Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 9 Books I Read This Year

I read several good books this year. I have narrowed down my favorites to this list of nine. Most were published this year, but not all. So why nine? I had several that were close to making the cut, but did not quite reach the standard set by these nine. Also, nine covers fit just perfectly in the picture to the left.

I have blogged about all of them, so you can find more info about them if you want.

So here they are (in no particular order), my favorite books that I read in 2012:

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
After the most beautiful girl in school is permanently disfigured by having acid thrown in her face, loner Jay decides to find out who is responsible. More than just a mystery with lots of suspects - this is about two drifting teens who find a connection.

Every Day by David Levithan
A jumps into a different person every single day. One day A spends the day as Rhiannon's boyfriend and falls in love with her. Now A must find a way to be with her at the risk of messing up other's lives. One of the most unique teen books I have ever read.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Butter is obese and only gains popularity after promising to eat himself to death live on the internet. Sensitive topics like bullying and obesity are handled with great care and depth. An unforgettable story.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Jazz hunts for the person committing murders just like his famous serial killer father did.  I love Barry Lyga's books, and this is one of his best.

Shine by Lauren Myracle
In a small Southern town, Cat's best guy friend is the victim of a hate crime, and she decides to find the perpetrators. This is one of those 'wow' kind of books where when you are finished all you can say is 'wow.'

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
A teen girl who wants nothing more than to life life as a boy struggles to be accepted by her family and the community. His only refuge is in music and sharing it with the listeners to his late night radio program. An incredible story set to music - my favorite combination.

My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend
A stunningly beautiful girl suffers permanent scarring to her face after a horrific car accident. Rumors fly, her popularity drops and the events leading up to the accident haunt her. Not a teen melodrama, but an exploration of loss and rediscovery.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
John Green gives us an exquisite story about two young people who find each other in a cancer support group. This book has won numerous awards and deservedly so. 

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Logan falls for the interesting new girl in school who fears that her secret (she is really a boy) will be discovered. Enlightening and heartbreaking. This book is an eye opener for anyone unfamiliar with the struggles of transgender people. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

Too many wars. Too many dead. Too many wounded. I have great respect for the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families, but I would like them to serve in peace time. Some soldiers never return and some are wounded with scars that will never heal. It is with this story that we follow one such soldier.

Ben didn't have to enlist in the military. He could have gone to college to study acting or any other vocation. But as he says, there are plenty of others out there who can be actors. Ben feels an obligation to do something for his country.

Ben's parents are concerned but supportive. His brother, Chris, has autism and does not understand what is happening. Ariela, Ben's girlfriend, is furious and confused that he did not discuss it with her. His best friend Niko is not too happy either. I'm just going to boot camp he tells them, but they fear he will be deployed. And so he is. Ben is off to Iraq with a quick e-mail to them like its no big deal.

Ben and his fellow soldiers are on patrol, doing their job, guns are fired, tension is high and then the explosion. Ben suffers a serious brain injury. He is shipped back to the states. His family and friend feel helpless. He has no memory, can no longer speak or walk. Ariela and Niko wonder if he will ever be the same. Will Ben ever remember them?

The story is gut wrenching and heartbreaking. You know there are people who have lived this story and are living it now and will live it tomorrow. We are there with Ben, and we are there with everyone else as the tragedy plays out for all involved.

I only wish this book were longer. It would have been excruciating, but more depth would have been appreciated.

May we have fewer soldiers and families who can relate to Ben's story.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

I find it interesting when two books have a similar premise and yet do something completely different with it. I recently read (and blogged) My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend. In it, a beautiful teen girl's face is permanently disfigured. Same with this story, but the similarities end there. This poor girl, Nicole, has acid thrown in her face in the school hallway. She has no idea who scarred her face for life or why they would do it.

Nicole does not return to school, but still sees the school psychiatrist. On her first visit, she meets our narrator Jay. She kind of knows who he is since during a pep rally freshman year he had a seizure in front of the whole school that included urinating on himself (and was posted on the web for anyone who missed it). The small connection between them as they wait in the school office causes Jay, a secret hacker, to decide he will figure out who harmed Nicole.

Jay is tall loner with long hair. He and his dad live alone in a shabby apartment on the edge of a school district of mostly wealthy families. He was home schooled after the seizure incident - not that his dad was much help. He returns to school to find it hasn't really changed much, including the bullies.

Jay has numerous suspects, but has trouble narrowing the list. He hacks e-mails, chat rooms, private files and government systems to get what info he needs. He also starts spending time with Nicole. The answers don't come easy, but Jay is willing to risk being arrested to find the perpetrator.

This is well thought out mystery where the answers are never obvious (at least to me). It is trip worth taking. 

For more info about this book, check out the Evergreen library catalog.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan

Every so often, I come across a book that is nothing like I have ever read before. The plot is fairly straight forward, but the complications for the characters are many.

Every day, A. exists inside a different person. Never the same person twice. No matter the gender, race or situation of the person, A. becomes that person for the day. He/she wakes up never knowing what the life will be. I will leave you to discover some of the other conditions of living such a life (like age and geography) - some subtle, others very obvious as we follow A. through each new day.

For the most part, A. is content to exist this way seeing life in a big picture sort of way; knowing what it is like to be a drug addict or have loving parents or be obese or a bully. It is the continuity of personal relationships that is missing. But that all changes when he is Justin, a do nothing high schooler who happens to have Rhiannon for a girlfriend. For the first time ever, A. is in love - truly in love, not just experiencing the feelings of the person A. inhabits. It is questionable whether Justin really loves Rhiannon at all, but A. knows he does.

So how can A. be with Rhiannon when he changes bodies every day? One day he is a sheltered homeschooled guy and another a very attractive African American girl (Beyonce like). Will Rhiannon ever understand or even believe it is possible? For A., it has always been important to not mess up the life of the other person. But how can he hold to that and see Rhiannon at the same time. It is a slip up that causes one of the people to tell the world that he was possessed by the devil. Suddenly, A.'s secret life is not so anymore.

If you want to dig deeper, there is so much to say about this story. About identity (A.'s sexuality is in constant flux). About seeing the world from many perspectives, but losing out on personal relationships. About the use of the devil as a way to explain people's motives. About how we are perceived based on our outward appearance and how that affects who we are on the inside.

All that aside, it is a fascinating story with an unusual protagonist in a fantasy situation who grapples with basic human problems.

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