Saturday, October 27, 2012

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

I don't understand people who hate others because they are different. Looking back to when I was young, I realize now that I was bullied. For a long time I thought of it as teasing or even a right of passage for boys, but it was torment that made me afraid and uncomfortable. It never went beyond the verbal and was not everyday, but it was enough that I remember several times fearing the school day. I tell this because I know there are many young people who are constantly bullied and the face much bigger issues than I ever faced. And that leads us to this book...

Gabe started out life as Elizabeth. He has known for a long time that he was not comfortable being a girl. Although he dresses as masculine as possible in school, he is still Elizabeth to everyone else. Now that he is a few weeks away from graduation, he is hopeful that he can get away from his small town and just be Gabe all the time. He dreams of going to the Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) to be a radio DJ.

Gabe's one escape has always been music - an interest that has grown to near obsession thanks to his neighbor John (the first person to ever to play Elvis on the radio back in the 1950s). John gets Gabe a late night slot on a small local radio station where he can play pretty much whatever he wants. Borrowing heavily from John's personal music collection and vast knowledge of popular music of the past 60 years, Gabe creates themed programs each week that to his surprise attract a small, loyal following. Gabe also attracts a few female admirers who do not know his big secret.

It's a small town and secrets cannot remain secrets forever. When the truth is revealed, a few violent thugs threaten Gabe in person and online. Gabe is attacked for doing nothing but trying to be himself. It is a truth of life that still confounds me. 

Fortunately, Gabe is not alone. In addition to John and his radio listeners, Gabe also has his best friend (and the first person he ever told) Paige. She has always been there for him. His feelings for her are complicated, though. Is it possible they could ever be more than just friends? 

His family situation is more delicate. His parents are not adjusting so easily to the transition. They continue to call him Elizabeth and often refuse to even look at him. Will they ever come around to accept that their little girl has always been a boy on the inside and now wants his outside to match?

Of course, I love the music elements of this story. There are so many references to artists and songs that I like (every chapter title has Elvis in it!). Even though the music is cool, the messages and the characters are the real reason to read this. It is full of hope and strength for anyone who has ever been bullied. Gabe never gives up. He is always looking forward.

For more info about this book, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

Is this a vampire book? Kind of. Well, not really. I generally don't read vampire books. I have nothing against them - they just don't appeal to me. There has been a flood of them since the huge success of the Twilight Saga. But this one is not a typical vampire book. Mostly because there are not vampires in this book. There is one pretend vampire named Finbar Frame.

Finbar is a skinny, pale book lover who spends a great deal of time with his mother watching romantic movies and discussing books. He has a fraternal twin brother name Luke who is just the opposite - star athlete with girls flocking all over him. Even when people notice Finbar they think he is Luke's little brother. 

The family has just moved from Indiana to New York. It is a chance to get away from the bully who has tormented Fin for years and start all over, but it makes little difference because he can't change who he is...or can he? 

Fin overhears three girls talking about the latest vampire romance, Bloodthirsty, and how much they love the male vampire in the story. The more Fin thinks about it the more he realizes that he is a lot like a vampire - skinny, pale, brooding. And if this is what girls think is hot then he may have a chance to actually get a girlfriend. Fin decides he will become a vampire (not by getting bit or anything because the sight of blood makes him squeamish). You can't just go around announcing you are vampire, so Fin adopts the vampire attitude and drops subtle hints.   

While he is working on his scheme, he meets a girl who actually seems to like him. Does she know he's a 'vampire'? Will she like him more if she does? The life of a pretend vampire can get complicated. When people start to believe it the rumor spreads and he is no longer just Luke's little brother. 

For more information, check out the Evergreen catalog and the author's site


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

I was on vacation for a few weeks and did not blog anything. I did read a few books, but was not impressed enough with most of them to blog. This is the only one I blog for you.

A few weeks before high school is over, seniors in the small town of Oyster Point participate in an unofficial scavenger hunt. For Mary, it is so important to not just be a part of the hunt but to win it. She wants to prove that she can do something important before heading off to college. A big part of her motivation is to beat Jake Barbone who is not only a bully (particularly to her friend Dez) but is going to her dream college of Georgetown on an athletic scholarship while she was rejected based solely on her academic record. In her thinking, Barbone took her spot.

The scavenger hunt items are many and vary in points (with the possibility of more points for creativity). Some items the teams just have to get (like a crown from Burger King), others have to be acted out (like picture of the team with an alien), and others are clues that must be solved. It's a race against time to earn enough points to qualify for the final round. And what does the winning team get for all the trouble? Some money, but more importantly a Yeti statue that they keep until the next year's hunt.

The night is so full of hope, but quickly becomes complicated when Mary's best friend since childhood confesses his love for her and she pines over another guy who is dating one of her friends. Actually the relationship issues gets even worse, but I will leave that for the author to explain.

When I read books about teens, I often find bits of myself in the characters. I am transported back to the time when I was a teen. I never participated in anything like this scavenger hunt, but I know the emotions Mary is feeling about moving on with life and trying to hold onto the last bit of your high school before going off into 'the real world'. Ultimately, what Mary needs to find most in the hunt is herself.

For more information about this book, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's site.