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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stoner & Spaz- Ron Koertge

I have to admit my interest in this book came about when I read an interview with the in School Library Journal this month.  He has written a second book about 10 years after this first one was published.  I figured I might as well read the first one first.
Ben Bancroft has cerebral palsy and is dubbed "spaz" by his classmates.  He lives with his grandmother and has always been on the outside of every social circle.  He spends his time watching old movies at the Rialto Theater.  Enter Colleen, a stoner is his high school.  From the first night they spend at the Rialto Colleen turns Ben's life upside down.  These two unmatched high school students learn a lot about life from each other.  This book reminds me of Terry Trueman books (Stuck in Neutral).  This is a great book for high school students- even ones that don't like to read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where the Truth Lies- Jessica Warman

I have now read all three Jessica Warman books, and I really enjoyed them all.  I especially thought it was clever how she tied a character from Breathless loosely to this book.  Emily Meckler seems to have the perfect life.  She lives and attends Stonybrook, an upscale boarding school in Conneticut where her father is the headmaster.  She has a great group of friends that live together in a suite in a small dorm, and though she doesn't have quite the money or brains of all the students, she fits in and has a good time.  Enter into the picture Del Sugar.  He has bounced around the foster care system and now has been adopted by parents who are enrolling him Stonybrook.  He is incredibly smart, yet doesn't play by anyone's rules.  When he and Emily fall in love nothing but trouble can follow.  Despite her parents and friends' warnings, Jessica lets herself get involved with Del and it leads where she never thought she would go.  Del is the catalyst for her discovering more about herself than she ever wanted to know and forces her to face up to the nightmares she has been struggling with since she was a little girl.  This book, like Warman's others, have some twists that although you are kind of prepared for are still enjoyable.  Her portrait of boarding school life is very accurate, although because of that this book is much better suited to a high school collection instead of middle school.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Identical- Ellen Hopkins

As all of Ellen Hopkins books have been for me, I couldn't not put this one down.  I usually read her books in one setting, so it helps to have a little bit of time carved out if you are going to start any of them.  This book follows identical twins that are dealing with the aftermath of a horrible accident, and the devastasting effects of their father's sexual abuse.  There is a twist at the end that I felt like I should have seen coming, but didn't.  I love her books in that way.  They are addictive and feel like an addiction have to have it, yet hate that you do.  If you have never read Ellen Hopkins, you definitely need to give her books a try.  Their sparse poetry form is amazing.  They are like works of art that are so hideous you need to look, but are sickened by at the same time.  She is a one of a kind author for sure.  Definitely would not put this book in a middle school collection though (or any of hers in my opinion).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breathless- Jessica Warman

Katie Kitrell appears to have the perfect life as she lives it up at boarding school.  She is captain of the swim team, has a gorgeous boyfriend, and is best friends with the most popular girls.  She spends her weekends partying with her rich, popular friends, yet none of them would ever guess the secret Katie is keeping about her brother.  Only Mazzie, her roommate with her own set of problems, knows the truth about Katie's family.  As Katie pretends all is fine and goes through high school spending all her time at school and the summers swimming at Yale, she never suspects that one day all the secret keeping will catch up with her.  This is an enjoyable book, definitely for the high school crowd (much drinking, drugs, and some sex).  This book didn't keep me guessing as much as her later books, but for a first novel I thought it was great.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Between- Jessica Warman

Elizabethz Valchar has everything going for- she's beautiful, rich, a talented cross country runner, and the most popular girl in her high school.  The only problem is she is now overlooking her dead body and has no idea how she ended up face down in the lake by her father's yacht.  As Liz realizes she is dead, she also meets up with Alex, another high school student from her small Conneticut hometown that was killed a year ago in a hit and run accident.  As Alex and Liz travel invisibly throughout their town and back and forth from the present to the past through their memories, Liz is able to piece through downward spiral that lead to her death.  This book had me guessing to the end, and even when I was beginning to figure it out I was more than happy to follow along with Liz as she pieced her memories together.  I'm looking forward to reading the other two novels that Jessica Warman has written.  This book is more aimed at high school students- not completely suited to middle school due to the drinking, drugs, sexual content.  It isn't explicit, but enough that I would rather it not be in my middle school collection.  Fantastic read!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Matched- Ally Condie

Cassia has been waiting for her Match Banquet for 17 long years.  She can hardly wait to see the face that shows up on the screen as her match for life.  When it turns out to be her best friend, Xander, she feels happy.  It is unique to be best friends with your soul mate, but at least she knows Xander and would be happy with him.  She decides to view his information on the computer, yet it is not only his face that comes up on the screen, but another boy also.  Ky, an aberration, that is not supposed to be matchable.  Cassia struggles with living under her society's rules that dictate everything from what she eats to who she will marry, what she can read, and ultimately when she will die.  This book is excellently paced and Cassia is a very real character.  You feel right along with her as she develops her relationship with Ky, yet feels awful about hurting Xander.  I get tired of books that do not stand alone, but in this case I find myself hoping for a sequel.  I want to know what happens to Cassia, her family, Ky, and Xander.  I'm rooting for her to be strong enough to go against her society and exercise her own freedom of choice!