The author of Printz winner Looking for Alaska spins another story about lost love which is — while more comedic and less tragic — no less moving. In...moreThe author of Printz winner Looking for Alaska spins another story about lost love which is — while more comedic and less tragic — no less moving. In an attempt to understand and/or outrun the albatrosses in his life, Colin Singleton takes a road trip after graduating from high school. He needs to leave behind the eighteen girlfriends (all named Katherine) who dumped him, and eighteen years as a prodigy crushed by people's expectations of him. Traveling with his best friend Hassan, they decide to swerve off their scheduled path to visit an unlikely tourist attraction (Duke Ferdinand of WWI fame's alleged grave site). This detour takes Colin away from his normal life and luck, landing him in Gutshot Tennessee, where he gets deeply involved with the lives and lore of the locals. Through it all, Colin's focus remains on the big picture: developing a scientific theory / mathematical formula (described, like the footnotes in the book, in tongue-in-cheek detail) to explain his failed relationships. Filled with footnotes and including an appendix explaining the formula, Green's book is built on an abundance of wit, empathy, and insight. Sadly, like all authors who produce an almost perfect first book (Looking for Alaska), the second --- and sometimes later - offering just can't or don't match up.(less)
A unique look at eating disorders in teenage girls, told from the POV of a young man (Donnie) who watches his sister reduce herself to skin and bone....moreA unique look at eating disorders in teenage girls, told from the POV of a young man (Donnie) who watches his sister reduce herself to skin and bone. The book starts with a shocking scene: Donnie giving CPR to his dying sister Karen. The story then traces backwards to what led to this horrific event. Donnie's a pretty normal child in an extremely dysfunctional family. His parents seem at constant war with one another. The shrapnel of their rage hits Karen the hardest, who retreats by not eating and rebels by cursing, lying, and stealing. Donnie's overwhelmed by the turmoil surrounding him at home, and in particular is impotent to stop his sister's slow-motion suicide. The language is rich, perhaps sometimes too much so for the experience of the narrator, and images linger, such as that of Donnie finding Karen's "food journal" noting how few calories she's consuming. (less)
A sort-a-sequel to Flinn's searing YA novel debut Breathing Underwater, but this time telling the story from the girl's POV. Caitlin, who was abused b...moreA sort-a-sequel to Flinn's searing YA novel debut Breathing Underwater, but this time telling the story from the girl's POV. Caitlin, who was abused by her 16-year-old boyfriend, Nick, in Breathing Underwater, is trying to change her life, putting that relationship behind her, as well as focusing on her goal of becoming an opera singer by getting into the Miami High School for the Performing Arts. But even at a school of talented teens, she feels outcast at first, although friendships grow. At the same time, her relations with her mother — who objected to her attending the school — deteriorate. That's the real story here: the mother-daughter conflict. It is no wonder they're at odds: Caitlin's maturing at the same time as her mother behaves and dresses like a teenager while seeming unable to function without a man in her life. Nick reappears in Caitlin's life; there's no real reconciliation, just a realization that Caitlin's no longer the overweight, untalented, and unattractive girl that Nick forced her to believe she was. Told in part using an online journal, and loaded with opera references so reader's experience Caitlin's obsession, Flinn's novel portrays a teen character struggling with what it means to be strong. (less)
Of this group of YA novels, this is the least "heavy" of all the books, in part because humor is the main weapon of Tyler, the main character. The voi...moreOf this group of YA novels, this is the least "heavy" of all the books, in part because humor is the main weapon of Tyler, the main character. The voice, like Melinda's in Anderson's classic Speak, is heartbreaking, honest and funny, as when Tyler describes himself as "a zit on the butt of the student body." Long an outcast nerd, Tyler commits a rebellious act that leads to a summer of muscle and confidence-building labor, transforming Tyler into a stud. He soon captures the attention of school hottie Bethany, who also just happens to be the sister of his main tormentor and daughter of his father's boss. His father. Tyler's father is demanding, and their constant conflicts are more battles in the ongoing war between angry fathers and stubborn sons. Lurking behind the landscape is an issue of class; while Tyler's parents are not poor, they are not wealthy or of the same class as Melinda's family. An incident at a party ruptures the tightrope Tyler's been walking on, sending him crashing back to the outside. How Tyler picks himself up — again, his resiliency — is the story of this novel, and of all those about teens trapped in the badlands.(less)
Fourteen-year-old Matt (Matilda) is a Goth, but that's partially a pose to keep the world away. She uses her look, and her humor — a knife-like sarcas...moreFourteen-year-old Matt (Matilda) is a Goth, but that's partially a pose to keep the world away. She uses her look, and her humor — a knife-like sarcasm — to avoid making connections and taking action. But she finds at her new home that the parents, in particular the father Sam, are devout Quakers and activists engaged in the anti-Iraq war movement. As she moves closer to Sam, those same beliefs lead to her harassment at school by a big mouth bully and a pro-war civics teacher. As the title suggests, after years of an almost dormant emotional life, Matt begins "quaking" and moving toward action. The ending — which echoes that of Crutcher's Whale Talk — is tragic, and thus befits a book about the Iraq war. (less)
Set in Melbourne, Australia, this new novels spins on the axis of an oft-told story about a friendship between a small group of girls falling apart. B...moreSet in Melbourne, Australia, this new novels spins on the axis of an oft-told story about a friendship between a small group of girls falling apart. But the edges — and edginess — of the story kick back any cliché. Gem, Mira, and Lo set themselves apart from others by their dress, their interests, but mostly their commitment to the Ug project. Ug is short for underground, and their holiday project is to create an underground film, similar to Warhol's sixties cinema experiments. While hipsters in their own right, the girls look to the past for cultural clues. There's a lot going on here: subplots about Gem's family, her crush, her desire to lose her virginity, as well as the story of the Ug project. Yet, another core story anchors it all: the teen search for identity. Gem's not sure who she is, pretty sure who she doesn't want to be, and through friends, family, and fringe culture, tries to find her true self in a very strange time. (less)
Reynolds returns to Hamilton High with another story revolving around a teenage pregnancy, one where the girl (Autumn...more(disclosure: I blurbed this book)
Reynolds returns to Hamilton High with another story revolving around a teenage pregnancy, one where the girl (Autumn) decides to have an abortion. At the book's start, Autumn seems a member of the perfect life club, but both fate (her parents' death in car crash) and fateful choice (unprotected sex) change her present and her future. The book is perhaps strongest in the middle when Autumn, with no other family, is living in a county juvenile home with girls much different from her. There's a lot of issues in this book, but it is not overload, but rather showing the interconnectedness of an unfair world. Autumn's tale is a story of awful losses, fickle fate, and difficult decisions. Reynolds paints a heartbreaking portrait of one girl's broken life that can only be fixed by finding within herself strength and support in the people around her. (less)
David's a bully-magnet: bad skin, badder smell, and baddest bug-eyes. Still, he's doing his best with his foster parents, growing up in rural Minnesot...moreDavid's a bully-magnet: bad skin, badder smell, and baddest bug-eyes. Still, he's doing his best with his foster parents, growing up in rural Minnesota, far away from his drug-addicted New York mother. He finds himself in an alternative school with other outsiders, including Cheetah, a girl with a truckload of health issues. But David's holding out on everyone about his biggest secret; he has wings. When he's outted, a 24/7 news cycle media circus erupts, while inside David faces his own turmoil, wondering if the gift of flight for a human is a blessing or a curse?(less)
Following her arrest for prostitution, seventeen-year-old Chloe lands in the Madeline Parker Institute for Girls. She's cut off from her family, but m...moreFollowing her arrest for prostitution, seventeen-year-old Chloe lands in the Madeline Parker Institute for Girls. She's cut off from her family, but mostly from herself. Phillips tells the story of Chloe's disjointed life in a disjointed fashion: fragments revealed through slow therapy, emo-laced poems, and flashbacks. Chloe's mind is cluttered, thus so is her story, which is loaded with the Spanish slang learned in her neighborhood. Similar in some ways to America by E. R. Frank (as well as my own Chasing Tail Lights), Chloe Doe is about a teen with too much experience too soon in life, trying to recapture an innocence. (less)
I'll start by saying that I was struck by the similarities between this novel and my spring 2007 book Chasing Tail Lights). The journey, the choices,...moreI'll start by saying that I was struck by the similarities between this novel and my spring 2007 book Chasing Tail Lights). The journey, the choices, the use of flashbacks, and the two main characters making similar cold blooded and calculated decisions on avenging their abuse. Yet, I was most struck by the middle section of this novel where Mer talks about what is supposed to happen to "girls like me" who have been abused. The book is loaded with creepy moments (the father touching Mer's back and asking - "when did you start wearing a bra" ) and awful insights (it's not the abuse that hurts, it is the memory of the good times). The subplot with Andy, the boy finger quotes crippled by her's father's abuse is excellent and touching, and the ending of the book -- that last line -- just breathtaking. Merdeith's mother - well, people who read Chasing Tail Lights would always ask how could the mother in that book know the abuse is going on and not do anything -- is just so sad, so pathetic, and thus in so ways more evil than even her father.
A couple of things troubled me which kept it from five stars: her father's fate is just too perfectly ironic that after enjoying it, it annoyed me. While the author did a great deal of research about pedophile, it is odd the father's actions involve both pre and post pubscent children which not the norm for this compulsion. I found the Madonna / Virgin Mary / Catholic imagery distracting, and the Andy's mother "disguise" implausible.
Still, this is a quick read with long lasting impact. (less)
Interesting and readable style at work: not verse, but not prose. Use of straight dialogue but also lots of white space since the main character isn't...moreInteresting and readable style at work: not verse, but not prose. Use of straight dialogue but also lots of white space since the main character isn't much of a talker. There's limited use of emails, as well as handwritten notes used as well. Unfolds like many a psychological thriller (Invisible by Pete Hatuman comes to mind as does my own April 2008 novel Cheated) where something really, really, bad has happened in the past with the main character which slowly gets untangled as the present story rolls on.
Good ironic title since the ghost in the room is not so much what the mc (Logan) did in the past, but his inaction in the face of violence. Violence abounds in the book, the incident in the past huge, while Logan's undergoes massive verbal violence from bullies in the present story.
The ending where Logan does something seems too rushed and too sudden, and as always in these "weird outsider kid" story it is hard to understand the motive of the nice girl who befriends him.
The good news is this is a great novel about life, death, and the truth that lies in between. The voice of Ben is very strong: smart, sarcastic, and a...moreThe good news is this is a great novel about life, death, and the truth that lies in between. The voice of Ben is very strong: smart, sarcastic, and always searching for truth. The story itself is just fine as well with all the elements one expects in a Crutcher novel: the not quite perfect romance, the sports angle, the distant slightly tortured parents, the helpful if overmatched therapist, and the school based subplot with good guy hero standing up against bad guy teacher. Ben's journey is that of every teen about belonging , asking big questions, and finding the answers are never clear even if you have coaches, brothers, friends, or lovers. Ben's death comes suddenly after so much of the shows his life, and yet even though you know exactly what's going to happen, it is heartbreaking: the image of Ben resting his head on his girl and saying it's better than sex, well, that's just about perfect and tear inducing.
Now, the bad news. There's a bumpy flaw to the epilogue: the book's been told in Ben's voice, but he's dead, so it just feels disjointed even if the bulk of the final chapter is a letter. There's a lot of death in this small town of Trout, and the sudden demise of one character in an auto accident is jarring, not in a good way. Throughout Ben, and some of the other characters, break out into speeches that while you cheer them because they say the "right things", it is sometimes just too much, and is the dialogue with Hey Soos. Minor points, but worth noting.
Finally, the good news and bad news combined. This reads like Crutcher mix tape. He even brings back characters from Running Loose (Boomer and Louie), and Dallas could have dropped out of Chinese Handcuffs. The side characters -- parents, brothers, friends, enemies, - we've seen most of them before in previous books. Not that any of this is a bad thing. It is a enjoyable and emotional read because Crutcher knows exactly what buttons to push with readers, both teen and adults. If it was a concert, I'd be flicking my lighter after the last chapter knowing I've seen one of my favorites, and damn my writing role models, kick out a great set not loaded with lots of new material (save the premise) but instead playing those great riffs we've come to love.
An outstanding book that uses humor to talk about hard issues of poverty, early death, and lives without hope. The story of a young Native American bo...moreAn outstanding book that uses humor to talk about hard issues of poverty, early death, and lives without hope. The story of a young Native American boy who crosses over into the white world might be new (I've not read enough native american YA to know), but the bigger issue of keeping a foot in an old culture while putting one in a new one has been done a lot of YA literature. Yet, the voice here is so strong, it seems like the first time this story's unfolded. With comics / drawings adding to the humor, and the circumstances of poverty adding to the tragedy, the tone is perfect. You get so caught up in the story and rooting for Junior that the cliche's (like his sudden emergence for dork to basketball star) seem right.