Friday, August 2, 2019

Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser

As the title states, this story takes place in the summer of 1969. Lucas has just graduated from high school, but doesn't know what comes next. He is one of the growing number of young people who are against the establishment. He has long hair, smokes weed, takes LSD, drives a psychedelic VW bus and protests against the war in Vietnam. You would think being of the hippie mindset would be make Lucas pretty mellow, but no. Lucas has a lot on his mind.

Let's start with Robin, his girlfriend. For the summer she is heading up to Canada to work at a camp. She has already expressed dissatisfaction with some of Lucas' choices (his drug use, for example), so being apart all summer has him concerned.

Lucas' dad. Lucas doesn't like his dad. His dad owns businesses and can set his own hours - most of them he spends playing tennis (obsessively, so). Lucas also knows that his dad has been frequently unfaithful to his mother. And Lucas certainly has not turned out to be what his father wanted him to be.

Tinsley, the free love photographer Lucas meets through his cousin. With Robin so far away...Tinsley is so tempting. Is she flirting? Is there something between them? Lucas is definitely thinking about her.

And Vietnam. Lucas does not want to get drafted and sent to war. The letters from his friend who is there remind of the daily horrors. The problem for Lucas is that he didn't get accepted to college. He should have studied more when had the chance. Now, he is desperately trying to find away to avoid military service.

Other books I have read for young people set in the same time period tend to focus on Vietnam or Woodstock, but this one is a slice out of a young person's ever day life and deals with multiple issues and events. It is refreshing to have a story for young people that provides a glimpse into the late 60s without glorifying it.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Vivian is tired of the guys (particularly athletes) being treated like gods in her school. They get away with everything including verbally and physically assaulting girls. Back her day, Vivian's mom was a Riot Grrrl (although now, her life is just going to work and -gasp!- dating a republican.) Going through her mom's box of old stuff, Vivian finds the inspiration she needs to take on the system.

Not that Vivian isn't hesitant about spreading her newly created Moxie Girl zine around school. She knows the risk. Girls are often subjected to greater scrutiny than the guys. She keeps the zine anonymous partly out of fear, but also because the Riot Grrrls had no true leader making the movement more organic.

When the zine is out, everyone is talking about it. Lucy, a new girl, who Vivian has seen be treated badly by the guys is excited about it. Claudia, Vivian's best friend...not so much. Maybe they should wait out their time until the graduate. Being an outsider, Lucy knows all schools aren't like this.

Vivian also has her eye on a new guy in school. Will he understand what she's trying to accomplish? As Vivian learns, starting a revolution is not easy. Maybe this book will inspire young women to fight a system that treats them as less than equal.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette

Three years ago, the spaceship landed in the small town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts, and then nothing happened. Scientists photographed, probed and scanned the ship. The ship just sat there - no lights, no door, no noises, no aliens, nothing.
The military moved in and built a base around the ship along with manned check points at the entrances to the town. Some town residents became famous when the press showed up. And a group of dedicated (some would say odd) UFO enthusiasts are permanently camped out along the military perimeter fence. For all that and given the circumstances, a government analyst thinks the town has remained too unaffected by it all.

Sixteen year old Annie Collins knows everyone in her hometown and knows just about everything that is going on. When the analyst shows up pretending to be a journalist, Annie immediately hears about it and seeks him out. They form a reluctant partnership to try to find the answer for whatever he is looking for (even he is not sure).

Obviously, something happens with the ship or it wouldn't be much of a story. I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that people who are known to be dead are seen walking around town.  Aliens (maybe), zombies and soldiers. Do I need to say more?

I don't want you to think this is an action packed story (yes, there is some), but it is also about the people of the town dealing with extraordinary circumstances. It is about Annie dealing with her sick mom and the absence of her father. It is an interesting mix of science fiction and realistic fiction. Did I mention aliens and zombies? Good story.

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

I started reading this because I thought it would be a suspenseful story of teens planning and carrying out a heist. It is that, but it is much more a tale of friends on the verge of heading off to college and ultimately going their separate ways; Each one has their own motives for risking everything to help a friend secure the money to go to MIT.

Bellamy has never met her father. He has lead a life acquiring great wealth and another family. Bellamy and her mother scrape by. When his fortune is figured into her financial aid application, Bellamy can't even get a loan. And she sure can't ask her father for money. So what is Bellamy to do?

In steps her best friend Nari, a total computer genius, who has an idea about skimming money from Bellamy's father's numerous accounts a little at a time. To pull it off, they need their other friends: Reese (artist extraordinaire), Santiago (future Olympic diver, he hopes) and Keagan (Nari's boyfriend).

What I like most about this book is how the characters are written. They are not teen stereotypes. We know their motivations and complexities. We also see them disagree about the illegal act they are planning. Keagan doesn't like it. Even though he goes along, his reservations never go away completely. The five teens have unique relationships with every other person in the group. They argue; they support each other; they rely on one another.

Even though, this story was not the intense caper I was hoping, I enjoyed it for the strong teen characters.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo

Three students are brought together to do a school project for their most despised class. Each has a history with the other.

Jenna ran with the popular crowd until nude photos of her were sent sent out to the whole school last year. People tell her to get passed it, but they have never been through it so what do they know.

Matthew (aka Mouse) is a computer guy hoping to get into MIT. His grades do not mean anything to his dad who wishes Mouse were a star athlete like his cousin Troy (who was also Jenna's boyfriend until she accused him of posting the photos). Mouse was Jenna's best friend; now his father wants him to stay way from the girl that tried to ruin Troy's life.

Drew is a jock and a player (as in girls). He is Troy's best friend, and flirts with Jenna even though he knows he cannot date his best friend's ex (not that Jenna would date Drew).

So their little group finds themselves in the principal's office facing serious allegations of leaking nude photos of a teacher. The three of them are the only ones who had access to the photos, so one of them must be guilty but is not saying anything. How did they get access to the photos? That's half the story and is a frustrating exercise in asking (sometimes out loud) what the characters are thinking.

It is an story that is timely and suspenseful which makes for an interesting story but a sad commentary on what teens face in real life.

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

Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

Welcome to the goth version of It's a Wonderful Life. You know that movie where the guy gets to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. OK, this is not really like that, but there is a bit of fantasy involved for a teen girl who gets so see what the world is like if goth were popular and she was the queen of the school. That girl would be Jade.

Jade has shut herself off from everything. Dressed in black on the outside and filled with darkness on the inside. She has friends, but she never gets too close (she might even be pushing them away). She can never open herself up to anyone - the fatal car crash that took her mother is proof of that.

Jade is one of the goth kids that are bullied by the popular kids (including Jade's former best friend, Mercedes). Jade is not one to be pushed around, so she strikes back at others when necessary. This does not make her a favorite with teachers.

Mercedes is popular and has tormented Jade and her friends for years. So when she and Mercedes essentially trade places in their alternate world, they both get to see what the other is going through. If they each learn a lesson, will they go back to their old lives? Come to think of it, maybe this is more like the Prince and the Pauper or Freaky Friday. Either way, it is fun look at two girls who need an otherworldly intervention to make things better for everyone.

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

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack

During a student body election that goes completely off the rails, all three candidates end up in the principal's office on election day.

Who are the candidates? Stacey has wanted to be the president for her whole high school career. She has been involved in student government and many clubs. A few weeks before the election, she is running unopposed.

Julia is new to school having just moved from Canada to live with her aunt. Her features make some think she is a Latina, but even she's not sure. Her mom is white, but she never knew her dad. Mom thinks Julia should be an individual and not worry about racial identity.

Tony only wants to hang out his parent's mansion (they travel a lot) and get high. School is of no interest. He is talked into running for president by a mo-hawk wearing freshman. Tony's platform is all about getting his favorite chocolate milk back in the cafeteria.

And then there's Brian, Stacey's best friend and election confidante, who falls for Julia the first time he sees her. His life is not complicated at all: friend to one candidate and hopeful boyfriend to another. Another force in the whole election is Kyle, Brian's little brother, who will do whatever he can to make Brian's life miserable. Oh ya, Kyle has a mo-hawk.

Even school politics can be messy. And when the stakes are high, even the most respectable student can dirty. For the reader, it's all fun and worth the time.

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

Ray lives in a weird little Connecticut town, Williamsburg (aka Burgerville). Being the history buff that he is, he knows all about the strange happenings his town's past including the green cows. Were the cows real? Does it even matter when everyone still talks about them?

One day, a young woman comes to town who Ray (the narrator) only calls Jane Doe for this story. She chooses to hang out with Ray and his friend Simon when she could obviously be part of the popular crowd. Jane is unlike anyone.

Jane loves folk music thanks to her Grandma Irene (a somewhat famous singer in her day) who has a connection to Burgerville. The story of the one time folk festival that Irene organized is one of the stories shared between Ray and Jane. Ray takes Jane to all the sites of famous Burgerville historical moments.

I'm finding its difficult to describe this book. Really, it is two young people discovering themselves (ya, I know what teen book isn't). Ray gets to do a rare thing: share his interests with someone who is interested (or at least interested in him enough to listen). Jane...there is more going on with her than Ray knows and for a short time he gets to see her for who she is.

The story is quirky, funny and serious, too. I look forward to another book by this author.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Cliff's older brother, Shane, is dead. Shane is the only thing Cliff care's about. He doesn't care about school or his stupid classmates. His dad is abusive, and his mom is his dad's enabler. Basically, Cliff's life sucks.

Sometimes when nothing feels right, Cliff goes to the Monolith, a tall abandoned never finished seven story office building in his small town. He and his brother used to go there, and hang out on a top floor balcony.  But now, Cliff goes by himself.

Cliff is a big, physically big. So big that his nickname is Neanderthal. He is called a lot of things by classmates who think they are so clever. He is not afraid to throw punches if necessary. He does just that against Aaron Zimmerman the popular quarterback. Cliff hates Aaron.

So imagine Cliff's astonishment (and skepticism) when Aaron tells him (after waking from a coma - NOT caused by Cliff)  that he saw God. Not only that, God gave Aaron a list and wants Cliff to help him make their high school a better place. It's a nice goal, but why would Cliff want to help Aaron do anything?

Maybe Cliff and Aaron can change their small part of the world. Maybe Cliff can discover more about his brother. And maybe not everyone at school hates Cliff like he thinks they do.

Interesting characters and an intriguing plot make this a worthwhile read.

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor

Imagine if your favorite author wrote a book based on your life. How would that even happen? Maybe the author moves to your town and lets you hang out with her. That would be amazing...unless the book was less than positive and exposed things about you and your friends that you didn't want everyone to know.

So this story gets a little confusing because at some point there is a book within a book within this book. Three friends (Miri, Penny and Soleil) fall in love with a book by Fatima Ro. After meeting her at a book signing, Fatima invites them to a book talk she is giving at coffee house. Of course, they go and that's when the real connection starts. Fatima invites them to her house, and it becomes a regular hang out for the girls.

I have to mention Jonah who was right along with the girls the whole time. He just moved to their school and was a new member of the group. He said he had never read Fatima's book, so he bought one for her to sign.

So Fatima's book becomes a guide for living for the girls. They start a group at a school to talk about the book and live by it's themes and quotes. Fatima totally encourages all of it. Fatima has a way to reach these young people so they reveal more about themselves. This is particularly true with Jonah who had to leave a very unpleasant situation at his old school. It seems Fatima is also good at manipulating people.

The story is told through interviews, blog posts and excerpts from Fatima's new book (the one based on Miri, Penny, Soleil and Jonah). The girls' friendship is sacrificed for Fatima to get her story. The structure itself (although sometimes confusing) makes the story unfold in a fascinating way.

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