Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In 2045, the OASIS is the virtual escape for almost everyone living in the bleak real world. The OASIS is a vast world created by James Halliday who on his death launched a game to find a hidden egg within the world. The winner will inherit Halliday's fortune.

The world wide search is on and Wade (avatar name: Parzival) is ready for the challenge. He (like so many others) studies everything about Halliday and his life - every movie, tv show, album and video game Halliday ever liked in hopes of finding a clue. Individuals (called Gunters) like Wade race against an organized corporation to get the egg and control of the OASIS. For five years, no one even reaches the first level, but when someone does the game truly begins.

Halliday was a teen in the 1980s, so OASIS and the game are filled with references to that time period. Being a teen in the 80s myself, I was fascinated by this part of the story. The author does an incredible job capturing the 80s even in brief snippets throughout the story.

OASIS is also like living in a big video game with battles to be fought and prizes to be won. It is a place that seems like it could exist in our futures (hopefully without the dismal real world).

I thoroughly enjoyed the world the author created. Anyway who likes video games or the 1980s might want to check this one out.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

It is 1996 and the internet is a new thing for high school students. Emma gets her first computer and finds that she can log into this strange website called Facebook. She quickly realizes that she is looking at her own life 15 years in the future. Her neighbor and longtime best friend Josh is not so easily convinced and believes it is just a prank. He totally changes his mind when his Facebook page reveals that he will marry one of the hottest girls in school.

No explanation is given as to why Emma can see her future Facebook page, but it has always been my personal philosophy that if you give me a premise I will go along. I only have problems when you stray from the original premise.

Facebook is used here as a way to make these two characters think about what they are doing in the present. Knowing what could happen to them in their futures is powerful and confusing. Should they look up their friends to see what happens to them (and then tell them)? Should they stop looking at Facebook once they realize their current day actions can actually change their future lives? Emma and Josh deal with these questions and a lot more (including the romantic tension between them).

Click here for more info about this book from the Evergreen catalog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

Whenever I read one of Alex Sanchez's books, I am reminded that teens, no matter what their sexual orientation, struggle with of the many of the same issues. They want to date, hold hands, have that first kiss, and find the special someone. That want to be accepted and respected by their parents and fellow students. They just want to be treated fairly.

This story follows the lives of three high school boys who are gay.

Nelson is out to everyone. He often does things (like dye his hair green) that draws attention to himself. He just wants a relationship and makes impulsive choices in hopes of finding acceptance.

Kyle is confused. He knows what he feels, and has told a few people. He has a crush on the popular jock. He also is afraid what his parents will say when he finally tells them.

Jason is in total denial. He is the football star with the beautiful girlfriend. He questions his feelings and what it would mean if they are true.

If you like this book, there are two sequels: Rainbow High and Rainbow Road.

Click here for more info about this book from the Evergreen catalog.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shooting Star by Frederick McKissack, Jr.

This is another one of those books where I wanted to ask the main character, "What are you doing?" Not that I want to make light of the issues addressed in the book. I'm sure these situations are real ones that teens and adults deal with frequently. Sports are huge in our society, so athletes are under a lot of pressure to perform.

To the story: Jomo is good at football, and he wants to be better. He is constantly reminded that he is small and needs to be bigger to have a real shot at college ball and the training program he is on is not working fast enough for him.

Jomo is smart and has a lot going for him, but football is what he wants the most. So, in my head, I am begging Jomo not go to call the guy that can 'hook him up' or to meet the guy who can get him the performance enhancing drugs.

Never having been an athlete, I will not pretend to know what Jomo must be going through. I hope those who do have dreams of making it big in sports take the time to read this book and at least think about what Jomo has done in the name of being better.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Chamber of Five by Michael Harmon

This book is from a sub-genre of realistic fiction that I call cruel school. You hope that your school is not anywhere near is bad as the place described in the book.

Jason attends the prestigious Lambert School. His dad is an influential state senator and alum of the school and is the reason Jason is there. Due to his connections, Jason is chosen for the elite Chamber of Five, a group of students who unofficially rule the school. Jason wants no part of it. He is not like his dad and doesn't like the cruel things the Chamber of Five does in the name of power.

The really smart kids who earned their way into the school are powerless and have no say in anything. Jason wants to change all of that which will not be easy because the head of chamber is used to getting his way and will resort to blackmail and violence to get it. These methods are just part of the chambers methods. Jason will have to risk everything to change the system from the inside.

Click here for more info about this book from the Evergreen catalog.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II by Ron Koertge

This the sequel to Stoner & Spaz which I read several years ago. I worried that I might have forgotten important things, but I was quickly reminded how much I liked the characters and found no trouble picking up the story where it left off. I would recommend reading the first one, but I don't think that is necessary if you choose not to.

Ben has cerebral palsy which means his left side is not much use to him and causes him to walk with a limp. His dad died and he was abandoned by his mother a long time ago, so he was raised by his grandmother. Because he spent so much time at the local theater, the Rialto, Ben is an expert on all things about movies. He even made his own documentary about his classmates that was shown at a Hollywood art gallery.

Ben might have stayed in the dark of the theater and the solitary world of his room watching movies forever if he had not met Colleen. She is the kind of girl that seems like the total opposite of Ben. She is a tattooed, drug user who has no problem telling people exactly what she thinks. She is also attracts the attention of any guy who sees her. She and Ben connect on a level that often amazes him.

As the story continues, Colleen is trying to stay clean and help Ben reconnect with his mother while Ben attracts the attention of another girl who shares his interest in film making. This story is all about Ben and Colleen and the people in their lives more so than any plot. I hope you like reading about them as much as I did.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

With Banned Books Week coming at the end of September, I have been discussing challenged books with teens. I was thinking about one of my favorite books, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers that happens to be on the list. I will not go into the reasons some people have requested that this book removed from libraries or schools. Suffice it to say that it is about young soldiers in war and that war is not pretty.

When I was in library school, I wrote about this book because it touched me emotionally. I am reprinting what I wrote here because I know that it is better than anything I could write now about this powerful book. Here is what I wrote then and still believe now:

My Uncle Bobby died in Vietnam. He was killed in action on August 19, 1969. For his actions he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Bobby Joe Likens served in Vietnam for 16 days.

“The real question was what I was doing, what any of us were doing, in Nam.”

Fallen Angels is the story of young army soldiers in Vietnam in 1967-1968 as seen through the eyes of Richard Perry from Harlem. There is no real plot and no climatic battle. This is a story of young Americans thrown into a hellish situation in a foreign land. Who will live and who will die? The soldiers are not perfect. They question their leaders. They fight with each other. They use fowl language and racial slurs. They make mistakes. They just want to get back to ‘the World.’ They want to see their homes again. Perry wants to go back to Harlem and see his mother and brother Kenny even though he knows he will not be the same when he returns.

“I didn’t want to say that I had a feeling that I wouldn’t get back home.”

I felt Bobby on every page. Did he live the lives of these soldiers? Did he have days of boredom while waiting for orders? Did he tease and curse and embrace the men who served with him? Did Bobby pray to himself? Was he scared? Did he see one of his buddies die? Was he afraid to write home to tell his family what was really happening around him and to him? Did he question those who lead him into battle? Did he kill anyone? Did he feel the shrapnel? Did he know it was coming? Did he wonder why he was there?

“The neat pile of body bags was waiting for the rest of us.”

I was born in 1970, so I never knew Bobby. His brief time in Vietnam is a mystery to me. As a child, Vietnam was just the place where my uncle died. After reading this book my question has gone from “What did he do there?” to “Did he do this or that?” Ultimately, I am left with more questions than answers, but I feel this book has given me some insight into Bobby’s life.

At the end, Perry finds out that a nurse he had met has been killed. He says nobody back home “would know about her, how this part of her life had been, what she had seen, or how she had felt at the end. They would get a telegram, and a body, but they wouldn’t know.” So true.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This started as one of the funniest teen books I have ever read. Imagine a group of beauty contestants becoming stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. Yes, there is a dark edge to it - people do die in the crash, but everything else is so wacky. There is a fight about whether the teen contestants should continue practicing their pageant skills (the dance number, the all important question round, etc) so they will be ready when they are rescued or should they spend more time trying to survive (find shelter, food, etc). It seems like a simple question to answer - and it is for Miss Texas who is put in charge and decides the pageant skill are too important to give up now.

Throw in a bunch of hunky reality television pirates, exploding facial cream, a huge man eating snake, mysterious happenings near the volcano, and a possible international arms deal and you have story that can go anywhere. In addition to the storytelling, there also bios of the contestants, commercials and secret memos thrown in occasionally to give some background info and add more funny stuff.

For me, the humor tapered off as the story went on, but it was still a fun adventure with some strong characters and a message, too.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff

I was in drama in high school, but it was nothing like this book. Maybe I am just forgetting how it really was...still, in this story there is a code: actors do not socialize or even speak to the crew (or techies) unless they absolutely have to (and vice versa). Adam is fine with that. He would much rather spend time up on the catwalk working with the equipment and thinking about lights. He has not been comfortable in the dark since his dad died a few years ago, so Adam is never without a light.

Derek Dunkirk (son of the famous architect) has designed the whole production of A Midsummer Night's Dream - lighting, costumes, props - the whole thing. He is pretty much directing it, too, since their drama teacher, Mr. Apple has given up on almost everything.

When something goes wrong with the production (which is often), Derek usually blames the techies and Adam has been taking the brunt a lot lately. Imagine Adam's surprise when Summer, a new actress, steps into his spotlight and seems interested in him. Adam does not care about the code, but others do. Derek (who has a reputation for dating actresses and techie) is also interested in Summer.

I do remember in high school theater that there was often more drama going on behind the scenes than on the stage. This book captures that for sure.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This Girl Is Different by J.J. Johnson

Evie is different. She is an intelligent, independent thinker who is not afraid to voice her opinion. She lives in an eco-friendly dome house constructed by her, her mother and uncle. She has learned from her somewhat radical mother to never shy away from a fight against 'the man.'

Evie has been home-schooled, and for the first time ever she decides to go to public school. She is a senior and knows it is her last chance to experience typical teenage life like she has seen in the movies. She enters school with trepidation but happy to have two new friends Jacinda and Rajas she met during the summer. She is hoping that Rajas likes her as much as she likes him.

She quickly learns that school is not a democracy (and not like the movies) and is fraught with potential disasters (like demonstrating to the class how smart you are). What starts out as prank to put a teacher in her place becomes much bigger than Evie expects. With her dream of going to Cornell on the line, Evie must find a way to make everything right.

I liked the idea of a home school student going to school for the first time. Gordon Korman wrote a book for younger readers a few years back called Schooled. In that book, the student did not want to go to public school and has a hard time adjusting. Evie has chosen to go and is more than qualified. It is her disagreements with the rules and authority figures that make her life difficult.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I expected this to be another story set in a dystopian society (like Matched by Allyson Condie where everyone's life is controlled by the government). This turned out to be our society in 2036 where no one over the age of 20 can conceive children. This has lead to a market for babies that only teens can produce. Inevitably, the teens with the most desirable traits can charge the highest prices.

We are introduced (through alternating chapters in their voices) to Melody and Harmony. Melody became a bit of a pioneer by being the first in her school to go pro and charge for her 'preg.' She is approaching the end of her viability as a baby donor and she still has not 'bumped' with anyone. Her agent has been working to match her up with the hottest professional guy.

Harmony is Melody's identical twin sister and until recently they had never met. They were both adopted and grew up in different worlds. Harmony was raised in a religious community with strict rules and an adherence to the word of God. In Melody's world, not only is teen sex encouraged it is paid for by wannabe parents. One day Harmony shows up at Melody's door and unbeknownst to either of them threatens Melody's uniqueness in the market.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Rarely have I been so frustrated with the main character of a book. There were times I just wanted to take Alex aside and ask her what she was doing. I know she is in over her head and is truly a victim, butI just wanted her to realize it. But I am getting ahead of myself...

Alex lost her mom when she was young and her dad will not talk about her. She's knows her mom was heading to Colorado when she died, so that is where Alex has always wanted to go. She and her best friends, Bethany and Zack, have been planning the trip since they were young. Nothing will keep them from making the trip until Cole comes along.

Cole is the charming and handsome new student that Alex starts to tutor at school. He seems interested in Alex right away and before long they are dating. Cole is kind and gentle to Alex and their time together is wonderful, so she cannot understand why her friends do not like him. Overtime, Cole reveals he is verbally abusive and violent. Alex cannot reconcile the boyfriend she loves and the one who hurts her. "...I didn't understand how he could be punching my face one minute and telling me he loved me the next." Make no mistake, some of the scenes are brutal and hard to read.

What I really like about this book and author's other book the Hate List is how she takes us into the mind of someone in a difficult situation and shows the internal conflicts. There were times I was mad at Alex for denying the truth, but I was hoping desperately for her to open her eyes and find a way out.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Famous by Todd Strasser

Jamie wants to be a 'celebrity photographer' not just one of the paparazzi. She first gets attention after taking a candid photo of a former model in a coffee shop. She gains some fame herself when she appears in a New York magazine article. Her mother does not understand Jamie's 'hobby' even after one of her photos ends up on a national magazine cover.

Through her agent, Jamie is sent to LA to spend a week with a young star just out of rehab. Jamie will have exclusive access to the star's daily life, but is also restricted in what she can shoot. So what is Jamie to do when she finds pictures on her camera that she did not take and could damage the star's reputation. Should she sell the photo or keep her word to the people who are only using her anyway?

At a time when people are thrust into the spotlight (or seek it out), this story is a peek into the ups and downs of fame and celebrity. I personally do not know why anyone would want to be famous. This story did not make me change my mind, nor is it supposed to.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia lives in a dystopian society where everyone is watched and monitored. No one is allowed to make a decision for him or herself all in the name of providing everyone with a long, quality life. Cassia is perfectly happy with that. It is the only life she has ever known, and she has the potential to do well with the jobs and life she will be assigned to her.

Cassia is truly excited about attending her Match Banquet where she will find out the person who has been scientifically chosen to be the best partner for her. She will spend the rest of her life and have a family with this unknown guy. She has little doubt that it will work out because her parents are so in love and were well matched. It is only after the banquet that she begins to question her society and the officials. Events begin to reveal cracks in the seemingly serene existence.

On one level this is a dystopian romance, but it is also a science fiction drama. The setting is intriguing from the standpoint that you would hope you never have to live in such a place. There is also hope that one day these likable characters will be able to make their own choices.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Asha and her best friend Carey are secretly planning a trip after they graduate. The problem is that any money they make working goes into their college funds. They come up with a scheme to sell t-shirts online promoting the 'Latte Rebellion' to raise awareness of mixed-race students. Before they know it, the rebellion takes on a life of its own. Students in their school and across the country are wearing their shirts and starting their own chapters based on the website's manifesto.

For Asha, the Latte Rebellion is a chance to do something important; for Carey is a distraction from her school work and other activities that will get her accepted by the college of her choice.

I picked this book because I was intrigue by the idea of students creating such a group. I was mostly pleased with the story, but the one thing that bothered me was that no adults took Asha seriously. She never tells her parents about the rebellion, but they do not seem to trust her on any level anyway. They also constantly push her academically. Maybe that is just how many teens feel, but it would have been nice to have one adult actively support her.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha is one of the popular girls at her school. She has all the privileges that go with it - looks, fashion, a group of friends, a cute boyfriend (that she hopes to get much closer to). On the night of the big party, Sam is in a car accident that ends her life...sort of. She relives her last day over and over again from the time she wakes up in the morning to the moment of the screeching tires.

She does not know how many times she will relive her last day. Will it go on forever or until she makes amends for something? She tries to do things differently each time.

Even though this book sounds like a ripoff of the movie Groundhog Day, it shares a similar premise and that is all. Sam knows she has been spared from death (at least temporarily, she thinks), but she does not know where it will lead. This is one of the best teen books I have read in the last few years. It is almost impossible to not wonder what will ultimately happen to Sam and how it will affect those around her.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin

It seems that every book I have chosen lately tackles some serious issues. This particular book follows two young men through the 1970s leading up to the time their paths cross in the early 1980s. Doug is a punk rock neo-Nazi who sees violence as a way of life. Jason is a gay teen thrown out of his house and living on the street. Neither has an easy path or supportive family.

The thread that holds their stories together is the question of how they will meet. For each chapter all we know is how much time it is 'before.'

This is based on a true story of Timothy Zeal and Matthew Boger who now give presentations about the experiences.

Click here for more info about this book from the Evergreen catalog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

This is not a book I would normally read (fantasy is not my thing), but it was chosen for a book discussion group I was leading a few years back. I really did like this one and have recommended it often.

What I liked most is the main character, Princess Cimerone. She refuses to do all the princess things she is supposed to. She would rather learn magic and how to fight than marry some prince. She does not even get to choose her future husband. So...she runs away. She offers to be servant to a dragon who lives in a cave. All the other princess's who are serving dragons have done so involuntarily. It turns out the the princess is quite helpful to the dragon and the other creatures in her new home.

If you like this one, there are three more.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hothouse by Chris Lynch

I was recently going on long weekend trip and was looking for books to take with me. It was unusual for me not to have any young adult books to read. I had thought about reading this one before, so I grabbed it off the shelf and took it. I didn't actually end up reading it until I was back home. That's good in a way because it is definitely not a light subject.

The main character, Russ, is dealing with the death of his father, a fireman who lost his life in the line of duty. His friend (more like used to be friends when they were kids) also lost his father in the same fire. Their dads were best friends to the point that they named their sons after each other.

Everyone in town is honoring the two firemen. Russ is getting free drinks and bus rides. His dad is celebrated at memorials and fundraisers. But for Russ it is almost too much to deal with. He just misses the guy he looked up to who worked odd shifts and made breakfast when he came home.

This story is not quite as sad as you may think, but there is a sense of foreboding. It's as if something else is going to happen.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

You by Charles Benoit

Kyle is not who he used to be. He used to get better grades; now he thinks school is a joke. He used to have different friends; now he hangs out with the 'hoodies.' His parents used to treat him like they do his little sister; now they just criticize him all the time. Things are not all bad - at least he has Ashley and someday he will tell her how he feels so they might actually be a couple.

So where did it all go wrong? Kyle needs to know before time runs out. And how come there's so much blood?

I must confess that I wasn't sure about this book when I started it. The narrator's perspective took me a few chapters to get used to. Like Kyle, I wanted to know what was going on. We are also introduced to another character that made the book interesting enough for me to recommend it.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kick by Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman

Kevin has never been in trouble in his life, but one night he is arrested after driving a car into a pole. There are many unanswered questions about what really happened, but two things are certain - Kevin is thirteen and has no license. Fortunately for Kevin, Sergeant Brown steps in to see if he can help. He likes Kevin, but he is not sure Kevin is totally innocent particularly since he saw him lose his temper during an important soccer game. Ultimately, Kevin must tell the truth or go to juvie.

Walter Dean Myers' characters live in troubled worlds. He has written some incredible books. Fallen Angels is one of my favorites and tells the story of young soldiers in Vietnam. Monster is the story of a sixteen year old on trial for murder.

For this book, Myers teamed up with a teenager who wrote him an e-mail. They alternate chapters to tell the story of Kevin and Sergeant Brown. It's not as dark as some of his other books, but is a promising start for new author Ross Workman.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lockdown: Escape from the Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

Alex is framed for murdering his friend and sent to the Furnace, a special prison a mile below the earth's surface. The prison is hell below earth for Alex and his fellow prisoners. In the middle of the night, horrible creatures randomly drag prisoners from their cells never to be seen again. The guards patrol with large, vicious dog like creatures, but never stop the gangs from attacking others. Escape is the only hope, but is it even possible?

This is one of the books I think about when I am asked to recommend books to teens. It is dark and tense; there is terror and excitement. Alex is never truly safe and you feel it on each page. The story does not end here; the sequel, Solitary, is available and a third book is expected.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

This book has the pinkest cover of any book I have ever read. Not that I choose books based on their covers. When I look for a book, I want a premise that is different. In this one, Charlie and Fielding (aka Aaron) have spent the last four years on a popular Disney-style show. On the show, they portray Jenna & Jonah, two average high school students (and next door neighbors) who are secretly world famous rock stars. To keep interest in the show alive, they must also pretend to be in love off screen even though they have truly grown tired of each other.

When we enter the story, Charlie and Fielding are not sure if their show will be cancelled or not. They are strolling along on a beautiful California day acting all romantic for the paparazzi cameras that they know are out there. They have given up everything just to be in the popular show and the tension is high between them but must remain a secret. Something happens that changes everything and forces them to prove something to the world and each other.

This book took a different direction than I was expecting, but I still liked it. If you are looking for a nice quick read, I recommend it.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

War is ugly. Things happen so fast you cannot even be sure of anything including what happened yesterday. Matt Duffy wakes up in a military hospital in Iraq. His head injury makes it difficult for him to remember how he even got there. He knows he was on patrol and that he and his buddy Justin chased a car into an alley. The rest is just flashes of memory.

Matt tries to make sense of everything he is learning knowing that he will be questioned about the death of a civilian during the incident. Who can he trust when his own brain seems to be working against him? There are no easy answers.

Patricial McCormick tackles serious topics (see Cut) and makes them accessible through the eyes of her characters. Matt is still a teenager when he is wounded in Iraq. Through Matt's story we get a glimpse of what life might be like for the many troops currently serving in war zones. I recommend this book to anyone curious about the lives that soldiers are living.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

This is the most excellent manga I have ever read (ok, I haven't read a lot, but still). Light Yagami finds a notebook dropped in our world by a Shinigami. Light quickly realizes that any person whose name is written in the notebook dies. The rules of the notebook are complex and become more apparent as Light decides to use it to rid the world of evil.

Over twelve volumes, the story takes many twists and becomes more involved with Light being investigated by the police and pursued by L, the world's greatest detective.

This was recommended to me a few years ago, and I cannot say enough about the incredible writing. I never knew what to expect and couldn't wait to get to the next volume.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Playing With Matches by Brian Katcher

Leon is not much to look at, but he does have his sense of humor. Imagine his shock and disappointment when he finds his new locker neighbor is Melody Hennon, considered an outcast and a freak be everyone in school. Melody was severely burned as a child and her face bears the scars that she will have for life. Once Leon makes her laugh with a really bad joke, he sees her differently. Can he go out with her and not be totally embarrassed by his friends and everyone else in school? Things get more complicated when the hottest girl in school asks Leon out.

It has been awhile since I read this book. Whenever I see it or think of books to recommend, I remember how much I liked it. I was not always happy with Leon's decisions, but I liked how Melody was revealed to be nice, smart person with all the worries of other teens.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Callie cuts herself. She doesn't know why; she just knows it feels good to do it. Now she is in a treatment facility with other teen girls her age who also have issues. One of the girls nicknames Callie 'S.T.' for silent treatment because she doesn't speak to anyone. She doesn't want to talk about her brother's asthma, her mother's changed behavior, and her dad spending so much time at 'work.' She doesn't want to talk about anything. But we know what she is thinking because Callie tells us.

After seeing the author, Patricia McCormick, speak recently at a conference, I decided to read some of her books (since I never had before). This is the first one I found, and I plan to read more. I won't bore you by going on about how the author successfully tackles a difficult topic. I will say that I have a little better understanding about cutting and how people are affected by it. I also hope that anyone in Callie's position finds help and support they need.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Maybe you've seen the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World that was based on this series or maybe you haven't. Either way, this is worth a look. I should also mention that this is a graphic novel (with some manga influences).

Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old. He's between jobs and plays in a band. Oh, and he's dating a high schooler (named Knives Chau). Whether that's cool or not depends on which of his friends you ask. It doesn't matter for long because Scott meets Ramona. At first, he just sees her in the library, and then he lamely tries to talk to her at a party. For Scott to be Ramona's boyfriend, he must defeat her seven evil ex boyfriends. Defeating them is like winning a video game (really- its like Scott becomes a part of a video game). Ramona has dated some surprising people (an action movie star, a rock guitarist). Scott has also dated some interesting girls that he must also deal with. For awhile, Scott's life is pretty messed up.

Of the graphic novels I have read recently, this is my favorite. It is funny and has great characters. There are six volumes and (like a lot of graphic novels) is a quick read.

Click here to find more info from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Ever since the shootings at Columbine high school several years ago, schools have not been the same. It seems like every week we hear about someone taking a gun or knife to school. Hate List is the inside story of a school shooting.

Valerie's boyfriend is the shooter. He took a gun to school and opened fire hitting several students before turning the gun on himself. Valerie is scarred, metally and physically (she was shot, too). She must have know he would do it, right? She was his boyfriend - she had to know. But she also saved people, so some consider her a hero.

Her parents don't trust her and now she must go back to school and face all the people who think they know her and everything about her.

Only you will know what is really going on with Valerie. There are at least two sides to every story and this is hers.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto by Eric Luper

Seth is having a tough day. He is dumped by his girlfriend of 8 months during lunch at Applebee's (Yes, Applebee's). During the horrendous experience, he sees his dad having lunch with a strange woman and acting a little too cozy with her. As if that weren't enough, Seth is late back to work and is quickly fired (from his 4th job this summer).

He wants Veronica back and he wants to know who that woman was with his dad. And he really needs to find another job (at least that's what his dad keeps telling him). His friend Dimitri isn't much help (although Dimitri's annoying sister is).

Seth decides to create podcast to share all his relationship experiences (anonymously) in between perfectly selected songs. How long with Seth be able to keep keep his secret identity while more people start to listen? The way things are going for him...probably not too long.

Click here for more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

First, there is Deryn, a girl who disguises herself as a boy so she can be part of the British air corp. Second is Alek, who must escape his country after his parents are murdered. Deryn finds herself assigned to the large airship called Leviathan. Alek and his keepers are being hunted and must follow the instructions left by his father, the Duke and head of an empire. Deryn is a Darwinist and travels in a ship that is made up of many living creatures formed by men. Alek is a Clanker and travels in a mechanical war machine that walks on two legs. Although trained, neither is prepared for what faces them as they are swept into this re-imagined version of World War I.

I wanted to read this because I was hoping it was similar to Jules Verne. Verne often imagined futuristic machines that were used in contemporary times (like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The difference between this book and Verne's stories is that Westerfeld takes futuristic ideas (even for now) and puts them in the past. This blending of past and future is referred to as steampunk.

The book started slow, but had lots of action and interesting ideas. The second book is already out, so there is no waiting to find out what happens next.

Click here to find more info about this book from the Westfield Washington Public Library.