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.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Raiders Night ****

Lipsyte, Robert. Raiders Night. 2006.

I was excited to see this book from the author of great books like The Contender. This novels surrounds a football team during the season. Matt and many of the players take steroids. In fact, Matt takes other drugs, too, including Vicodin for pain and Ambien to sleep. Matt faces a lot of pressure from home because his father pushes him really hard in athletics. He cheats on his girlfriend and starts to see another girl.

Problems begin for the football team when a new kid moves to town and thinks he is going to make Varsity. The Captain, Rush, feels threatened. At the final night of the pre-season camp, Rush takes the initiation of new players too far by shoving a plastic bat up the new kid's butt, causing him to bleed, and the urinating in his mouth. The seniors keep the mouths shut about the incident but the team really starts to fall apart and the players know it isn't right to keep quiet, especially when Chris stops coming to school and practice. Finally, things come to a head and the boys have to decide what a real Raider would do.

This was a great novel for fans of sports novels. Any student interested in football would enjoy this book a lot. The book felt realistic and as if this story could happen in any HS in America. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Miracle's Boys ****

Woodson, Jacqueline. Miracle's Boys. 2000.

I decided to re-read this book after enjoying the first time I read it, right after it was first published. This is probably more of a middle school title, but I believe it is also appropriate for YAs.

Told from the perspective of the youngest son, Lafayette, he details life after his parents have died, leaving him and his three brothers alone. The older brother, Ty'ree, gave up his plans of going to college to take care of his brothers. The middle brother, Charlie, has been in juvenile detention for two years and has just gotten out. He blames Lafayette for the death even though it isn't his fault. Charlie gets involved with Aaron, a young gang member, and it seems that he is on the brink of breaking his probation and being sent to prison for good.

This book would be appropriate for middle and high school students. It might be of particular interest to students living in an urban environment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tenderness ****

Cormier, Robert. Tenderness. 1997.

I always describe this book as "a serial killer novel" which I think is pretty accurate. It follows three different characters. The first is Eric Poole. Eric was in juvenile detention for killing his mother and father. Before that, he had killed three young girls, but the police have been unable to link him to the murders. Now, he is about to be released and he is currently fixated on one of the female inmates who is also about to be released. Another character is the Police officer that is desperate to catch him killing someone else, as he knows he is a serial killer and will try it again. The final character is Lori. She has run away from home and has become obsessed with Eric. All she wants to do is be near him and kiss him.

We can tell right from the beginning that Lori is going to be with Eric and we just know he is going to try to kill her. This gives the reader a lot of suspense and really keeps the reader interested. Readers who enjoy suspense will enjoy this book tremendously.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How to Be Popular ****

Cabot, Meg. How to Be Popular 2006.

Fans off Cabot's Princess Diaries series will also enjoy this book. The narrator, Steph Landry, is in love with Mark, the HS quarterback and class President. She realizes that she needs to become popular to get him to like her. She finds an old book in the attic that teaches the reader to be popular. She follows the guidelines and does, in fact, get into the popular crowd. Things go awry (obviously, or there wouldn't be a point to the book!). Mark's girlfriend Lauren doesn't take kindly to Mark's attentions toward Steph and starts sending her hate email. At the same time, Steph's friend Becca is in love with their mutual friend Jason, and keeps begging Steph to find out if he likes her.

This was a really cute book. The main character is less neurotic than Princess Mia, but she is still pretty funny. Recommended for anyone that enjoys some great chic lit.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Copper Sun *****

Draper, Sharon. Copper Sun. 2006.

I have enjoyed other works by this author such as Forged by Fire, Darkness Before Dawn, Romiette and Julio and so on. I don't think I have read anything by this author I have disliked. When I saw she had a new book out and that it had received a starred review in School Library Journal, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. I put it on reserve at my public library at the beginning of summer and it just now came in. So, either someone had it for a really long time, or it has been popular!

This book is about the slave experience in the late 1700s. Amari is 15 and is living a happy life in Africa until her entire village is destroyed by white men and the neighboring Ashanti. All of the older people are killed and the younger ones are marched to the coast where they are shipped off to the American colonies. She arrives in America and is sold to Derby Farms where she has a master that is worse than most. She is really the birthday present for the 16 year old son, and he uses her for sex. In between section about Amari are sections about Polly, a white girl that comes to the farm at the same time as an indentured servant. Her indenture is 14 years but she thinks at the end of it, she will become a lady. She hates slaves and thinks she is far better than them even though she works side by side with them and have to also live in slave quarters.

This was a great account of life as a slave and the desire to be free. Unlike many, Amari's spirit was never broken and she yearned to be free and fight for it. This account was interesting in that it not only looked at Amari's experience but it also looked at Polly's perspective too, in turn, so that readers could get a feeling for what white people thought of the slaves, not just what it was like to be a slave. This was a very well written novel and I recommend it for all readers. It is not only a moving book, but readers will also learn something, which is always nice bonus.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

How I Live Now ****

Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now. 2004.

This was a well written book about a girl, Daisy, that decides to get away from her father and evil step mother by going to stay with her aunt and her children in England. She is immediately accepted into the family. She begins to have a mental connection with Edmond, her cousin, and can read his mind and vice versa. They begin to have a physical relationship. Then Aunt Penn goes off to Oslo for a business trip and the war begins. Aunt Penn is stranded in Norway and the children are left alone. Eventually, their house is taken over by the army. Daisy is sent with Piper to live in the county while the others are sent to another farm, far away.

The story is about survival and love. While I enjoyed the book, there is a major ewww factor here because she not only falls in love with her cousin, but she has sex with him many times. I felt that was odd and sort of inappropriate, especially since no one else in the book seemed to have a problem with it either. But, other than that, it was a great novel and certainly well worth reading. It also won the Printz Award, so you know it has to be good!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How I Paid for College *****

Acito, Marc. How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theatre. 2004.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs. It received a lot of acclaim, including being voted one of the Top 10 Novels for Teens by students for the American Library Association.

This novel takes place in the 1980s. Not only is it the 80s, but Edward and his friends are theatre kids, so they are somewhat, uhm, theatric. Anyway, Edward's dream is to attend Julliard and become an actor. After his father suddenly marries someone, he changes his mind and says he will only pay for college if Edward will major in business. Majoring in business is the worst thing Edward can think of. Luckily, he has a year to raise the $10,000 he needs to pay for freshman year. He resorts to working, stealing, and blackmail. Meanwhile, his group of friends are coming of age and experimenting with sex.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a funny book, because this one is hilarious. The protagonist is hysterical and his outlook on things will leave you in stitches. One of the blurbs on the back of the book stated it would be a great graduation present, and I have to agree with that. It's a great book for any senior, really, as they go through the struggles of applying for, and figuring out how they are going to pay for, college.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Born to Rock ****

Korman, Gordon. Born to Rock 2006.

This is a great novel that will probably appeal most to boys.

Leo is a bit of a stuffed shirt and he is the President of the Young Republicans at school. He is headed to Harvard in the Fall on a scholarship, but due to a misundestanding, he is accused to cheating on a test. He is still able to go to school there but he has lost his scholarship. Without the scholarship, he simply can't afford to go.

Then Leo figures out a way to go to school. He has always known the name of his biological father, but he didn't realize that his father was a famous (and rich!) punk artist from the 80s. The inlikely happens and Marion X Murphy a.k.a. King Maggot invites Leo along on their summer tour as a roadie. Along the way there is some behind the scenes stuff including sex and drugs and backstabbing while Leo tries to get to know his father and then finagle $40,000 out of him.

Male readers will enjoy the story because of the whole subplot of following the band around all summer. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Secrets of my Hollywood Life ****

Calonita, Jen. Secrets of My Hollywood Life. 2006.

This was frivolous chic lit, but so entertaining. Kaitlin is a big teenage star on a night-time soap opera. One of her co-stars hates her and is trying to sabotage her. She is totally stressed out and needs to relax, but her manger (her mother) and her agent are on her to work work work on her hiatus. She decides she wants to know what real life is like for normal teens, so she dresses in disguise and enrolls in a private school where her friend Liz goes to school. We all know that things are going to go awry, and they certainly do.

This book was very entertaining and enjoyable. I highly recommend it to female fans of chic lit. I also love the cover design--it looks like a Louis Vuitton journal--very cool. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lost and Found ****

Parkhurst, Carolyn. Lost and Found. 2006.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

Do you enjoy reality tv? If so, you will love this book. This book follows the characters in a scavenger hunt around the world called Lost and Found. The chapters alternate between some of the characters so the reader gets inside a lot of the characters, not just one. Some of the characeters include a mother and daughter trying to mend their battered relationship, two former child stars trying to become stars again, and two formerly gay people that have found Jesus and are no longer gay, or so they claim. Reading this book is like watching a reality show. There is a lot of drama and comedy to keep readers interested and wondering what will happen next.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An Abundance of Katherines **** 1/2

Green, John. An Abundance of Katherines. 2006.

Ah, the joy of advanced reader copies. I have a small collection of ARCs from Penguin Putnam and will be reviewing them here, before they are published. Yippee!! This book should be available in September. If is to be trusted, September 21 to be exact.

Anyway, John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska was awesome (see review on this blog, 12/16/05). It received starred reviews and then went on to win the Printz Award this January. I am always scared that a second book by an author will disappoint, probably because so many of them do. This one certainly d0esn't disappoint. It is totally different than Alaska, but it is still fabulous.

Colin is really too smart for his own good. He is a washed up child prodigy. He is also socially awkward-- the kid that everyone thinks is weird because he is fascinated with the most boring of topics. He has just been dumped by his 19th girlfriend, all of whom were named Katherine. Colin, who has just graduated high school, sets off on a road trip with his only friend Hassan. They don't really get very far. They take a side-trip to see the grave of Archduke Ferdinand in Gunshot, Tennessee and end up staying after the befriend a local teen that gives the tours at the grave. As he is still trying to get over his most recent dumping by a Katherine, Colin begins to think that there is a mathematical equation he can create that would predict how long a relationship will last, and he uses his experiences with the Katherines to figure it all out.

Don't let the math scare you away. After the first few chapters I got scared because, frankly I am a math moron, and I was afraid I wasn't going to "get it" if I continued on. The math is a small part of the book and you don't need to really understand it to follow the book. The book isn't about math anyway-- it's about Colin and Hassan and growing up. I highly recommend this book to all readers. And, if you haven't read Looking for Alaska yet, you need to read that one too, because both of these books are fantastic.

You can visit the author's web page and blog at

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Speak ****1/2

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. 1999.

I loved this book so much the first time I read it that I decided to read it again.

At the beginning of the novel, we aren't sure what happened, but something happened to Melinda at a party just before school starts. She called 911 at a party which caused the cops to break it up. Now everyone hates her and none of her friends will talk to her. She has a hard time adjusting to school. Her grades start to slip and she starts cutting class and school. Her parents are distant and don't pay much attention to her at all. She makes a friend with a new girl, but she soon dumps her when she gets accepted into a new group in school. Her only bright spot in life is art class with Mr. Freeman.

This is an awesome book. Told from the first person point of view, we feel like we are inside Melinda's head. Everything unfolds in such a wonderful way. Melinda is smart and observant. She is a great character and the reader will want the best for her and for the pain to go away.

Fans of the book should also seek out the movie by the same name. It sometimes appears on various cable channels including Lifetime. Anderson has also written other great titles worth looking for such as Fever 1793 and Prom (also reviewed on this blog earlier this year).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Just Listen *****

Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen. 2006.

LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. Of course, I have loved everything Sarah Dessen has written so far.

After an incident at a party, Annabel's best friend Sophie dumps her and turns the whole school against her. Now that school has started up, she sits alone at lunch but eventually strikes up a friendship with a guy at school that was previously arrested for anger problems and has just returned to school. She also has a hard time telling the truth because she doesn't want to hurt people. She continues modeling even though she doesn't want to because she is afraid to hurt her mother's feelings. She is afraid to tell her family about what happened at the party because it will upset them all, and she doesn't want to take the spotlight off her sister Whitney who is suffering from an eating disorder. Her friendship with Owen starts to help her see that all of the lying and covering up of her feelings is really just hurting her.

I highly recommend this book. While she is flawed, Annabel is very likable and sympathetic. The reader will hope that she resolves her problems and that her family will stay intact. Highly recommended for all female readers. This book is rather long, but well worth the time. Readers should also go back and read her previous novels as they are also gems!

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Book Thief *****

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. 2006.

This book received a starred review in School Library Journal and does deserve this distiction.

This book is narrated by Death. The story takes place in Nazi Germany. Leisel is essentially abandoned by her mother, and lives with foster family near Munich. She is taken care of by them, but she does miss her mother. She learns to love books even though she doesn't have any. She begins her life of crime so that she can steal books so she has something to read. Leisel's family is not a member of the Nazi party. They even hide a Jew in their basement, and he is never detected by some miracle. Essentially, this story is about WWII and the struggles everyone endured during that time.

This was a very long book-- over 500 pages. There is a signifant time committment here, but it is totally worth it. The story is compelling, and even though we all know about WWII, it is still interesting to hear about one individual's experiences.My only quibble with this book, much like I am the Messenger is that they aren't YA books. They are certainly appropriate for YAs, but they are definitely not YA books. They are most definitely adult books. But, whatever. Highly recommended for advanced YA readers interested in WWII or historical fiction.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Endgame **** 1/2

Garden, Nancy. Endgame. 2006.

This book received a starred review in School Library Journal, so I had to read it, of course! When I realized it was a school shooting novel, I sort of sighed, because that is the trend now, to do novels about a school shooting. Something can be learned from reading these books, though.

Gray and his family have just moved to a new town. The reason was pretty much because of Gray. He had been getting into trouble at his previous school and was suspended twice for bringing weapons in to school. He was bullied mercilessly, and he didn't know what else to do. He wants things to be new at this new school, but things go downhill quickly.

Peter, Gray's older brother is the super kid, and his parents seem to favor him, particularly his father. The father doesn't even like Gray and doesn't take an interest in him and his activities at all. He does make a friend at school, Ross. Immediately, a popular jock Zorro decides to torture Gray and Ross. They can't get through a day without being harassed, beaten up, and worse. Teachers turn a blind eye and other students do nothing to help. Finally, Gray takes him father's gun in to school to get revenge against Zorro, but others get in the way of the crossfire. Now he is in the juvenile detention center on trial for murder and attempted murder.

This was a great novel. If only a few kids in each school would read this, it could make life better for even just one kid. It will hopefully encourage kids to come forward and defend those that are being teased, or to go to authorities for help before things get to this point. If the reader is like Gray, it will convince them that revenge like this isn't the way to go about things, and that getting help is important. This is a great choice for any reader.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The New Rules of High School ***1/2

Nelson, Blake. The New Rules of High School. 2003.

This book was just OK. The main character, Max, is wound so tight, he's lucky doesn't explode. He decides to break up with his girlfriend Cindi for no real reason, which leaves him really sad. He is the new editor-in-chief of the school paper, and this gives him added stress. Then this girl Lydia starts to obsess over him, and sort of stalk him. He is totally stressed and, eventually, starts to unravel.

The problem I have with this book is that things don't seem to come together right. He doesn't like Lydia, and she is really crazy, yet he begins to strike up a friendship with her. His friends start getting into fights for no apparent reason. He also seems to be in total control and starts to lose it inexplicably toward the end. He should have been showing signs of losing it all along; perhaps I just missed it, I don't know. And then there is the annoying way he talks about people, often using their last names for no reason whatsoever. He would refer to his friend Bob as "Bob Hollins" all the time. It was annoying after awhile. It's not like there were multiple Bobs in the book.

This wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't great either. Read something else. I much prefered Rock Star SuperStar by this author.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl *****

Stone, Tanya Lee. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl. 2006.

This is another novel told in verse, so if you aren't a fan, stop reading now.

This story follows three girls that all get taken in by the same guy. He is charismatic and all of the girls get taken in. First, we hear from Josie. She is a Freshman and the reason he dumps her after awhile is because she refuses to sleep with him. She is a reader and the situation makes her think of the book Forever by Judy Blume. She takes the school's copy and writes a warning to all of the girls in the school. She then tells everyone, including his new conquest, to go read the book. He proceeds to use two more girls, Nicolette and Aviva.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think it sends a good message-- beware of who you fall for. Ultimately, all of these girls learn a lot from their experience of falling for a bad boy. I can bet that none of the three girls in the story would ever fall for another guy like him again. This is highly recommended for high school girls-- I think they will learn something from it. There are a few sex scenes, but they are not at all graphic. I thought I would mention that since some people are sensitive to that. Go read this book now!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie *****

Lubar, David. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. 2005.

This was a great book. Told from the first person point of view, Scott details his first year of high school. He finds himself in all college prep/honors courses while his three best friends end up someplace else. The inevitable happens-- as the year progresses, he loses his friends. He can't seem to shake Mouth, this dorky kid on his bus stop that doesn't know how and when to shut up. He is in love with Julia, but she doesn't know he exists. Oh, and his mother is pregnant.

Scott tries to join a bunch of clubs and activities so that he can have an excuse to be around Julia, who starts to date the football quarterback. He joins the school paper to be around her, but he ends up having to write the sports columns even though he is the least athletic person he knows. He befriends a new girl at school who is a little weird.

Scott has a great sense of humor. He tells us about his Freshman year with honesty and wit. He also puts in letters to his unborn brother throughout, giving him tips on navigating through life. Very funny and well written. Recommended for all readers, including reluctant readers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sloppy Firsts *****

McCafferty, Megan. Sloppy Firsts. 2001.

I am so glad I read this book again. I decided to read it again after that Harvard chic plagiarized from it.

This is great YA lit. It is not only entertaining but it is intelligent. Jessica is a smart honor student. In her diary entries, she details her life after her best friend Hope moves away and she is left hanging out with the rest of her friends, whom she has discovered that she doesn't really like.

She is in love with Pau, who has no idea she exists. Her best male friend Scott wants more, but she doesn't. She starts an odd friendship with Marcus, a burn-out. Her sister is getting married. Her mother doesn't seem to like her very much. Her father only cares about her when she is doing well at track. She misses Hope and hates her friends. A new girl, Hy, moves to town and becomes friends with Jessica and her friends. Jessica hopes Hy might replace Hope, but then she feels sorry for trying to replace Hope. Then Hy backs off and disappears altogether.

Each diary entry is witty and wonderful. I was so sad to see the book end because I love this character and wanted to see what comes next. I recommend this book to every teen girl out there. I can't see any reader being disappointed.

Luckily, there are 2 sequels to this wonderful book. Sadly, some kid has the sequel checked out (darn it!) and I haven't bought the third book yet. I have to get on that right away!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life / Unrated with Rant

Viswanathan, Kaavya. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. 2006.

Opal's dream has been to go to Harvard. Everything she has done has been to get into Harvard, which includes joining a million clubs, doing community service, and taking all AP classes. She goes on her Harvard early decision interview and she doesn't know what to say when the interviewer asks her what she likes to do for fun. He tells her basically to get a life and reapply for regular admissions.

Like she does with everything else, she decides to get a life, if that's what it takes to get into Harvard. Her parents also get involved, buying her every fashion magazine available, renting all of the latest videos, TiVoing hit TV shows, getting her a new haircut, make-up, etc. Her parents go so far as to go away and let her have a kegger in her house. As we already know from the beginning, she is going to get popular, get kissed, and get wild, but she isn't going to like it, and eventually it will go awry. And it does.

Can I recommend this book? No. Why? After it was plagiarized, it was discovered by some astute readers that it was, in fact, plagiarized. There are entire sections taken directly from Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. Some sections are copied word-for-word and in some places the words are changed a little. Her works also mirror the works of other authors such as Meg Cabot although no side-by-side comparisons have been made with any other authors. The book was subsequently pulled from all bookstores. The publisher had said that they were going to revise the book and re-release it, but they have since changed their mind on that.

The author wasn't helping her case when she first claimed she had never even read the work of McCafferty. Then in another interview she claimed the book moved her so much that she must have internalized certain passages and that was why she ended up using them in her book. Huh? I read a lot, but I have never memorized entire sentences or sections of a book! And, if I did, I would think I would have remembered that I had.

This girl, a sophomore at Harvard, is now a bit of a disgrace. If her goal was to be an author, she blew it. She will never be able to publish anything anywhere again. No place would take the risk of plagiarism lawsuits. Right now she is lucky that Megan McCafferty has said she doesn't plan to sue. The publisher will probably take away her advance. I hope she didn't spend it!

If you want to read this book, you will have to get it used on Amazon since bookstores have pulled it. Some libraries still have it, although I am sure they will pull the books from their collections too, once they get returned. I only read it to see the comparison between the books. While I enjoyed the book, it is tarnished from this scandal. I think HS seniors going through the application process would enjoy the book because it is amusing, but it is hard to get past the plagiarism thing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Moon Over Manhattan **

King, Larry and Thomas H. Cook. Moon Over Manhattan: A Novel of Mystery and Mayhem. New York: Plume 2004.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

I didn't like this book one bit. There were some funny parts, but there wasn't enough good stuff to override the fact that this book had no point really.

Allison Vandemeer is the daughter of Arthur, a popular TV talk show host that is very liberal. She is dating Goonie, a poor, uneducated Hispanic boy with the IQ of a flee. She isn't into him that much but she wants to use him. She needs him to get her rather to let her go to film school at UCLA. She decides to write a fake note about eloping with Goonie to get her father upset. She figures after she comes home in a few days, he will be so happy she is home and not married to Goonie, that he will let her go to UCLA to get her away from Goonie. Anyway, things don't go right and mayhem ensues.

The story takes place in NYC. The characters are all varied. Some are interesting but none are really sympathetic characters-- they are all majorly flawed people with few redeeming qualities. I didn't really care what happened to any of them. At the end I thought to myself, "So what?" To sum up, don't read this book. Whomever reviewed this in SLJ and told school librarians to buy this is crazy. I can't imagine high school students reading this book at all.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Soldier's Heart ****

Paulsen, Gary. Soldier's Heart: The Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesotta Volunteers: A Novel of the Civil War. 1998.

This book should be popular for anyone looking for a short book. While the intended audience is middle school, a high school student interested in the subject matter would also enjoy it.

Charley joins up in the Civil War despite the fact that he is only 15. He is trained and shipped out to War. He sees many battles and amazingly manages to stay alive. The novel focuses on particular battles such as Bull Run and Gettysburg and explains them pretty well. After reading the novel, the reader should have a better understanding of the Civil War and what it was like to be in battle.

I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, particularly war stories. While many historical novels about war detail life at home, this one tells what life was like for the soldier fighting the war. While there is a good bit of death, the deaths are dealt with without any gory detail so readers will not feel uncomfortable reading it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

At First Sight ****

Sparks, Nicholas. At First Sight. New York: Warner, 2005.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

Jeremy lives in NYC and makes his living writing a column for Scientific American and various other freelance jobs. He meets Lexie while researching one of his articles. He falls in love with her at first sight. Crazily, he proposes to her within weeks. He gives up his life in NY and moves to rural North Carolina to be with her. They buy a house and plans for their life together. She is also pregnant, but they had fallen in love before that. Their relationship is somewhat rocky before they walk down the aisle, fraught with misunderstandings and silly arguments. You wonder if they will ever make it down the aisle.

In typical Sparks fashion, the book will lead you to inevitable tears. For anyone unfamiliar with Sparks, his books are basically emotional romance novels. Sparks isn't for everyone. Only those that like romance and emotional books should bother with this one.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Perfect Shot ****1/2

Alphin, Elaine Marie. The Perfect Shot. Minneapolis: CarolRhoda, 2005.

This is a great book for lovers of mystery and suspense.

The previous year, Brian's girlfriend, Amanda, her brother, and mother are all shot to death in their garage. At the time, Brian is in the cul-de-sac playing basketball but didn't see anything. Now, a year later, her father is on trial for their murder, but Brian isn't convinced he did it as he recalls something that did happen that day that might prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, Brian is in the middle of a basketball season. His friend Julius is arrested and roughed up by the cops after getting lost in a white neighborhood. All of the basketball players are also paired up with people in history class to learn about certain events in history and give a presentation on whether or not we have learned from history. Brian has to work with dorky Todd who ends up being a good partner. They have to research a trial of a man wrongfully convicted of murder and report on whether or not we have learned from faulty police investigation and prosectution.

It is somewhat hard to believe that all of these events happen to be be occurring at the same time-- the trial, the assignment, and Julius' wrongful arrest. Still, without all of these coincidences, there wouldn't be a novel! I recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys suspense and mystery stories. This is a long book so a casual reader would probably not want to read it. Also, while there is basketball theme, this isn't a basketball novel, so fans of sports fiction may not like it. There isn't much court action going on here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Double Helix ****1/2

Werlin, Nancy. Double Helix. New York: Dial, 2004.

This book received a starred review in SLJ. I have to agree that this was quite a good book. I have to say, however, that I was expecting something different. Because of the title and cover, I expected a medical/scientific type thriller. While it was, I wasn't expecting as much characterization. The book goes into the characters' emotions and motivations. The story was less about genetics and more about the characters.

Eli lives with his father in Cambridge. He is about the graduate HS but is putting off college for a year, despite being salutatorian. He has a strained relationship with his father. His mother is in a nursing home with Huntington's Disease and is dying. He has been dating Viv for a year, yet she has never met his father and has no idea his mother is dying. Eli gets a job working at a lab with the mysterious Dr. Wyatt, who has a connection with his family, but he doesn't know what that is. Eli's father begs him to not work there, but refuses to tell him why he doesn't want him around this Dr. Wyatt.

Things come to a head all at once. Eli breaks up with Viv and his relationship with his father becomes even more strained. Eli starts to put pieces together after his mother dies which leads to him trying to figure out what the mystery is at the lab that it is clear his father and Dr. Wyatt are both trying to hide.

Highly recommended to fans of suspense and science/medical themed fiction.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Heroes ****

Cormier, Robert. Heroes. New York: Laurel Leaf, 1998.

I enjoyed this book when I first read it, so I decided to read it again to refresh my memory of the plot and characters. This book alternates between the present and the past. In the present, Francis is a veteran, just returning from WWII. He had stepped on a grenade and blown much of his face off; therefore, he must wear a scarf and this leaves him unrecognizable. His goal is to get revenge on Larry LaSalle, who raped the girl he loved before also shipping off to War. In the past, we see Francis meeting and falling in love with Nicole. The neighborhood Rec center opens with Larry as the head, teaching the guiding the youth of the community. And, then, Larry raping Nicole one night while home on leave from the Army.

You have to feel sorry for Francis. His parents are dead. He never got the girl he was in love with, and he didn't reall y have much in the way of self esteem and friends. He comes home to see Nicole and she and her family has disappeared. He doesn't have a face. It's all very sad. The novel is gripping and you really get inside Francis' head. This novel is also short, so it might be a good choice for a reluctant reader although it should be noted that this novel is less plot-driven and more character-driven, so it might turn some reluctant readers off. Overall, a good choice for all readers.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Push ****1/2

Sapphire. Push. New York: Vintage, 1996.

This is an adult book, and isn't for the squeemish. Those that are offended by strong language and those that may feel uncomfortable reading about incest should avoid this book. It's not for everyone.

Precious is a 16 year-old living in Harlem. She is pregnant with her second child. Her first child was born when she was just 12 and has Down's Syndrome. Both children are the product of an incestuous relationship between Precious and her father, who has been raping her. Precious likes school and learning, but she is illiterate. A caring administrator at her school gets her into an alternative school where she is able to learn and eventually get into the GED program. After the birth of her baby, Precious must leave her home after her mother tries to kill her. This leaves her without housing. Despite her problems, she still aims to keep up her education.

This book is told from the perspective of Precious. As the book progresses, her spelling and grammar improves. She goes from spelling phonetically and leaving out many vowels to being able to spell far better; not perfect, but far better.

Precious, due to her background I suppose, does use a lot of coarse language (that's a nice way of saying she curses a lot!). However, the language is true to how such a girl would speak. In fact, she probably doesn't even realize that many of the words are even considered curses since she hears this language every day, all day. She is simply speaking the only way she knows how. The language and content may seem objectionable; however, it is necessary to tell the story the way it needs to be told. This is a story about a girl with a hard life, and from a hard place where things aren't "proper". The book shows how hard Precious is willing to work to make herself a better person. It leaves us feeling a sense of hope that even people living in the worst of conditions and situations can thrive and improve themselves.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Wrecked ****1/2

Frank, E.R. Wrecked. New York: Antheneum, 2005.

Another great book from this great author! On her way back from a party, Anna gets into a car accident. She has been drinking hours prior, but was not drunk. Also, the accident wasn't her fault-the other car went over the line and smashed into her car. Anna's best friend Ellen is badly hurt in the accident. Worse, the driver of the other car dies. Even worse yet, the driver happens to have been the girlfriend of Anna's brother, Jack.

No one blames Anna for what happened, including Jack, but that doesn't stop her from blaming herself. She begins to have panic attacks and is no longer able to drive. Her father, who is a bit controlling, doesn't want her daughter in therapy. Eventually, she does go to therapy and starts to learn to handle her panic attacks and get on with her life.

Her father, who could use some therapy himself, starts to change a bit after the accident, but he is still a control freak and a bit of a jerk, which really just adds to Anna's anxiety. The entire family really needs to heel after this incident.

This was a great book about anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Anyone that experiences anxiety or knows someone that does would appreciate this book. This is a great choice for most readers, as it is fast paced and enjoyable.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I am the Messenger ****

Zusak, Markus. I am the Messenger. New York: Knopf, 2002/2005. Originally published in Australia in 2002, published in the US in 2005.

I don't know that this book has broad appeal, but it was an interesting book, thus the four stars.

Ed is basically a loser. He graduated high school and is more or less just drifting along with no real goals or aspirations. His friends are all just like him. They play cards and drink for fun (it's legal there to drink under 21!) and have dead end jobs.

One day he gets a playing card and it has three addresses on it. He goes to those addresses and realizes there are things there for him to do. So, he does them. He thinks it is over, but he gets another playing card and has more things to do. This goes on for 3 playing cards, at which point he figures he is done. In each case he has to do something for someone else without giving any thought to himself. Throughout the entire thing, he has no idea who is sending him the cards and why they chose him.

There is also a love interest in the story (isn't there always?). Ed loves his friend Audrey but she is always dating someone else. He thinks she loves him too but she won't let herself love anyone because of a hard childhood. The love story adds another dimention to the plot.

The plot is, of course, ludicrous as this would never happen in a million years. But, it was entertaining nonetheles. It is entertaining to see what he will have to do next, and to see how the experiences make him grow as a person.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Bad Mother's Handbook ****

Long, Kate. The Bad Mother's Handbook. New York: Ballantine, 2004.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

This is an interesting story, told from the perspective of three related woman. The first, Nan, is old and has dementia. She is always setting things on fire and losing things. The other woman is her adopted daughter, Karen. Karen is stressed out. She works part time at a school, she has to take care of her demented mother, and her teenage daughter is a pain in the butt. Her ex hasn't been involved in her child's life. She is still young, but hasn't really lived life-- she had her daughter Charlotte when she was a teenager. All Karen wants really is a life. Charlotte, her teenage daughter finds herself pregnant and with no boyfriend since he dumped her and has moved on. She finds herself in love with dorky Daniel as the novel progresses. Meanwhile, Karen begins a search for her birth parents.

Overall, this is a good book that would interest most female readers. It is about mothers and daugters and growing up, or growing old. The fact that the book alternates the perspective from one character to another throughout adds to the book so we can see where each character is at all points throughout the books. Great read!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Schwa was Here *****

Schusterman, Neal. The Schwa was Here. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2004.

This was a great book. I put off reading this book for so long because I had a bad experience with his last book, Full Tilt, which I do NOT recommend. I disliked that book so much it negated the good feelings I had about the author after reading Downsiders, which I DO recommend.

In this novel, Antsy befriends a kid, Calvin Schwa, who is mostly invisible. Not that he is really invisible, but it seems that no one really sees him most of the time even though he is right there. During a scheme, Antsy and Schwa end up getting caught trying to steal a dog bowl from a local shut in, Crawley. Their punishment involves having to be the man's dog walker for his 14 Afghans. This progress and Crawley decides to switch Antsy's duties to entertaining Crawley's blind granddaugher while she is visiting him for a few months. She ends up falling for Antsy while Schwa ends up falling for her.

Meanwhile, Antsy tries to investigate the disappearance of Schwa's mother. The last he saw her was when he was 5, and she left him abandoned at the grocery store. He also gets involved with the Granddaughter and her plot to try to get her Grandfather out of the apartment.

Antsy is a real funny kid, quite witty and smart. The way he tells his story is entertaining. The story is made more interesting by reading it through his perspective. Even though he isn't the smart kid in his family, he is pretty darn smart. Overall, this is an entertaining read, and is recommended for most readers.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Perfect ****

Friend, Natasha. Perfect. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 2004.

Winner of the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature.

Isabelle's father died a few years back, and since then the family has been a mess. Her mother is unable to get over it, and still cries herself to sleep. Isabelle's way of coping is to make herself throw up.

She must attend weekly Group sessions with other girls with eating disorders. In the Group is Ashley, a popular girl at school. Isabelle starts to become friends with Ashley, and their get togethers involve binging and purging together. As the story progresses, Isabelle starts to get a handle on herself and she also starts to demand that others do the same.

This was a great book, recommended for girls. I would particularly recommend this book to girls with body image issues. This publisher is a non-profit. Their goal, according to information at the back of the book, is to publish "with the intention of making humane impact on society, in the belief that good writing can transform the human heart and spirit." Their books all have a purpose, and that is certainly something worth supporting!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Grind **?

Walters, Eric. Grind. Custer, WA: Orca, 2004.

I wasn't sure how to determine how many stars to give this book. It isn't a literary masterpiece. There isn't much plot, and there isn't any character development. BUT, that isn't the point of this book. This publisher publishes books geared toward teens that are relutant readers, which would be defined as someone that doesn't like to read. These books are also great for someone that just isn't reading up to their grade level, but still wants to read a book geared toward their age. There are other similar titles by this publisher. I will list them as I get more. These are something that can be recommended to reluctant or struggling readers.

Hit Squad by James Heneghan
Charmed by Carrie Mac
The Troube with Liberty by Kristin Butcher
Fastback Beach vy Shirlee Smith Matheson