Friday, March 16, 2018

She Myself and I by Emma Young

After months of recovery, Rosa wakes up to a face she doesn't recognize and a body not entirely her own. Rosa was paralyzed from the neck down, but now she can move freely after her brain was transplanted into the body of another young woman named Sylvia who drowned.

Up until now, Rosa has lived a mostly solitary life with her parents, loving older brother and a few online friends. Before being confined to her wheelchair, she went to school and had friends, but that slowly all went away.

Rosa's mother, a doctor, found hope in a new, radical operation that takes the family from their home in England to Boston. Rosa will be the first person ever to have her brain transplanted. But during her time confined in the hospital, Rosa begins to wonder who Sylvia was. What was she like? Did she have friends? What were her hobbies? Even though both families signed a confidentiality agreement, Rosa must know more about Sylvia.

For the first time in a long time, Rosa is able to move but does not have the freedom to go anywhere outside the hospital. When she secretly takes those steps, she meets someone who might be able to help her discover who Sylvia was.

Rosa's story is not a gruesome tale of horror, but about a girl trying to find her identity. Rosa can't decide if she is still herself or the girl whose body she inhabits. Is she a fraud, a freak? Only she can find the answers in this fascinating story about tragedy and hope (and a bit of romance).

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza has created a monster - actually several of them. She is the writer/artist of a hugely popular online fantasy graphic novel called Monstrous Sea. But only a small group of people know she is the creator.

Eliza's two younger brothers know, but (annoying as they are to her) don't tell anyone. Her parents think Monstrous Sea is just a hobby, and have no idea how popular it is or that Eliza makes tons of money from it. Eliza has two online friends (who she has never actually met) who moderate her message boards, run the online store, etc. That's all the people who know.

Having no interest in physical activities like sports (much to her parents' frustration) or friends from school (her parents aren't too happy about that either), Eliza devotes most of her time to Monstrous Sea. She knows there are many fans even in her school, but she keeps to herself so she never interacts with them. That ends the day she steps in to help a new student, Wallace.

Wallace is the size of a football player and never says anything. It is only through passing notes that Eliza finds out that he writes Monstrous Sea fan fiction. His friends are huge fans, too. But Eliza can't reveal who she is to them. She wants to tell Wallace but how will he react?

The secrets, the expectations of fans, her parent's lack of understanding all put much pressure on Eliza. She truly has created a monster that could consume her if she lets it.

It is a interesting story about dealing with online fame and privacy. Who does an artist create for - herself or the public? Explore this question with Eliza as she deals with the regular stress of being a teenager - it's worth it.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is sadly a book for our time. A young African American man is shot and killed by a white police officer. The man did nothing to provoke the shooting. Protests and riots follow. The police officer is held up to the community as a fine man with a family, while the victim is called a thug and drug dealer.

We see this all through Starr's eyes. She is with Khalil when he is shot. They were close as children and ended up leaving a party together when the police officer pulled up to their car.

Starr walks in two worlds: her home life in Garden Heights and her school life at a nearly all white private school she attends. She and her brother were sent there to get them away from the dangers and temptations of the neighborhood. Starr's dad used to be a gang member. He worked hard to get out and doesn't want his children getting involved.

What is so compelling about this story is it gives a view of the victim's life. Without getting too involved in the unfortunate politics of real life shootings, it seems the victims rarely get their perspective fully explained. Starr is the witness: to the shooting, to Khalil's life, to the subsequent reaction of her white classmates, to the neighborhood gang members, to the police. She is our eyes.

This a powerful story that should cause all who read it think about where we are as a society and how we treat each other.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Protected by Claire Zorn

Hannah's sister, Katie, died in an accident, and Hannah was there. Almost a year later, her family is still suffering. Her father was injured in the accident and will never be physically the same again. Her mother has checked out of life spending hours laying in bed and hardly eating. With the pending trial of her father (did he cause the accident?), her parents relationship becomes more tense.

Katie was beautiful and confident. She was stylish and hung without whoever she wanted to. Hannah is quiet and likes to read. When Hannah started getting bullied at school, Katie told Hannah to stick up for herself. Hannah just wanted Katie to defend her.

At the beginning of freshman year, Hannah's best friend, Charlotte, was accepted by the popular girls. Hannah tried to be accepted but instead became their target. After awhile, Hannah and Charlotte were no longer friends.

So even though the bullying stopped after Katie died, Hannah is still very much alone. When a transfer student starts paying attention to Hannah, she is skeptical about what he really wants.

Hannah's story is heartbreaking, but hopeful. Even though she will never get her sister back, she might be able to find her own path and have a life of her own.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Friday, December 1, 2017

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

In the future, everything has a cost. Literally, every word spoken must be paid for. You can speak all you want until you turn 15. Then you are given a wrist band that records all the money you owe (it also tracks you and your activities). If you are poor, you hope you can get some sponsors that will provide you with food or other needs. But you may get sued (it happens swiftly and often) and owe so much that you get taken way to be an indentured servant in some horrible job you will never escape from.

Speth lives with her sister and brother in a tiny apartment (created with 3-D printers). Their parents were taken when their debt became too big. Speth is preparing to turn fifteen and make her official speech (sprinkled with references to sponsors) in front of friends. But something happens just before she reaches the stage that changes her life. In a last minute decision, she decides she will no long talk. No speech. No sponsors. No words. No gestures (since most cost money, too).

Powerful people take notice of Speth. Words are currency and if you refuse to speak, the system begins to crack. At their own risk, some people choose to join Speth in her silence. She never intended to start a movement. If she can't speak, how can Speth protect her sister (who loses her job because she looks like a famous actress and is thus infringing on her copyright) and her brother who has yet to turn 15.

When you lose the ability to speak, you lose the ability to speak out. At least that is what the people in power must think because the never counted on a girl choosing to be silent becoming the voice of the oppressed. There are others in society who are more than willing to help Speth fight the system.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

As I write this, the news is filled with stories of prominent, powerful men being exposed as sexual harassers. For all the progress women have made, many men still treat women as objects, conquests and prizes. It feels as if we are currently having a shift in attitudes. Hopefully, this story can  help.

Last year, Lucy was raped at a party by some members of the football team, but no one would believe her. The law looked the other way. The boys are still free and continue to harass other girls. Lucy was persecuted so much that her family left town.

Grace has just moved to the same town and now lives in Lucy's old house. Her family move to Oregon from Kentucky when her mom was deemed too progressive to be the minister of their church. Grace finds Lucy's pleas for help scratched into the wood work in her bedroom and wonders what happened.

Grace finds Rosina and Erin at her new school sitting all be themselves at lunch and joins them. She asks them about Lucy. Erin doesn't want talk about it, and Rosina is tired of hearing about it. Besides, they both have their own issues.

Rosina spends all of her 'free' time working in her family's restaurant and babysitting the many young children of her family members. Her mom is constantly critical of her no matter what she does. And she is a lesbian in a school that is not so accepting of such things.

Erin is autistic. She is obsessed with undersea life and Star Trek: the Next Generation. They allow her to escape from the things in life that make her anxious. For all her mom has read about autism, she still does not seem to understand what Erin really needs sometimes.

Together, the girls decide (with some reluctance) to push back against the 'boys will be boys' attitude of the school and the town. The invite other girls to a meeting to talk about Lucy and their own experiences. The gathering leads to the Nowhere Girls, a group that includes members of every clique. The group decides action is needed to stop girls from being harassed. Taking a stand is a risk and often scary, but they know they are doing the right thing.

I hope this book empowers young women and men and helps educate them in the way we all should behave. That showing respect is something we all deserve. That no one is entitled to make others uncomfortable. And that physical interaction and sexual intimacy is about consent from both people involved.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

It's 1956 and Hitler is still alive. The Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) won World War II. The current resistance could start a true uprising and bring the Third Reich to an end if Hitler could be killed. Unfortunately, he rarely appears in public.

There is one hope: Yael could be the one to kill Hitler. She is the only one who can get close enough to do it. Every year, an intercontinental motorcycle race is run pitting the best riders from each country. The winner is celebrated at the Victor's Ball attended by Hitler himself. Last year's winner (and only female racer) Adele Wolfe danced with him.

Due to vicious experiments in a concentration camp, Yael can change her appearance at will. She will become Adele and take her place in this year's race. She must win against the best, so she can get close enough to Hitler to shoot him.

The race is grueling: fighting with other riders, battling the elements, facing mechanical breakdowns, thwarting sabotage. And then there is Luka, another rider who was a love interest of Adele's. Can Yael trust him? Is he flirting or just waiting for a chance to take her out of the race.

Add to all of this Adele's brother, Felix, who joins the race to keep an eye on his sister. Can Yael fool  him and the other's who know Adele so well? Yael has endured much already in her life, so she is ready for this challenge.

It is a drama filled, action packed alternate history. I am ready to jump into the sequel for the rest of the story. 

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin

Two best friends separated for the first time. Ava stays in California to go to film school. Gen goes to Boston to study journalism. Some would say they are opposites and wonder why they are friends at all. Ava is uptight, anxious and struggles with issues that have caused her to take medication and see therapists. Gen is a free spirit, open to new experiences and doesn't shy away from meeting new people.

They promise to communicate everyday. So through e-mails and texts, we see their friendship strain against the separation as they each have new experiences that do not include each other. They tease, criticize, question, encourage and support each other. There is no question that these to young women have a strong friendship, but that doesn't stop them from fighting. As time goes on, the strain starts to show.

Neither Ava nor Gen is perfect. They make mistakes. They do things the other one questions: Ava joins a sorority (Gen: really?). Gen explores her sexuality (Ava: are you gay now?). There are guys and girls, kissing and sex, possible love and definite heartbreak. Truly, this first semester is a test for them. But it's amusing and worth the time.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the authors' site.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Yes, I am a huge John Green fan. And yes, I liked this book very much. I was delighted that the last sentence of so many paragraphs were profound and spoke a basic truth. It's like he peppered small philosophical statements throughout the whole story.

We have Aza who is struggling with a mental disorder that causes a voice in her head to tell her she will contract some horrible illness from microbes. She knows that microbes are in all of us. Maybe she is just the host. Maybe the microbes actually control her. Maybe she doesn't even control her own thoughts. Even with therapy and medicine (which she doesn't always take), the nagging thoughts are still there. It is excruciating at times to feel Aza go through it.

Aza's best friend Daisy is much more extroverted. They have been friends since grade school and often hang out at Applebee's using a bunch of coupons (much to the disdain of their usual waitress). Neither have a lot of money and both go to public school.

Daisy is particularly interested when one of the city's wealthiest businessmen disappears on the eve of his arrest. Aza went to a camp with the man's son (named Davis), so Daisy is sure they can use that connection to help solve the mystery (and get the reward). Aza is not so sure. Will Davis even remember her? And even if he does, he lives in a mansion and goes to private school.

This story is not about the solving the mystery; it is about Aza coming to grips with her life. John Green does an extraordinary job of putting us right in her head. Dealing with anxiety myself, I know what it is like to have those irrational thoughts that seem beyond my control. I like to say my brain is working against me as if it is completely separate from me. It is a rare and amazing thing to hear your own voice in a story. This book is one of those times. I felt Aza's pain all the more because I have personally felt some of her struggle.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Warcross by Marie Lu

Emika needs money to pay three months back rent or she and her roommate will get kicked out on the the street. Since the death of her father, the fastest way for her to make a lot of money is bounty hunting. Using her hacking skills she can hunt down a person who is not dangerous enough for the over worked police to find themselves. It's a tough job, but it pays well.

She hunts her latest shortly before the start of the International Warcross Tournament. Warcross is a interactive three dimensional virtual reality game that has swept the globe. Everyone can play, but only a few are professionals who play in the annual tournament.

Emika could never dream of being in the tournament due to her criminal record. Also, her ranking in Warcross is never high because she plays often under a different name. As the tournament begins, she decides to hack in to get a valuable power-up in the game and sell it. It is a decision that thrusts her into the international spotlight and gets the attention of Hideo, the game's creator. Emika has idolized Hideo for years. Now, she may get to meet him in person.

Emika's hunting and hacking skills may be just what Hideo needs to find someone else hacking the virtual world he created. The best way to do that...put Emika in the tournament.

This incredible story exists in a bleak world where most of the planet is caught up in Warcross. The technology is believable enough that it seems possible and may not be that far into the future. I recommend going along with Emika as she becomes immersed in the dangers of the game and the real world.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.