Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Silent Alarm” by Jennifer Banash April 21, 2015

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:40 am
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Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

336 pages; published March 2015

The Basics

When the gunshots start down the hall, Alys doesn’t even understand what is happening at first. She understand even less when she finds herself in the school library, victims bleeding at her feet, and looking down the barrel of the shotgun into the eyes of her beloved brother. He greets her. Turns. And shoots the girl next to her. In the end, he also shoots himself – leaving Alys to face a world shattered by violence, hatred, and grief.

The Review

This book is terrible to read, yet impossible to put down. Banash has tapped into a fear plaguing anyone who is or has a child in school these days – that the next school shooting will happen in a hallway near you. Then, she reaches deeper and taps into a fear no one wants to admit to – that their friend, their child, or even themselves – could be “the one.”

We see it all through Alys’ eyes, from the moment she realizes that her brother has become a monster. Alys and her parents are ostracized in the aftermath of the shooting. Alys is torn apart, feeling guilty for grieving the brother she adored as a child, trying to understand what changed in him, and trying to endure the anger, taunts, and rejection of schoolmates and former friends. It is a story that leaves an ache in your heart and belly. Painful, but so well done.

Random Thoughts

  •  One strangely distracting element was Alys’ name. She makes a huge deal several times about people mispronouncing it like “Alice,” when it’s supposed to be “Aleese.” In the face of what has happened, I kept thinking, “Oh, who cares?

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • A room full of librarians at the Oregon Library Association’s Annual Conference (done)
  • Teens looking for something that makes them cry
  • Fans of intense realistic fiction
  • People who, like me, get chills when they hear about the book’s premise
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“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

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

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

 

 

“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
 

“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
 

“All the Truth That’s In Me” by Julie Berry October 22, 2013

All the Truth That's in Me cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

274 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

A tiny town has been shattered by the murder of one of its girls and the kidnapping and mutilation of another. Judith is the one who returns, but finds no place in her family or the town horrified and confused by the discovery that her tongue has been cut out. Unable to speak the truth, she watches and contemplates.

The Booktalk

One small Puritan town. Two girls disappear in the same week. One is found floating, naked in the river. The other returns after two unsettling years. Her tongue is cut out. She is wrapped in silence and secrets.

Reviled by the community as “damaged,” now-mute Judith drifts ghostlike along the edges of her society, watching and listening. Most closely, she watched Lucas, a boy she has loved since childhood. He is the only source of kindness she still has.

When the tiny village comes under attack, but Lucas and Judith respond in the only ways they can think of – saving the village but shattering the uneasy balance of their lives. Loyalties shift.  Questions are asked. But no one is ready for what happens when Judith reveals All the Truth That’s In Me.

Random Thoughts

  • The dreamy style of this book is captivating. The story burbles out in small snippets, organized into chapterlets as small as a single line, and flows like water through a rocky creekbed until it trickles down to the riveting conclusion.
  • Although set in Puritan America, the book has some unmistakably contemporary sensibilities. Still, the setting somehow works in the end and the book becomes a memorable ride through the scandalous side of Puritanical life.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Readers asking for creepy mystery stories
  • Girls who like love stories
  • People interested in unique writing styles
 

“Revolver” by Marcus Sedgwick August 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:59 am
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Revolver cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

224 pages; published July 2009

The Basics

A boy sits in a remote cabin with the frozen body of his dead father, waiting for help to arrive. What arrives instead is his worst nightmare – a huge murderous man who steps out of his father’s past.

Booktalk

Sig Andersson is stuck alone in a cabin north of the Arctic Circle. His only company? His father’s dead, frozen body slowly melting on the kitchen table. Sig waits, hoping his sister and step-mother will bring help from the nearby town. Instead, danger arrives in the form of a mountainous man who insists he is owed part of the bounty stolen by Sig’s father 10 years before in the goldfields of Nome, Alaska. Seeing as Sig’s father is unavailable, the man says, he figures now it is Sig who owes him.

With no idea about stolen gold, but sure the man would not hesitate to use the gun on his hip, Sig is desperate to get his hands on the family treasure he does know about – a revolver hidden in the pantry.

I’ll Recommend this to …

  • Students (particularly boys) who have been assigned to or want to read historical fiction
  • Readers asking for mysteries,  thrillers, or realistic fiction
  • Anyone who wants a story that gets your attention right away

Awards/Honors (source: GoodReads.com):

  • Printz Honor Book (2011)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
  • ALA’s Top Ten Best books for Young Adults (2011)
  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)

 

 

“Money Run” by Jack Heath May 28, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:44 am
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Money Run cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Ash is a 16-year-old master thief. Benjamin is her super-techie-genius sidekick. Together, they are planning the daring, high-stakes heist of a lifetime – ripping off the super-rich, super-crafty Hammond Buckland. When a deadly assassin and a team of government agents get added to the mix, it’s clear that nothing about this mission is going to be easy.

The Booktalk

Hammond Buckland is not just rich, he’s super-rich, crazy rich, so rich he doesn’t know what to do with it all. Ash – ingenious teen thief – wants some of what he’s got and she has chosen today to steal $200 million dollars she knows is hiding in his fancy office building. It’s the most ambitious heist she and her techie-backup Benjamin have ever tried. Ash knows it’s going to be a challenge. She loves a challenge. But she never could have bargained for what she gets – a wild cat-and-mouse game involving a dangerously evil assassin, mysterious passageways, suspicious powders, and one flying car.

It’s non-stop action with endless mind-boggling twists on this Money Run.

But Wait … There’s More

Billed as #1 in the Ashley Arthur series, Money Run offers a great lead in to more adventures with a charming youthful criminal duo. Second in the series, Hit List has been released in Australia.