This is one of the buzzed-about books of 2014, one of the stronger books of its time. To be sure, this is a solid read, though not flawless. It toucheThis is one of the buzzed-about books of 2014, one of the stronger books of its time. To be sure, this is a solid read, though not flawless. It touches on all the right tropes: the line between sanity and madness, the role of literature in living a fully awake life, growth and survival through adversity, the need of friendsip.
I suspect that this will have strong appeal among kids who share qualities with Jam. She's quiet, sees herself as flawed and weak, and feels her pain acutely. There's a hint of romance, a splash of magic, and a dash of Sylvia Plath. Wolitzer has mixed them well here.
This could begin many discussions of the line between reality and fantasy, truth and Truth. I found it not quite as powerful as it could be, but I am closer to Ms. Quinell than the intended, teen audience....more
This is a good beach-read about Alex supporting her best friend through cancer treatment, fooling around with a boy and coming to terms with the premaThis is a good beach-read about Alex supporting her best friend through cancer treatment, fooling around with a boy and coming to terms with the premature death of her father. Despite the heavy subject matter, Halpern keeps the darkness at a distance and seeds the story with ribald humor and references to many important slasher films. I found it genuinely entertaining.
Alex is a determined teen who works a job, watches horror flicks, and engages in sexual escapades without apology. This aspect of the book was genuinely refreshing: Alex falls refreshingly outside of stock YA character tropes.
If occasional expletives are troublesome, this book isn't the right choice. And there are several sex scenes, both solo and coupled. They are integral to the plot, but frank in a way that is rare for American YA. The right reader will probably enjoy seeing a strong but struggling girl make some brave choices. And some foolish ones. With honest consequence and believable growth.
From the first page this is a compelling, character driven story. Cassie has been living in the wild of the Obed wilderness, taking care of her young,From the first page this is a compelling, character driven story. Cassie has been living in the wild of the Obed wilderness, taking care of her young, mute sister Jenssa while surviving the predations of a meth-using mom, limited resources, and haunting memories. When the girls are brought back to civilization by their almost-too-good-to-be-believed father, Carrie's adjustment and struggle make for heart-felt reading. Murdoch has crafted a strong, distinctive narrator, whose voice is a mixture of backwoods-bumpkin and autodidact-elevation. It was a pleasure to read.
The first section of the story is perhaps the strongest, as Carrie shares nuggets of her life in the woods, of how she managed to eek out a spartan existence that had its pleasures and beauty. The middle section of rejoining suburban teen life is slightly less compelling - there's a boy, mean girls, a dog - but I appreciated the way Murdoch wove in believable details of Cassie's mental state without becoming fixated on the horror show of her past.
The last section brings everything to a close in an honest way. Hand this to fans of Carol Lynch Williams's Glimpse or perhaps Beauty Queen and Crank. This is more character driven and lyrical, but still easy for even modestly engaged readers. I'm looking forward to more books from this author....more
Gretchen Yee goes to an arts high school in New York City, but her story is EVERY girl's story: she pines for a boy, she has drama with a best friend,Gretchen Yee goes to an arts high school in New York City, but her story is EVERY girl's story: she pines for a boy, she has drama with a best friend, and her parents' divorce is leaving her a little angry and a lot unsettled. And when she wakes up as an actual fly-on-the-wall (of the boy's locker room) she turns her artist's eye to the legion of boys who parade through. Be warned: there are extensive remarks that comment on human anatomy, in all its peculiar wonder. The words 'vermin' 'biscuit' and 'gherkin' get tossed about with astonishing regularity for such irregular terms.
Lockhart's story is slim and light; a practically perfect beach read for teens not looking for anything deep. ...more
An acceptable sequel to a Anatomy of a Boyfriend. Dom is a driven, pre-med student, home from her freshman year of college and still smarting from theAn acceptable sequel to a Anatomy of a Boyfriend. Dom is a driven, pre-med student, home from her freshman year of college and still smarting from the end of her first serious relationship. For a book that doesn't flinch from explicit details of casual sex, it is as earnest as an after-school special. Dom may test the casual-sex waters, but not before checking every medically-recommended box. Would it be out of line to describe the rendering of Dom's pelvic exam as 'clinical'? Snadowsky leavens the all-too-correct pre-connubial STD testing with plenty of humor; I laughed out-loud at Dom's reveling in post-coital joy on p. 159. "So...how many other people know about this?" Indeed. Fans will want to spread the word about this trifle.
While the frank, uncommitted sex Dom has will turn off many readers, but I had a different bone to pick with the story. At one point, there is fight between Dom and Amy during which they trade cruel words, unless "pathetic nymphomaniac" was yelled in the good way. They then don't speak to each other for a few days (this is what friends as close as sisters do, after all?). When they reconnect, these two brush their visciousness aside as incidental. Mutual apologies all around; hugs and kisses. While I understand that people say things they regret, I wish Snadowsky had allowed these women to fight fair, instead of like reality-TV B-listers. There are boundaries in relationships - with guys, with girls - that can't be crossed if we are to remain healthy. Dom is great at setting boudaries for maintaining her sexual heath, but isn't so great at maintaining equally firm ones for her friendships....more
This is an unusual book and well worth reading. It combines teen-problem-novel with romance, dystopia, and literary writing. The prose is simple, toldThis is an unusual book and well worth reading. It combines teen-problem-novel with romance, dystopia, and literary writing. The prose is simple, told as it is from Daisy's fifteen-year-old point of view. But the issues and themes that she encounters over the course of this slim volume are deep and profound. To be clear, it doesn't start out fast: Daisy has been shipped from NYC to England, where she complains about her father's new girlfriend, considers the roots of her anorexia, and generally complains about being somewhere without cellular connections. As she develops relationships with her English cousins, Daisy becomes less whiny and more aware of the complex world around her.
By the time the full force of war lands, Daisy had my complete interest. Then, with a sliver of the book left, Rosoff changes the voice of the narrator, a delightful and impressive move.
I'd suggest this for anyone who wants a strong, authentic teen-girl narrator, and particularly for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent who might be looking for something that feels less sensational and more grounded in reality....more
More like a two-and-a-half. The promising title never fully delivers more than a routine problem novel about bullying. On the plus side, some readersMore like a two-and-a-half. The promising title never fully delivers more than a routine problem novel about bullying. On the plus side, some readers will appreciate the NYC setting and the Latina characters who pepper their speech with Spanish. I thought that most of them felt flat, and it took more than a hundred pages to get into the teeth of the story. Don't be fooled by the title: this isn't especially rough stuff, mostly PG. ...more
A sweet and likable little story with some unusual elements. Bi-sexual dad divorces mom for younger boyfriend; mom with depression struggles, but doesA sweet and likable little story with some unusual elements. Bi-sexual dad divorces mom for younger boyfriend; mom with depression struggles, but doesn't steal the spotlight. There's a group of arty-outsiders who call themselves 'leftovers' and even a teen-mom who gives her baby up for adoption. I especially appreciated that the narrator - Marcie - makes some libido-driven decisions that seem realistic and that she isn't punished for. These bits were fresh, and the verse format made them easy to read.
The ending is a bit too neat, but teens who seek this out probably won't care. I will be suggesting this to fans of I Heart You, You Haunt Me. It is longer and the boyfriend isn't dead, but they share a core of sweet yearning. Might also pair with The Geography of Girlhood for the exploration of love is a significant part of girls' coming-of-age....more
Some books are classics, others are pop-culture riffs on classics. This is certainly the latter, but an enjoyable riff, to be sure. As other critics hSome books are classics, others are pop-culture riffs on classics. This is certainly the latter, but an enjoyable riff, to be sure. As other critics have noted, there certainly is some discussion of teen sexuality: some of the clinical/didactic variety, some of the bodice-ripper sort. All of it seemed necessary for the story, but if that isn't your sort of thing, this isn't your sort of book.
I didn't have some of the concerns that other reviewers mentioned, in that the premise seemed adequately explained, the protagonist had both features and faults, and even the Dream Boy's odd behaviors ultimately made sense. My quibble is this: our MC's mother has passed, and she is close with her school-counselor father. As she grows to understand the absurdity of socially-proscribes sexual morality, she becomes more inclined to conversation and accepting of others. Yet she persists in the quaint view that talking with this father about sex, dating, romance, heartache, and other important issues is insurmountably uncomfortable.
As beach reads go, this was fun and funny. Worth reading, if not really essential....more
This is a dark character study of a girl with nothing left to live for when death is pounding on the door. With zombies ready to feed on anything thatThis is a dark character study of a girl with nothing left to live for when death is pounding on the door. With zombies ready to feed on anything that moves, Sloan and five other teens hide in their small town high school. Summers knows that zombies exist in the popular imagination, so rather than write pages explaining the why's and wherefore's of their existence, the undead are just what you'd expect and the story is of Sloan's adjustment to the post-apocalyptic world. She's freed from her abusive father, but surviving hasn't freed her from her years of trauma.
Older teens looking for a thoughtful, strong teen protagonist will find one here who isn't perfect; heck, most of the time she's suicidal, so she's hardly likable. But Sloan is compelling as she struggles with the ghosts of the past in a present which appears far more urgent to everyone around her.
Certainly not my favorite. Usually, verse novels stay away from rhyme, but this one sticks with it all the way through. Some other reviewers have spokCertainly not my favorite. Usually, verse novels stay away from rhyme, but this one sticks with it all the way through. Some other reviewers have spoken ill of this, but I stopped noticing it part way through. I did like that the main character is a working class fat girl and, while this is noted and referenced, these aren't the defining issues of the book. It also passes the Bechdel test, in that Twig and Sista' Slam have conversations that aren't about a guy and that are about life, friendship and art. They graduate, leave their small town for the Big City, fame, and fortune. Mostly, they find all three.
My problem is that the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip is more of a fairytale than a contemporary YA novel: sure, there are car crashes and screaming fights between best friends, but there's too much unbelievable, Prince Charming- level stuff to feel real. Perhaps that's why the cover focuses on a pair of shoes? Anyway, book's main flaw is that it is slight.
I'd offer this to younger poetry enthusiasts and girls yearning to grow up and get out of town. Cleaner than Ellen Hopkins and lighter than Thalia Chaltas. Middle school appropriate....more
Started out too light, too young, too sweet. What was I expecting from another YA verse novel? I'm really glad I stuck with this, because the first imStarted out too light, too young, too sweet. What was I expecting from another YA verse novel? I'm really glad I stuck with this, because the first impressions were just a ruse: it has weight, wisdom, and an edge. Although it is a scant 182 page, it spans the end of middle school (9th grade in this book), the first year of HS, two summers, and part of Junior year. By the last page, quite a bit of ground has been covered, physically and emotionally.
Penny's voice is particularly clear, and Smith manages to both keep it consistent and age believably as time moves on and life works its maturity magic. Some of the poems worked incredibly well - "Denise" on 64, "Just Friends" on 75 - and the overall quality was better than most verse-novels I remember reading (and so many are forgettable). I'll be pointing readers to this. ...more
A surprisingly touching coming of age YA novel. Sitomer tells the story of so many Latinas in el norte, with liberal sprinklings of Spanish and detailA surprisingly touching coming of age YA novel. Sitomer tells the story of so many Latinas in el norte, with liberal sprinklings of Spanish and details of family life. The titular narrator is quiet to the outside world, holding in secrets, but has plenty of insight to share with readers. Part of the story takes place in rural Mexico, which I especially enjoyed for the balance of positive and negative forces that effect Sonia. Her dream of becoming la primera - the first in the family to graduate - is especially poignant.
The plot moved quickly, the vocabulary accessible. Even at 300 pages, the book is a good pick for reluctant readers. While some middle school kids will seek out a book like this, there are some rough moments and strong language which would probably earn a film at least a PG-13 rating.
Anyone interested in the realities facing kids with a foot in two cultures will find plenty here to think about; this book should be in the library of all high schools serving kids with roots in Mexico and central America. After reading this, check out Hip-Hop High School, which tells the story of Sonia's friend Tee Ay....more
After reading a string of so-so books, Whitney's book reminds me of why I read YA. Here's a book that introduces a strong character, Alex. She plays pAfter reading a string of so-so books, Whitney's book reminds me of why I read YA. Here's a book that introduces a strong character, Alex. She plays piano, loves Beethoven, has room mates and friends and a sister who isn't always easy to relate with. Alex also has a problem: on page one, she wakes up in the bed of a boy, unable to remember how she got there. While the 'problem' of rape has a lengthy pedigree in YA (Speak, Putting Heather Together Again, Target, anything by Ellen Hopkins) "Mockingbirds" is realistic without being relentlessly grim.
There are several strengths to the story: gobs of references to Harper Lee's book, geeks and jocks receive fair and friendly treatment, scholarship generally gets an enthusiastic green light. The students at Whitney's fictional Themis Academy are reasonable and mature, although not quite perfect. And while the story never strays far from the central conflict, there are several other side-lines that lighten the tone of the story and add interesting nuggets to Alex's world.
The weaknesses of the book are small-to-middling: the students are a little too reasonable, the adults a little too clueless, the system of justice is a little too smooth, everything works out a little too-well in the end. As a parent, I'm concerned that kids in this book so universally understand that talking to adults is futile. As a human being, I wonder if the "justice" meted out by the Mockingbirds is actually just, but teens may not see either of these as issues. While "Mockingbirds" isn't especially complex, the many characters will make it a challenging book for reluctant readers. Still, girls will respond well to Alex, her predicament, and the hopeful tone of the work. Don't think it will have much guy appeal, which is unfortunate because there are several characters who present guys as effective allies working against the 'problem' vised upon Alex....more
I really enjoyed this YA thriller. It starts off fast and keeps going, with only occasional slower patches. The third-person narration alternates betwI really enjoyed this YA thriller. It starts off fast and keeps going, with only occasional slower patches. The third-person narration alternates between the titular Cheyenne and her accidental abductor, Griffin, allowing both to be sympathetic. Cheyenne's blindness works well in the story, and readers interested in that particular element will be well served. Although the narrative is about evenly split, Griffin feels more like a supporting character than a co-star, so the book might be a tougher sell to boys. I think this would work for 7th-grade and up; there is very limited profanity, and sexual assault is discussed, so caveat emptor. ...more