To say that Josie Moraine has a very unusual life would be an understatement and a half! Though she is only in high school, she already lives on her own and works two jobs — as a clerk at a local bookstore and as a maid of sorts for the brothel where her mother works. That’s right… Josie’s mother is a prostitute. Not to mention a cold, calculating, unloving woman who only ever seems to think of herself. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, Josie’s mother also happens to be in love with an abusive gangster-type. So, when her mom disappears from the French Quarter the very same morning that a man turns up dead, Josie isn’t sure what to do or what to believe. She has never wanted anything so much as a chance to get out of the “Big Easy” and to get a good education, but her mother and her mother’s foolishness always seem to get in the way.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this story was how the entire cast of characters was so well fleshed-out. I get annoyed when authors skimp on developing the supporting characters, but Sepetys did not disappoint! My favorite was Willie — the brothel madam who knew Josie was bound for bigger and better things, regardless of the fact that many people assumed/hoped she would simply follow in her mother’s footsteps. I loved that Willie did her best to support Josie and to encourage her to want more from life instead of being upset that Josie didn’t want to join the [ahem] family business. If you like historical fiction and/or mysteries, this is a book you won’t want to miss.
Aaron Hartzler credits his acting ability to all the practice he got at home. After all, having questions about his faith and his sexuality weren’t exactly encouraged by his strict, Christian parents. If he wanted to stay out of trouble, he had to pretend to believe what they believed and to behave as they thought he should. As a child, he found it easy to get swept up in the excitement over the thought that Jesus might come down and take them all away to heaven at a moment’s notice. As a teen, though, Aaron had begun to enjoy his time on Earth too much to hope for the rapture. He also began to question many of the strict rules his parents upheld in the name of religion — especially the rules against listening to popular music and going to the movies. He began sneaking around and breaking rules and, what started off as smaller/more innocent lies, soon became intricately planned deceptions and full-fledged rebellion. Though I grew up attending church, my Presbyterian upbringing was very liberal and I found it fascinating [and sometimes horrifying] to see how vastly different it could have been even though his religion was based on the same holy book as mine.
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.
As soon as I read this book, I knew I would have to save the review for Banned Books Week. It wasn’t so much because I thought people would be attempting to ban this book but because I thought the message [self-censorship] would resonate really well at this time. Though, I suppose some people would definitely be offended by several of the topics covered in this story. Either way… It’s certainly a good book to review this week.
Gossiping is practically a sport in many high schools, and Chelsea Knot could be the captain of the varsity team. Everyone knows that she can’t keep a secret, and it’s her tendency to gossip that likely keeps her in the good graces of some of her so-called friends. When she walks in on something extremely gossip-worthy at a party — one of the guys she knows was making out with another guy — she immediately heads downstairs to spill. The instant the words leave her mouth, though, she regrets having said anything. She is pretty sure he is going to get beat up and it will be all her fault. Unfortunately, her instincts were right and he ends up in the hospital on life support. To prevent wreaking any further havoc, Chelsea decides she has to take a vow of silence. I can’t say anything else without spoilers — and what I already said practically is a spoiler — so I will simply say that this was a very interesting and well-written story.
Happy Banned Books Week!
P.S. I won’t likely post a review every day this week like I normally would for Banned Books Week because I will be spending the rest of the week in Niagara Falls for the New York Library Association Annual Conference. (Sorry!)
How appropriate that I should finish the latest Ellen Hopkins book at lunch today! She is one of my favorite “banned” authors, and I have read all of her books. They can be a bit depressing to read, but she doesn’t write depressing stories simply for shock value — she writes to educate people about the depressing realities in which far too many young people actually exist.
I was very excited to hear that this book was coming out because it was a sequel to my favorite of her books, Burned, and I was dying to know what happened.
At the end of Burned, readers were left wondering what Pattyn would do. It wasn’t clear whether she would kill herself or murder her father because she was equally full of despair and rage. And what girl wouldn’t be if her abusive father indirectly killed both her unborn baby and the baby’s father/love of her life? Initially, Ellen Hopkins had planned to leave it to readers to decide what happened, but I am grateful that reader’s changed her mind by begging and pleading for a sequel. I won’t write any spoilers about what exactly happened… but I might kinda give it away when I tell you that I was happy with the way it all played out.
Happy Banned Books Week!
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!
Although he doesn’t want to admit it — even to himself — Casey’s father is an alcoholic. His parents recently divorced, and his mom and sister moved away, so Casey is the only one left to deal with/take care of his dad. Casey, like many children of alcoholics (or addicts of any kind, for that matter), had to grow up a lot faster than many of his peers. And, while his dad would never specifically mention it or thank him for it, Casey is accustomed to doing most of the cooking and cleaning, not to mention taking care of his dad when he passes out drunk in the livingvroom or gets sick all over the bathroom. When his Aunt Julie suggests that he meet her out for ice cream and to talk, Casey isn’t really ready to admit there is a problem. But, with the support of his friends, his aunt, and his aunt’s friend Joe, who specializes in interventions, Casey decides to finally confront his dad about his drinking and to suggest that his dad get the help he needs to recover.
I have read plenty of books about teenagers who have addiction issues, and a bunch more about teenagers whose parents have addiction issues… but I think this was the first in which the teenager tries to affect a change in that parent. Kudos, Doug Wilhelm! My hope is that this book will move beyond comforting teens with the idea that other people experience the same issue and actually inspire them to speak up about how this issue is impacting their lives/families so that they get themselves and/or their parents the help they so desperately need.
It’s the summer before senior year and Jude has a job at the local beach. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but flipping burgers can be pretty tedious no matter the locale. Apart from working at the beach, Jude doesn’t do much else. His mother is still extremely depressed over the loss of his little sister, Lily, who drowned in the family swimming pool seven years ago, and trying to deal with his own grief while walking on eggshells around his mom is practically full-time work. Jude has some friends with whom he sometimes hangs out, and he occasionally plays guitar, but he usually finds escape in running. Unlike his father, who has gadgets to help him precisely track his running, Jude likes to run barefoot and without a plan. Running away from it all seems to be the only way he can find happiness… That is, until he meets Becka.
The grief in this book is so biting and real that I actually found myself flashing back to when I lost people I loved and cared about. Aside from simply being a really well-written story, I think this book would work well as bibliotherapy for teens who are dealing with grief of their own or trying to understand someone else who is grieving.
Adam Strand can die; he’s killed himself plenty of times, and in plenty of different ways… He just can’t manage to stay dead. Doctors can’t figure it out, and the people in his town have actually gotten so used to Adam trying to kill himself that it seems to register as more of a nuisance than a shock when someone finds him dead. People basically throw him in the back of their car or truck, schlep him home, and leave him in the care of his parents until he wakes up alive again. The thing I found most interesting is that Adam wasn’t necessarily depressed so much as he just didn’t care enough to think life was worth the bother. It’s pretty impressive that Galloway managed to write such a philosophical story without coming off as pretentious. If you’re into dark humor and books that make you think, you should definitely acquaint yourself to Adam Strand.
I usually love David Levithan’s books. And I definitely started off loving this book, too. It was great to see an author who would help teens empathize with the people around them by creating a character who lived inside a different body every day and got to experience life from so many different angles. That is, until I got to the day where “A.” woke up as a fat person. I was horrified that Levithan showed so much more compassion for a heroin addict than for someone who weighed “at least 300 pounds.” I mean, I just don’t understand Levithan could insinuate that readers should be more accepting of all the complications that arose from A. living in bodies of people from different ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, and sexual orientations and then be so downright cruel in his descriptions when A. woke up in a fat body. If a person is addicted to food, which this kid Finn very well could have been, just imagine how much harder it could be for him to exist anywhere in society. A heroin addict can always go to rehab and then move away from the area where s/he is likely to run in to his/her old drug dealer and druggie friends… But a fat person can never get away from food — it’s necessary to eat if you want to live! Don’t understand how I can be so livid? Take this paragraph for instance:
When I finally take a look around and take a look inside, I’m not very excited about what I see. Finn Taylor has retreated from most of the world; his size comes from negligence and laziness, a carelessness that would be pathological if it had any meticulousness to it. While I am sure if I access deep enough I will find some well of humanity, all I can see on the surface is the emotional equivalent of a burp.
Sure, Finn could be lazy. But it’s also likely that there is *something* that caused him to “[retreat] from most of the world” and let himself go. I’m sure some people probably love this story and aren’t very upset by this chapter, but I am completely pissed at David Levithan right now.
P.S. I decided to do a quick search to see if anyone else out there had similar feelings about this book, and I was happy to find this review — http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/08/body-image-and-every-day-by-david.html — in which Christie Gibrich reacted with just as much indignation as me. So, yay that someone agrees with me, but boo that this is even an issue! /sigh