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.