Friday, December 27, 2013

Fault Line by C. Desir

Ben didn't go to the party with Ani. Her friend Kate did, but she's not completely sure what happened. It was brutal and horrific and Ani will never be the same. Was she drunk? Did someone drug her? It was not like her at all, and no one knows who is to blame.

Ben meets Ani just before the start of his senior year. She was hard to ignore as she walked through the parking lot. Fortunately for Ben, Ani noticed him, too. Besides Ani's gorgeous looks, what Ben finds most striking is her directness. There is no BS with her; none of the typical games that Ben has experienced with other girls. The tension about sex is broken with Ani's straightforward personality.

There is no question that Ani was the victim, but rape has a way of making the innocent feel guilty. Ben blames himself for not going. Kate blames herself for not intervening. Ani just blames herself.

The aftermath can only be described as excruciating for all involved. Ben wants the old Ani back. He sees hints of her, but they are fleeting. He misses the playful, sexy girlfriend who he could talk to. But that Ani is gone, replaced with someone who only wants the physical and not the emotional connection.

This is not always an easy book to read. Everything goes from good to bad in one night, and there are no easy fixes. You can't be mad at Ben for not doing the right thing, because there is no obvious right thing to help Ani. It is a refreshing reminder that rape is not a crime for just the victim; it affects everyone in that person's life.

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Have you ever hidden something from a friend because you were ashamed? I have. I don't know why I did it. Of all people, friends are supposed to accept you for who you are. It's risky, too, because it often leads to an awkward moment when the friend finds out the truth.

Feeling shame about yourself and your life is the underlying foundation of this story. Lewis is a Tuscarora Indian living on a reservation in upstate New York. It is the 1970s and life on the 'rez' is not so easy. Lewis lives in a run down house with no indoor plumbing. He lives with his mother who cleans the houses of white people and his Uncle Albert, a disabled vet.

Many people in the surrounding communities hate Indians (including one particular bully from an influential family), so for the most part they stay to themselves. Lewis earned a place in the higher academic classes of his mostly white school. Usually at least two Indians are put in the same academic level , but Lewis is the the only one and must be alone with no friends as he starts the school year.

On the first day, he meets a new kid named George, the son of an Air Force officer. George is warned to stay away from the 'wild Indian kid,' but he has been the new kid enough to trust his own judgement. Lewis and George quickly bond over their love of music, particularly the Beatles and Paul McCartney. Lewis is reluctant at first, but he visits George's house and eventually spends many evenings there having dinner and listening to albums. It is when George wants to visit Lewis' house that Lewis starts making lame excuses. How can he let George see the poverty of his everyday life?

Lewis is an original character. Even though he is physically small, he is very strong. He steps outside the comfort zone that many of his fellow Indians live in. He takes flak from both sides: whites for being 'distrustful' and Indians for befriending whites. He takes a lot from bullies, but stands up for himself when he needs to.

This story is an incredible view into the everyday existence of Indians and the delicate balance of surviving in a white dominated society while trying to maintain their own culture. I never imagined some of the hardships and 'rules' that must be endured by native people. I can only hope that in the 30 plus years since the 70s that things have changed for the better. I fear they have not.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Sex & Violence - it's a title that gets people's attention. Two words with general meanings that when put together can take on many connotations.

For seventeen year old Evan, sex is a casual pursuit. He has never gotten too attached to any of his partners. He has grown to look at women and admire them for the physical attributes and ponder the possibility of sex with them. The thing about sex is that you may not be the only person attracted to someone. For Evan, this is bad. Collette offers herself to him and he takes her willingly. When her ex-boyfriend finds out, Evan is cornered in the shower and brutally beaten.

Evan's dad moves them to the small lake Minnesota town where he grew up. Evan and his dad have moved many times since Evan's mother died, but he has never been to this place. Constantly moving has caused Evan to not form close relationships (with friends or lovers), so he is reluctant to befriend any of the other lake kids. He avoids doing things that bring back memories of his beating (like the shower). He also hesitates to hook up with any girl although the desire is there. It is particularly tricky with Baker who is dating a large athletic guy who could easily pummel Evan if he is not careful.

This book could have fallen into a typical story arc of Evan meeting the right girl and learning to trust in himself and others again. But life is not that easy. There are many issues being addressed in this story. For one, Evan's dad is acting differently. He is more casual and open and seems interested in the married woman next door. Two, the specter of Evan's uncle is never far away. Evan explores an off-limits island and finds things that bring him closer to an uncle who has just disappeared.

It's an amazing, complex story that does not tie up solutions to life's problems in neat little boxes.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

War is hell. It's a cliche, but it is so true. Walter Dean Myers holds nothing back in his depiction of the horrors of combat: the terror, the exhaustion, the hunger, the death, the blood, the dirt, the explosions. Imagine living a life where you could be killed any minute of every day; a life where you are talking to a buddy one minute and seeing him laying on the ground bleeding from a hole in his chest the next; a life where your fate is in the hands of leaders who sometimes seem as confused as you.

During World War II, Josiah Wedgewood (aka Woody) of Richmand, Virginia, lands on the beach with his platoon at Normandy and moves across France fighting the Germans. We are with Woody as he thinks about a girl at home; as he talks with fellow soldiers; as he sees friends die. Like Myers' other war stories, this on has no real plot; it is just the daily existence of soldiers in the middle of a war. There are only brief appearances of African American soldiers underlining the segregation that existed at the time in the armed forces.

This story is loosely connected to Myer's other books Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah. Family members from three generations end up fighting in three different wars: in Europe, in Vietnam and in Iraq. How many generations must go to war? The futility of it all is part of Myer's point.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

Five 6 year olds are sitting around a table. They talk and giggle with each other. They have been filmed for a documentary called Five at Six that explores the lives of the young classmates. The success of the film amazes even its creators. Five years later, another film is made called Five at Eleven with the same group. What are they doing now? How have they changed? Now, it is five years later...

Those happy little children have grown up and apart. Felix and Nate were best friends once; now they do not speak to each other, forget about sitting at the same table. Olivia suffered a humiliation in the last film, so she keeps her distance from everyone except Nate. Rory and Justine were once close, too, but things have happened.

Justine has been expecting the call about being in the next documentary. She doesn't want to do it. Her life has not turned out the way everyone expected (just check the internet) including her. She's the one who stood out among the five - the one who was supposed to become something. Now, she watches the documentaries and thinks about all the things she gave up and why.

The tension is high as the group is brought back together under the scrutiny of the camera. They are more savvy now and guarded about their lives and how much the really want to reveal. They know the most dramatic bits will be used in the film. Somethings have gone unsaid for years, so they are hesitant to talk for the whole world to hear. Justine knows on some level that all five of them are being manipulated.

In science, it is believed that you cannot observe a system without changing it. The lives of these five young people have been affected by being in the documentary. The film is not just capturing the lives of these young people as they go through normal changes, it is also capturing how the films have changed them. Is it good or bad? You will have to decide that for yourself.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Zero Fade by Chris L. Terry

Kevin wants a lot of things. First, he wants a haircut - not the ragged haircut he gets from his mother, but a fade. Next, he wants a girlfriend - Aisha, the girl in his science class, is his first choice. Also, he wants to see the new Jim Carrey movie, The Mask. He and his best friend David love the TV show, In Living Color, so they cannot wait to see Jim Carrey in a movie.  

You know, seventh graders do not always understand how the world works. For example, Kevin thinks that once Aisha agrees to go to see a movie with him that she is his girlfriend. Having once been a teen boy myself, I understand the desire to have a girlfriend and making assumptions about how relationships work. Didn't work for me - doesn't work for Kevin.

Kevin is also worried about perception. When his Uncle Paul takes him to get a haircut, Kevin is pretty sure the barber is gay. He worries that his new haircut may be gay or that people saw him being touched by the guy so they might think he is gay. Maybe everyone in the whole barber shop was gay! Kevin is a ball of confusion. What he doesn't know is that his beloved uncle who he looks up to is gay. And uncle Paul is concerned about what Kevin will think when he tells him the truth.

This book is a humorous slice of Kevin's life - coping with a bully, fighting with his best friend, dealing with his sister and mother - all things made a bit more difficult due to Kevin's immature and developing view of the world. He will learn.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick

How can you understand a time that you didn't live in? You can't. You can listen to the music from that time. You can read books about it. You can hear stories from people who lived it. But I don't think you can ever know what it was really like. Too bad you can't time Rich does in this book.

Rich doesn't ask to go back in time; it just happens. He strums a chord on an old guitar and ends up at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. I make it sound like it just happened, but it is more mystical and sad than that. The guitar has been hidden away in a room where Rich's dad keeps all the items related to his brother Michael who died two months after Woodstock. Every year on the anniversary of Michael's death, Rich's dad locks himself in the room and listens to old music.

A simple strum of the strings and Rich finds himself in 1969 running into his Uncle Michael, Michael's girlfriend Willow and Rich's dad (age 15) on their way to the festival. Being the time that it was, no one is too surprised to see a 15 year old appear out of nowhere wearing nothing but the silver-white hair on his head (the color changed during the time travel). Rich realizes that this is a golden opportunity to not just see some of the most famous rock performances ever (he has studied Woodstock extensively) but also get to know his uncle (who died long before he was born) and to hang out with his dad (who is a strict, melancholy adult).

It is with eyes wide open that Rich learns much about why his dad behaves the way he does (he is very strict) and what really happened to his uncle. Rich's dad has never talked about his brother or anything surrounding his death. In fact, he blames Woodstock for causing Michael's death. It all starts to make sense. Rich has purpose for being there. He is a messenger of sorts.

I really felt like I was being taken to Woodstock to experience it with Rich. We hear the music right along with him and get to see performances through his descriptions. And Jimi Hendrix plays an important part in the story, too.

I really identified with parts of this story. Rich had an uncle he never knew because he died before Rich was born. That is true for me, too. His uncle died two months after Woodstock. My uncle died the week of Woodstock (he was killed in Vietnam). It is a small thing, but I felt more connected to the story.

As with any Jordan Sonnenblick book, I recommend this one. It is a trip back to the late 1960s and gives examples of some of the best parts of the time and some of the worst.

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winger by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West does not always make the best decisions. If he did, he would not have ended up in Opportunity Hall ("the dorm where they stuck the really bad kids"). He hacked a cell phone account...a teacher's account...on a stolen phone. Now he must room with a thug named Chas and live with 10 other rule breakers at Pine Mountain. Also, Ryan Dean is a 14 year old junior making him two years younger than everyone else in his class.

Ryan Dean has somethings going for him. He is on the rugby team with his two friends (and former room mates). He lives for rugby and is good at it. He is totally in love with his best friend, Annie, although she considers him just a little boy.

So Ryan Dean makes his life more difficult by...always pointing out how hot girls are (and women, too). Of course, this is what some guys do, but if he ever wants to convince Annie to be his girlfriend he should be more tactful.

What else..Ryan Dean taunts guys much bigger and meaner and angrier than he is. He pushes the limit even as his friend and teammate, Joey, constantly tells him to do better.

Hanging out in Ryan Dean's world makes for quite an adventure. Even though he can be jerk, he is likable and often means well. He just hasn't found his way, but he tries.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The 100 by Kass Morgan

This is my 100th blog. It is just coincidence (I swear) that it is about a book called The 100. The story is another dystopian adventure: earth has gone to hell, young people in danger - you know, the usual.

Many years past the time of a nuclear holocaust that destroyed life on earth as we know it, a group of survivors orbit the planet in spaceships waiting for the day they can return.

We follow the story through four characters. Clarke is the daughter of scientists who were studying when radiation levels would be low enough to go to earth. She was studying to be a doctor when her training was interrupted (dare I even tell you she was jailed for treason). Wells is the son of the Chancellor, the one who has decided the fates of so many. He will do whatever it takes to be with Clarke. Bellamy just wants to protect his sister (that his mother had illegally because only one child per couple is allowed). Glass wants to be back with her boyfriend who lives in a lesser part of the ship. Yes, even the few surviving humans have a society divided by class.

So, the 100 are people who have been confined for breaking the rules and are being sent down to earth to see if it is safe (unbeknownst to the others on the ship). They only have to survive or die for the answer to be known. They are considered expendable, but considering how strict the confinement laws are there are many who are far from criminals (as we learn through flash backs).

This is a fun, quick read. As I neared the end of the book, I figured that everything would not be wrapped by the end. No shock then, that this is a series (and it is or will be a show on the CW). I was not really planning to read any more in the series - until I got to the end of this one. There is much left up in the air.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane

A new school in a new city means a new life for Hailey. She's tired of being a nobody, so now its her chance to reinvent herself. And to help she has her sister's journal titled How to be a Hater filled with all kinds of advice on how to be popular. Hailey's perfect sister, Noel, is off at college and has no idea that her sister has the journal, let alone that it will become the blueprint for her new life.

So on the first day of school, Hailey finds herself in the company of the popular clique of girls lead by Skyler. Hailey has ascended the ladder quickly even beyond her own expectations. Being in the elite group is not without its price. Skyler is clearly in charge and has the say so on what is acceptable fashion and behavior. It is not for Hailey, so she ends up forming her own group of misfits (ones often abused by Skyler and the other popular kids) called the Invisibles.

The Invisibles end up in a battle for supremacy of the school with Skyler and her followers. Hailey's intent is to use her sister's journal to end Skyler's reign of terror and raise the profiles of her new friends. And personally, it doesn't hurt that she catches the attention of Chris, the cutest boy in school.

Hailey tells her story with humor often making observations on only slightly related topics. Even though her actions are sometimes misguided, she is a likable person with much to offer any reader who is willing to spend time in the world of teenage drama.

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Lyla knows the world will end and that many people will die. She knows because Pioneer has told her and all the other members of the Community. Her parents are so convinced that Pioneer's visions from the Brethren are true that they helped build a walled, isolated community so they could prepare for the inevitable end to modern civilization.

Pioneer came to Lyla's family after her sister went missing right after 9/11. He saw it as the beginning of the end. He gathered other families and built an underground bunker to house them all when the time came. The bunker's entrance is hidden in the Community so suspicions will not be raised among the outsiders. When the end comes, some outsiders may want in, too.

Everyone's life is carefully controlled by Pioneer. It is for their own protection; it is the price they pay for being chosen. Lyla's intended (chosen for her to marry someday) is her best friend Will. They, like the rest of the young people, are not allowed to have contact with the outside - no phones, no television, no magazines. They must work like all the adults to keep the Community running and prepared.

Lyla is not always sure of her abilities. Will she able to help protect their way of life if the outsiders come? It is that lingering doubt that confuses her even more when she meets Cody, an outsider. Her attraction is instant and much stronger than anything she has ever felt toward Will.

No matter how much Pioneer tries to control everything, he cannot stop Lyla from feeling emotions that teens feel. Lyla has desires, and sometimes she just wants and needs to be a regular teen. It is a struggle that reveals much about Pioneer and his followers. Even though life in the Community is all Lyla really knows, she starts to wonder if it is safer outside the walls than it is in.

For more info check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

I often wonder why I am drawn to stories with dark premises. I don't have an answer. And it's not all that I read, of course. Part of me wants to go to these dark places because I know the world has many of them and I want to see the characters find their way out. Leonard Peacock is planning to kill his former best friend, Asher, and then take his own life. He has it all planned out. He has a World War II P-38 that his grandfather took from a Nazi. He will use it for both shootings on this day - his birthday, that no one remembered including his mom (who he calls Linda).

On his last day, Leonard delivers farewell gifts to the people important to him. As he makes his deliveries, he hopes not to tip them off to his plans.  He's showing to many signs of a person contemplating suicide like cutting off his long hair. His elderly neighbor, Walt, is concerned. He and Leonard have bonded watching Humphrey Bogart movies. Sometimes they quote the movies at length and other times they do not need to say anything.

Leonard's favorite teacher, Herr Silverman, is also concerned when he receives his gift. He teaches a Holocaust class and is the only teacher Leonard respects. Herr Silverman makes a deal with Leonard that he hopes will keep Leonard alive.

This journey with Leonard is a difficult one. He is so matter of fact about his plans. He sees no worth in staying alive because of the pain he has experienced. You can only hope that Leonard will learn that his life will get better.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was intrigued by the idea of a boy dressing up as a girl to attend school. The premise could have gone in a lot of directions, but this is one is fun and thought provoking. Before I go further, let me give you some details.

After Sam's mother dies, he goes to England to live with relatives including his cousin, Matthew. Matthew has a tight knit group of friends and the intrusion of his brash American cousin is not really welcome. The group decides to test Sam (who desperately wants to be in the group) by challenging him to be a girl for the entire first week at the prestigious Bradley Hill School. Sam is not just dressing up; he has to be a girl and convince everyone else, too.

The problem...Sam is good at being a girl, really good. Much to Matthew's (and his friends') dismay, Sam becomes good friends with the girls they despise. Sam catches the attention of the guy everyone girl wants to date. He becomes a model student to one of the teachers. He transforms the school.

But inevitably in a story like this, the truth must be revealed. I'm not going to tell you how that happens or what amazing things Sam and his new friends experience.

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin

What does it take to be sent off to a secluded reform school called Heartland Academy? For Emmi, it is refusing to apologize for blitzing a guy's Facebook page with insults after he posted naked pictures of her on the internet. For Justin, it is taking a bunch of pills. At least those were the tipping points.

Really, they both have deeper issues. Emmi was adopted from China just before her new parents found they could have children and gave birth to Emmi's sister, a beautiful tall athletic girl who looks like her parents. Emmi has always felt like an outcast (physically, anyway). She's short, has dark hair, and is Asian.

Justin is caught by is father (who he rarely sees) in a compromising position with a girl he just met. He's never done anything like it before, but it in the wake of his parent's divorce it is seen as a big deal. He's pretty angry about all of it.

Both are in total denial as they arrive in their new 'home' (located in the middle of miles of farmland). They meet the members of their new therapy group and are expected to bond with them - even though some of them appear to be really messed up. It's all about perception.

Emmi and Justin alternate telling the story as the group breaks the rules to help each other get what they really want. The trick is to not get caught. All the while, the adults are doing what they can to help each group member work through their own issues. It is messy, but worth the journey.

For more info, check out the sites for Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

When I read teen books, I often think about my life as a teen. I did not do wild things - no drinking or partying. So when I read about those things (which I know actually go on) I can't really identify with them. I suppose I live vicariously through the characters. Every once in awhile, I read a story that touches me because it does relate to my own experiences (when I was a teen or older). This is such a story.

Lauren Myracle (who have already admitted to being one of my favorite authors) writes with such honesty. She creates characters with true experiences that I can feel because I have lived them, too.

Wren is graduating from high school. She has been the model daughter following her parent's wishes. She has applied and gotten early acceptance to the school of their dreams. She has refrained from dating to focus on her school work. So it is the summer before she heads off to...well that's the big secret Wren is keeping from her parents.

Charlie is also graduating. He works in his adoptive dad's wood shop. He grew up in foster homes. He was fortunate to find his current parents. He is devoted to his brother (who is confined to a wheelchair). He is hard working and honest and well help anyone. Charlie has more experience dating including one girl who cannot take no for an answer.

There is a moment on the last day of school when Wren's gaze meets Charlie's from across the crowd. They meet up by chance later and a real connection is made. The summer turns into an unexpected romance for both.

The real truth in the story, the parts I have felt, were between Wren and Charlie: the touches, the longing when separated, the first kiss, the physical awkwardness. Does she feel the same way I do? Is this really happening? As I read those moments, I relived just a little bit of my own life.

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sketchy by Olivia Samms

Bea can see into other people's minds. Not like reading other's minds, but when she looks at them with her sketch pad and pencil in hand she draws what they are thinking about. It started when she was in rehab. Bea is a recovering addict - 3 months sober when the book starts and heading to public school after getting kicked out of private school. Her mother no longer trusts her and makes her test her urine regularly.

It is fortunate for Bea that Chris an old acquaintance from art camp goes to the school. He doesn't judge her like everyone else. She only confesses her 'power' to him when she thinks she can help catch a rapist.

One of the popular girls, Willa, is found alive after having been attacked like two other girls (except they were killed). Bea saw the rapist face in Willa's mind but can't convince her to come forward and tell the police everything she knows.

This is the start of a new series, so hopefully some questions will be answered in future installments. It's a promising start with a smart, no-nonsense character.

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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September Girls by Bennett Madison

Strange book. For me, at least. I kind of knew what was going on from the beginning, but not exactly. I suspected things, but not all the details. Could I be anymore vague? Let me give it a try.

Sam and his brother and dad leave their suburban home suddenly before the end of the school year to spend the summer in a beach town. It has been several months since his mom left them for a different life. Sam's dad has been flailing about since and decided they all need a change of scenery.

Their summer rental home is right on the beach but more run down and weather worn than one might hope. The dad quickly takes up treasure hunting with a metal detector leaving Sam and his older brother, Jeff, mostly on their own. Jeff has been away at college and missed much of the drama surrounding his mother's departure and the aftermath.

So while everything in the small beach town seems old and in need of upkeep, there is definitely something unique happening - the town is filled with beautiful young women (who for some reason keeping giving 17 year old Sam the eye - much to his brother's displeasure). The women are not just the average girl you would find in your own home town. They all have some mystique about them (and they all look very similar). We as readers are given some very ambiguous dialogue from one of the girls (in between chapters narrated by Sam). It is kind of unnerving in that I never knew exactly what was being revealed even after reading the sections. But I kept with it as Sam and Jeff were drawn to the girls, two in particular, Kristle and DeeDee.

Sam hangs out with DeeDee and does normal things (like go to parties), but the girls do not behave like any Sam has met before. He is entranced and frustrated at the same time.

In some ways, reading this book was like sitting on the beach in the hot sun for too long. You were happy you went to the beach, but you wonder if it was worth staying the extra hour. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret reading this book. It's just very different from what I normally read. I will  leave you to decide on your own what you think about these mysterious girls in this odd small beach town and the effect it all has on these two brothers.

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey & Aaron McConnell

It is amazing how a graphic novel can take a complex subject and not only make it understandable but truly enjoyable. My first thought was how could they make a graphic novel from a such a short speech (lasting less then 300 words). The author expands upon the speech's text by examining the meaning behind each line. It is a trip through a sad, violent and shameful part of our history where slavery was legal and by some people's arguments moral.

I have never read an account that covers the events leading up to the civil war, the war itself and the aftermath with such clarity. Looking from our current place in history,  it is hard to read some of the arguments made in favor of slavery. People used economics, religion, politics and any other number or reasons to keep the institution of slavery preserved. People passionately believed in the reasons, too. It's why the Civil War was so bloody and much longer than people predicted.

But the Civil War was not driven just by slavery. The long struggle (going back to the creation of the Constitution) is also about the role of the federal government and how much power it should wield over state governments. Like so many other times in history, this is a complicated series of events involving many people across many decades.

The words Lincoln spoke 150 years ago are still relevant. We live in a world full of people who are persecuted, held captive and killed for nothing more than their race or gender or sexual orientation. I highly recommend this to anyone - it may help us understand where we have been and how we can shape where we are going.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Rafe is tired of being the 'gay kid.' He came out a few years ago and everyone in town of Boulder, Colorado, has been mostly cool with it. His parents were more than supportive - meaning they have gone out of their way to support him and gay rights. Sometimes it is too much for Rafe to be the symbol for being an openly gay high school student. He just wants to be a guy (because no one seems to treat you normally when you are gay).

So Rafe decides to go to a New England all boys private school and not tell anyone he is gay. He will avoid all possible situations where his sexuality may be an issue. To do this, he must lie to his parents and best friend, Claire Olivia because they would never understand.

Upon his arrival, Rafe quickly becomes one of the guys playing touch football on his first day there. He joins the soccer team and hangs out with all the jocks. It feels great to just be Rafe for awhile. It's not always easy, though. For one of his classes, he has to write all about himself for the entire semester. How does he keep such a huge part of himself hidden and stay true as a serious writer? And of course, there is that really attractive guy who becomes Rafe's best friend at school...can Rafe tell him the truth and could they possibly be a couple?

It's tricky road for Rafe, but a satisfying one for the reader. It is all handled with great care.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Message to Adolf Parts 1 and 2 by Osamu Tezuka

This is an amazing complex story set in Japan and Germany in the 1930s and 40s during the time of the Nazi regime and World War II. There are three Adolfs in the story. One is Adolf Hitler. The other two start out as young boys in Japan. One is a Jewish boy whose family owns a German bakery. Having always lived in Japan, he feels like he is Japanese even though he was born in Germany. The other Adolf's father is a German official living in Japan and his mother is Japanese.

Each boy struggles with the rise of the Third Reich as Jews become persecuted
throughout Europe and life in Japan becomes affected. Friendships are tested and loyalties questioned as the Nazis become more powerful and Hitler's views spread. After the United States enters the war, the Japanese people must deal with rationing and bombing raids. This portrayal of every day struggles I found fascinating. It is not a view we often see when learning about the 'enemy.'

A thread throughout the story involves secret documents that some believe could bring down Hitler. The documents pass through many hands and are hidden and secretly moved about throughout the country. People will torture and kill to obtain the documents before they become public.

You have no idea how much more I want to share from one of the best graphic novels I have ever read, but it would spoil key elements of the intricate plot. There is action mixed with deeper questions of identity and loyalty to country and race. There are moments of humor, too; mostly in the forms of character overreactions to situation (as depicted in the way the characters are drawn). These reactions are very much in the manga tradition. No surprise since the author is a pioneer of manga and anime.

Make no mistake, this is the Holocaust and the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people is graphically portrayed. It is not just the actual violence, but the thought of how human beings were treated that is sickening.

For more info about these books, check out the Evergreen library catalog for parts 1 and 2.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who Done It? An Anthology by Various

This is not a conventional story by any stretch of the imagination, although it is full of imaginative musings by many authors. The premise is that Jon Scieszka and we, the readers, are interrogating various people in the murder of a loathsome book editor named Herman Q. Mildew. The deceased was a lover of pickles and cheese (the smellier, the better) and a collector of toenails. He was often known to leave the check for others to pay and worst of all, he gave scathing reviews of his client's work.

The interrogations take place at the Old Abandoned Pickle Factory where all the guests (or suspects if you will) have been gathered. So who is on the 'guest' list? Some of the biggest young adult authors around right now. Fortunately, the list includes some of my favorites: John Green, Lauren Myracle, Jordan Sonnenblick, Mo Willems and Gordon Korman. If you read teen books, there is probably someone you like in this book.

The entries are usually no more than a few pages, but all explain the author's relationship with the late Herman Mildew. It is funny to read author's pointing the finger at other authors (there are probably several inside jokes known only to the writers). Some deny involvement in the crime and others practically confess to it.

This is a must read for anyone who knows and loves authors of young adult books (and purchasing one will help a good cause - money goes to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging student creative writing and inspiring teachers). By the way, you must read the author bios in the back - they are amusing, too.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and Jon Scieszka's site.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Del digs graves in a cemetery. It is a solitary job and that's how he likes it. He puts on his earbuds, turns on his music and digs. It is his escape from the world that has pushed him away. He has a few friends like Marvin who never abandoned him in the worst of times and his talking parrot Fred (who's a girl). Some adults in his life say Del needs to think about his future and move on, but Del feels he will be cursed for the rest of his life for something that happened when he was 14.

This thing that happened almost four years ago has changed his whole outlook. His plans to be a veterinarian...well, now he will be lucky to be accepted to a community college. Dating...he can't even think of asking a girl out. Playing baseball, hanging out with his friends...all gone because of that night long ago. Spending time with the dead is appropriate for his life.

And then she appears. One day in the cemetery, he sees this mysterious fairy girl. Not a real fairy, just a beautiful girl who visits the cemetery. Del can only dream of ever talking to her, so he continues dig and everyday she appears. It is his parrot (who sits in a cage beside the graves Del digs) that gets the mystery girl's attention. Del knows it would be asking too much to see this girl.

The event that changed his life is slowly revealed over the story as Del struggles to reach his 18th birthday so he can...well, he has no idea what he will do. It is difficult for Del to be punished for something he didn't know was illegal. It is a scenario that is not too far fetched to be real. But do not despair - there is hope for Del.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins

First off, this isn't a horror book. There is no zombie like creature walking around without a head. It is also not a light happy-go-lucky summer read either. It is the story of a 15 year old trying to keep himself and his younger brother alive when their mother disappears.

Laurence is often the adult in his family. He gets his brother ready for school. He wakes up his mother to make sure she is ready for work. His mother is an alcoholic always on the edge of losing her job. One night she goes to work and doesn't come back.

Laurence must keep life as normal as possible without telling his brother that their mother is missing. He can't go to the police because he and his brother could get taken away. He must dodge the nosy lady downstairs who is way too interested in other people's lives. Jay has no idea where his mother went and if she will ever come back.

Laurence's one hope is to win the grand prize on the nightly radio program he keeps calling. Several nights in a row he answers the trivia questions correctly and gets closer to winning an all expense paid trip. OK, so he has to play under his deceased dad's name because he is too young to play as himself but if he could just get his mother away from their dreary lives for just awhile...when she comes back he will surprise her.

Laurence's life is one of uncertainty and daily survival. He has some distractions like his brother's obsession with Scooby-doo, his friend Han and an interesting girl named Mina, but he is still a boy who has to grow up too quickly and deal with the difficulties of life.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mojo by Tim Tharp

Why would Dylan head off to the wealthy part of town to search for a missing girl that he has never met? Good question. Dylan is tired of being a nobody that people call 'Bodybag.' He wants mojo - what better way to get it than finding a rich missing high school girl.

So let me clear a few things up. Dylan got his nickname after finding a body in a dumpster behind his school. He ended up in the dumpster after being chased by some bullies (after his friend Randy said something stupid to them). His good friend Audrey convinces him to put his investigative journalist skills to find the girl (Ashton). It won't hurt Audrey either because she is a budding photojournalist.

And the mojo thing - mojo is a magic, a little bit of something that gives a person an edge. It's kind of hard to put into words, but Dylan knows he wants it.

So off Dylan and Audrey go to the rich side of town to help search for clues in the park where Ashton was last seen. Dylan finds himself in the company of Ashton's friends, students and at a fancy private school. From that point on, every person is a suspect and no one can truly be trusted. Even though Dylan wants to be liked by these kids, he finds their behavior excessive. They have so much money that they do things just for the thrill.

I do not read a lot of mysteries, so I did not see the end coming. We follow Dylan through his analysis of evidence and questioning of suspects, and I was interested in where the clues would lead.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Confession time: I had crushes on girls when I was in high school. Big shock, huh? Did I ever tell them? A few times, but mostly I did not. I had no clue about talking to girls. But at least I didn't get totally obsessed with one like Tyler does in this story.

Tyler falls for a girl the first time he sees her in the cafeteria his freshman year. He is fixated on her and doesn't even know her name for a long time until another girl tells him. OK, two things - one, her name is Becky (not Becca); two, the girl who tells Tyler her name eventually becomes his girlfriend (and her name is Syd).

Now that might not be a complication if Tyler had gotten over Becky after he started dating Syd and if he had ever told Becky how he felt. He did neither and Syd knows it. Even Tyler's friends know how he feels. He goes through his whole time in high school and never tells Becky how he feels even after he becomes friends with her. And even when she doesn't live up to his imagined version of her, he still cannot stop his utter fascination with her.

It's a quick read with interesting characters - some you may even identify with.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Game by Barry Lyga

Before I jump into this, I will say again that Barry Lyga is one of my favorite authors. When a new book is coming out by an author that I really like, I have always have this feeling of anticipation and slight dread that the newest book will not live up to my expectations. Well, no worries this time because Mr. Lyga has once again written an incredible story.

This is the sequel to I Hunt Killers, one of my favorite books from last year. We are once again following Jazz whose father is one of the most notorious and infamous serial killers in history. Jazz is not a killer but often hears the voice of his father in his head telling him to act on his thoughts. Because his father taught him to be a serial killer, Jazz has a unique perspective and an incredible amount of knowledge about  serial killers. Gaining some fame (must read the first book for details), Jazz is asked to assist with the hunt for a killer in New York City.

So Jazz finds himself immersed in New York Police Dept procedures (some he agrees with, some not so much). He visits crime scenes and examines evidence. He even finds himself taunted by the serial killer. The question always at the base of it all is whether his dad is behind it all.

It is a complex, mesmerizing tale of darkness and depravity. Jazz and the people around him (including the ones he left back in his small hometown) are never safe.

This is not the end of the story, and I can't wait for more.

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

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

He wakes up on the floor of a train station with no memory of who he is...with only a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau at his side. It is a rude awakening to open your eyes to a strange place and be confronted by a homeless man who wants your only possession.

The young man adopts the name Hank out of necessity (and a connection he feels to Mr. Thoreau) and meets up with two other lost youth, Jack and Nessa. The meeting quickly leads to trouble with the law and causes Hank to escape the city, reluctantly leaving his two new companions behind. The only place he can think to go is Walden Pond, the very place that Thoreau wrote about. It is the only lead Hank has for discovering his true identity, so he heads off to Concord, Massachusetts.

Hank explores the town hoping to remember something. With no memories returning, Hank falls into an almost normal routine lying to protect his real story. He befriends a librarian and Thoreau expert who offers to help him. Hank also meets some other teens when he pays a visit to the high school. Hailey is one of the first people he meets, and he is instantly attracted to her.

Hank knows the bad things from the city could catch up with him - the police or the bad people he crossed could show up any minute. He also feels guilt about a sister he starts to remember. He's not sure why, but he feels he needs to save her. There are few moments in his current life when he can totally relax.

Hank needs to discover his true identity, but I almost hoped he could keep his life in Concord, too. It is a story of tension and mystery. Who is Hank? How did he end up in a New York train station. It is the search for these answers and much more that kept me reading and riveted to the last page.

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


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

I felt like I was back in my senior year with Danielle, the main character and narrator of the story. Not that my high school experience was much like hers, but there was enough that I felt connected.

We learn about Danielle through her writings - like class assignments, letters and private diary entries. Danielle is adopted and uncomfortable with the way she looks. She has very red hair and considers herself overweight. She has a major crush on Jacob, the star football player. She has a special connection with her Aunt Joyce and seeks her advice. But mostly, she is alone.

For reasons not clear at the beginning, Danielle must attend a socialization group. It is in the group that she meets Daniel who is always pushing the limits with adults including his stepfather and the groups councilor.

Danielle is dreading her class trip to England. She has been there before and loves it, but she hates the thought of spending so much time with her classmates. She knows they hate her and do not even want to be around her. She even tries to scheme her way out of it. In some respects, the trip is a turning point for Danielle's senior year which may turn out to not be so bad after all.

I enjoyed learning about Danielle and spending time with her during her senior year. I look back at my own experiences and think how unsure I was of things. I can definitely see the possibility of more stories about this amusing young woman.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Ben's new brother is a baby chimp named Zan. Ben's parents are scientists, and Zan is part of an experiment to see if chimps can learn language by signing. From the beginning, Ben is told that Zan will be treated like one of the family (with his own clothes, bed, books and toys). At first Ben is not thrilled, but he quickly bonds with Zan and becomes a trusted member of his inner circle.

Ben becomes one of Zan's main teachers and eventually is made part of the research project working alongside grad students. He takes care of Zan and plays with him as if he were his baby brother. He changes his diaper, dresses him and feeds him. They share books, hugs and tickles.

Ben's family has moved across the country to Vancouver for his dad's new job (at the only university that would give this experiment serious consideration). This means a new school and new friends. The first young people he meets attend the public school and get Ben into some trouble. The next ones are the children of his father's boss and attend a private school. Ben immediately falls for the daughter, Jennifer. Taking inspiration from the experiment, Ben starts a log of Jennifer's interests. He also records strategies for getting her to like him. Of course this is naive, but it provides one of my favorite sentences from the book: "If I could teach a chimp sign language, I could probably teach Jennifer Godwin to fall for me."

As the experiment progresses, Ben's relationship with his father is tested. While Ben grows to truly care for Zan and think of him as a brother, his father shows little interest in Zan's feelings. It is obvious that his father is not bonding with Zan and only thinks of the chimp as a specimen. Ben questions some of his father's decisions about how Zan is treated, leading to some heated discussions.

The ultimate problem in all of this is that Zan is not human. He is being raised as a human child, but cannot suppress his natural instincts. He acts out when he is frustrated. On a few occasions, he bites people. As he grows, he transforms from a cute baby to a strong, potentially fierce creature capable of seriously injuring someone. He is trapped between his life in a household of people and his inescapable chimpanzee nature.

This story is complex mix of normal teen issues and animal science. In one chapter, Ben is dealing with the thrill of kissing a girl for the first time and the next he is discussing animal rights with a grad student. His notoriety at school rises when he is in Time Magazine, but falls when he does something bad at a school dance. It's a fascinating story where you root for Zan and Ben to find what is best for them.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Sin-Eaters Confession by Lisa J. Bick

Ben has made some bad decisions. For his whole life, he has done what is expected of him. He gets good grades and volunteers at the local emergency room. Ben's mother hopes that he will go to Yale and medical school. She has been 'guiding' him in that direction for a long time. His dad, a police officer, is more laid back about it.

When a family loses their oldest son in a car accident, Ben's follows his dad's suggestion and helps out on their diary farm. He and the younger son, Jimmy, spend hours milking cows and bailing hay. Ben feels like an older brother to Jimmy and likes hanging out with him. It is during a hot day of work that Jimmy secretly snaps a photo of Ben napping shirtless in the hay. Jimmy enters the photo in a contest and the it is published in a national magazine. The photo has a sensual quality to it that leads people to assume that Ben and Jimmy are gay. Jimmy's ultra-religious father is furious at him. He orders Ben to stay away from Jimmy and never come back to the farm.

Ben is not happy either. He is the subject of rumors and begins to question his own sexuality. He decides to confront Jimmy to ask what he was thinking. At the meeting at the coffee shop connected to his parent's church, Jimmy pleads for Ben's help. He sees photography as his only escape from his parents. A request to meet again leads Ben back to the shop the following evening only to see Jimmy get into a car with strangers and drive off.

At this point, Ben starts making the bad decisions. He witnesses a horrific crime and offers no help, not even calling the police or his dad. Ben is trapped by his own guilt. He fears getting caught by the authorities, but cannot bring himself to come clean about what he knows.

Even though I wanted Ben to do the right thing, I was mesmerized by his continual struggle as events unfolded. There was a situation where I was pleading for Ben to stop what he was doing, but I as unsure as he was at that point and I wasn't totally convinced he was wrong.

This is gut wrenching story of a life changed by one night and a choice to not do the right thing. It's messy and ambiguous at times . Ben's struggle is one I will remember for a long time.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's website.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lemonade Mouth: Pucker Up by Mark Peter Hughes

This book is a sequel to Lemonade Mouth (made into a Disney Channel movie - no, I did not see it). It has been a long time since I read the first one, and I had forgotten much of the story. I remembered liking the tale of some high school students who make an unlikely music group. I know there was something about a protest involving drinks allowed in school, too.

We pick up the group's story as the band members (and others involved) recount the eventful summer after the previous book. The band is made up of some unusual instruments (trumpet and ukelele, to name two). Following a local concert, the group is approached by the manager of several successful rock performers and are told he wants to make them superstars. It's a rocky road for our group who are new to the world of big time entertainment. As much as they want to be successful and have their music heard, they do not always agree with the decisions made for their career. Being true to themselves is important, so they are often at odds with what they are being asked to  do.

In addition to all the band activities, the members are also dealing with typical teen issues: relationships, parents, summer jobs. Generally, the issues are not too serious (compared to other teen books). These young people are always striving to do the right thing and stand up for what they believe. It is nice to read a book that is lighter in tone and does not get graphic and too serious.

If you are going to read this, you should start with the first one.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a solemn, yet hopeful, story of a freshman girl named Melinda withdrawing into herself. Speaking is just too difficult sometimes. Remaining silent puzzles and frustrates her parents and teachers, but it is easier for Melinda than telling the truth.

She has never told anyone what happened at the end of the summer party. All that anyone remembers is that Melinda called the police and busted up the party. Now, even her former friends hate her.

Melinda finds some companionship in a new girl who knows nothing about the summer party, but Melinda just cannot be excited about the same things. She really finds school a bore. The only thing that interests her is art class and even it is sometimes an exercise in frustration.

There are moments of terror, too - when he is around (the one she calls IT). Just the sight of him would be bad enough, but when he speaks to her and even touches her it is too much to bear.

Her grades are awful and getting worse; she starts skipping classes; her parents do not understand what is happening and she can't tell them. She could just coast through her life, but when her ex-best friend starts dating IT can she really remain silent? It is one of many tough situations for Melinda.

I'm still asking myself why it took me so long to read this book. It is one of those landmark books that I have known about for a long time, but I never picked up. I'm glad I finally did.

For more info about this book, check out the Westfield Washington Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid is not having a happy life. She moved from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania. Just try to be different when everyone wants to know  your private business.

Not that her family is much better. Her mom, a work from home workaholic is constantly telling Astrid what she should do and is obsessed with whether Astrid has a boyfriend. She has the audacity to befriend Astrid's best friend Kristina who she chats with often. Astrid's dad secretly smokes pot when he is not at his low level office job. Her younger sister can do no wrong in her mother's eyes.

And so Astrid hangs out with her friends Kristina and Justin who are the perfect high school couple - at least in appearance. They are both actually gay and dating other people. The small minded people of their little town would never forgive them if the secret was revealed.

Astrid knows this and is scared about her own secret - she is extremely attracted to her co-worker, Dee. Astrid's never been attracted to another girl before, so she's not sure she is gay or not. Dee is gay and out to everyone and wants more from Astrid than she is ready for.

Astrid is truly confused by all that is going on around her and all the people telling her what to do. Her only escape is to her backyard picnic table where she lays on her back and looks at the sky. She sends love to the people traveling overhead in passing airplanes. Like the author's other book, Everybody Sees the Ants, this bends reality just a bit. In this case, the passengers receive the love.

Astrid's story is about more than questioning her sexuality or coming out to her parents. Astrid is struggling with many issues. Astrid's story is all too familiar to teens who trying to deal with classmates, friends, siblings, parents and even themselves in world that sometimes seems totally against them.

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August has a severe facial deformity caused by a rare genetic disorder. It is the first thing most people know about him. To many, it is what defines him. If you get to know him, you would find he is a smart and funny ten year old who loves Star Wars.

This story revolves around August's appearance because no matter what kind of person he is, it always seems to come back to his face. August is getting ready to go to school for the first time. Due to many surgeries and related health issues, August has been home schooled. His parents disagree on whether he should attend school. August has no doubt that he does not want to go to school. A visit with the principal and some other students eases his mind a little. With mixed emotions, August heads off to his first day of school.

Yes, there are the usual stares, looks of shock, and whispering. August has grow used to it. But over time, a growing cruel movement happens.   It spreads like a disease through a good part of August's class. There are no words to explain the nasty behavior we inflict upon each other for no justifiable reason. Each day is a test of August's resolve.

Not everyone is against August. Summer sits with him at lunch from day one. Jack is cool, but August worries that he is only friendly because the principal told him to be. There are times when August feels almost like any other average kid.

If this story were only told by August, it might not have the impact that it does, but we also hear from others including his teen sister, her new boyfriend and her former friend who has known August her whole life. The different viewpoints always come back to the effect August has on them. We know what is going on in the minds of August's fellow students even when he does not.

It is heart wrenching enough to think about an innocent child who is burdened with something beyond his control. It is another to live in the life of that boy, to know his thoughts, to hear what others are saying and not saying, to know that he is fully aware of how others perceive him. To understand, you must read this book.

Generally speaking, this book is aimed at older elementary age and early middle school kids, but it is too amazing to restrict to just them. I recommend this one for teens and adults, too.

For more info about this book, check out the Westfield Washington Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz

A gun goes off in the cafeteria. Everyone runs - except Colin. He has been carefully observing everyone. It's one of the things Colin does that he can't help. He observes and records his observations in his notebook. Colin can't help it. He really can't. He observes, records and analyzes. He is like his hero, Sherlock Holmes.

It's Colin's condition that sets him apart from others and causes him to investigate. He doesn't like to be touched. He doesn't socialize. He carries a sheet with facial expressions so he can recognize them on other people. His own younger brother doesn't understand (and is often annoyed) at Colin and his condition.

But that day in the cafeteria, things change for Colin. He knows that Wayne (the kid who has bullied Colin since elementary school) did not fire the gun, but can he prove it? The principal tells Colin to leave it to the police, but he will not, cannot, stop searching for the real perpetrator.

He enlists the help of Wayne who can't figure out why Colin wants to clear his name. Colin's answer - he wants to find the truth. Oddly, Colin begins to do things he has never done like lie to his parents. Colin doesn't behave like a typical teen, but he begins to feel more like one.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Flash Point by Nancy Kress

When I first picked this up, I thought it was going to be lots of action sequence where teens are trying to 'survive' different games for a television show. It turned out to be much more than that.

We meet Amy in a world after the Collapse that cause a melt down of the economy. Many things have changed as a result - like 16 years old being the legal age. In search of a job so she can support her ailing grandmother (a scientist who lost her job) and younger sister (a gorgeous 15 year old with a penchant for shoplifting), Amy applies for a position with a television station. Thinking it is a job behind the scenes, she is surprised to learn that she will be on a reality show where viewers can win money by predicting how the teens will behave in created scenarios. The money and medical benefits for her grandmother are too good to turn down (not to mention the contract Amy already signed).

Amy finds herself (along with 5 others) in partially computer generated scenarios that can happen anytime and anywhere. Some are innocuous, but as stakes get higher (and ratings become worrisome) the scenarios take a darker turn. The person is in charge of the show, Myra, has no problem exploiting her new television stars. The television station is also purchased by a controversial company that draws protesters and serious threats to Amy and the others.

And speaking of the others...there is Cai, a really hot guy who Amy is immediately drawn to; Waverly, a beautiful and rich aspiring actress who seems only concerned about herself; Rafe, a geeky nice guy; Violet, a dancer who is friendly to Amy; Tommy, the one who shouldn't be there at all due to his decreased mental capacity; and Lynn, a mostly forgettable person (for reasons I cannot give away). Just for a bonus - there is Kaylie, Amy's younger sister, who is more than willing to draw any attention to herself and fight with her sister.

A lot happens in this story - perhaps too much sometimes. Still, it is fascinating to wonder where this society is going, where the television show is going, and where these characters' lives are going.

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Swear by Lane Davis

Leslie is dead. She was a beautiful, smart, nice high school senior, and she took her own life. And the questions linger: why did she do it and is someone responsible?

Leslie was the new girl in school her freshman year. She immediately caught the attention of Macie who didn't like her because Leslie seemed to be getting too close Jake (who she met the summer before).  Macie assumed Jake would be hers. The bullying began right away turning Leslie's friends against her. All through high school, Leslie was tormented, isolating her from others. Words on her locker, rumors, Facebook posts were all used against her. 

Macie is the daughter of a successful politician and wields her own power and charisma to manipulate her world and the people around her. Jake never bought in to it and continued to hang out with Leslie hoping for a deeper relationship.   

When the hammer falls, Macie's friends find themselves giving depositions in front of lawyers. Will their families be sued or will criminal charges be brought against them. Katherine is the beauty pageant participant who is fairly new to the school, but was immediately sucked into Macie's circle. Beth is the petite successful gymnast who has her own secret she wants to keep . Jillian is Jake's twin and was once Leslie's friend.  

Fear, peer pressure, insecurity all play a role in the bullying of Leslie. There are no easy answers in this story.  Even with the flaws revealed in the teens, there is hope that they will learn and be better for it.                                                                                                     

For more information, check out the Evergreen library catalog