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
 

“When Audrey Met Alice” by Rebecca Behrens September 25, 2014

When Audrey Met Alice cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

304 pages; published February 2014

The Basics

The Audrey is question is the only child of the first female president of the United States. At 13, she is chafing under the many restrictions of being the First Daughter, looking on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave as more of a prison than an honor. She finds the 1902 diary of former First Daughter Alice Roosevelt and enters into a wonderful relationship with this spirited historic figure, taking inspiration from Alice’s antics during her days as a White House resident.

Booktalk

You would think being the daughter of a president and living in the White House would be glamorous and amazing. That’s not what Audrey Rhodes – daughter of American’s first female president – would tell you. With her mother busy running the country, Audrey is stuck alone this big old house that is definitely not home with a bunch of uptight staffers. She can’t even have friends over because they don’t have security clearance. And now she’s being left out of her class trip to New York because it’s too tricky for the Secret Service. When Audrey stumbles across a diary hidden under the floorboards by former First Daughter Alice Roosevelt, eldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, she discovers that someone understands what a pain it is to be trapped by presidential protocol and rigid expectations. Alice’s wild behavior while living in the White House was the stuff of many scandals in the early 1900s. Her stories get Audrey thinking that maybe she has been a little too easy to tame and she strikes out to put the fun back in being a First Daughter.

Random Thoughts

  • Both characters are delightful and the story is sweet. This is perfect middle grade girl fare.
  • I have a special spot in my heart for Alice Roosevelt. You just have to admire her spunk and creativity. When Teddy Roosevelt forbade her from smoking in the White House, for example, Alice took her cigarettes up to the roof. One of the best “real” quotes in the book comes from the day TR famously said, “I can either run the country or I can control Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Many middle schoolers and teachers as I booktalk during class visits
  • Teens who like light-hearted stories
  • Readers interested in fun approaches to exploring history
  • Fans of the Roosevelts
  • All girls named Alice
 

“Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year” by Ramsey Beyer September 26, 2013

Little Fish cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

272 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

Lists, journal entries, reflections, comic strips, and drawings are blended together to tell the sweet, sometimes funny story of a girl leaving a small, small town to be a little fish in the big pond of art school in Baltimore.

Booktalk

Ramsey Beyer was a shy girl who loved art and punk rock, growing up in Paw Paw, Michigan. Although she had a great family and good friends, she didn’t quite feel like Paw Paw was “her” place. If you’ve ever felt that way, you will relate to this book. Ramsey does the brave thing and heads out – 600 miles away to attend art school in Baltimore. She makes new friends, gets homesick, gets a crush, learns new things, has great adventures, gets sad sometimes, and changes her major. She tells it all in her own style, through reproducing lists and journal entries from when she was in college, as well as new drawings and comic strips. It is beautiful to look at and beautiful to read as you find out what it is like for this little fish to learn to swim in a new pond.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Readers who like realistic fiction
  • Seniors who are nervous about college
  • Graphic novel and art fans
  • Other people who make lists

A Page from Little Fish …

There are LOTS of lists. They are very interesting.

 

Image courtesy of zestbooks.net

 

“Zen and the Art of Faking It” by Jordan Sonnenblick January 5, 2013

Zen and the Art of Faking It cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

264 pages; published October 2007

The Basics

San Lee has been the “new kid” in school many times in his life. This move from Texas from Pennsylvania is the most difficult yet, because of what he left behind – his father and any money the family once had. Far from wanting to just be himself, San looks for an identity to hide behind and – through a series of strange circumstances – hits on Zen Master. Even he doesn’t think he can pull it off, but somehow everyone starts to buy into his adopted persona.

Review

This excellent book was a recently selection for a library teen book club. One of the readers really nailed it when she said, “I thought it was interesting how he really is faking it, but he works so hard at faking it that by the time everyone else realizes he’s been lying, he’s kind of become what he was pretending to be.”

San Lee is completely charming as he tries to figure out how to cope with (a) moving to some tiny Pennsylvania town in winter with only sandals to wear as he slogs through the snow, (b) his father’s absence and his own anger about it, and (c) falling head over heels in love with Woody, his new school’s guitar-playing songstress and not having a clue how to act when she likes him back. A Chinese kid adopted by white parents, San trades on people’s prejudices and the fact that he’s a bit ahead of the curve when the class starts a unit on Zen Buddhism (he had a little introduction to Zen in a World History class last year in Texas). He manages to convince everyone that he really IS a Zen Master and finds himself teaching Zen free throws to the basketball team.

Jordan Sonnenblick has knack for writing humorous stories that also tug at the heart.

 

 

 

“Far From You” by Lisa Schroeder December 24, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Poetry,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Far From You cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

355 pages; published December 2008

The Basics

Alice misses her mom – who died of cancer a few years ago – and resents the heck out of her new stepmother, the father who has re-focused on his new wife, and now the baby they’ve decided to add to the family. All her emotional turmoil comes to a head when she gets trapped in a snowstorm with her stepmother and half-sister. Suddenly, survival is more important than anything.

Review

Lisa Schroeder tells a riveting, emotion-packed story in simple, pared down concrete poetry. She explores the experience of Alice, who is feeling badly out of sorts. Despite having a new boyfriend, a best friend, and a loving (if distracted) father, she is almost completely overwhelmed by the loss of her mother. Then, things start to go really wrong. Her friend gets tired of her maudlin obsession. Her father and stepmother have a new baby, leaving her feeling like she doesn’t have a place in her own home. And then, on a road trip from California to Seattle, the unthinkable happens. She, her half-sister, and her step mother get stranded in a snow storm. Faced with a true life-or-death situation, Alice finds herself able to see her loved ones – living and dead – in a new way.

Random Thought

I’m not a poetry fan and tend to be leery of stories told in poetic form, but I found this concrete poetic narrative both engaging and memorable.

 

“What I Saw and How I Lied” by Judy Blundell November 29, 2012

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

284 pages; published November 2008

The Basics

After the post World War II of return of her officer step-father, Joe Spooner, Evie’s family takes off to Florida abruptly. Everybody seems to be hiding something, and things get even more complicated when they are joined by Peter, a handsome young GI who steals Evie’s heart and seems to hold a strange thrall over Joe.

Review

It sucks to be a teenager with self-absorbed, self-indulgent parents who lack any sort of moral compass. So, Evie’s life sucks. Her slutty mom and overbearing step-father are really very unpleasant people, not directly to Evie, but really in general. But Evie’s kind of sweet. She’s got a lot of things figured out but misses some key points as a mystery starts to brew around her parents, who seem to be hiding from something after dashing the family off to Florida. Things get really complicated when a GI from her step-father’s unit runs into them down in Florida (or tracks them down?) and begins romancing Evie. I read this for a teen book discussion group and thought it was interesting that the main concern of every teen there was why on earth Evie was allowed (even encouraged?) to have a romantic relationship with a shady 25-year-old. I would refer back to the parental lack of moral compass. As the mystery fully unfolds, I gained a new appreciation for Evie who becomes quite the interesting and multilayered character.

Random Thoughts

There is an interesting dimension in this book that explores the strong anti-Semitism on American shores during the era. Sad to consider that the same solider who helped free Jews from Nazi control could not tolerate to sit at the same table at Jews back home.

 

“The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls” by Julie Schumacher October 8, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls cover

Images courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published May 2012

The Basics

Here’s what you know from the beginning. Four couldn’t-be-more-different girls (a Popular Girl, an Unpopular Girl, a Smart Girl, and a Strange Girl with Secrets) are forced into a summer mother-daughter book club. And somebody dies. But there’s a lot to learn before you know who and why and what’s really going on.

Booktalk

Adrienne Haus started her summer as one super-frustrated young lady. Because of a broken knee, she’s been left behind while her best friend goes on an epic camping adventure. Back home, Adrienne’s mother commits them to participating in a mother-daughter book club with three other girls – also stuck in lame West New Hope, Delaware this summer – who could not be less like the kind of people Adrienne wants to spend time with. Suddenly, she’s thrust into some  kind of friendship with super-popular Cee-Cee, super-smart Jill, and super-weird Wallis, trying to figure out what’s what while also preparing for 11th grade English class.  There are confusing situations, a cute boy, deep discussions, not-so-deep discussions, missing items, strange figures in the mist, and more confusing situations. Then somebody dies. But before you know who, you get to know and like all the more-interesting-than-you’d-think-from-the-surface members of the Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.

Random Thought

Mostly funny, sometimes sweet, and definitely unexpected. A great summer read, with just enough provocative insights to entice some readers to go on to enjoy the same excellent novels by and about women read by the Unbearable Book Club:

  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula. LeGuin