Agnes and Moira are just about as opposite as two girls can be, at least as far as appearance is concerned. Agnes is tiny, frail, and pretty much looks like a little old lady [because she has a medical condition called Progeria]. Moira, on the other had, is rather big. Too big, as far as she and the school bullies are concerned. Her bigger size is definitely a benefit of their friendship, though, because she can be a bodyguard of sorts for Agnes — who might be safer if she were homeschooled but prefers to live as “normally” as possible by attending public school. Boone is a guy they both used to be friends with in elementary school, but something happened that caused the girls to stop talking to him. When fate leads them to, unexpectedly, start spending time together again, their past seriously complicates the present. Agnes appears to think Boone deserves a second chance, but Moira seems determined to keep Boone from getting too close again. Since they’re all-too-aware that Agnes has already exceeded the standard life-expectancy of a kid diagnosed with Progeria, though, Moira and Boone begrudgingly give in to Agnes’ pleas to spend more time together.
This book would be a great conversation-starter for so many topics — friendship, bullying, and body image just to name a few. I won’t lie and say that this is an easy read, because it’s clear from the start that Agnes doesn’t have long to live and that Moira and Boone already have some major issues they’re dealing with. I will say, though, that I think McInnes did a fantastic job of weaving together these characters in a story that is both believable and capable of providing some hope and direction to teens who might be handling difficult situations in their own lives.
Jill Charon can’t remember anything that happened in the past six weeks. When she first awakens from her coma, in fact, she is initially concerned that she is waking up with a terrible hangover and that her mother will find out she was drinking the night before. Imagine her shock, then, when she discovers that she is actually waking up in the ICU after a horrific car crash. Jill is worried that her parents won’t let her take her scheduled trip to Europe now that she has a broken leg, but that’s not really a concern. You see, she doesn’t need a speedy recovery to go to Europe because she already took the trip — and the car accident actually took place in Italy. To make matters worse, her parents are acting very strangely and being weirdly quiet about the accident. Why? Because her best friend died in that accident… And many people believe that Jill purposely crashed the car. Will she ever be able to recover the memories she lost? How will she be able to move on with her life if she never remembers? And what if Jill *does* start to regain her memories only to uncover something she would rather not remember?
Liv didn’t just hate the end of the final Starveil movie… It ruined her life. As far as Liv was concerned, Starveil *was* life, and the death of her favorite character (Spartan) might as well have been the death of a family member. Her mom and her best friend, Xander, didn’t really understand, but at least the rest of the fandom got it. For a while, Liv simply moped about and grieved. But then she had some take-out Chinese food and was inspired by a fortune cookie — It’s up to you to make your happy ending. All of the sudden, she knew what she had to do. Armed with a new (anonymous) Twitter account and some awesome , Liv set out to inspire the fandom and to seek out “evidence” that #SpartanSurvived!
Since my husband is one of the biggest Star Wars fanboys around and had a majorly difficult time accepting what happened in Episode VII, I read the description and just *knew* I had to read this book. Whether you are a fangirl/fanboy or simply know someone else who is, this geeky romance is sure to give you #AllTheFeels.
Celestine North has always played by the rules. Perhaps that was why she never really thought too hard about the consequences for people who broke them. I mean, just follow the rules and you don’t have to worry about facing any punishments, right? In her society, people who break the rules are branded Flawed. As in actually branded, with a branding iron! And once they are branded, they are literally second-class citizens who have a different set of rules to live by. While riding the bus one morning, Celestine finally comes face-to-face with a situation that makes her question everything she’s ever known. A woman with an injured leg takes one of the Flawed seats on the bus because it affords her more leg room, and then her friend takes the only other Flawed seat to make it easier to converse. Then an elderly Flawed man gets on the bus, and he is forced to stand. As he nears collapse from a coughing fit, Celestine tries to help him… and all hell breaks loose. She ends up on trial for aiding a Flawed person, which could lead to her own Flawed classification. But how could showing a little human decency ruin her whole life?
Though we don’t actually brand people Flawed in America, I think there are definitely plenty of situations in which Americans turn a blind eye to suffering and persecution under the mistaken impression that those people somehow deserve or earned their lot in life. I think this would be a fantastic book to read to start a discussion about empathy and the ways people can change their views of “other” people.
High school graduation is often a time filled with celebration and excitement. For Jaycee, though, graduation day dredges up feelings of anxiety and depression. Why? Because her older brother, Jake, died on his own graduation day. Jaycee doesn’t know how to handle the fact that she will now, officially, be older than Jake ever was. Though his death came as the result of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, Jaycee finds comfort in emulating his behavior. Instead of seeing Jake’s death as a warning to be more careful, she finds herself repeating his stunts in an attempt to channel his spirit. Jaycee expected to take this journey alone, but she ended up with a motley crew of [former?] friends who also needed to make their peace with Jake’s death. Guided by Jake’s urban exploring journal, Jaycee followed both literally and figuratively in his footsteps and finally discovered that it’s possible to let go of grief without letting go of her loving memories.
I appreciated getting parts of the story directly from the perspectives of different characters, like Jaycee’s childhood BFF Natalie. But, more than that, I enjoyed the different storytelling techniques that were employed — like the pictures of the poems Bishop crafted in his sketches and graffiti or the graphic novel panels that told the story of Mik, who refused to speak aloud but whose actions spoke for him. McCarthy did a fabulous job of showing how the death of a loved one can alternately tear us apart and build us up stronger than before. I recommend this story to readers who enjoyed See You at Harry’s and Before You Go.
I couldn’t believe how shocked I was when I read Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray. I mean, I had taken a world history class with “in depth” unit about WWII and didn’t really know much of anything about what Stalin had done — nor had I even heard of the [Soviet] Holodomor (roughly translated to “death by hunger”) that rivaled the well-known [German] Holocaust. After reading Between Shades of Gray, though, I felt like I had a much better grasp of WWII history… And then I read this book. How is it that there is yet another major piece of WWII history that has flown under the radar for so long?!?
Before reading Salt to the Sea, I had never even heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I was stupefied to learn that OVER NINE THOUSAND people died in this tragedy. Prior to reading this book, I would have been willing to bet that the Titanic and the Lusitania were the two largest maritime tragedies of all time. Even when you combine the death tolls of those two ships, nevertheless, they only account for about a third of the losses of the Gustloff. I wish American ethnocentrism didn’t extend to history classrooms in which *world* history is being taught, but it seems pretty evident to me that the anti-Germany sentiment surrounding WWII and the lack of American passengers aboard the ship have both contributed to a lack of American attention. People from all walks of life [civilians, refugees, and soldiers] and of all ages [from babies to senior citizens] were aboard that ship. It was a tragedy of unbelievable proportions.
Thank goodness Ruta Sepetys! With her well-developed characters and gripping plots, Sepetys is providing readers with compelling stories that will also spread awareness of these previously unknown tragedies. Who knows? Maybe her books will even lead to better coverage in future history textbooks and classes. I can only hope that the multiple points of view provided by this particular story will resonate with readers and finally bring much-deserved American attention to the great number of lives that were lost in the Baltic Sea [almost exactly] 71 years ago.
It’s really hard to put a label on this story. On one hand, this is a quirky story about a girl who is new to town and trying to figure out how she might fit in. On the other hand, it’s a mystery/crime novel in which a teenager thinks he might be able to prove a link between the kidnapping of a local girl and his own sister’s disappearance almost a decade ago. When the girl [Zoe] first meets the boy [Digby], it seems they might never get along. After all, Zoe is just kinda bored and trying to take everything in, while Digby’s a bit manic and often acts without thinking things all the way through. Digby frequently speaks his mind, to the extent that some people might find him rude, but I think Zoe found it rather endearing. After all, she didn’t *have* to join him in all of his crazy adventures… but she just couldn’t quite find a reason to say no.
Some people might think this book is a little too cliche, but I really enjoyed it. The fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud dialogue simply worked for me. Though the plot is nowhere near the same, I thought this book read a lot like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. Maybe it’s because it starts off in the middle of the insanity and then brings you back to the beginning to show how it all started? Maybe it’s because one character is just so over-the-top and the other is so straight-laced it’s hard to believe they could end up working together? I can’t say for sure exactly what it was, but I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVED it! This would be a really fun book to read during the school break next week. Last minute Christmas gift, anyone?!?