When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

when-you-reach-meThis book was an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction.  I can certainly see why it won the Newbery Award, since it was well written, pays homage to a “classic” children’s book, and has a nostalgia factor for the teachers and librarians who grew up in the 70s and 80s — especially with all the references to Miranda’s mom practicing for her appearance on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that a lot of tweens and teens would find it difficult to really get hooked on this story.  I was curious about how things would play out in the end and all, but the story didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.

One day, as Miranda walked home with her best friend, Sal, he got punched in the stomach.  The kid who punched him was new to the neighborhood and didn’t even know Miranda or Sal, so there didn’t seem to be any reason for the attack.  Even worse?  Right after that incident, Sal began to get distant.  Miranda felt lost without Sal, since the two of them had been constant companions since their early childhood.  And then, when the hidden/”emergency” key to her apartment went missing and she found a strange note hidden in a library book, Miranda got understandably freaked out.  Especially since the author of the note seemed to know things about her — even things that hadn’t happened yet.  Fans of A Wrinkle in Time are sure to enjoy the way Miranda’s life experiences drew parallels to that book and made her question the real possibilities of time travel.  I think there are enough details, nevertheless, that the story will still make sense to readers who aren’t familiar with L’Engle’s work.

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!

Wrapping up Pride Month…

scotus-same-sex-0626I was going to review another book I recently read, but I am just too excited about today’s historic Supreme Court ruling!  Instead of posting a random review of a book, I think I’m going to simply highlight the GLBTQ books I have reviewed in the past.  Enjoy!

Happy Reading!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow-scaleSo, I know that I said I wasn’t going to post reviews about sequels/series books anymore… but it’s been ALMOST THREE YEARS since Seraphina came out.  And I seriously love this story, so I want to be sure fantasy readers realize this awesome book is out there.  So… Yeah. I’m reviewing it anyway!  :-P

Growing up, Seraphina never realized there were other ityasaari (half-dragon/half-human beings) like her.  Her father had always done his best to keep her true identity a secret, out of fear for her safety, so she lived a very sheltered life.  After people found out her secret, though, and because there was a major conflict brewing between humans and dragons, Seraphina and Queen Glisselda have decided that tracking down the rest of the ityasaari might be their best chance to put a stop to the war in Goredd.  Richly imagined and full of action, this book should be well received by fans of other dragon tales like Eragon and The Last Dragonslayer.

Happy Reading!

The Misfits by James Howe

misfitsI listened to this audiobook a few months ago, but I decided to wait and review it during LGBT Pride Month.  It’s not because the entire story was about one particular LGBT character or centered around a specific LGBT problem, though, because it wasn’t.  The story actually revolved around a group of self-proclaimed misfits and their attempt to stop bullying in their school.  Joe, nevertheless, was identified as being gay and other characters recalled that Joe used to wear dresses sometimes.  I really appreciated the way Joe’s sexual identification and history of cross-dressing were treated as more of a side note to explain why some people bullied him and but that his story didn’t overshadow or make light of the other forms of bullying at their school.  This was a story in which a variety of students were bullied for a variety of reasons, all of which were wrong.

Everything started back when Addie refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance; she was adamant about the fact that there wasn’t “liberty and justice for all” and, on principle, refused to say the pledge anymore.  Even though her teacher didn’t quite seem to understand where she was coming from, her friends, the misfits, thought she was on to something.  They were tired of being made fun of and mistreated, and they were fairly certain that nothing would improve unless they did something about it — so they decided to go about affecting that change by creating a third party in the student council elections.  The book did get a little didactic at times, but I think many tween and teen readers will appreciate Addie’s brand of idealism and the fact that working together actually made a difference in their school.  Fortunately, many schools are making an effort to teach character education and to promote an environment free from hatred and bullying… but it’s still out there.  Sadly, I’m all too certain there will always be kids who can relate to this story.

Happy Reading!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

all-the-boysAlthough I enjoyed the Burn for Burn series, it wasn’t what I would typically expect from Jenny Han.  I first fell in love with her writing when I read Shug.  [Sidebar: I cannot believe that was NINE YEARS ago!]  I went on to adore the Summer I Turned Pretty series and frequently recommend it to readers who are looking for an author similar to Sarah Dessen.  Even though Jenny Han’s stories fall on the lighter side of YA, I can’t help but use words like “honest” and “raw” when I describe her characters.  I love the fact that Han’s characters face problems that a majority of tweens and teens can relate to — and the mom/librarian in me especially appreciates her multidimensional female characters.   When this book showed up on the library hold shelf on the same day that I finished Ashes to Ashes (Burn for Burn, book 3), I took it as a sign and bumped it to the top of my book pile!

Lara Jean has fallen in love many times, but that doesn’t exactly mean she has had much dating experience.  Instead of dating those boys, though, she skipped straight from falling in love to letting them go.  And, in order to let them go, she wrote a love letter of sorts.  Whenever she wrote to one of the boys she loved, Lara Jean always wrote honestly and held nothing back [because she knew that the boys would never really read the letters].  She’d planned to simply keep all of the letters in the hat box her mom gave her to hold her special and/or secret items.  The fact that she chose to include the name and address of each boy on the front of the envelope, nevertheless, proved to be rather unfortunate.  After the hat box mysteriously disappeared from her closet and the letters were all “accidentally” mailed out, Lara Jean ended up agreeing to be in a fake relationship to avoid her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh — to whom she had written one of the most recent letters.  But how is a girl supposed to know whether her fake boyfriend is actually flirting or just putting on a good show?  And what should she do if she starts to think she might have feelings for him?  The book ended a little too abruptly for my liking, so it’s a good thing there is a sequel — P.S. I Still Love You — that came out at the end of May.  ;-)

Happy Reading!

So… I updated my “about Librarina” page…

because I’m super excited to share some crazy news with y’all:

For more than a decade, Chrissie has been as a Youth Services [Tween & Teen] Librarian @ the East Greenbush Community Library (in East Greenbush, NY).  She is about to “retire” from full-time librarianship to become a mostly-stay-at-home-mom but will never stop reading YA fiction and encouraging other people to read.  She is also addicted to video games [especially the Legend of Zelda series], baking, and crafting — hence her addiction to Pinterest.  Chrissie still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up… but she’s pretty certain she will never stop loving YA books!

Happy Reading!