Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Small Medium at Large” by Joanne Levy January 27, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:38 am
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Small Medium at Large cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

195 pages; published July 2012

The Basics

After being hit by lightning at her mother’s wedding, Lilah wakes to discover she can hear ghosts. She finds herself surrounded by a well-meaning bunch of spirits, led by her practical, funny grandmother who is four years gone. Bubby Dora has a proposal for Lilah. She wants the two of them to team up to get Lilah’s love-lorn divorced father back in the dating game.

Booktalk

Lilah was having a pretty good day, really enjoying her mother’s wedding – until a freak storm rolled in and hit her with a bolt of lightning. Lilah wakes in a hospital to discover she’s basically fine – as long as “fine” includes being able to talk to ghosts. At first, it’s just her sweet, straight-talking grandmother Bubby Dora, but soon other ghosts line up looking for Lilah’s help in delivering messages. And all the while, Lilah is conspiring with her Bubby to encourage Lilah’s father to take his first, shaky steps back into the world of of dating.

Random Thoughts

  • What a thoroughly sweet book. Ghosts aside, it is a funny, well-drawn look at the life of a girl in the throes of growing up.
  • While not exactly a laugh-out-loud book, this is certainly a many-amused-smiles book.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Middle grade girls who like a bit of magic blended with their reality
  • Families looking for squeaky clean, age-appropriate books for middle schoolers
  • Readers who want something short and sweet
  • Those who believe in friendly ghosts
 

“Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick October 31, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:27 am
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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

273 pages; published August 2013

The Basics

Leonard Peacock gets up on his 18th birthday. He fills his backpack. He is ready to go. He will visit the four people who mean anything to him. He will give each of them a gift. Then, he will pull out the gun at the bottom of the pack and kill his former best friend. Then, he will kill himself. And, he thinks, this is a fitting celebration – going out 18 years after the day he came into this world.

Booktalk

Leonard Peacock is having a birthday. But this is no ordinary celebration. Leonard has carefully wrapped four gifts – one for each of the people who are important to him. After he sees these four people and gives these four gifts, he will do the thing he most deeply want to do: he will shoot and kill Asher Beal. Then Leonard will shoot and kill himself.

Leonard wonders if this will make him famous for a while. He wonders how people will remember his final visits and conversations. He wonders if people will be frankly relieved to learn he is dead.

He thinks about his 18 years of life and the events that have led him to this. His story, riddled with elaborate footnotes and flashes of memory, reveal this: Leonard Peacock is smart. He is weird. He is depressed. And he is determined to die.

Random Thoughts

  • This is the same Matthew Quick that wrote Silver Linings Playbook. What an amazing storyteller.
  • I found myself deeply anxious as I consider all the children I see each day and what I don’t know about them.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Young people ready to think in complex ways about serious topics
  • Adults who work with teens
  • People prepared to spend the last 50 pages of a book crying quietly but steadily
 

“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.
 

“Lucid” by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass March 5, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:47 am
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Lucid cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

343 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Maggie and Sloane are two different girls from very different worlds. Maggie is an actress in New York City. Sloane is a small-town girl. But they are entwined by their dreams, each living the other’s life when it’s time to sleep.

Booktalk

Maggie is 16. A New York City actress. Sophisticated. Urbane. Fragmented family.  A loner. But when she goes to sleep each night, she lives a day in the life of Sloane. Sloane is a straight A high school student from a small town. Loving family. Close friends. When she closes her eyes at night, she is Maggie.

Two vividly drawn characters each live rich lives, full of family drama and the hopeful possibility of new love. Each enjoys the time spent in the other’s life. But both are plagued by the same worry – what is she is only a dream and someday I stop dreaming her? Worse – what if I’m a dream and someday she stops dreaming me?

Random Thoughts

I enjoyed each of these characters so much, it was devastating to think that one of them might turn out to not be real … until I had to slow down and realize that … neither one is real, really, right? It is, after all, a work of fiction. And a very enjoyable one.

 

“Vessel” by Sarah Beth Durst January 30, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:21 am
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Vessel cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

424 pages; September 2012

The Basics

As a chosen Vessel, Liyana is supposed to give her body to her clan’s goddess and drift away into the Dreaming. But when everything goes wrong and the goddess does not come, Liyana finds herself on a wild, desperate search for the magic needed to save her people.

Booktalk

Unlike most people, Liyana knows how she will die. She is the chosen Vessel of the Goat Clan. On the ordained day, as part of a carefully choreographed ceremony, she allow her soul to leave her body so that it can be filled by the Bayla, goddess of her clan. Liyana’s soul will travel forward into the Dreaming and Bayla – using Liyana’s well-prepared and well-trained body – will work the magic needed to save Liyana’s desert clan.

That’s how it was supposed to happen. Liyana did her part. She practiced. She dressed in a flowing robe. She marched to the oasis. She danced. But Bayla didn’t come. Liayana’s clan – believing she has been judged unworthy – leaves her to die.

But strong, smart, resourceful Liyana is not inclined to die. Korbyn, the god of the Raven Clan, appears and offers her an alternate explanation. Perhaps she was not rejected. Perhaps her goddess, among others, has been kidnapped and is in need of rescue. Together, they go on an epic quest to discover the secrets of the desert and what lies beyond.

Random Thoughts

1) I love an good opening line. This book starts, “On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family’s tent to see the dawn.” And just like that, I was all in.

2) I’m a sucker for great characters and Liyana and Korbyn are fantastic. I was crushed when our time together had to end.

3) Is that not a gorgeous cover?

 

“Episodes: Scenes from Life, Love, and Autism” by Blaze Ginsberg January 27, 2013

Filed under: Memoir/Biography,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:51 am
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Episodes cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

304 pages; published November 2012 (although it should be noted that this is an update of a 2009 publication, Episodes: My Life as I See It.)

The Basics

This unusual memoir offers a glimpse inside the mind of an autistic teen as he progresses through high school obsessed with recycling trucks, buses, going to basketball games, and getting a girlfriend. He has organized his memories in a format similar to IMDB (the Internet Movie Database), summarizing the key events of each “episode,” and including sections for “notes,” “quotes,” “goofs,” and “soundtrack.”

Review

The truth is, I didn’t like reading this book. I felt frustrated and impatient because I didn’t really care about many of the topics the author cares very passionately about and talks about over and over and over and over. However, I would still call it a “good” book because it got into my head and left me feeling like I had better understanding of how Ginsberg’s autistic mind works differently than mine.

He writes with a bleak honesty and occasional humor that is compelling. His stories were interesting. Ginsberg attended a special needs high school. He wants very much to make friends and he wants a girlfriend badly, but many of his relationships clearly stress him out. Buses are also stressful, because if they have the wrong kind of number or are the wrong kind of bus, he doesn’t like to ride on them. Recycling trucks are soothing and enjoyable, unless they don’t show up on schedule or the wrong truck comes. Then, they are stressful too.

Ginsberg’s family is another major theme in his writing. He has a large, loving extended family. His mother, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all appear frequently in episodes. A special series is devoted to Ginsberg’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, which is a huge family celebration.

The overall effect is undeniably interesting.

Quote that, in All Honesty, I Relate to More than Any Other in the Book

Maya (aunt): Try not to act so crazy.

 

“Stolen Into Slavery: The True Story of Solomon Northup” by Judith and Dennis Fradin January 16, 2013

Filed under: History,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 4:00 pm
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Stolen into Slavery cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

120 pages; published January 2012

The Basics

Solomon Northup was born a free black in New York and lived as a free black man for 33 years. In 1841, he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a slave trader. He survived 12 years of slavery in Louisiana before finding a way back to his wife and 3 children in New York state.

Booktalk

Humans of capable of doing terrible, terrible things. Solomon Northup was a husband, a father, and a free black man. In 1841, he was looking for work and made a connection to two white men who said they wanted to hire him to play his violin – an instrument he played with great skill – for a circus down the road. They traveled with him, ate with him, and gained his trust. They even helped him obtain papers proving he was a free man before the trio crossed into slave territory – Washington D.C. But the two men were just scheming. When they arrived in the nation’s capital, they carried out their real plan. They drugged Solomon and sold him to a slave trader for $650.

Solomon was not alone. Thousands of free blacks were stolen and illegally sold as slaves in the years before the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. There were laws against this, but as Solomon found, once he was in the hands of the slavers, he had no rights and no way of accessing the legal system. Solomon’s story – unlike the stories of many of these stolen lives – is known because after 12 years of living in slavery, he found a way to make contact and return to his home. In 1853, he published a book about his ordeal. That book is the basis for this story, which lays in out a simple narrative how it happened, how he survived, and all that Solomon had to endure.

It is the story of one man’s experience that increases understanding about the depth of the legacy of shame left by our nation’s slave past.