A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

million-miles-awayIt was hard enough for Kelsey to deal with the death of her identical twin sister, Michelle, but that was only the beginning of her heartache.  Michelle’s most recent boyfriend, Peter, had just deployed to Afghanistan before Michelle’s tragic accident and Kelsey didn’t know how to get in touch with him.  She thought Peter deserved to know what had happened, but she didn’t even know his last name — and he was one of those guys who didn’t have a Facebook page, so she couldn’t just stalk him down via her sister’s page.  When she finally ended up talking to him, via Skype, things got out of hand very quickly.  Between the glitchy connection and the fact that she was Michelle’s identical twin, Peter mistakenly thought he was talking to Michelle.  Before Kelsey could correct him, though, an attack on his base made him cut the call short.  She kept meaning to set the record straight, but pretending to be Michelle made it feel almost like Michelle wasn’t actually gone — plus she worried what might happen to Peter if the news distracted him from his mission in Afghanistan.

When I initially read the description for this book, I had no sympathy for Kelsey’s predicament.  I was horrified to think that she would even consider impersonating her dead twin.  But, as I read the story, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.  It was very easy once I saw how it actually played out.  I mean, she never intended to hurt anyone, but she just kept digging herself deeper.  The compounding lies ate her up inside, but she was worried even more about how Peter would take the news.  And then, of course, there is the fact that she started to fall in love with him.  Talk about drama!  Fans of Sarah Dessen and Sara Zarr should definitely give this book a try.

Happy Reading!

Tracers by J.J. Howard

tracersIf you’re looking for a book that reads like a movie — especially one that has actually been turned into a movie (which stars Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame) — you won’t want to miss this one!  Cam was a bicycle messenger in New York City who worked almost constantly because he needed to pay off a massive debt to a Chinatown loan shark.  One day, a girl literally fell from the sky and caused Cam to wreck his bike.  With no bike, he had no job, and no way to pay off his debt.  Cam was devastated.  He got a call from his boss the next day, though, informing him that the mystery girl had left him a sweet replacement bike.  When Cam was on a delivery run and ran into her, as she was doing parkour/tracing with some friends in Central Park, he couldn’t help but feel like fate was talking to him.  Cam fell nearly instantly for both Nikki and tracing.  After proving to be a quick study, Cam was invited to train with the group and even started working for their boss, Miller.  His gut kept telling him that he was only digging himself deeper into trouble, but Cam owed so much money that he couldn’t think of another way out.  If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, add this to your summer reading list!

Happy Reading!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

when-you-reach-meThis book was an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction.  I can certainly see why it won the Newbery Award, since it was well written, pays homage to a “classic” children’s book, and has a nostalgia factor for the teachers and librarians who grew up in the 70s and 80s — especially with all the references to Miranda’s mom practicing for her appearance on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that a lot of tweens and teens would find it difficult to really get hooked on this story.  I was curious about how things would play out in the end and all, but the story didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.

One day, as Miranda walked home with her best friend, Sal, he got punched in the stomach.  The kid who punched him was new to the neighborhood and didn’t even know Miranda or Sal, so there didn’t seem to be any reason for the attack.  Even worse?  Right after that incident, Sal began to get distant.  Miranda felt lost without Sal, since the two of them had been constant companions since their early childhood.  And then, when the hidden/”emergency” key to her apartment went missing and she found a strange note hidden in a library book, Miranda got understandably freaked out.  Especially since the author of the note seemed to know things about her — even things that hadn’t happened yet.  Fans of A Wrinkle in Time are sure to enjoy the way Miranda’s life experiences drew parallels to that book and made her question the real possibilities of time travel.  I think there are enough details, nevertheless, that the story will still make sense to readers who aren’t familiar with L’Engle’s work.

Happy Reading!

Leverage by Joshua Cohen

LEVERAGEI read this book because the Upper Hudson Library System has a yearly “tough reads” book discussion during our June Youth Services Advisory Council meeting.  We talk about why the book was a tough read, why it’s so important not to censor our collections, and how to get these books into the hands of the tweens and teens who would benefit from reading them.  Whenever we have these discussions, it makes me particularly grateful that I ended up in a public library instead of a school library, since it would be so much harder to stand up for the students’ freedom to read if I was up against a school board that was eager to placate an upset parent.  I think it would be very tough to “practice what I preach” if I was worried that my job was on the line.  Sadly, I was unable to attend the book discussion this year, so I don’t know what everyone else thought about this book… but I figured I could at least share my thoughts on this blog.

This story is a sports rivalry like no other; the rivals aren’t even from different schools.  The members of the football team and the gymnastics team keep pranking one another, and the stakes just seem to get higher and higher every time.  It’s pretty clear to the guys on the gymnastics team that the guys on the football team are getting out of control, but they just can’t seem to help themselves.  When something completely terrible happens to Ronnie, no one wants to talk about it.  Even his own teammates try to get him to pretend it never happened.  But life doesn’t work like that.  And, sooner or later, someone is going to have to put a stop to this prank war before it claims another victim.

Happy Reading!

Wrapping up Pride Month…

scotus-same-sex-0626I was going to review another book I recently read, but I am just too excited about today’s historic Supreme Court ruling!  Instead of posting a random review of a book, I think I’m going to simply highlight the GLBTQ books I have reviewed in the past.  Enjoy!

Happy Reading!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow-scaleSo, I know that I said I wasn’t going to post reviews about sequels/series books anymore… but it’s been ALMOST THREE YEARS since Seraphina came out.  And I seriously love this story, so I want to be sure fantasy readers realize this awesome book is out there.  So… Yeah. I’m reviewing it anyway!  :-P

Growing up, Seraphina never realized there were other ityasaari (half-dragon/half-human beings) like her.  Her father had always done his best to keep her true identity a secret, out of fear for her safety, so she lived a very sheltered life.  After people found out her secret, though, and because there was a major conflict brewing between humans and dragons, Seraphina and Queen Glisselda have decided that tracking down the rest of the ityasaari might be their best chance to put a stop to the war in Goredd.  Richly imagined and full of action, this book should be well received by fans of other dragon tales like Eragon and The Last Dragonslayer.

Happy Reading!

The Misfits by James Howe

misfitsI listened to this audiobook a few months ago, but I decided to wait and review it during LGBT Pride Month.  It’s not because the entire story was about one particular LGBT character or centered around a specific LGBT problem, though, because it wasn’t.  The story actually revolved around a group of self-proclaimed misfits and their attempt to stop bullying in their school.  Joe, nevertheless, was identified as being gay and other characters recalled that Joe used to wear dresses sometimes.  I really appreciated the way Joe’s sexual identification and history of cross-dressing were treated as more of a side note to explain why some people bullied him and but that his story didn’t overshadow or make light of the other forms of bullying at their school.  This was a story in which a variety of students were bullied for a variety of reasons, all of which were wrong.

Everything started back when Addie refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance; she was adamant about the fact that there wasn’t “liberty and justice for all” and, on principle, refused to say the pledge anymore.  Even though her teacher didn’t quite seem to understand where she was coming from, her friends, the misfits, thought she was on to something.  They were tired of being made fun of and mistreated, and they were fairly certain that nothing would improve unless they did something about it — so they decided to go about affecting that change by creating a third party in the student council elections.  The book did get a little didactic at times, but I think many tween and teen readers will appreciate Addie’s brand of idealism and the fact that working together actually made a difference in their school.  Fortunately, many schools are making an effort to teach character education and to promote an environment free from hatred and bullying… but it’s still out there.  Sadly, I’m all too certain there will always be kids who can relate to this story.

Happy Reading!