I find it funny that people are comparing this book to Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games but not to the Graceling series. Game of Thrones makes sense because of the crazy king who thirsts for power, uprisings from conquered peoples, and mystical power that comes into play… But I don’t think Hunger Games is too similar. I mean, yes, there is a competition in which people are trained to fight and then whittle down to a single champion — but they aren’t forced to join the competition in the first place and not everyone who loses the game will end up dead. The Graceling series, on the other hand, has a badass heroine who was trained as an assassin and used as a weapon of sorts by the king. Sounds an awful lot like Celaena Sardothien!
Celaena was known throughout Erilea as one of the greatest assasins of all time, but her legend didn’t include the fact that she was both beautiful and very young. When the Crown Prince, Dorian, went to see her in the salt mines of a prison camp called Endovier — where most people last only about a month, but she had already managed to last over a year — he came with a rather strange proposition. Even though she had been sent to Endovier by order of the king, he asked Celaena to enter the competition to be the king’s champion. There was a catch, of course… She had to use an alias so that the people of the kingdom wouldn’t know they had all been “petrified of a girl” all along, and she had to return to Endovier if she lost. Though it was tempting to simply refuse, Prince Dorian’s offer also came with a pretty awesome reward; if Celaena won the competition and served the king for a number of years, she could actually earn her freedom. She would have been a fool to refuse, but she also worried that she had been foolish to accept — especially once champions started turning up murdered… shredded by some unknown beast.
Ever since I read The Girl Who Owned a City [back in fifth grade], I have been fairly obsessed with dystopian fiction. There’s just something so intriguing about seeing that the world could be *even more* messed up than it already is, you know? The thing about this story that instantly brought me back to The Girl Who Owned a City, of course, is the fact that the entire adult population in this story has been wiped out. In this case, though, all the little kids have been wiped out too. It’s only the teenagers who have survived — and it must have something to do with the particular blend of hormones that exists in teens, because even the survivors die off once they reach full maturity.
This is not just a random disease that struck and went away, by the way. This is something that, if left unchecked, will wipe out the entire human race. Yeah. Let’s hope there are some super-genius teens out there who can figure out what to do to fix it all, right?!? Enter the kids of Washington Square. This story is told from the perspectives of various characters, including an “average” girl named Donna and a guy named Jefferson who has “inherited” leadership of Washington Square now that his older brother has turned 18 and died. Oh yeah… Jefferson is also secretly in love with Donna and just so happens to be think he might have found some information that could lead to a cure. Jeff just needs to convince his friends to join him on a dangerous trip through the city to find more information and, you know, a lab where he can do some research. Witty banter and fast-paced action make this a fairly quick read. I recommend this book to fans of series like Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Monument 14.
I don’t know how honor students in high school today manage not to have nervous breakdowns on a regular basis. I went to a school that had a fairly good “enrichment” program starting in elementary school and followed that program straight through taking AP level classes in high school. Perhaps it is only because I attended a relatively small school (with a graduating class of just under 100 students), but I never felt any extreme pressure to work the system for the highest possible GPA. We were all encouraged to do our best, to take AP exams to save on time/money in college, to apply for college and scholarships based on our interests, and to also participate in other extra-curricular activities. My classmates and I had the general knowledge that extra-curricular activities could impact our college applications, but we didn’t spend every waking moment calculating which activities would look best on college applications — we just chose the activities that supported our interests. (What a concept!)
Reshma Kapoor is a fictional character, but my experiences in working with teens over the last decade or so have shown me that she is absolutely based on reality… I wasn’t even working with teens who attended super elite schools, and many of them were still beyond stressed about which classes they needed to take and which activities would best round-out their college applications. (Some of them actually started worrying about college in middle school!) In addition to the fact that Reshma attends an über elite and highly competitive school, though, she also faces a lot of pressure from her Asian-American parents who believe that studying and doing well in school are of the utmost importance. For nearly her entire life, she has focused on academic achievement with an end-goal of becoming a doctor. Now that senior year is here and Reshma is *this* close to graduating, she is fully dedicated to keeping her position as valedictorian and getting accepted to Stanford. Especially now that Reshma has a literary agent who is interested in helping her publish a book, she is certain that she has an edge on the competition. If only she wasn’t so lacking in life experience and knew more about “typical” teenagers, she might have an easier time writing that book… So, she’ll just have to make a friend and get a boyfriend to get some plot points. How hard could it possibly be?!?
Nina Barrows doesn’t like to sleep at night. A few hours right before school and then a cat nap during the day is fine, but that is about all she is comfortable with. Why? Because falling asleep gives her the ability to connect with the mind of a serial killer who calls himself the Thief. Nina is familiar with his family, his home, his work, and his methods of stalking and killing his prey. When she was little, Nina tried to tell her mother about her connection with this older boy, but her mother just thought she had an imaginary friend. As she got older, Nina realized that people might simply think she was crazy, so she decided not to talk about it any more. But she wonders whether she might be able to stop him; if there might be some way to use her “power” for good. There are just two problems with that, though… One is that she needs to convince her former best friend, Warren, to help her track down the Thief. And the other, of course, is the fact that she may be putting her own life in danger if she manages to find him.
Warren is not so sure that he believes in this psychic connection, but he admits that there are an awful lot of coincidences and he doesn’t want Nina to go off completely on her own. Nina starts to doubt herself, once Warren has sown some seeds of doubt, but she is insistent on following through to see if this man really is the dangerous sociopath, the Thief, she has seen in her dreams. This psychological thriller has so many twists and turns that it will surely keep you guessing all the way until the end.
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.
John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time at a juvenile detention center known to most simply as the Y. He’s there because he was convicted of murdering two people — but he didn’t really kill his teacher, Mrs. Cruz, and the boy he killed was an accident. That boy, by the way, happened to be the only other witness to Mrs. Cruz’ murder. Ack! (John feels so guilty about both of those deaths, though, he doesn’t really feel like he deserves any better than the Y.)
John earned the nickname “Smoke” because he seems to have the ability to go anywhere and see anything. No one knows quite how he manages to get all the information he does, but they’re more than happy to enlist his services. In truth, people probably wouldn’t believe him if he told them. You see, ever since his near death experience, John has had the ability to separate himself from his body and to navigate through the world in a ghostly form. That was how he witnessed Mrs. Cruz’ murder in the first place, and that is how he gets information for other people at the Y. If it wasn’t for a run-in with a girl he calls Pink, who can see and communicate with him, he probably would have given up on himself completely. But, because Pink seems to believe in him — and because he wants to protect her, since she wound up in danger after visiting him at the Y — John finds the courage to search a little harder and to try and clear his name…