Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“No Parking at the End Times” by Bryan Bliss May 28, 2015

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:41 am
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No Parking at the End Times cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

272 pages; published February 2015

The Basics

Abigail’s parents have gambled everything on one man, Brother John, leader of a doomsday cult based in San Francisco. The end of the world they were preparing for was yesterday. Now, they have no money, no home, and no idea what to do.

Booktalk

Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, have looked on in horror as their parents disintegrate. Joblessness leads to hopeless, then to new hope in the form of following Brother John, who has declared that the end of the world is near and called his faithful to him. The family sold their home and drove across the country to San Francisco, giving any money they had to Brother John in preparation for the glorious night when they would gather, pray, and await the end of the world together.

Now the date has come and gone. The world continues. The faithful are scattering. But Abigail’s family, living in their van, keep coming to the church every day. Each in their own way, Abigail and Aaron start to rebel and break away from their parents’ passivity and inaction until a final confrontation lays bare the full tragedy of the situation.

Random Thoughts

  • Something about the title and premise left with the impression this book might be a bit funny. It’s not. At all. It is a slow spiral of despair.
  • That said, it is very much worth the time spent with Abigail – interesting with a lot to think about later.
  • Sometimes parents really, really suck.
  • I did not actually set out to read two very different takes on doomsday cults in a row. That just sort of happened. But it has been interesting to compare and contrast.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Readers fascinated by cults, particularly quasi-Christian doomsday cults
  • Teens who look for deeply depressing realistic fiction
  • Anyone who likes books you keep thinking about later
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“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
 

“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
 

“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
 

“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.
 

“Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick October 31, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:27 am
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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

273 pages; published August 2013

The Basics

Leonard Peacock gets up on his 18th birthday. He fills his backpack. He is ready to go. He will visit the four people who mean anything to him. He will give each of them a gift. Then, he will pull out the gun at the bottom of the pack and kill his former best friend. Then, he will kill himself. And, he thinks, this is a fitting celebration – going out 18 years after the day he came into this world.

Booktalk

Leonard Peacock is having a birthday. But this is no ordinary celebration. Leonard has carefully wrapped four gifts – one for each of the people who are important to him. After he sees these four people and gives these four gifts, he will do the thing he most deeply want to do: he will shoot and kill Asher Beal. Then Leonard will shoot and kill himself.

Leonard wonders if this will make him famous for a while. He wonders how people will remember his final visits and conversations. He wonders if people will be frankly relieved to learn he is dead.

He thinks about his 18 years of life and the events that have led him to this. His story, riddled with elaborate footnotes and flashes of memory, reveal this: Leonard Peacock is smart. He is weird. He is depressed. And he is determined to die.

Random Thoughts

  • This is the same Matthew Quick that wrote Silver Linings Playbook. What an amazing storyteller.
  • I found myself deeply anxious as I consider all the children I see each day and what I don’t know about them.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Young people ready to think in complex ways about serious topics
  • Adults who work with teens
  • People prepared to spend the last 50 pages of a book crying quietly but steadily
 

“Are You Experienced?” by Jordan Sonnenblick September 17, 2013

Are You Experienced? cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

304 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

Frustrated high school student Rich learns more than he bargained for about his old, fuddy-duddy father when a magical electric guitar sends him back in time to attend Woodstock alongside his then-teen-aged father.

The Booktalk

Rich has some special talents. He’s a great guitar player. He’s learning to maneuver around his over-protective parents. And he’s really, really good at getting in trouble with his father.

After the biggest blow-up yet, Rich breaks into his father’s study to play a single chord on an electric guitar hidden there – a chord which transports him through time and space to spend three days at the Woodstock Festival of Music and Art, the 1969 weekend of music and hippie love now famously known just as Woodstock. Stranger still, Rich will attend with his then-15-year-old father and his doomed 18-year-old uncle, desperate to forge a crucial connection between them and the legendary Jimi Hendrix.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Fans of Jordan Sonnenblick because I’m a fan and that’s why I gobbled it up as soon as it was published. He delivered again!
  • Older middle and younger high school-aged readers (particularly boys) looking for an interesting adventure story
  • Musicians and rock-n-roll history enthusiasts
  • Kids who think their parents were always as old as they are now