This review contains spoilers. Please do not read ahead if you don't want to know about major plot lines in this book.
I was so into this book at firsThis review contains spoilers. Please do not read ahead if you don't want to know about major plot lines in this book.
I was so into this book at first. I loved how the chapters were named for different types of cake. I loved all of the references to The Golden Girls. I loved how the book was about a girl dealing with depression. As I was reading, I kept thinking about the patrons I have who I could recommend this book to and thinking how it was sure to be a future Staff Pick. Then I started having a feeling of dread that the author was going for a particular plot twist. Molly, the protagonist, is dealing with depression. A few years earlier, she suffered a breakdown during a swim meet and suddenly started to recognize feelings of depression where she stopped caring about things that were once important to her. I appreciated that the author discusses how hard it can be for Molly to get out of bed some days. That it's hard for her to always know who she is as a person. The author lets us know that these things are normal for depression and OK to discuss. Even better, Molly regularly goes to therapy to deal with her depression. While early on the admits to having a crush on her therapist, I didn't think too much of it. It's recognized as silly and, I believe, even referenced with an "it's OK to look" referring to how she just likes to "check out" Dr. B. Then, I started thinking that some of the therapy sessions didn't sound too normal and hoped that the author wasn't going to have Molly and her therapist get involved. But, because it is such a trend right now in YA fiction (seriously, why?) they do. Even with dealing with the overall "ick" of it (she's 17! he's 30! he's her therapist!) I decided to keep reading as the book was in the home stretch and hope that it would be discussed as a mistake and never happen again. But, of course it couldn't be that simple. Instead, our main character finds herself showing up late at night at Dr. B's house where she drinks with him and finds herself in a sexual assault situation. As disappointing as this plot development was for me, what's more disappointing is that it is never really stated that this is sexual assault. Yes, Molly's friend says that it is wrong and that Dr. B should be reported and "a kiss does not mean yes." All true. However, Molly never pursues this and instead the author gives us a few more scenes with Dr. B. I'm about to rant now. Part of the problem was that just yesterday, I read Local Girl Swept Away. A book that aggravated me so much that I couldn't even review it because I was so disgusted. In that story, there is a man (about 30) who not only impregnates a teen, but also "hooks up" with another 17 year-old. As if that weren't horrible enough, he also is caught kissing a 13 year-old. No. Just no. There have been too many books I've read lately that go into this teen/adult relationship (usually teen girl/older men). Why is this a theme? Why are authors romanticizing these types of relationships? Why, at the end of 100 Days of Cake, was there not a note from the author guiding readers to who they can contact if they are sexually assaulted or raped? Yes, maybe I am overly angry right now but, as a teen librarian, I see how influenced young readers can be by the books they read. So, no, I won't label this a staff pick nor will I recommend it to patrons. Yes, it will stay in my collection because everyone has the right to read what they want. However, I appeal to YA authors, please know that it's OK to give readers a book where you don't try to shock them at every chapter. It's OK to have characters who have relationships with people their own age. ...more
I really enjoyed Tell Me Three Things. While the "mystery" was quite predictable, I still liked being along for the main character's journey towards fI really enjoyed Tell Me Three Things. While the "mystery" was quite predictable, I still liked being along for the main character's journey towards figuring it out. While I read this book a few weeks ago and details are already starting to slip my mind, I found it to be an enjoyable read that I read through quickly and immediately passed on to my patrons at the library....more
I loved this book. A retelling of Pride & Prejudice done very well. There was plenty of romance but also a little bit of edge to the story for thoI loved this book. A retelling of Pride & Prejudice done very well. There was plenty of romance but also a little bit of edge to the story for those who don't want a total sappy read. While there is a bit of swearing in this book, it is not done to an extent that would make me feel uncomfortable recommending it to a mature middle school student. ...more
Asking for It is a book that I would have finished in one sitting. However, there were so many times that I had to putThis review contains spoilers.
Asking for It is a book that I would have finished in one sitting. However, there were so many times that I had to put it down to deal with how I was feeling that I read it over the course of two days. I finally finished it late last night. I was crying and had such an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Throughout the whole book, this story made me feel (for lack of a better word) "itchy." I say itchy because it made me feel uncomfortable all over. It left me with a feeling that there was a discomfort within me that I just couldn't reach to stop it. In no ways is this a bad statement to make about the book. In fact, I believe that Louise O'Neill wants readers to feel uncomfortable, to know that Emma's story is just horribly wrong and unfair. Maybe then, people can finally start talking about rape and blaming the victims. When I first started reading Asking for It, I was unsure if I'd be able to persevere. Emma was so unlikable and there were a lot of characters/relationships to keep track of. However, from the jacket and blurbs I had read about the book, I knew that the story was going to have a lot of meaningful content to it so I pushed through. Emma is very aware of her beauty. In a lot of ways, it is how she determines her worth. She uses her beauty to get what she wants and get away with things she should not do. She appreciates the effect that she has on men and is not afraid to flaunt her sexuality. However, in no way does Emma's beauty, or sexuality, deny her the right to say, "no." At a weekend party, Emma drinks and takes drugs. She flirts and lets boys know that she's interested in them. She hooks up with Paul. Then she finds herself being awakened by her panicked mother the next morning bruised, sick and baking in the afternoon heat, not remembering what else happened the night before. The events of the night before become revealed to her not by her own recollection, but with pictures uploaded to Facebook. Emma was gang raped by guys she thought were her friends and photographs of her abuse are displayed to the public. (As O'Neill described Emma scrolling through the photos, I felt so physically ill that I had to put the book down and take a break). Emma immediately takes the blame for what happened - just another slutty girl who regrets her choices the next morning. Her friends turn on her, her classmates laugh at her and her parents (who win the award for worst parents ever) blame her for everything that goes wrong their lives following her accusation of the boys. This story does not end neatly. There is no happy ending and readers may be very disappointed with the turn of events and the choices that Emma makes. However, this book ends realistically. Emma continues to suffer, she continues to contemplate suicide and she realizes that redacting her claim against the boys might be easier than facing them, and the judgement of the public as a whole, in a courtroom. My heart broke for Emma. O'Neill took an unlikable character and showed that it doesn't matter what a person is like - NO ONE deserves this. After finishing the book, I read some interviews with O'Neill where she was so spot on in saying that as girls, we are taught how to "avoid" being raped but boys aren't taught not to rape. This is a horrible reality that constantly shows up in the news - and that is only the women who are able to come forward. I hope that people read this book and take away that it doesn't matter how a person dresses or behaves - they have the right to say no. That it is not OK to blame the victim. ...more
I really enjoyed This is Where the World Ends. It was one of those books that once I started it, I knew I was not going to move from my chair until I I really enjoyed This is Where the World Ends. It was one of those books that once I started it, I knew I was not going to move from my chair until I had finished it. This is Where the World Ends tells a story from the POVs of Janie and Micah, high school seniors who have been (secret) best friends since childhood. The story starts with Micah waking up in a hospital with selective amnesia - unable to remember the details of the past few months and wondering where Janie is and why she isn't responding to his texts. The story then switches POV to Janie, telling the story from the place that Micah last remembers, the day before the first day of their senior year when she moves across town. I enjoyed the alternating POVs as well as the alternating chapters between the past and present. It allowed me to piece together clues and bits of information - just as Micah was trying to do. I have to say, the first few chapters of this book made me feel as if I was re-reading Paper Towns with different characters. The beautiful, mysterious girl next door and the quiet boy who pined for her. Janie would even steal into Micah's room in the middle of the night to recruit him for "ninja" missions. (One such mission even involved a cheating boyfriend between two friends). Either Zhang was influenced by Paper Towns or this is something that is happening in high schools across America and I'm just unaware. My one complaint about this story was the constant swearing among the dialogue. Working with teens on a daily basis, I can honestly say that I don't believe that they speak in a constant stream of swearing. I think that teenagers can be written effectively without all of the "dramatic" language. Due to the content, and the language throughout the book, This is Where the World Ends is better suited for older readers. I believe it will find a good audience among girls who like dramatic/issue-heavy fiction and, of course, fans of John Green....more
The First Time She Drowned is a book that stays with you long after you've finished it. I found myself staying up way later than I normally would justThe First Time She Drowned is a book that stays with you long after you've finished it. I found myself staying up way later than I normally would just so I could finish it and then I still kept thinking about it. Told in both the present and with flashbacks, The First Time She Drowned follows Cassie after she discharges herself (against medical advice) from a mental institution where she's been living for more than two years. Even on her final visit with her psychologist, Cassie stresses the fact that she should not have been institutionalized at all and that her mother made up a story to tell the doctors in order to get her admitted. That awful fact sinks like a stone with readers who can't imagine a mother doing such a thing. After Cassie leaves the hospital, she finds her way to Newport, RI where she is about to start her Freshman year of college. Upon arriving at college, her mother randomly calls her wanting to re-connect and repair their mother/daughter relationship. By this point, readers have already gone through enough of Cassie's flashbacks to know that this is a toxic idea, but Cassie remains optimistic and tries to begin again with her mother. The flashbacks show how truly damaged Cassie's life was while growing up. Some plot twists and reveals were easy to see coming. That being said, it didn't make it any easier when Kletter detailed them. The pain readers feel for Cassie is palpable. Throughout the entire book, I felt myself cringing each time her mother was in a scene and my heart ached for how she treated Cassie. To be honest, there were parts of Cassie's personality that were difficult for me to like - particularly in the way that she treated Chris. I can absolutely understand that she behaved this way as a defense mechanism. It was just difficult to see how little she thought of herself where she couldn't understand why someone would want to be kind to her. This is not a light read. This is a story for those who like drama-heavy books. There are many heavy topics that are touched upon in this book and I felt like I needed a long cry after finishing it. It's an easy one to recommend, though, for readers who like drama in their realistic fiction. It was beautifully written and captured my attention from start to finish....more
My reviews tend to contain spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk.
I really loved this book - so much so t(My "star" rating really leans closer to 4.5)
My reviews tend to contain spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk.
I really loved this book - so much so that I devoured it in just a few hours! When I first started reading it, I kept thinking how this would make a great recommendation to girls. Then, as I got further into it, I started thinking it was a great book to recommend for the guys. It is rare to find a realistic fiction YA book that can appeal to both guys and girls and Sway definitely does it. I'm not going to lie - when I finish a book, I always look up reviews to see what other readers thought. With Sway, I specifically wanted to know what people who gave it poor ratings thought. A lot of the complaints had to do with gratuitous drug use and/or dealing of drugs and the mistreatment/date rape of women. Did drug use/dealing exist in this book? Yes. Were girls used and manipulated? Sometimes. Truth be told, I didn't notice any references to date rape. There were definitely instances of sex being had after girls bought/took X but that was all I could recall when reading those reviews. Here's my opinion - yes, bad things happened in this book. Yes, there were teens who made poor choices (our protagonist included!). However, one of the things about reading books is that it allows you to escape into a world that is.not.real. While I am aware that these things do happen in reality, I can't call out a book for being immoral because they happened as part of the plot. I enjoyed the character of Sway/Jesse and appreciated his clever "business" that he had created. I liked the way he tried to detach himself from others but that there were people in his life who clearly were important to him. I envisioned him to be a sort of hipster/retro kid and there were lines that he had that literally had me laughing out loud. I wasn't worried about whether or not an "authentic" teen would talk that way because I was immersed in the story. I also loved the crass Mr. D and the scenes where him and Jess fling insults at one another. I will say that this is a book that is better suited for older teens. It will definitely be a staff pick and is one that is good to recommend to fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looking for Alaska. ...more
I'm going to preface this review by stating that it will contain major plot spoilers. This review is meant to serve the purpose of "jogging my memory I'm going to preface this review by stating that it will contain major plot spoilers. This review is meant to serve the purpose of "jogging my memory" down the road when I do book talks so it would be difficult for me to give an honest review without containing the spoilers and twists of this book.
I picked up Swagger this morning and read it through in one sitting. The other week, at a meeting with other Teen librarians, the subject of this book came up. Another librarian pointed out that this was not your typical sports fiction book geared towards boys but that it had some heavy content to it. I was apprehensive to hear this as it can be difficult to sell books with serious content to middle schoolers - especially boys. However, I think that Carl Deuker handled the issues of his book carefully and honestly. Swagger follows the story of Jonas, a high school basketball player who is trying to earn a scholarship for college, find a permanent starting position on his basketball team and bring his grades up to meet the academic requirements of the college that's pursing him. When a flashy, young coach replaces the old-school coach who constantly looks past Jonas, he finds himself being drawn under the spell of the charismatic new coach who seems eager to let his team "get away" with things that they shouldn't be doing. The infractions start small - parties at his house with beer and R-rated movies but soon, the coach is providing Jonas access to the answer keys to tests and offering one-on-one tutoring sessions with Levi - Jonas' new friend who is a bit naive and, as Jonas describes him, "simple." Jonas begins to notice that Levi's behavior is beginning to do a 180 and as the basketball team gets closer and closer to reaching the state championship, Levi becomes more withdrawn. Finally, Jonas encourages Levi to talk to him about what is bothering him and Levi confesses that the coach has been sexually abusing him through the school year. Up to this point, I was completely engaged in this story. After this, I found myself a bit disappointed with the characters that Deuker had created. Jonas decides it's best to not tell anyone about what Levi confessed because his team was so close to the championship. Ultimately, the team wins, Levi commits suicide and Jonas finally decides to (sort of) come clean about what he knows. I feel as though there was a missed opportunity to impress upon readers what they should do if they ever have a friend confess something that is happening to them, or has happened, that puts them in danger. As an adult reading this, it was a hard pill to swallow seeing Levi ultimately end up dead and not think that it could have been prevented if his friend had just told someone. There is plenty of basketball throughout the book (it takes up a good chunk of many chapters) that will satisfy any fan of the sport. Because of content, I want to say that this book is better suited for older readers. However, the writing will likely be more attractive for middle school students. I think that when I book talk Swagger, I will present it with the information that it is not strictly a sports book but one that contains a lot of mature, heavy content....more
What I liked about Challenger Deep was that it gave a gritty, realistic portrayal of what it is like to live with a mental illness. Throughout the bo What I liked about Challenger Deep was that it gave a gritty, realistic portrayal of what it is like to live with a mental illness. Throughout the book, Caden's illness develops to a point where he is eventually hospitalized and treated. Shusterman is careful to acknowledge that hospitalization and medication is not a golden ticket out of one's illness and readers continue to see how Caden adjusts and struggles with his delusions and the way the medication makes him feel. Throughout the story, readers also go into Caden's delusions with him - at first, these chapters seem like a fantasy world, but as the book continues and you see more of Caden's reality, you see how these delusions tie into what he is really going through. I've read other reviews on Challenger Deep that praise how Shusterman is not glamorizing or romanticizing mental illness and, is instead, giving readers an a realistic offering of what it is like for someone to live with these diseases. I will agree that those perspectives are accurate. There are times that Challenger Deep might make you feel uncomfortable or squirmy to see what Caden lives with. However, this is an important topic for people to learn more about and I applaud Shusterman for giving us an accurate offering. One of the parts of the story that stuck with me was when Caden discussed having a classmate with a mental illness when he was younger and how the kids all made great efforts to set him off to see what he would do. I think many readers might identify with doing something that they knew was wrong in an effort to deal with something that made them uncomfortable. I hope that after reading Challenger Deep, readers (myself included) make more of an effort to learn more about mental illness and develop a deeper compassion and understanding for what so many people live with. I will say that the book was a bit slow for me. While the content is appropriate enough to recommend to a middle school reader, I think it might be better received by high school students. I will recommend this title to students - however, I do think that it is helpful to know that if they too feel that the start is a bit slow, it does all start to come together midway through....more