Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hit by Melvin Burgess

This pill will kill you. You live the ultimate high for seven days and then you die. Why would anyone take such a drug? It enhances your physical and mental strength. If your life is already a mess, you could have one last grab at glory, mark off as many items on your bucket list as possible and go out on top. Of course, you could also do something illegal, get arrested, be denied bail and die alone in a jail cell.

The setting is what I will call an economic dystopia. Conditions in England are so bad that society is on the verge of a revolution. Manchester is the epicenter of the movement to overthrow the current government and the location where the pill Death is manufactured.

Adam and (his hopefully girlfriend) Lizzie are right in the middle of it all as the first big riot by the Zealots happens. They are there when city hall is taken. It is exciting to have so much hope and change on the horizon.

Adam's life is good until...he pushes Lizzie too fast in their relationship and his brother Jess is declared dead. Suddenly, taking the pill doesn't seem like such a stupid idea. He could make lots of money to help his parents, make up with Lizzie, do something for the revolution, maybe even kill somebody who deserves it (and have sex, of course). It's amazing what someone can accomplish with an extra boost and the ultimate deadline.

This story went places I was not anticipating when I first chose this book. There is the drug kingpin and his psycho son who causes much trouble for all the main characters (theft, violence, kidnapping - you know typical gangster stuff). The oncoming revolution is always happening (mostly in the background). It is a dark and nasty world, but worth a brief visit.

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Suicide by car - that's how Liz Emerson chose to kill herself. That way it would look like an accident. Why make it more difficult for the people left behind?

This was not a spur of the moment decision. Liz had thought about it. She knew where she would drive her car off the road. She gave herself a week for some sign that would stop her -some reason that would show her why she shouldn't do it. But nothing happened - life at school and home went on as usual.

Why would a popular girl like Liz Emerson want to kill herself? That is what this story is all about. Liz's life is revealed to us through multiple flashbacks - weeks before the 'accident' and the minutes leading up to it. We also live in the present as Liz's friends find out about it and wait at the hospital with other students.

Among the waiting are Liz's friends: Kennie, who was recently pregnant, and Julia, a good student who is more than just a casual drug user. There is also Liam, who is not really friends with Liz, but has crossed her path more than once.

We learn of Liz's rise to popularity and cultivation of close friends. We see her dating history with a popular football player who she doesn't even like anymore (though they are still together). We also learn of the people Liz hurt along the way (including those close friends). Liz begins to realize that she has been so cruel that she doesn't even know who she is anymore.

It is a enlightening journey for us and Liz as we see how vulnerable she truly is on the inside and how little she thinks of herself. Does she live? Does she die? Somethings are best discovered on your own.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's twitter feed.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

I have no idea how A.S. King comes up with her ideas. Her characters are so different from anything I could ever think up and they live in such unique circumstances (that are often somber). And the things they think and do are so intriguing. For all these reasons and more, she is one of my favorite authors.

So much to say about Glory's life. Let's start with her mother who committed suicide by sticking her head in the oven when Glory was only 4. Her mom was talented photographer with a deep interest in the process of developing pictures. Glory takes picture, too, and aspires to be like her mother.

Glory lives with her father in the same house where the suicide occurred (the stove is gone and never replaced). He was an artist who now spends his time sitting on the couch doing tech support from his laptop. He does not talk about Darla (Glory's mom) and has left Glory with a lot of unanswered questions.

Across from their house, there is a commune where Glory's best friend, Ellie lives. Ellie's mom, Jasmine, runs the commune. Ellie stopped going to school a long time ago and will not be graduating with Glory in a few days. Glory wonders if their friendship should continue. Pretty normal stuff so far...

I will not elaborate how, but Glory and Ellie do something that allows them to see a person's past and future when looking at their face. Not just the person, but generations in the past and future.Glory sees what is going to happen to people and society in the not too distant future, and it isn't pretty (if its even real).

Glory's life is in transition as she is graduating. She wonders about her mother, discovering more about her through things left behind in her dark room. She questions her relationship with Ellie. She writes down her visions of the future. She wonders where she fits in the world. It's confusing enough for any teen without having to see the future of mankind.

Another good one from this author who bends reality just enough to make things interesting.

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

Charlie is one of the smart ones. He attends Bright School of Mathematics and Science. His dream is to go to MIT (even though he hasn't sent in the early admission forms yet). Charlie is tall and lanky with blonde hair. When it comes to girls, he has always been awkward. Now, it is his senior year and he is ready to concentrate on school work and not worry about girls until...OK, like you didn't see this coming...he meets Charlotte.

Charlie has never seen Charlotte before the day he touches the infinity tattoo on the back of her neck while waiting in line to get donuts. Not the smartest thing to do, but they briefly speake and it is kind of flirty. Charlie's brain usually so full of equations and theorems is very distracted by this girl with the tattoo.

One thing that can help keep his mind on something else is the new English teacher. Being science minded, none of the Brighton students like the idea of reading poetry and literature. So each year it becomes a game to torment the new teacher until her/she leaves. This has been very successful, but this year's teacher, Ms. Finch, is on to them and openly welcomes the challenge. Charlie is at first reluctant to participate but circumstances make him the leader of all the pranks.

It might have been easier for Charlie to forget Charlotte until he finds her in his kitchen one day. It turns out she has become his sister Becca's new (and only) friend (Charlie isn't the only socially awkward person in his house). So there is Charlotte in his house everyday after school, sleeping over, hanging out on weekends. She practically lives there!

It is whole new world for Charlie. With encouragement of his friends, Greta and James (and once he actually tells them about her), Charlie decides that maybe getting to know Charlotte would be a good thing. Even being distracted by her has lead to new discoveries (I'm not going to go into the details about Charlie driving off the road into an old lady's prized flower garden and what happens as a result).

It's a nice story of young awkward love and the potential for everything.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

Why can't we all just be who we are? I have spent too much of my life worrying about what other people think of me. It takes a lot of energy to hide part of yourself from others in fear of being rejected.

Jamie is gay and has been out to his family for awhile, but not at school. Jamie is a afraid to tell his best friend Mason he is gay because it could ruin everything between them. Also, Jamie has a crush on Mason, the same guy Jamie sees kissing a girl after the prom.

So Jamie plans to take a girl to the prom (if he can figure out who) and work on the school literary magazine and maybe he will never have to tell Mason (even though next year they are going to colleges located near each other). Who is he kidding - Mason will find out and it will all be ruined.

Another problem...the girls in art class know Jamie is gay. How is that possible? He never told any of them. Even worse - they know he has a crush on Mason and think it would great for them to get together.

If that weren't enough, Jamie is also battling his fellow staff members on the inclusion of a student drawn comic in the magazine. They reject it for fear of controversy and possible loss of funds, but Jamie feels strongly that it should be included even if it might reveal his secret.

Never having to worry about coming out, I can only imagine the inner turmoil the decision can cause. This story is a light hearted look at the struggle a teen faces. You will find yourself hoping all turns out well for Jamie.

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

It seems as a society, we want people to be either good or bad, but people are complex and contain at least some of both. Imagine if people in your life were interviewed about you. Would it be an accurate portrayal? How well do people really know you? Does this book tell us about the real Addison Stone...we may never know, but its all we have.

Addison Stone was a hot young artist who exploded onto the New York scene when she was just 16. She quickly became a regular face at all the clubs and best parties. Her work hangs in important galleries and in the homes of the wealthy. Her stunts and public pieces helped make her famous through social media. It was during the installation of one of these that she fell to her death leaving many questions (including the whereabouts of two former boyfriends). She was 18 at the time.

We learn of Addison's life and quick rise to fame through from the people she knew (parents, best friend, teachers, benefactors, agent, artists).  The book is written as if a journalist conducted interviews and edited them to tell Addison's story. It is an effective method and makes the character seem more real. We also see photos of Addison, her friends and her art as well as magazine and newspaper articles. This is particularly helpful since the story is told through the first person accounts and lacks the description you find in the regular novel.

Addison is a small town girl who is anxious to leave and then makes good in the big city. Sadly, her issues stay with her no matter where she is living or working. We are given a few excerpts in Addison's own words, but it is difficult to know what is truly going on in her head. Genius often seems to walk a fine line between sanity and madness. Could anyone have saved Addison or was she ultimately destined to burn brightly and have a short life.

For more information, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Wow. What an ending to this trilogy. Mr. Lyga does not disappoint in this continuing tale of Jazz, son of notorious serial killer Billy Dent.

How do I talk about this without giving away too much? (Hint: I'm not going to!) Jazz, his girlfriend Connie and his best friend Howie have been separated by circumstances. Jazz is in New York seriously injured and in danger of being arrested. Connie is also in New York and has no idea what has happened to Jazz (oh, she was lured there by Jazz's dad). Howie is back in Lobo's Nod, small hometown to he and Jazz. Surprise, surprise, Howie wakes up in a hospital after a near scrape with death. Being Jazz's friend is tough business.

The story is a non stop run through violence, surprise revelations, deceptions, nail biting suspense and trips through the mind of a serial killer. As with the previous two books, it is not for the faint of heart.

What ultimately drives the story is Jazz's decision that he must be the one to stop his father. He knows how Billy thinks better than anyone. Jazz knows sacrificing himself (if need be) is better than letting Billy live to kill again.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This has been on my radar for quite some time. I heard about it at a couple of conferences I attended, but didn't think much about it. Fortunately, a young person at my library recommended it to me, and I cannot wait to tell her how much I liked it.

Once again I found myself in the pages of a book. Ari, our narrator, says things that I have thought in my own head (and even said out loud to a few people). I always pause when I hit one of those lines. It is a moment of clarity and wonder. I am always surprised that others have felt the same way that I have. But enough about me...

Ari doesn't have any friends until he meets Dante. And he questions their friendship often (for a long time). Dante is so different. He seems so sure of things and thinks about life a unique way. Dante's father is a professor; his mother a therapist. They are outgoing and friendly. Ari's dad doesn't say much; he was in Vietnam and never talks about it. His mom is a teacher and more open with Ari, but she, too, keeps things locked inside. Neither talk about Ari's older brother who is in prison.

Ari wants nothing more than to know about his brother. He was just a child when his brother was incarcerated, so he has only possible memories of him. Ari wants someone to at least acknowledge that his brother exists.

With Dante, Ari's life is more interesting and frustrating at times. They are both growing and learning about themselves as tragedies happen and events separate them.

If it seems like I am being purposely vague, that would be because I am. I don't want to give anything away in this amazing story about these boys and their complex relationship with each other and their parents.

Books fascinate me. If you read enough and you are lucky, you might find one that speaks to you on levels you never could have imagined. This is one of those books for me.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fifteen Minutes of Fame by Julie Young

MonAmi is a world famous superstar singer. She has had numerous hit songs, sold millions of albums, and toured the planet multiple times. She wears custom made clothes with dazzling makeup. Megan is a Midwestern girl who enjoys singing and writing songs. She grew up in a nice house with hard working parents and a younger sister. MonAmi and Megan are the same person, but few people know it.

Megan lives a double life as her career is carefully managed and promoted. All goes as planned because from the time she begins her career at 15 Megan becomes one of the most successful singers ever. But through it all, Megan misses her family and feels the stress of keeping her success alive with an ever fickle public and of meeting the demands of the record company who has invested to much in her success to let her fail.

We begin our story with Megan running away at the end of MonAmi's farewell tour. She just disappears not even telling her long time (and mostly trusted) manager, Mike. Her rise to fame has been stressful - working hours writing and recording, doing tours that always have to top the last one, making appearances at award shows on the arm of some famous actor she doesn't even know. And through it all, she cannot tell the world who she really is.

Megan was just the person the record company was looking for when they 'discovered' through a scholarship application. After her reluctant parents were convinced that this was an opportunity to good to pass up, Megan was whisked away to Europe for months to make her transformation into MonAmi. She was given the new name, a new look (to hide her true face) and a vague history (along with a somewhat European accent).

As the runaway, Megan recounts her story for us while she decides what her next move will be. Megan is a great character that is living the dream, but finds that even dreams can have a darkness to them. It is an intriguing look into the music business and the 'manufactured' star as well as our culture of instant celebrity.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Is there a better way to make a book popular than by making it hard to get? Three friends in a small Connecticut town do not think so. The summer before they start high school, they decide that the only book from their summer reading list that anyone should read is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

It seems like a crazy notion at first (even to them), but Lucy, Michael and Elena love books and want to pay tribute to their favorite teacher, Fat Bob, who died unexpectedly during school the past year.

So how does one make a classic book that can be found in any library or bookstore disappear? They can't steal them. Breaking the law is not an option. They decide to hide them among books in other sections of the stores and libraries. They are committed to the cause, taking the bus to as many surrounding stores and libraries as possible. Wanting people to know it is being done, they leave fliers in place of the missing books and become a presence on all the major social media outlets. Keeping their identities secret is a must.

They never meant to start a movement, but books start disappearing all over the country (ah, the power of the internet). What is driving people to participate and how can our trio stop it before it gets truly out of hand and their secret is revealed?

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Perfected by Kate Jarvick Birch

Ella is a loyal pet to a wealthy congressman's family. She was bred in an elite kennel to bring happiness to her family who chose her specifically. She will be well taken care of in her new role as companion to Ruby, the youngest member of the family. Oh, Ella is human being.

It is not explained how the United States reached the point where genetically bred humans can be pets (to those who can afford them). We know the congressman was behind the legislation and feels obligate (so he says) to have one. He is always proud to show Ella off to important people.

Ella is our narrator and expresses her naivete about the real world (so many things were never explained in her proper education). Although she can play the piano exquisitely, she knows nothing of swimming, candy and romantic attraction. Being 16, it is only natural that she would have feelings toward, Penn, the congressman's son. She is, after all, only human.

Yes, owning humans is wrong. Keeping them as pets raises a whole myriad of questions - like what happens when they get older? What if there is a sexual attraction? And what if it is acted on? This story does not delve too deeply into these issues - just enough to raise the questions on how we view the value of individual freedom and how we treat others (including our animal pets).

For awhile, Ella seems content, but maybe she just doesn't know any better.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Here we go...another teen book set in a Revolutionary War reenactment tourist destination. I mean, really, how many of these can you read? OK, just kidding. I actually chose this one because it was different. I like the idea of modern teens dealing with their usual issues but having to exist in another historical period.

Chelsea has spent every summer in Essex, where it is always 1774 and the colonies are on the cusp of the Revolutionary War. Her parents are reenactors, too. Her dad is a big time history buff (it's pretty much all he talks about) and works as the silversmith in the village. Chelsea (colonial name Elizabeth Connelly) has always worked in the silversmith's shop playing the (surprise!) daughter of her parents, but this year she requested a change and will be in the graveyard.

So you might think that working in a historic village answering questions, telling stories of George Washington and posing for pictures would make for a nice summer job. Not for Chelsea. Her best friend, Fiona, is working at Essex for the first time (although not in the same area), but so is her ex-boyfriend Ezra. Yes, she is over him...mostly...ok, not really. Even bigger is the war being waged with the Civil War reenactment place right across the street. The adults must never found out about the war even when the 'pranks' lead to injury and vandalism.

Maybe Chelsea should have worked at the mall like she planned.

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Lane thinks she could be a serial killer. Not that she's ever killed anybody, but she knows how to do it. She has been fascinated with serial killers since she was 11 years old. She has a notebook with her findings - she keeps it a secret because she knows her interest could be misunderstood.

To help quell her urges, she decides to become a vigilante bringing justice to those who have hurt others and have gotten away with it. Donning a ski mask, dark clothes and carefully chosen supplies, Lane stakes out a rapist who was acquitted in a trial she witnessed (oh, Lane sometimes hangs in court to watch interesting trials). She doesn't know what she will do to the rapist, but she plans to show him no mercy.

Her dream is to catch the serial killer ("The Decapitator") that her FBI agent mother is hunting. Having two parents (her stepdad included) working for the Bureau is great for Lane. She sneaks a look at her mother's files to have an inside view of the case.

The more Lane digs (with the help of a long distance friend) the more the killer seems closely connected to her. When the killer contacts her personally, even Lane, the girl who methodically examines crime scene photos and police files, is creeped out. Will she become a victim, too, or is the killer just toying with her?

Lane's mystery is our mystery, too. Many suspects and many questions arise as Lane travels some dangerous ground - sometimes for the thrill, sometimes for justice, sometimes for knowledge but always with danger lurking close by.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

This an early book by one of my favorite authors. It was written before I discovered her. Like her other books, this one blends a realistic setting with just a slight bit of fantasy. I don't mean elves or magic, but an element of the unreal going on in the life of Vera Dietz.

Vera's best friend Charlie died - as she says, she lost him twice: first as a friend and then for real. We learn all the details as the story progresses (with flashbacks thrown in to help). We also hear from Vera's single dad (whose wife left both of them when Vera was twelve), Charlie (speaking from beyond the grave) and the town's landmark pagoda (yes, it is quirky).

Vera just wants to be ignored. She lives in fear that someone will find out her secret - her mom used to be a stripper. The fact that her mother moved away years ago doesn't matter. The people Charlie calls detentionheads would make her life hell if they knew.

So Vera goes to school and works nights delivering pizzas. Other than Charlie, who lives next door, she has no friends and no extra activities. Her dad has insisted that she have a job since she has been legally able to do so. He wants her to learn responsibility, so she won't become an alcoholic or turn out like her mother. Ya, he makes Vera's life a lot of fun. Thankfully, he doesn't know that Vera is not always follow his wishes.

Vera gets mixed messages from her father. Be responsible, but ignores the fact that Charlie's father abuses his mother. Everyone has their own issues, but are not necessarily dealing with them in the healthiest way.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincey and Biddy have just graduated high school and are heading out on their own...sort of. Both are special ed students who are not able to live on their own, so they are picked to live together (an idea Quincey is not too happy about).

Arrangements have been made for them to live in an apartment over a garage on the property of a wealthy elderly lady named Miss Lizzy. Biddy will clean house for Miss Lizzy, and Quincey will work at a bakery. Both will be earning their own money for the first time in their lives.

Up to this point, their lives have been horrific. Biddy lived with her grandmother who called her retarded and generally treated her with contempt. Quincey was a foster kid, taken from her parents after she was hit in the head (causing her to be a special ed student). To say that both girls were poor would be an understatement.

This chance for a new beginning does not come easy for either young woman. Quincey is suspicious of people and readily snaps at everyone even when they are trying to be helpful. Biddy is scared of boys and worried that people will find out her secret. They both fear that Miss Lizzy will kick them out when she realizes they are nothing special to anyone.

This is often a sad and dark story told from each girl's point of view. Even though they have their secrets and limitations (for example, Biddy cannot read or write), they have talents and worth and now have the chance to prove it.

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

One of the things I enjoy about reading is finding a unique character that I would never encounter in real life. Amber Appleton is one of those characters. She is smart, funny and a bit pushy at times, but ultimately concerned about others. She spends her time outside of school with creative activities. For example, she attends a Korean Catholic church in an old store front. Once a week, she goes there to teach the Korean ladies (aka the Korean Divas for Christ) better English by having them sing songs by the R&B group the Supremes. And, yes, she shares the story how that all came about.

When we first meet Amber, she is living with her mother and dog in the school bus her mother drives. It is all against the rules, of course, but they have nowhere else to go. Amber's mom drinks too much and has had a string of too many worthless boyfriends to make any kind of successful life for her and her daughter.

Amber makes her way with the amazing people in her life. She met her outcast friends (The Five) in an elementary school special needs class and stills hangs with them in a marketing club led by the coolest teacher, Mr. Franks. One of the Five, Ricky, has a lawyer mother named Donna who Amber idolizes and sometimes wishes was her own mother.  The residents of the Methodist Retirement Home who she visits once a week to help keep their spirits up. Father Chee, the priest of the previously mentioned church. And Private Jackson, a secluded Vietnam veteran.

There is a chapter where Amber explains how she meets Private Jackson that is amazing. It could almost stand on its own as a really short story. When I finished it, I could only think how remarkable it was.

Amber faces (and hides) from tragedy. She questions the point of it all and her own worth in such a difficult world. She is a fascinating character.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

Gabriela receives the red letter. The one sent by Death to tell you when you will be taken. You see, Gabriela's world in not exactly like ours. Most people just die, but a few are escorted by Death into the afterlife. Anyone who receives the letter, responds with a wrap-up list of all the things they hope to achieve in their remaining time. It's not always possible to accomplish everything, but Death can help make things happen.

Gabriela is only 16 when she receives her letter. She is devastated. She has three good friends, Sarena, Raahi and Iris. They are a close group with much to look forward to (even with the impending war). Now, Gabriela has a week left, and she hasn't even kissed a boy.

All hope is not lost because sometimes (rarely) Death will pardon you if you can guess his secret weakness. Gabriela's Death is named Hercule, and his clues about his weakness are not much help. Iris is fascinated by these departures and has studied all the different Deaths. Maybe she can help Gabriela find the weakness.

Gabriela's life is filled with school, football games, friends, church, her parents who seem to bicker a lot and stories of her hero grandfather Gonzalo who died in World War II. Even with the coming war that causes a reinstatement of the draft, her life is full of hope. Can she get everything on her wrap-up list and stop death from taking her?

One thing that struck me about this story is how Gabriela spends her final week just being normal. She does work with Iris trying to find Hercule's weakness. She does speak to her priest. But generally, she spends time with her family and friends. At first, I thought if I was in this position I would want to go places and cram as much of my wish list into those remaining days, but I've changed my mind. Normal would be a good way to leave things.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

Here's another fun venture into reality television. I must also warn you - toxic parents ahead. How else can you explain people who would put their overweight daughter through a humiliating ordeal where she must lose 50 pounds in 50 days on national television. Oh, and she gets weighed live on the air every week.

Emery knows she's 'fat.' She is not like her cheerleading, perfect bodied sister, Angel, or her former NBA player father or her nutrition obsessed over-botoxed mother. Yes, Emery likes to eat, but her body shape does not define who she is. She is smart. She has a kind boyfriend who loves and accepts her for who she is.

Enter the chance of a lifetime for her family - Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show that promises a million dollars to Emery's family if she can lose 50 pounds. Her father is all for it (turns out money is a little tight); her mom is for it (she wants Emery to not be fat anymore); and her sister is for it, too (she wants to be famous and sees this is her opportunity). Yes, it's really all about Emery and her health.

Being a reality show, there is much exploitation going on. Scenes are manipulated. Cameras are everywhere to capture every moment (including Emery's therapy sessions). 'Freedom' products are sold (all advertised through Emery's new Twitter account that she has no control over). It's all (supposedly) in the name of helping Emery and others like her.

Emery is better that all of it and finds some truths a midst all the 'reality.'

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

I know your secret, and I am going to tell everyone unless you do exactly what I say. How far would you be willing to go to keep your secret - the one you want no one to ever find out?

Eric receives a call from a strange voice telling him that his secret will be revealed unless he follows the instructions. What does the voice want? Eric must bully Connor, a kid he doesn't even know. All the directions are specific including the day that Eric is supposed to dump mac & cheese on Connor's head in the school cafeteria during lunch. Eric is not a bully, but how can he risk the humiliation of having his secret revealed to the world.

Shelly gets the call, too. She must bully a girl in her school the same way. She goes to a different school than Eric and doesn't even know him until they meet in a anti-bullying class they are required to take after they follow the voice's instructions. Their loud discussion is overheard by a third person who also received the call.

Together, they decide (although with some reluctance) to find out the identity of the caller and stop him/her before it is too late. Suspense builds as the mac & cheese deadline approaches. We, as readers, are asking the same questions as the three: who is the caller; why are they being targeted; why were their victims chosen? We also want to know what the secrets are? How bad can they be?

It's a suspenseful, quick read.

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tune Book 1: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim

Andy is tired of art school, so he quits to get a real art job. Why spend more time in school when he knows enough to work at a magazine or some other publication? Well, that works out. So after two months of sitting on his parents couch watching TV, his father gives him an ultimatum: find a job in seven days or move out.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so he searches the want ads. On the seventh day he accepts a job that requires no qualifications and will pay a bunch of money. Sounds good...perhaps too good. The job will require Andy to be far away from his parents and friends for a year (but on the weekends he can return home). So, still doesn't sound too bad. Andy will be a zoo exhibit for beings in another dimension. Ya, bad.

Within a full scale replica of his house, Andy must live in captivity for the amusement and education of seemingly emotionless creatures. And the worst part is that he cannot see the love of his life, Yumi. Does she like him the same way? It doesn't matter. He cannot bear the thought of spending so much time away from her.

This manga inspired graphic novel is a the first part of a series. If you are ready for a little dimensional travel with a guy who doesn't have his life together, then check this one out. I have already read part 2 and things get even stranger for Andy.  

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Another book with a reality show in it. I swear I'm not looking for them - I just keep coming across them and thinking they sound interesting. In this case, four students are frustrated by how much the show has invaded their school.

Luke is fed up with For Art's Sake, a show that a pits a select few Selwyn Academy (a prestigious arts school) students against each other for the prize of a scholarship. Each week, the show ends with a competition where the contestants perform in their chosen medium (dance, drama, music).

Jackson, Elizabeth and Ethan (our narrator) follow their friend Luke into a plot to discredit the show and demonstrate how it has nothing to do with creating art and everything to do with making money. They suspect the school administration is benefiting financially at the cost of school's prestigious reputation.

In addition to the financial issues, they hope to bring to light other problems with the show. Luke decides to write a satirical, biting long poem that the group distributes in an underground publication (called the Contracantos) designed by Elizabeth that also includes Ethan's drawings. They also investigate the possibility that the show is scripted. Hopefully, someone will listen to them.

On top of the fact that their plans seem to get them nowhere, Ethan has a crush on Maura, the star of the show. As part of their scheme, he does get to talk to her, and in the process discovers she is being used by the show's producers. They are taking advantage of the fact that she is willing to do whatever it takes to be a successful professional dancer. How do you take down a show without killing the dreams of your classmates?

Poet Ezra Pound is a central part of this story. Introduced in their English class, his work inspires them. I mention this because within the pages of this story you will find a poem that perplexed me when I read it in high school. I mean no disrespect to poetry lovers, but this one was just not for me. I include it here in its entirety:
                        The apparations of these faces in the crowd;
                        Petals on a wet, black bough. 

Imagine my shock when I saw this poem after all these years. I was mostly confused by its brevity, but I will say I have never forgotten it.

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

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

If you were going to die, would you take the opportunity to do things you might not normally do...like take revenge on people that have been cruel to you or tell your best friend that you feel the same way about him that he does about you. With nothing to lose, Alice did those things and more but must deal with the consequences when her cancer goes into remission.

Harvey loves Alice. He knows exactly how he feels, but she's never expressed her true feelings for him no matter what they may be. After she stopped ballet dancing her freshman year, Alice starting dating Luke (one of the people on her revenge list) and no longer spent time with Harvey. But that was before the cancer. After, Harvey became the person she depended on to help her complete her 'bucket' list and give her what will be her last nice memories.

This book could have easily been a book about Alice's revenge, but is deeper than that. This is a before and after tale - actually a before, during and after cancer story. Told in 'before' and 'then' chapters from Alice and Harvey's points of view, we have insight to their motives and feelings. It really is about these two young people dealing with whirlwind of emotions and all their relationships with each other and the people in their lives.

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Benefactor by Erin Fry

I don't really watch reality shows, but it is impossible not to know about them and know how they are work. With this story, we get a behind the scenes look at a show that pits eight high school students against each other for a chance to win a scholarship to one of the top schools in the country.

So you know the set up - contestants live in a house together (in this case, boys and girls in separate houses) and compete in a series of tasks after which someone is sent home.

We follow each contestant and the shows creator through its first season. The four boys and four girls each have a compelling reason for wanting the scholarship. For example, Tyrell hurt himself playing football. We know what contestants are thinking and how they are playing the game. We also know that creator (who is unknown to the public) has doubts and struggles he must deal with also.

This story could have been filled with cliche student characters (the jock, the brainy kid, the rebel - think The Breakfast Club), but the teens are more complex which is quite a feat for a relatively short book with so many characters.

I've read a few books recently with reality shows as a part of the story. They usually address how being on the show has messed up the participants. This one has a more positive take on the contestants and its creator. As with actual reality shows, the suspense comes with the question of who will survive to the end. Who will make a mistake and get kicked off? Knowing the characters back stories make the questions all the more compelling. This is a fun quick read with some interesting characters and is probably better than any actual reality show.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

So they froze Travis' head in the most scientific way possible. No, really, they cut off his head to save his life and then reattached it to someone else's body. Let me back up: Travis had cancer. He did everything possible, but nothing worked. So his parents agreed to a radical solution - remove Travis's head until science caught up and a donor body became available. No one knew at the time that it would only take five years.

For Travis, it is like waking up from a nap where no time passed. In reality, no one really expected Travis to return - at least not so soon. His parents went through the mourning process. His only real friend, Kyle, graduated from high school is off at college. His girlfriend Cate is now engaged.

This is not a science fiction story with some creepy head transplanted creature walking around. Nor is it a wacky comedy. It is actually a serious story (with humor) studying what happens when a young man is left behind by the entire world. Five years have passed and he is still 16 years old. He was dead to the world, and then he came back.

Travis cannot accept that his girlfriend is engaged. To him, they just said goodbye, but Cate has had five years to graduate from high school, go to college and meet someone new. She accepted Travis' 'death,' and moved on. Getting her back becomes his obsession and ultimately the focus for how his life has changed (whether he likes it nor not).

I hope people are not put off by what might seem to be a silly premise. This is a unique story of mourning and rediscovery.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library and the author's site.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

If you were branded a violent person, would that make you one? If everyone treated you like you were a killer and then you were put into situations where you had to defend yourself, would you kill to survive and, thus, confirm everyone's suspicions about you? It is an interesting scenario to contemplate. For Davey, it is her life.

Davey had everything. She is a musical prodigy - playing multiple instruments at a young age with no formal training. She attends an exclusive private school and has been accepted to Julliard. She is dating, Jake, the hottest boy in school.

A few weeks before graduation she receives the test results - she has the 'killer gene.' A carrier of the gene is supposedly predisposed to violence. In a society that takes no chances with carriers, Davey is expelled from school, loses her admission to college and is forced into public school where she must be locked up in a classroom (aka a cage) with other carriers. Once you are marked, you are marked for life. And her life will never be the same.

With her future taken from her, what will become of Davey? She always feared carriers herself and now that she is one she must spend time confined with others. Some deserve the label, but others do not: like Gil, a smart boy who doesn't seem like he would hurt anyone and the the mysterious Sean, who protects Davey when situations arise. They may be her only allies in her new life.

This is one of the best books I have read so far this year.  The story is full of heart wrenching unfairness and action driven suspense. It is a world that does not seem that far from our own. And this is not just another copycat dystopian book with a strong female protagonist. Davey must fight for her survival, but has a great vulnerability, too. She is not trying to save the world, just herself, and her story doesn't end here.

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Four teens who don't know each other meet for the first time to go on a road trip. What brings them together? Suicide.

Owen, Frank, Audrey and Jin-Ae all want to die. They met online and decide to travel from the east coast to visit the graves of famous people who committed suicide (like to Seattle for Kurt Cobain). Their final destination is Death Valley where they will each end their own lives.

Jin-Ae is a lesbian, but she fears her parents reaction if they ever found out. Frank's father wants him to be a star athlete, but Frank will never be that. Audrey just hates her life in general.

Owen has tried committing suicide six times. He has much he could say, but he doesn't talk much.  He has researched suicide (types, causes,  pertinent stats). He knows it all; just not how to complete it.

I know it sounds pretty grim, but this is more a trip of discovery for these young people. The trip is a chance to escape from their lives and find out what life is like out in the world. Their issues are not uncommon and unmanageable. They just need to see that for themselves.

This story has much to offer so don't be turned away by the topic.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Kippy idolizes Diane Sawyer. She likes the way she investigates stories and interviews people to get to the truth. And the truth is what Kippy wants to find after her best friend Ruth is murdered; not just murdered but brutally murdered and hung in cornfield like a scarecrow.

Ruth was Kippy's best friend. They had been best friends since grade school and even as they grew older and changed, they were still there for each other. OK, Kippy was a little clingy at times, and Ruth got annoyed that Kippy didn't have a boyfriend and could dress better if she just tried, but they still hung out together. In fact, Ruth was coming over to Kippy's house the night she was killed.

The murder has caused quite a sensation in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin where the two girls live. Thankfully, Ruth's boyfriend Colt is quickly arrested by the sheriff who is convinced he has the killer...except Kippy finds out that Colt was somewhere else at the time. So why won't the sheriff listen to her? The only one who does believe her is Ruth's older brother, Davey.

It is up to Kippy and Davey to find the real killer even if it means breaking a few laws themselves. They gather evidence, question suspects (like the sleazy old lawyer Ruth was sleeping with) and stop another murder from happening...oops, make that a third murder from happening.

Kippy is driven, but not perfect. She is very likable and her heart is the right place. Even when no adults will believe her, she presses on. It is complex story with Kippy in the middle. Good stuff.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Ashleigh did something stupid. Her boyfriend, Kaleb, is headed off to college soon, but instead of being with her at the big end of the summer party he is with his baseball buddies. It's happened a lot lately and Ashleigh just wants to get his attention, so her friends talk her into texting him a nude photo of herself. He's the only one who will ever see it, right?

Several months later we find Ashleigh spending time after school doing community service for her 'crime' (did I mention she was underage?). She must research the topic of her indiscretion and write a pamphlet that will be used to dissuade others from doing the same thing she did.

Her life is kind of mess. Her best friend isn't speaking to her. Her mom is disappointed. Her dad is furious (he's the superintendent and now has parents calling for his resignation over the texting scandal). And the kids who are not straight out bullying Ashleigh are talking about her and looking at the picture.

One mistake and Ashleigh's life has totally changed. Is it fair, probably not. Is it a lesson for others, yes.

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Toxic parents. If you've read enough teen books (particularly realistic fiction), then you know the type. They do not support their children emotionally and are often only concerned about themselves. Welcome to Choe's living hell.

Chloe grew up on a reality show as Bonnie, one of 13 children on Baker's Dozen (Baker being the family's last name). Chloe is the only biological child born from her mother. Her older brother and sister are twins from a surrogate. The other children were adopted with the help of the production company, MetaReel, to achieve the magic number.

Chloe is now 17 and trying to live a normal teen life. After the show was cancelled and her parents divorced, Chloe's family moved across country so they could start fresh. She changed her name and hair color in hopes that no one will recognize her. For the past few years, she has had real friends that have no idea she is Bonnie, the girl who tried to commit suicide on national television. Yes, it was that bad for her.

Chloe and her brother Benton are surprised to come home one afternoon and find the MetaReel crew on their lawn. Chloe was promised that she would never have to do the show again . Her parents say they need the money to support the children and send her and all her siblings to college. Chloe doesn't care what the reason is; her life is about to change for the worst.

From the moment the cameras return, Chloe is in agony. The only reprieve she gets is her new boyfriend.but even that is not easy because she doesn't want him and her friends to get pulled into the show and the tabloid headlines. Dodging paparazzi, having every moment captured on camera, being edited to appear differently than you are and having your mother talk about you to the nation is too much for Chloe, but no adult will listen to her.

Most of the adults in Chloe's life are horrible. Chloe is blamed for the show's original demise and her parent's divorce. She is threatened by the show's producer. She is called names and treated like a psychopath. No one can see that being on television caused many of her issues, not the other way around. Her mother is particularly twisted in her obsession with the show (and her new book). She is totally blind how the show has negatively affected her own daughter. It is sometimes excruciating to endure (and I'm just talking about me, the reader).

This is the third book I have read recently that involves reality television. I suspect it is not the last. I have always been concerned about the children of reality TV. Adults can make their own decisions and choose to be on shows, but children need adult consent. Those adults need to think about the long term effects on children.

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad for You: Exposing the War On Fun by Kevin C. Pyle & Scott Cunningham

Wow, a non-fiction book. This is a cool exploration of the many ways that adults have tried to take away fun from kids and teens. For example, the war on comic books went all the way to congressional hearings in the 1950s. Comics were thought by some to cause juvenile delinquency. It seems laughable now, but a comic code was created and enforced. William H. Gaines was a publisher of many comics at the time and a very vocal proponent of the publisher's rights to print what they wanted (can we say First Amendment). He did stop making comics, but (thankfully) kept publishing Mad Magazine.

So what else have adults tried to curtail or stop all together: skateboarding, fairy tales, role playing games (beware D&D enthusiasts), video games, telephones, cell phones (and all that other technology you love so much), long hair, playgrounds, recess and even chess. Don't worry, they know what is good for you: standardized tests and more homework.

As you can probably tell by the cover, this is not some dry examination of facts. It is a mix of text and illustrations (lots of them) that examines not just why adults have imposed these restriction, but the history of how we got to that point. Surveys and studies are cited to support the arguments.

Amazingly, restricting young people often resulted in the behaviors that were trying to be avoided in the first place. Not that all the adults were being cruel on purpose they were just ill-informed and misguided.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and one of the creator's sites: Kevin C. Pyle.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

It's incredible when you find yourself inside the pages of a book. So, I'm reading about this 16 year old girl named Elise (obviously, not like me). She splits her time between her divorced parents (mine are still married). Because she has no friends, she decides to remake herself to fit in with the popular crowd (I never did that). It doesn't work, so she tries to slit her wrist (I never came close to anything like that). See, Elise feels pathetic and worthless (OK, that one I've done). There is one particular paragraph in this book that so clearly summarizes my feelings for a good part of my life. It's amazing and a little scary at the same time.

Sometimes at night, Elise sneaks out of her mother's house and walks. One night, she meets Pippa and Vicky who take her to a warehouse club called Start (that's only open on Thursday nights). Because they are older and regulars, Vicky and Pippa get underage Elise in the door. Elise feels out of place - she doesn't dance or drink. It's just one more place where she feels like she doesn't belong. There is the music, though...

Elise loves music and she knows a lot of it. A chance to see the inside of the club's DJ booth is enough to get her interested in being a DJ herself. OK, so where is this all going. Well, Elise learns how to DJ and gets a chance to do it at Start. There are romantic complications and difficulties with her parents, usual teen stuff, but we get to experience it with Elise. If only life's issues were as easily dealt with as they are in books.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Two girls, one on each coast, are counting down the days until they start college where they will be each other's roommate. They e-mail each other to get acquainted and share more than just who is bringing the microwave.

Elizabeth lives in New Jersey, and even though all her friends are staying in state she cannot wait to leave for California. She wants to escape her beach town life and her mom and, who knows, maybe she will even get to know her dad who left years ago to live in San Francisco.

Lauren lives in San Francisco with her parents and her five younger siblings. Even though she is just going across the bay, she worries that her parents will not be able to deal with all the children without her. She has never had room to herself, so she was disappointed when she learned that she had been assigned a roommate.

A complication neither girl foresaw happening over the summer was boys. Yes, they each start dating - if that's what it is. Who wants to get serious over a guy when you only have a few months until you both go away? Just one of the many discussions that happen between Lauren and Elizabeth who find that sharing some topics through e-mail are easier than facing them in person and are sometimes more difficult when you really don't know the other person.

Each girl's story is told in alternating chapters, but is not entirely told through e-mails. We know what is going on with each girl including what they are not sharing with each other.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library Catalog and the authors' sites: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Harry hides his face to the audience when he is on stage. He tips his fedora down over his sunglass covered eyes and pulls his collar up. He knows the reaction he will get if he exposes his scarred face; he has seen it many times. Harry has always tried to keep himself hidden, to go unnoticed in the crowd, but there is a freedom in playing music. It is a freedom he gets nowhere else. And the whole band thing wasn't even his idea.

Harry was struck by lightning. Well, that is what people think. The truth is he was tied to a tree that was struck by lightning and the resulting fire burned his face and neck. He was young at the time, so most of his life has been a series of hospitals, surgeries and therapy. And keeping away from bullies and pretty much everyone else - until he met Johnny.

Johnny didn't seem to care about Harry's face and Harry was so grateful for a friend that he pretty much went along with every idea Johnny ever had. So even though neither had played an instrument before, Johnny suggested that they start a band - and the Scar Boys was born.

And in the music there is freedom for Harry, but not without a price. A friendship is tested - add a girl and a road trip to the mix and Harry learns a lot more than he planned.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Totally Unrelated by Tom Ryan

At a little over a hundred pages, this is a quick read for sure. If you have read many of my reviews, you know that I love books about music and that's why I sought out this one - particularly since it involves Celtic music.

Neil is the member of a family Celtic band who has made quite a name for itself locally. His parents and siblings can all play multiple traditional Celtic instruments, but Tom can really only play guitar. He's tried the others, but could never master them. He tried dancing, too, like his younger twin sisters, but he is not that coordinated. To top it all off, he is the only one without red hair and freckled skin. Yes, Neil is a bit of an outsider in his own family.

As his family's annual summer tour gears up, Neil and his friend decide to form a band (not Celtic) to perform in a battle of the bands contest (ok, his friend had to practically beg him to do it). With the addition of a new cute girl as their lead singer, they are surprised with their own potential.

Now, I could go on but I'm afraid I will tell you the whole story (again, it's pretty short). Besides you will miss the humor and fun of following Neil through his two musical journeys.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

What are the odds of two people finding each other in such a large world with so many others? It is a rhetorical question, but it is kind of a miracle when it happens.

In their own ways, Eleanor and Park are set apart from the crowd. Park is the son of a Korean mother and an ex-military father. Park is not the tough, athletic guy his dad would like him to be. He prefers rock music, wearing black shirts and reading comics.

Eleanor is the new girl in school. Her red hair and unique way of dressing (second hand mostly) make her stand out and an easy target at school. She has recently moved back in with her mom and her horrible new step father after being abandoned at a family friend's house for over a year. Eleanor is very careful at home because her step father could explode at her at any time.

Call it fate or whatever you wish but on the first day of school, Eleanor has no where to sit on the bus except next to Park. It is not love at first sight - in fact it is avoid any contact at all on first sight and for several days after. It is only a small connection at first that breaks the barrier between them and it grows from there.

There are more complications than I am willing to spell out here. I will say that Eleanor's home life make it difficult for her to trust anyone and causes her to hesitate to let anyone see her for who she really is. For his part, Park is crazy about Eleanor and only hopes she will eventually see in herself what he sees in her.

Rainbow Rowell has created a story of two young people who need someone and unexpectedly find each other. I was particularly happy with the later stages of the story even as I cringed at the potential danger that could be coming. The story is set in the 1980s. Having been a teen myself then, I liked the many references to the time.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The F--- It List by Julie Halpern

I don't have a bucket list - you know, a list of things you want to accomplish before you 'kick the bucket.' It's not that I've done everything I have ever wanted to. I just don't feel the need to write these things down. Becca, on the other hand, has been making a list for a long time, but now is the time for her to act...

Becca has cancer. The prognosis for recovery is good, but why take chances? Knowing she will be sick and too weak to work on her list, she gives it to her best friend Alex to do some of it for her. 'Bucket list' is too morbid (especially since Alex knows Becca is not going to die), so they call it the F--- It List.

It's unfortunate that Alex went to the first day of school not knowing anything about Becca's condition. They had a falling out (over a guy) and had not spoken all summer. And Alex could have used her best friend since she was dealing with the sudden death of her father.

We follow Alex through her life coping with her father's death, her friend's cancer (and treatment which is sometimes worse than the disease) and Leo, a guy she may be dating but not exactly. The time with Leo makes Alex's life more complicated for many reasons, one in particular is that Alex feels guilty for having fun while Becca has lost her social life, her strength, her appetite and her beautiful hair. Alex loses herself in horror films dreaming of the day when she can make her own.

This story is not about completing items on the list. That occurs, but it does not drive the story as much as Alex's relationships with the people in her life.  Alex and Becca both need each other and it comes through in their conversations. They are funny, honest and sometime harsh.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Richie has cancer and he is going to die, soon. He's been fighting it for over half his life and is out of options. Now, he lives in a hospice (filled mostly with old people) waiting out his last days. He could be laying in bed dreading the end, but Richie is a teen after all. At this point, what does he have to lose? So he keeps life as interesting as possible for himself. It helps that another teen, Sylvie, is across the hall.

With Sylvie, there is the possibility of at least having a girl who likes him. Sylvie is way too pretty and out of his league - Richie knows there is no way he would have had a shot with her if they were both healthy. But now here she is, still beautiful in her frail state and hanging out with him.

Richie's mother has raised him all on her own refusing help from even her own mother. She is strong and has worked hard to give them both a good life. Her constant vigil in his room makes it difficult for Richie to be free, so one week when she is sick and not allowed in the hospital he takes advantage of it.

Two teens with little time left can create much chaos for their parents and the hospice staff. Even the staff who want Richie to be his 17 year old self are uneasy with some of his behavior (like a few Halloween pranks on hospital visitors). And Sylvie's dad might literally kill Richie if he is caught with Sylvie again.

This could have been an incredibly depressing story about a teen with cancer, but is instead a humorous look at a young man making the best of his situation. He is surrounded by people who love and support him even when he makes bad choices (you know, how all teens should be). Even though death is never far, his head is full of normal teen thoughts - fun, sex, childhood and his family.

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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

I'm not one of those people who look at the end of a book before I read it. I understand why people do that, but it would ruin the experience for me. That being said, I was tempted to peek at the end of this one because the suspense was almost too much.

'Zoe' tells her story in a series of letters to a randomly chosen death row inmate in Texas who she found on the internet. She feels connected to the inmate because she killed someone, too. And there's the suspense. We don't know who and we don't know how. We do know that it is one of the boys she is interested in.

Zoe (that is the fake name she gives the inmate, Stuart) wants to tell someone her story, but does not want to tell it all right away. She wants Stuart to understand how it happened, so she begins with how she met Max, the popular guy all the girls like, and Aaron, the guy she instantly connects with who seems to have a girlfriend already. She also talks about her constantly fighting parents, her ailing grandfather and her deaf baby sister.

Not knowing who is dead borders on excruciating at times. Zoe is not a killer, so how did it happen? Definitely a story that made me want to read it faster just so I could get some answers.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Extra by Kathryn Lasky

Stories about Holocaust victims never have happy endings. I'm not referring literally to the ending of this book - it may or may not have a happy outcome (read it to find out). Even if the characters survive and outlive their persecutors, their lives are filled with the death and disappearances of their family and friends. So many times, they never know what happened to these people. They were taken away on trains or just disappeared one night, never to return. It was a horrific time.

Lilo is a Gypsy, a largely misunderstood population. She does not belong to a roaming caravan. She lives in a house and goes to school. Her father repairs watches and her mother sews the finest lace. And she lives in Austria at the time of the Third Reich.

Gypsies were rounded up like so many others who did not meet Hitler's standards for human existence. They were imprisoned, starved,  tortured and killed. Lilo hopes her dad's work for prominent people will save her family, but one night they are taken from their home to a camp. Before long, Lilo and her mother are chosen to be extras in a movie made by Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite director. They do not experience the glamour of movie making; they are nothing more that film slaves who could be killed for doing something wrong as easily as anyone in a concentration camp.

Sometimes Lilo's life is so crushingly hopeless that she is afraid to feel anything for a clever boy named Django. He teaches her how to gather information that is helpful to their survival. How can she allow her heart to be open to anyone when she may never see her own family again?

Lilo's story is loosely based on a real girl who was a stand in for the real Leni Riefenstahl. It is a story of contrasts and juxtaposition as the actors dress in fine clothes and eat wonderful food while the extras dress in rags and are given little to eat. For Lilo, it is all fake and she can only hope that one day she can return to her real life.

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


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cather and her identical twin sister Wren have always been close, but now they are off to college and things are changing. Wren does not want to room with her sister so as the story begins Cather meets her new roommate Reagan. It is the first of many upheavals in Cath's first year.

Cath is a writer - mostly fanfiction of the hugely successful Simon Snow series (with more than a slight nod to Harry Potter). Her online fans (of which there are many) are eager to read her stories based on the popular characters before the real final book is released. Living in this made up magical world is sometimes easier than living in her own.

Things that cause a few road bumps for Cath during her first semester: her mother reappears in her life after leaving when she was 8 years old. Wren wants contact with their mom; Cather wants nothing to do with her. Their dad, a successful but stressed out advertising exec, has another mental lapse. Living without the girls at home means no one is there to keep an eye on his health. Oh...and Cath has writer's block on the assignment that is a huge part of her grade.

Unlike her sister, Cath has always been hesitant when it comes to guys. She 'dated' a guy for awhile but never felt the passion of true attraction. Now, she has Nick from her writing class who becomes a writing partner (but is there more to it?). And Levi, her roommate's boyfriend (one of several). He seems so different from her, and he is always smiling (Cath is NOT a smiler). It is difficult not to notice him when he is around all the time.

What I really like about this books is the depth of the characters. We get to know them. We understand their faults and struggles. These young people are so well drawn. There is one particular scene where one of the guys insists on carrying Cath's laundry (much to her dismay). She feels it is an affront to her feminine sensibilities. The exchange goes on for two pages, and it captures the humorous, smart and flirtatious nature of their relationship.

Cather is a wonderful character that I hope you get to know her, too.

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