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.