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
 

“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

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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
 

“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.

Booktalk

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!

 

 

“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters August 9, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Mystery,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:16 am
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In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover

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The Facts

387 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

In 1918, Americans were surrounded by death. With loved ones dying far away in World War I and stricken by the Spanish Flu right next door, nearly everyone was raw with grief and fear. So-called “spirit photographers” stepped in, offering to conjure the dead to be photographed with the living. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black’s aunt has fallen into the thrall of spirit photography, seances, and peculiar home remedies meant to protect a body from the influenza germs. A committed scientist and skeptic, Mary finds her own beliefs challenged when she is confronted by the confused, wretched spirit of her first love.

Booktalk

Here’s what you have to understand. Living in 1918 in the United States was terrifying. The Spanish Flu was killing thousands of people. At the same time, soldiers were dying in droves in Europe fighting in World War I. People were desperate – to do something that made them feel safer and to express their sadness about people they had lost. Mary Shelley Black is 16 years old, in the thick of the Spanish Flu outbreak and waiting for her first love who has gone off to war. She’s sensible, smart, and science-minded, but she’s scared too. Still, she knows something is off about her aunt’s obsession with having photos taken by an old family friend who has become a “spirit photographer,” someone who claims to be able to call up the dead to be photographed with the people they left behind.

The situation becomes even more puzzling when Mary Shelley learns that her own young soldier has died and – despite her skepticism – Mary is visited by his frightened and nearly incoherent ghost, drawing her deep into mysteries of the spirit world and questions about his death.

Random Thoughts

One of the many wonderful things about this book is the use of eerie historic photos of people in gauze masks (to protect them from the flu) and examples of spirit photography that are inserted as chapter headers.

 

“Anya’s Ghost” by Vera Brosgol March 29, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Graphic Novel,Multi-Cultural,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:55 am
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Anya's Ghost cover

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The Facts:

221 pages; published June 2011

The Basics:

Anya is an awkward teen who – on her worst day ever – falls down a well and find herself face-to-face with the bones and ghost of a girl about her age. In a quick decision during her rescue, Anya grabs the girl’s pinky bone, allowing the ghost to follow her home.

Book Talk:

Anya is already feeling pretty low. Her Russian immigrant family is weird. She doesn’t really have many friends. The boy she likes doesn’t notice her. Then, she hits a new low when she falls down a well and ends up meeting a ghost who follows her home after the rescue, intent on being Anya’s new best friend. At first, it’s great to have an awesome new bestie, but Anya soon starts to suspect this ghost may not have her best interests at heart.

Random Thought:

The sweet simplicity of the art style belies how creepy this story gets.

 

“Hikaru No Go” (Volume 1) by Yumi Hotta November 23, 2011

Hotta, Yumi (author). Obata, Takeshi (artist). Hikaru No Go, Volume 1. San Francisco: Shonen Jump, 2006. 187 pages. ISBN: 159116222x.

Hikaru No Go Vol 1 cover

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Annotation:

Hikaru is an average kind of 12-year-old boy, more interested in sports than in school and not interested at all in ancient Chinese history. His life changes when he finds a blood-stained Go board and becomes inhabited by the spirit of a long-ago Go master who is still seeking a way to play his beloved game and – someday perhaps – the “Divine Move.”

Booktalk:

Does anyone here care about Go? Do you even know what Go is?

Well, it’s an ancient Chinese game that is like chess – played with black and white pieces on a square grid. If you don’t know anything about it, you’re a lot like Hikaru. He’s a 12-year-old Chinese boy who just found an old, old Go board with blood on it. He doesn’t even know what the board is for. But he’s the only one who can see the blood, so he has some kind of connection with what’s inside.

Can you image what is inside this old block of wood? Only the spirit of Sai, a Go master from the Heian Period (that’s 794-1185 in China). When Hikaru sees the blood, that’s the signal for Sai to come out of the Go board and take over part of Hikaru’s consciousness. Soon, Hikaru find himself spending time in Go parlors and playing against master Go players, with Sai telling him how. He friends start to think he’s crazy. The Go players can’t figure him out.

Hikaru hates Go, but there is something about the intensity of these players that makes him think. Maybe he can understand why Sai would wait even beyond death, hoping for a chance to experience the ultimate moment in Go – the play of the “Divine Move.”

Wait! There’s More:

If you get hooked on this fast and funny story, good news! There are a total of 23 volumes to enjoy.

Teen View:

“I love this series. Even though I didn’t understand it at first because I don’t know anything about Go, I totally realized, ‘This is amazing.’ It really explains what’s important in the game and I love the characters, especially Sai because he gets really involved and yells at Hikaru and he’s so into it. It’s amazing.” – Catrina, age 15, major Manga enthusiast

Awards/Honors (source: http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=1083):

  • Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000
  • Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 (series)
 

“The Summoning” by Kelley Armstrong November 6, 2011

Filed under: Fiction,Horror,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:03 pm
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Armstrong, Kelley. The Summoning. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 390 pp. ISBN: 9780061662690

The Summoning cover

Book covers courtesy of GoodReads.com

Annotation:

When Chloe Sanders starts seeing ghosts, it surprises her so much that her reaction gets her moved into a home for disturbed children. Facing a diagnosis of schizophrenia and trying hard to get better, she still starts to wonder just what is going on and whether all this paranormal activity might not just be in her head.

Booktalk:

Seriously. If you woke up one day and started seeing ghosts everywhere, what would you do? Realize one of those ghosts is a burned-up-looking, melted-faced-having, creepy janitor, chasing you through the halls of your high school yelling, “Come here. I just want to talk to you.”

You’d do what Chloe Sanders did. You’d freak out. And maybe you’d go so far as to punch some teacher, make a complete spectacle of yourself, and get yourself locked up in a home for mentally disturbed children.

Chloe is a huge film geek who sees everything that happens to her in terms of a camera angles and cutaways. Now, she’s landed in some kind of  horror flick where she’s surrounded by crazy kids and – worse – is being told she’s schizophrenic herself. She’s even willing to believe it, for a while. Then she starts to get to know the other kids in the house – handsome Simon, weirdly strong Derek, angry Tori, firebug Rae, and Liz, who is sent away still insisting it was a poltergeist and not her that attacked their teacher.

Chloe starts question everything she thought was true. Is she schizophrenic? Are the other kids really crazy? Or can she actually see ghosts? And, if so, what else does she have in common with the other inmates at the Lyle House?

Wait! There’s More:

This is just book 1 of the Darkest Powers series, which continues in The Awakening (2009) and The Reckoning (2010).

Wordle: The Summoning
(Wordle created by Sonja Somerville at wordle.com)

Awards/Honors (source: http://www.harperteen.com/books/The-Summoning-Kelley-Armstrong/?isbn=9780061450549):

  • Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List