Monday, September 8, 2014

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Here we go...another teen book set in a Revolutionary War reenactment tourist destination. I mean, really, how many of these can you read? OK, just kidding. I actually chose this one because it was different. I like the idea of modern teens dealing with their usual issues but having to exist in another historical period.

Chelsea has spent every summer in Essex, where it is always 1774 and the colonies are on the cusp of the Revolutionary War. Her parents are reenactors, too. Her dad is a big time history buff (it's pretty much all he talks about) and works as the silversmith in the village. Chelsea (colonial name Elizabeth Connelly) has always worked in the silversmith's shop playing the (surprise!) daughter of her parents, but this year she requested a change and will be in the graveyard.

So you might think that working in a historic village answering questions, telling stories of George Washington and posing for pictures would make for a nice summer job. Not for Chelsea. Her best friend, Fiona, is working at Essex for the first time (although not in the same area), but so is her ex-boyfriend Ezra. Yes, she is over him...mostly...ok, not really. Even bigger is the war being waged with the Civil War reenactment place right across the street. The adults must never found out about the war even when the 'pranks' lead to injury and vandalism.

Maybe Chelsea should have worked at the mall like she planned.

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Lane thinks she could be a serial killer. Not that she's ever killed anybody, but she knows how to do it. She has been fascinated with serial killers since she was 11 years old. She has a notebook with her findings - she keeps it a secret because she knows her interest could be misunderstood.

To help quell her urges, she decides to become a vigilante bringing justice to those who have hurt others and have gotten away with it. Donning a ski mask, dark clothes and carefully chosen supplies, Lane stakes out a rapist who was acquitted in a trial she witnessed (oh, Lane sometimes hangs in court to watch interesting trials). She doesn't know what she will do to the rapist, but she plans to show him no mercy.

Her dream is to catch the serial killer ("The Decapitator") that her FBI agent mother is hunting. Having two parents (her stepdad included) working for the Bureau is great for Lane. She sneaks a look at her mother's files to have an inside view of the case.

The more Lane digs (with the help of a long distance friend) the more the killer seems closely connected to her. When the killer contacts her personally, even Lane, the girl who methodically examines crime scene photos and police files, is creeped out. Will she become a victim, too, or is the killer just toying with her?

Lane's mystery is our mystery, too. Many suspects and many questions arise as Lane travels some dangerous ground - sometimes for the thrill, sometimes for justice, sometimes for knowledge but always with danger lurking close by.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

This an early book by one of my favorite authors. It was written before I discovered her. Like her other books, this one blends a realistic setting with just a slight bit of fantasy. I don't mean elves or magic, but an element of the unreal going on in the life of Vera Dietz.

Vera's best friend Charlie died - as she says, she lost him twice: first as a friend and then for real. We learn all the details as the story progresses (with flashbacks thrown in to help). We also hear from Vera single dad (whose wife left both of them when Vera was twelve), Charlie (speaking from beyond the grave) and the town's landmark pagoda (yes, it is quirky).

Vera just wants to be ignored. She lives in fear that someone will find out her secret - her mom used to be a stripper. The fact that her mother moved away years ago doesn't matter. The people Charlie calls detentionheads would make her life hell if they knew.

So Vera goes to school and works nights delivering pizzas. Other than Charlie, who lives next door, she has no friends and no extra activities. Her dad has insisted that she have a job since she has been legally able to do so. He wants her to learn responsibility, so she won't become an alcoholic or turn out like her mother. Ya, he makes Vera's life a lot of fun. Thankfully, he doesn't know that Vera is not always follow his wishes.

Vera gets mixed messages from her father. Be responsible, but ignores the fact that Charlie's father abuses his mother. Everyone has their own issues, but are not necessarily dealing with them in the healthiest way.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincey and Biddy have just graduated high school and are heading out on their own...sort of. Both are special ed students who are not able to live on their own, so they are picked to live together (an idea Quincey is not too happy about).

Arrangements have been made for them to live in an apartment over a garage on the property of a wealthy elderly lady named Miss Lizzy. Biddy will clean house for Miss Lizzy, and Quincey will work at a bakery. Both will be earning their own money for the first time in their lives.

Up to this point, their lives have been horrific. Biddy lived with her grandmother who called her retarded and generally treated her with contempt. Quincey was a foster kid, taken from her parents after she was hit in the head (causing her to be a special ed student). To say that both girls were poor would be an understatement.

This chance for a new beginning does not come easy for either young woman. Quincey is suspicious of people and readily snaps at everyone even when they are trying to be helpful. Biddy is scared of boys and worried that people will find out her secret. They both fear that Miss Lizzy will kick them out when she realizes they are nothing special to anyone.

This is often a sad and dark story told from each girl's point of view. Even though they have their secrets and limitations (for example, Biddy cannot read or write), they have talents and worth and now have the chance to prove it.

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

One of the things I enjoy about reading is finding a unique character that I would never encounter in real life. Amber Appleton is one of those characters. She is smart, funny and a bit pushy at times, but ultimately concerned about others. She spends her time outside of school with creative activities. For example, she attends a Korean Catholic church in an old store front. Once a week, she goes there to teach the Korean ladies (aka the Korean Divas for Christ) better English by having them sing songs by the R&B group the Supremes. And, yes, she shares the story how that all came about.

When we first meet Amber, she is living with her mother and dog in the school bus her mother drives. It is all against the rules, of course, but they have nowhere else to go. Amber's mom drinks too much and has had a string of too many worthless boyfriends to make any kind of successful life for her and her daughter.

Amber makes her way with the amazing people in her life. She met her outcast friends (The Five) in an elementary school special needs class and stills hangs with them in a marketing club led by the coolest teacher, Mr. Franks. One of the Five, Ricky, has a lawyer mother named Donna who Amber idolizes and sometimes wishes was her own mother.  The residents of the Methodist Retirement Home who she visits once a week to help keep their spirits up. Father Chee, the priest of the previously mentioned church. And Private Jackson, a secluded Vietnam veteran.

There is a chapter where Amber explains how she meets Private Jackson that is amazing. It could almost stand on its own as a really short story. When I finished it, I could only think how remarkable it was.

Amber faces (and hides) from tragedy. She questions the point of it all and her own worth in such a difficult world. She is a fascinating character.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

Gabriela receives the red letter. The one sent by Death to tell you when you will be taken. You see, Gabriela's world in not exactly like ours. Most people just die, but a few are escorted by Death into the afterlife. Anyone who receives the letter, responds with a wrap-up list of all the things they hope to achieve in their remaining time. It's not always possible to accomplish everything, but Death can help make things happen.

Gabriela is only 16 when she receives her letter. She is devastated. She has three good friends, Sarena, Raahi and Iris. They are a close group with much to look forward to (even with the impending war). Now, Gabriela has a week left, and she hasn't even kissed a boy.

All hope is not lost because sometimes (rarely) Death will pardon you if you can guess his secret weakness. Gabriela's Death is named Hercule, and his clues about his weakness are not much help. Iris is fascinated by these departures and has studied all the different Deaths. Maybe she can help Gabriela find the weakness.

Gabriela's life is filled with school, football games, friends, church, her parents who seem to bicker a lot and stories of her hero grandfather Gonzalo who died in World War II. Even with the coming war that causes a reinstatement of the draft, her life is full of hope. Can she get everything on her wrap-up list and stop death from taking her?

One thing that struck me about this story is how Gabriela spends her final week just being normal. She does work with Iris trying to find Hercule's weakness. She does speak to her priest. But generally, she spends time with her family and friends. At first, I thought if I was in this position I would want to go places and cram as much of my wish list into those remaining days, but I've changed my mind. Normal would be a good way to leave things.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

Here's another fun venture into reality television. I must also warn you - toxic parents ahead. How else can you explain people who would put their overweight daughter through a humiliating ordeal where she must lose 50 pounds in 50 days on national television. Oh, and she gets weighed live on the air every week.

Emery knows she's 'fat.' She is not like her cheerleading, perfect bodied sister, Angel, or her former NBA player father or her nutrition obsessed over-botoxed mother. Yes, Emery likes to eat, but her body shape does not define who she is. She is smart. She has a kind boyfriend who loves and accepts her for who she is.

Enter the chance of a lifetime for her family - Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show that promises a million dollars to Emery's family if she can lose 50 pounds. Her father is all for it (turns out money is a little tight); her mom is for it (she wants Emery to not be fat anymore); and her sister is for it, too (she wants to be famous and sees this is her opportunity). Yes, it's really all about Emery and her health.

Being a reality show, there is much exploitation going on. Scenes are manipulated. Cameras are everywhere to capture every moment (including Emery's therapy sessions). 'Freedom' products are sold (all advertised through Emery's new Twitter account that she has no control over). It's all (supposedly) in the name of helping Emery and others like her.

Emery is better that all of it and finds some truths a midst all the 'reality.'

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