Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Revolver” by Marcus Sedgwick August 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:59 am
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Revolver cover

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The Facts

224 pages; published July 2009

The Basics

A boy sits in a remote cabin with the frozen body of his dead father, waiting for help to arrive. What arrives instead is his worst nightmare – a huge murderous man who steps out of his father’s past.


Sig Andersson is stuck alone in a cabin north of the Arctic Circle. His only company? His father’s dead, frozen body slowly melting on the kitchen table. Sig waits, hoping his sister and step-mother will bring help from the nearby town. Instead, danger arrives in the form of a mountainous man who insists he is owed part of the bounty stolen by Sig’s father 10 years before in the goldfields of Nome, Alaska. Seeing as Sig’s father is unavailable, the man says, he figures now it is Sig who owes him.

With no idea about stolen gold, but sure the man would not hesitate to use the gun on his hip, Sig is desperate to get his hands on the family treasure he does know about – a revolver hidden in the pantry.

I’ll Recommend this to …

  • Students (particularly boys) who have been assigned to or want to read historical fiction
  • Readers asking for mysteries,  thrillers, or realistic fiction
  • Anyone who wants a story that gets your attention right away

Awards/Honors (source:

  • Printz Honor Book (2011)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
  • ALA’s Top Ten Best books for Young Adults (2011)
  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)



“Jinx” by Sage Blackwood March 25, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:47 pm
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Jinx cover

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The Facts

368 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Jinx is having a pretty rough time. Born into a humble clearing in the magical forest of the Urwald, his stepparents (both his real parents have died) have decided that he’s a bit inconvenient, what with the new baby coming and all. So, his not-very-nice stepfather is planning to abandon him to die in the thick of the forest. Jinx is saved at the last minute, but unfortunately by Simon, who is a good cook and a decent-but-possibly-evil wizard who may or may not be planning to do something dastardly to Jinx.


The bad news: Jinx’s stepfather is about to abandon him in the thick woods of the Urwald to die.

The good news: Jinx has been saved by a wizard named Simon.

The bad news: Simon may be evil.

The good news: Trolls have carried off Jinx’s stepfather to his death.

The bad news: Jinx is now sort of enslaved by the wizard.

The good news: Simon makes excellent pumpkin pie.

The bad news: Jinx may have been the victim of Simon’s evil spell that has stolen Jinx’s ability to see people’s feelings.

The good news: He can still talk to the trees.

The bad news: Jinx has headed out alone into the dangerous Urwald to seek his fortune and solve the mystery of his missing powers.

The good news: He has found two companions to come with him on his adventure.

The bad news: Both his new friends seemed to be cursed … and intent on sending Jinx straight into the arms of the almost-certainly-evil wizard, the Bonemaster.

Will there be any more good news?

Random Thoughts

This well-written, clever, rollicking fun fantasy gives me the perfect thing to recommend next time someone asks for a romance-free story for a middle-grade boy.


“Thirteen Days to Midnight” by Patrick Carman February 6, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Science Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:03 am
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Thirteen Days to Midnight cover

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The Facts

304 pages; published April 2010

The Basics

Jacob is grieving for his adoptive father, who died when their car crashed into a tree. But he also has other things on his mind – a beautiful new girl at school, his best friend, the future – and the very odd fact that nothing seems to be able to cause him any physical harm since his father, just before the crash, whispered, “You are indestructible.”


It’s a simple question: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

But there are downsides to every superpower, aren’t there? If you could fly, would you be able to learn to control your ability before smashing yourself into a building? If you could read minds, what would you do when you heard things you didn’t want to know? If you had invisibility, would you have to be naked all the time for it to work?

What if you were indestructible? What if nothing could hurt you and you simply couldn’t die? Is there a downside to that? Jacob Fielding is about to find out. It would seem his adoptive father has given him this power – passed it along just before his own death. But cheating death is a tricky thing and not without consequence. With no one to help him understand how the power works, what will Jacob do and who will it put in harm’s way?

Random Thoughts

This book was exciting and interesting, made more so for me because it was set in the author’s hometown, which made it local for me. It’s not a common setting, so it was a nice touch.



“The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen December 5, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:42 pm
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The False Prince cover

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The Facts

342 pages; published April 2012

The Basics

Carthya is headed toward civil war. To try to prevent it, a nobleman named Conner proposes a bold plan – to collect four orphan boys, train them, and pass one of them off as the long-lost prince and heir to the throne.


I quickly started to think of The False Prince as a kind of mini-Hunger Games. Sage is an orphan who gets collected up – along with three other orphan boys – and used by a nasty nobleman named Conner as part of a plot to try to impersonate the country’s missing (and presumed dead) Prince Jaron and prevent civil war.  Pure villain, Conner nastily pits the four boys against one another during a rigorous training period, making it clear that one will earn the right to compete for the Carthyan throne … and for the others it will be the end.

The excitement begins on the first page and continues in a jumble of sweat, fear, flying blood, intrigue, horse riding, sword-fighting, plotting, and unexpected twists. Sage is a clever, unruly, seemingly fearless boy who has no desire to be crowned king based on a lie, but has crazy way of charming and annoying everyone he meets. Will he bend to Conner’s will? Or does Sage have the power to turn the game into something else entirely?

Wait, There More!

The False Prince is just the first in The Ascendance Trilogy. The second, The Runaway King, is due out in March 2013.


“Ripper” by Stefan Petrucha October 12, 2012

Ripper coverThe Facts

427 pages; published March 2010

The Basics

After 14 years in an orphanage, Carver Young has been adopted and offered the chance to apprentice to Pinkerton Agency detective Albert Hawking. Tasked with finding his own father, Carver is drawn into a far larger mystery that may lead him into the path of a serial killer.


Jack the Ripper stalked and murdered at least 5 women in the East End of London between August and November of 1888. He was never caught. Yet, no later murders were proved to be linked to him. Where did he go? What did he do next?

Fourteen-year-old orphan Carver Young knows. Adopted by eccentric, brilliant detective Albert Hawking of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, Carver – who has always wanted to be a detective – become embroiled in the frantic search for a manic brutally murdering the wives of New York socialites. As Carver and the mysterious members of a shadowy agency called the New Pinkertons thread the clues together, the ties between these cases and 5 famous murders in the East End of London become unmistakable. As Carver digs even deeper, he discovers his own ties may go even deeper.

Random Thoughts

The author has some good fun using Theodore Roosevelt and his spirited daughter, Alice, as characters in the story. He even works in one of Alice’s most amusing and famous quotes – “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone, come sit here by me!”


“Never Fall Down” by Patricia McCormick August 24, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Historical Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:52 am
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The Facts

216 pages; published May 2012

The Basics

One day, Arn is a street-wise child – catching frogs, gambling a little, and sneaking into movies in his city in Cambodia. Then, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country, forced Arn and all the citizens into work camps. His life became defined by starvation, endless labor, fear, and death. Arn spent four years in the heart of what became known as The Killing Fields, surviving partly because of his skill as a musician and partly because he told himself just never fall down.


Because it is told wholly in the voice of the child, this story unfolds with no context. There is no explanation of the politics or background. It is simply a litany of one child’s brutal experience, drawing the reader into the horror and confusion of the events. The result is both stunning and devastating

Random Thought

This book is based on the real life of Arn Chorn-Pond who is now an internationally known peace activist. It was particuularly devastating to realize that these events are so recent that parts of my simple, easy childhood overlapped with these brutal events in his.


“Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words” by Rachel Coker March 31, 2012

Interrupted cover

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The Facts:

320 pages; published February 2012

The Basics:

Alcyone (Allie) Everly’s world revolves around her mother and the quiet life they share, gardening, housekeeping, and reading Emily Dickinson. When her mother’s memory and health disintegrates, Allie finds herself alone and shipped off to Maine to be adopted by a kindly widow. Determined to stay loyal to her mother’s memory, Allie turns inward, rejecting the care and love offered in her new home.

Book Talk:

Can you imagine how scary it would be – at age 10 – to have your mother’s memory start to come and go? Can you image how sad it would feel – at age 14 – to find yourself alone in the world and shipped off to be adopted by a total stranger? Alcyone Everly doesn’t want a new mother or a new home. She wants to go back to protecting and helping the mother she loved. She hides within the pages of the journal she still writes to her mother and pushes everyone away, even the neighbor boy who has loved her and been loyal to her all her life. Her adoptive mother continues to pray that with God’s help she can soften Allie’s heart. Will it be possible to restart this life that was Interrupted?

Random Thought:

This is a sweet, gentle story that holds no real surprises, but the writing is solid and it’s a enjoyable first effort from a 16-year-old debut author.