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Author Spotlight: Rainbow Rowell

In honor of Teen Read Week coming up, here is a fabulous author who’s been very big in YA in the past two-ish years. She’s the author of four books, two for YA, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, and two for adults, Attachments and Landline. While I’ve read Attachments and thought it was great for the New Adult sector or anyone who happens to like chick lit (Meg Cabot’s books, Bridget Jones, etc.), we won’t be covering that book here.

Hope you will fall as much in love with Rainbow Rowell’s books as I have! She also seems like a cool author who I’d love to be friends with (right up there with a few of my favorites like Maggie Stiefvater, Veronica Roth, Meg Cabot, and more!). Check out her website for more information, including a blurb about two upcoming comic books she will be writing in the coming years!

First up is Eleanor & Park which is a Printz Honor book!

eleanor and park Eleanor & Park

In 1986 Omaha, Nebraska, teens Eleanor and Park have formed an unlikely friendship. Eleanor is the new girl, and not well liked for her appearances, but Park still takes pity on her and lets her share his seat on the bus since that first day. Every day they sit together and Park reads his comic books and lets Eleanor read over his shoulder. Park just can’t help but give her things, things he thinks she would like, and Eleanor can’t stop herself from taking them.

Park: Half-Korean with a father who thinks his elder son should be more, just more, and a mother who is nice to everyone. Park, despite his different heritage, is fairly untouchable by the local bullies because his dad’s lived there for years, and the fact that he knows taekwondo.

Eleanor: Bushy red hair and a large-boned body that earns her the nickname “Big Red”. Wears ratty men’s clothing. Is back with her mother, hated stepfather, and siblings because she wants basically unwanted. Her stepfather rules the household and terrorizes them all, denying them suitable food and other basic needs like privacy and clothing because he feels entitled to spend all of their money. Eleanor is bullied by Tina, a local girl, and by an unknown person, who writes terrible things in her notebooks.

They fall in love and readers fall right along with them, until when things fall apart, you’re still rooting for a happily ever after simply because you can’t imagine Park without Eleanor. While I love teen love stories, I especially loved this book! You can almost feel the sense of the 1980’s lifting off the page, but still connect with the characters and events that are happening because of how likeable they are. Every teen has something to identify with either Eleanor or Park here, like loving comic books or music, being athletic (his martial arts) or popular, most especially being different from other kids, or even having an upsetting home life as Eleanor does. Kids who have been bullied, abused, mistreated, or feel invisible will find something great in this book, most notably the hope that even if these things happen to you, in the future things will be better. A beautifully poignant and raw first love story.

This year, Eleanor & Park was just voted the #1 for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten titles, and most deserved the award!

FANGIRL_CoverDec2012-725x1075 Fangirl

It’s Cath’s freshman year at college, and she’s being forced to get a real roommate instead of her built-in twin sister Wren. Cath’s roommate, Reagan, is a junior and appears to come attached with a boyfriend because Levi is always there even when Reagan is not. As everything Cath’s ever known is changing and she’s worried about her dad, who’s prone to forgetting his basic needs when he’s being a workaholic, and sister, who’s embroiled in the rampant drinking and partying college is famous for. Cath’s interests tend to be more literary as she is a fairly infamous fanfiction writer of Simon Snow and the love portrayed by the two main character boys, Simon and Baz (a fictional representation of Harry Potter perchance and a Harry/Draco slasher?) One of Cath’s classes is in fiction writing, but when Cath gets a failing grade because of writing some fanfiction, she can’t bring herself to finish her final short story. Luckily or unluckily, her father is put into the hospital and Cath gets a much needed break. However, her life is spiraling even more out of control as her sister has been speaking with the mother who abandoned them. It’s a story of self-identity, romance, and finding your own independence, and thereby finding your own strengths.

I loved this book! I loved that it also took fanfiction, which could be a red-headed stepchild among authors and writers, and gave it something more legitimate. Fanfiction might still be big, but it was huge during the Harry Potter fandom years. Other fan faves have had tons of fanfiction too. Some of them Buffy the Vampire Slayer, SupernaturalTwilight (in fact, fanfiction started 50 Shades of Grey and The Mortal Instruments series). I don’t know what the current fanfiction fad is, but take a quick google if you’re interested. (Watch out for those stories rated Adult!) Another unique thing about Fangirl is that of it’s audience. There has been some disagreement over it in the library world, but not too much. Fangirl is atypical YA, as it is actually more of the New Adult genre that has been emerging in recent years. (However, teens DO need to be able to read about older teens who are in college, so I fully support keeping it in the YA area.) It straddles the gap between YA fiction, which is usually typical teenage years, to transition into the adult collection. I think there should be a lot more books about this time, and Fangirl does it so well without dwelling on the mass of commitments that usually make the college years rather boring, as if it’s all about classes and schoolwork, or overwhelming, like when you add sports, romance, work, school, social activities…and the list could go on. Teen readers who are looking for that little bit of something more or maybe just looking over the next horizon will find Fangirl a book to pick up, especially if you’re the quirky, writer/reader type.

 

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Author Spotlight: John Green

If you weren’t aware of John Green before The Fault in Our Stars, then you might have missed out on his earlier works. All have a coming-of-age theme and explore the importance of other characters impressing upon the main character rather than event. People change, and people can change you.

looking for alaska Looking for Alaska

It’s Miles Halter’s first year at his new school, Culver Creek, a prestigious boarding school endorsed by his own father’s legacy. His old life was bland and forgettable, so Miles believes he needs to seek “a Great Perhaps” in a new place. Miles is very smart, fairly sheltered and entirely unadventurous until he meets his new roommate, Chip and Chip’s best friend Alaska. Miles, now nicknamed “Pudge” for his decided un-pudginess, has never met anyone like Alaska before. Now he can count two obsessions in his life: his penchant for memorizing the last words of famous dead people and Alaska Young. She is a complicated mix of a person: she loves books and has a whole library of books, most that she’s never read but plans to read; she has a boyfriend whom she loves very much but she flamboyantly flirts with Pudge; she plays the good girl but her mischievous and self-destructive qualities eventually win out; and she is beautiful but wholly untouchable. Pudge has fallen for her hard, and in Alaska, he finds his Great Perhaps, learning what it means to really live.

While it doesn’t outrightly say, this is somewhat of a mystery novel. Most definitely it is a coming-of-age story as Miles transforms and becomes more self-aware from the beginning to the end. Alaska herself is an enigma, who the reader must puzzle out just as Miles does. All in all, while I liked this novel, it wasn’t my favorite of these four of John Green’s books.

Note: Language, alchohol, cigarettes, and sexual circumstances.

Will-Grayson-Will-Grayson Will Grayson, Will Grayson

For Will Grayson(1), his friendship with Tiny Cooper has meant there are numerous jokes about his apparently latent homosexuality. However, WG1 doesn’t have a girlfriend and doesn’t seem to have many friends, so to some, comments are fair game. As for Will Grayson(2), he actually is harboring the secret of his sexual identity even from his family and closest friends, all except for Isaac, a boy he’s met online. When WG(2) finally gets up enough courage to meet Isaac, he discovers the depth of cruelty people will go to just to find out their own curiosities. Despite his deep hurt, it must be fate that he meets WG(1) and the completely fabulous Tiny Cooper. With this new connection and the impending play about and directed by Tiny, both Will Graysons take chances and find themselves on an upward spiral, perhaps to discover love, acceptance, and how precious friendship can be.

This is possibly one of the few books I’ve ever read that revolve so complete about a secondary character, Tiny Cooper. Trying hard not to give much away here, but Tiny plays a huge part in both WGs lives. His character is part of a catalyst for change. Despite part of the book being fairly…depressing, especially by WG(2), the final result is very uplifting. It shows the journey people take towards seeing the part of themselves that is different/outcast by society, and shows them seeing how it makes them a better person and accepting it as a strength. It is yet another story of finding self-identity, but also about the power of friendship and acceptance.

Note: Language, sexual circumstances, and LGBTQ issues.

0142410705_01_LZZZZZZZ An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines finds newly graduated, and newly single, Colin Singleton embarking upon a road trip to find his Eureka moment, precisely, what is the deal with Katherines always dumping him. His best friend Hassan accompanies him, and together they find themselves in nowhere Tennessee visiting the grave of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. When they arrive in Gutshot, Tennessee, Colin and Hassan are given jobs, to record the lives of the locals of Gutshot for a rich local. Meanwhile, Colin, a gifted boy who’s always been told of his genius, is struggling to figure out a theorem as to why Katherine’s dump him (this is ingenious really, and a description of the math resides at the end of the novel for those interested), and Hassan befriends some local teens. Their guide and host is Lindsay Lee Wells, who is also very smart and is beloved in the Gutshot. Colin, Hassan, and Lindsay reach their Eureka moments, but it isn’t quite what you would expect.

This is perhaps my favorite of all of John Green’s books, probably more so than The Fault in Our Stars only because I did not like An Imperial Affliction. Well, maybe it’s still second. Anyway, I loved the adventures and humor that run through this book, but also just the sense of how much one small summer can change your whole life and the way you look at your life. The summer between high school and college is a period of growing up for many reasons and this recalls some of that sense of the unknown.

PaperTowns2009_6A Paper Towns

Soon to be a major motion picture coming in 2015, Paper Towns follows Quentin Jacobsen as he goes on an adventure to search for the mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman, his neighbor who also happens to be his greatest crush and a very popular girl in her own right. Before she leaves, she takes Quentin on a wild adventure, and Quentin just can’t believe everyone doesn’t care about finding her. Throughout his journey he comes to find the real Margo and not the Margo that everyone else sees. Also, Margo herself comes to realize the power of friendship and that there are those whotruly care about her.

Another transformative adventure about a boy chasing after a girl and finding himself in the process.

Paper Towns was full of great quirks and is a fascinating mystery. If you’re interested in abandoned places (towns, that Disney water park…) or pranks or scavenger hunts, you will like the details in this book. Another great lesson this book will remind you of is how great stories are, especially stories of adventures, maybe give you a sense of nostalgia for those great times, i.e. that one time your car got hit by a deer (Gilmore Girls reference) or maybe you visited an old hospital and got sick from the atmosphere (true story!).

Note: Language, alchohol, sexual circumstances, and general hilarity.

book-review-let-it-snow-three-holiday-romance-L-rzIkMT Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Recently optioned for film since the great success of TFIOS, Let It Snow is a perfect winter romance. After a strong storm blows in on Christmas Eve and thickly blankets a sleepy North Carolina town in Appalachia, a passing train gets stranded. The high snow drifts and a stuck train doesn’t stop one passenger, Jubilee, from braving the elements after her Christmas has been ruined and her boyfriend doesn’t have time for her. Her lonely rebellion and “screw you” to her crappy Christmas forges a path for other teenagers on the train and this sets off a domino effect for Christmas miracles. It’s an adventure, and what magic can happen during adventures! Find a little bit of romance as a girl takes a chance on an odd stranger, three friends undertake a dangerous race in the middle of the night for cheerleaders and hash browns, and one miserable girl tries to overcome her gloom by rescuing a teacup pig. It will leave you feeling warm and happy and longing for winter. Simply, quirkily magical.

 

 

Check out more from John Green at his website and his YouTube channel with his brother, Hank.

 

 

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New Romance: 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen, Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana, Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Three new 2014 teen romances!

17-first-kisses-rachael-allen 17 First Kisses

CJ, or Claire as she is now known, has had a lot of first kisses, so much that she’s got something of a bad reputation. Luckily, she’s in with the Crownies, a group that is 4 of the most popular girls in their grade. It’s the start of senior year and Claire really wants a real boyfriend, not just to kiss boys, and he has to only want her, not her best friend Megan. Just before school starts, Claire meets the new boy, Luke, a senior who also really likes soccer, Claire’s passion. She already is daydreaming about the two of them together, but Megan likes him too. It’s a season of testing friendships, finding romance, discovering you can recover from tragedy, and most of all discovering yourself.

I really liked this book right up until the very end. The ending just seemed ho-hum to me, but maybe that’s because I was banking on a really spectacular romance. Claire has had a tough time, both with her family (her baby brother died and her mother has been sunk in depression for years) and with boys. Rumors about how she’s a slut for kissing boys have gotten around the school, and it seems like Megan and the other Crownies are on her side. However, Megan, who always gets what she wants, goes after Luke, and invokes girl code for the two of them. Megan and Claire agree to not be the first to kiss Luke but rather let him make the first move with the two of them. Here’s where the story gets hairy and the reader might get indignant on Claire’s account. At every turn, Megan is manipulating Luke (whether by her dress or by flirting or by luring him away from Claire with an “emergency”) and it just seems very unfair to Claire. Then again, Claire is doing her utmost to flirt with him, while still keeping her own boundaries from Megan. Still, she plays fair. Megan, on the other hand, breaks their agreement, kisses him first, and then proceeds to date him which, according to “girl code”, makes him off-limits for Claire. This frustrated me to no end! What a crappy friend! I’ve never heard of girl code being invoked among four girls (without prior agreement) saying that said ‘ex’ boyfriend is off-limits forever. Still, it’s not the happy ending you think might be coming when Luke turns out to be a big jerk. While I enjoyed the journey Claire made, I did not understand her friendships and just was not impressed by the ending. Yes, it’s a-typical, but it just seemed like it was going to end with a bang and…didn’t.

Note: Sexual situations, alcohol, drugs, and depression are mentioned as well as death. Also, slut shaming is not okay!

Aside: I almost couldn’t take the mentions of Claire’s brother dying. I had to grit my teeth and bear that, what with my own little one at home.

summer of yesterday Summer of Yesterday

Haley is forced to go with her dad, stepmom, and twin half-siblings for the last bit of the summer on a camp trip to Fort Wilderness in Orlando, Florida. She is much less than thrilled because her summer was supposed to be great! She was planning a romance, but because of her recent seizure, her dad is being super overprotective. So there she is, stuck tagging along with the excitable four year olds and her dad and stepmom to a place that doesn’t really hold much attraction for her. Her dad has always gone on and on about Fort Wilderness and the now closed River Country, but Haley doesn’t really see what’s so great about it all, especially when despite her dad and mom meeting at River Country, they’ve been splits-ville for awhile now. After a group of teens overhear Haley’s impromptu tantrum over being watched constantly, they invite her to a scavenger hunt. With her parent’s permission, Haley meets up with Dina and the other teens. It’s a complicated list of scavenger items, but Dina and Haley determine to get the pictures from the west end of River Country first while it’s dark. As Haley swims to get into the abandoned and forbidden River Country, she hears someone following her and it isn’t Dina. She falls and this triggers another seizure. When she wakes up, people are surrounding her and an especially cute lifeguard boy, Jason, is helping her. Her surroundings look unfamiliar and as he’s talking to her, she is thrown for a big surprise. She’s woken up in 1982, the year her parents met, and she’s in River Country during its hay-day. Confused as to how she’s ended up here, she must depend on Jason, and discover that there might just be a reason and not only because she might see her parents. Maybe there just is a bit of romance in her summer after all…

I genuinely enjoyed this book! Partially because I love amusement parks and trivia about amusement parks and abandoned places. River Country and Discovery Island are pretty much a part of history now, which is why I was itching to get my hands on this book! The time travel plot point is not overdone, and I think just simplistic enough that it works for the story. True science fiction time travel fans might have an issue, but that would be too much extraneous detail in this novel. I found this entire book to be a breath of fresh air and very enjoyable. The ending, while it did not dissolve into a puddle of romance, held artistry and gave satisfaction to the reader. Perhaps the ending is not how you might have wanted it to wrap up, but it also doesn’t delve into the creepy complaint of older men romancing much younger women (Twilight and other vampire fiction anyone? Not that I have a problem with vampire fiction).

Note: The book did not have a disclaimer, but really, don’t try to cross into River Country and Discovery Island now. Don’t know why they haven’t decided to renovate and make both places into something new, but maybe someday in the future…

9781402284809_p0_v3_s260x420 Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Obviously, I’ve loved Miranda Kenneally’s other books and this one might just be my favorite.

Annie Winters is training to run a marathon. No, she’s not crazy. No, it’s not for track or for the Olympics or a life goal, but she’s determined to do it. For her boyfriend. For her…dead boyfriend. Kyle has been gone for a few months now, and he was training to run the Country Music Marathon when he died. With all of the guilt she feels at being a reason that he died, she has resolved to do it for him no matter the cost. With the help of the new football coach, she signs on with Matt, a professional running trainer who has his own company. As she’s trying to work up from little more than 3 mile runs, she meets Jeremiah, Matt’s extremely athletic younger brother. Annie has no time for boys what with work, planning for college, and running for Kyle and she’s in no position for romance again. But she also can’t say no to Jeremiah and his infectious ways. Can Annie really run 26 miles and move past the hole Kyle left in her life?

Overall, the book was very inspiring! Kenneally doesn’t just gloss over the tough stuff, but really dives into messy issues, drama, and heartaches that teens might come across as they move past childhood. Annie’s vulnerability and determination makes her an admirable heroine, and Jeremiah is just too irresistible for his own good. If you’re a fan of Miranda Kenneally’s, you’ll notice her past characters sprinkled once more into the pages of this book, and enjoy seeing what they’ve been doing with their lives. I’ve no doubt she’ll be writing more (two more in the Hundred Oaks series are due out in 2016 and 2017 respectively), and I most certainly will be reading them!

Note: Contains sexual circumstances, death, alchohol, and extreme sports!

 
 

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A Bit of Horror: I Have a Bad Feeling about This by Jeff Strand & Followers by Anna Davies

Here are two somewhat related new horrifying titles. One is a survivalist adventure and the other is a murder mystery.

i have a bad feeling about this I Have a Bad Feeling about This

Perfect for middle school male readers who might not be all that interested in reading, Jeff Strand’s second foray into writing finds a brutally honest, and almost pathetic, nerd of a hero in sixteen-year-old Henry Lambert.

When Henry’s parents pack him off to Strongwoods Survival Camp to make him more of a man than a video-game-playing, scared-of-seahorses couch potato, he finds himself with four other boys and confronted by a seemingly madman named Max, their brutish and no-nonsense camp leader. As they navigate the challenges Max has set for them, Henry seems to perform worse and worse, except at archery and that was just a fluke. Through some funny conversations with himself and imaginary people and the half-chapters where the characters are being interviewed by a crazy reporter, this books is largely ridiculous and is bound to make teens laugh at something or at least be amused. However, turns out Strongwoods Survival Camp just might have had the desired effect after all, which Henry discovers when he’s faced with a real life or death situation and must save not only himself but his fellow campers.

This survival story started off light and amusing, what with a geeky main character who is forced to do something to “become a man”, but ended up into somewhat of a horror situation. I thought that while the story was interesting and might catch male teens attention, Henry was not acting like a sixteen-year-old, rather more of a fourteen-year-old. Other than that, this book might make you laugh out loud at the ridiculousness and unusual situations. Think of a less serious or satiric Holes or possibly a Disney channel movie. It might be good to watch/read, but once is generally enough and the subject matter is never too deep.

Note: There are graphic violence, sexual connotations, language, and alcohol references.

followers Followers

Fans of the theater, Twitter addicts, and lovers of murder mysteries might find this one interesting. Very short read!

Briana “Bree” Beland is in her first year at a new school, MacHale, a prestigious private school that her mother attended before her, and she’s just come back during break for Winterm to snag a part in the Winterm play, Hamlet. When the director suddenly passes away, the new director opens up auditions to include the local public school as well. Suddenly, Bree is on the outs of a part in Hamlet just when she did a fantastic audition as Ophelia. Instead, the new director wants her to be the play’s ‘social media director’ and tweet about everything concerning the play. Briana is disappointed about the role, but she does gain a new follower called “Hamlet’s Ghost”. As other people start mysteriously dying, “Hamlet’s Ghost” begins be goading her and commenting about the murders. It looks as though something horrible might be going on, and Bree caught in the thick of it. Will she catch the killer before it’s too late or will she be next?

Note: Murder mystery so graphic violence. Very little sexual references or language. Alcohol is present.

 

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Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper

allies & assassins Allies & Assassins

In a fantasy/murder mystery mashup, sixteen-year-old Prince Jared finds himself inheriting a princedom at the death of his elder brother, Prince Anders. He’s not ready to rule and much less ready for the decisions he’s called on to make as his cousin, the Captain of the Guard, investigates his brother’s murder. Despite what seems like obvious evidence, Prince Jared listens to the new Physician’s apprentice, a girl named Asta, when she tries to convince him that the suspected murderer is just a ploy for the real killer. As Prince Jared and Asta team up to find the true killers, more and more of the Council of Twelve come under suspicion as there are more deaths and seemingly neatly tied motives. Can they find the real culprit before the entire princedom of Archenfield is plunged into war and chaos?

Not your typical fantasy book, but full of drama, intrigue and a whodunit murder mystery. More for middle grade readers despite some sexual references and crime scene investigative descriptions (love, babies, affairs). However, I did not love this book. I was vaguely bored by the various hours and council positions, and just did not like the characters enough. This was definitely more plot-driven. Doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the second book! I especially did not like Jared’s family except possibly his girl-cousin, who dropped off the face of the book despite being introduced as an interesting character. Too much was going on and not enough connections to the main character to really make you feel what was happening.

Nevermind my opinions though; read for yourself!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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