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
 

“Beyond the Door” by Maureen Doyle McQuerry May 24, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:37 am
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Beyond the Door cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

384 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Siblings Timothy and Sarah Maxwell and an unlikely ally are drawn into a new adventure spun from Celtic myth.

Booktalk

The night started as a dull evening home with the babysitter Timothy James doesn’t think he needs anymore. But Timothy’s life takes an unexpected turn when an open door lets in living, breathing characters from Celtic myth. As Timothy learns why he might be the target of the hunt for Herne and his hounds, he also learns there is more than he ever suspected to The Clapper, his middle-aged babysitter, and to Jessica, the bully who has been torturing him for years. Drawn first into a wild and dangerous adventure on the ritual night of Beltrane, and then into a magic Market in a mad quest to save his mother, Timothy finds himself at the apex of the struggle between Light and Dark.

Random Thoughts

  •  This enticing middle grade fantasy covers a lot of ground – mythology, danger, bullying, Scrabble, family loyalty, fate, and evil.
  • For more patient and persistent readers than I, this book offers a wonderful bonus – a coded message in Ogham running along the bottoms of the pages.

But Wait, There’s More!

Beyond the Door is the first in the Time Out of Time series that is to continue with The Telling Stone at a yet-to-be-named date.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of Rick Riordan’s mythology-infused novels
  • Middle-grade readers eager for adventure
  • Parents looking for “appropriate” reading matter for their teens
  • Kids who hope they too might have a secret calling
 

“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

 

 

“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

 

 

“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
 

“Road Trip” by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen April 28, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:24 pm
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Road Trip cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

128 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Ben’s father drags him away on a last-minute road trip on the first day of summer vacation. The mission: to pick up a border collie in need of rescue. The other mission: to get father and son to face what has been driving them apart. As their trip expands to include a random mish-mash of interesting characters, Ben and his dad both have the chance to face up to what is changing in their lives. Through it all, their dog, Atticus, keeps a close eye on them and shares his wise observations about these humans he has to keep in line.

The Booktalk

Atticus is a 15-year-old border collie who has done an excellent job of managing his family – Ben (the boy),  his Dad (the boss) and his Mom. But today – the first day of Ben’s summer vacation – Atticus is on high alert. He’s been dragged into the truck between Ben and Dad who are off on an unplanned trip to pick up a rescue puppy. As if this family needs a dog. Atticus doesn’t want a dog, of all things. Dogs are messy and needy. But Atticus has no choice but to go along, because he can see that something is wrong. The boss and the boy aren’t really getting along. The boy doesn’t know why the boss has been gone so much lately and the boss doesn’t seem to be able to find the right words to make him understand.

Then, they keep inviting other people along on the ride – the boy who smells like smoke, the man who smells like grease, and the girl who smells like pancakes and bacon. There’s a lot of people and some strange things going on, but Atticus is just to dog to sniff out what’s right and what’s wrong as the Road Trip really takes off.

Random Thoughts

This slim offering is a joint venture between the author of the deeply beloved Hatchet and his son. It is good, clean fun for middle grade readers looking for something that really moves along, especially readers who enjoy animals. The chapters written in the voice of Atticus, the border collie, add the perfect touch to the story.

 

“Poison” by Bridget Zinn April 2, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:41 am
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Poison

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The Facts

288 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Kyra is on the run after a failed attempt to assassinate her best friend and the future queen of Mohr. As a Master Potioner and weapons expert who never, never misses, Kyra knows the attempt on her friend’s life should not have failed. And she knows – as only she can know – that Mohr will be destroyed if she doesn’t find the princess and finish the job. If only her life weren’t being complicated by the entire kings guard, one awfully cute little pig, and one distractingly handsome traveler named Fred who keeps wandering into her path.

Booktalk

Kyra is really just like any other 16-year-old girl. Except that she’s a super-clever and resourceful potions master. And a weapons expert that never misses (well, there was that one time …) Oh, and the best friend of the princess of the Kingdom of Mohr who Kyra recently tried to kill for very good reasons that no one else knows about.

But she missed (how did that happen, again?), which turned Kyra into a fugitive, on the run from the king’s army and just about everyone else. Her only companion is her weapons, her wit, her potioner’s bag, and a seeker pig that just couldn’t be cuter. Also, there is the matter of the devastatingly handsome Fred and his dog Langley who keep appearing out of nowhere and hanging around.

In fact, Kyra isn’t much like any other girl or anyone you’ve ever met or read about. Which is why readers – especially those looking for good, clean fantasy – should rush to get their hands on the non-stop action, witty fun, and wild twists and turns of Poison.

Random Thoughts

  • The sad part of this very enjoyable book is that the author died at the age of just 31 and did not live to see its publication. Her friends and fellow authors have championed her legacy in an amazing and touching way. I offer my thanks to Inara Scott – author The Talents and The Marked – for recommending it.
  • If I had better aim, I can think of times when I would love to have some of Kyra’s throwing needles dipped in Doze.