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
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“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart June 16, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:39 am
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We Were Liars cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

227 pages; published May 2014

The Basics

Cadence returns to the private island hideaway where her wealthy family spends their summers, but things are different this year – her 17th summer. Two years ago, she was hurt on this island. Her injuries still plague her. The details of her accident still elude her. This summer, she is here to heal and to try to remember.

Booktalk

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are the Liars – four teens tied to a beautiful, wealthy family that summers on a private island near Martha’s Vinyard. The setting is idyllic, but the family is flawed. There is rivalry, angry, and a dark, dark mystery. The mystery surrounds Candence, who is terribly ill, suffering crippling headache, general fragility, and an inability to remember the terrible accident she had on the island two years previously. Slowly, Cadence unknots the threads and weaves the story back together. But who knows if what she remembers and what she says is true? After all, Cadence and her friends are Liars.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is beautifully written, with prose that drifts into lyrical, trailing ends, reinforcing the sense that the narrator is finding reality to be a bit slippery.
  • The blurbs urge readers who are asked how the book ends to lie. I would add – don’t peek at the final pages. The twist at the end is huge and far more effective if it comes as it should – as a complete surprise.

I’ll Recommend This Book to …

  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Teens who like puzzles and books with twists
  • Readers fascinated by the lifestyles of the wealthy
  • People who like gut-wrenching romances and books that make them cry
 

“The Impossible Knife of Memory” by Laurie Halse Anderson May 22, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 12:23 pm
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The Impossible Knife of Memory cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

391 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Hayley Kincain and her Iraq War vet father, Andy, have decided to settle in his home town so Hayley can lead a “normal” life for her senior year. But there is no normalcy to be had with Andy in the throes of PTSD that leaves him depressed, unable to work, drinking, and worse. Bouyed by a couple of friends from school and her new love interest, Finn, Hayley struggles to keep herself and Andy from falling into the abyss.

Booktalk

For Hayley at age 17, home is anything but a safe haven. After spending years on road, trucking and home schooling with her father, they have returned to his childhood home. Her mother and grandmother have died. Her sort-of stepmother, who provided a bit of stability while Andy was away, has left. Andy is a mess, disintegrating under the weight of the PSTD and memories of the war.

Hayley, cynical about school, scornful of her classmates, and nearly shut down herself, is left with little beyond a couple of good friends and Finn, her amazing new boyfriend who just won’t be pushed away. She’s a survivor and smart, but the odds against her just keep stacking up.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • The many fans of Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Students ready to think about the ripple effects of war
  • People looking for a good cry
  • Fans of realistic, touching love stories
 

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

Splintered cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

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.

Booktalk

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.

Awards/Honors

  • 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
 

“Small Medium at Large” by Joanne Levy January 27, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:38 am
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Small Medium at Large cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

195 pages; published July 2012

The Basics

After being hit by lightning at her mother’s wedding, Lilah wakes to discover she can hear ghosts. She finds herself surrounded by a well-meaning bunch of spirits, led by her practical, funny grandmother who is four years gone. Bubby Dora has a proposal for Lilah. She wants the two of them to team up to get Lilah’s love-lorn divorced father back in the dating game.

Booktalk

Lilah was having a pretty good day, really enjoying her mother’s wedding – until a freak storm rolled in and hit her with a bolt of lightning. Lilah wakes in a hospital to discover she’s basically fine – as long as “fine” includes being able to talk to ghosts. At first, it’s just her sweet, straight-talking grandmother Bubby Dora, but soon other ghosts line up looking for Lilah’s help in delivering messages. And all the while, Lilah is conspiring with her Bubby to encourage Lilah’s father to take his first, shaky steps back into the world of of dating.

Random Thoughts

  • What a thoroughly sweet book. Ghosts aside, it is a funny, well-drawn look at the life of a girl in the throes of growing up.
  • While not exactly a laugh-out-loud book, this is certainly a many-amused-smiles book.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Middle grade girls who like a bit of magic blended with their reality
  • Families looking for squeaky clean, age-appropriate books for middle schoolers
  • Readers who want something short and sweet
  • Those who believe in friendly ghosts
 

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell November 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:00 am
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Eleanor & Park cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

328 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Eleanor is a curvy red-headed girl with strange clothes and no place on the bus because she’s the new girl after weeks of school and the pecking order has already been established. Park is the mixed-race Korean American boy at the fringe of the social order who gives her a place to sit in a begrudging burst of profanity. From that awkward foundation, a breathtakingly beautiful, complex, frustrating, epic romance grows.

Review

I loved Park. I wish he could have been my boyfriend.
I loved Eleanor. I’m pretty sure I knew her in high school and I loved her then too.
I loved that the jerks at the back of the bus had layers to them and were more than just evil, although not much more.
I loved how slowly Eleanor and Park fell in love.
I loved it whenever they held hands.
I loved that they thought no one else would see.
I love, loved Park’s parents – that they were so loving and so flawed and so complex that for once, parents in a YA novel felt like genuine people.
I loved that Eleanor tried so hard to still be in spite of her horrid, horrid stepfather and awful father and broken mother.
I loved Mr. Stessman, the English teacher, because he was a hopeless, sweet dork who truly loved literature and admired Eleanor.
I loved Mrs. Dunn, the guidance counselor, because she tried.
I loved Denice and Bebe because they stuck up for and with Eleanor and because they were just fun characters.
I loved the attention to detail.
I loved the way it was written.
I loved the love story.
I loved the ending, however painful it was.
I loved that I got to read this story.

I Will Recommend This To …

  • Fans of John Green and David Levithan
  • Readers who like to be emotionally shattered and sobbing
  • Mature youth and adults looking for a mature love story
  • People who aren’t afraid of a little (or – OK – a lot of) profanity

Random Thoughts

  • I listened to Eleanor & Park on audiobook, which I highly recommend. The readers – Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra – are fantastic.
  • I resisted reading Eleanor & Park for a long time because I thought it would make me sad. I was right. It was devastating. I’m so glad I finally read it.
 

“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