When Astrid Jones and her family moved from New York City to Unity Valley, PA, none of them quite realized how drastically their lives would change. Astrid’s mom became so concerned with how other people saw her and so controlling that it seemed nothing Astrid did was ever even close to good enough. Her little sister, Ellis, was so concerned with popularity and upholding her reputation that she’d probably have disowned Astrid if it would have guaranteed her immunity from the rumor mill. This apparently pleased her mom, though, since she frequently invited Ellis to “mommy and me” nights out. And their dad? When he wasn’t moping about his lack of job prospects and smoking pot in the garage or attic, he seemed content enough to sit silently while his wife belittled him in front of the kids. Continue reading
So, I know I just posted a review of another book last night, but this book was so AH-MAZING that I just couldn’t stand to think of waiting to review it. Let’s just look at this as preparation for Thanksgiving, since you’re getting an “extra helping” of YA awesomeness this morning. I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge how insane I was for waiting so long to read this book. I was among the first people on the request list, but I ended up sending it back and re-adding my name to the list because it showed up when I was in the middle of another book and didn’t think I would have time to read it then. Well… Even though this book was rather large (599 pages), I ended up reading it in ONE WEEK! Considering the fact that I didn’t have any days off from work and/or caring for my kids, that’s crazy! But, this book is crazy good, so I went to extremes to stay up late reading. I’m talking, get up and walk around when I feel my eyelids start to droop or purposely playing Candy Crush before sitting down to read because I know the glow from electronics makes it harder for me to fall asleep. Yeah. I’m dedicated like that! ;-) Continue reading
I don’t typically like books that aren’t plot-driven. Most of the time, I find that books without a plot just drag along. Well, I can’t truly say this book “doesn’t have a plot”… I mean, it has a sequence of events and the characters do things over a period of time. But there’s not a big build up to a climax followed by a tidy resolution as there would be in so many books. (Which I tend to prefer.) It’s hard to explain, but I think you probably know what I mean. Rather than some huge event that the book centers around, it’s just a description of what happens to these two characters over a length of time. A snapshot of their lives, if you will. An absolutely beautiful snapshot! Continue reading
It wouldn’t be Banned Books Week without a review of a GLBT book, since so many would-be censors take umbrage with the fact that GLBT novels even exist. So, I am taking this opportunity to finally review a book one of my teens suggested I read during GLBT Pride Month. The basic premise of this story was that two [gay] boys were attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. The strangest thing, though, was that they were not boyfriends. They were, in fact, ex-boyfriends. But, Harry and Craig were not kissing merely for the fun of kissing or even just to break the existing world record. In fact, kissing for 32 hours was a rather grueling experience, both physically and emotionally. But their 32-hour-long kiss was worth all of the difficulties it presented because it was a statement of support for their mutual friend, Tariq, who was the victim of a hate crime. Although the “Greek chorus” of narrators — men who had died of AIDS — seemed a bit clunky at times, I think that narration ultimately worked as a means by which to educate younger readers about [late 20th century] GLBT history, the progress the GLBT community has made thus far, and how far we still have to go. I really enjoyed this story, though I have to admit to shedding a tear or two. I highly recommend this for fans of other David Levithan books (like Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day) and suspect that it will likely end up on many YA literature syllabi as required GLBT reading.
Happy Banned Books Week!
After Del died in a car accident, Ben started helping out on Del’s family’s farm. While working on the farm, Ben started to look out for and became friends with Del’s younger brother, Jimmy, in a capacity much like an older brother. After Jimmy was murdered, Ben felt guilty and escaped his home town by enlisting in the armed forces and heading to Afghanistan. This story is told from Ben’s perspective, in a diary-style letter to someone back home, as he reflects back over the series of events that lead to Jimmy’s death and explains why he feels responsible. The graphic description of Jimmy’s violent death definitely makes this a book for more mature readers, and I am sure some people would ultimately like to see this book banned. I think, nevertheless, that this suspense-filled story is a great way to draw in readers who might not otherwise think they’d enjoy a story that explores such heavy themes as homophobia and hate crimes. A definite departure from the apocalyptic world of Ashes, but equally well written.
Happy Banned Books Week!
To be completely honest, I chose to read this book last summer because it counted for a square on the Adult Summer Reading BINGO card! (It was a gardening theme, and the book had the name of a flower in the title.) The fact that I didn’t get around to reviewing this book until now, nevertheless, is not any indication of the quality of the story. I am just *very* bad at reviewing books as soon as I finish them. I have such a back-log to get through that I often play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to pick which one to do! :-)
Though this book tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Tiger Lily, it is actually narrated by a fairy named Tinkerbell. [Yes, the same Tinkerbell you’ve heard of before!] Tiger Lily, a native girl who has always lived as an outcast of sorts within her tribe, is desperate to find a way out of marrying a horrid man to whom she has been betrothed. Tiger Lily spends time in the woods to avoid her tribe and to try to escape her life, if only for short periods of time, and ends up running into Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Not only does she fall for Peter, fully knowing she can’t actually make a life with him, but then Wendy Darling shows up in Neverland… If you aren’t don’t get your heart broken at least once by the end of this story, you don’t have a heart.
Ryan Dean West has a lot going on… First of all, Ryan Dean — yes, that’s his first name — is a 14 year old junior. Even though he attends an elite prep school, or perhaps because he attends an elite prep school, being two to three years younger than the other students in his grade causes a lot of resentment. Aside from being called a baby all the time, he also has to deal with the fact that he landed himself in “O Hall” [the residence hall for trouble makers] and is stuck rooming with a psychopath named Chas. Luckily, Chas is a rugby teammate and, therefore, has *some* reason not to randomly kill Ryan Dean in his sleep. Other than Chas, Ryan Dean’s biggest problem is girls. His age complicates dating a bit, since he would rather date people in his grade and not people his own age. Unfortunately, though it’s pretty clear that Ryan Dean is love with his best friend, Annie, she seems to think of him as a kid. And Megan, who clearly has the hots for him, is Chas’ girlfriend — which may end up giving Chas the excuse he needs to kill Ryan Dean for real. Luckily, Ryan Dean has another best friend, Joey, to help him through all the craziness and to try to talk some sense into him as needed. Although Ryan Dean occasionally feels awkward about the fact that Joey is gay — wondering, for example, if people will think he is gay by extension — he loves Joey like a brother and is [sometimes begrudgingly] grateful for his advice.
Even though the plot is not at all similar, I found that this book reminded me of I Love You, Beth Cooper. Ryan Dean, despite being a “jock,” somehow reminded me of nerdy Dennis Cooverman. Maybe it was his superior book smarts paired with a lack of interpersonal intelligence? One could probably make the argument that the connection in my mind stems from the fact that Ryan Dean got progressively more banged up throughout the story (just like Dennis), but I think I made the connection before the injuries started to pile up. I think that the overall humorous tone, realistic dialogue, and writing style were similar enough for my brain to make a link (though I feel compelled to warn readers that Winger had a very sad twist ending). No matter the reason, nevertheless, I think Larry Doyle fans are likely to be Andrew Smith fans as well.