Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“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
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“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell November 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:00 am
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Eleanor & Park cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

328 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Eleanor is a curvy red-headed girl with strange clothes and no place on the bus because she’s the new girl after weeks of school and the pecking order has already been established. Park is the mixed-race Korean American boy at the fringe of the social order who gives her a place to sit in a begrudging burst of profanity. From that awkward foundation, a breathtakingly beautiful, complex, frustrating, epic romance grows.

Review

I loved Park. I wish he could have been my boyfriend.
I loved Eleanor. I’m pretty sure I knew her in high school and I loved her then too.
I loved that the jerks at the back of the bus had layers to them and were more than just evil, although not much more.
I loved how slowly Eleanor and Park fell in love.
I loved it whenever they held hands.
I loved that they thought no one else would see.
I love, loved Park’s parents – that they were so loving and so flawed and so complex that for once, parents in a YA novel felt like genuine people.
I loved that Eleanor tried so hard to still be in spite of her horrid, horrid stepfather and awful father and broken mother.
I loved Mr. Stessman, the English teacher, because he was a hopeless, sweet dork who truly loved literature and admired Eleanor.
I loved Mrs. Dunn, the guidance counselor, because she tried.
I loved Denice and Bebe because they stuck up for and with Eleanor and because they were just fun characters.
I loved the attention to detail.
I loved the way it was written.
I loved the love story.
I loved the ending, however painful it was.
I loved that I got to read this story.

I Will Recommend This To …

  • Fans of John Green and David Levithan
  • Readers who like to be emotionally shattered and sobbing
  • Mature youth and adults looking for a mature love story
  • People who aren’t afraid of a little (or – OK – a lot of) profanity

Random Thoughts

  • I listened to Eleanor & Park on audiobook, which I highly recommend. The readers – Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra – are fantastic.
  • I resisted reading Eleanor & Park for a long time because I thought it would make me sad. I was right. It was devastating. I’m so glad I finally read it.
 

“The Selection” by Kiera Cass June 14, 2013

The Selection cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

327 pages; published April 2012

The Basics

America Singer lives in a world defined by strict castes and repressive rules, but she has the ultimate opportunity for caste-climbing. She has been chosen to participate in The Selection, in which she is one of 35 girls who compete on TV to be the next queen of Illea.

The Booktalk

Who doesn’t want to be a princess? Well, America Singer doesn’t. Although she is only a Five in a strict caste system that pretty much deprives everyone below a Three, America has a profession that she likes and a boy that she loves (even though it’s in secret.) So, she is very much NOT excited when she is chosen to participate in the ultimate reality TV courting show – The Selection – in which 35 girls compete to be the bride of Illea’s handsome crown prince, Maxon. America is down-to-earth, funny, and temperamental. She even yells at Prince Maxon the first time they meet. She couldn’t be less suited as princess material. So why is she still around in The Selection?

But Wait … There’s More!

The Selection kicks off a fast-moving trilogy. The Elite was released in April 2013 and will be followed by The One in 2014.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is wildly popular at my library. Given the topic, I was hesitant to read it because I thought it might be too ridiculous, but I enjoyed the character and the writing was spot on. I raced through books 1 and 2. Now, I’m quite impatient for the 3rd.
  • One of the blurbs on the back of The Elite describes the series as, “like The Hunger Games (without the blood sport) and like The Bachelor (without the blood sport) …” It is an apt description.
 

“Vessel” by Sarah Beth Durst January 30, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:21 am
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Vessel cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

424 pages; September 2012

The Basics

As a chosen Vessel, Liyana is supposed to give her body to her clan’s goddess and drift away into the Dreaming. But when everything goes wrong and the goddess does not come, Liyana finds herself on a wild, desperate search for the magic needed to save her people.

Booktalk

Unlike most people, Liyana knows how she will die. She is the chosen Vessel of the Goat Clan. On the ordained day, as part of a carefully choreographed ceremony, she allow her soul to leave her body so that it can be filled by the Bayla, goddess of her clan. Liyana’s soul will travel forward into the Dreaming and Bayla – using Liyana’s well-prepared and well-trained body – will work the magic needed to save Liyana’s desert clan.

That’s how it was supposed to happen. Liyana did her part. She practiced. She dressed in a flowing robe. She marched to the oasis. She danced. But Bayla didn’t come. Liayana’s clan – believing she has been judged unworthy – leaves her to die.

But strong, smart, resourceful Liyana is not inclined to die. Korbyn, the god of the Raven Clan, appears and offers her an alternate explanation. Perhaps she was not rejected. Perhaps her goddess, among others, has been kidnapped and is in need of rescue. Together, they go on an epic quest to discover the secrets of the desert and what lies beyond.

Random Thoughts

1) I love an good opening line. This book starts, “On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family’s tent to see the dawn.” And just like that, I was all in.

2) I’m a sucker for great characters and Liyana and Korbyn are fantastic. I was crushed when our time together had to end.

3) Is that not a gorgeous cover?

 

“Matched” by Ally Condie November 23, 2012

Matched cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

369 pages; published November 2010

The Basics

Everything in Cassia’s world is controlled by The Society and Cassia is a model citizen, living by the rules. She is excited to find out who has been chosen as her Match. But she’s not ready for what happens. Her microchip shows her not one, but two boys. The Society never makes mistakes, but they have this time – and it is a mistake that throws Cassia into a wild tailspin.

Booktalk

Cassia lives in a world where everything is decided by The Society – what she reads, the art she sees, the music she listens to, what she does at school, what she eats, how she exercises, where she will work. They even monitor her dreams. Now, on her 16th birthday, The Society has used carefully statistical analysis to determine who Cassia should marry – which boy is her Match. But when she is shown not one, but two options, Cassia’s clear, simple life path becomes jumbled and confused. Although she is told sweet, safe Xander is the one she is really meant to Match with, she finds herself drawn to Ky, whose dark and mysterious past is the source of much intrigue. The pot is stirred further when her grandfather encourages mild subversion, sneaking her a copy of a poem not in the approved 100. Cassia finds herself wondering – for the first time in her life – whether The Society really knows best.

Random Thought

I’m not the biggest fan of romance and page after page of girls mooning over boys, but I was riveted by many of the ideas of The Society. In order to combat all the chaos and noise of life in the “old world” (ours), The Society chose 100 songs, 100 books, 100 poems, 100 pieces of art and they have become what is. Nothing new is created or permitted. Also, everyone in The Society dies at 80 and the discussion of that dictum was though-provoking to say the least.

Wait! There’s More

This is the first in a trilogy that is now complete with Crossed (2011) and Reached (2012).

Awards/Honors (source: GoodReads.com)

  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
  • Teen Buckeye Book Award Nominee (2012)
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)
 

“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan December 7, 2011

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. 310 pages. ISBN: 9780385736817

The Forest of Hands and Teeth cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

Annotation: 

Mary lives in a village totally controlled by the Sisterhood, a religious order, and trapped by the thousands of hungry undead who live in the forest surrounding the community. Yet, she longs for the ocean she learned of in stories from her mother during her childhood and can’t give up the notion that there may be something out there for her beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Booktalk:

Even as her world is coming apart, Mary cannot resist the pull of the forbidden.

Her father is already gone, bitten and pulled away into the vast sea of the moaning, hungry, living dead Unconsecrated who surround her village. Her mother, distraught with grief and love, soon follows, leaving Mary with the stories she has told about a mythical ocean and world beyond the village.

Mary’s brother, in anger, abandons her, leaving her with no choice but to join the Sisterhood that controls all life in the village. There, Mary finds herself assigned to help with the care of a childhood friend who has been badly injured. Even as she knows he is promised to another, she falls deeply and desperately in love. Then she too is chosen for marriage – by her beloved’s brother and finds herself cornered by tradition and expectations and other people’s desires.

Just as she is feeling most trapped, the Unconsecrated break through the fences protecting the village and she escapes with her betrothed, her beloved, her best friend, and her brother as everything they have ever known disintegrates behind them.

Driven by her dreams and hopes about the ocean, Mary drives herself and her companions through an ancient protected path to face what is to come from The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Wait! There’s More:

This is only the first book in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Also look for The Dead-Tossed Waves (2010) and The Dark and Hollow Places (2011).

Teen View (courtesy of YouTube):

Awards/Honors (source: http://www.carrieryan.com/forest-hands-teeth.php):

  • A New York Times Best Seller
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection
  • Named to the 2010 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List
  • A Borders Original Voices finalist
  • #4 on the IndieBound Kids’ Indie Next List for Spring 2009
  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
  • Selected for the 2010-2011 Texas Library Association TAYSHAS High School Reading list
  • A Denver Public Library Best Teen Books of 2009 selection
  • Nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media Association Young Adult Book Award
  • Nominated for the 2010-2011 Georgia Peach Book Award

 

“My So-Called Death” by Stacey Jay December 6, 2011

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Young Adult,Zombies/Undead — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:33 am
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Jay, Stacey. My So-Called Death. Woodbury, Minn.: Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications, 2010. 229 pages. ISBN: 9780738715438

My So-Called Death cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

Annotation:

A hard fall off the top of a cheer pyramid knocks Karen Vera into another world. Turns out, she’s genetically indisposed toward death. So, instead of planning a funeral, her parents ship her off to DEAD High where a fellow zombie with a taste for other zombie brains is about to make everything very interesting indeed.

Booktalk:

I thought I was on top of the world. After all, I was a 14-year-old cute, blonde cheerleader who out-perkied even the perkiest of other cheerleaders. But it turns out, I was only on top of the cheer pyramid and that pyramid was about to collapse. So, you would think once I fell headfirst from the top of the heap onto the pavement below and most of my brains fell pretty much clean out of my head that that would be the end of my story, right?

Well, you’d be wrong. Apparently, I’m immortal. Not the cool kind of super-power immortal, but the kind that craves brains and has to follow a skin-care regimen to avoid rot. (Ew, gross.) They like to call it death challenged, but basically, I’m a zombie now so I have to ditch my family and go to a special zombie school and if my totally freaky zombie roommate wasn’t bad enough – yikes! Now someone is prying the brains out of other zombie’s heads to make some kind of super-stew. And I’m totally afraid it might be Gavin, the super-cute zombie from the swim team who makes my non-beating heart go pitter-pat.

I have just got to get to the bottom of this. I don’t want someone stealing my brain before I even kiss my first zombie boyfriend and really start to enjoy “My So-Called Death.”

Awards:

None noted