Monday, April 14, 2014

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Toxic parents. If you've read enough teen books (particularly realistic fiction), then you know the type. They do not support their children emotionally and are often only concerned about themselves. Welcome to Choe's living hell.

Chloe grew up on a reality show as Bonnie, one of 13 children on Baker's Dozen (Baker being the family's last name). Chloe is the only biological child born from her mother. Her older brother and sister are twins from a surrogate. The other children were adopted with the help of the production company, MetaReel, to achieve the magic number.

Chloe is now 17 and trying to live a normal teen life. After the show was cancelled and her parents divorced, Chloe's family moved across country so they could start fresh. She changed her name and hair color in hopes that no one will recognize her. For the past few years, she has had real friends that have no idea she is Bonnie, the girl who tried to commit suicide on national television. Yes, it was that bad for her.

Chloe and her brother Benton are surprised to come home one afternoon and find the MetaReel crew on their lawn. Chloe was promised that she would never have to do the show again . Her parents say they need the money to support the children and send her and all her siblings to college. Chloe doesn't care what the reason is; her life is about to change for the worst.

From the moment the cameras return, Chloe is in agony. The only reprieve she gets is her new boyfriend.but even that is not easy because she doesn't want him and her friends to get pulled into the show and the tabloid headlines. Dodging paparazzi, having every moment captured on camera, being edited to appear differently than you are and having your mother talk about you to the nation is too much for Chloe, but no adult will listen to her.

Most of the adults in Chloe's life are horrible. Chloe is blamed for the show's original demise and her parent's divorce. She is threatened by the show's producer. She is called names and treated like a psychopath. No one can see that being on television caused many of her issues, not the other way around. Her mother is particularly twisted in her obsession with the show (and her new book). She is totally blind how the show has negatively affected her own daughter. It is sometimes excruciating to endure (and I'm just talking about me, the reader).

This is the third book I have read recently that involves reality television. I suspect it is not the last. I have always been concerned about the children of reality TV. Adults can make their own decisions and choose to be on shows, but children need adult consent. Those adults need to think about the long term effects on children.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad for You: Exposing the War On Fun by Kevin C. Pyle & Scott Cunningham

Wow, a non-fiction book. This is a cool exploration of the many ways that adults have tried to take away fun from kids and teens. For example, the war on comic books went all the way to congressional hearings in the 1950s. Comics were thought by some to cause juvenile delinquency. It seems laughable now, but a comic code was created and enforced. William H. Gaines was a publisher of many comics at the time and a very vocal proponent of the publisher's rights to print what they wanted (can we say First Amendment). He did stop making comics, but (thankfully) kept publishing Mad Magazine.

So what else have adults tried to curtail or stop all together: skateboarding, fairy tales, role playing games (beware D&D enthusiasts), video games, telephones, cell phones (and all that other technology you love so much), long hair, playgrounds, recess and even chess. Don't worry, they know what is good for you: standardized tests and more homework.

As you can probably tell by the cover, this is not some dry examination of facts. It is a mix of text and illustrations (lots of them) that examines not just why adults have imposed these restriction, but the history of how we got to that point. Surveys and studies are cited to support the arguments.

Amazingly, restricting young people often resulted in the behaviors that were trying to be avoided in the first place. Not that all the adults were being cruel on purpose they were just ill-informed and misguided.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and one of the creator's sites: Kevin C. Pyle.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

It's incredible when you find yourself inside the pages of a book. So, I'm reading about this 16 year old girl named Elise (obviously, not like me). She splits her time between her divorced parents (mine are still married). Because she has no friends, she decides to remake herself to fit in with the popular crowd (I never did that). It doesn't work, so she tries to slit her wrist (I never came close to anything like that). See, Elise feels pathetic and worthless (OK, that one I've done). There is one particular paragraph in this book that so clearly summarizes my feelings for a good part of my life. It's amazing and a little scary at the same time.

Sometimes at night, Elise sneaks out of her mother's house and walks. One night, she meets Pippa and Vicky who take her to a warehouse club called Start (that's only open on Thursday nights). Because they are older and regulars, Vicky and Pippa get underage Elise in the door. Elise feels out of place - she doesn't dance or drink. It's just one more place where she feels like she doesn't belong. There is the music, though...

Elise loves music and she knows a lot of it. A chance to see the inside of the club's DJ booth is enough to get her interested in being a DJ herself. OK, so where is this all going. Well, Elise learns how to DJ and gets a chance to do it at Start. There are romantic complications and difficulties with her parents, usual teen stuff, but we get to experience it with Elise. If only life's issues were as easily dealt with as they are in books.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Two girls, one on each coast, are counting down the days until they start college where they will be each other's roommate. They e-mail each other to get acquainted and share more than just who is bringing the microwave.

Elizabeth lives in New Jersey, and even though all her friends are staying in state she cannot wait to leave for California. She wants to escape her beach town life and her mom and, who knows, maybe she will even get to know her dad who left years ago to live in San Francisco.

Lauren lives in San Francisco with her parents and her five younger siblings. Even though she is just going across the bay, she worries that her parents will not be able to deal with all the children without her. She has never had room to herself, so she was disappointed when she learned that she had been assigned a roommate.

A complication neither girl foresaw happening over the summer was boys. Yes, they each start dating - if that's what it is. Who wants to get serious over a guy when you only have a few months until you both go away? Just one of the many discussions that happen between Lauren and Elizabeth who find that sharing some topics through e-mail are easier than facing them in person and are sometimes more difficult when you really don't know the other person.

Each girl's story is told in alternating chapters, but is not entirely told through e-mails. We know what is going on with each girl including what they are not sharing with each other.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library Catalog and the authors' sites: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Harry hides his face to the audience when he is on stage. He tips his fedora down over his sunglass covered eyes and pulls his collar up. He knows the reaction he will get if he exposes his scarred face; he has seen it many times. Harry has always tried to keep himself hidden, to go unnoticed in the crowd, but there is a freedom in playing music. It is a freedom he gets nowhere else. And the whole band thing wasn't even his idea.

Harry was struck by lightning. Well, that is what people think. The truth is he was tied to a tree that was struck by lightning and the resulting fire burned his face and neck. He was young at the time, so most of his life has been a series of hospitals, surgeries and therapy. And keeping away from bullies and pretty much everyone else - until he met Johnny.

Johnny didn't seem to care about Harry's face and Harry was so grateful for a friend that he pretty much went along with every idea Johnny ever had. So even though neither had played an instrument before, Johnny suggested that they start a band - and the Scar Boys was born.

And in the music there is freedom for Harry, but not without a price. A friendship is tested - add a girl and a road trip to the mix and Harry learns a lot more than he planned.

For more info check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Totally Unrelated by Tom Ryan

At a little over a hundred pages, this is a quick read for sure. If you have read many of my reviews, you know that I love books about music and that's why I sought out this one - particularly since it involves Celtic music.

Neil is the member of a family Celtic band who has made quite a name for itself locally. His parents and siblings can all play multiple traditional Celtic instruments, but Tom can really only play guitar. He's tried the others, but could never master them. He tried dancing, too, like his younger twin sisters, but he is not that coordinated. To top it all off, he is the only one without red hair and freckled skin. Yes, Neil is a bit of an outsider in his own family.

As his family's annual summer tour gears up, Neil and his friend decide to form a band (not Celtic) to perform in a battle of the bands contest (ok, his friend had to practically beg him to do it). With the addition of a new cute girl as their lead singer, they are surprised with their own potential.

Now, I could go on but I'm afraid I will tell you the whole story (again, it's pretty short). Besides you will miss the humor and fun of following Neil through his two musical journeys.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's website.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

What are the odds of two people finding each other in such a large world with so many others? It is a rhetorical question, but it is kind of a miracle when it happens.

In their own ways, Eleanor and Park are set apart from the crowd. Park is the son of a Korean mother and an ex-military father. Park is not the tough, athletic guy his dad would like him to be. He prefers rock music, wearing black shirts and reading comics.

Eleanor is the new girl in school. Her red hair and unique way of dressing (second hand mostly) make her stand out and an easy target at school. She has recently moved back in with her mom and her horrible new step father after being abandoned at a family friend's house for over a year. Eleanor is very careful at home because her step father could explode at her at any time.

Call it fate or whatever you wish but on the first day of school, Eleanor has no where to sit on the bus except next to Park. It is not love at first sight - in fact it is avoid any contact at all on first sight and for several days after. It is only a small connection at first that breaks the barrier between them and it grows from there.

There are more complications than I am willing to spell out here. I will say that Eleanor's home life make it difficult for her to trust anyone and causes her to hesitate to let anyone see her for who she really is. For his part, Park is crazy about Eleanor and only hopes she will eventually see in herself what he sees in her.

Rainbow Rowell has created a story of two young people who need someone and unexpectedly find each other. I was particularly happy with the later stages of the story even as I cringed at the potential danger that could be coming. The story is set in the 1980s. Having been a teen myself then, I liked the many references to the time.

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