Zombies that you want to be friends with (if they’re not hungry)!
So this is the sequel to EAT BRAINS LOVE, which I briefly mentioned a little while ago. Book 1 ended in a precarious place, our protagonists on the run. Book 2 continued at the same speed and took us into new states, different kinds of societies, and a few new kills (duh. it’s a book about zombies). Book 2 got better at giving the female protagonist some dimension (her story was kinda flat in book 1), which was a good thing. I would complain that that there wasn’t enough closure, but I have the sneaking suspicion that another book might be on the way.
EXPRESS Book Review: Noggin by JOHN COREY WHALEY
Ridiculous plot: Teen boy tragically dies of a terminal illness– but is brought back to life 5 years later with his head attached to another person’s body. Everyone and everything –but him– has aged and changed. Despite the ridiculousness of the situation and a multitude of comedic lighthearted moments and teenage antics, surprisingly deep instances often make it through. Totally recommended YA read. Check it out.
EXPRESS BOOK REVIEW: Eat Brains Love by Jeff Hart
One protagonist has just “gone zombie,” and is now on the lam with the class hottie (who’s also gone zombie) after eating half the kids in the school cafeteria. Our other protagonist is a teen psychic who works for the government’s top-secret zombie hunting operation. Lots of fun, adventure, and cannibalism! (It’s quite endearing). Check it out!
Epic YA fiction! American Teenage Mariam is sent against her will to live for a while with her grandmother in Egypt. She is initially pretty bummed to leave the only life she knows (her peers at school have given her lots of crap about being Egyptian-American, so she carries a heavy dose of self- and cultural distaste). It turns out her grandmother isn’t bad and there’s lots of stuff to do (as well as some time for self-discovery, first love, first adultish independence, etc). But shit kind of hits of the fan due to the revolution going on (as well as some other stuff), and lots of growing has to be done. Amidst a great story, the book also subtly does lots of good work to dispel stereotypes about the Middle East and Arabs and Islam.
I haven’t seen one quite like this before; you should Check it out!
I found this whole cache of small-press LGBT teen books at the library that totally weren’t getting checked out. So I checked a bunch out to save them (In libraryland, the general rule we follow with teen books is that if something sits on the shelf without getting checked out for a year (and it doesn’t have specific local interest and it’s not bound to become a “Classic”) it gets weeded or sent to community redistribution).
Who: Tucker and Ella. Tucker’s a kinda butch lesbian and Ella’s a femme trans girl
What: Both entering their freshman year of college, they become suitemates and friends due to some terrible transphobic stuff that is happening on campus. All kinds of stuff happens, ranging from live action RPGs to protests to sex to lots of political conversations.
When: Modern era
Where: Some university in a far away non-urban place
Hot damn, this is one full book. If I don’t hang myself up on the idea that maybe too much was trying to be accomplished in a single book, I can say that this book is actually quite good. Lots of stuff happens, yet there’s a clean and tidy ending. It’s one of the few books I’ve read with a trans girl narrator, and I think it covers so much ground (see the tags) because there aren’t a lot of books with the same agenda/circumstance.
As a person who majored in women&gender studies in college and who resides in both academic and queer communities, I can say that the author and I are definitely on the same wavelength, and she makes a lot of really good points about how problematic institutions can be. If some of the right teens actually come into the library and pull this one off the shelf, it’s gonna rock their worlds. In a good way.
Who: Closeted teenage lesbian weightlifter/plumber/softballer Mike
What: While dealing with her dad’s death, her messed up family, and her “blossoming” sexuality, a new “big city” badgirl named Xanadu moves to town and rocks Mike’s world.
When: present day in an old-fashioned place
Where: A small town far, far away from the West Coast
A totally legit, multi-layered book. Sometimes I only believed in the characters 90%, but that might be because I’m at least 10 years older than the intended audience. But. There’s dimension and it’s well-written and things don’t all come together perfectly– and you really do get a lot in the 282 pages that you’re given.
I’m going to be honest: I totally read the Uglies series a few years ago and loved it.
I found So Yesterday while trolling the teen shelves, remembered the author’s name, and got excited. The premise is sort of neat: there are people amongst us in our cities whose paid jobs it is to set different fashion trends. Our teen protagonist is one of them. Everything is smooth sailing until one day he meets a girl, they go on a crazy fashion-fueled sort of dystopian bizarro adventure, and some nutty, worth-reading-about stuff happens.
The book’s from 2005, so some of the technology and the cultural references are a little dated, but as an adult, that was fine for me. It might be a little baffling for modern teens.
You see the cover? That’s kind of the mood of this book.
Mellow, introspective, and no big climax– but interesting enough to get me through the 250 pages.
It’s a YA novel about teenage Abby, who’s big sister (the radiant, charming, and beautiful) Tess is in a coma following an accident. Average Abby’s always felt overshadowed by Tess, and does a lot of internal processing while Tess is comatose. There’s a cute boy with issues, a surprising-to-Abby (but not to the reader) revelation about Tess, and an obnoxiously bad self-esteem that improves.
This is, indeed, a YA book. It wasn’t as lovable as Stealing Heaven, but that’s ok.
Check out a copy here
Things have been a little wild in my real life lately, and this book was just the comfort that I needed. Our teenage protagonist Rosie got cheated on by her boyfriend, and while burning a box of their memories in his driveway, she might have accidentally set his car on fire. Oops. And she might have also accidentally followed him and maybe called his phone a few too many times… So Rosie ends up with a temporary restraining order. Her court date is in a few weeks.
This is the over-the-top premise that lands Rosie on a parentally-forced cross-country road trip with her goody-goody neighbor and a couple of his friends. Her parents figure the time away from home (and her ex) will be a good thing to ensure that she obeys the restraining order. I found this a little unbelievable, but whatever.
Ultimately this is a teen road trip novel. It’s pretty good, and made me want to travel to see some of the things that were mentioned. Though not particularly lyrical or floridly written, the plot takes a few non-traditional curves that will keep you entertained. Rosie is stubborn, smart, and likable, and the boys who she’s on the trip with have a bit of dimension too. The story is engrossing and comfortable– but not entirely predictable.
Find a copy here
I didn’t actually read Jane Eyre until sometime near the end of college, and would you believe that they’re trying to get 12 year olds to read it these days? I would have been bored to tears.
But in college it was one of the books that turned out totally awesome in some women’s lit class (and was followed up by Wide Sargasso Sea), and so clearly I had to read Jane (a modern YA retelling of the classic) as soon as I found it. In this version 19 year-old college student Jane Moore’s parents have died a sudden and tragic death, her siblings take their inheritances and run (and leave Jane with nothing), and so Jane drops out of college (her parents had been footing the bill) to take a job with a nanny agency.
Our Jane is sensible and unphased by fame so she gets placed taking care of the daughter of Nico Rathburn, a formerly raging “bad boy” rock star who is on the verge of making a comeback. Oh, there are so many parallels! Bertha! Sensibility! running away!
I really enjoyed this book. It was modern, had lots of dimensions, and did an awful lot with plot in its 400 pages.
Great YA book; I think that even the anti-YA people would be into it. You’ll read it in about 2 seconds and then you’ll want more.
So 18 year old Dani’s spent her entire life as a traveling burglar with her mom. They move from town to town, and clad with fake identities, blend in with the locals and stealthily steal silver and other valuables– and then leave for the next town. But recently they’ve arrived in a town where Dani makes friends– and there’s a guy. Who’s a cop… And she starts to second-guess her line of work…
The dialogue is really smart and I’m surprised that the book hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. I thought the end was a little rushed and maybe some of the chapters (re: Dani and Greg) were a little clunky– but the amusement factor outweighed any of that.
Find a copy here
So I had this giant stack of well-respected adult literature that I was intending to read– and instead I gravitated toward teen stuff (and returned the adult stuff to the library). So much for faking like I’m fancy and grown up. Here goes:
45 Pounds (more or less) by KA Barson
So teenage Anne has been told that she is 45 pounds overweight, her (super skinny) mom is a total jerk about it, and as a result, she has a pretty big complex. Her lesbian (!) aunt’s wedding is in a few months and she wants to lost the weight so she can look thin in the ceremony, so she goes through some extreme measures to start– and ends up having to get a job to support these new measures, and meanwhile there’s a boy she likes and her little sister is starting to get emotionally distressed about something, and there’s a mean girl out to sabotage her…
Ultimately lots of the right lessons are taught, but I really wish the “happy ending” could have been made happy without the stereotypical things that it ended with. I kind of also wish that we’d gotten to know Anne a little better. BUT this teenage “problem novel” is still solidly multi-dimensional, entertaining, and interesting.
Find a copy here
Hot Girl by Dream Jordan
14 year old Kate’s had a tough life. She’s been bounced around group homes and foster families, is a former gang member and former pot smoker and all-around tough girl– but she finally had a good social worker, good grades, and an ok (but strict) family she lives with. But when her BFF goes away for the summer, she befriends Naleejah, a super-fancy girl who has tons of money and designer clothes– and sleeps with guys to get them. Naleejah gives Kate a makeover, and the kind of attention that she gets starts to change… Will she fall in too deep with her new friend and risk losing everything that she’s worked so hard to make stable in her life?
This is a decent YA novel. It features multiple characters’ complications and complexities, and is realistic in the sense that it doesn’t try too hard to clean up supporting characters’ messes. Kate is weird enough that we can actually believe that she’s a real person, and while some of the other characters might be jerky, they still elicit some empathy.
Find a copy here
Dude, where’s my sequel?
I grabbed a copy of this book off the shelf at work when I realized that I was facing a lunch break without something to read. It’s about a super creative and stylish 15.5 year old girl named Veronica who lied about her age to get a job as a consigner at CLOTHING BONANZA, which sells vintage and used clothing by the piece and the pound (she lives for vintage). Oh, and she’s fat and doesn’t really feel bad about it. Except for when she sometimes does, and it affects her family relationships, prospective friendships, and general worldly navigation.
So Veronica secures this cool job, and gets tangled into some major social messes mostly due to her age and insecurities, and then has to find a way out. Each chapter was prefaced with a drawing of one of the pieces of clothing described in it (Veronica draws clothing), and there’s something kind of unique to the writing style. You don’t get too deep into the lives of any one character (including the protagonist), but everyone is interesting and well-designed for their place in the story. LOTS of stuff happens in these brief 277 pages (that you’ll read in what feels like maybe 15 minutes), and some of it’s pretty intense.
LOTS of stuff happens, but it’s not really enough. At the end of the book Veronica is still growing and the story still feels like it’s developing. I want to know what happens next. Hence, “Dude, where’s my sequel?”
Get a copy at the library here!
The teenagers were checking this book out like crazy at the library– I had to see what was up.
City of Bones is book one in one of the most recent teen fantasy series to become a movie (did I mention that I actually eventually watched the movie of Beautiful Creatures, and I enjoyed it far more than I did the book? I felt like the movie successfully filled a lot of the holes in the book– it still had the culturally problematic “magical black lady” thing going on, but it tastefully eliminated the awfully named character “Marian the Librarian” and fixed a bunch of other problems).
But back to City of Bones! It’s a classic Girl has a normal life with normal problems, girl discovers she’s kinda magic, girl tries to save someone important while kind of being torn between two boys. There’s some unique magic going on, as well as some unique plot twists and subtexts. The gay subtext to certain characters especially one of the (semi-evil ones) is a little weird. Since it’s a teen book, I thought the author could have fleshed it out a little more– leaving things ambiguous allows for the perception of mild homophobia, even though I don’t think that’s what Clare was going for. What the story lacks in literary awesomeness, it makes up for in action and concept. I didn’t actually have critiques of the book until a week after I finished it (a good sign– this book will show you a good time, even if it won’t stay in your heart forever).
The book doesn’t really allow the reader to care much about most of the characters– I don’t know whether this is going to be put to use in the later books in the series.
Find a copy here
The author took care of a lot in 310 pages!
Modern-day teenage Mallory feels like her life is falling apart when she dumps her boyfriend after learning that he’s been cheating on her with another girl on the internet. In this same spot of time, she finds a list of goals that her grandmother made as a teenager. The brief list included items such as “run for pep squad secretary,” “find a steady,” and “sew a dress for homecoming.”
Floored by the simplicity of these goals, and assuming that life “back then” must have been much better in its apparent simplicity, Mallory decides that her own life needs some simplifying, and makes the goal to do everything on her grandmother’s list. Oh, and to live as much like her grandmother did in the 1960’s as possible, and avoid using all modern electronics until homecoming, which is a few weeks away.
This book was great! Mallory and the other characters had plenty of dimension, there was a hearty nod to thrift stores and vintage fashion (which I was happy about), and the background family drama/mystery was interesting enough to keep me reading– but not overwhelming enough to cloud the story. It’s definitely a book for teenagers (especially for digital natives who were born in the age of the internet and cell phones), but it’s unique and multidimensional enough to be an entertaining diversion for a YA-loving adult.
Find a copy at your nearest library
Blaze, named after a comic book character by her dad, is a teenager with a lot of responsibility.
Her dad skipped town to become an actor, her mom works extreme hours as a nurse, and as a result, she’s in charge of taking care of the house, cooking all the meals, and transporting her little brother and all his soccer teammates to and from their games. Her solace? The collection of comics that her dad left behind– and the comics that she draws herself.
The story begins with a crush that she has on the teenage coach of her little brother’s soccer team– and that crush oozes into something bigger– then that something mutates, and hell breaks loose for a little while, then there’s a personal transformation, and things kind of get back on course (but also change) due to a creative solution…
Fans of superhero comics will probably appreciate all the superhero references (they went over my head), as well as the comic-like pacing and structuring of the heroine (she’s likable and creative and flawed and interesting) and the story. There were some unbelievable elements– but hey, it’s a story, not an attempted snapshot of reality.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of resting lately, due to my obnoxious bicycle injury (ow, my arm).
The only upside is that I’ve been doing a ton of reading. Here’s a synopsis (that doesn’t include the secret “best-seller” trilogy that I’m 2/3 of the way through and planning to do a full review of, when I can finally get the final book from the library):
Cute graphic novel about an adventurous girl, who one day while playing in a field with her friend presses a mysterious red button and gets the two of them transported into a weird post-apocalyptic alternative space dimension. Upon their arrival her friend gets kidnapped and she must bravely save him (making robot friends along the way). Cute and innocuous wizard of oz-type story for an elementary/middle school crowd. find a copy here
Nice little middle-school graphic novel that weaves together rock’n’roll, cancer, science, and friendships. Check out a copy here.
BFF’s Colby and Bev just graduated high school and it’s time to fulfill their teen dream of first touring the Northwest with Bev’s band– and then traveling around Europe for a year before college. But surprise! There’s a major change of plans! The Disenchantments is the story of the band’s tour following the “change.” I read this book in a single sitting and I really liked the author’s aesthetic. The colors and styles and places all feel kind of sunbleached and real, and there are lots of poignant moments and pockets of adventure. Find a copy of this rad little coming of age story here.
Teenage Cameron has schizophreniform disorder and decides to go off his meds. There’s a new girl at school and a new girl’s voice in his head (his “girlfriend”), in addition to other voices that he, alone, hears. Things get a little nuts (he makes some dangerous choices and runs away from home), there’s a big “blow-up” of events, and he ultimately ends up on meds again. This was the first YA novel that I’ve read about schizophrenia. It was a fine read (and it does a nice job of explaining the disorder, which I’d never heard of), but there was something about it that rubbed me in a weird way. Maybe the narrator was just a little too one-dimensional? Or perhaps schizophreniform disorder was used as too much of a plot device– I suppose the author is a clinical psychologist, so maybe that’s why? Still, reading it won’t waste your time. Find a copy here.
(Multiple covers AND titles!)
I found this book during my hunt for queer Canadian literature. The description, quite simply, made it too sound too bizarre to pass up:
Thirteen-year-old Peter Paddington is overweight, the subject of his classmates’ ridicule, and the victim of too many bad movie-of-the-week storylines. When his nipples begin speaking to him one day and inform him of their diabolical plan to expose his secret desires, Peter finds himself cornered in a world that seems to have no tolerance for difference. Peter’s only solace is “The Bedtime Movies” – perfect-world (*copied from the link below)
WorldCat lists the genre as Juvenile Fiction, but I totally disagree. Sure, juveniles could read it, and they might like it, and everything would be ok. But this is kind of a coming of age novel (prominently about being gay), and there is so much delightful dramatic irony! Kids in the junior high age range would totally miss that deliciousness (and they’d miss out on the 1980’s references).
It’s a good little book. The author is really clever, Peter (in his comic innocence) is likable, the story keeps moving with something new every few pages, and the line between fantasy and reality is often transcended, perhaps suggesting that it’s unnecessary for us to try to fit ourselves into other people’s reality.
Find a copy here
Apparently, even as a YA enthusiast, I missed the Beautiful Creatures boat. This book came out in 2009, and a MOVIE came out a few months ago on Valentines day. Who would’ve thought?
Fans of Twilight will like Beautiful Creatures (it’s the first of a series). The writing isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better.
Ethan lives in a boring small Southern town that never changes. There’s a town recluse in the “haunted” house on the hill. But! There’s a new girl in school. And she’s different from the others. AND she’s the niece of the recluse on the hill! Basically, Ethan commits social suicide when he and the new girl fall for each other, and lots of magical things happen, leading up to a very, very important deadline. Wow! Drama! Magic drama!
There are some endearing elements, but I wasn’t super-enamored. The setting makes this book a bit interesting. Beautiful Creatures is set in the deep South, in a place where the Civil War is still called the “War Between States,” there are reenacted battles at regular intervals, and the white folks in town are very interested in their heritage. This all plays into the plot (though I wish it was less subtle). I kind of want to watch the movie so I can see how they treated this element… Sigh, it will be a long wait before the library gets it.
Find a copy at the library
This is going to be a strange review because it is a review of the graphic novel adaptation of a wildly popular book that I have never read.
I’ve never been able to get too into the fantasy, adventure, and science fiction genres. I’m not entirely sure why. But there’s something about reading written descriptions of fight scenes and travels and invented worlds that bores me… as much as video representations of the same thing. Ok, so I’m just picky.
But anyway, growing up, I was a voracious and desperate little reader. I’d plow through almost any book or newspaper that lay in my way. I was bored! My family owned the Madeline L’engle trilogy (Wrinkle in Time/Swiftly Tilting Planet/ Wind in the Door), and I saw them every day on the living room book shelf, but I was never able to get into them! All the business of tesseracts and people’s weird names just really turned me off for some reason. I felt a slight nagging pull every time I walked by them, like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to read them!
Forging forward a couple of decades, A Wrinkle in Time became my City’s One City One Book. As a librarian, I felt a responsibility to at least know what the story is about. A minute or two of investigation lead me to the graphic novel. Score!
The graphic novel is adapted and illustrated by Hope Larsen, who has also written other graphic novels that I’ve liked, such as Gray Horses and Chiggers. The illustrations are in black, blue, and white, and are understandable and likable. Larsen’s adaptation keeps the story going at a solid pace, and there was not a single moment where I felt like there was some kind of hole in the narrative. The ending to the story felt a little anti-climactic, but perhaps that is how the original is?Phew, at least I finally know the story. The pressure is gone!
The tome rings in at almost 400 pages, and is about the size of the original novel. It was clearly a labor of love, and I recommend it regardless of your stance on fantasy, adventure, and science fiction.
Find A Copy Here
I got this one as an e-book from the library. It was one of those quick and desperate selections– I was out of books at home, needed something to read, and Zero was available.
It’s actually a pretty great multidimensional YA novel. Our protagonist Zero, a punk rock painter, has just graduated from high school and been accepted to the art college of her dreams. Great! Until her lack of technical painting skill prevents her from getting the scholarship that she would need to pay the tuition. And then everything kind of crumbles. She realizes that since she can’t pay the tuition she’ll be stuck in Arizona with her parents, attending community college in a place she can’t stand. Her mom is desperate and overbearing and her dad’s alcoholism is getting worse and something has gone really wrong with her relationship with her best friend Jenn.
What propels from this premise is a really nice sort of coming-of-age novel. Our hero Zero typically has something clever to say, which means that as a reader, you’re stuck on her. She possesses a realistic combination of inconsistent self-esteem and artistic brilliance that I felt was really well crafted. There are lots of Salvador Dali quotes, good descriptions of punk shows, and a great over-all essence of what that weird post-high school not quite a kid, not quite an adult time can be like.
Find a copy HERE
This was the last book that I read in 2012 (I finished it on New Years Eve) and it was totally fun! It was a smooth, addictive, and fast read. Often a book loses things like depth or character development when it’s classified as “smooth,” ‘fast,” or “addictive”– but I don’t feel like this one did! The only shame is that it was over in 313 pages; I would like to read more about Audrey.
Plot: Teenage Audrey finally breaks up with her boring, self-absorbed boyfriend who’s in a small-time high school band. That night he writes a damning song about her called “Audrey, Wait!” which propels his band into Justin Bieber-like fame around the world. The media in turn becomes obsessed with Audrey (as she inspired the song), and her life really, really, really changes.
In addition to telling a good story, the book offers a sly critique on paparazzi, America’s obsession with fame, the evilness and fakeness of the music industry, and more. An added plus is that each chapter begins with an apt quote from a real rock song (many of which I know and like in real life). There are 41 chapters– this must have taken a lot of effort!
Perhaps this is a guilty pleasure without the guilt? Read it!
FIND A COPY HERE
It’s somewhere around the late-19th/early 20th century. A feisty girl’s father places her with a strict aunt when he leaves town to look for work. Girl waits for her father to return for years. He doesn’t. Aunt eventually tires and leaves girl at a home for wayward girls run by an evil proprietor. Terrible things happen there. Girl escapes and joins the circus. The girl is Portia Remini. It’s a good story: a familiar trope, but unique enough to keep my attention.
To me, Wonder Show felt like two books: pre-circus, and circus-and-beyond. Each “half” felt as if it was full of big ideas that that didn’t have time to get completely fleshed out. I say this because the supporting characters and circumstances, while all appointed with great depth and meaning– didn’t have a ton of description to them (e.g. on pages 18 and 19 we read a list of spunky/naughty things that Portia did while in the care of her aunt, but there are never any scenes or dialogue that further expose us to this aspect of Portia’s personality. The classic writing rule of “show, don’t tell” seems to have been ignored in this sort of way throughout the book). Maybe 274 pages just wasn’t long enough to make the story feel satisfying?I would love to see it fattened up into a 500-page odyssey.
Despite the fact that I would have liked more details, the author does do a really interesting job of constructing the story to keep it moving: There are multiple point-of-view shifts, there are (as mentioned above) handwritten lists, there are lovely vignettes that only last a page. Furthermore, many of the circus characters are based on real circus people from history, highlighting the admirable amount of research that must have gone into writing this book (this is detailed in the Authors note at the end).
Find a copy of Wonder Show here
The Drama High series kept on getting mentioned as one of the few contemporary book series’ out there about African American teenage girls. So I picked up Second Chance to see if it was something that that the teenagers at my library would be into (and, um, because I like YA fiction).
So yes, Second Chance is a recommendable book. In all honesty, I think that being a teenager would have enamored me to it more (the author does a great job of capturing that certain breed of awful anxiety that comes with relationships when you’re a teen– and it’s so nice to be free of that as a grown up– also, there’s a good deal of interpersonal friend drama that was more teen-style than I was into (but I’m not a teen)).
So the story is that Jayd is African American and lives in Compton and wakes up every morning to take the bus to a mostly-rich-and-white school in LA. She’s in AP classes and has a handful of African American classmates who are also from her part of the city. Amongst them are her 2 best friends, her sworn enemy, and the manipulative boy who she used to date. Jayd starts dating a rich white boy, and drama of course ensues. Unlike a lot of paperback teen novels in general, Jayd and her surrounding life gets a fair deal of dimension. Her grandma who she lives with works making potions and magic satchels (and it’s treated totally normally in the book). The school has some notoriously racist teachers, and Jayd tries to bring charges against one of them. Jayd also works on the weekends and has difficulty with her dad and his side of the family. She’s likable, typically says the right thing, and has a strong sense of self.
This is not the first book of the series, and I would recommend starting with book one, as I felt a little bit in the dark about some of the characters. On a similar note, it is definitely part of a series– so there is not a tidy conclusion.
Find a copy here