Category Archives: YA book review

YA Book Review: Eleanor and Park

After finishing Eleanor and Park,  I am experiencing this:

Image from:  weknowmemes.com

Image from: weknowmemes.com

This will happen to me from time to time after reading an especially good book.  A book with characters who I worry about like they are real.  Eleanor and Park are so real to me, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them walking down the street.

Image from rainbowrowell.com

Image from rainbowrowell.com

The book is set in 1986 and tells the story of two unique people who end up sitting next to each other on the bus.  Park has a penchant for punk music and Eleanor wears curtain tassels in her hair.  For different reasons, they both stick out and in high school (and at home) this can be dangerous.  Due to social pressures and trouble at home, it takes them a while to open up to each other, but when they do, they realize that they are “meant to be.”

This is a love story, but it’s also a story about surviving high school, dealing with abusive situations, and standing up for the people you care about.  It’s beautifully written–funny and heart-wrenching at the same time.

Highly recommended (if you’re not afraid to get emotionally wrapped up in a book!)

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YA Book Review: The List

Image from goodreads.com

Image from goodreads.com

At first glance, The List by Siobhan Vivian seems like any other teen girl book.  It’s full of drama, cliques, and back-stabbing.  I started this book expecting a quick read that I would soon forget.  While it’s true that this book does have many of the same elements as most teen chick lit, it also questions the concept of “pretty” and the role that appearance takes in our lives.

The List is set in Mount Washington, where every year before homecoming, a list of the four prettiest and four ugliest (one of each from each grade) is posted all over the high school.  The list is stamped with an embossed seal to ensure its veracity.  No one knows who is writing the list, but everyone takes it as gospel and those eight girls who are lucky/unlucky enough to see their names in print are immediately treated differently by the student body.  The book is written in the third person but each chapter focuses on one of the eight girls, so the reader gets multiple perspectives on this week after the list comes out.  To be honest, I felt that some of the characters were shallow and forgettable.  A few of the characters, however, were deep and had something original to say.  By the end of the book, I felt horrible for all girls on the list (both pretty and ugly) and was shocked to find out who had created it.

I think this would be a good book to use for a teen discussion group.  It would be a good way to start a conversation about bullying, discrimination, and self-esteem.

Recommendation:  4 out of 5 lupines

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Top Books of 2012: YA and Middle Grade Fiction

The end of December causes us to look back on everything we did (or read) during the past year.  Here are my picks for the best YA and middle grade books of 2012 (limited to what I actually read, so I’m sure I’m missing more than a few good ones!)

I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book that is all the way at one end of the spectrum (either amazing or horrible) I tend to flip to the author’s photo many times as I read.  If it’s a great book, I’m in awe, thinking “How could you have written this?”  (If it’s bad, I’m thinking the same thing, but more along the lines of “How could you have written this???“)  Anyway, for this wrap up of the year, I thought I’d feature the books with their creators.

YA

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Image from: amazon.com

This book came out all the way back in January, but I still think about it a lot.  In fact, I read it twice.  Once on vacation, and I listened to the audiobook several months later.  If I could find the audiobook version with John Green as the narrator, I’d love to hear that story again.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Image from: johncoreywhaley.com

A coworker recommended this book to me, and I’m glad she did.  It’s one of those books that makes you invest in the characters, to the point where what happens to them seems like it’s happening to you.  This is another book that I think about often, and the fate of the characters at the end is still up for debate!

Every Day by David Leviathan

I read this on NetGalley, and it was the first time that I willingly read a book on a computer screen.  David Leviathan is capable of writing from many different perspectives (the main character in this book switches bodies every day) while giving each one complexity and depth.

Middle Grade

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Image from: andersonsbookshop.com

This book broke my heart (in a good way).  I felt for August as he tried to make it through the jungle of middle school with a facial deformity.  This book has been embraced by librarians who realize that middle grade students need stories about what they’re really going through:  bullying, prejudice, cliques, and discrimination.  It’s not always easy to read about, but books like these can be a lifesaver to a kid in need.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Image from: andersonsbookshop.com

Rebecca Stead mixes quirky characters with an intriguing mystery.  I can’t think of a kid who wouldn’t get caught up in this book.

What was your favorite middle grade/YA book for 2012?  Tomorrow:  my favorite adult fiction from 2012.

 

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YA Book Review: Wintergirls

Cover of "Wintergirls"

Cover of Wintergirls

I usually don’t read two books in a row by the same author, but after recently “discovering” the genius of Laurie Halse Anderson, I read Speak and Wintergirls back to back.  I was pretty sure I would like anything by her, so that was a plus, but both of these books deal with serious issues, and it was kind of difficult to read two “heavy” books in a row.

Wintergirls is one of those books that is hard to read but harder to put down.  As Lia, an 18 year old who suffers from anorexia, tells her story, you can’t help but get sucked into her world.  I have always heard anorexia described as a control issue, and this book supports that theory, but Lia’s first person account of what it’s like inside her mind gave me a new perspective on the issue.

Lia’s eating disorder seems to have a multitude of origins:  a pack she made with her best friend, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s need to control her, and her own quest for a warped ideal.  In the end, however,  she is the only one who can make the choice to get better.

Laurie Halse Anderson has crafted a gripping story and the reader feels for Lia’s inability to cope with her situation.  I would recommend it for older teens and adults–it’s definitely a memorable read.

Recommendation:  4.5 out of 5 stars

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YA Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

(Reviewed from an e-galley from http://www.netgalley.com)

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that some books are just unputdownable.  David Levithan’s Every Day was certainly one of them.  Much like John Green, Levithan has the ability to write for teens without writing down to them.  By this, I mean that the author understands that teens are real human beings—young adults, in fact.  Yes, they are new to the world of adulthood, and therefore may be a little more prone to mood swings or reckless behavior, but their thoughts and feelings are complex and geniune and deserve to be recognized.  Young adults want to read about people who are struggling with the same things they are: first relationships, fitting in, going against the crowd, and finding out who they are.

Every Day highlights Levithan’s talent for portraying today’s youth with a new twist.  The main character of this story (known as A) is not a boy or a girl, black or white, gay or straight.  For that matter, it’s difficult to place A in any of the categories that we are usually so quick to assign to people.  A doesn’t have a body, but instead wakes up in a different body every day.  A must accept the circumstances that come along  with each new body.  Although this is a completely foreign concept to most of us, A has somehow learned to adapt to this unique situation.

All of this changes when A meets the love of his life:  Rhiannon.  Suddenly, A is breaking all the self-imposed rules: instead of going with the flow and living a new life each day, A does everything possible to spend time with Rhiannon.  (Wow, it’s difficult to write about a character who doesn’t have a gender!)

Levithan creates a sympathetic character who is the antithesis of a stereotype.  Teens will relate to A’s struggle to find a way to assert his/her personality as he/she is discovering who he/she really is.  Every Day is not just a beautiful love story, it also raises questions about how we see others and the world around us.

Every Day will be released on August 28th, 2012.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines

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YA Book Review: Lexapros and Cons

Image from: goodreads.com

Life as a high school senior is hard enough, but Chuck Taylor has more obstacles than the average teen.  Chuck has OCD and his “routines” are starting to take over his life.  He has to walk the same route in the hallway every day, wash his hands many many times, and can’t stand the thought of anything dirty.

Despite his quirks, Chuck has the potential to live a normal life.  With therapy and medication, he begins the difficult process of breaking his habits.  Will he be strong enough to overcome his compulsions and be there when his friends need him the most?

This would be a good beach read…in fact I read it almost all in one lazy afternoon at the beach.  Even though the subject matter is heavy, comedian Aaron Karo definitely brings out the humorous side to painful and awkward situations.  A few times I found myself laughing out loud at Chuck’s orderly, practical view of the world.  I would definitely recommend it to teens who know someone with OCD or are struggling with it themselves.

Recommendation:  4 out of 5 lupines

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YA Book Review: Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On was the first book I picked up for the 48 HBC.  Not because it was the one I wanted to read the most (I didn’t even get to that one sadly…it was Swamplandia!)  I chose it because it looked like a light YA read and I was quite tired after a busy day at work.

As I started reading, I realized that the book was better than I thought it would be.  It was well-written, and best of all, it actually had something to say.  For the book’s main character, Noelle, high school is a constant source of dread.  There are many people who like to look down on her because of her clothes or bully her because she’s poor.  She tries to put up with this daily abuse, but after a while it gets to her.

In my opinion, for Noelle, the challenge becomes following that old serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

(couldn’t remember that one myself.  Thanks, wikipedia).

There are certain things in Noelle’s life that she does have control over:  her actions, her reactions, and her general attitude about life.  Other things, unfortunately, she has little say about:  her mother’s unwillingness to take care of her, her best friend’s relationship problems, and the taunts she must endure at school.

This book accurately describes the bully culture and what can happen if it goes too far.  On the brighter side, it also shows that everyone has at least some control over how they are treated.  Noelle’s story is so inspirational and realistic that it comes as no surprise that the author herself was bullied in high school and learned to overcome it.

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