Category Archives: ARC

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the GoldensNell and Layla were extremely close when they were little.  So close, in fact, that Nell got confused and started calling her sister and herself by the collective name Nellaya.  Now that they’re both in high school, things have started to shift.  Though they attend the same school and play on the same soccer team, Layla has become more closed off and secretive.  Nell is doing her best to be her own person instead of living in her sister’s shadow, but she misses the closeness they once had.  Though Layla used to tell her everything, she feels like Layla isn’t telling her *anything* anymore.  Nell wonders what could be causing this change in her sister and fears it has something to do with the rumors that Layla is dating the cute, young art teacher whose supposed conquests of students are frequent fodder for gossip.  She wants to know the truth, but she is also afraid of what she might learn.  After all, what will/should Nell do if she finds out the rumors are true?

Though I don’t think this book was written as well as The Things a Brother Knows or Harmless, I thought Reinhardt did a good job writing about the struggle between loyalty and honesty.

Happy Reading!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsI’m thinking I Read YA Week is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on some blogging…  and I may even actually use my Twitter account to tag my posts!  ;-)  Day 1 is supposed to be something I recommend, and this book definitely fits the bill.  I have read several of E. Lockhart’s other books — my favorite of which was probably The Boyfriend List — and I was over the moon when my friend Molly got me the ARC of this book.  Although I slacked when it came to posting a review, I handed it off to a friend immediately upon finishing and was happy to hear that she passed it along as well.  This book has legs!

Cadence has spent every summer of her life on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her entire extended family.  Hired help does all the work while the family enjoys a life of luxury and leisure.  She missed last summer, which she spent in Europe with her father, but she is back and trying to piece together what happened two summers before.  All she knows is that she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffers memory loss and crippling headaches.  No one in the family is supposed to talk to her about it because it upsets her and then she ends up forgetting anyway — the doctors have decided it’s best if they let her recover those memories on her own.  I almost couldn’t get over the shock of what had happened when her memories finally sorted themselves out, and I was in awe of how well everything that seemed so strange finally fell into place.  This is a great summer read for people who like mysteries and don’t mind shedding a few tears.

Happy Reading!

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel [ARC]

break up artistBecca Williamson has a rather unique job.  Instead of working after school in a fast food restaurant or at a clothing store in the mall, she breaks up couples for money.  Of course, she can’t just tell everyone what she does.  That would be pretty dangerous — at least socially, if not literally.  So, she advertises anonymously (on the school bathroom wall), wears a disguise when she meets with clients (via webcam), and collects payments via PayPal.  You may wonder, “Why Becca is so anti-love?”  Well, it has an awful lot to do with the fact she’s had to deal with the fallout from her sister’s fiance calling off their wedding only hours ahead of time [about a year before the beginning of the book].

The premise of this book was pretty interesting, but I thought the delivery fell a bit flat.  I don’t usually give spoilers, but I can’t explain what I didn’t like about this book without saying that Becca didn’t seem to learn anything from her experiences as The Break-Up Artist.  At the end of the book, I would have expected Becca to have a little remorse over what she had done and a better understanding of how relationships require work and honesty.  Instead, she seemed to still feel justified for what she had done.  REALLY?!?  Some people might enjoy this story for all the drama, but I can’t see myself specifically recommending it to anyone.

Happy Reading!

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican [ARC]

brutal youthThis was one of the most messed up books I have ever read.  (I don’t mean that as an insult, by the way.  I am referring to the content, not the writing.)  It was like driving by a terrible car accident — you know you shouldn’t look, but you just *have* to see for yourself what’s going on.  And although I did think it was a bit hyperbolic, it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility either.  I mean, the Catholic Church is pretty well known for brushing things under the rug and covering things up to save their reputation, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a Catholic school to have insane hazing issues and major problems with student discipline in general?  Let alone the fact that there have been so many darn hazing stories in recent years — many of which involved high school students and adults who looked the other way.  Part of me wanted to reach into the story to slap the snot out of the so-called adults who let the insanity continue, and part of my wanted to stop reading in case something truly horrific happened because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it.  I think this story is like a more modern version of Lord of the Flies – only with adults who just stood by and watched everything unfold.

Happy Reading!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Here And NowI am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them.  Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books.  They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular.  While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.

Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time.  She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world.  Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive.  Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS.  Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders.  Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules.  She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference.  Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…

Happy Reading!

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

fat boy vs the cheerleadersIn honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to review a book that I read as a digital ARC.  (If there are any teachers/librarians out there who would like to get digital ARCs, by the way, I highly recommend checking out Edelweiss and NetGalley.) Though I was reluctant to use an e-reader, I really have come around.  Though I still prefer “real” books, I am learning to appreciate my e-reader — especially when it means that I will have a better chance of receiving, and sometimes even instant access to, a review copy!

I don’t recall where I first saw the cover of this book, but I was intrigued by both the title and the cool cover.  I wanted to find out more about it and whether it might be a good fit for my library’s YA collection, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews.  So, I decided to get a digital review copy from Edelweiss and read it myself.   I am SO glad I did!  I loved the main character, Gabe/Chunk, and thought the unique way the story was told — in the form of a written statement/police interview — worked surprisingly well.

Gabe’s “friends” call him Chunk [a reference to a character from an 80s cult classic, The Goonies], and he has long accepted that moniker.  After all, he is fat.  Huge.  Beyond hope.  After his mom left, he and his dad both began to feed their feelings.  One of Gabe/Chunk’s biggest problems is his addiction to soda — but the money from the soda machine in the school cafeteria helps to fund the school pep band, so he is OK with wasting his money and drinking all the extra calories… until the day he finds out that they’ve been bamboozled.  Without public knowledge, the school board decided to take the money from the soda machine and give it to the cheerleaders for a new dance squad!  Gabe/Chunk decides that he is not only going to enlist the help of his friends to win back the money for the band, but he is going to let his grandfather [a former champion body builder] help him win back his body.  Though I admit that the description sounds like it could get a little preachy, I am pleased to report that this story was often hilarious and that Gabe/Chunk had an authentic teen voice.  I’m definitely hoping for more from this author.

Happy Reading!

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore [ARC]

manor of secretsI was very resistant to use an e-reader for quite some time, but recently got a Kindle Fire so my nearly-4-year-old daughter could have a tablet to play with while her older brother plays video games.  (She doesn’t quite get how to play yet and always gets frustrated.  But, I digress.)  The main point is that I still didn’t really anticipate that I would actually use my tablet to read ebooks.  Until, that is, my director told me the first chapter of Cress was available on NetGalley!  (For those of you who don’t know, Cress is book three in the Lunar Chronicles — which began with Cinder and Scarlett.)  It was amazing… but it was only one chapter. So, I decided to see what else was available.  As I was browsing through titles to request, I found this book.  Talk about kismet!  I was anxiously awaiting the new season of Downton Abbey and just *knew* this would give me a quick fix.  I was not disappointed!

Charlotte Edmonds is expected to be a perfect lady.  After all, how will she land the perfect husband if she doesn’t dress, speak, and act exactly as society expects?  She seems to be a constant disappointment to her mother, Lady Diana, who has her sights set on a marriage proposal from Lord Andrew Broadhurst before Charlotte even makes it to her first season.  Even though her best friend, Fran, seems content to play by the rules and to hope for a marriage proposal from a suitable man, Charlotte longs for more — for fun, spontaneity, and a career as a writer.  When Charlotte spies a scullery maid, Janie, sneaking away from a garden party to wade in the lake on a hot summer day, she decides to try it too.  Thus begins an unlikely friendship between the girls.  Secret rendezvous and rule-breaking abound as Charlotte and Janie try to find a way to live the lives they want instead of the lives they’ve been pigeonholed into, and all of The Manor’s secrets come spilling out.  The ending is tidy enough, but just begs for a sequel.

Happy Reading!

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson [ARC]

impossible knife of memoryI 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.

Happy Reading!

Shade of the Moon [ARC] by Susan Beth Pfeffer

shade of the moonI 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!  ;-)

Happy Reading!

Suck It Up and Die by Brian Meehl

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.

Happy Reading!