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
 

“Vivian Apple at the End of the World” by Katie Coyle May 26, 2015

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:40 am
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The Facts

Vivan Apple at the End of the World cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

262 pages; published January 2015

The Basics

Vivian Apple’s parents are gone, apparently taken up by the rapture predicted by the oddly powerful Church of America. Those left behind are facing an increasingly dysfunctional society and devastating natural disasters. But Vivian isn’t content to just wait for the end of the world. She sets out to do something about it.

The Booktalk

When an evangelical doomsday cult won the hearts and minds of her parents, neighbors, and most of America, Vivian Apple didn’t believe. When the Church of America declared the date on which the rapture would take place, Vivian Apple didn’t believe and went to a party instead. Now that her parents are gone, leaving behind only two holes in the roof, and all the non-Raptured are running scared as they await the apocalypse, Vivian Apple still isn’t buying it. With the thinnest of justifications – a strange late-night phone call, a feeling, and a rumor – she persuades her best friend and a complete stranger to join her on a wild road trip across what is left of America in search of the truth.

Random Thoughts …

  • I can’t say the book is funny, because the circumstances are really horrific, but it is amusing and weirdly light-hearted.
  • I dare you not to fall in love with Vivian and her friends, despite their many flaws.
  • The amusing romp is good cover for a lot of biting social commentary – about people’s gullibility, marketing, desperation, and hypocrisy. It would make an interesting teen book club selection.

But Wait, There’s More!

  • A sequel, Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle, will be released in the U.S. in September 2015. I will be first in line to enjoy it!

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Readers fascinated by cults, particularly quasi-Christian doomsday cults
  • Teens with sophisticated senses of humor
  • Fans of apocalyptic fiction
  • People who enjoy quirky characters and fast action
 

“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
 

“How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial” by Darryl Cunningham June 12, 2014

How to Fake a Moon Landing cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

176 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

In a traditional, multi-panel graphic novel format, Darryl Cunningham is succint and direct as he refutes for the claims of science deniers, pseudoscientific theories, and claims of hoaxes. Sections cover the moon landing, homeopathy, chiropractic care, MMR vaccines, evolution, fracking, climate change, and science denial itself.

Review

Interesting and fast-paced, How to Fake a Moon Landing pulls no punches. Cunningham takes each of the eight science denial scenarios head-on, explaining the claims of the believers and then tearing them apart. Each section includes a rich amout of history and background on the topic, as well as the “claims vs facts.” I was impressed by how much information he packed in and his ability to simply and clearly address conversations which have generated a cacophony of debate. I have booktalked this in several classrooms now. I find it good to acknowledge that the book has a high potential to offend, but even more potential to inform and to encourage further independent research on the part of the reader.

Random Thoughts

  • I believe my favorite fact is that Daniel Palmer, the man who performed the first chiropractic adjustment, died a few weeks after a “strange incident in which his son ran over him with a car.” The next panel observes, “the official cause of death was typhoid, but being run over couldn’t have helped.”
  • How anyone ever came up with the practice of fracking is beyond me.

I Will Recommend This to …

  • Practically everyone – I just keep talking about it.
  • Kids who need to read a science-based book for this year’s Summer Reading Club.
  • Anyone interested in one of the eight topics covered.
  • Teachers looking for an engaging, yet informative book for their classroom libraries.
 

“Coaltown Jesus” by Ron Koertge October 24, 2013

Filed under: Books,Christian,Fiction,Poetry,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:30 am
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Coaltown Jesus cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

128 pages; published October 2013

The Basics

Simply told in spare verse, this is the chuckle-worthy story of a boy who spends a few days with a wryly witty Jesus (who would have arrived sooner if not for some bad traffic on the I-55) after Walker prays for help for his grieving mother.

Review

Having howled my way through the darkly hilarious Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, I simply had to invited Coaltown Jesus to come home with me. Because it is both a slim book and written in verse, it takes barely any time to read. Processing it fully, however, takes more time.

Walker is completely torn up inside after the untimely death of his beloved, but troubled brother. Living above the private nursing home owned by their mother, Walker wonders, “Didn’t God look downstairs? It’s a nursing home. Half my mom’s clients are ready to check out. But he picks a kid.” With his own grief pressing in, Walker prays that God will fix his mother, who is shattered by the loss.

Enter Jesus, a fast-talking, smart-mouth who shows up late and needing to check his email – “robe, sandals, beard – just like my action figure.” He doesn’t like being called The Anointed One (“Makes me feel greasy”) and admits that camels may have been a mistake born of a long day of creation (“You try creating a whole world without even a snack”). Who knew Jesus was such a card?

Between quips, however, Jesus finds his own way to attend to the business of healing and may indeed be the answer to Walker’s prayers.

Random Thoughts

I couldn’t decide if this book was irreverent or very reverent indeed. Because why couldn’t the King of kings have a sense of humor? In fact, don’t we have a lot of evidence that He must?

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • People who enjoy the unexpected
  • Anyone with a quirky sense of humor
  • Families who are grieving
  • Students who need to read a book – quick!
 

“Rapture Practice” by Aaron Hartzler June 18, 2013

Filed under: Books,Christian,GLBTQ,Memoir/Biography,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:18 pm
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Rapture Practice cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

400 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

Aaron Hartzler was brought up in a Baptist family so strict that other Baptists seemed radically permissive by comparison. Wishing to be obedient, but desperate to be true to himself, Aaron struggles to keep his place in his family while spreading his wings.

Review

What made this book striking to read was that throughout the stories of Aaron’s wayward youth, he clearly loves and even admires his family and their singular devotion to religion. However, he doesn’t share it. He chafes painfully under the oppressive rules of his unusually strict household. He can’t see movies. There’s no TV. No listening to any station other than 88.5 KLJC, Kansas City’s home for “beautiful, sacred music.” It’s a religious view that forgives serial killers, as long as they confess their sins and open their hearts to Jesus, but condemns the two  men holding hands while they watch a gay pride parade – two men who kind of look like Aaron.

He never expresses hatred for his family, but he does talk about plenty of confusion and frustration. He constantly disappoints his parents because all the rules, all the restrictions just plain don’t make any sense to him. He just cannot live inside the box they’ve created.

So, he challenges the rules and sneaks out of bounds again and again. The stories as he tells them are equal parts hilarious and heart-rending.

Random Thoughts

This story will intrigue some people because it is so different from their own families. It will move others because it reminds them so much of theirs.

 

“When We Wake” by Karen Healey March 14, 2013

When We Wake cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

296 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Tegan Oglietti was having a lovely day in 2027 until she was shot and killed on the steps of the Australian Parliament House. The next time she opens her eyes, 100 years have passed. Tegan is the first successful story to come out of an experiment in cryogenics. Quickly dubbed the Living Dead Girl, Tegan has a whole new Australia to get used to and – as far as Tegan is concerned – the government has a lot of explaining to do.

Booktalk

Imagine what it would be like to blink and wake up 100 years from now. Think about what would have changed. Fashion – people would dress differently. Maybe whole new fabrics would have been invented. Speech – slang would be different, maybe other ways of talking. Technology, certainly. Social issues. The environment.

That’s what Tegan Oglietti is dealing with. Back in 2027, she was having a nearly perfect day – headed to a protest with her new boyfriend and her best friend. She doesn’t even remember the fatal shot that tore through her.

But now, she’s awake – the first person to be fully revived by Australian doctors working to perfect the science of cryogenics. Tegan has a lot more to deal with that just getting used to a world with no blue jeans, no red meat,  weird new slang words, and disturbingly racist No Immigration policies. Tegan soon realizes there’s more to her revival than her doctors and military handlers are willing to say. The Living Dead Girl has made a discovery nearly as chilling as being frozen in the first place.

Random Thoughts

It is interesting how things collide. The cryogenics in this story depend on “something” derived from tardigrades aka water bears aka moss piglets. The day after I read the chapter that introduces the tardigrades, I had a family walk into the library and ask for help finding information about “a microscopic creature whose name sounds kind of like the Tardis from Dr. Who.” What are the odd of encountering the same microscopic creature in two days??