Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“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

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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

“Man Made Boy” by Jon Skovron December 29, 2013

Man Made Boy cover

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The Facts

368 pages; published October 2013

The Basics

Boy – the stitched-together son of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride – has grown up in isolation and is aching to see the real world. When he makes a break for it, he finds the outside world is both complicated and offers untold adventures.


Boy is basically a typical modern teen growing up in New York City. He feels a bit resentful of his parents. He’s rebellious and feels trapped by his life. He’s got a crush on a pretty girl. He’s into computers. Except that the parents Boy is resenting are Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride, who built their son from body parts stolen from area morgues. And he really is trapped – living underground and backstage in The Show, a theater company for magical creatures. And the pretty girl he’s crushing on is a green-skinned, silver-eyed troll. And he has just used his computer to create an advanced artificial intelligence with disturbing powers.

When Boy strikes out to try to make it on his own in the real world, he finds life on the outside offers him both more – and less – than he bargained for. His unique situation leads to a wild cross-country adventure filled with mythology and magic, intense danger, pretty girls, and more drama than ever graced the stage of The Show.

Random Thoughts

This book was a clever and fun romp. Boy won my heart almost immediately. The world might see him as a monster, but we know he’s just plain good people.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who think they know everything about computers and gaming
  • Readers who are intrigued by mythology
  • Adventure and action fans
  • Teens who are interested in something a little quirky



“Road Trip” by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen April 28, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:24 pm
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Road Trip cover

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The Facts

128 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Ben’s father drags him away on a last-minute road trip on the first day of summer vacation. The mission: to pick up a border collie in need of rescue. The other mission: to get father and son to face what has been driving them apart. As their trip expands to include a random mish-mash of interesting characters, Ben and his dad both have the chance to face up to what is changing in their lives. Through it all, their dog, Atticus, keeps a close eye on them and shares his wise observations about these humans he has to keep in line.

The Booktalk

Atticus is a 15-year-old border collie who has done an excellent job of managing his family – Ben (the boy),  his Dad (the boss) and his Mom. But today – the first day of Ben’s summer vacation – Atticus is on high alert. He’s been dragged into the truck between Ben and Dad who are off on an unplanned trip to pick up a rescue puppy. As if this family needs a dog. Atticus doesn’t want a dog, of all things. Dogs are messy and needy. But Atticus has no choice but to go along, because he can see that something is wrong. The boss and the boy aren’t really getting along. The boy doesn’t know why the boss has been gone so much lately and the boss doesn’t seem to be able to find the right words to make him understand.

Then, they keep inviting other people along on the ride – the boy who smells like smoke, the man who smells like grease, and the girl who smells like pancakes and bacon. There’s a lot of people and some strange things going on, but Atticus is just to dog to sniff out what’s right and what’s wrong as the Road Trip really takes off.

Random Thoughts

This slim offering is a joint venture between the author of the deeply beloved Hatchet and his son. It is good, clean fun for middle grade readers looking for something that really moves along, especially readers who enjoy animals. The chapters written in the voice of Atticus, the border collie, add the perfect touch to the story.


“The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys” by Scott William Carter October 31, 2011

Carter, Scott William. The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 202 pp. ISBN: 9791416971566

Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys cover

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Sucked in by an old friend, nerdy, under-the-radar Charlie Hill suddenly find himself on a wild road trip, trying to reconnect with his absent father and face his own worries about the future.


Charlie Hill is having an epically bad day. Somehow, he doesn’t even know how, he is being called out for inviting the prettiest girl in school to the prom – the prettiest girl who happens to be dating the nastiest bully around. Charlie Hill is a grade-A nerd with no hope of getting that date anyway and he knows it, but that won’t stop Leo Gonzalez from ripping his face off. Just as Leo catches him, just as Charlie realizes he is about to become “human pulp,” he is rescued by an old friend. Charlie hasn’t talked to Jake Tucker since they had a falling out over a broken Game Boy in the 4th grade. Yet, here he is, driving a fancy red Mustang recently stolen from the high school principal and offering Charlie a ride and a way out.

“There are moments when your life spins on a wheel, when the choices you make forever change the person you are and the person you will become. I could stay and get pulverized by Leo and his friends, or I could escape in the Mustang only to meet my certain doom later at the hands of Mr. Harkin. Leo’s fist now, or Harkin’s wrath later – which was worse? Looking back, it seems like there might have been other options available to me, but those were the only two roads I could see.

I got in the car.”

That’s how the Water Balloon Boys begin their last great getaway.

Charlie’s choice takes him father than he could ever have imagined – on a wild road trip from Oregon to Denver, face-to-face with his anger at the father who left him, his rejection of Jake, and his disgust with himself. When the road makes its final turn, Charlie is plunged terror, tragedy, and a terrible choice that makes all the difference – for everyone.

Random thought:

This would be a great book to recommend to Victoria, 13. Victoria looks for high-action books. Her favorite book recently was Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island by Paul Adam, which was a really exciting book about a kid who is an escape artist. When his mother goes to jail because they think she killed his father, Max has to run away and follow up on some information he gets that his dad might really be alive. Victoria likes books to be realistic with a lot going on. “If the book is just going along and nothing is really happening, I just stop reading.” I bet she wouldn’t stop reading Scott William Carter’s high-action story!

Awards/Honors (source:

Winner, 2011 OregonBook Award for Young Adult Literature

Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2011