Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial” by Darryl Cunningham June 12, 2014

How to Fake a Moon Landing cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

176 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

In a traditional, multi-panel graphic novel format, Darryl Cunningham is succint and direct as he refutes for the claims of science deniers, pseudoscientific theories, and claims of hoaxes. Sections cover the moon landing, homeopathy, chiropractic care, MMR vaccines, evolution, fracking, climate change, and science denial itself.

Review

Interesting and fast-paced, How to Fake a Moon Landing pulls no punches. Cunningham takes each of the eight science denial scenarios head-on, explaining the claims of the believers and then tearing them apart. Each section includes a rich amout of history and background on the topic, as well as the “claims vs facts.” I was impressed by how much information he packed in and his ability to simply and clearly address conversations which have generated a cacophony of debate. I have booktalked this in several classrooms now. I find it good to acknowledge that the book has a high potential to offend, but even more potential to inform and to encourage further independent research on the part of the reader.

Random Thoughts

  • I believe my favorite fact is that Daniel Palmer, the man who performed the first chiropractic adjustment, died a few weeks after a “strange incident in which his son ran over him with a car.” The next panel observes, “the official cause of death was typhoid, but being run over couldn’t have helped.”
  • How anyone ever came up with the practice of fracking is beyond me.

I Will Recommend This to …

  • Practically everyone – I just keep talking about it.
  • Kids who need to read a science-based book for this year’s Summer Reading Club.
  • Anyone interested in one of the eight topics covered.
  • Teachers looking for an engaging, yet informative book for their classroom libraries.
 

“Splintered” by A.G. Howard May 3, 2014

Splintered cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

371 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Alyssa is a sassy, artistic skater girl and the great-great granddaughter of THE Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame. Tortured by the curse that has plagued the women in the family since Alice’s return, Alyssa seeks out the rabbit hole in a wild-eyed attempt to save her mother from irreparable damage in an insane asylum.

Booktalk

See, what you don’t know is that Wonderland didn’t come from Lewis Carroll’s imagination. It was a real place – a place Alice Liddell visited as a young girl, returning forever changed and forever strange. Her legacy has passed through generations of women in her family to her great-great granddaughter Alyssa Gardner. Alyssa is an intense, risk-taking skater girl, an artist, a vintage fashionista, and is plagued by her ability to hear bugs and flowers talk. She is pushed to the edge when her father decides to administer shock treatments to the mother who has been confined in an asylum since Alyssa’s childhood. Alyssa plunges into the rabbit hole, looking for answers and a way to undo the curse brought on by the mistakes of her ancestor. Her Wonderland isn’t so quaint and pretty as Alice’s. Accompanied by her “above-ground” handsome best friend, Jeb, and led through Wonderland by the disturbing and sexy Morpheus, Alyssa faces a psychedelic array of creepy and dangerous creatures.

But Wait! There’s More:

The sequel, Unhinged, was released in january 2014 and a third book – Ensnared – is expected out in 2015.

Awards/Honors

  • Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (2014)
  • Winter 2012 Kids Indie Next List (2012)
  • YALSA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee

I‘ll Recommend This Too …

  • LOTS of people
  • Anyone who loved Alice in Wonderland
  • Readers who enjoy fantasy
  • Teens looking for clean, but pulse-pounding romance
  • Fans of vivid, beautiful writing and strange, creative stories
 

“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
 

“Man Made Boy” by Jon Skovron December 29, 2013

Man Made Boy cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

368 pages; published October 2013

The Basics

Boy – the stitched-together son of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride – has grown up in isolation and is aching to see the real world. When he makes a break for it, he finds the outside world is both complicated and offers untold adventures.

Booktalk

Boy is basically a typical modern teen growing up in New York City. He feels a bit resentful of his parents. He’s rebellious and feels trapped by his life. He’s got a crush on a pretty girl. He’s into computers. Except that the parents Boy is resenting are Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride, who built their son from body parts stolen from area morgues. And he really is trapped – living underground and backstage in The Show, a theater company for magical creatures. And the pretty girl he’s crushing on is a green-skinned, silver-eyed troll. And he has just used his computer to create an advanced artificial intelligence with disturbing powers.

When Boy strikes out to try to make it on his own in the real world, he finds life on the outside offers him both more – and less – than he bargained for. His unique situation leads to a wild cross-country adventure filled with mythology and magic, intense danger, pretty girls, and more drama than ever graced the stage of The Show.

Random Thoughts

This book was a clever and fun romp. Boy won my heart almost immediately. The world might see him as a monster, but we know he’s just plain good people.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who think they know everything about computers and gaming
  • Readers who are intrigued by mythology
  • Adventure and action fans
  • Teens who are interested in something a little quirky

 

 

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell November 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:00 am
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Eleanor & Park cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

328 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Eleanor is a curvy red-headed girl with strange clothes and no place on the bus because she’s the new girl after weeks of school and the pecking order has already been established. Park is the mixed-race Korean American boy at the fringe of the social order who gives her a place to sit in a begrudging burst of profanity. From that awkward foundation, a breathtakingly beautiful, complex, frustrating, epic romance grows.

Review

I loved Park. I wish he could have been my boyfriend.
I loved Eleanor. I’m pretty sure I knew her in high school and I loved her then too.
I loved that the jerks at the back of the bus had layers to them and were more than just evil, although not much more.
I loved how slowly Eleanor and Park fell in love.
I loved it whenever they held hands.
I loved that they thought no one else would see.
I love, loved Park’s parents – that they were so loving and so flawed and so complex that for once, parents in a YA novel felt like genuine people.
I loved that Eleanor tried so hard to still be in spite of her horrid, horrid stepfather and awful father and broken mother.
I loved Mr. Stessman, the English teacher, because he was a hopeless, sweet dork who truly loved literature and admired Eleanor.
I loved Mrs. Dunn, the guidance counselor, because she tried.
I loved Denice and Bebe because they stuck up for and with Eleanor and because they were just fun characters.
I loved the attention to detail.
I loved the way it was written.
I loved the love story.
I loved the ending, however painful it was.
I loved that I got to read this story.

I Will Recommend This To …

  • Fans of John Green and David Levithan
  • Readers who like to be emotionally shattered and sobbing
  • Mature youth and adults looking for a mature love story
  • People who aren’t afraid of a little (or – OK – a lot of) profanity

Random Thoughts

  • I listened to Eleanor & Park on audiobook, which I highly recommend. The readers – Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra – are fantastic.
  • I resisted reading Eleanor & Park for a long time because I thought it would make me sad. I was right. It was devastating. I’m so glad I finally read it.
 

“If You Find Me” by Emily Murdoch November 19, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:47 am
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If You Fine Me cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Carey and Janessa are sisters living in the base circumstances – shivering, hungry, and abused in a broken-down trailer hidden deep in the woods by a neglectful, meth-addled mother. When they are found and taken back the world, the transition is harrowing, despite many good intentions, as the girls struggle to adjust to the unfamiliar and to clutch onto the most terrible secrets about their former life.

The Booktalk

Imagine being 14 and the most responsible person in your family. Carey’s mother is strung out on meth, willing to do anything (anything) for a fix. Carey’s sister is only six and doesn’t speak, hasn’t spoken since the worst night – the night of the white stars. Imagine being stolen by your own mother when you were just four years old and hidden in a trailer deep in the woods with no electricity, not enough food, not enough clothing, no bed, no toilet – nothing but fear and hiding – for 10 years. Imagine raising your own sister because your mother won’t.  Then imagine being found and taken to a house with a bed and a shower and toilet and plenty of warmth and clothes and food.  Wonderful, yes, but strange too. Then add school and other children and television and cell phones and all the things you don’t know anything about because you’ve been held captive in the woods. And then imagine that on top of it all, you have a terrible, terrible secret.

It’s all pressing down on Carey – her old bad fortune, her new good fortune – and the weight of all might be too much.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Readers curious about psychology, PTSD, mental illness, and the impact of drug use
  • People with large boxes of tissues to wipe their tears
 

The Quote that Keeps Coming Back to Me and Making My Eyes Sting … from “Coaltown Jesus” by Ron Koertge October 24, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Quotes,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:53 am
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Coaltown Jesus quote