Category Archives: contemporary

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Walk_Two_MoonsI first thought about reading this book when I helped a student request it for her summer reading assignment about ten and a half years ago.  Since there was a wait list of students who needed it for their assignment, I decided not to add a hold for myself.  (I thought it would be unfair to the kids who really needed it.)  Every summer I thought to myself, “I need to remember to read that when summer is over.”  And, every year, I’ve had such a long “to be read” pile when summer reading ended that this book was added to my “I’ll read this book someday” list.  At the end of the summer this year, though, the planets finally aligned.  I only had one week left before I was on vacation with my family, so I wanted an audiobook short enough that I could finish it before the week was up.  Even though it was still summer reading season, this audiobook was available on OverDrive, and I went for it! Continue reading

Panic by Lauren Oliver

PanicYALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten list was announced, and I CANNOT believe Panic wasn’t on it!  I mean, I had a heck of a time even getting my hands on this one because it seems like everyone else who loved Delirium and Before I Fall managed to get on the list before me.  I sometimes take the full four weeks to read my library books because I have so much else going on — like reading to my kids at night.  I mean, I know it’s important.  But that’s time I could totally use to read my *own* books!  ;-)  At the end of the day, I often only read to myself for about 15 minutes before I pass out.  It’s so common for me to fall asleep reading, in fact, that my husband has learned to check his side of the bed for my book or Kindle before simply laying down.  (He clunked his head quite a few times before he learned that lesson!)  This book, though, was so intense that it had me reading long past my standard bedtime.  So long, in fact, that my husband found me still awake and reading when he came to bed for something like four nights in a row! Continue reading

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

RUMBLEPeople sometimes make the mistake of asking my what my favorite book is.  As in, “What’s your favorite book of all time?”  Seriously?  I don’t think I could pick a single favorite book from the books I have read so far this year, let alone all of the books I have read in my lifetime!  Maybe there are some people out there who could name their favorite book.  Some could probably do it without any hesitation, but I am most definitely not one of those people!  I can’t even pick one favorite book from a single author.  Case in point — a teen asked me the other day which of Ellen Hopkins’ books was “the best,” and I just stared back at her with a tilted head and squinty look of confusion.  As a matter of fact, I probably looked a lot like this dog:

confused-dog

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Ironman by Chris Crutcher

IronmanChris Crutcher is most definitely one of my all-time favorite YA authors.  Not only is he not afraid to tell it like it is in his books, but he also tells it like it is in the “real world” via Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, Stotan Unplugged.  No matter how controversial a topic may be, he doesn’t feel the need to censor himself.  He believes (and I fervently agree) that teens should not be sheltered from the harsh realities of the world.  If teens have the potential to *live* something, who are we to tell them they shouldn’t *read* about it?  Sadly, I don’t have a review for the first Chris Crutcher book I read — Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes — because I read it before I started this blog.  But, I have reviews for several other books that I’ve read since then [Angry Management, Deadline, King of the Mild Frontier, Period 8] if you are not familiar with his books and would like a little primer.  I have no idea how I managed to work nearly 10 years as a Tween & Teen librarian before reading Ironman (and without yet reading Whale Talk and Stotan!), but I suppose I just need to pace myself and I will get there.

Ironman is the story of a seventeen-year-old guy named Beauregard Brewster (a.k.a. Bo) who is training for a triathlon.  Balancing home life, school work, and training would be challenging enough for most teens, but Bo also has to deal with a father who constantly belittles him and even schemes to try and make him lose that race.  Many times, teens who experience problems at home find that school is a safe haven, but Bo has issues with his English teacher and former football coach, Coach Redmond, as well.  Fortunately, he has a couple of adults in his life who actually have his best interests in mind — Mr. Serbousek, who teaches Bo’s journalism class and also coaches him in swimming, and Mr. Nakatani (aka Mr. Nak), who runs the anger management group Bo has to attend in order to avoid a suspension over an argument with Coach Redmond.  While it can be depressing to read about the [based-on-reality] terrible parents that some kids have to deal with, books like this also serve as a beacon of hope for teens who are living through similarly terrible situations.  Whether it’s just realizing that their situation is not unique or finding hope that the situation can actually get better, albeit with lots of time and plenty of work, books like this definitely matter to teens.  Here’s to hoping you only need this book to make you aware of other people’s problems…

Happy Teen Read Week!

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

everybody-sees-the-antsLucky Linderman’s father patently refuses to acknowledge the problems in his life.  It doesn’t matter whether the problem is growing up fatherless (his father was a POW/MIA soldier in Vietnam), his failing marriage, or his son’s troubles with a bully named Nader McMillan.  He pretty much walks away and tunes out from life when things start to get uncomfortable — often retreating to his job at what Lucky refers to as “Le Fancy-Schmancy Cafe.”  Lucky’s mom is just as bad.  She, too, refuses to acknowledge that her marriage is falling apart and ignores the bullying situation.  (She just doesn’t have as hefty an excuse as her husband.)  Even after Nader takes things too far and hurts Lucky pretty badly, his parents still choose to avoid confrontation and merely plan for Lucky and his mom to go away for the summer.  Staying with relatives in Arizona doesn’t do anything for fixing the marriage or bullying problems, but Lucky does end up making some friends while he’s there.  He also starts working out, under the tutelage of his uncle, and gains a little confidence in the process.  The only question is whether that will do him any good when he returns home.

Though most of this story is fairly standard for YA contemporary realistic fiction, there’s one thing that pushes this book pretty far into the realm of magical realism.  Lucky visits his [POW/MIA] grandfather in his dreams.  For real.  As in, he comes out of his dreams with physical tokens of where he has been.  (It actually reminds me a bit of The Dream Thieves, which is the second book of The Raven Cycle.)  Though I am sure none of the teens who read this book are actually traveling to visit long-lost relatives in their dreams, I am sure a great many of them can relate to the generalized family issues and bullying Lucky experiences.  I only hope that Lucky’s realizations and growth will inspire readers to be more proactive in response to their own problems.

Happy Reading!

 

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

two-boys-kissingIt wouldn’t be Banned Books Week without a review of a GLBT book, since so many would-be censors take umbrage with the fact that GLBT novels even exist.  So, I am taking this opportunity to finally review a book one of my teens suggested I read during GLBT Pride Month.  The basic premise of this story was that two [gay] boys were attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss.  The strangest thing, though, was that they were not boyfriends.  They were, in fact, ex-boyfriends.  But, Harry and Craig were not kissing merely for the fun of kissing or even just to break the existing world record.  In fact, kissing for 32 hours was a rather grueling experience, both physically and emotionally.  But their 32-hour-long kiss was worth all of the difficulties it presented because it was a statement of support for their mutual friend, Tariq, who was the victim of a hate crime.  Although the “Greek chorus” of narrators — men who had died of AIDS — seemed a bit clunky at times, I think that narration ultimately worked as a means by which to educate younger readers about [late 20th century] GLBT history, the progress the GLBT community has made thus far, and how far we still have to go.  I really enjoyed this story, though I have to admit to shedding a tear or two.  I highly recommend this for fans of other David Levithan books (like Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day) and suspect that it will likely end up on many YA literature syllabi as required GLBT reading.

Happy Banned Books Week!

The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J. Bick

sin eaters confessionAfter Del died in a car accident, Ben started helping out on Del’s family’s farm.  While working on the farm, Ben started to look out for and became friends with Del’s younger brother, Jimmy, in a capacity much like an older brother.  After Jimmy was murdered, Ben felt guilty and escaped his home town by enlisting in the armed forces and heading to Afghanistan.  This story is told from Ben’s perspective, in a diary-style letter to someone back home, as he reflects back over the series of events that lead to Jimmy’s death and explains why he feels responsible.  The graphic description of Jimmy’s violent death definitely makes this a book for more mature readers, and I am sure some people would ultimately like to see this book banned.  I think, nevertheless, that this suspense-filled story is a great way to draw in readers who might not otherwise think they’d enjoy a story that explores such heavy themes as homophobia and hate crimes.  A definite departure from the apocalyptic world of Ashes, but equally well written.

Happy Banned Books Week!