I GOT TO MEET LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON, Y’ALL!
Because I’m the [2013-2014] President of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association, I got to sit at the head table during the 2013 YSS Empire State Award Luncheon. Since Laurie Halse Anderson was the 2013 ESA winner, I had the honor of meeting/lunching with her! It was amazing to have the opportunity to get to know [even briefly] an author whose work has so affected me and the teens I work with. In addition to discussing her research for her next book, our mutual love for the Sterling Renaissance Fair, my work at my library and with YSS, and her views on “reluctant readers” — she thinks we should switch to the phrase “readers with very high standards” — we also took the super-hilarious profile picture my Facebook link now sports. Yeah… That happened! The icing on the cake, though, was when I received a signed copy of this ARC.
Hayley Kincain’s father is a military veteran who is haunted by his past. Though he obviously suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he refuses to get professional help. Unfortunately, Hayley plays into the illusion that they can manage on their own and lies to everyone, including herself, about how well her father is doing. After returning from the Middle East, her dad has spent much of his time running from his past while self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. He has decided to try moving back to his hometown, though, so he can provide Hayley with more stability — like being enrolled in a traditional high school instead of being unschooled as they travel around the country in his big rig. Sometimes, it’ll seem like he’s getting his act together… But then something will trigger his PTSD and he’ll spiral out of control all over again. Fortunately, Haley manages to reconnect with a childhood friend, Gracie, and make a connection with a guy named Finn whose friendship [and love?] might just give her the strength she needs to face her harsh reality.
I am so grateful that someone let Susan Beth Pfeffer in on the “secret definition of trilogy” [as Scott Westerfeld put it when he wrote the dedication for Extras]. I was not OK with leaving the Moon Crash Trilogy as it ended in This World We Live In… I needed to know what happened next! Luckily, Susan Beth Pfeffer listened to her fans and kept writing even when her publisher wasn’t [initially] interested in a fourth Moon Crash book.
Miranda’s younger brother, Jon, is now 16 years old. As the baby of the family, he has gotten used to a life of relative privilege. Even when food was extremely scarce, people made sure he was fed. When work needed to be done, others worked harder so he didn’t have to. And when Alex had only 3 slips to get into an enclave — which would provide more safety, food, and educational opportunities for the people within — everyone agreed that those slips should go to Jon, his stepmother, Lisa, and her baby, Gabe. Many clavers got in simply because of the money and power they had before the moon crash, so Jon’s so-called friends often remind him that he’s a “slip” and could be kicked out if he doesn’t play along/act the part of a claver well enough. Since his “job” is playing soccer and his status as a claver gets him as much food, booze, and trouble-free mischief as he wants, though, Jon is often all too happy to play along.
People in White Birch, including some of Jon’s own family members [Miranda, Alex, and his mom], are known as grubs and often work for clavers in the capacity of domestic servants, drivers, and greenhouse workers. I was extremely uncomfortable with Jon’s hateful attitude toward grubs and how cavalierly he acted despite his family’s position, but I could see how easily a teenager might dissociate for the sake of fitting in and surviving in such a harsh reality. As much as I hated Jon and the things he did, it made all too much sense that a spoiled kid raised in a post-apocalyptic world would turn out this way. Luckily, Jon experienced some decent character development and the ending left me feeling like there was hope for Jon and his family… and maybe even a fifth Moon Crash book!
Let me begin by saying that this book is technically a “follow-up” to Suck It Up, but it definitely works well as a standalone story. (I didn’t go back and read the first book and I still understood/enjoyed this book just fine.) The basic premise of the story is that 16-year-old Morning McCobb has “outed” himself as a vampire and is now the poster child of the International Vampire League (IVL). Opposite the IVL, of course, there are extremist, anti-vampire groups like MOP (Mortals Only Party) and IMPALE (International Mamas and Papas Against Leaguer Equality), who are doing everything in their power to stop the IVL from getting Congress to pass the Vampire Rights Act (VRA). Even though this story is all about vampire rights, it’s nearly impossible to miss the correlation between the IVL’s struggle — complete with a Vampire Pride Parade — and the struggle for LGBT rights in America today. Cheesy humor and puns abound, helping to keep the story light, but some pretty important messages still come through. And, since many of my library teens are active in their school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), I’ve decided to feature this book and to give away my copy of the ARC at our Book Club program this afternoon as we prepare for Banned Books Week.
Olivia can’t remember life without pageants. After all, she has been competing in them since she was only 3 years old. Her mom is not as crazy as some of the pageant moms who’ve made the show Toddlers and Tiaras so infamous, but she is still pretty pushy. She allows Olivia to eat anything she wants and doesn’t worry about dieting, for example, but she also pressures Olivia to practice her walking, smiling, singing, and interview skills for hours a day.
One day, after church, Olivia had a chance encounter with a runaway boy named Danny. When she walked outside to get a little time alone, she heard someone calling out from the toolshed. Danny was hiding there while he waited for a connecting bus to Chicago, and he was really hungry. After Olivia snuck him some food, the two started talking. Danny, apparently, ran away because his mom was pressuring him to take shots of growth hormones [since he was extremely small for his age] even though he didn’t want the painful treatments. Olivia understood all too well how it felt to be judged by appearance alone, and she worried that Danny would not be safe traveling alone… So, to help her new friend, and to escape the pressures of her own life, Olivia went along with Danny to Chicago. I thought this was a great story about love — not only romantic love love, but also learning to love yourself and learning to love your family members despite their flaws.
Guster Johnsonville is impossible to please. His tastes are so refined that practically any food his mother cooks may as well be garbage. She gets so utterly frustrated with his refusal to eat that she packs all of her kids into the car and heads to New Orleans, sure that something will appeal to him there. Guster follows his nose to a dark building with the word “Patisserie” in the window and even the sign stating “Closed for Business by Order of the City of New Orleans” was not enough to keep him away. The Old Pastry Chef who worked there was so impressed by Guster’s particular palette that he told him about a secret recipe known as “The One Recipe” or the ”Gastronomy of Peace” and gave him a strange, old eggbeater. Almost immediately, a devil-like chef in red appeared and attacked the Old Pastry Chef. As he lay dying, the Old Pastry Chef said just one more thing to Guster: “Get it to Felicity!”
No one in his family has much of an idea what they need to do now, but Guster is sure of two things — (1) The Chef in Red will stop at nothing to retrieve the eggbeater, and (2) he just HAS to figure out how to make the Gastronomy of Peace. I would recommend this book to fans of series like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and 39 Clues.
BOOK OF A
OK. If you are still reading, I trust that you have read the first two books of the Maze Runner Trilogy (Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials)… That means you already know that Thomas and the Gladers have found their way out of the Maze and that they thought they had been rescued from WICKED (World in Catastrophe, Killzone Experiment Department) but were actually being collected to be sent into the Scorch Trials. While they didn’t know whether they could trust anything they were told by WICKED, they had no other choice than to believe that they had been infected with the Flare and would find the cure if they could survive the Trials. Despite the devious creatures and Cranks they had to fight off, many of them (including Thomas) survived until the end.
This book opens with Thomas in an isolation chamber at WICKED headquarters. He has been there for three weeks and has no idea where the other Gladers are or how they are doing. When the Rat Man comes and lets him out of the isolation chamber, Thomas is informed that he is actually a Munie (someone who is immune to the Flare) and that all of these trials have been an attempt to map his Killzone (brain) to develop a cure. Now, WICKED claims that they are very close to a cure — as long as the Gladers who have survived the trials cooperate. Thomas is unsure how he feels about all this. Is it really worth all the pain and sacrifices he and his friends have experienced if they can find a cure? Is a cure even possible? And why should he trust that “WICKED is good” after all the lies and horrors of the past?
Alex has a brain tumor and doctors don’t seem to think she has very much longer to live. With this in mind, she decides to take a hike into the mountains to say her final goodbyes to her parents (whose ashes she is bringing along). While she is out in the wilderness, though, something very strange happens. Birds fall from the sky, dogs begin to act strangely, and some people simply drop dead. Because all of her electronics mysteriously died at this very same instant, Alex presumes that there must have been some sort of a large EMP (electromagnetic pulse). Fortunately, she is not completely alone. She has the companionship and help of two people she met in the woods — Tom, a soldier who is home on leave, and Ellie, a girl who’d been on a trip with her grandfather when he died as a result of the EMP. Trying to find their way to a place with enough supplies to keep them alive would have been quite challenging enough, but they also discovered that they need to worry about “The Changed” — teens/young adults who act almost like zombies, attacking and eating other humans they come across.
This was another rather gruesome story to read, but I stuck it out because it was such a cool concept, so well written, and so suspenseful… I just HAD to know what would become of Alex, Tom, and Ellie. I should have read the fine print before I started this story, though, because it’s the first book in a trilogy, so I still don’t know how it ends! Oh well. I guess I would rather read a great book that leaves me desperately awaiting a sequel than read a bad story, right?
I love the title of this book — although what’s written above is not actually the COMPLETE title. Part of the reason why I love this book title is that it has so many humorous footnotes, including in the title:
*yes, boyfriends, plural. if my life weren’t complicated — I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver.”
(And, yes, the lack of capital letters is intentional!)
E. Lockhart has a gift for writing tons of humor into what could very well be a horribly depressing book. Between Ruby’s panic attacks, her father’s debilitating depression, and Ruby’s boy troubles, this could have been a drag. Instead, readers find themselves laughing out loud as Ruby sings retro metal songs in her head to stave off panic attacks, recalls her father “drooling orange drool” (from his steady diet of Doritos, Cheetos, etc.) onto his sweatshirt as he camps out on the couch, and compiles lists of possibilities as to why her boyfriend is not answering her calls and e-mails.
While it probably helps to have read at least one of the other Ruby Oliver novels first (I have only read The Boyfriend List), this could certainly be a stand-alone title. Big thanks to my friend, Goddess Librarian, for letting me borrow her ARC! Be sure to subscribe to her blog, too, since she has lots of great reviews and occasional contests/give-aways.
I don’t normally review “middle grade” books on this blog, but I just HAD to make an exception. Not only is this book written by my friend Eric Luper, but it has a character named after me. Seriously! Ms. Morrison, the Children’s Librarian, is actually based on me! (Despite my lack of blue hair.) Thank you Eric for making me “the cool one,” and for immortalizing the night of the karaoke disaster. I’m so glad we can both look back on it and laugh!
Jeremy Bender and his best friend, Slater, seem like pretty average tween boys at the outset of this story. But then, something terrible happens… They knock over a soda, and it spills into the engine of Mr. Bender’s boat! When Jeremy asks Slater to throw him a can of degreaser, he ends up with a can of spray paint — and he doesn’t notice until AFTER he has sprayed it into the engine! Now, the boys have two options. They can tell the truth, or they can try to come up with enough money to replace the engine before boating season begins. Guess which option they decide to run with?
On a trip to their local public library, the boys see a flier for the model sailboat tournament called the Windjammer Whirl. As soon as Jeremy saw that there was a $500 cash prize, he became determined to enter. When Slater noticed that the race was sponsored by the Cupcake Cadets (think Girl Scouts), he began to question Jeremy’s sanity. Jeremy insisted, though, that this was the only way they would be able to get the money to replace that engine. And, so, the deception begins.
This book reminds me of an 80′s sitcom [starring Tom Hanks!] called Bosom Buddies — hence the image at the beginning of the post. You keep thinking that people MUST know these are not really girls… that they would surely recognize Jeremy and Slater if they looked them in the face. And yet, their comical misadventures are crazy enough that you’ll gladly suspend disbelief to find out what happens next. If you want to know whether Jeremy and Slater [or should I call them Jenna and Samantha?] get away with their ruse, you will have to read it for yourself. The book will be out in April of 2011, but people who know me can borrow my ARC if they ask nicely. (And maybe bring me cupcakes!)
Carter can’t wait for the school year to end so he can get started on summer vacation. Unfortunately, that summer gets started off on a sour note when his girlfriend, Abby, breaks up with him for being an insensitive jerk. With no girlfriend and no job prospects in sight, Carter starts to wonder whether his summer vacation will be any fun at all. Things start looking up pretty quickly, nevertheless, when Carter finds out that a local author will be making a film adaptation of his memoirs and wants Carter to try out for the lead. When Carter lands the lead role, opposite tween sensation Hilary Idaho, he becomes the envy of all the guys in town and starts to get a real taste of fame — paparazzi, tabloids, and all!
While there are some sad moments, the overall story is HILARIOUS! It’s not for the faint of heart, though. If you don’t think you’ll be able to handle Carter’s over-sexed mind and foul mouth, you should probably steer clear of this one.