Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister” by Amélie Sarn, translated by Y. Maudet October 4, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:48 am
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I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

152 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Devout Muslim Sohane struggles to deal with her grief and conflicting emotions about her more worldly sister, Djelila, who has been killed by religious extremists.

The Booktalk

Heart-shredding sadness abounds in this gorgeously written story of two French sisters of Algerian descent. Sohane is older. A devout Muslin, she has made the choice to wear a hijab (headscarf). Her family is baffled, the women in her community are indignant, and her school expels her. Her younger sister, Djelila, is on another path, rejecting their Algerian and Muslim heritage, wearing jeans and revealing clothing, and playing basketball at their French school. When her path crosses a gang of punky Muslim teens who want their women more traditional, the situation becomes deadly, leaving Sohane to struggle wit an almost unbearable burden of anger and grief.

Random Thoughts

  • The elegance and poetry of the writing is simply stunning.
  • This book is a deeply painful reflection on freedom and the many ways in which people interfere with each other.
  • There are insights into both expat Algerian and French culture that are both puzzling and worth thinking about.
  • The story has its roots in an actual crime in France, which makes it all the more tragic.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Sophisticated readers of realistic fiction
  • Teens with a keen interest in writing
  • Anyone who wants a story that expands their understanding of the world
  • People looking for stories guaranteed to make them cry
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“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
 

“The Sittin’ Up” by Shelia P. Moses May 31, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:22 am
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Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Mr. Bro. Wiley, the last man living in Low Meadows who was born into slavery, takes his last breath. Twelve-year-old Bean, who loves him just like everyone else in Low Meadows, looks on with his heart breaking. Then, it is time for the community to grieve and to prepare for the sittin’ up, the night they will spend together with Mr. Bro. Wiley’s body before the funeral.

Review

Set in 1940, this quiet book explores a crucial pivot point in a community’s history. Mr. Bro. Wiley is a deeply beloved elder who was born a slave to the Wiley family. Freed by the Civil War, he has provided wisdom and leadership to the black community that transitioned from slaves on the Wiley plantation to sharecroppers for the Wiley family. When Mr. Bro. Wiley dies, 12-year-old Bean tells the story of a community that grieves, mixing in keen observation about the shifting dynamic between the black and white communities. He sees how the world is changing as two black families have settled into Rich Square in town and as Bean and his best friend, Pole, plan a future far away from sharecropping as a lawyer and a doctor. As the days march toward Mr. Bro. Wiley’s final homecoming, for the ritual of sittin’ up with the body at home on the final night before the funeral, a weather system is also moving in which will force the residents of Low Meadows and Rich Square together in a whole new way.

While there is not much action in The Sittin’ Up, Bean is quite a storyteller. His perspective on life and the changing racial dynamics in his community are riveting. It is a gentle middle grade introduction to what changed – and what didn’t – in the South in the post-Civil War era.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Many middle school classrooms during school visits
  • Middle grade teachers looking for diverse books to share with students
  • Younger teens interested in realistic or historical fiction
 

“Coaltown Jesus” by Ron Koertge October 24, 2013

Filed under: Books,Christian,Fiction,Poetry,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:30 am
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Coaltown Jesus cover

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The Facts

128 pages; published October 2013

The Basics

Simply told in spare verse, this is the chuckle-worthy story of a boy who spends a few days with a wryly witty Jesus (who would have arrived sooner if not for some bad traffic on the I-55) after Walker prays for help for his grieving mother.

Review

Having howled my way through the darkly hilarious Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, I simply had to invited Coaltown Jesus to come home with me. Because it is both a slim book and written in verse, it takes barely any time to read. Processing it fully, however, takes more time.

Walker is completely torn up inside after the untimely death of his beloved, but troubled brother. Living above the private nursing home owned by their mother, Walker wonders, “Didn’t God look downstairs? It’s a nursing home. Half my mom’s clients are ready to check out. But he picks a kid.” With his own grief pressing in, Walker prays that God will fix his mother, who is shattered by the loss.

Enter Jesus, a fast-talking, smart-mouth who shows up late and needing to check his email – “robe, sandals, beard – just like my action figure.” He doesn’t like being called The Anointed One (“Makes me feel greasy”) and admits that camels may have been a mistake born of a long day of creation (“You try creating a whole world without even a snack”). Who knew Jesus was such a card?

Between quips, however, Jesus finds his own way to attend to the business of healing and may indeed be the answer to Walker’s prayers.

Random Thoughts

I couldn’t decide if this book was irreverent or very reverent indeed. Because why couldn’t the King of kings have a sense of humor? In fact, don’t we have a lot of evidence that He must?

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • People who enjoy the unexpected
  • Anyone with a quirky sense of humor
  • Families who are grieving
  • Students who need to read a book – quick!
 

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

All the Truth That's in Me cover

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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

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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)

 

 

“Level 2” by Lenore Appelhans February 20, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Thriller — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:26 am
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Level 2 cover

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The Facts

288 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Felicia West, after a brief life and a tragic death, contentedly spends her days reliving memories of her happier times on earth and making new friends in the high-tech “hive” that has become her world. When an outsider steps from her past and through the wall of her hive, she finds herself on the run and wrapped up in a wild plot that may have her knocking on heaven’s door.

Booktalk

Felicia West, age 17, now dead, has landed in what is essentially purgatory – suspended between heaven and earth in a high-tech world where memories are relived, shared, and traded through a sort of purgatory intranet. Enclosed in a smooth, white hive with several other dead teens, Felicia passes her time making new friends and “plugging in” to the network to drift through the key moments of her own life. A blast from her past – in the form of an old boyfriend who suddenly breaks into the hive – turns her placid afterlife into a wild adventure as she is pulled into a rebel network challenging the practices of the half-fallen angels who run Level 2.

Because of the access to earth-bound memories, the book is a sci-fi adventure interlaced with realistic fiction. As Felicia re-plays select scenes from her short life, we slowly piece together the mystery of why she died, why she might not be heaven-worthy, and why she is so important to the rebel cause.

Random Thoughts

There were parts of this book that made very little sense to me, but it was an intriguing premise. I felt a stronger affinity for Felicia’s “real” life, which is doled out in little bites with some heavy foreshadowing. I was heavily engaged in the struggle to find out what she had done in life that was so, so terrible. My mind wasn’t exactly blown by the answer, but it was a satisfying conclusion.

But Wait! There’s More …

This is Book 1 of  The Memory Chronicles. Level 3 is expected out in 2014.