Book reviews of YA lit and more

As a middle school librarian and hopeful reader of Missouri's high school award books (Gateway nominees), I am reading and reviewing as many young adult and middle grade novels as I can while working on my own writing for this age group.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Almost Perfect- Brian Katcher

This second book by Brian Katcher is so far my favorite; however, I do not think I will be putting it back on my middle school library shelves.  Sage is a transgender high school student who moves to rural Missouri to make a new start for herself as a girl.  Logan, just coming off a broken relationship, quickly falls for Sage.  His world is completely rocked when Sage is honest with him and tells Logan that she is actually a girl trapped in a boy's body.  Most of the book is Logan dealing with this information and the feelings his still has for Sage inspite of the knowledge that she isn't truly a girl.  Again I think Brian Katcher captures the voice of a high school boy so well, which is why I have a hard time putting this book in a middle school library.  The language and obviously sex discussion (hard to have a book about a boy falling in love with a transgender girl) makes it fine for high school, but not middle school.  I do think this topic is handled well and needs to be addressed as there are teenagers dealing with this issue, but not always out in the open.  Katcher lists some organizations and places teenagers can go to for help and support with transgender issues.  This book is very honest and does a great job with a sensitive topic.

Dead End in Norvelt- Jack Gantos

This book won the 2012 Newbery medal, and as usual I hadn't read it yet, but had to put it on hold at the library as soon as I heard it won.  I'm so glad I did!  This book is the mostly true, but probably some fictional, story of Jack Gantos during a summer of his life where he gets grounded and as punishment has to help an elderly neighbor write obituaries of the dying original members of the town.  Being a person that find obituaries themselves fascinating, I was intrigued by this "punishment".  Through these obituary writings Jack is lead on one adventure after another in this small, somewhat dying town.  Everything from the Hell's Angels to a possible murder colors his odd, but interesting, summer.  The young teenage boy voice is dead on in this book (I guess I can say that although I have never been a young teenage boy).  I read an excerpt where he goes deer hunting with his dad to my own son and we both laughed so hard we had tears.  I would highly recommend this book to any upper elementary/middle school kid.  The boys will love the main character, but I also think girls would get a kick out of it.  Great choice for the Newbery this year!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Unbecoming of Mara Dyer- Michelle Hodkin

I'm am always so glad to find a new favorite author, and that is what I feel like I've discovered in Michelle Hodkin after reading this first book of hers.  Mara Dyer thinks she is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after she is in an accident that kills 2 of her friends and her boyfriend and leaves her hospitalized.  Her family moves from Rhode Island to Miami, Florida in an effort to help her make a fresh start and deal with the aftermath of the accident.  Her first day at her new private school brings encounters with Anna and Aiden, school bullies, Jamie, her new found friend, and Noah, the guy she falls for despite the warnings everyone gives her.  The romance between Noah and Mara is wonderful, but Mara also feels pulled deeper into what she thinks is her pychosis.  She begins remembering parts of the night of the accident that she had previously blocked from her memory, and in doing so realizes that she has a power that she doesn't necessarily want.  The biggest surprise to me was that this is the first book in a series.  I can't wait until the next book comes out!  Sounds like it may be coming in fall of 2012.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everlost- Neal Shusterman

OK, I have no idea how this trilogy escaped my notice when I have been a big fan of Neal Shusterman for years.  Too many authors/books, too little time I guess.  So, the first in this trilogy is not new, but it is fantastic.  It opens with Allie and Nick getting into a car accident and dying.  On their way to the light at the end of the tunnel, they bump each other and end up in Everlost.  A world that is between life and death where other children and even buildings have ended up.  They quickly befriend a young boy they name Leif and the three of them set off to explore Everlost and find answers to their many questions.  They meet many legendary Everlost characters, including some "monsters" and find that Allie has the power to "skinjack" living humans.  She is able to go into living people's bodies and control them.  The first book ends with the characters going their separate ways and possibly becoming "monsters" themselves.  I cannot wait to get a hold of the second and third one in this trilogy.  Shusterman has done another fantastic job with this series!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands- Susan Carol McCarthy

This wonderful little book reminded me so much of one of my all time favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Reesa is a young girl growing up in Florida during the 1950's.  Her father owns and operates a large citrus farm with the help of some black people that are also their good friends.  The book begins with the murder of Marvin Cully, a black teenage boy that is the son of Reesa's parents good friends and best help on the farm.  The Ku Klux Klan is very active in this part of Florida at this time, and Marvin's murder is just the beginning of crimes the KKK is responsible for.  Reesa's father gets involved with trying to get the FBI to put a stop to the KKK, but it is tricky because unless it involves a federal crime, the FBI  is unable to help.  Of course, the local and state law inforcement are card carrying KKK members themselves.  I loved Reesa's character, and her father and grandmother make me proud that at least there were some people back then that knew the poor treatment of blacks was wrong and weren't afraid to do something about it.  This book is somewhat of a memoir, in that the author truly did grow up on a citrus farm in Florida during this time period.  She admits to altering some of the details, but the basic story is true, which  makes this story all the better to me.  I would recommend this to high school students (great companion to To Kill a Mockingbird) or adults.

Dust & Decay

OK, I first have to say that I loved the first book in this series (at least I'm hoping it's not finished with two books), so I was so excited to finally get Dust & Decay.  I was not disappointed.  This book picks up 6 months after the first one was finished leaving our main characters to a calm life in town learning from Tom how to be "warrior smart" when fighting zombies.  They are planning to leave town soon though to go looking for where the jet they saw may have come from.  The moment they enter the Rot & Ruin things go bad.  They have a run in with a rhino and Preacher Jack that leaves them getting separated and hurting.  The entire book is following Chong, Lyla, Nix & Benny, and Tom as they fight for their lives alone and eventually together attempting to take down Gameland forever.  The book ends with them still wanting to travel east to where they saw the jet go, which is why I'm thinking (hoping) that a sequel will be following.

Bumped- Megan McCafferty

This book has one of the most interesting premises of a book I have read in a long time.  There has been a fertility virus that has struck all adults and the only members of society that can conceive are teenagers.  If that isn't a scary thought, then I don't know what is!  :-)  Enter into the scene Harmony and Melody, identical twins that were separated at birth.  One was rasied in the "Church" where girls are raised to be married at 13 and submit to God's (or the Elders') will for their lives.  The other girls was raised with two parents that have spend her whole life prepping her for a "bump" that will bring them money and fame.  The girls come together and life is turned upside down for both of them in a major way.  The end of the book leaves you hanging, so there is not surprise that the sequel (Thumped) will be coming out in April 2012.  I for one, can't wait to read the conclusion this spring!  Here is a video where the author explain the book even further.

Megan McCafferty video