Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“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

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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.


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

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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.


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.


  • 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

“If You Find Me” by Emily Murdoch November 19, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:47 am
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If You Fine Me cover

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The Facts

256 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Carey and Janessa are sisters living in the base circumstances – shivering, hungry, and abused in a broken-down trailer hidden deep in the woods by a neglectful, meth-addled mother. When they are found and taken back the world, the transition is harrowing, despite many good intentions, as the girls struggle to adjust to the unfamiliar and to clutch onto the most terrible secrets about their former life.

The Booktalk

Imagine being 14 and the most responsible person in your family. Carey’s mother is strung out on meth, willing to do anything (anything) for a fix. Carey’s sister is only six and doesn’t speak, hasn’t spoken since the worst night – the night of the white stars. Imagine being stolen by your own mother when you were just four years old and hidden in a trailer deep in the woods with no electricity, not enough food, not enough clothing, no bed, no toilet – nothing but fear and hiding – for 10 years. Imagine raising your own sister because your mother won’t.  Then imagine being found and taken to a house with a bed and a shower and toilet and plenty of warmth and clothes and food.  Wonderful, yes, but strange too. Then add school and other children and television and cell phones and all the things you don’t know anything about because you’ve been held captive in the woods. And then imagine that on top of it all, you have a terrible, terrible secret.

It’s all pressing down on Carey – her old bad fortune, her new good fortune – and the weight of all might be too much.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Readers curious about psychology, PTSD, mental illness, and the impact of drug use
  • People with large boxes of tissues to wipe their tears

“Cameron and the Girls” by Edward Averett May 7, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:06 pm
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Cameron and the Girls cover

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The Facts

224 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Cameron has schizophreniform disorder – which is why he loses touch with reality and hears voices in his head. This particular disorder could be short term only, but no one knows, least of all Cameron as he fights against the medication and the doctoring and the parental hovering that is meant to help, but only makes him more inclined to get to know his voices better.


You look at the cover of this book and you look at the title, Cameron and the Girls, and you get the idea that it’s going to be a story about a guy named Cameron who likes two girls or had two girls that like him. And you’d be right … in a way. But for Cameron, deciding between two girls is more complicated that it sounds. One of the girls is a person in his school who suffers from depression and can be kind of weird to be around. The other girl lives in Cameron’s head. She’s perfect in every way, but she’s just one of the voices he hears because he has a mental condition – schizophreniform disorder.

The complicated thing is Cameron knows he has a mental illness, but he likes some of the voices in his head – especially The Girl who understand him so perfectly and loves him so much. He kind of wants to stay in touch with the voices. Also, he hates being zoned out on medication.  So he stops taking it. Which upsets all the adults, but feels right to him. He can manage on his own. Can’t he?

Random Thoughts

Edward Averett puts the readers in a tough spot. He really pulls us into Cameron’s world and his feeling that he should be left to talk to his voices if he wants to. At the same time, it’s impossible not to understand why Cameron’s parents, sister, doctors, and teachers can’t just let him “be.”


“Chopsticks” by Jessica Anthony, illustrated by Rodrigo Corral May 19, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Graphic Novel,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:25 am
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Chopsticks book cover

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The Facts

272 pages; published February 2012

The Basics

Told in the format of an extraordinarily detailed scrapbook, Chopsticks explores the mental deterioration of Glory, a teen-aged piano prodigy who has lost touch with her life and her gift in the wake of her mother’s death.


Glory is a piano prodigy, pushed relentlessly onto the world stage by her father. Glory is a grieving teen, missing her mother. Glory is in love, with Frank, the rebellious boy who moves in next door. Glory is lost in her mind, stuck in the repeating pattern of playing Chopsticks over and over and over. Now, Glory has disappeared.

This is a beautiful story and a beautiful book. Absent any traditional text, Glory’s story is laid out in photos, pictures, letters, news clippings, screen shots of texts, graffiti, postcards, grade reports, letters and more. The reader is pulled into the heart of the story, leafing through Glory’s family albums, reading her most heartfelt letters, viewing Frank’s dark, angry artwork. The experience is both lovely and sad.


“You Are My Only” by Beth Kephart February 10, 2012

You Are My Only cover

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The Facts:

Published October 2011; 240 pages.

The Basics: 

Sophie lives a lonely life with a mother who never allows her to leave, who controls all her choices, and moves them whenever she thinks the No Good might be close to finding them. Emmy was young and loved her Baby. She only left her for a moment to run inside for a blanket. Thirteen steps up. Thirteen steps down. Baby was gone. In alternating chapters, we watch as Sophie risks everything to reach out to the boy next door, and Emmy unravels in the desperate search for her beloved Baby.

Book Talk:

Sophie doesn’t know why. She doesn’t know why her mother has always kept her locked in the house. She doesn’t know why it’s so important that she create the perfect model of a icosahedron. She doesn’t know what exactly is the “No Good” her mother is always running from when the move and move and move again. What she does know about is that the curly haired boy next door with his noisy dog. She knows he is worth sneaking and lying – just a little – to spend time in his cozy home where they bake cookies every day and plan grand adventures.

Emmy doesn’t know what happened. She just went inside for a moment. And now her Baby is gone and she can’t go look for her because they’ve locked her in this place, this hospital and she has nothing to hold onto.

Darting between these two, the chapters tell a story about what happens when things unravel.