Bullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron’s anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences. Intense, urgent, and...moreBullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron’s anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences. Intense, urgent, and shocking, this brutal novel furiously races across the page as fast as Cameron’s tortured thoughts. You’ll never feel safe in a locker room again after reading this portrait of a boy going up in flames.(less)
What would you do with your life if you knew you only had a year to live? That's the question Ben Wolf, the hero of Chris Crutcher's excellent novel,...moreWhat would you do with your life if you knew you only had a year to live? That's the question Ben Wolf, the hero of Chris Crutcher's excellent novel, Deadline, must ask himself when, early on in the book, he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. His answer? Tell no one, go out for varsity football (despite being rail-thin, short, and the brother of the star QB), and pursue Dallas Suzuki, the most confident, athletic, and beautiful girl in school. Oh, and tirelessly challenge that thoughtless, conservative, authoritarian American Government teacher who's always getting on his nerves. This moving, funny, and compassionate book is that rare beast: a gripping, plot-driven read that weaves in heavy, controversial topics for discussion without once feeling didactic or forced. Ben's voice is irreverent, sarcastic, and independent. He's in a race to make life mean something and in only a short while (because that's all he's got) learns something about mistakes, weakness, selflessness and compassion for even the lowest of God's creatures. Crutcher's book is packed with memorable characters, touching relationships, and philosophical hot potatoes you'll be turning over for days. This is Crutcher at his very best. (less)
Terra Nullis (empty land): Mapmaking runs in 17-year-old Terra’s family. Her father is a failed and bitter cartographer who is verbally abusive. Terra...moreTerra Nullis (empty land): Mapmaking runs in 17-year-old Terra’s family. Her father is a failed and bitter cartographer who is verbally abusive. Terra, on the other hand, makes collaged maps, expressing a different kind of landscape, finding beauty in stories and experience. Self described as stunning from afar, extremely fit with long golden tresses, Terra tries to cover as much of her facial birthmark (referred to as a port-wine stain) as she can under heavy makeup. At the encouragement of her artist mentors at the gallery where she works, Terra has hatched an external escape map of sorts, one that points straight to early admission to college with a top-notch art program that is at least 5 hours away from home by plane. Far away from the cruel taunting of her father.
Terra Incognita (unknown land): Internal compass points are always trickier. As Terra and her mother are making the 4-hour drive home from Seattle in a snow storm after yet another surgery on her cheek, in walks Jacob. No, rather, Jacob enters her life after she nearly runs him over. More visible than ever, Terra’s birthmark, raw and swollen from the surgery, doesn’t seem to phase Jacob. It’s as if he’s saying, “why would anyone refer to a birthmark as a stain, as in ‘port-wine stain?’” It’s hard not to like Jacob right away. And Terra notices a few things about Jacob, surface things; he is Asian American, goth, and has a cleft lip, which doesn’t seem to phase him. But what does that really tell her about him? Hardly anything, as it turns out.
Terra Firma (solid ground): As Jacob and his mom drive Terra and her mom back home, a friendship immediately forms. Terra can’t ignore her feelings for Jacob. The 4 of them make big plans: a life-altering trip filled with adventure including geocaching. Terra’s internal compass shifts: “Like world describers before me, those mapmakers in the seventeenth century, I had laid down my first faintly drawn border. With that one tentative mark, my world expanded by a few freeing degrees.” She’s finding firmer ground, somewhere north of beautiful: When Jacob asks Terra to define true beauty, she says, slowly:
"Well, it seeps into you. It doesn’t make you forget yourself, but totally the opposite…It connects you with everything and fills you with awe that you share the same space with something that glorious. Like a sunrise or a clear blue day or the most extraordinary piece of glass. And then suddenly — you have this epiphany that there’s more to the world than just you and what you want or even who you are."
Take "Life as We Knew it," change the setting to London, add a sassy punk rock protagonist, and you've got "The Carbon Diaries" by Saci Lloyd. The yea...moreTake "Life as We Knew it," change the setting to London, add a sassy punk rock protagonist, and you've got "The Carbon Diaries" by Saci Lloyd. The year is 2015, and furious storms have devastated much of Europe. London takes the lead on instituting government-backed 'carbon rationing.' Rock musician Laura Brown desperately needs her band to survive, but that, of course, requires energy as in, electricity. Meanwhile, her family is falling apart, and she keeps a diary of it all. And even though times are really tough, Laura's wit keeps you hooked.(less)
What do you do when you're riding your bike in downtown Toronto and someone in an SUV tosses the greasy remains of their "McHappy Meal" right at you?...moreWhat do you do when you're riding your bike in downtown Toronto and someone in an SUV tosses the greasy remains of their "McHappy Meal" right at you? And the plum sauce from the Chicken McNuggets dribbles down the front of your shirt?
You get mad! That's what Sabine (nicknamed Bean) does. And her angry encounter with the SUV driver is all captured on video and uploaded to YouTube. An activist is born. Sabine can no longer take the mass consumption all around her (including that of her 2 best friends), and she's out to change it! She begins a blog to reach out, and posts links to great sites and regular comments, such as: "Spontaneous non-consumption: The impulsive instinct to NOT buy something. It's exhilarating and liberating! Seriously." And it doesn't hurt that her new focus in life brings romance into her life.