Category Archives: you think you’ve got problems?

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

vanishing-girlsDara and Nick used to be more than just sisters; they were best friends.  Though they used to be practically inseparable, they don’t even speak to one another anymore.  The worst part is that Nick started to lose her other best friend, Parker, at the same time as Dara — all because he and Dara started dating.  One night, during a heated argument, the girls ended up in a car accident and that was the final straw.  Dara’s face and body were forever damaged, just like her relationship with Nick, and she keeps herself hidden away all the time.  Still, Nick is determined to fix things with Parker and Dara this summer.  Before she can even start to work things out, nevertheless, Dara disappears.  It could just be that Dara is messing around, but the disappearance of another local girl, 9-year-old Madeline Snow, makes Nick wonder if there might be something more to the story.  Will she be able to piece everything together?  Will the girls ever be found?  The answers might be more shocking than you can imagine…  Fans of Oliver’s earlier books Before I Fall and Panic are sure to enjoy her latest mystery/thriller.

Happy Reading!

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

lies-i-toldI cannot believe it took me this long to get around to reviewing this book.  I mean, Michelle Zink visited our library more than a month ago and I finished the book not too long after… but, summer reading has been stripping my brain of functionality and I pretty much consider myself lucky to still be coherent at this point!  Michelle and I actually met back when my 5 1/2 year old daughter was only a baby, and we have stayed in touch ever since.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately since she just kicked off her new series of adult romance novels, writing as Michelle St. James.  (Ruthless is actually ranked #41 in romance right now on Amazon.  Go Michelle!)  Who knows?  Maybe I will even buy/read a book for “grown-ups” to find out what the big deal is?!?  But, I digress.  I haven’t read Ruthless — thinking about it just reminded me that I need to get my act together and review Lies I Told;-)

First off, I think it’s only fair to “warn” readers that this book isn’t a Gothic fantasy like the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy.  (If you’re looking for more Gothic fantasy, you should probably check out the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray.)  If you’re into contemporary fiction, though, you will be pleased to see that Michelle Zink has made a seamless transition to that genre.  Grace Fontaine is a teenage girl with pretty much everything she could want: money, beauty, and a perfect family.  It’s just too bad that it’s all a lie.  The truth is that she and her brother have been adopted by con artists and trained to play their own parts in their parents’ cons.  Every time they move to a new town, they have to develop new identities and help their parents get close to the marks (aka victims).  For a long time, Grace convinced herself that she was OK with the arrangement.  She “knew” that her parents loved her and that the people from whom they were stealing were so rich they could afford to be conned.  When she starts to fall for one of her marks, though, she begins questioning everything about her life.  Though the plot isn’t *quite* the same, I recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen’s What Happened to Goodbye (which tells the story of a girl who takes on a new persona every time she moves to a new town).

Happy Reading!

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

some-assembly-requiredIf and when my library teens want to discuss what is going on in their lives, they know am available as a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or as a resource for finding agencies that can provide further help.  I sometimes joke that I should have had a minor in social work because of all the problems that have been brought to me, but I am mostly just honored that I am a trusted adult to whom the teens will come when they are dealing with serious issues.  Some of my teens have come to me while they were in the process of coming out and/or transitioning, and though I am a very curious person by nature, I have done my best to be supportive without prying.  Out of respect for the difficulties faced by coming out and/or transitioning, I think it is only fair to let the person who is coming out/transitioning take the lead in the conversation. Thankfully, there are brave young people like Arin Andrews who are willing to share their own stories so that transgender and cisgender people can better understand both the obstacles transgender people face and the resources that are available to them as they decide how they would like to move forward with their lives.

I thought Arin did a great job of explaining the process of [female to male] transitioning both simply and thoroughly; the fact that he managed to do so without being didactic was very impressive!  Though Arin’s transition involved both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, he was careful to explain that there are many people who opt to transition differently and that all choices are valid.  I was especially grateful for Arin’s candor about dating and sex, since I am sure many people are curious about how that all “works,” when one or more of the people in the relationship is transgendered, but don’t know how to ask without prying/being rude.  I think this book would be an excellent resource for someone who is preparing for or struggling with his/her own transition, but I also think it is an important book to share with cisgender teens.  As a woman who feels perfectly at home in the body into which she was born, it has taken years of conversations with transgendered teens to even begin to fully appreciate their struggle.  I can only hope that the open sharing of stories like Arin’s will help future generations to be more understanding and empathetic and that the struggle for trans rights will soon become a part of history.

Happy Reading!

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

this-is-where-it-endsI still cannot get over this cover! Even though I have way too much going on and don’t really have much time for reading lately, I saw the cover of this ARC and *knew* that I had to find the time to read it if my request got approved. (Thanks for the approval on NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire!) Much like I am drawn to stories about serial killers, I am captivated by the stories of school shooters. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t worship mass murders or anything. I’m just so curious about how they could think like they do. I mean, I’ve gotten depressed and angry plenty of times in my life — but I just can’t conceive of ever getting to the point where taking the lives of other people would become an option, let alone seem like the right idea.

Imagine being dismissed from a normal/boring school assembly only to find that the doors to the auditorium were locked and someone who was hiding up on the stage has come out shooting. This story is told from the varying perspectives of several students affected by the shooting, both inside and outside the auditorium, for the duration of the terrifying 54 minute ordeal. I especially appreciated the perspective of the shooter’s sister. Though it took me three sittings to finish [because I was just too busy/tired and couldn’t find the time to read it straight through], this book begs to be read in a single sitting. People who enjoyed Nineteen Minutes and/or Give a Boy a Gun should check this one out. (Release date = 1/5/16.)

Happy Reading!

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!

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!