and revealing clothing, and playing basketball at their French school. When her path crosses a gang of punky Muslim teens who want their women more traditional, the situation becomes deadly, leaving Sohane to struggle wit an almost unbearable burden of anger and grief.

Random Thoughts

  • The elegance and poetry of the writing is simply stunning.
  • This book is a deeply painful reflection on freedom and the many ways in which people interfere with each other.
  • There are insights into both expat Algerian and French culture that are both puzzling and worth thinking about.
  • The story has its roots in an actual crime in France, which makes it all the more tragic.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Sophisticated readers of realistic fiction
  • Teens with a keen interest in writing
  • Anyone who wants a story that expands their understanding of the world
  • People looking for stories guaranteed to make them cry
 

“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
 

“They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth” by Daniel Hernandez with Susan Goldman-Rubin May 16, 2013

Filed under: Books,GLBTQ,Memoir/Biography,Multi-Cultural,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:50 am
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They Call Me a Hero cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

People call Daniel Hernandez a hero because in 2011, he was the first to reach Gabrielle Giffords, a congresswoman who was shot at a public event. He raised her head and stopped the bleeding and, by all accounts, saved her life. In this account of that morning and the life that led to it, Hernandez explains why he doesn’t consider himself a hero – just a guy who was doing what anyone should have done.

Booktalk

On January 8, 2011, a man shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a Safeway parking lot where she was meeting with constituents. Six people died. Many others were injured. Daniel Hernandez, a 20-year-old intern in Giffords office, ran toward the gunfire to help Giffords. He is credited with saving her life by administering basic first aid mostly learned from health occupation classes in high school. That incident is why they’ve written a book about Hernandez. It’s what made him famous.

In a lot of ways, Hernandez is kind of an ordinary person. He’s pretty smart. He comes from a working class Latino family in Tuscon. He had some good teachers. He takes an interest in the world around him. He’s interested in politics. He’s openly gay. He has a heart for community service. Here’s what makes him extraordinary. Here’s what makes the book about him worth reading: Daniel Hernandez accomplishes things. Not “someday,” but all the time. He has grabbed every opportunity that goes by to learn new skills, to work hard, to get involved. He has campaigned for politicians he believed in. He has authored a bill that was approved by the Arizona legislature. He currently serves – at age 23 – on the school board for the district he attended.

I liked Daniel Hernandez’s story because he’s a person who takes the time and talent he’s been given and works hard to get things done and improve the world around him.

Random Thoughts

I find it hilarious that they have subtitled the autobiography of a 23-year-old “A Memoir of My Youth.”

 

“Seedfolks” by Paul Fleischman March 28, 2013

Filed under: Classics,Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:08 am
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Seedfolks cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

112 pages; published March 1999

The Basics

A community garden takes root in a vacant lot on Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio, making friends and neighbors of the individuals who come together to cultivate it. Told in 14 distinct voices that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood, Seedfolks is as rich as it is brief.

Booktalk

A young Vietnamese girl named Kim, wishing to honor the memory of her father, sneaks into a vacant lot near her family’s apartment. Hiding behind a refrigerator so no one will now, she plants a handful of lima beans.

But when she is spotted, instead of being angry, the neighbors are interested. One by one, others in her community – remembering gardens and farms from Guatemala, Korea, India, Romania and other places of their youth – step into the lot and claim their own piece of earth. Even those who cannot tend a plot take an interest, fighting to have to lot cleared or helping solve the problem of irrigation.

Each of the seedfolks has their own reasons and a story to tell. In 14 small stories, they create a picture of a community and find common ground.

Random Thoughts

  • The audiobook – which is how I enjoyed this story – was extraordinary. The 14 stories are told by 14 different voice actors, each with an accent or dialect that fits their character. The diverse voices definitely enriched the experience.
  • This may be one of those books for young people that are even more enjoyable to older teens and adult readers, who have the life experience to read between some of the lines and drink in the full measure of the message.
 

“Endangered” by Eliot Schrefer November 16, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:47 am
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Endangered cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

272 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

When civil war breaks out in the Congo, 14-year-old Sophie is forced to go on the run and survive solo in the jungle in order to save herself and Otto – a young ape living in her mother’s bonobo sanctuary.

Booktalk

A survival story. A wild adventure. A brutal civil war. And an adorable bonobo (a lesser-known primate like a chimpanzee, only nicer). It’s all here.

Sophie begins the story in a bit of a funk, leaving her home in Florida to spend another summer with at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary in the Congo. She finds her purpose in adopting Otto, an abused baby bonobo that she unwisely rescues from a man on the side of the road. After a summer literally attached to Otto, things fall apart in the Congo. The president is killed. The country – and the bonobo sanctuary – are taken over by unruly bands of vicious soldiers.

Sophie flees into the jungle with Otto, using all his animal instincts and her ingenuity to try to survive and save them all.

Random Thoughts

In addition to the heart-pounding adventure, this book offers a rich perspective on political instability, child soldiers, animal trafficking, and the will to survive.

 

“Never Fall Down” by Patricia McCormick August 24, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Historical Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:52 am
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The Facts

216 pages; published May 2012

The Basics

One day, Arn is a street-wise child – catching frogs, gambling a little, and sneaking into movies in his city in Cambodia. Then, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country, forced Arn and all the citizens into work camps. His life became defined by starvation, endless labor, fear, and death. Arn spent four years in the heart of what became known as The Killing Fields, surviving partly because of his skill as a musician and partly because he told himself just never fall down.

Booktalk

Because it is told wholly in the voice of the child, this story unfolds with no context. There is no explanation of the politics or background. It is simply a litany of one child’s brutal experience, drawing the reader into the horror and confusion of the events. The result is both stunning and devastating

Random Thought

This book is based on the real life of Arn Chorn-Pond who is now an internationally known peace activist. It was particuularly devastating to realize that these events are so recent that parts of my simple, easy childhood overlapped with these brutal events in his.