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.



Monday, October 2, 2017

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

Eddie has a chance to escape his life. He is one of several candidates chosen to be tested for one of two positions in NASA's secretive Interworlds Agency. The testing is anything but normal, but then so is the job.

Eddie feels pressure to separate himself from his criminal father. Eddie's  beloved grandmother raised him and taught him to all that she knew about science and the world. He still mourns her recent passing.Rosa is one of the other candidates. Her parents are highly successful scientists. She feels the pressure to do well.

During the testing, Eddie provides interesting, unconventional responses. His troubled past bothers the higher ups who do not quite trust him. Eddie struggles to not end up proving them right.

Then a life changing event happens. Visitors from beyond our planet arrive. From another world, another dimension? It is a historical event and Eddie and Rosa are right there when it happens. With their instructor Reg as a guide, the teens may be the only ones who can deal with the visiting beings to our planet.

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



Friday, September 22, 2017

Literally by Lucy Keating

How much control do you really have over your life? Annabelle likes to be in control and organized. Just look at her color coded schedule. Lately, she feels less in control. Like how her parents are going to sell their comfortable house in Venice Beach because they separating. Selling Annabelle's house? Her parents splitting up?

And then there's Elliott, her brother's best friend who has been hanging around annoying Annabelle since they were kids. Why is she getting this vibe that there is now something between them?

Just to stir things up a little more: enter Will, the new guy in school, who takes an immediate liking to Annabelle. He is gorgeous and is just perfect for her. Maybe too perfect.

Changes are frustrating, but they are just part of life, right? Maybe for most people, but Annabelle is told that someone is controlling her life...

Author Lucy Keating visits Annabelle's fiction writing class and describes her new book. The plot is Annabelle's life - house selling, parents separating; the whole thing. After class, Keating tells Annabelle that she is just a character in one of her books. It has to be a joke. At least, Annabelle thinks so until other things start happening. The author wants to give Annabelle a happy ending, but it may not be the life Annabelle wants for herself.

An author putting herself in her book to interact with the characters is a bit meta and tricky. It could have easily warped into a confusing plot, but Keating treads carefully. It makes me wonder if the author sometimes feels like she is not totally in control of her characters and that her stories ultimately go in directions she was not planning.

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