By turns very melancholy and heartwarming, this memoir illustrates how family dysfunction can span generations but also how emotional wounds can healBy turns very melancholy and heartwarming, this memoir illustrates how family dysfunction can span generations but also how emotional wounds can heal over time. Written by the daughter of Maus author Art Spiegelman and New Yorker editor and Toon Books publisher Francoise Mouly, it first draws parallels between the author's upbringing in New York City and her mother's upbringing in France. Later she moves to Paris and grows closer to her grandmother, who slowly reveals dark secrets from her own past. Nadja gains understanding about her difficult grandmother and breaks through a lot of emotional barriers with her.
This is a theme I'm noticing this year in books for children and teens as well, the close relationships between children and grandparents that seem much less complicated and closer to pure unconditional love than the complex relationships between parents and children. Eventually grandmother, mother and daughter are able to bond together and reach an understanding even when their memories of their shared past never quite match up. Everyone remembers the past differently and Spiegelman maintains that everyone's version of events are valid. This story focuses on the women in the family, so anyone looking for dirt on Art Spiegelman won't really find it here. But it proves that no one's family history is as simple as young people might assume. Interviewing your elders can reveal a lot of uncomfortable truths but can also deepen the love and empathy family members feel toward one another....more
Very charming story of a 6th grade boy with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR positive male role models: his dad, his grandpa, his uncle and his tVery charming story of a 6th grade boy with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR positive male role models: his dad, his grandpa, his uncle and his teacher. Archer's Uncle Paul is the coolest: the snappiest dresser with the hottest car AND he has connections to get into Wrigley Field. He also happens to be gay, but that's NBD. The student teacher in Archer's 5th grade class is Mr. McLeod, a military man AND is the handsomest guy in Illinois. He has to sneak into school just to avoid marriage proposals. Turns out he's also gay. Archer's a little slow on the uptake about Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod's romance, but once he knows what's up he's determined to make sure Uncle Paul doesn't screw this relationship up. Because Mr. McLeod is a keeper.
So much to love here: Chicago, baseball, modern families, typical middle school shenanigans. My only mild criticism: the kids speak like adults. It's funny, but maybe not so realistic. Still, books where a gay marriage is just another normal family event are in need and this one is so endearing. It made me smile during a rough week. Curious to see what kids will think of it, since some of my coworkers think it's written more for adults....more
A satisfying teen thriller for Gossip Girl fans. Kate thinks she learned all there is to know about manipulating people from her sociopath dad, untilA satisfying teen thriller for Gossip Girl fans. Kate thinks she learned all there is to know about manipulating people from her sociopath dad, until she meets a man who outpaces her. She lands a scholarship to Manhattan's Waverly School, where she meets glamorous troubled rich girl Olivia. Kate sets her sights on Olivia as her next meal ticket. They swiftly become best friends and roommates in Olivia's posh penthouse. Trouble brews when Mark Redkin, the school's new community relations director, turns out to be a sexual predator and total sociopath, giving Kate bad dad flashbacks. He zeroes in on Kate and Olivia and for once Kate feels like maybe she doesn't have the upper hand in the situation. Redkin threatens to reveal the girls' deep dark secrets if they don't do his bidding. This character gave me a serious case of the the icks, and there's a nice surprising twist at the end. Beware That Girl leads a pack of teen Gone Girl read-alikes this year and shows off the author's first-hand knowledge about sociopaths. It also illustrates how intense female friendships can get at this age, to the point of obsession. And it's always fun to read about the lavish lifestyles of rich people in New York, which most of us will never experience firsthand....more
Both heart-breaking and inspiring, Diane Guerrero’s memoir personalizes the struggle of millions of undocumented immigrants. When she was 14, her pareBoth heart-breaking and inspiring, Diane Guerrero’s memoir personalizes the struggle of millions of undocumented immigrants. When she was 14, her parents were sent back to Columbia and she was left on her own in Boston. Against all odds, she found friends to take her in, thrived at a performing arts high school and eventually succeeded as an actress on shows like Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. But along the way she struggled with severe depression and financial hardships. Now she’s politically active and uses her voice to advocate for immigration reform. As the political debates heat up this fall, I wish everyone would read this book.
“Our immigration system is especially hurtful to children. The Department of Homeland Security reports that in 2013 alone, more than seventy thousand parents of US-born children were deported. Kids who have at least one undocumented immigrant as a parent make up about 7 percent of K-12 students, and the vast majority of those are citizens by birthright, according to Pew Research. On any given day and without warning, these boys and girls may come home to discover they’ve been suddenly orphaned. I was fourteen when it happened to me. Can you imagine how overwhelming it would feel for a five- or eight-year-old? I can. Wherever we may stand on the issues surrounding immigration, there is no excuse for our government to abandon its children. None.” ...more
Since Americans don't like to talk about death, this is an excellent book to give to teens who have lost a loved one. Gram, a rich Park Avenue socialiSince Americans don't like to talk about death, this is an excellent book to give to teens who have lost a loved one. Gram, a rich Park Avenue socialite, has terminal cancer. She takes her entire family on a cruise for terminally ill patients who are chosing to end their own lives on their own terms. They take luxurious side trips to Rio, Italy and Iceland, and they form bonds with the other families on the ship. It's a really sweet story about confronting death, grieving, making the most out of the time we've got and exiting with dignity.
The main character, Maddie, has just graduated from high school. She's very close to her grandmother and has a really difficult time dealing with anyone's death, let alone Gram's. On the ship she falls in love with Enzo, the son of the founder of the Wishwell Foundation. She bonds with her cousin Janie, her brother Jeb, her parents, and other patients on the ship, including Paige, a young mother with a brain tumor.
It's hard to explain how a book about a death cruise can be so hilarious and light-hearted, but it is. It's filled with jokes and heartwarming family moments. This reads like chick lit, for sure, but it's perfect for anyone coping with the death of a family member. It could also spark discussion about people choosing to die when they want to go. I'm not sure if Loose Ends List cruises like this really exist, but I wouldn't be surprised.
My only problem with the book is that it's full of really rich white people. There were so many characters on the cruise that the author could have added some folks of different backgrounds. Gram's boyfriend is black, but everyone else is lily white. That's a missed opportunity, because we're all gonna go sometime, and we can all relate to wanting to spend as much time with our loved ones before we go!...more
When Anna runs away from her mom and stepmother to crash with her older sister Delia in L.A., she uncovers the underbelly of the American Dream. Her sWhen Anna runs away from her mom and stepmother to crash with her older sister Delia in L.A., she uncovers the underbelly of the American Dream. Her sister acts in obscure horror movies and herpes medication commercials. Delia dates (among other people) Dex, a writer for a horribly cheesy sitcom called Chips Ahoy. On the set of Chips Ahoy, Anna meets the show’s twin stars, Jeremy and Josh, and their older sister Olivia, a Lindsay Lohan-ish washed-up starlet. She also scores a job researching the Manson girls for a script Delia’s director boyfriend is filming. (Yes, Delia has several boyfriends and it’s confusing.) Soon Anna observes alarming similarities between herself, the Manson girls and Olivia. All of their lives took bad turns because “they believed in the wrong things.”
This is an entertaining take on Hollywood, pop culture, feminism and the American Dream. Anna is a relatable character: selfish, cynical and moody. Without her sister and a few good friends looking out for her, she could become another Hollywood tragedy. But eventually she learns to see the world from other people’s points of view and matures a lot.
It’s interesting to compare this book to The Girls by Emma Cline. That one’s about a regular teen who befriends fictionalized versions of the Manson girls in California in 1969. This one is a modern look at Hollywood’s sordid history through the eyes of another regular girl. Both address the disturbing fact that the Manson girls weren’t that different from us aside from the fact that they fell under the influence of a really, really demented dude. American Girls isn’t nearly as dark as The Girls, and it’s much less graphic. Hence, more palatable for teen readers. ...more
I wish I had read this one when it came out last year. Somehow one of the most well-written teen books of 2015 got away from me. The author has writteI wish I had read this one when it came out last year. Somehow one of the most well-written teen books of 2015 got away from me. The author has written a lot of nonfiction about the ancient world, and it shows in her first YA novel. The level of detail about daily life really adds depth to what could have been a lame Game of Thrones read-alike. Alexander the Great is a fascinating main character, and imagining how his teen years shaped him is a fun concept. She also introduces a lot of well-written female characters, both royals and peasants, and just enough magical elements and battle scenes to keep up the intrigue. Can't wait to read the second book in the series!...more