Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

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

The Name of the Star cover

Images courtesy of

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!



“Etiquette and Espionage” by Gail Carriger May 11, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:50 am
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Etiquette and Espionage cover

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The Facts

307 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Sophronia has a special talent for getting herself into undignified situations and causing trouble. After her latest mishap  Sophoronia’s quite proper mother has had enough. It’s off to finishing school with her wayward daughter. Sophoronia’s horror at the thought of being “finished” into a proper lady is soon replaced with delight as she discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is as likely to teach you how to poison your tablemate as to do a proper curtsy.

The Booktalk

Sophronia is not like other girls. She likes to climb and sneak and invent and take things apart and generally cause trouble. Exciting? Yes, but not a great fit for her proper Victorian household. After she manages to hit a guest with a flying trifle as part of a “modification” to the household dumbwaiter, she is unceremoniously shipped off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Horror of horrors for Sophronia, who has no interest in being a lady.

But she soon discovers not all is as it seems in the string of dirigibles that make up Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. After she is brought aboard by a werewolf and greeted by a vampire, Sophronia discovers that her lessons in eye fluttering and proper curtsies will be coupled with knife-throwing and the subtle art of poisons. And there’s a ready-made mystery to unravel. Sophronia is going to have an exciting year indeed.


“Zom-B” by Darren Shan November 19, 2012

Zom-B cover

Images courtesy of

The Facts

174 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

B is a street-wise bully being raised by a violent, white supremacist father in London. Amid growing reports of zombie attacks in a small Irish village, B is backed into several situations where it is called into question of how deep B’s personal racist sensibilities run. And then, the zombies attack.


This book was quite a surprise. Written by a master of young adult horror, it’s remarkably light on the spurting blood and the brain eating … until it’s not.

Although the zombies are milling around the edges from the beginning, but meat of the book is spent on B and B’s response (or lack thereof) to a father who spews disgusting racial hatred at every turn and beats on B and B’s mother if they mount the slightest challenge. B wanders between mirroring the father’s nastiness and being sheepish about it and wondering if – perhaps – dear old Dad isn’t pretty reprehensible. B’s thoughts get really stirred up after visiting a Holocaust exhibit and getting a talking-to from a respected teacher.

“I know Dad’s no saint but I’ever never thought of him as a monster. But if Burke’s right, and I take Dad’s side, the way I’ve gone along with him for all these years, won’t that make me a monster too?”

And speaking of monsters, the zombies continue to close in as Dad pooh-poohs the gruesome footage of an attack in Pallaskenry, Ireland until the zombies – as the reader knows they will – finally descend on B’s school and the nightmare-inducing grossology lesson begins.

While not at all likeable, B is an compelling character and “Zom-B” is an exciting set-up for a new series.



“Erebos” by Ursula Poznanski April 22, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Thriller — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:01 pm
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Erebos cover

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The Facts

440 pages; January 2012

The Basics

Erebos is a video game.  Players must make a vow of silence about the game to earn the secret disc. Once they enter Erebos, they find a game so amazing, so realistic, and so responsive, it is instantly addictive. But as they go deeper, they find they are not only watching the game on their screen, it is also watching them.

Book Talk

Imagine the very best video game you’ve ever played – great graphics, big adventure, totally cool. Erebos is better. Sure, you have to promise to always play it alone. And you’re never allowed to talk about it outside the game. But it’s worth it. No game has ever seemed so real – or seemed to know so much about you. Yet you can only play once. Ever. If you die in the game, you’re out.

Nick and his classmates are desperate to stay in the game, desperate to survive – so desperate that they accept the help of the yellow-eyed Messenger who controls the game and controls their fate. He has tasks for the players to perform to earn new life when their characters are almost out. When the tasks move from the game to the real world, Nick starts to suspect there is something more to Erebos – something that may be dark and dangerous.

Random Thought

Skillfully translated from German, this book is beyond exciting. I read the final 150 pages in a single sitting because I was so desperate to know what was really going on. I would never have imagined what it was.


“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay March 23, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:32 pm
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A Monster Calls cover

Images courtesy of

The Facts

215 pages; published September 2011

The Basics

As Conor struggles to deal with his mother’s illness, the yew tree in his back yard wakes and come walking – walking into Conor’s room wanting to share with him three strories of Truth. As payment, the Monster demands Conor’s Truth and uncovers more than the boy himself ever knew.

Book Talk

Conor’s mom is so, so sick. His father is absent – gone to America with his new wife. He’s being bullied at school. His Grandmother is unpleasant and unwelcoming. Conor has no where turn until he wakes at 7 minutes after midnight to find a yew tree, come to life in monstrous form and standing at his window. The yew tree keeps coming back, coming in, telling stories it calls Truth and pushing at Conor to tell his own Truth until Conor boils over and A Monster Calls.

Random Thought

The simple black line drawings for this book are stunning, dark, angry, and luminescent. They don’t just complement the story, they help tell it and pull the reader in to Conor’s turmoil. Also, the back story of Siobhan Dowd, who conceived this story but died of breast cancer before she could write it, is fascinating.

Fair Warning

By the time I reached the end of this books, I was crying so hard I couldn’t hardly see the words. Keep tissues nearby.


“Withering Tights” by Louise Rennison March 19, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 4:13 pm
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Withering Tights cover

Images courtesy of

The Facts:

Published June 2011; 288 pages.

The Basics:

Tallulah Casey is off to the Yorkshires for the summer, staying with a solid and enthusiastically quirky family, and surrounded by zany girlfriends who are also learning the basics of drama. Extremely worried about the knobbiness of her knees and her lack of visible boobs, Tallulah is about to make a fool of herself – again and again – in pursuit of the theater arts and boys. Of course, boys.


Louise Rennison’s genius is in her skill at making gentle fun of her main character and, in turn, imbue Tallulah with howlingly funny observations about everyone around her. Tallulah Casey is thoroughly charming, totally awkward, and does not display the least talent for serious theater. But she dances one heck of a jig, balancing the demands of theater camp with an ongoing effort to massage her breast buds  into a growth spurt, hatch and mother an owl, and survive the shock of her first kiss.

Who needs Heathcliff when Tallulah’s on the prowl?


“Planesrunner” by Ian McDonald March 18, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 6:52 pm
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Planesrunner cover

Image courtesy of GoodReads

The Facts:

Published December 2011; 274 pages; #1 in the Everness series.

The Basics:

Everett Singh is the son of the theoretical physicist who first proved the existence of parallel universes, and was then kidnapped by power hungry criminals from another plane. Everett finds himself in control of the key to inter-universe transport. Desperate to save his father, he plunges into the plenisphere and into an amazing adventure.

Book Talk:

Everett Singh has always been able to think in multiple planes, to see patterns other people miss. When his father – theoretical physicist Tejendra Singh – is grabbed before his very eyes and spirited away to E4 (we live in E10), Everett is left to sort out the mystery of the Infundibulum—the map of all the parallel earths, discovered and refined by Tejendra.

On an inter-universal quest to save his father, Everett allies himself with Sen Sixsmyth, an airship pilot from the lofty and slightly sub-class Airish culture of E4 London. The agile pair take on evil-doers of every description, digging ever deeper into the mysteries of the plenisphere.

Random Thought:

I feel like the cover of this book does it a disservice. The image is a little cheesy, but the story is a top-notch, well-told adventure that would be highly entertaining to readers of many ages and both genders.