Friday, October 29, 2010

Carter Finally Gets It

Will Carter has some odds stacked against him: he's a freshman, he has ADD, he has a stuttering problem (which gets worse when he's faced with belly button's and other girl parts), and he has a crazy older sister named Lynn.  As terrible as this all seems, there's actually a pretty hot chick that likes him.  Now if he could only nail that gainer off the local pool high dive.  Author Brent Crawford's first novel follows Carter though his freshman year of high school.  Carter learns a lot about how to FOCUS, football, girls, and the theater.  

Not having been a teenage boy but having dated several (once-upon-a-time), this seems to be an excellent look into how their minds function (or sometimes don't).  Don't believe me?  The back cover has this warning: "This book contains lewd humor, underage drinking, illicit fantasizing, and very bad decision-making."  While that statement is entirely accurate, it doesn't warn you about the strange looks you'll get from random people as you shake with silent laughter.

I've been trying to decide whether or not I think boys will read it.  I think I've decided that they would, if it weren't for the hardback cover.  For guys, I recommend the paperback.  I've included both with the paperback linked the book information.

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mockingbirds

First of all I need to make sure we are all clear that this book has nothing to do with the Hunger Games series finale book.

Themis Academy faculty and teachers are brilliant academically-speaking, but are completely blind to what their students really are: teenagers.  For students at Themis, if something goes wrong, seriously wrong they don't turn to the adults, they turn to the Mockingbirds.  Masquerading as a singing group, the Mockingbirds are a student-only group whose mission is to right the wrongs of the student body.  We're not talking about bad study habits or crank calls, we're talking about blackmail and date rape.  Alexandra Patrick is a victim of the latter, and seeks out the assistance of the Mockingbirds to help her stand up to the guy who did it.  After having her sense of self shattered, she must learn who she is all over again.  She must also learn how to speak up for what she wants and to not just stay silent because "The only thing that means yes is yes.  A lack of yes is a no."

While it's not terribly fair to author Daisy Whitney to compare her book to Anderson's Speak, it's unavoidable.  The main characters are very different and so are the story settings, but the emotional grief and confusion that both girls go through are both very realistically portrayed.  Sub-characters are sometimes underdeveloped or left out for what feels like long stretches, but on the whole the book is still one that I think will help many people, not just rape victims, understand what kind of agony this situation is.  So as with all books of a very serious nature, it's hard to say that I liked it (it seems both petty and creepy at the same time).  However, it's an important topic to be addressed and I'm glad there are young adult authors who have the presence and guts to write these books.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hate List

Wow.  What an incredible book.  I would use exclamation points at the end of every sentence for this review, but because the book deals with such a serious subject it doesn't seem appropriate...exclamation points seem too perky.  But maybe I'll underline something...

Valerie Leftman's life is upside down, sideways, and in pieces.  It is her senior year of high school, but what should be a year living it up with friends, filling out college applications, and lording it over the underclassmen, is actually going to be the toughest year of Valerie's life.  Just over three months before, on May 2nd, Valerie's boyfriend Nick opened fire in the school commons, killing several students and a teacher, and wounding several others before turning the gun on himself.  Valerie herself was shot in the leg trying to stop Nick.  Even though it was Nick who pulled the trigger, many blame Valerie just as much.  Unhappy with her home life and the way she was treated at school, she started a "hate list" of people and concepts that annoyed her.  For Valerie this was just a way to express her feelings, but for Nick it was a starting place for shooting.

After a summer of hiding in her room and therapy, Valerie must face going back to school.  Most of her fellow students despise her, blame her, or at least want to ignore her.  However, she has an unlikely ally - Jessica Brown, student body president and queen bee of the school - whose life she saved trying to stop Nick.  As Valerie confronts her past choices and is confronted by people whose lives were forever changed on May 2nd, she realizes what it means to really see people for who they are.

Somebody given an award to author Jennifer Brown for treating such a tough and touchy subject with so much delicacy and depth.  I admit I had avoided reading this book for a while because I thought it would be so depressing, too dark, and riddled more angst than I can normally handle...boy was I wrong.  It didn't even take long to read and it's over 400 pages - yeah, it's that good.  When this book was reviewed in VOYA magazine they said "This novel ought to be the last written about a fictional high school shooting because it is difficult to imagine any capable of handling it better...."  I concur 100%.  Everyone, not just teachers, librarians, and teens, needs to read this book - grandparents should read this, football players should read this, pop stars should read this because this is a book that makes a difference in people's lives even if they have never been through this kind of situation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Conspiracy 365: February

A fantastic vendor at the recent South Dakota Library Association Annual Conference in Sioux Falls took pity on me when I said I'd read the first in Gabrielle Lord's Conspiracy 365 series but hadn't gotten to read any of the others, and she gave me a copy of February to read.  She rocks, and now I am addicted.

This may be a bold statement, but I'm going to say it anyway: I think this is the best high/low action/thriller series of books for boys available right now.  As with January, this next book in the series delivers a fast-paced narrative that ends with our main character, Cal, looking death straight in the eye.  Obviously, since there are 10 more books in the series we know he survives, but how will he escape?  Can his best friend Boges stay away from danger and continue to help Cal?  Who is this new girl Winter Frey and has she betrayed Cal?

You and I will both have to read March to find out!