Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to Be Bad ****

Lockhart, E., Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle. How to be Bad. 2008.

Three girls go on a road trip to see one of their boyfriends who has gone off to college. Jesse works at the Waffle House with the other two girls. Her mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a very strict Christian and judges others around her for their choices. Vicks' boyfriend Brady just went off to college a few weeks earlier and the only time he has contacted her so far was with one text message in the middle of the night. Mel, a rich girl and hostess at the Waffle House, just moved to Florida from Canada and doesn't have any friends. She gets invited on the road trip because she offers to pay for it. All three go for different reasons and by the end they learn about themselves and each other. Along they way they have some adventures and break a few laws.

Recommended for fans of these three authors. The book is really about female friendship, so fans of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants should enjoy this one too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ivy ***

Hearn, Julie. Ivy. 2008.

This story takes place in London in the early 1800s. Ivy's family is poor and makes it's living in dishonest ways. When she is little, she is taken away from her family by Carroty Kate, a woman who comes from a gang of criminals worse than her own family. They use her to help them rob people, particularly other children. When Kate dies, Ivy ends up back with her family again. Ivy ends up as an artists model for a rich artist but his mother hates her immediately and does everything she can to be rid if her. Ivy has a problem with laudanum, which is a liquid that was put into water and would put a person to sleep. It's a drug that could easily kill a person if taken improperly.

There were aspects of the story that didn't make sense to me, which I won't write about here because I don't want to give away anything about the plot or characters. Certain things that were in the book didn't add to the story at all and left me wondering why they were in there at all. This book won't disappoint fans of historical fiction, but other readers might not find much to like about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sunrise Over Fallujah ***

Myers, Walter Dean. Sunrise Over Fallujah. 2008.

I had high hopes for this book, but it did fall a little short. It had been called the Fallen Angels for this generation, but Fallen Angels was far superior in my opinion. For anyone not aware, Fallen Angels was written by Myers a long time ago about the Vietnam War.

This book is just like Fallen Angels but for some reason it just didn't have the same feeling. The novel centers around Birdy (his real name is Robin) and his fellow members of the Civilian Affairs Unit. The aren't infantry, their job is to try to be nice to the locals and help them out. Birdy is from Harlem and his family is really irritated with him for joining the Army after 9/11. His father wanted him to go to college and be an accountant. Birdy seems to send a lot of letters to his Uncle Richie who had served in the Vietnam War. Birdy gets close to Jonesy and Marla, two people in his unit. There are other people, but he seems to not really talk to many of them or have any sort or relationship with them.

It's probably common sense that at least one person is going to die, and I won't spoil that for you. I would recommend this book for anyone wondering what it is like to be over there fighting this war. It did have a lot of detail, some of it disturbing so anyone that reads it will learn a lot. It is worth reading for this reason alone since it is informative.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society *****

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 2007.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs. At that present time, this novel has been on the NYT Bestseller list for several weeks.

This is one of the cutest books I have read in a great while. Juliet, an author is looking for the next thing to write about when she begins a correspondence with a Literary Society on the island of Guernsey, which is in the English Channel and had been occuppied by the Nazis during World War II. The novel, which takes place in the time just after the war, takes the form of letters to and from Juliet to her editor, her best friend, and to the members of this Literary Society. They write to her about how their Society was formed during the Nazi occupation and why. Eventually, Juliet decides to visit Guernsey and her pen pals.

The book is somewhat predictable at least as far as how it is going to end, but that's not really a problem. The real point of the book is to fun and entertaining, and it succeeds at that.

Geek Magnet ****

Scott, Kieran. Geek Magnet: A Novel in Five Acts. 2007

KJ is the stage manager of her school's Spring Musical and she has one big problem-- she is a geek magnet. She doesn't lack for male attention but she seems to get all the guys she DOESN'T want, while the one guy she wants doesn't seem to know she is alive. There is Fred, her neighbor who has been following her around for years. Then there is Andy, her Assistant Stage Manager. Then there is Glenn, the kid on the light crew who stares only at her boobs and touches her inappropriately.

Tama, one of the popular girls who happens to have a lead in the play is friends with Cameron, the love of KJ's life. Tama manages to get Cameron interested in KJ. She also offers to help KJ get rid of her guy problem by teaching her to be mean. She manages to get the geeks to back off, but she ends up hurting a lot of feelings along the way and also manages to alienate herself from her best friend and most of the cast in the process.

Meanwhile, KJs father is an alcoholic. He drinks every day and is often mean. The entire family is on eggshells trying to keep him from flying off the handle. Her younger brother Chris is a mess all the time and her mother seems to be oblivious. The alcoholism seems to take a backseat to the whole drama of the musical and doesn't get the treatment it might deserve. I guess the point of the novel was to be fun, so the focus was more on the musical drama and not on the social issues. It makes me wonder if it really needed to be in there to begin with, but that's just a small criticism and it doesn't take away from the novel at all.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Love Sick ***1/2

Coburn, Jake. LoveSick. 2005.

I enjoyed the book, but the whole premise was so wacky that I had a hard time buying it. First of all, the author states that this is really a true story and that he had their permission to tell it. The story is rather implausible so I would have had issues with it anyway, but saying it is a true story made me even more annoyed because I really doubt this could have happened.

Ted was on his way to a full ride scholarship at a great school. His only problem was his alcoholism, which lead him to crash his car into a tree, busting up his knee. He was ordered to AA and lost his scholarship too. Erica is a rich girl from NYC. She is a bulimic who is supposed to be in recovery but she keeps slipping. Her father and therapist don't think she should go away to school because she isn't totally recovered yet, but she insists she is going. Her father pays an associate of his, Michael, to find someone that needs money, and hire him or her to spy on Erica for them. The job pays full tuition for 4 years, and the only job is to live near her in the dorm and report her activities to Michael. Ted needed the money since he lost his scholarship. Predictably, he ends up falling in love with her and telling her that he was hired to spy on her.

The book was fast paced and I am sure most teens will enjoy it. My only reservation with it, as I stated above, is that it seems totally unrealistic. But, many teens may not care, and just enjoy the story for what it is.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet Valley High ***

Pascal, Francine. Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love. 1983/2008

They have decided to bring back Sweet Valley High, which is a series *I* loved when I was in middle and high school. They are basically re-packaging the series, bringing it up to date with cell phones, different cars, etc., but the plot lines remain the same. I don't know how many they plan to bring back-- they used to have a new book out every month. I find that SVH is basically a more wholesome version of Gossip Girl, so for schools that can't have them due to content, this is a good alternative.

Liz and Jessica are twins. Liz is the smart nice one, the one on the school newspaper. Jessica is the one that isn't so nice, the cheerleader etc. She has no conscience whatsoever. This first book basically introduces everyone to the case of characters that we will deal with in the rest of the series, but also focuses on the girls wanting the same guy, Todd. Jessica knows Liz and Todd like each other but she stops at nothing to get him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cuba 15 ***

Osa, Nancy. Cuba 15. 2005.

This book wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. Violet is half-Cuban and half-Polish. Her family refuses to talk about Cuba. Violet's Grandmother insists that she have a Quince, which is a traditional party in many Hispanic cultures, celebrating the 15th birthday, similar to a Sweet 16. Violet isn't really into it, but she agrees. There is a lot of tension in the house as the party is planned, particularly between Violet and her father, who doesn't like Violet trying to learn about Cuba.

Meanwhile, she is forced to join the school's speech team and competes in the humorous story category, in which is acts out a story. She writes a story about her crazy family, and that is what she competes with all season. She isn't very good at it.

I would recommend this book to anyone Cuban or Hispanic, as they might be interested in reading about a Quince. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it. There are a few things that don't really make sense and certain things never come together. And, then there are aspects to the story that seemed unnecessary, as they don't add to the story at all. The writing is also not very smooth, it feels awfully choppy a lot of the time. The problems in the book are enough to make a person not interested in the subject matter put it down and not pick it up again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

In the Company of Crazies ***

Baskin, Nora Raleigh. In the Company of Crazies. 2006

Mia is in middle school and suddenly finds herself troubled. Her grades are slipping and she is shoplifting. Her parents send her away to a boarding school for troubled kids. The kids there, only about a dozen it seems, have various psychological diagnoses that make it hard for them to function in a regular school. They are there for a therapeutic environment.

It seems unclear to me why Mia is there. While she has had some problems, it seems that the other kids have a lot more going on that Mia. It didn't seem like Mia really needed to be pulled out of school and put in a residential facility. The other characters were a lot more interesting to me and kept me interested in reading the rest of the book, to see what they were like and what might happen to them as time went on. The ending also seemed a bit rushed to me. There didn't seem to be any real resolution to her problems, but maybe that was because she didn't really have any problems to begin with. Maybe her parents were the ones with the problem!

I would recommend this book for middle school students interested in reading about kids living in a special school.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Game ****

Myers, Walter Dean. Game. 2008.

I generally enjoy everything Myers writes, and this is no exception. This novel follows a HS basketball team through one season, through the eyes of Drew, a senior on the team. The team has a great chance of making it to the playoffs, and Drew thinks he has a chance of getting recruited by some big name colleges to play ball. Suddenly, the coach adds two new white guys to the team and it shakes things up. The rules all change and it seems that the coaches are favoring the white guys, who they encouraged to move to Harlem so they could be on their team.

Recommended for male readers. This is also a great book for reluctant readers who enjoy basketball or sports.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The House of Djinn. ****1/2

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. The House of Djinn. 2008.

This is a sequel to Shabanu and Haveli. It's not necessary to read the previous novels to read this. It seems to stand all on its own.

Mumtaz (Muti), daughter of Shabanu, is living with her cousin Omar and his hateful wife Leyla. Leyla mistreats Muti and treats her like a servant. It is her desire to get rid of Muti as fast as she can, but as long as her Baba is alive, she is safe from Leyla. When Baba, the family patriarch, dies suddenly, Muti's life becomes more unstable, particularly when she finds out she is to married to her cousin Jameel, who is to become the head of their tribe. Jameel, who has been living in the US, does not want to come back to live in Pakistan and he doesn't want to marry Muti. Complicating matters is the fact that Muti has discovered her mother has been alive this whole time, living in secret with her Aunt, to stay safe from Uncle Nazir who would kill her if he knew she was still alive.

This was a fantatic book and I highly recommend it for most readers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Me and Orson Welles ***

Kaplow, Robert. Me and Orson Welles. 2005.

Why this book was recommended by School Library Journal is beyond me. I don't imagine any teenager would be interested in reading this. In fact, I can't imagine many people would be interested in reading it.

The book follows a week in the life if Richard Samuels who lives in NJ. In an unlikely turn of events, he is cast as Lucius in an Orson Welles production of Julius Caesar. He has to skip school to get to the rehearsals and the performances. He falls in love with Sonja and gets involved in the drama that is the theatre.

I am not sure if the goal of the book is to be coming of age story or a story that exemplifies how crazy Orson Welles was. Either way, it doesn't matter because I don't think either angle is working very well. I also find that most teens aren't all that interested in historical fiction so I don't think a 1930s NYC theatre novel would fly off the shelves of many libraries. I would skip this book unless you have some sort of fascination with Orson Welles.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the Cards: Fame ****

Fredericks, Mariah. In the Cards: Fame. 2006.

I didn't realize this was a part of series until I started reading it. The first book was In the Cards: Love. Unlike some other series, however, this book is fine all on it's own; the reader doesn't have to have read the first book in the series to understand what is happening in this one.

The school is abuzz when the music teacher, Mr. Courtney decides to put on the first musical the school has ever had. Eve, a total drama queen auditions for the show and does get in. Her friend Anna is the stage manager and their other friend Syd is also brought in to help out with playing the piano. The show is filled with drama right from the beginning with backstage fights, romance, and feuds. The star of the show has a famous father and starts to fall apart; it's not clear whether or not she will be able to perform at all. All the while, Eve keeps wondering what will happen because the tarot cards predicted something, but she's not sure how it's going to happen.

I recommend this for middle school/early high school girls interested in the theatre or performing, or girls just interested in reading a story with a whole lot of drama and backstabbing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cheater ***1/2

Laser, Michael. Cheater. 2008.

Karl is really smart. So smart that a group of students ask him to join their cheating group. The kids all come from different groups in school and no one would ever suspect they are working together. They use high tech cheating methods, like using cell phones and electronic pencils that send radio waves. Karl knows it's wrong and tries to get out, but he's in too far at that point. The maniacal Vice Principal starts going after cheaters with a vengeance, vowing to expel everyone he catches cheating. This makes things even riskier, but Karl can't seem to get out of it.

The only aspect of the book I had a problem with was that it was unrealistic. I know kids cheat, and they do it a lot. However, I don't think many are using methods like this. If they were smart enough to organize like this and get it to work, they probably don't have to cheat in the first place. Furthermore, the VP expelling people for cheating was also a stretch. A policy like that would never fly. At the very least, the parents would need to get a lawyer and there would be an expulsion hearing, but that didn't seem to happen here. These sorts of things made the book impossible to enjoy thoroughly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pull of the Ocean *****

Mourlevat, Jean-Claude. The Pull of the Ocean. Text copyright 1999, Translation copyright 2006.

This book won the French Prix Sourcieres and won the American Library Association's Batchelder Award.

This was a great book but it is only appropriate for the middle grades, not high school.

This novel is basically a re-telling of Tom Thumb in modern times. Tom Thumb is a midget/dwarf. He comes from a family of 7 children-- all of the sets of twins except from himself. His father is abusive and his mother is useless. Tom doesn't speak so everyone thinks he is stupid. He is, however, the smartest one in the bunch and he talks with his eyes and body. One night Tom warns his brothers they are in dangers from their parents and they run away.

The novel is written from multiple points of view, from the social worker that brings Tom home from school at the beginning of the story, people they encountered along the way, and all of the siblings themselves. This change in point of view makes the book interesting and keeps it flowing. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting and compelling if it were told from only one character's perspective.

Highly recommended for middle school.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Missing Girl ****

Mazer, Norma Fox. The Missing Girl. 2008.

This was a disturbing book. The chapters alternate between five sisters and a man who is obsessed with them. The sisters are having lots of problems at home-- their father is out of a job and the mother is making the only income. She is stressed out and they have no money. The family makes the decision to send one of the sisters to an Aunt so she can help out and take the burden off the family. Meanwhile, a pedophile is obsessed with the girls. He looks forward to seeing them every day. His only problem is choosing which of them he wants. They are all enticing to him in one way or another.

The pedophilia angle can be disturbing to some readers so I would urge caution for readers that might be sensitive to this sort of thing. Otherwise, this was a great book and I had a hard time putting it down.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ask Me No Questions ***

Budhos, Marina. Ask Me No Questions. 2006.

This book received a starred review in Booklist and has received favorable reviews just about everywhere else. Despite that, I found I had a hard time getting into this book. Nadira and her sister Aisha are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. After 9/11 they got caught up in a situation where the government was trying to roung up alll potential enemies. They got caught as they tried to escape to Canada. Their father was thrown into prison and left there for questioning. Nadhira and her sister are left to try to help get their father out of prison and get permission to stay in the country despite their illegal status. I found the ended really implausable. I think if the ending was more realistic I would have enjoyed the book a lot better.

I think teens may enjoy the book, particularly those that are interested in the issue of the Patriot Act or illegal immigration.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Repossessed ****

Jenkins, A.M. Repossessed. 2007.

This is a Printz Honor Book.

What I love about Jenkins is how her books all seem to be so different from each other. It must keep things interesting for her as a writer.

As the book begins, Shaun is about to walk in front of a truck and die. Kiriel, who comes from Hell, has been observing people for some time, and Shaun in particular. Sick of his job in Hell, he takes over Shaun's body just before he is about to die. He is then himself, but in Shaun's body. He takes over his life, but only better. He is actually nice to his annoying brother. He is nice to all of the kids at school. He dresses decently. He does his homework. His one goal now that he is a human it so have sex, specifically with Lane, who he finds beautiful but no one else does.

This book was amusing. It's funny to have a person take over the body of a teenager and to see what his reactions are to the whole thing. Highly recommended for any readers, but male readers in particular.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Catalyst ****

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Catalyst. 2002.

This was a great book about a girl whose life seems to be falling apart. Kate lives with her brother Toby and her minister father. She seems to take on a lot of the responsibility around the house. Her father means well but seems to always be busy with things. She is really stressed out about college. She only applied to MIT and is eagerly awaiting their decision.

Teri, an unpopular girl at school, steals Kate's watch. Kate follows her home and discovers that Teri's mom is unable to do much for herself and Teri is the one taking care of things at her house too. Then her house burns down. Her father lets Teri and her little brother move in which really gets Kate's blood boiling. She has to give up her bed and can't sleep for all the snoring.

I won't give anything more away about the plot. This was a great book about a high strung high school student, which is something many readers will relate to.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Feathers ****1/2

Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. 2007.

This is a Newbery Honor Book.

This was a great book. I normally only read books aimed at HS students, but this book was a Newbery Honor book so I thought I would read it anyway. No high school student would be interested in this book at all, but younger readers would.

Frannie is going through a lot. She lives on the side of town where all of the black people live. Her brother is deaf. Her mother has lost babies in the past and is pregnant again. A new white boy moves in and is the only white boy at their school. Because of his long hair, people start calling him Jesus Boy. Immediately, some of the school bullies start to give him a hard time. Frannie feels a connection to him but doesn't want to get involved and become a target of the bullies herself.

Frannie is an honest and flawed character. She is easy to like and her story should keep readers interested.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Before I Die ****

Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. 2007.

I read this book because it's on the ALA's Best Books for YAs List. In fact, it's in the Top 10. After reading the book and finding it lacking, I looked at some reviews of it on Amazon. It seems that people either really love this book or, like me, don't understand what all the hype is about. I wanted to give three stars, but given the fact that so many people loved it, I decided to bump it up an extra star. I figure dozens of other people have loved it, so I should take that into account.

The main character, Tessa, is dying from Leukemia. She has a list of 10 things that she wants to accomplish before she dies. Some of these things include having sex, falling in love, getting her parents back together and breaking the law. She manages to fulfill all of the things on her list, or least tries.

The book might be rather depressing to some, although I didn't think so. I saw it as a positive story, at least insofar as Tessa was trying to make something positive out of the little time she had left. I think the problem I had with the book is the characters, Tessa in particular. They were unlikable. Tessa isn't really likable at all. Her best friend Zoey seems like a bad influence. Her mother is a loser. Her father is a main character, but I didn't get a sense of anything about him. I think, since Tessa is the narrator, that it's all about her and she doesn't bother with telling us much about him and his life. I don't think she even bothers to know what her father's life is like outside of taking care of her. I know she is dying but she seems awfully self-centered which makes her unlikable to me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

American Born Chinese ****1/2

Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. 2006.

I am a little late to the party as far as this book is concerned. It won all sorts of awards and accolades and I am just now getting to it. In my defense, I am not really into graphic novels, so I put it off for that reason.

Anyway, the book starts out with appears to be disconnected stories. Then, as the book comes to an end, the different story lines come togehter and it all makes sense. The story primarily revolves around Jin Wang, a new student in school. He was born in America, but is of Chinese decent. He eventually befriends a new Taiwanese kid who is, as he calls it, fresh off the boat. They stay friends all through school until there is a fight that splits them up. Meanwhile, we hear the story of the Monkey King. We also have a story line with a white boy that is followed around by his embarassing Chinese relative who is a total stereotype. It's a little hard to explain the book, honestly.

Fans of graphic novels would enjoy it. Anyone looking to read something different should check this one out. It's definitely different and interesting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? ***1/2

Kantor, Melissa. If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where is my Prince? 2005.

I could tell you what was going to happen in this book right from the beginning. This is stereotypical YA lit. In a nutshell: Girl's mother dies. Girl's father remarries a woman with two children. Father moves them across the country. Stepmother treats her unfairly. In the end, they come to an understanding and live happily ever after. And, on top of that, there is the "new girl" stereotype on top of it. She falls for the most popular guy in school, he falls for her and now she is instantly popular too, even though no one would talk to her just last week.

There is nothing new here, but it's still entertaining if if you are into this sort of thing and haven't read it 20 times already. The good thing about this one is that Lucy is pretty cool and readers might enjoy her sarcastic wit.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The UnResolved ****

Welsh, T.K The UnResolved. 2006.

I have to admit that I had never heard of the boat accident that is detailed in this book, despite the fact that it was apparently a huge disaster. The book in narrated by Mallory who is dead. She begins by telling us how she died--her and her family were on a boat headed to Long Island for a church activity in 1904. She meets Dustin in an empty room so they can kiss. While they are in the room, a group of boys catch them and a bit of a scuffle occurs. Shortly thereafter, the boat catches fire.

Mallory dies in the blaze and then sticks around, visiting her family, Dustin, and those that are partially responsible for the wreck. There is plenty of blame to go around but no one seems to be able to figure out the truth. The grieving familes, thirsty for revenge, want revenge on Dustin, who they believe to be at fault.

This was a great book. It's another in a recent trend in YA lit in which a dead person narrates the story. This one was very well done and I recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Persepolis *****

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. 2003.

I'm a little embarassed to admit it has taken me this long to read this fabulous graphic novel. I saw an advertisement for the new movie and it reminded me that I had been meaning to read it for years.

This is an autobiographical work about Marjane's childhood in Iran. It starts out with her going to school as a carefree girl, and then shows the changes that occurred in the country as it came under religious rule. All of the girls had to wear the chador and follow other Islamic rules. This was a hard time for Marjane's family since they were a modern family and opposed the new regime. Then the war with Iraq occurred which made things even more unsafe for the citizens of Iran.

I think even people that aren't generally interested in graphic novels would enjoy this book.
Not only is there now a movie version of this book but there is a sequel entitled Persepolis 2.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Heroines ****

Favorite, Eileen. The Heroines. 2007.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

Penny and her mother Anne-Marie live in the Bed and Breakfast in which Anne-Marie grew up. Throughout her life Anne Marie has had visits from famous book characters. The first was Cathering Ernshaw from Wuthering Heights. She arrives at the part where she is deciding who she should marry. Heathcliff comes after her and eventually they are sent on their way to finish their story. Over the years other characters have visited, including Ophelia, Scarlett O'Hara, and Madame Bovary.

Now, in the present, Deirdre arrives. At first they don't realize she is a Heroine but then they figure that out, but not from what story she comes. Conor, a King, comes for her and Penny is the one that ends up dealing with him. When she returns home, the cops have been called already so that forces a trip to the ER for a rape kit, even though she wasn't raped. Sick of her mother putting the heroines first, Penny goes nuts in the ER and is finally placed in the psych ward for being a paranoid schizophrenic.

This is a really cute story. It's light-heared and it's nothing serious, just some good fun. Recommend for female readers who enjoy off-beat books.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Luxe ****

Godbersen, Anna. The Luxe.

I am just getting back into reading YA novels again after taking a break. I forgot to review The Luxe a few months ago when it first came out. I had been eagerly anticipating it and was over the moon when it came in at my local public libary.

The book didn't disappoint. I would describe this as a historical Gossip Girl. The characters are all rich teenagers growing up at the turn-of-the-century. Elizabeth is in love with one of the servants but she is forced to marry Henry. Henry doesn't want her either, but he must marry her or he will be disinherited. Meanwhile, Henry is in love with another girl who also wants to marry him. When he chooses Elizabeth, she freaks out. Elizabeth supposedly dies by plunging into the Hudson River, but it's not clear if she is dead or if she ran away. This leaves things open for further installments of this new series.

I highly recommend this new series to girls who are fans of series fiction or historical fiction.

Poseur ***

Maude, Rachel. Poseur. 2007.

I found this book to be "just OK." It didn't draw me in like some other series like Gossip Girl. The characters in this book all attend a private school in LA. They are all registered in a special projects class in school. These four girls decide to start their own clothing line, and they only have a short time in which to do it. Complicating matters is the fact that they are all very different from each other. Janie isn't rich and she comes from The Valley. Charlotte is rich and spoiled. Melissa is the daughter of a famous musician. Petra isn't into fashion or the rich lifestyle.

While not realistic, teens who enjoy this sort of series fiction will probably enjoy this new series.

Monday, October 08, 2007

21 Proms ***1/2

Levithan, David, and Daniel Ehrenhaft, eds. 21 Proms. 2007

The editors drafted various YA authors to write a short story about Prom. Some authors include Jacqueline Woodson, Cecily Von Ziegesar, John Green, and others. Most of the stories are pretty enjoyable.

I had a hard time rating this one because I enjoyed it, but I know other people may not. I would recommend it for fans of short stories, which I know leaves lots of people out! Anyone that is prom-obsessed might also enjoy reading about some prom experiences. And, of course, if you are a fan of any of the authors that are included, you will want to at least read their story!

Pretty Little Liars ****

Shepard, Sara. Pretty Little Liars. 2006.

I just discovered this new series and am totally hooked. This series follows 4 girls that live on the Main Line in Philadelphia, which is a fancy suburban area. Years ago, they all were friends along with a fifth girl who mysteriously went missing. Alison had dirt on each of the other four girls, so when she disappeared, it was almost a bit of a relief to them even though they missed her. After her disappearance, Aria moved away and the others drifted apart.

Now, they are well into high school and Aria is moving back into town. Each girl starts getting text messages from someone who seems to know everything they are up to, and knows all of their secrets. Is Alison alive and stalking all of them or does someone else know the truth about everything?

Anyone reading the first book has to continue on with the series because there is a cliffhanger. There is enough juicy stuff going on to keep readers interested to see what will happen next. The only problem is probably the same with all other series-- the wait in between books!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Summer Boys ***

Abbott, Hailey. Summer Boys.

I am a little late to the party as far as getting into this series. I had heard of it, but never bothered to try reading them. The series follows a group of cousins and friends each summer at their summer cottages in Maine. The story lines all seem to follow the romantic lives of the girls and guys and nothing else. So, while the books are interesting in the soap-opera sort of way that keeps you coming back for more, there isn't anything else going on aside from crushes, dating, and sex. I would recommend the series for fans of series fiction.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tyrell ****

Booth, Coe. Tyrell. 2006.

This was a great book but it's not necessarily appopriate for all high school library collections due to some coarse language. While it would be fine in many schools, it may not be ok for some schools that are more conservative.

This novel takes place in NYC. Tyrell is 16 and he is more or less the man of the family. His father is in prison and his mother is unable, or unwilling, to take care of the family. She never wants to find a job and spends her time complaining about how Ty needs to make money to support them. She is irresponsible and often leaves Tyrell's younger brother alone or doesn't supervise him properly. The family has been living in the Projects, but now they can't even live there and are homeless, being shuttled around from shelter to shelter.

Ty is dating Novisha, who goes to Catholic School and is strict about not having sex. Ty meets Jasmine who has had a troubled life and uses sex to get attention. She likes Ty but Ty is committed to Novisha. However, the free sex Jasmine is offering is tempting, especially since Novisha is waiting until she gets married to have sex.

Ty decides to make money by using his father's audio equipment to throw a big party, with him as a DJ. He has to get help from his father's friends and other criminals from the neighborhood, but he doesn't know of any other way to make enough money to get his family into an apartment. The entire time the reader hopes Ty can pull himself together and not get arrested.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Love, Meg ****

Purtill, C. Leigh. Love, Meg. 2007.

I received an advanced reader's copy of this book. I enjoyed it a lot. It's about a girl named Meg. She is obsessed with the TV show Friends and Jennifer Aniston. She believes that her and Jen are friends. She writes letters and she writes back. Even though Jen hasn't written back in a few years, Meg keeps writing to her.

Meg lives with her sister in California. Her sister is a mess and they move all over the place, all the time. When Meg discovers that her sister is really her mother, she leaves to go stay with her Grandmother and Uncle, who she didn't know existed. She learns who her father is and tries to find him. Her Grandmother is manipulative and mean. Her Uncle is sick and tired of taking care of his mother and wants to get on with his life. Meg makes a good friend who comes from a nice family, one that shows her what a real loving family is like. This makes her want to find her father even more, so she can be a part of a happy family.

Readers will like Meg. She is a great character and really likable. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Does My Head Look Big in This? ****

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Does My Head Look Big in This? 2005.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about a Muslim girl living in Australia. Amal's family lives near Melbourne. While they are somewhat strict and religious, Amal has never worn the hijab, nor has she even been encouraged to do so. Suddenly, she decides to start wearing it full-time, not just to religious services. This is a big decisions in a post 9/11 world, in which Muslims from all over the world were looked at with suspicion. The hijab would bring attention to her and make her appear different, which is the last thing any teenager needs. Amal has a crush on Adam, who is white and Christian. He doesn't seem to get why she wants to wear the hijab, but does try to understand. Because her culture doesn't really allow for dating, particularly outside their religion, their relationship really can't go anywhere, but she likes him anyway.

There are other side stories going on with Amal's friends, which brings more depth to the novel. Simone is a little overweight and spends her life obsessing over her weight. The most interesting character is Leila who is also Muslim, but her family is ultra-conservative. Her mother doesn't even want her to continue her schooling and continues to try to marry her off to every available guy she comes across. They don't like Leila going out and particularly at night, thinking it makes her look like a bad girl. All Leila wants to do is graduate HS and go on the become a lawyer. This conflict adds to the story and shows the differences that exist even within Islam itself.

I recommend this novel for anyone interested in learning a little bit about Islam. And, certainl Muslim teens will love being able to find someone like themselves in a book for once!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns *****

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. 2007.

While this book is somewhat advanced, I wanted to mention it here because it was superb. This is the author of The Kite Runner which was awesome. I didn't think he could top that one, but he did manage to do just that with this book.

Hosseini follows three decades of upheaval in Afghanistan. Unlike the characters in The Kite Runner, these characters don't leave Afghanistan, so they are there to see all of the turmoil that went on there for decades. The main character is Mariam, who is the illegitimate daughter of a rich man. He eventually marries her off to an older man when she is only in her teens. Rasheed is old and mean. After she is unable to produce an heir for him, he becomes even meaner. Then, he takes another wife.

Laila is that wife. She is alone and scared. Her parents have died from a bomb. The love of her life has left for Pakistan. Mariam and Rasheed, who had been her neighbors, take her in and nurse her back to health. When she finds out Tariq is dead, she agrees to marry Rasheed because she realizes she has nowhere else to go.

As time wears on, things continue to get worse as the Taliban takes over the entire country. Rasheed becomes even meaner, particularly now that the Taliban has stripped women of all of their power.

I highly recommend this book to advanced readers. This was a gripping novel and readers will not be disappointed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The A-List ****

Dean, Zoey. The A-List. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2003.

We have another hit series on our hands. Similar to the Gossip Girl series, this new series features rich spoiled kids who are backstabbing each other while wearing Manolos.

Anna, a high school senior, decides to leave NYC to live with her father in LA. On the plane ride out, she meets Ben, a student at Princeton, who is traveling home to LA. They hit it off and he invites her to a wedding he will be attending that evening. The wedding is between a hot A-List actor and his very pregnant and very young girlfriend. His daughter, Sam, isn't happy about it, but is looking forward to seeing Ben at the wedding because she is secretly in love with him. So are her two best friends. All three plan to hook up with Ben at the wedding, but haven't told each other. Imagine their surprise when he shows up with some stranger he met on the plane. The action all happens in 24 hours, from the plane ride, through the wedding, and through to the next morning.

This isn't exactly a literary masterpiece, BUT, it will be very popular with teen girls, much like the similar Gossip Girl series. The rest of the series will probably continue on with all four girls fighting over Ben or various other guys, and lots of other drama. The plot will be interesting for teen girls and keep them coming back for more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Good Girls *** 1/2

Ruby, Laura. Good Girls. 2006.

This was a fairly good book. Audrey randomly hooks up with Luke at parties. When it becomes apparent that they are only going to hook up and never have a relationship, she cuts things off with him at a party, but not before giving him a parting blow job in a closet. While she is *ahem* on her knees, someone opens the door and takes a picture of the couple but they don't know who it was. The next day, the picture is flying around the internet and being sent from cell phone to cell phone. It even appears on the school's library computers. All of a sudden, Audrey goes from being a good girl to being the school slut, even thought she is a virgin.

Girls will enjoy this book. It's a serious topic, but it is dealt with in a non-serious sort of way. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's not preachy or anything, it's just an interesting and entertaining story.

Gossip Girl *****

Von Ziegesar, Cecily. Gossip Girl. Boston, Little Brown, 2002.

Is this series a literary masterpiece? Absolutely not. Is this series wildly popular? Heck, yes. That is why there are five starts up there next to the title. If it's popular, I think it's a good thing, because it means people are reading something. I read the first book and the next few in the series over a year ago, but I couldn't read the rest because they are always checked out. One thing I know is that they are definitely addictive.

This series is basically a soap opera in a book. It's fabulous. Blair and her friends are all rich and go to a fancy prep school. Blair is dating Nate, who goes to a fancy prep school for boys. All of a sudden, Serena, her former best friend, comes home suddenly and throws things totally off-kilter. Serena used to go out with Nate and now Nate doesn't really want Blaire anymore. There are many other characters that will all play a part in the series as it continues to unfold. The series is supposed to have 11 books in it, total. I can't wait to get to the end!

Anyone that enjoys drama drama drama will like this book. It it chick lit at its finest-- it's addictive and juicy. If you haven't read this series, what are you waiting for?!

Monday, June 04, 2007

What Happened to Cass McBride *****

Giles, Gail. What Happened to Cass McBride? 2006.

This was a great book! This book alternates perspective between Cass, who is currently buried alive; Kyle, who is now in jail; and Ben, the cop working the case. Kyle has buried Cass alive because he blames her for the death of his brother David. David was a shy kid who had a hard time at home, dealing with constant criticism from his mother. When he asks Cass out on a date, she is polite to him but writes a note to her friend telling her how David was a loser and had just asked her out. David read the note and then killed himself by hanging himself from the tree in his front yard. Blaming her for the death, Kyle decides to bury her alive to torture her like her brother had been tortured his whole life.

This was a great novel that really gets into the heads of all of the characters. The reader will be fascinated by all of the characters and won't want to put the book down until they get to the end.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Angels on Sunset Boulevard ****

De La Cruz, Melissa. Angels on Sunset Boulevard. 2007.

I had been eagerly anticipating this novel because I am a fan of the Au Pairs series by the same author.

This novel folllows a group of teens in LA that are involved in an odd sort of cult. They all gather on a MySpace type of web page, There are TAP parties every other weekend. There is a goal by everyone invited to eventually get invited into the private party at the parties where they are initiated into the group for life. Some of the people involved are Nick, a rich kid, who is dating Maxine. Johnny, a singer, becomes famous just from his exposure on His girlfriend, Taj is also involved. After Johnny disappears suddenly at his first concert, Taj tries to figure out what is going on. She suspects Johnny's manager, who also happens to be the head of TAP, is behind it but she can't figure it out. Nick's sister goes to one of the parties and also disappears, along with other LA teens. Nick and Taj are both trying to figure out what the real story is behind these parties, but the people in charge don't want the truth to come out.

This was an interesting stor, filled with parties, drinking, and rich kids. It has a totally different feel than Au Pairs, however. It's less soap-opera-ish and more angst-y.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Impulse **** 1/2

Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. 2007.

I enjoyed this book far better than Crank. In fact, I found Crank so hard to get through that I don't believe I ever finished it. This is a novel told in verse, so for anyone that can't stand that, read no further.

This story follows three teens in a mental institution. All three are there for trying to kill themselves. Conner is the child of rich, overbearing parents that only care about his success. After shooting himself, he is in the hospital. Even now, his parents continue to pressure him about his grades and college. Tony is a gay teen who has been abused by a number of his prostitute mother's boyfriends over the years. He has also sold himself for drugs. His father dropped he and his mother years ago and left to make a new life for himself, leaving Tony to try to fend for himself. Vanessa is bi-polar and tried to commit suicide. Her mother had been bi-polar as well, and had also tried to kill herself. Her father had essentially abandoned her with the mother and let the Grandmother handle it all. These three teens enter the facility at around the same time together and go through treatment together. The story changes perspective between the three characters throughout the book.

This book is really long, 666 pages to be exact. But, because it's poetry, it isn't full pages, so it goes really fast. Don't let the size scare you. This was a great book with sympathetic characters. Their stories were interesting and readers should be interested in readind about their lives and how they got to this place.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Story of a Girl ****1/2

Zarr, Sara. Story of a Girl. 2007.

When Deanna was 13, her father caught her having sex with Tommy, a 17 year old friend of her brother. From that point on, Deanna's life changed. Her father can barely look at her and he doesn't talk to her anymore. At school, she became known as the girl with a bad reputation. As a consequence, she isn't very popular. Her best friend is a guy. She is sort of interested in him, but he is dating her only other friend, Lee. Deanna's home life is tense. In addition to her father not talking to her, her brother Darren lives in the basement with his girlfriend Stacy and their infant daughter. Deanna dreams of getting out of her house. In her fantasy, she moves out of the house with her brother and Stacy and lives with them. To reach that dream, she gets a summer job. The only one she can get is at a local pizza place, where she discovers Tommy works.

This was a great novel and I highly recommend it to any reader. Deanna is a great character. Readers will appreciate a character like Deanna-- someone who has made mistakes and who is trying to make her life better.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Twisted ****

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Twisted. 2007.

I enjoyed this latest book by Anderson. Tyler has always been a bit of a nerd and never really popular. He got it into his head to deface school property and got caught. Because of this, he was arrested and is now on parole; he had been forced to do community service as his punishment. Now, as school is about the begin, he finds he is being received differently-- now some kids are scared of him and some are in awe of him. One kid that has always hated him was Chip. Chip is a rich kid. Tyler just so happens to have a crush on Chip's sister Bethany. Tyler's father also happens to work for their father. Chip seems hell bent on making Tyler's life miserable, especially when Bethany starts to pay attention to him. After an incident at a party involving Bethany, Tyler is accused of being the perpetrator, even though he isn't. He is blamed primarily because everyone knows he likes her and also because of his criminal past.

Readers will feel Tyler's pain as they read the book. He is so unhappy and also really misunderstood, particularly his own father who is also a bully. As Tyler begins to contemplate suicide, the reader can really feel his pain and understand how he got to this place.

Highly recommended for all readers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Unlikely Friendship ***1/2

Rinaldi, Ann. An Unlikely Friendship: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley. 2007.

This was an interesting and enjoyable historical fiction novel.

The first half details the troubled childhood of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln. The lives of her and her siblings became messy and unhappy after her mother's death and her father's subsequent remarriage. Their step mother was somewhat "evil" and made the house an unhappy one.

The second half was about the interesting life of Elizabeth Keckley who was born into slavery. Her mother was her white master, and her mother one of his slaves. She experienced a better upbringing because of her status. When she learned she could buy her own freedom, she decided to do that. She was an excellent seamstress and managed to make some great connections. Finally, after she had bought her own freedom, she managed to hook up with Mary Todd Lincoln and they became great friends.

The only problem I had with the book was that the friendship wasn't really fleshed out. There wasn't really any details on why these two women were friends. I felt that the stories of both women were really interesting. Frankly, I wish there was more detail for each woman and that each woman got her own book. After all, the friendship wasn't really important to the novel anyway, so there wasn't a need to bring both girls together into the same novel. Still, their lives were both fascinating and I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy reading about them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Surrender ****

Hartnett, Sonya. Surrender. 2005.

When Anwell is young, he becomes responsible for the death of his cognitively impaired brother. His mother doensn't have a full handle on reality and his father isn't altogether warm and loving either. Anwell meets Finnigan in the woods near his house and he is really his only friend. Finnigan begins to start fires around town and noone seems to be able to figure out who is doing it. Anwell also adopts the name Gabriel, after the angel. His father starts to spearhead a vigilante group to find the perpetrator and also go against the Sheriff who has been unable to catch the arsonist.

This book can be best described as a psychological thriller. As we are reading, we aren't entirely sure what is really happening and if the narrators are telling us the truth or the whole truth. In fact, for most of the book I was wondering of Finnigan existed at all, or if he was even possibly one of Anwell's multiple personalities. This is a great book for anyone interested in reading a book that keeps you wondering what is really going on right up until the end.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Forever in Blue *****

Brashares, Ann. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood. 2007.

I can't believe this series is OVER. I guess maybe Brashares felt she had taken the girls as far as she wanted to and wants to leave the rest up to our imagination. I was so sad the series was over, but when I told my husband about it, he thinks that this will lead to a new set of girls and a whole new series. Who knows? I hope so!

There is probably no need to go into details here. This book basically follows the girl in the summer after their Freshman year. All of them are separate again. Bridget is off to Greece working on an archaological dig while her boyfriend is at soccer camp. She starts to fall for a married guy on the dig and doesn't know what to do about it. Carmen is convinced to go to a theatre camp by a college friend so that she can work on sets, but ends up getting invited to audition for the plays. Lena is at her college for the summer and meets a fellow artist. She likes him, but is she truly over Kostos? Tibby is in NY for the summer too, and is taking a screenwriting course. She becomes lost after a pregnancy scare.

All readers know that the girls will come together at the end of the book, otherwise it wouldn't really make any sense. Fans of the series will love this book and should gobble it up all in one setting. For anyone that hasn't read this series, go out and start reading it NOW.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life ****

Reinhardt, Dana. A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. 2006.

Simone is adopted, and has always known this. Now she is older and her parents tell her that her birth mother, Rivka, wants to meet her. Simone has never really been interested in that, but her parents push her to do so. When she does, she learns that Rivka has a terminal illness. Simone learns about Rivka's background and the circumstances surrounding her adoption. She learns a lot about family and herself. There are a lot of other threads going through the story, too to keep things interesting and moving along.

Recommended for anyone that has been adopted as they may identify with Simone's feelings. Also recommended for anyone interested in reading about families and the characters's changing place in their family.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blood and Chocolate ****1/2

Klause, Annette Curtis. Blood and Chocolate. 1997.

I have been meaning to read this book for years. Now that a movie version of the book is coming out this week, I thought now was a good time to finally read it.

Vivian lives with a pack of werewolves. There is a lot of internal strife over who the new leader will be. The younger members have been getting into mischief. They try to not to kill humans because it can get them into trouble. When some humans start to get killed, no one knows who is doing the killing and Vivian thinks it is her. She ends up falling for Aidan, a regular boy. The pack isn't happy about it because they don't want her to date anyone else; they threaten to hurt him if she continues. She doesn't listen and things inevitably become complicated.

This was a great novel. I don't normally enjoy vampire/werewolf type books, but this one was quite good. The characters were interesting and the plot was very rich. Vivian also experiences many emotions throughout the novel and the author describes them quite well so we get not just plot, but feeling as well. Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Private ****

Brian, Kate. Private. 2006.

This is yet another new teen series featuring teenage girls. In this series, the girls are living at an exclusive boarding school for girls in New England. The action primarily follows Reed, a girl that has come to the school on scholarship. She goesthere to get away from an alcoholic mother and to try to make something of herself. Once she gets there, she is intrigued by The Billings Girls, an exclusive group of girls that live in a special dorm by invitation only. Amazingly, the group seems to take a liking to her and she thinks she might have a chance at getting invited as an official member of the group. It seems that membership means following a set of rules and doing things she might not want to do, and she wonders if it is really worth it.

This series is recommended for any fans of the other series circulating around now.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lush ****

Friend, Natasha. Lush. 2006.

Sam's father is an alcoholic. She is afraid to bring people home because of his erratic behavior. He keeps everyone on edge all the time, because they never know what he will do next. Her father claims that he has given up drinking, but she knows differently because she knows where he has his bottles stashed, and the levels keep going down. Her Grandmother is in denial about it all and her mother pretends like it isn't happening. It seems to Sam that she is the only one that seems to see what is going on.

Sam doesn't know where to turn because she can't tell her friends what she is going through. She starts exchanging letters with a stranger at the public library by leaving their letters in the same book on the shelves. She doesn't know who she is corresponding with, but she feels better having someone to talk to. She starts to get the attention of a HS boy, Drew, and this starts to get her into some trouble along the way too.

I highly recommend this book to middle and high school readers, particularly those that have relatives with alcohol problems. There are resources at the end of the book for readers interested in learning more about the topic and also getting help if they are in the same situation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Facts Speak for Themselves ***1/2

Cole, Brock. The Facts Speak for Themselves. 1997.

This book is narrated by Linda who has just been taken to a home for troubled teens while the police investigate a recent murder. She goes back in time and tells the reader about her mother and their life together. Her mother has made many bad choices, most of them because of men. She seems to be unable to be alone and she goes from one man to another. She becomes pregnant with one man's baby and then leaves it in the care of Linda while she does whatever she wants. Then she marries an elderly man and moves them to Florida, but when he starts to show signs of old age, she splits, leaving Linda there to take care of the man herself. When things go wrong, her mother finally retrieves her and is pregnant with yet another man's child. Things go from bad to worse, with Linda stuck in the middle and trying to be good and take care of everyone.

The reader sympathizes with Linda because she doesn't really seem to know any better and she is making some awful choices herself, but it is because she doesn't know what is right or wrong anymore after watching her mother live a life of bad choices. This isn't a happy story and doesn't end with all of the ends tied up neatly with Linda all cured and happy. Still, readers may enjoy seeing what it is like to be a teenager that has lived a life like this, in her own words.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The 310: Life as a Poser ****

Killian, Beth. Life as a Poser. 2006.

I just can't get enough of these series that keep popping up. This series, the 310 series, is from MTV books (who knew MTV put out books?) This series isn't as scandalous as Gossip Girl so anyone that can't read that series because of its content may like this series as an alternative.

The series follows Eva Cordes who has moved from Massachusettes to California. Her Aunt Laurel is an LA agent and she will be working to get Eva into show business. Her mother, a former star herself, has never been in Eva's life and lives with Laurel. Eva is living in the company apartment complex with a variety of aspiring teen actresses, all of whom add spice to the story. C Money, whose mother is a casting agent, sets his sights on Eva but Eva can't stand him. Laurel, however, makes her date him because if she rejects him, she may never get work. Meanwhile, Eva is desperate to find out who her father is since she has never been told who he is.

The book leaves lots of story lines open and I can see this series can go on for quite some time, assuming it catches on. Not much is really resolved because the author wants to lead the reader into reading the next book in the series. Highly recommended for girls who are interested in these types of series books.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The It Girl ****

Von Ziegesar, Cecily. The It Girl. New York: Little, Brown, 2005.

This is a spin-off series from the popular Gossip Girl series. Jenny Humphrey, after being kicked out of Constance Billard, enroles in Waverly, a co-ed boarding school in upstate New York. She wants to start the new year off on the right foot and forget about "Old Jenny". Her goal is to be popular, the "It Girl" on campus.

She takes over the bed that used to belong to Tinsley, who left the previous year after being kicked out over mysterious circumstances. She is rooming with Brett and Callie, best friends that are no longer speaking to each other after Tinsley was kicked out. Similar to Gossip Girl, there are spurned loves, and unrequited crushes. There are also a lot of parties and drinking, both on campus and off.

In between the chapters are Emails and Text Messages from students and others about incidents happening in the book, mostly gossip, similar to Gossip Girl. Fans of Gossip Girl will love this series, although it is somewhat tamer.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Clique ****

Harrison, Lisi. The Clique. 2004.

This is the first book in the very popular middle school series. I would describe this as Gossip Girl for younger readers, and without the smut. It has lots of catty behavior, and lots of name dropping, but none of the sex and stuff like that.

Massie is a part of a group of four really popular girls at their very exclusive private school in Westchester County, NY. Massie, Dylan, Kristen, and Alicia. An old friend of Massie's father decides to move there from Florida and takes a job at the same company. Until they can afford a house of their own, the Lyons family will be living in the pool house. They have a daughter, Claire, that is also going into 7th grade. Massie tries to push Claire on her and Massie doesn't like it one bit, especially since she is a bit of a dork. Claire wants to be a part of their group desperately regardless of the fact that the girls want nothing to do with her.

Recommended for girls in the middle grades that like gossip-y type books.

Other books in the series:
Best Friends for Never
Revenge of the Wannabees
Invasion of the Boy Snatchers
The Pretty Committee Strikes Back

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Loud Silence of Francine Green ****

Cushman, Karen. The Loud Silence of Francine Green. 2006.

Francine is the quiet and sort of boring middle child of the Green Family. The country is scared of the Communists and is in the process of ferreting all of the Communists from America. The Green family, like many families, are erecting a bomb shelter in their backyard. Her family lives in Los Angeles, right in the middle of the entertainment industry.

Francine goes to Catholic School and becomes friends with a new girl, Sophie. Sophie is outspoken and questions authority. Her father and a family friend are blacklisted because the FBI is convinced they are Communists. Sophie shows Francine another view and also teaches her to speak up and ask questions, to not just accept everything she is told as fact.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction. This novel has a slightly different feel than Cushman's previous novels, which all feature girls during the Middle Ages. But, Francine is similar to Cushman's previous characters-- they are smart and they are ahead of their time.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kiss Me Tomorrow ***

Shreve, Susan. Kiss Me Tomorrow. 2006.

Blister (aka Alyssa) and her best friend Jonah are just starting Junior High. He dumps Blister so he can follow around the "cool" kids. These kids aren't the best behaved kids in school and they end up leaving Jonah with a bunch of shoplifted electronics equipment. Blister knows Jonah would have never steal anything. After he runs away, Blister knows where to find him and tries to help him stay hidden. Meanwhile, her mother and her boyfriend decide to move into a house together, which just so happens to be across the street from Jakob, one of the guys that left Jonah to take the rap for the shoplifting.

This was a good middle school title. Recommended for middle school girls.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Klepto ***

Pollack, Jenny. Klepto. 2006.

The year is 1981 and Julie is about to start at the NYC High School for the Performing Arts. She immediately makes friends with another girl Julie that is pretty and seems to have everything. She starts to hang out with Julie where she learns how to shoplift all sorts of things from all sorts of stores. After awhile Julie finds that she is unable to stop shoplifting and thinks she has become a kleptomaniac. She has other problems as well. Her parents are always fighting. Her older sister seems to be a total introvert with no friends. She really likes Josh, but he doesn't seem to like her back, at least at first. Julie becomes afraid that she can't stop shoplifting but she is also afraid Julie will dump her if she stops, which would leave her without a best friend.

My only problem with the book is that it felt more like the author was trying to make a point rather than write an entertaining story. The author blurb even stated that the author attended this high school and used to be a shoplifter, so perhaps the problem was that it was non-fiction packaged as fiction. This isn't to say this isn't a good book, it just wasn't one of the better ones I have read.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sold **** 1/2

McCormick, Patricia. Sold. 2006.

Lakshmi, a 13 year old girl from Nepal, lives with her mother and her step-father. He has a gambling problem and he doesn't work, so that leave the family poor. Lakshmi has asked to be allowed to go to the city to work as a maid like her friend, but her parents have never allowed it. Eventually, they don't have a choice and her step-father sells her to a woman who says she is taking her to the city to be a maid. The truth is that she is taking her to the border of India where she will be smuggled in and then sold into prostitution.

Lakshmi fights against it, but she soon realized giving in and being with the men is inevitable. She realizes soon enough that she will never buy her way out. She is approached by an American who is trying to get her to come to America. She refuses to go because she is told by the others that the Americans are worse and won't treat her as well.

This wasn't an easy book to read, but it was beautifully written and the reader will learn about something they probably know nothing about. Unlike Cut, this book is written like poetry, not in prose. The short sections work for this particular story. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Being Bindy ***

Brugman, Alyssa. Being Bindy. 2004.

This book was just released in the US with a different cover.

Bindy is in 8th grade and things start to change. Her best friend Janey was like a sister to her, always spending lots of time over at her house. Now, she has started hanging out with Hannah. Now Janey has started to dress and act differently. Eventually, she drops Janey altogether. Then, Bindy's father and Janey's mother start to date. Together, the girls agree they have to break them up because they don't want to end up being sisters, but it is really more Janey's idea and it sort of falls apart anyway. Meanwhile, Bindy is trying to navigate HS without friends and also her relationship with her distant mother.

I recommend this book for a middle school audience or perhaps 9th grade in HS. The characters are younger and act like it so older teens would't enjoy reading it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Homefront ****

Gwaltney, Doris. Homefront. 2006.

It is 1941 and Margaret Ann's life is throw into a tailspin. Her sister Elizabeth leaves for college, and Margaret Ann is excited because now she can have Elizabeth's room instead of sharing a room with her cantankerous Grandmother. Out of nowhere, her Aunt and cousin Courtney move in and take her room away from her. They had fled from England because of WWII. Before long, everyone is nice to her and she seems to get all the attention. Her friends and her boyfriend like Courtney more than they like her. This makes Margaret Ann hate Courtney and treat her badly. Elizabeth ends up coming home and marrying her boyfriend Tommy and is soon pregnant. Then Courtney's father is declared Missing in Action. It seems that WWII is changing everything.

I know most people don't like Historical Fiction, so I know this review will fall on deaf ears so to speak. Still, this was a great book, filled with wonderful characters. Margaret Ann is really strong willed and, since she is the narrator, it makes the story interesting. Highly recommended for teens that enjoy historical fiction.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up ****

Craft, Elizabeth and Sarah Fain. Bass Ackwards and Belly Up. 2006.

This is basically a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants rip-off.

A week before college starts, four friends decide to change their college plans in order to pursue their dreams. Instead of staying in Boulder like she had planned, Sophie goes off the LA to pursue acting. Kate, who is a high achiever, decides to give up on Harvard and travel around Europe. Harper, who has been hiding the fact that she was actually rejected by NYU, was still planning to to go to NY. She decides to stay at home and write the Great American Novel. Becca does go to college to escape her dysfuctional family. The story alternates between each character as they each pursue their dreams and figure out what they want from life.

Fans of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will, of course, enjoy this book, because it is practically the same story. It's a great story about life and following one's dreams. The only annoying part is that each of their stories involves a guy, and those guys seem to help the girls along on their self-discovery. I sort of wish they could have gotten there on their own, but that's just a small quibble. Great choice for advanced teen readers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

No Right Turn ***1/2

Trueman, Terry. No Right Turn. 2005.

Three years prior, Jordan was home alone when his father shot himself to death. Now, three years later, he has shut himself off emotionally and only has one friend. His mother has started datting Don, a guy down the street. Jordan isn't happy about it, but he does start to bond with Don over his Corvette Stingray. Because Don is on the road a lot for work, Jordan starts stealin the stingray to impress a girl, which seems to work pretty well. Of course, we all know it's just a matter of time before Jordan gets caught.

I think this book will please male readers. It's not as well written as his previous novels such as Stuck in Neutral, but it was still interesting and worth reading nonetheless.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Rash ****

Hautman, Pete. Rash. 2006.

This book is different than Hautman's other books in that it takes place in the future. Bo lives in the USSA (formerly the USA). Now everything is illegal. You can't do anything that might be harmful to yourself, such as play football. No one is allowed to be mean to anyone else, and everyone is medicated. Much of society is incarcerated because everything is illegal. The jails are work camps where all of the factory work is done, such as making frozen pizzas, and de-heading shrimp. Bo ends up in one of these work camps for doing nothing that the average teenager today doesn't already do. He ends up in the far north of Canada in a camp surrouned by hungry polar bears. Bo ends up on an illegal football team that competes with other workcams. Bo continues to talk with his Robot with a futuristic version of a computer or Palm Pilot.

This isn't science fiction, it is speculative fiction. It is a view of what the world may turn into in a hundred years if we continue on the same path we are on right now, with every aspect of our lives being legislated. Readers that like to think about what life will be like down the road might enjoy this book. A casual reader would probably not be interested, but more advanced readers might really get somethign out of it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Confessions of a Hollywood Star *** 1/2

Sheldon, Dyan. Confessions of a Hollywood Star. 2005.

This is the sequel to the popular Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, which was also made into an equally popular movie.

Lola Cep wants to be a famous stage actress, and thinks LA and the movies aren't as classy or worthwhile. However, once she finds out that a movie will be filmed in her town that summer, she makes it her goal to get a part, even if it is just as an extra. She goes to extraordinary lengths, including getting a job as a maid in the hotel where the cast & crew are staying so she can talk to them into giving her a part.

Lola is very persistent and she doesnt' really listen to anyone. She is very witty and readers will be easily amused by her antics.