Monday, August 27, 2018

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

So they made a movie based on this book (no, I haven't seen it). It was the movie's release that prompted me to finally read the book.

Simon is gay, but he hasn't told anyone yet. He has been corresponding (emailing) with another guy who goes to the same high school, but neither know each other's identity. Simon is curious, but the other boy wants to keep the secret. Along comes Garrett who accidentally sees one Simon's emails and decides he can use the info to get something for himself (a date with Simon's friend, Abby). Yes, Garrett threatens to out Simon to everyone unless Simon helps him get to know a friend. What a jerk, right?

Simon is not ready to share his sexuality with the world and is afraid that it will scare off his potential boyfriend if he is outed. This could be his first boyfriend ever! It might be...Simon is not sure if he is reading the signals correctly. The other guy seems to be flirting, so it could happen.

Simon has a great group of friends. They are written with more depth than you might find in many teen novels, and I found that refreshing. He also has nice (but not perfect) parents. So Simon's world is pretty good (except for some uncertainty about being accepted for who he is). It's a pleasant, fun read.

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


Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Brynne idolizes political commentator, Rachel Maddow. So when she is forced to write to a famous person for an assignment, she chooses Rachel. The thing is Brynne keeps e-mailing Rachel with all the details of her life.

So what is going in Brynne's life? First off, her parents are horrible (particularly her stepdad). Not just typical 'my parents suck' horrible. They really treat Brynne terribly. Second, her brother, the only person who she could depend on, died. Third, her grades plummeted after his death and she ends up in the remedial (and literal basement) classes. Which also means she got kicked off the newspaper staff. Oh, and her girlfriend broke up with her.

As her junior year continues, Brynne becomes annoyed with Adam who believes only honor students should represent the school on student council (no surprise, he is an honor student). Adam is also not above using questionable tactics to win. Brynne does not want to involve herself, but cannot stand the thought of Adam winning knowing he does not care about the other students (like herself and her fellow basement dwellers).

Brynne tells us her story through the e-mails to Rachel. She is young woman full of angst and self doubt. We hope she finds her way in spite of her own misgivings about her worth and abilities. It's a serious story with humor thrown in. I hope Rachel Maddow enjoyed it as much as I did.

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


Friday, July 6, 2018

Rewind by Carolyn O'Doherty

Alex is a spinner meaning she can rewind time to view past events (but no more than a day or so). The world fears spinners so she and the others are locked up together in a facility. On those rare occasions when they are allowed to go out, they must wear a band that keeps them from rewinding time.

Upside to being a spinner: they assist the police in solving and preventing crimes. Alex is one of the better ones, so she gets to help with murders and bomb attempts.

Downside: spinners eventually get the disease and die before they are 20 years old. And they have a implanted chip that tracks them.

Alex is happy with her assigned police officer, Agent Ross. He is not afraid of her abilities and sees their potential in helping him track a criminal he has wanted to catch for a long time. Ross even bends some rules so Alex can help.

But it's a dangerous world when you are pursuing powerful criminals in a world where most people do not like your powers already. Even the facility is not safe when Alex can't trust the staff to do what is in her and the others' best interests. KJ, her best friend, is the only person she truly trusts, but things have been strained between them since he has shown interest in another girl.

Can Alex avoid the disease and help catch a killer? Or will Alex have to escape from her confined world? And who will help her?

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


All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

It's been a while since I read this. I am finding it difficult to describe. I really enjoyed it, but is so different from what I normally read. About 40 pages in, I almost stopped reading it. It was just a little too odd. I liked the author's language and unusual descriptions enough to keep going. And I am glad that I did.

Miracles happen. In this small Colorado town, they really do. So much so that people come from all over to have miracles performed for them. What they don't know is that they must finish the miracle themselves or forever be stuck in some in between state. For example, one lady is in a perpetual state of being rained upon. Wherever she goes, whatever she does she has a rain cloud over her head.

The miracles are performed by one chosen member of the community. Once the miracle is performed, the members of the community must never talk to (or show concern for) the ones in limbo or they might find themselves stuck as well.

So that's just the basic explanation. There is a lot going on in this book. But the narrative is driven by two strangers who come to the small village. One looking for a miracle and one just looking for a truck he was told he could get. Someone showing up who is not looking for a miracle never happens, and it creates changes in ways no one could have foreseen.

This is an incredible book with a setting, characters and story I could come up with on my own. Really amazing.

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


Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg

Jamie loves math. Recently, he has become interested in game theory, the strategy of determining your opponent's actions. He practices it with his clever, precocious younger sister, Phoebe.

Jamie's older sister, Summerlee, buys a lottery ticket on her 18th birthday and wins 7.5 million dollars. Already rebellious, the money causes her to break free of her family. Against her parents' advice, Summerlee lets the world know that she won and goes on a spending spree.

One day when Jamie and Phoebe go to the grocery store together, Phoebe is kidnapped. The sudden horror and remorse Jamie feels is gut wrenching. Phoebe is the best of the family. Even Summerlee who can be nasty to anyone is never cross with Phoebe.

Is the kidnapping related to Summerlee's sudden financial windfall? No one knows for sure, but they do know that the kidnapper(s) will only speak with Jamie. Maybe he can use game theory to outwit the kidnapper and get Phoebe back. But dealing with the kidnapper without the police is a risk.

This is a story filled with tension and suspense. So if you are looking for something with some mystery that is a little different, check this one out.

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Surface Tension by Mike Mullin

Jake loves being on his bike. He lives for it. He is an amateur competitive cyclist and is hoping to make the USA team and go to Belgium. Jake also has a beautiful girlfriend. So his life is pretty good. Until...

Jake is riding one morning on what are normally deserted roads when he encounters a group of tanker trucks. It is his misfortune that the trucks are part of a terrorist attack that brings down an airplane leaving the nearby airport. Without giving too much away, let's just say that Jake wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened.

Betsy's life is pretty good, too. Her mother disappeared along time ago, but her dad has given her goals. She wants to become the first female member of the Sons of Paine, a patriotic group who want to make the United States a better place. Her dad is an important member and gives her a task to prove herself - killing the only witness to the plane crash, a guy about her age named Jake who managed to escape.

The author has written a suspenseful tale of a young man who is in danger at almost every turn. The terrorists want him dead, and the FBI wants him for questioning. It becomes difficult for Jake to know who he can trust. And since so many people think his head injury is causing him to hallucinate or remember things that never happened, no one really trusts him.

We also get the viewpoint of Betsy, a young women who has grown up learning to hate Muslims and thinks nothing of killing innocent people for the end goal of finally eradicating them from the United States. But all is not what it seems even for a young women willing to commit terrorism.

A bonus for me is that this story is set in Indianapolis and mentions many places. I know the city well, so I enjoyed having the characters go to so many specific locations.

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

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.