Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“After” by Amy Efaw February 5, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:20 pm
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After cover

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The Facts

350 pages; published August 2009

The Basics

Devon Davenport was a good kid – a quiet, self-motivated scholar-athlete who was so good at soccer, words like “The Olympics” were being used about her. Until she put her newborn baby in a garbage bag and put it in the trash behind her apartment building. Now, she has been arrested and even she can hardly figure out how it all happened.


Stories about “dumpster babies” get a strong reaction. As one character asks in the book, “What kind of a monster would do this?” Amy Efaw works to supply an answer in this riveting story of a nice young woman who is lying on the couch, feeling ill and out of sorts as her mother describes the scene playing out behind their apartment building. A man on an early morning walk with his dog discovered a baby in a trash bag, crying in the alley. Devon is nearly as shocked as her mother and the visiting police officers when they discover that the mother of this baby is  Devon. She is a straight-A student, a hard worker, a crackerjack on the soccer field, a reliable babysitter and yet … How did it come to this? We come to understand a great deal about Devon – some things only she knew; some things even she didn’t seem to know. The story is certainly interesting and well-written, but I can’t truly say I feel any more understanding of the “dumpster baby” situation. How could someone not know they are pregnant? And while they may not want the baby, how could someone – a decent, nice, good person like the character here – not feel the impulse to protect a life that grew inside them?

Random Thoughts

This book was recommended to me by a library patron who was helping a friend find “really sad stories.” She said it was both worth reading and “super sad.” She was certainly correct on both counts.


  • Borders Original Voices Award for Kids & Teens (2009)
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011)
  • TAYSHAS High School Reading List (2010)
  • Florida Teen Read Nominee (2010)
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2012)

“Across the Universe” by Beth Revis October 6, 2012

Across the Universe

Images courtesy of

The Facts

416 pages; published January 2011.

The Basics

Amy is frozen cargo on a spaceship, taking a 300-year journey from our tattered earth to a potential new world. When she is awakened 50 years too soon, she finds herself trapped and alone in heavily controlled society where the people don’t seem quite right. Her only hope seems to be Elder, the leader-in-training of the ship, and Harley, who is considered crazy because he is an artist, not a drone.


Amy wasn’t even sure, not really, that she even wanted to go on this trip. But her parents were going and she couldn’t consider a life without them. So she took off her clothes and stepped into the glass box and let them do that they had to do – push blue goo into her veins, drown her in sparkly blue water – to freeze her for the 300-year journey that would take her family away from an earth where everything is falling apart to the promise of a new planet, a new earth where she and her parents will help rebuild a new, better world. But now, she’s waking up and she doesn’t know why and she’s drowning and can’t breathe and even though she’s rescued, she finds that it’s just her. Only she has been unfrozen. It’s 50 years too soon and there’s something wrong on this ship.

Elder is just a boy, the youngest in his generation and the man destined to lead the people who live on this spaceship. Elder is to learn what he will need to know to be a good leader from Eldest, the current leader, but Eldest is holding back. Eldest is keeping secrets and just wants everyone to obey him.

When Elder meets Amy, his assumptions about how things should work on the ship are challenged as Amy sees the society that has developed on board through the eyes of one who lived life free, under the true sun and in the fresh air.

Wait! There’s more:

The next book in this series, A Million Suns, was released in early 2011Shades of Earth is due out January 2013!

Awards/Honors (source:

  • New Yorks Times Bestseller list! Across the Universe debuted at #7!
  • Indie Bestseller list! Across the Universe debuted at #15!
  • Selected as an Amazon Book of the Month: January 2011
  • Featured on the Indie Next List: January 2011
  • Featured as a GoodReads Mover & Shaker
  • Recipient of the Romantic Times Seal of Excellence
  • Long-listed for the prestigious Carnegie Medal (UK)
  • Nominated for Book of the Year and Best YA Futuristic title from Romantic Times
  • Selected as a Texas Libraries (TAYSHAS) reading list
  • YALSA Reader’s Choice nomination

“Zombies vs. Unicorns” compiled and edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black December 9, 2011

Larbalestier, Justine and Black, Holly (editors). Zombies vs. Unicorns. New York: Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2010. 415 pages. ISBN: 9781416989530

Zombies vs Unicorns cover

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Twelve beloved, extraordinary authors face off in alternating stories highlighting the perceived glories of super-cool zombies vs. pathetically perky unicorns. The clash of the mythical creatures is mediated by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, who duke it out before the stories, each hoping to persuade the reader of the eternal dominance of Team Zombie vs. Team Unicorn.


Really, half this book just isn’t even necessary. All right. All right. Authors like Garth Nix and Diana Peterfruend and Meg Cabot – I’m sure they’re good people. But the joined the wrong team, plain and simple.

The win clearly goes to Team Zombie, with six stories that really tease out the nuances of the (un)life of the zombie as well as life with zombies, demonstrating the wealth and depth of the contemporary zombie.

In “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Alaya Dawn Johnson shares the beauty of blossoming love between an enchanting living boy and a boy zombie. This love brings the zombie to a higher calling, the strength of their bond lending him a new level of restraint when it comes to flesh eating.

“Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan – set in a corner of the same world that shelters the stories of her Forest of Hands and Teeth series – shows how a zombie apocalypse survivor can really learn to rise to the occasion when set upon both by zombies and pirates.

“Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson takes a unique view at zombie life from the inside, while “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld blends puberty, stirring sexuality, and teen angst with the continuous creeping pull of the zombie horde to devastating effect.

Cassandra Clare explores mixed living and undead marriage in her breakthrough “Cold Hands,” while a pair of high school student government officers-turned-anti-zombie police force patrol and try to keep up appearances in “Prom Night” by Libba Bray.

After all that, who needs Naomi Novik’s sarcastically incompetent unicorn from “Purity Test” or the creepy beastiality of Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers” or Meg Cabot’s flower-smell farting, creeper-boy butt-kicking “Princess Prettypants?” They’re just unicorns, after all.

Zombies rule. Unicorns drool.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • Texas Tayshas High School Reading List

“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

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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.


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:

  • 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


“The Summoning” by Kelley Armstrong November 6, 2011

Filed under: Fiction,Horror,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:03 pm
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Armstrong, Kelley. The Summoning. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 390 pp. ISBN: 9780061662690

The Summoning cover

Book covers courtesy of


When Chloe Sanders starts seeing ghosts, it surprises her so much that her reaction gets her moved into a home for disturbed children. Facing a diagnosis of schizophrenia and trying hard to get better, she still starts to wonder just what is going on and whether all this paranormal activity might not just be in her head.


Seriously. If you woke up one day and started seeing ghosts everywhere, what would you do? Realize one of those ghosts is a burned-up-looking, melted-faced-having, creepy janitor, chasing you through the halls of your high school yelling, “Come here. I just want to talk to you.”

You’d do what Chloe Sanders did. You’d freak out. And maybe you’d go so far as to punch some teacher, make a complete spectacle of yourself, and get yourself locked up in a home for mentally disturbed children.

Chloe is a huge film geek who sees everything that happens to her in terms of a camera angles and cutaways. Now, she’s landed in some kind of  horror flick where she’s surrounded by crazy kids and – worse – is being told she’s schizophrenic herself. She’s even willing to believe it, for a while. Then she starts to get to know the other kids in the house – handsome Simon, weirdly strong Derek, angry Tori, firebug Rae, and Liz, who is sent away still insisting it was a poltergeist and not her that attacked their teacher.

Chloe starts question everything she thought was true. Is she schizophrenic? Are the other kids really crazy? Or can she actually see ghosts? And, if so, what else does she have in common with the other inmates at the Lyle House?

Wait! There’s More:

This is just book 1 of the Darkest Powers series, which continues in The Awakening (2009) and The Reckoning (2010).

Wordle: The Summoning
(Wordle created by Sonja Somerville at

Awards/Honors (source:

  • Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List