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.
Jordan Klein loved living in New York City and was less than pleased when she found out that her family had to move to Texas for the entire summer. Why? Her Uncle Jacob got caught trying to smuggle “contraband” [bibles] into China and was advised not to leave the country until charges were officially dropped. Since Jordan’s father, Eli, was a professor of religious studies, he was asked to be the substitute pastor for his brother’s small-town church in Texas. Jordan and her mom were both upset about leaving NYC for three months but figured Eli would probably realize he made a mistake and head home after only a couple of weeks. Upon arrival, Jordan didn’t think she would ever get used to her temporary home… but she soon made some friends and found herself less anxious to leave town. As readers might expect, the summer was life-changing. Jordan learned a lot about herself that she may not have discovered if not for this move. What I didn’t expect, nevertheless, was the crazy twist at the end or just how funny most of this book would be. (I’m talking, laughing out loud so often that I had my coworkers staring at me during lunch funny!) If you’re looking for a story that asks big questions without weighing you down, you should definitely check this one out.
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!
It wasn’t exactly easy to be an independent teenage girl in New York City in 1911, but Aurora Lewis wouldn’t let societal norms dictate her life. She refused to give up on her musical studies to attend a “finishing school” because she was determined to play violin in a symphony someday. When she arrived at violin lessons one Saturday morning, though, she found the studio a mess and the window open — despite the winter chill in the air. Looking down from the window, she found her teacher dead on the sidewalk… and was accused, by street hooligans, of having pushed him! Although the police cleared her when they deemed his death an accident, Aurora wasn’t satisfied with that result and decided that she and her friends would have to solve this murder themselves. This book was well written, fast-paced, and full of interesting musical and historical facts. I bet even reluctant readers would get lured in to this story!