Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“Silent Alarm” by Jennifer Banash April 21, 2015

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:40 am
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Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

336 pages; published March 2015

The Basics

When the gunshots start down the hall, Alys doesn’t even understand what is happening at first. She understand even less when she finds herself in the school library, victims bleeding at her feet, and looking down the barrel of the shotgun into the eyes of her beloved brother. He greets her. Turns. And shoots the girl next to her. In the end, he also shoots himself – leaving Alys to face a world shattered by violence, hatred, and grief.

The Review

This book is terrible to read, yet impossible to put down. Banash has tapped into a fear plaguing anyone who is or has a child in school these days – that the next school shooting will happen in a hallway near you. Then, she reaches deeper and taps into a fear no one wants to admit to – that their friend, their child, or even themselves – could be “the one.”

We see it all through Alys’ eyes, from the moment she realizes that her brother has become a monster. Alys and her parents are ostracized in the aftermath of the shooting. Alys is torn apart, feeling guilty for grieving the brother she adored as a child, trying to understand what changed in him, and trying to endure the anger, taunts, and rejection of schoolmates and former friends. It is a story that leaves an ache in your heart and belly. Painful, but so well done.

Random Thoughts

  •  One strangely distracting element was Alys’ name. She makes a huge deal several times about people mispronouncing it like “Alice,” when it’s supposed to be “Aleese.” In the face of what has happened, I kept thinking, “Oh, who cares?

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • A room full of librarians at the Oregon Library Association’s Annual Conference (done)
  • Teens looking for something that makes them cry
  • Fans of intense realistic fiction
  • People who, like me, get chills when they hear about the book’s premise
 

“The Story of Owen” by E.K. Johnston September 22, 2014

The Story of Owen cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

312 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Siobhan is a gifted musician. Owen is the youngest in a line of famous Canadian dragon slayers. Siobhan enters his life as his algebra tutor, but soon finds she had really be recruited as his bard, charged with the task of helping change the way the small community of Trondheim and the world behind see the work of the dragon slayers who labor to save humanity from carbon-emission-and-people-eating dragons.

Booktalk

It’s not easy being a dragon slayer. Dragons are ruthless in their pursuit of carbon emissions and people are idiots about not only making the emissions, but about the dragon slayers during a battle. Lottie Thorskard–once the most famous dragon slayer in Canada and maybe the world–paid a terrible price for the shortcomings of others. Now, she is determined the things will be different for her nephew, Owen, dragon slayer-in-training and high school students struggling in algebra. Using algebra as a cover, Lottie arranges for Owen to take on a bard, Siobhan, with the idea that she will use her considerable musical talents to shine a positive light on the world of the dragon slayer. Siobhan, Owen, Lottie, and the entire community of Trondheim are in for more danger and excitement that any of them could have imagined.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is droll and clever, but not quite as action-filled as I thought it might be for a book about humans battling dragons. On the other hand, the characters are completely charming and the social commentary is pointed and biting. It is more of a thinking person’s action/adventure.
  • Owen’s aunts, Lottie and Hannah, may be my favorite literary couple this year so far. I simply adored them both.

But Wait, There’s More!

The Story of Owen is book 1 in The Dragon Slayer of Trondheim series. Prairie Fire is due out sometime in 2015.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Smart readers with sophisticated senses of humor
  • Teens who want a little climate change allegory mixed into their adventure stories
  • People who want a teen book with no romance, but a true mixed-gender friendship
  • Aspiring writers who want to read something deliciously crafted
 

“Fake ID” by Lamar Giles February 10, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:45 pm
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Fake ID cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Nick Pearson is thrown into a tailspin when Eli Cruz, his only friend in his new town of Stepton, Virginia, is killed just as he is about to break the story of a huge community scandal. Nick’s search for truth is complicated by his need to keep more than a few secrets of his own.

Booktalk

Nick Pearson isn’t feeling at all like himself – with good reason. In the four year since his family joined the Witness Protection program, he’s had five identities, five made-up backstories, and five new homes. Now, he’s arrived in Stepton, Virginia and the wheels are really coming off. Nick’s formerly mob-connected father is acting more suspicious than ever. His mother is cracking under the pressure. And his new friend, Eli Cruz, is convinced that something about Stepton is rotten to the core. When Eli turns up dead, Nick has to face facts. Eli was right. And since it looks like the mayor and the police are in on whatever diabolical scheme has been cooked up, it will be up to Nick and Eli’s stunningly beautiful sister to sort fact from fiction.

Random Thoughts

  • How many people are there – really – in the Witness Protection program? Like attending boarding schools, I suspect this is one of those things that happens more in literature than in real life. Then again, how would I know?
  • To be honest, this won’t rate as the book of highest literary quality published in 2014, but it was fast-paced, well-written, and definitely entertaining.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who have a hard time finding something to read
  • Mystery fans
  • Readers interested in a new voice in young adult fiction

 

 

“All the Truth That’s In Me” by Julie Berry October 22, 2013

All the Truth That's in Me cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

274 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

A tiny town has been shattered by the murder of one of its girls and the kidnapping and mutilation of another. Judith is the one who returns, but finds no place in her family or the town horrified and confused by the discovery that her tongue has been cut out. Unable to speak the truth, she watches and contemplates.

The Booktalk

One small Puritan town. Two girls disappear in the same week. One is found floating, naked in the river. The other returns after two unsettling years. Her tongue is cut out. She is wrapped in silence and secrets.

Reviled by the community as “damaged,” now-mute Judith drifts ghostlike along the edges of her society, watching and listening. Most closely, she watched Lucas, a boy she has loved since childhood. He is the only source of kindness she still has.

When the tiny village comes under attack, but Lucas and Judith respond in the only ways they can think of – saving the village but shattering the uneasy balance of their lives. Loyalties shift.  Questions are asked. But no one is ready for what happens when Judith reveals All the Truth That’s In Me.

Random Thoughts

  • The dreamy style of this book is captivating. The story burbles out in small snippets, organized into chapterlets as small as a single line, and flows like water through a rocky creekbed until it trickles down to the riveting conclusion.
  • Although set in Puritan America, the book has some unmistakably contemporary sensibilities. Still, the setting somehow works in the end and the book becomes a memorable ride through the scandalous side of Puritanical life.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Readers asking for creepy mystery stories
  • Girls who like love stories
  • People interested in unique writing styles
 

“Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year” by Ramsey Beyer September 26, 2013

Little Fish cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

272 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

Lists, journal entries, reflections, comic strips, and drawings are blended together to tell the sweet, sometimes funny story of a girl leaving a small, small town to be a little fish in the big pond of art school in Baltimore.

Booktalk

Ramsey Beyer was a shy girl who loved art and punk rock, growing up in Paw Paw, Michigan. Although she had a great family and good friends, she didn’t quite feel like Paw Paw was “her” place. If you’ve ever felt that way, you will relate to this book. Ramsey does the brave thing and heads out – 600 miles away to attend art school in Baltimore. She makes new friends, gets homesick, gets a crush, learns new things, has great adventures, gets sad sometimes, and changes her major. She tells it all in her own style, through reproducing lists and journal entries from when she was in college, as well as new drawings and comic strips. It is beautiful to look at and beautiful to read as you find out what it is like for this little fish to learn to swim in a new pond.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Readers who like realistic fiction
  • Seniors who are nervous about college
  • Graphic novel and art fans
  • Other people who make lists

A Page from Little Fish …

There are LOTS of lists. They are very interesting.

 

Image courtesy of zestbooks.net

 

“Rotten” by Michael Northrop May 27, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 3:21 pm
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Rotten cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

256 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

JD is just returning from a summer spent at a location he doesn’t care to talk about. JR – Johnny Rotten – is a Rottweiler rescue adopted by his mother while JD was away. Having been abused and neglected, JR doesn’t trust men. JD isn’t sure he’s such a fan of the dog either – at first – but soon finds they have more in common than he might think.

The Booktalk

There’ s a lot of rotten in JD’s life. Just before his junior year, he had to spend the summer away. He’s not doing so well with his friends and his girlfriend because he doesn’t want to talk about it. His mom is tense and acting kind of weird. And now, he has to figure out what to do about the newest member of his household – a rescued Rottweiler with a checkered past and a bad attitude, especially toward men.

JD decides the name the dog Johnny Rotten – like the Sex Pistols lead singer. Just as he realizes he actually likes his new companion, one bad moment redefines many of his relationships and leaves JD fighting for his rotten life.

Random Thoughts

There is a sweetness to many “boy and his dog” stories that is lacking here, which makes the story more interesting and memorable. Still, it is a great choice for animal lovers.

 

 

“If I Lie” by Corrine Jackson January 11, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,GLBTQ,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:04 am
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If I Lie cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

276 pages; published August 2012

The Basics

Everyone in town thinks Quinn cheated on her Marine boyfriend just as he deployed to Afghanistan. Only Quinn and Carey know the whole truth, but he’s gone and she’s not telling. Instead, she endures as she is shunned and bullied by everyone from her classmates to her own father. Now, Carey is MIA and Quinn looks worse than ever in her military town.

Booktalk

Here’s the truth, people. When Quinn’s best friend and boyfriend, Carey, came from on leave from the Marines, he broke up with her and broke her heart. Yes, she kissed another boy. Well, so did Carey. But Quinn got caught on camera and the picture ended up on Facebook and as far as anyone else knows, it’s a picture of girl cheating on an American hero. Why? Because Carey begged her not to tell his secret and Quinn agreed. So, even when the going gets tough, Quinn’s loyalty, honor, and love for her friend won’t allow her to reveal the truth.

Worse yet, everyone in town figures she’s just like her “slut” mother who did cheat on Quinn’s dad – and walked out on both of them while her husband was overseas. Quinn is in a miserable, no-win situation. All she has left to hang onto is her growing enthusiasm for photography and a grumpy old military photographer named George.

Random Thought

This was one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. Quinn is such a likable character that I wanted to be able to tell her how to fix everything. But the trap she was in was so complicated, even the truth was not going to ease her pain.