Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

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

All the Truth That's in Me cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

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
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“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan September 15, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,GLBTQ,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 6:51 am
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Two Boys Kissing cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

208 pages; published August 2013

The Basics

Reacting to the recent gay-bashing of a schoolmate, Craig and Harry set out to break the world record for the longest kiss. As they grow exhausted and the world watches via the Internet, the narrators take a fly-over of the current gay landscape, contemplating how the world has changed and is changing when it comes to the sight of two boys kissing.

The Review

A beautiful book, written in the omniscient voice of the generation of gay men who fell victim to the AIDS crisis of the 80s looking over, appreciating, commenting on, even envying the lives of the current generation of gay men. They introduce us to Craig and Harry who are endeavoring to make a statement by breaking the world record for the longest kiss; to Tariq, who has survived a recent gay-bashing incident; to Neil and Peter, a young couple a year into their dating life; to Avery and Ryan, who have just met and are exploring the possibilities; and Cooper, who trolls hook-up apps desperately looking for something to satisfy him. It is a fluid, chapterless narrative that is utterly riveting and deeply moving.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Readers of all ages interested in GBLTQ issues
  • Fans of realistic fiction looking for a memorable story
  • Anyone who likes to have a good cry when they read
  • Adults who survived and suffered the impact of AIDS in the 80s and 90s
  • Developing writers who want to explore unique narrative styles
  • The Oregon Young Adult Network (OYAN) for its 2014 Book Raves nomination list
 

“Lucid” by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass March 5, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:47 am
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Lucid cover

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The Facts

343 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Maggie and Sloane are two different girls from very different worlds. Maggie is an actress in New York City. Sloane is a small-town girl. But they are entwined by their dreams, each living the other’s life when it’s time to sleep.

Booktalk

Maggie is 16. A New York City actress. Sophisticated. Urbane. Fragmented family.  A loner. But when she goes to sleep each night, she lives a day in the life of Sloane. Sloane is a straight A high school student from a small town. Loving family. Close friends. When she closes her eyes at night, she is Maggie.

Two vividly drawn characters each live rich lives, full of family drama and the hopeful possibility of new love. Each enjoys the time spent in the other’s life. But both are plagued by the same worry – what is she is only a dream and someday I stop dreaming her? Worse – what if I’m a dream and someday she stops dreaming me?

Random Thoughts

I enjoyed each of these characters so much, it was devastating to think that one of them might turn out to not be real … until I had to slow down and realize that … neither one is real, really, right? It is, after all, a work of fiction. And a very enjoyable one.

 

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green January 15, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:20 am
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The Fault in Our Stars cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

313 pages; published January 2012

The Basics

Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters first connect when they both find the humor in their cancer support group meeting in a church basement. Together, they irreverently explore the impact of cancer, pursue big answers from the author of Hazel’s favorite book, and find humor and even beauty in the darkest of moments.

Review

I came late to this book and I’m so sorry it took me so long to open it an fall head over heels in love with terminally ill Hazel Grace Lancaster and Cancer Kids friends. Hazel is hilariously irreverent from the first page – about her own crap lungs that force her to drag an oxygen tank everywhere, about the cancer support group that only makes it all worse, about the friend whose cancer leaves him blind, and about the wonderful, hot, one-legged cancer survivor Augustus Waters who seeks to woo her.

I was all in on this one by the end of the first paragraph because Hazel’s voice is so honest and so wry and so, so funny about things that ought not to be funny. Dark is my favorite kind of humor. But who could resist observations like this from the middle of a Cancer Support Group Meeting, “Like, I realize this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent change of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five … so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.”

Hazel is also obsessed with a book about a cancer kid – a pretentious-sounding novel called A Imperial Affliction, the only novel of a now-complete hermit living in Amsterdam which ends in the middle of a sentence with all plot points dangling. Her desire to know what happens next elevates to near obsession and spurs a epic quest.

The book, like life, is not orderly, tidy, or predictable, but it is wonderful.

Random Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to read this book since it came out, but life is messy, right? Then, “they” all started saying this was the best YA book of 2012. I haven’t read them all, but I do think “they” are right – for once. I would even be so bold as to predict that The Fault in Our Stars will be one of those books that endure and find a place on YA shelves for enough years to be elevated to the status of “classic.”

Awards/Honors (so far …)

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • #9 The Bookseller (UK) bestseller
  • #1 Indiebound bestseller
  • New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
  • Starred reviews from Booklist, SLJ, Publisher’s Weekly, Horn Book, and Kirkus
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction (2012)
  • ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012)
 

“If I Lie” by Corrine Jackson January 11, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,GLBTQ,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:04 am
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If I Lie cover

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The Facts

276 pages; published August 2012

The Basics

Everyone in town thinks Quinn cheated on her Marine boyfriend just as he deployed to Afghanistan. Only Quinn and Carey know the whole truth, but he’s gone and she’s not telling. Instead, she endures as she is shunned and bullied by everyone from her classmates to her own father. Now, Carey is MIA and Quinn looks worse than ever in her military town.

Booktalk

Here’s the truth, people. When Quinn’s best friend and boyfriend, Carey, came from on leave from the Marines, he broke up with her and broke her heart. Yes, she kissed another boy. Well, so did Carey. But Quinn got caught on camera and the picture ended up on Facebook and as far as anyone else knows, it’s a picture of girl cheating on an American hero. Why? Because Carey begged her not to tell his secret and Quinn agreed. So, even when the going gets tough, Quinn’s loyalty, honor, and love for her friend won’t allow her to reveal the truth.

Worse yet, everyone in town figures she’s just like her “slut” mother who did cheat on Quinn’s dad – and walked out on both of them while her husband was overseas. Quinn is in a miserable, no-win situation. All she has left to hang onto is her growing enthusiasm for photography and a grumpy old military photographer named George.

Random Thought

This was one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. Quinn is such a likable character that I wanted to be able to tell her how to fix everything. But the trap she was in was so complicated, even the truth was not going to ease her pain.

 

“Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things” by Kathryn Burak December 29, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Poetry,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:38 am
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Emily's Dress cover

Images courtes of GoodReads.com

The Facts

232 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Claire’s father hopes that distance from Rhode Island and a new start in Amherst, Massachusetts will help Claire heal from two terrible losses – her mother and her best friend.

Booktalk

Claire has just moved to Amherst, Massachusetts and frankly, she’s going a little nuts. To say the last year was difficult is saying far too little. The loss of her mother to suicide has been compounded by the unsolved disappearance of her best friend – in which she was a suspect.

Now, she’s a year behind in school. Amherst is supposed to give her the chance to start in a new place, get her bearings, and figure out how to go on. Likable, smart and funny even in the depths of her grief, Claire  develops some connections – with a new friend at school, with a student teacher from her English class, and with long-dead poet Emily Dickinson. When she starts visiting Emily Dickinson’s home-turned-museum at night, she doesn’t even really mean to break in and she certainly doesn’t mean to – in a moment of surprised panic – steal Emily’s famous, historic dress.

Random Thoughts

This book is not just about a girl dealing with grief. It is also a mystery and a romance and a teaser for Emily Dickinson’s haunting poetry and funny and hopeful. It’s complicated in a good way and so, so enjoyable.

 

“Jepp, Who Defied the Stars” by Katherine Marsh December 1, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Historical Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:34 pm
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Jeep Who Defied the Stars cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

369 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Jepp, a dwarf born in the 1500s in Astraveld, strikes out to seek his fortune on the promise of a stranger. Sold as an amusement to the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands,  and later sent away again and sold into the service of an eccentric Danish astronomer, Jepp sturdily continues to believe in his value as a man and in his right to determine his own destiny.

Review

Jepp is just so charming, he makes this book almost irresistible. Life is not easy for this 16th century dwarf. He is tempted away from the hearth of his loving mother to become one of a troupe of dwarfs who entertain the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. Things get complicated and after many sad events, Jepp is on the road again, this time headed to the home of another historic figure – the rather strange Danish astronomer Tycho Brache. Tycho and his jumble of family and young scholars live on an island given to Tycho by the Danish crown. They carry on at all hours, at times mapping the stars with tremendous mathematical skill, and at times roaring with laughter at the drunken antics of Tycho’s pet moose who has developed a taste for ale, all the while struggling to keep Tycho’s copper prosthetic nose affixed to his face. Through it all is Jepp, earnest and smart and resilient as he manages to elevate himself, sort out the mysteries of his paternity, and maintain his faith in true love.

The big question explored throughout the book is one of destiny vs free will – whether a man (no matter how tall) might be ruled by the stars or whether he himself is the most powerful force in the course of his own life.

Blurb from the Cover So Awesome I Wish I Had Written It

“This highly unusual story about a highly unusual hero will also feel like your story. Few of us are imprisoned dwarfs, but all of us want to guide our own lives. ” — Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close