It’s funny how life can be so very different and feel so much the same… Last year, I was losing my mind because I was shuffling both kids of to summer camp in the morning so I could work full time doing summer reading stuff at my library. I had days stuffed to the gills with programs, reference, and other responsibilities, and I had precious little time with my kids. I did my best to do fun stuff while also keeping up with house work, but it was hard, y’all! This summer, I’m losing my mind because I’m balancing my WAHM (work at home mom) responsibilities with finding fun and inexpensive ways to entertain the kids so they don’t kill each other. (Right now, we’re actually at our local public library for LEGO Club and I’m posting from my phone… I hope this works!) Though I have plenty of time to keep up on chores if I want to let my kids become screentime zombies, that’s not exactly my plan. So, I’m losing my mind all over again… But in a better way. I keep reminding myself that it’s OK to feel stressed or overwhelmed sometimes as long as I’m, overall, doing what feels right for me and my family. Sure, I forgot to post a book review last week — but my kids and I had an awesome week of spending time with friends and family.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I picked this book up at the *perfect* time. Not only did I want a fun read, but I wanted something with short chapters that I could pick up and read for a few minutes at a time if that was all I could get (which has been the case more often than not lately). On a previous trip to our public library [so my kids could sign up to actually *attend* summer reading events this year!] I saw this book on display. Not only did this book meet my “fun & easy” qualifications, but it SPOKE TO ME right in the introduction — “Binge on the things that bring you fulfillment and happiness and satisfaction and make you feel alive. Binge on people who fascinate you and love that wakes you up from the monotony… Binge on giving, in all senses. Binge on indulging.” Yaaaaaaaas!
I first heard of Tyler Oakley about eight years ago when one of my library teens asked if I had seen “the Tyler Oakley video about why gay marriage is wrong.” I was confused because this teen belonged to the GSA at her high school, and I didn’t realize the video was sarcastic. After watching the video, though, I shared the hell out of it. While I have seen many of his videos through the years, I’m pretty sure this will always be my favorite.
If you need inspiration to start living your life openly, honestly, and unapologetically for yourself, this book is a good place to start. Sometimes heartbreaking, but more often than not hilarious, this book gives readers a bird’s eye view of the many “binges” that have led Tyler Oakley to YouTube fame and general pop-culture notoriety, but also, more importantly, to a life he’s happy to be living.
Imagine how difficult life would be if your dad walked out when you were still a little kid and your mom is a druggie who keeps ending up in jail. Now, imagine that your younger siblings are in danger of being sent to foster care because you’re only 17 and would need to be at least 18 before you could legally take guardianship. And then, finally, imagine your mom’s sister — your own aunt — won’t take you all in unless you agree to pay her more money than you can actually afford to stay in her tiny, dirty apartment. As horrible as that may seem, it’s pretty much just another day for Michelle. She has been doing the best she can to stay on track for high school graduation and she works as many hours as she can at Taco Bell so that she can take care of her family, but Michelle feels like she is about to reach her breaking point. And that, of course, is when a strange guy walks in during her shift at Taco Bell and informs her that her biological dad, Buck, is dying. Is it too much to hope that Buck, despite having left all those years ago, might be able to help Michelle and her siblings in their time of need? And will the sudden appearance of Tim (the guy at the Taco Bell) and his step-sister Leah (who is actually Michelle’s half-sister) make things better or worse? Only time, and a cross-country road trip, will tell.
Though it may seem like an awful lot to tackle, LaMarche does a fantastic job showing how love and friendship can transcend socio-economic and racial differences. Though this book was rather heartbreaking at times, it also had moments of hilarity, and I found that it left me with an overall feeling of hope.
Although Vivian Apple never really believed in the teachings of the Church of America, she was forced to re-evaluate when her beliefs when her parents disappeared — especially after she found holes in their bedroom ceiling the morning after the predicted “Rapture.” She always thought that The Book of Frick (named after the man who created the Church of America) was a bit over the top — especially considering the fact that it touted conservative behaviors and traditional gender roles but claimed that God loved America best because of its capitalistic tendencies. At times, it was hard to tell if this book was intended to be a parody or simply an exaggerated to make a point. What I know for sure, nevertheless, is that I’ve never read anything quite like it. A strong female character who is examining her beliefs while navigating through changing friendships, a developing romance, and the end of the world? Sign me up!
I’m always amazed when authors can take several different characters and tell one story through their various points of view — especially when they are so very different as the characters in this story. Here, we have five different teens who meet for the first time at their high school’s freshman orientation day and write letters to themselves to open again when they graduate. Zoe is the daughter of a famous movie star [who is in and out of rehab], and she’s afraid that people only ever want to talk to her to find out more about her mom. Jake isn’t quite sure where he stands now that he opened up about his true feelings for his [formerly?] best friend Teddy and bailed on football. Mia is so unsure of herself that she keeps trying to reinvent her persona with the hopes that she will eventually “find” a Mia she can be comfortable with. Gregor is a band geek who is hoping for “more” out of his high school experience — especially if that “more” would involve Whitney. And Whitney is the pretty/popular girl who seems to have it all while she actually feels like her life is coming apart at the seams.
We follow these characters in their journey through high school and witness how even the smallest of bonds and seemingly minor interactions can actually make a big difference in people’s lives. My only problem with this book is that it felt a little too condensed. It felt like there could have been more character development and more interaction if only there were time… I almost wish it had been stretched out into a series so we could get more details from each year. Who knows? Maybe there will be some novellas released to give readers extra background and to fill in the gaps of each school year. (A girl can dream, can’t she?!?)
Jules McCallister-Morgan is a no-nonsense, over-achieving, OCD kind of girl. Considering the fact that I was a lot like her in high school, I found it kinda funny to see how often I caught myself wishing she would just relax a little and enjoy her final year of high school. Even the teacher who acted as advisor to the school paper, Mr. Wheeler, expected that Jules would relax a little once she hit senior year and actually scored the position of Editor… But then her rival for the editor position, Sadie, went and started a new student-run TV program called TALON and all bets were off. As far as Jules was concerned, that was an act of war! Mr. Wheeler did his best to keep the rivalry from getting out of control, but he didn’t stand a chance against a bound and determined Jules (not to mention the other newspaper staff members who were upset). Things might not have gotten so heated if Alex hadn’t betrayed her, but what else could you expect when a super-cute, former boy-band member comes into your school and dates you but then works with your arch nemesis?!?
Is this book very realistic for most teens? Probably not. Was it extremely entertaining? Absolutely! If you want drama and romance in a book that will make you alternately laugh out loud and groan with frustration over a “smart” girl who can be pretty clueless at times, I suggest you check this one out!
When I read Fangirl last year, I fell hard for Simon, Baz, and the Watford School of Magicks. I was desperate to read more than was revealed in Cath’s posts. Fortunately, I happened upon an article about the impending publication of Carry On and knew it was only a matter of time before my wish would come true! The only problem was that my requests for other books and audiobooks from the library kept showing up, so I kept putting this story off. (It probably wouldn’t have been such a problem if I had gotten Carry On from the library and had a time limit, but I downloaded it from Audible and knew I had as long as I wanted. #firstworldproblems)
I think what I love most about Rowell’s writing is that it really nails all the nitty gritty, true-to-life details of adolescent friendships and romances. Carry On was extra awesome because it had all that PLUS magic, mystery, and monsters! The only things I found disappointing were that (a) I waited so long to actually listen to this audiobook, and (b) there was only one book! 😉 As a die-hard Potterhead, I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the stories of Simon Snow and Harry Potter. Some people have argued that this story is too derivative of Harry Potter, but I fully recognize that there are a great many “Chosen One” stories and that having similarities doesn’t make it a rip-off. After all, some people say that Harry Potter is basically Star Wars! And though I am not big on re-reading anything, since there are far too many books out there waiting to be read, I have a feeling I will listen to this audiobook (or maybe even read the book) at least one more time…
This book was a haunting read. Any book about school shootings strikes fear into my heart, being that I work with kids and have children of my own, but this one was particularly eerie. I know I’ve read books before that gave harrowing depictions of the different perspectives of characters experiencing a school shooting — like This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. But, what makes this book stand out from the crowd is that it provides the perspectives of many different characters’ interactions with Kirby Matheson [the shooter] in the days, months, and even years leading up to the shooting. The author explores a variety of relationships people had with Kirby, effectively highlighting the many clues that were missed or ignored.
When compiled in a story such as this, it becomes rather obvious that the young man was struggling with anger and depression and that someone should have stepped in; that an intervention may have been able to prevent this tragedy. But, as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. I can only hope that readers will take this book to heart and apply the information garnered to recognize if and when the people around them are struggling with anger and depression. If we can increase the chances that people will recognize someone in need of help, we can increase our chances that we can get people the help they need before they resort to violence. For more resources, check out the CDC’s page on Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention.