Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Of Metal and Wishes” by Sarah Fine September 16, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:25 am
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Of Metal and Wishes cover

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The Facts

320 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Wen’s life is disintegrating. After her mother died and she was forced to move into the compound of a factory where her father serves as the doctor, she gets drawn into the social tension that grips the Itanyai workers when 200 Noor willing to work cheap are brought in. As illness and injury grip the compound, Wen is drawn into the mystery of the “Ghost” who haunts the workers.

Book Talk

It starts as an angry impulse. Wen is embarrassed after one of the new, barbaric Noor workers lifts her dress and shows her underthings in the factory cafeteria. She impulsively approaches the shrine other workers have set up to communicate with the factory Ghost and – while also proclaiming her disbelief – challenges the Ghost to avenge her. When the Ghost grants her wish in a terrible way, the ripple effect of her flash of anger lead to death, social unrest, a budding forbidden romance, and the slow reveal of all the factory’s many dark secrets.

Random Thoughts

  • The author has taken the concept of the Phantom of the Opera and moved it to a startling post-industrial Asian setting. Her creative re-telling and the beauty of the writing create something deeply compelling.
  • This was an intense book. I was at turns enthralled and disturbed, thoughtful and grossed out.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is a series opener. Of Dreams and Rust is set for publication in August 2015.

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of Phantom of the Opera
  • Readers who love romantic stories
  • People with a high tolerance for gore
  • Older teens who love fantasy and dystopia

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

Splintered cover

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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.


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.


  • 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

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

Man Made Boy cover

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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.


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



“The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson October 9, 2013

The Name of the Star cover

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The Facts

372 pages; published September 2011

The Basics

On the very day that Rory Deveaux moves from Louisiana to London, someone starts recreating the Jack the Ripper murders. As Rippermania grips the city, Rory gets drawn into the center of the increasingly strange mystery.


Louisiana native Rory Deveaux is a fish out of water when she shows up to the London boarding school where she will be spending her final years of high school. It’s hard to say which is funnier – her wacky stories about the bayou town and redneck neighbors she left behind, or her hilarious observations about the strange life of English schoolchildren.

But Rory’s new life also has a dark side. On the same day she landed in London, a killer began recreating the Jack the Ripper murders in gruesome detail. Then Rory comes face to face with a mysterious stranger on a dark London night – a stranger no one else can see. As news spreads of her odd encounter, she finds herself pulled ever deeper into the baffling and vastly creepy mystery.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is just #1 in the Shades of London series. #2 in the series – The Madness Underneath (February 2013) is also very satisfying; #3 – The Shadow Cabinet – is due out in 2014.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Mystery lovers
  • Fans of ghost stories
  • Anyone with a sense of humor
  • Readers fascinated by famous serial killers like Jack the Ripper
  • Honestly, anyone who asks for a good book. I loved it that much!



“Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses” by Ron Koertge, illustrated by Andrew Dezso October 2, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Poetry,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:29 am
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Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses cover

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The Facts

87 pages; published July 2012

The Basics

What happens after the fairy tales? Is it really so easy to know which characters are good and which are bad? Wasn’t Goldilocks really just a brat? Ron Koertge reveals a different take on stories you thought you knew in short, witty, memorable verse.

The Booktalk

“Do you want to sleep? Find another storyteller. Do you want to think about the world in a new way” Come closer. Closer, please. I want to whisper in your ear.”

If the first page doesn’t get you, this new way of looking at our most revered fairy tale characters certainly will. Sexy, vengeful Cinderella sends birds to pluck out the eyes of her stepsisters. The mole spews bitter memories of Thumbelina. The former Beast longs for his animal days. Watch out for Hansel and Gretel – who love each other a little too much. And have you ever wondered what it would be like to be swallowed whole by a wolf? Red Riding Hood did and so, okay, now, she’s like ready to tell you all about it and about that weird woodcutter who was all like, “Maybe next time you’d like to see my ax.” Gross!

Random Thoughts

The stark, cut paper illustrations are amazing. And the stories are hilarious – in a really dark, wrong, hysterical way.


“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer March 20, 2012

Cinder coverThe Facts:

Published January 2012; 387 pages; #1 in the Lunar Chronicles series

The Basics:

Cinder is a cyborg, considered subclass in New Bejing where people are mainly preoccupied with two things – the upcoming Imperial Ball and the plague which is ravaging the population. A talent mechanic, Cinder finds herself face to face with the prince, seeking a fix for his nannybot. She soon finds herself wrapped up in his attempts to avoid being conquered by the moon-based Lunar forces, find a cure for the plague, and find a date for the ball.

The Review:

Cinder packs in a lot of excitement in 387 pages, with friends and family afflicted with the plague, people with secret identities all over the place, all manner of mechanized things to fix, Lunar forces bearing down, and a prince chasing her all over town. Cinder’s prince is allow far more personality than the original Prince Charming and is one of the most pleasing characters in the book. Her wicked stepmother is really awful, even happily selling Cinder to science so they can kill her off as a plague test subject. Cinder is clever and smart, which adds to her appeal. One problem is that the book ends before anything has really happened. A lot of things start to happen, but it’s a long, complicated lead up to the final page and the promise that something will happen in book 2. Still, it’s entertaining and the attempt to re-cast Cinderella is fun and appealing.


“I am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee” by Charles J. Shields October 9, 2011

Shields, Charles J. I am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. 212 pp. ISBN: 0805083340

Cover image for "I am Scout"

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Aside from knowing that she authored one of the most enduring American classics, To Kill a Mockingbird, few people know much about the life and times of Harper Lee. Charles Shields builds her story from extensive interviews from those who have known the reclusive author, shining a light on her childhood, life as a writer, and reasons for never publishing again after the meteoric success of her book.


Charles Shields has been much lauded for the careful research that drove a masterfully written biography of Harper Lee. Although most American young adults read To Kill a Mockingbird and many appreciate its finer qualities, it is assigned reading. This makes it difficult to believe that large numbers of them will become independently interested in the author who penned the words so long ago and want to read her biography. Those who do develop that interest are likely to be disappointed by Shields’ book when they discover that Harper Lee ultimately has led a fairly dull life – which is how she seems to have wanted it. There is only so much that can be made of the process of writing one book and then retreating from the public eye. He relies too much on her relationship with the more dramatic Truman Capote, perhaps forgetting that Capote is somewhat passé for today’s young adult readers.

As a reader, I felt a bit sheepish as Lee obviously wishes to be left alone and is unlikely to be pleased to see bits of gossip from her friends and neighbors spun into not one, but two biographies. Shields has re-worked material from Mockingbird, a biography of Lee aimed at adult audiences. It seems to me that his missed his goal of creating an engaging story for younger readers.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • 2009 American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
  • Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
  • Arizona Grand CanyonYoung Readers Master List