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Updated: 2 hours 56 min ago


Thu, 2014-12-18 14:48

It’s mid-December and that means there are lots of lists coming out. Last year, I made an exhaustive spreadsheet of all of the major journals’ best-of lists to show you what made multiple lists and which ones we’d reviewed. This year, I’m . . . not going to do that. Instead, just a few thoughts. But first, the lists:

  • Library Journal has a top ten list, plus additional favorites, here
  • Booklist has a favorite book from a variety of genres, followed by an extensive list of all their starred reviews, here
  • Kirkus‘s list appears to be simply all of there starred reviews
  • And PW, like LJ has a top ten, plus more extensive lists broken out by category

You want thoughts? One of the books that seems to be getting the most attention in Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, which made both the top ten lists. It is on our list of books to review, but we haven’t gotten to it yet, so we may just have to try to fit it in soon. And I was very pleased to see Lorrie Moore’s story collection, Bark, get some recognition. It was a book which we wanted to review here, but didn’t feel had quite the teen appeal for this blog.

Other than that, many of our favorites this year were recognized on one or more lists, including All The Light We Cannot See, which seems to be shaping up as one of the year’s favorites; Everything I Never Told You; and The Southern Reach trilogy, which everyone seems to have loved as much as me.

Take a look at all these lists and tell us what we should be reading as the year draws to a close.


Categories: Library News

Social Justice and Inequality

Tue, 2014-12-16 08:25

Two passionate nonfiction books top our week.

Just Mercy is a memoir by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and activist, which focuses on his work as a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative–”a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. We litigate on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.” 

This is a timely, important, and effective look at the justice system in the United States, and it can be found on various 2014 Best Books lists, including the New York Times, Time, Kirkus, the Washington Post and more.

The Underground Girls of Kabul may be even more intriguing for young readers, as it focuses on a phenomenon about which most teens will be unaware–Afghan girls who pose as boys, known as bacha posh. Author Jenny Nordberg is an investigative journalist who was looking for the more nuanced realities of female lives beyond the well-trodden facts of Taliban suppression of women, and she found them. Take a look at the excellent interview with Nordberg in the Christian Science Monitor.

* STEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 316p. notes. Spiegel & Grau. Oct. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN  9780812994520.  

Only a handful of countries condemn children to death row, and America is one of them. What is the one commonality of people on death row? The race of the victim. If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black.  In heartbreaking and personal details, Stevenson interweaves these statistics with real stories and his fight to change the injustices. He was 23 years old, studying law at Harvard when he was called to an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This brought him face to face with what became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill— the imprisoned. This fast-paced and relentless book, told in short chapters featuring different people’s stories, reads like a John Grisham novel. Walter, who was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, spent more than six years on death row. All Jenkins wants from Stevenson is a chocolate milkshake, as he cannot understand what is going on. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

NORDBERG, Jenny. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. 348p. index. maps. notes. Crown. Sept. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN  9780307952493. LC 2014000295.  

The title and cover give no real hint as to what is inside. The girls portrayed are not resisting with weapons or spying, they are simply living their lives as boys.  The reasons are varied. The family may need help in a store, and will dress a female child as a boy to allow them to do this. Female relatives, not allowed outside unaccompanied, may need this “male” relative to walk them on errands. Frequently mentioned is using their status as a “boy” as a type of magic—by showing that the family is ready for a boy, a real male child may arrive. Often, members of the community know the child is really a girl, but accept this gender switch and go along with the ruse. Nordberg was given access to a few of the girls in this story, but the main character becomes adult Azita. Her father actually educated her, but once she reached her prime childbearing years, she was married off to a rural, illiterate cousin as his second wife. Somehow, Azita manages to win a government seat in her new rural district. Western readers will undoubtedly root for Azita to find a way out of this fiercely patriarchal arrangement, but Nordberg is astounding in her ability to elicit sympathy and rage for the women portrayed, while also attempting to explain why more elaborate female resistance may not yet be possible. Teenagers, who are often finding their passion regarding social injustice and gender differences, will find a great deal to think about in this well-researched and readable piece of reporting.—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

Categories: Library News

Three Debuts

Fri, 2014-12-12 07:00

One of my favorite reader’s advisory tools is Amazon’s “Customer’s Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. I know, I know, Amazon’s a big evil company engaged in a fight against the absolutely tiny publishing firm of Hatchette (note: Hatchette is not tiny), but what can I say? The algorithm they use is great. You want examples? Take a look at the three books under review today, all debut novels by women, incidentally: for all three of them, Amazon recommends at least two books from AB4T’s Best of 2014 list, along with a raft of other AB4T-recommended titles.

Emmi Itaranta’s dystopian novel Memory of Water brings back recommendations for all three books in the Southern Reach trilogy, as well as Andy Weir’s The Martian, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Meanwhile, Tania Malik’s Three Bargains, a novel about family, love, and class, also draws readers of All the Light We Cannot See, along with The Book of Unknown Americans. Finally, Pamela Moses’s The Appetites of Girls, a mulit-generational novel of friendship brings up recommendations of Megan Abbott’s The Fever and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.

So if you or your teens liked what we had to say about the best books of 2014, you’re probably going to like at least one of these fabulous new novels. At least according to Amazon . . .

ITÄRANTA, Emmi. Memory of Water. 272p. HarperVoyager. Jun. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780062326157. LC 2014023078.

There’s a new subgenre of dystopias, climate fiction (aka “cli fi”), and Memory of Water is a poignant example of how to do it well. In the not-too-distant future, global warming has led to the ice caps melting, something has poisoned much of the oceans, and wars are being fought over water and water rights; geopolitical changes have led to a Scandinavian Union ruled by China, here known as New Quian, with the usual dictators and rigid rules and rationing that populate dystopias. The inhabitants of Noria’s village live increasingly constricted lives, while Noria and her best friend Sanja frequently play among piles of old tech (some of which will be instantly recognizable to readers as current modern technology).  Noria’s mother is a scientist looking for ways to find more water, while her father is from a long line of tea masters—and Noria is planning to follow in his footsteps. As she learns the slow, deliberate pace of the tea ceremony and attendant rituals, she also learns that the family has access to a hidden source of pure water— a source that becomes increasingly problematic when her father dies and her mother is on the other side of the continent doing research. Ultimately, Noria must leave her village, but will it be as a prisoner of the state or as an escapee to the so-called Lost Lands?  Perfect for readers thinking about climate change or interested in a unique dystopian view of the future.—Laura Pearle, Miss Porter’s School, CT

MALIK, Tania. Three Bargains. 358p. W.W. Norton. Aug. 2014. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780393063400.  LC 2014011419.

Twelve-year-old Madan, his mother, and his sister leave their small town to join the father they hardly remember in the slums of Gorapur, India. Their father is an angry man hiding a secret life of brutal violence and corruption. When his father introduces him to his boss, Avtaar Singh, Madan impresses him so much that Avtaar Singh insists that Madan attend Gorapur Academy—the school he founded.  Avtaar Singh’s interest in education for the young hides a gangster with a tight grip on life in Gorapur, including Madan’s father. When his father arranges for Madan’s sister to be sold into prostitution, the protagonist makes his first bargain with Avtaar Singh who ensures the subsequent dispatch of Madan’s father and the safe return of his sister.  Working for Avtaar Singh means that Madan is involved in questionable dealings and even though the gangster treats him like a son, he is still from the slums; so when Madan falls for the wrong girl, he is forced to strike his second bargain resulting in barely escaping from Gorapur with his life. Away from Avtaar Singh’s grip, Madan finds peace, marriage, a family and a thriving business.  When life shifts again, bringing great tragedy to Madan’s life, he must return to Gorapur to seek answers, and bargain again; this time to discover the truth he left behind.  India in the 1980s will seem like a lifetime away to many teens, yet young adults will root for Madan as he struggles to understand how to be an honorable man in a chaotic environment.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

MOSES, Pamela. The Appetites of Girls. 372p. Putnam. Jun. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780399158421. LC 2013037701.

No one would have expected such a mismatched group of personalities to meld, but Ruth, Francesca, Setsu, and Opal have stuck together since their freshman year at Brown University. As the book opens, the four are meeting to celebrate Ruth’s pregnancy, 11 years after graduation. The distinct paths that each took to reach this assured friendship is what makes up the bulk of the story. Ruth begins, describing life as a young adolescent in a close-knit Jewish family. Francesca’s story is set in her wealthy family’s New York apartment, while Opal relates the downside of life with her glamorous, restless mother. Setsu, adopted as child from Japan, suffers the intrusion of a demanding older brother. As the title indicates, each girl develops a relationship with food: Ruth uses it to soothe herself; Francesca takes forbidden food in a bold move for attention; Opal cannot eat or allow herself to feel; while Setsu denies herself the nourishment which will make her whole. In each case, the appetite for food also reflects the girl’s need for approval, or attention, or love. After introducing each protagonist in adolescence, readers meet them again during college, as their lives twist together and apart. While adult readers may feel that the characters are a bit too stereotypical (of course the Asian girl plays the violin!), teens will be intrigued by the intimate connection each experiences between food and other, more ephemeral desires. There are plenty of opportunities for “aha” moments awaiting the right readers. Think of Ann Brashares’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Delacorte), the college years.—Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library, TN

Categories: Library News

Funny Celebrity Memoirs

Wed, 2014-12-10 08:18

Need I say more?

I’m not sure I need to. We all know that teens love humorous books, and both of these also fall in the category of books that are very fun to browse through. Brief excerpts from Poehler’s book are available from her NPR interview, and NPH’s website offers a nice intro to the Choose Your Own concept, headlined with “Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?” Ha!

POEHLER, Amy. Yes Please. 329p. photos. reprods. Harper/William Morrow/Dey St. Oct. 2014. Tr $28.99. ISBN  9780062268341. LC 2014037161.  

Poehler is best known for her work on Saturday Night Live and as the star of Parks and Recreation. She’s funny, and teens will find many sentences to highlight in this memoir. Much like her good friend Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Little, Brown, 2011), this isn’t a chronological autobiography. It’s divided into three parts: “SAY whatever you want,” “DO whatever you like,” and “BE whoever you are.” In all three sections, she discusses her childhood, her career, and the people close to her, while purposely or unintentionally spilling out advice for readers. Poehler confesses what SNL skit made her most ashamed, and the steps she finally took to ask forgiveness, as well as her battle with divorce and her looks. Her early improv experiences in Chicago and New York City are heartbreaking and hilarious. She didn’t instantly become famous—she made connections and worked her way up from her lower-middle class Boston background. The work is printed in full-color on glossy paper and teens will be drawn to the photographs of celebrities and artifacts that Poehler included.  A lot of love and graphic design went into its production. Give this to teens who want to make it big on the stage or on-screen or those who enjoyed other celebrity memoirs, such as Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (Crown Archetype, 2011).—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

HARRIS, Neil Patrick. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography. 294p. photos. Crown Archetype. Oct. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN  9780385346993. LC 2014016637.  

Cultural icon Harris (or NPH as his fans have affectionately named him) takes a clever premise and runs with it in his autobiography written in the same format as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. Along the way, readers get to choose in which order to experience the events of NPH’s life, from his first stage role as Toto in The Wizard of Oz to his invention of the post-awards show musical number. “To watch the Emmys from a different perspective, turn to page 259. To win your first major competition, report to page 8. Bring a pressed suit, your cutest smile, and a $25 entry fee.” The format can be a bit confusing at times with fake endings sprinkled throughout (beware of Dustin Diamond!), but all the flipping back and forth to sort out the time line is part of the fun. With magic tricks, recipes, a crossword, and invented TV movie plot lines, the varied format will keep teens engaged. However, aside from the amusing gimmicks, there is also an honest and moving story of a child actor who managed to break beyond his Doogie Howser character to build an entertainment career that spans TV, movies, and theatre, all while spending time reflecting on his sexual identity as a gay male in the public eye. Fans of other humorous biographies like Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Little, Brown, 2011) will eat this up.—Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

Categories: Library News

Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2014

Wed, 2014-12-03 10:09

Every fall the Adult Books 4 Teens reviewers come together to nominate, discuss, and winnow the best titles of the year into a list that guarantees a combination of excellence and appeal to young adults. All of these books were originally reviewed here on SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog.

Science fiction tops the trends: one dystopian (Red Rising), one hard-core (Lockstep), one humorous (The Martian). Trust John Scalzi to come up with a combination of all three (Lock In), and Jeff VanderMeer to defy categorization altogether (Annihilation).

In our more realistic fiction offerings, teen girls don’t have it easy—from the victims of the mysterious title illness in The Fever to Rainey Royal set on the streets of 1970s Greenwich Village, and to Lydia, who suffers her parents’ disappointment in Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. But we lighten it up with young musicians in 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas (jazz) and The Bellweather Rhapsody (classical), and humorous writing in Ariel Schrag’s Adam.

On the nonfiction side, there is nothing but diversity: a graphic novel of war poems; a treatise on juvenile incarceration; a photo-essay by and about Black youth; two extremely different memoirs; and the bizarre history of Dr. Mütter’s Marvels.

Many thanks to reviewers Amy Cheney, Georgia Christgau, Meghan Cirrito, Diane Colson, Vicki Emery, Sarah Flowers, Paula Gallagher, Sarah Hill, Ryan Paulsen, Laura Pearle, Jake Pettit, Jane Ritter, Carrie Shaurette, Jamie Lee Schombs, John Sexton, Karlan Sick, Jamie Watson, and Connie Williams for their enthusiasm and discernment, and for sharing their expert knowledge of teens and books in the making of this list.


ABBOTT, Megan. The Fever. Little, Brown. Tr $26. ISBN 9780316231053.
High school girls are beset by a mysterious fever, causing the entire community to panic about HPV vaccines, teen sex, and any and everything else, in this powerful, thought-provoking novel.

BERTINO, Marie-Helene. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas. Crown. Tr. $25. ISBN 9780804140232.
Three narratives converge, leading up to New Year’s Eve at a Philadelphia jazz club. In one, Madeleine dreams of singing at the club after being expelled from school for retaliating against a bully.

BROWN, Pierce. Red Rising. Del Rey: Ballantine. Tr $25. ISBN 9780345539786.
Darrow is a Red, lowest in the caste-system of laborers tasked with transforming Mars into a habitable planet. When his wife is executed for a simple defiance, Darrow is taken in by rebels who persuade him to infiltrate the Golds, the ruling class, in order to avenge her death.

CANTERO, Edgar. The Supernatural Enhancements. Doubleday. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780385538152.
When a young man inherits a distant relative’s remote Virginia mansion, he finds that it holds many mysteries, among them a secret society, at least one ghost, and a family curse. This story is told via dream journals, video transcripts, letters, photographs, and other writings.

DOERR, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner. Tr $27. ISBN 9781476746586.
This page-turning, suspenseful novel cuts back and forth between time periods and among the story lines of three main characters–two young people on opposite sides of the war and one Nazi officer searching for precious jewels–who are bound to intersect, but exactly how and when?

FRANCIS, Patry. The Orphans of Race Point. Harper Perennial. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780062281302.
In this multigenerational story about community, orphans Hallie Costa and Gus Silva are two teenagers who fall more deeply than most, as the theme of love expands into the filial and spiritual realms.

GROSSMAN, Lev. The Magician’s Land. Viking. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9780670015672.
Grossman finishes his celebrated trilogy by bringing a banished Quentin back to save Fillory after his friends are unable to prevent its collapse.

HENRÍQUEZ, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. Knopf. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780385350846
Alma and Arturo leave Mexico for the U.S. in search of better schooling for their brain-damaged teen daughter, Maribel. They settle in Newark, DE, in an apartment full of other struggling families from Central and South America. A sweet friendship and then a budding but ill-fated romance develop between Maribel and Mayor, the son of a Panamanian family.

LANDIS, Dylan. Rainey Royal. Soho Pr. Tr $25. ISBN 9781616954529.
Rainey, the daughter of a famous jazz musician, grows up in a dysfunctional family in the cool, seedy 1970s Greenwich Village scene.

MCCULLOCH, Derek. Displaced Persons. illus. by Anthony Peruzzo. Image Comics. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781632151216.
During the Great Depression, a loving father, pressed by economic forces he’s unable to control, makes a shady deal to keep his loved ones together, hurling into turmoil three generations of one family, whose connections are symbolized, and realized, by a house in the hills of San Francisco. A part-mystery, part-sci-fi graphic novel.

NG, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. Penguin Pr. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781594205712
By turns a compelling tearjerker, a mystery, and a painful family drama, Ng’s debut novel follows the lives of a dysfunctional family, focusing on the trials of middle child Lydia as she deals with racism and sexism in 1970s Ohio.

RACCULIA, Kate. Bellweather Rhapsody. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $25. ISBN 9780544129917.
The Bellweather is an old Catskills resort hotel that hosts the annual New York State high school music festival. Fifteen years earlier a murder/suicide took place in Room 712, the same room from which Alice’s famous roommate goes missing.

SCALZI, John. Lock In. Tor. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780765375865.
Scalzi’s latest is a science-fiction thriller in which the world has been changed by Haden’s syndrome, a virus that left one percent of its victims “locked in”—fully aware and conscious, but unable to move their bodies. An FBI homicide investigation delves into the corporate greed controlling research on the epidemic.

SCHROEDER, Karl. Lockstep. Tor.  $26.99. ISBN 9780765337269.
After being lost in space, in deep hibernation for 14,000 years, Toby McGonigal wakes in the orbit of a planet that is part of the Lockstep, a civilization in which members spend 360 months in hibernation for every one month awake. Toby learns that the Lockstep has been ruled by his family since its creation and is shocked to discover that its rulers, his brother and sister, want him dead.

SCHRAG, Ariel. Adam. Mariner. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9780544142930.
Geeky, inexperienced Adam decides on a whim to spend the summer before senior year visiting his older sister, Casey, in New York City. He falls for Gillian, a lesbian, and she falls in love with him, believing him to be transgender, in this brilliant romp of an original romance.

VANDERMEER, Jeff. Annihilation. Bk.1. 208p. (Southern Reach Trilogy). Farrar. pap. $13.00. ISBN 9780374104092.
This rich, multilayered novel follows a scientific expedition into the mysterious Area X, a region that has been utterly abandoned following an unexplained Event and in which the laws of physics seem to break down.

WEIR, Andy. The Martian. Crown. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780804139021.
After a freak dust storm, Mark Watney is left behind on NASA’s third manned mission to Mars, believed dead. He uses his problem-solving ability (and mechanical engineering and botanist training) to survive the unsurvivable, which he tracks in near-daily, often hilarious, log entries.


APTOWICZ, Cristin O’Keefe. Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. Gotham. $27.50. ISBN 9781592408702.
Dr. Mütter’s larger-than-life, showman’s personality and incredible medical advancements pair thrillingly with Aptowicz’s enthusiastic writing to deliver many unbelievable facts that readers will need to share with friends.

BERNSTEIN, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Youth Prison. Free Press. Jun. 2014. ISBN 9781595589569.
Bernstein’s provocative book takes readers through the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Ultimately, she calls for the complete abolition of youth imprisonment.

BROCKMEIER, Kevin. A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of the Seventh Grade. Pantheon. Tr $24. ISBN 9780307908988.
This gutsy memoir focuses on a single, seemingly unimportant year of Brockmeier’s adolescence to highlight the true significance of every moment of our lives.

DUFFY, Chris, ed. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. illus. by Various. First Second. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781626720657.
A haunting graphic novel in which modern cartoonists have illustrated outstanding poetry of World War I. It’s a reimagining of some of the wonderful verses of the early 20th century for those who have already encountered them, and an ideal introduction to the facts and the literature of the era for teens who have not.

RAKOFF, Joanna. My Salinger Year. Knopf. Tr $25.95. ISBN  9780307958006
Rakoff recounts the year she dropped out of grad school to move to New York City and write poetry. To make ends meet she worked as the assistant to a venerable, traditional publisher whose most famous client was J.D. Salinger.

ZUSMAN, Angela Beth. The Griots of Oakland: Voices from the African American Oral History Project. Story Bridges. Tr $59.99. ISBN 9780988763111; pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-0988763104.
After two years of training, several young African American men in Oakland, CA conducted research, crafted questions, and conducted more than 100 oral-history interviews with African American males ages six to 24. The result is this book, at once gorgeous to look at and challenging to readers’ views of African American men.

See the pretty SLJ version here.

Categories: Library News

Mystery & Truth

Mon, 2014-12-01 08:54

As we launch head-first into the busy holiday season, two family mysteries begin our week. The ever-popular Jodi Picoult is back with another title that mixes animal behavior and human drama. (I say “another” given 2012′s Lone Wolf, which we recommended here.) Leaving Time focuses on elephant research and a mother’s disappearance.

Diane Chamberlain is back with a second mystery with teen appeal. We reviewed Necessary Lies last year. In The Silent Sister she follows a young woman searching for the older sister she thought had died as a teenager.

Come back on Wednesday for the announcement of our Best Adult Books 4 Teens, 2014!!

PICOULT, Jodi. Leaving Time. 416p. Random. Oct. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN  9780345544926. LC 2014023994.  

Jenna, age 13, desperately wishes she could remember the details of her mother’s disappearance 10 years ago.  What she does know is that her mother Alice, an elephant researcher, was found unconscious a mile from a dead body. She also knows that her mother regained consciousness in the hospital and vanished. Jenna spends a lot of time on missing person websites looking for some mention of her mother and wondering if she is alive and why she would leave her behind. She enlists the help of Serenity, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil, a police detective turned private investigator. Chapters told from the points of view of Jenna, Serenity, and Virgil, as well as excerpts from Alice’s research journals, reveal details of the elephant sanctuary as the trio joins forces to find the truth. Alice’s fascinating research focused on elephant mothering and behavior while grieving, a clear metaphor for the love and pain Jenna experiences throughout the novel. Captivating, engaging, and at times humorous, this book ends with some major surprises. Teens who are fans of Picoult, or those who love a well-written mystery with dynamic characters, will find much to savor and ponder here.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, Mill Valley, CA

CHAMBERLAIN, Diane. The Silent Sister. 343p. St. Martin’s Press. Oct. 2014. Tr $26.99. ISBN  9781250010711. LC 2014021144.  

Twenty-five-year old Riley is preparing to sell her childhood home after the death of her father. Her mother died years earlier, and years before that, her older sister Lisa’s suicide ended a promising career for the young violin prodigy, bringing with it years of devastating grief to her family.  Feeling incredibly lonely, Riley reaches out to her brother Danny, an Iraq war veteran who is psychologically ravaged and angry, rendering him unable to connect with his loved ones. Now as the protagonist sorts through a myriad of household items she feels more alone than ever. When a neighbor hints that Riley was adopted, the young woman is certain that the claim is a lie, but when she finds an old box filled with news articles stating that Lisa murdered her music teacher and hinting that Lisa committed suicide in order to escape prison, Riley discovers that her childhood was built on lies; and in fact, there are strong indications that her sibling didn’t die. Determined to fill in the gaps of her childhood, and possibly find the sister she never knew, Riley begins a search for the truth. Told in alternating chapters, the story also includes Lisa’s point of view as Riley searches every clue to gain insight and understanding of her own identity. Teens will identify with Lisa, Riley, and Danny as victims of adult actions and decisions. The broad range of emotions that Riley faces ring true.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Categories: Library News

Magical Trilogies

Mon, 2014-11-24 07:50

Today we review the first books in three new speculative fiction series.

Let’s begin with Charlie Holmberg‘s The Paper Magician series. We review the first, The Paper Magician, Holberg’s debut, published in September. The second in the series, The Glass Magician, is already available. Both are published by Amazon’s fantasy, science fiction and horror imprint, 47North.

Some of you might know Charlie Fletcher from his middle grade Stoneheart trilogy. The Oversight is his first adult novel. It is a terrific readalike for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, with a similar dark London setting. (Bonus–a British friend who knows London well assures me that it’s geographically accurate.) This is darker than The Paper Magician, but still perfectly appropriate for teen readers. The second in the Oversight trilogy, The Paradox, is expected in 2015.

Radiant is another debut, which launches Karina Sumner-Smith‘s Towers Trilogy. It is an interesting mix of fantasy and dystopian science fiction, combining magic and technology. At it’s core is a strong female friendship that grounds the world-building and the action. Next up? Defiant in 2015!

HOLMBERG, Charlie N. The Paper Magician. 224p. (The Paper Magicians: Bk. 1). Amazon/47North. Sept. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN  9781477823835. LC 2014930971.  

This series opener is tailor-made for teen readers who love Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011) and the “Harry Potter” books. Ceony is a recent graduate of the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined. Unfortunately for 19-year-old Ceony, she is apprenticed to Emery Thane, a paper magician, after graduation. She is not particularly interested in paper magic, considered to be an irrelevant form by most. She soon finds she has a knack for it and enjoys working with the brilliant but mysterious magician. What begins as an apprenticeship turns into a love story and adventure when Magician Thane is attacked by his ex-wife, an Excisioner who practices dark magic. Ceony must literally enter his heart on a quest to restore it to his body. The romance that develops between Ceony and Emery Thane is extremely chaste—nary a smoldering look passes between them—making The Paper Magician a safe choice for any YA or high school collection. Holmberg borrows heavily from “magic school” books, so the familiar tropes she employs will appeal to younger or reluctant readers. Readers will anxiously await for the next offering to find out what’s next in life, love, and magic for Ceony.–Meghan Cirrito, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

FLETCHER, Charlie. The Oversight. 436p. (The Oversight Trilogy). Orbit. May 2014. pap. $15. ISBN 9780316279512. LC 2014932198.  

This atmospheric fantasy effectively combines rich world-building, appealing characters, and fast pacing. The Oversight is an ancient order that regulates interactions between humans and the “supranatural.” Members enforce the Law and Lore that prevent the Sluagh and other creatures from preying upon humans. The Oversight have supernatural powers themselves, from communicating with animals to hiding in plain sight. Their ranks of have been diminishing for some time, and they are desperate for new members. When Mr. Sharp rescues Lucy, a nearly feral teenager, from being sold into servitude and brings her to the Oversight safe house in London, Sara Falk and Cook are excited to realize that, like Sara, she is a Glint—she can see into the past by touching an object with her hands. They promise to teach her to control her abilities. But that night Lucy breaks into the Red Library, which holds objects of value to the Oversight. She steps into a mysterious series of mirrored passageways, stumbles, and falls through into a circus tent in northern England. Short chapters follow these and several other characters who work to either forward or thwart a plot to use the Sluagh to dispense with the Oversight once and for all. This first in a trilogy leaves more than one character in deep peril at its conclusion. Recommend to teens who enjoy Neil Gaiman’s books, specifically his Neverwhere (Avon, 1997), which is clearly an inspiration for Fletcher’s Dickensian London and dark magic.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

SUMNER-SMITH, Karina. Radiant. 386p. (Towers Trilogy: Bk. 1). Talos Press. Oct. 2014. pap. $15.99. ISBN  9781940456102.  

In a dystopian world where magic is currency and a status symbol, Xhea has none. What she does have is a strange ability to see ghosts—invisible to magic-wielders—and the tethers that bind them. Xhea uses this ability to make a living, taking control of ghosts for a brief period to give the haunted a respite. When Xhea takes control of Shai’s ghost, the protagonist soon discovers that the young woman is not an ordinary ghost. She was a Radiant, one of the rare people who produces excess magic for the families that control the City’s great Towers. Shai’s home Tower will stop at nothing to regain control of her powers, and as Xhea and Shai struggle to avoid a fate that is literally worse than death, they develop a strong friendship and discover that Xhea’s lack of magic is a strength she’d never imagined. Radiant is fast-paced and very readable. The dichotomy in class between the Towers and the Low City is a new take on a common theme, and the primary characters are well developed and nuanced. The combination of strong female characters, paranormal activity, and dystopia makes this a good choice for fans of Veronica Roth and Cassandra Clare. The plot is very complex, a bit more exposition may have been helpful, and including zombies may have been trend overkill. Overly formal language will occasionally jolt readers out of the story.  However, teens will likely respond to this story of friendship and adventure and look forward to the second installment in the trilogy.—Karen Brooks, Pierce County Library System, WA

Categories: Library News

A Debut Novel for Lovers of (or Newbies to) the Greek Classics

Fri, 2014-11-21 07:00

Natalie Haynes’s debut novel is a fascinating mix of Haynes’s diverse interests and talents. A stand-up comedian, television panelist, journalist, and author of a nonfiction book on the Greek classics, Haynes brings all these sources to bear in creating a complex and satisfying narrative. As our reviewer notes, the novel is structured, as a traditional Greek play, into five acts, and offers both perspectives on the teaching of Greek classics: that of the teacher, and that of the student. I haven’t had a chance to read The Furies yet (published in Haynes’s native Britain as Amber Fury), but this review has definitely piqued my interest.

HAYNES, Natalie. The Furies. 304p. St. Martin’s Press. Aug. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN  9781250048004. LC 2014016596.

Drawing upon the subject matter from her first nonfiction book, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life (Overlook, 2011), Haynes creates a page-turning portrait of grief set in the modern day. After experiencing a personal trauma when her fiancé is murdered, Alex drastically alters her life by leaving her job as a play director in London and moving to Edinburgh to teach troubled teens drama therapy. Using the Greek classics as course material, the group discusses themes of violence, revenge, and retribution, all issues that parallel the teens’ real lives. An enigmatic element is added to the narrative when diary entries and letters from one of Alex’s students are interspersed with her account, and readers get a dual perspective of what is being taught and what is actually absorbed by the student. Organized into five acts, the flashback structure adds mystery and intrigue to the story, though the tragic ending comes as no surprise. While the five students in Alex’s class often make rash, unwise decisions, teens will relate to the social predicaments they must navigate. This will be especially popular with teens that have difficulty regulating their emotions. As a good introduction for students unfamiliar with the Greek classics, teachers will also appreciate the curriculum connection.—Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

Categories: Library News

A Debut Novel by Indie Rock Darling John Darnielle

Wed, 2014-11-19 07:00

As a (and often the only) member of the indie rock band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle is responsible for some of the most literate music of the 2000s and early 2010s. This year he turned to the in-no-way-guaranteed-to-succeed extension of that literate nature: a novel. But succeed it does, and I’m not the only one to think so: Wolf in White Van was long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction. I can’t say I’ve read the rest of NBA’s longlist, but if Darnielle’s book is indicative of their quality, then I’ll have to get to them quickly.

This is a truly remarkable novel, which I’ve decided not to give a starred review to only because I think the teen audience will be fairly limited. Some teens (and some adults, for that matter) will be turned off by the elusive nature of the narrative, as Darnielle keeps pulling away from revealing key facts. And others by the slim plot. But those who stick with it will be greatly rewarded by a tremendous piece of prose, and a very thoughtful exploration of deep themes about violence, responsibility, and the nature of reality. Do yourself a favor and read this book. And while you’re at it, pick up some of Darnielle’s music.

DARNIELLE, John. Wolf in White Van. 207p. Farrar. Sept. 2014. Tr $24. ISBN  9781250048004. LC 2014015427.

Darnielle’s preposterously assured debut novel winds its plot around two tragic incidents. The first, copiously hinted at but not revealed till more than halfway through the novel, results directly in the permanent facial mutilation of the narrator, Sean, at age 17; and indirectly in Sean’s creation of a mail-order role playing game called Trace Italian, designed in part to help him escape from the real world. The second tragedy involves two teen players of Trace Italian taking the game too far into reality, leading to the death of one of the players. The ironic bookends of these two events might seem too programmatic if not for Darnielle’s deft handling of nonlinear storytelling. Sean’s narration is structured around free-associative flashbacks to before and after each tragedy, as well as meditations on Trace Italian, including snippets of gameplay—Sean’s game instructions and the moves of various players. The plot as such is fairly scanty, but the protagonist’s meditations on the events in his life vibrate with intensity and inner depth. And though Sean is an adult in the story’s present day, Darnielle’s psychologically complex portrayal of Sean’s childhood and adolescence, along with the intriguing glimpses at the game, should be more than enough to bring mature teens to this masterful novel.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

Categories: Library News

A Trio of Thrillers

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:00

Valerie Geary‘s debut novel is a family drama, coming-of-age, psychological murder mystery that builds to thriller pitch. Two sisters deal with unusual family dynamics, and put themselves at risk to clear their father’s name.  It seems fitting that one of the authors who has blurbed the novel is Lisa O’Donnell, who won an Alex Award for The Death of Bees, another story of sisters under duress.

Michael Koryta has been writing consistently excellent crime (and horror) novels for several years, and I’m so happy that he has written a book that we can highlight here. Those Who Wish Me Dead stars a teen boy who sees something he never should have seen, and it puts him at terrible risk from some very ugly people. This is a great readalike for Patrick Lee’s Runner, one of my favorite novels of the first half of 2014.

Ben Mezrich‘s latest is in the Indiana Jones tradition. Jack Grady, our adventure-seeking, anthropologist protagonist is opposed by one in a line of women tasked with keeping ancient secrets hidden throughout the ages. Add in exotic locations (we are talking the Seven Wonders of the World), and you get a thrilling launch to a new series.

GEARY, Valerie. Crooked River. 336p. Morrow. Oct. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN  9780062326591. LC 2014031348.  

After the sudden death of their mother, sisters Sam, 15, and Ollie, 10, have to live with their hermit father in an Oregonian meadow. Bear, their father, has lived off the grid in a teepee for eight years and this new living arrangement has a trial period of six months stipulated by the girls’ maternal grandparents. Things don’t begin well as the stunning opening sentence reveals, “We found the woman floating facedown in an eddy where Crooked River made a slow bend north, just a stone skip away from the best swimming hole this side of anywhere.” Told in alternating chapters between Sam and Ollie, there’s evidence that points to Bear’s guilt. However, Ollie, who hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death, is sure Bear is not the murderer and is able to convince Sam. When Bear is arrested for the murder of the woman the sisters had discovered in the river, Sam decides it is up to her to prove his innocence. So begins a series of highly questionable and risky actions to do just that. She learns that the dead woman, a reporter, was in town to interview a reclusive local artist. Her digging for proof uncovers a connection between the artist and her father which had a devastating effect on both men. This fast-paced debut novel is filled with memorable characters and the plot twists and turns will keep teens engaged all the way to the final explosive scene.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

KORYTA, Michael. Those Who Wish Me Dead. 388p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN 9780316122559. LC 2014934962.  

Those looking for a riveting thriller to keep them awake at night need look no further. Thirteen-year-old Jace goes for a forbidden swim in a quarry and witnesses hit men dropping a body into the water. He must stay hidden to testify at a trial, and a hiking program for troubled teens in Montana seems the perfect place. The leader knows that a boy is being hidden within his group, but goes ahead working with the group on survival skills in the mountains as usual. The teens are portrayed realistically and Jace tries to fit in with the others who are there because of delinquency problems. Teen readers will appreciate his role as the smart hero, and will sympathize with the adult characters, especially as they are being murdered by the men who are searching for Jace. The violence is graphic, but the villains needed to be horrid to make the desperate attempt at escape seem reasonable. Tension builds unceasingly even before a terrible forest fire begins.  Koryta is an experienced crime writer with a talent for introducing surprises and portraying a variety of characters.  His teen characters are well written, and readers will look forward to finding more of them in his breath-taking fiction.—Karlan Sick, Library Consultant, New York City

MEZRICH, Ben. Seven Wonders. 314p. Running Pr. Sept. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN 9780762453825. LC 2013957368.  

Moments before his death by ancient ivory javelin, mathematician Jeremy Grady stuffs a flash drive into a keychain knowing that it will be found by his twin brother, anthropologist Jack Grady. It contains information Jeremy discovered that links the modern wonders of the world with the ancient wonders in a way previously unsuspected. Jack is spurred on to discover the meaning of this revelation and the reason for his brother’s murder. The protagonist and his two graduate students meet up with botanist Sloan Costa and travel the world to hunt down artifacts from each of the seven ancient wonders, certain that if placed together, they will lead them to the center of the beginning of all life. They are not alone, however. Ultra-rich Jendari is one of a special line of women tasked through the millennia to manipulate information surrounding those ancient secrets. She is only steps behind Jack and will stop at nothing to discover the center of this ancient inheritance. Jack Grady, handsome and intelligent, is quintessential adventuring anthropologist who will climb 80 feet towers, dive into dark and mysterious pools, and face down crocodiles. Sloan is an able sidekick who uses her scientific mind to deliberate through complicated puzzles as they race to find each important object. While not as intricate and deep as the books by Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, and Robin Cook, teens who enjoy this genre will enjoy this title and look forward to more adventures of this thrill-seeking anthropologist.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Categories: Library News

North of Normal and What is Visible

Fri, 2014-11-14 11:52

On Monday, Angela mentioned that we haven’t had as many nonfiction titles as we’d like this year, and offered up Dr. Mutter’s Marvels for consideration. Today, we’ve got another nonfiction title, this time a memoir, and a novel based on a real person.

The memoir is Cea Sunrise Person’s North of Normal, and Person’s first and middle names are a clue to what her book is about: she grew up in Canada, in hippie-like conditions which quickly turned from free-thinking to straight-up neglect and abuse. At my library teens can’t get enough of these stories of childhood travails: A Child Called It, The Glass Castle, Three Little Words–you name it. Add in a clothing-optional lifestyle and I think this title has tons of teen appeal.

The historical novel, Kimberly Elkins’s What Is Visible, is based on the life of Laura Bridgman, who (Wikipedia tells me) was “the first deaf-blind American child to gain a significant education in the English language, fifty years before the more famous Helen Keller.” Elkins build significant fictions into Bridgman’s life, especially a lover, but the basic facts of her life are there and extraordinary. A great recommendation equally as a coming-of-age novel and as a introduction to this fascinating woman.

PERSON, Cea Sunrise. North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both. photos. 352p. Jul. 2014. HarperCollins. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062289865. LC 2013032963.

Mention survival in the Canadian wilderness to teens and they’ll likely recall Brian’s adventures in Gary Paulsen’s curriculum-standard novel Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987). But long before fictional Brian learned to hunt and forage, Cea Sunrise Person’s extended family had erected a patchwork tipi in Northern Alberta, far from the oppression of society and completely off the grid. Person tells her story with candor, poignancy, and humor as she looks back on a childhood of the 1970s unlike that of anyone she’d ever known. Papa Dick, Person’s grandfather, was a free-thinking back-to-basics survivalist with negative feelings toward the American government and strong beliefs about how to live a healthy life. Clothing was discouraged (it impedes natural energy flow), and there was no need for privacy for such natural acts as moving your bowels or having sex. He lectured against the evils of sugar and preservatives and for the benefits of marijuana. Born to 16 year-old Michelle, Person recognized that her mother never really grew up as she aged. Michelle flitted in and out of her daughter’s life, perpetually high on pot and the endorphin rush she got from an endless string of boyfriends. Young Cea spent long days alone, entertaining herself with the help of Michelle’s reluctantly handed down doll and an anthology of children’s literature. Reentering society, she ached for a stable, ordinary life. Teens who enjoy vividly written memoirs that tell of overcoming circumstance—in this case a beyond dysfunctional family, abuse, neglect, transience, and poverty—will devour Person’s captivating book.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

ELKINS, Kimberly. What Is Visible. 307p. photos. Hatchette/Twelve. June 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781455528967. LC 2013034399.

While history celebrates Hellen Keller, few remember Laura Bridgman, the woman who proved education possible for the deaf-blind. Born in 1829, Bridgman contracted scarlet fever at two. She lost not only her hearing and sight, but also her ability to smell and taste. Elkins introduces readers to 12-year-old Laura, who has spent the last five years at The Perkins Institute in Boston under the direction of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Laura, known for her ability to learn through tactile signing, typically performs for hundreds at Saturday exhibitions. But this day is different; Charles Dickens has traveled from London to meet who he refers to as “the second wonder of North America.” But an audience with the famous author is nothing compared to Laura’s introduction to Julia Ward, a socialite whom she jealously views as her rival for Dr. Howe’s attention. What Is Visible is a coming-of-age novel unlike any other, one whose nearly locked-in protagonist longs for friendship, love, intimacy and a sense of belonging in a world she can only experience through touch. Elkins widens the narrative to include the viewpoints and stories of Howe, Ward (who becomes the doctor’s wife), and Sarah Wight, Laura’s beloved teacher and companion. The author invents a lover for the bold, sardonic Laura, a brash Irish kitchen girl who becomes an outlet for her pent-up passion. Older teens will enjoy this honest, often heartbreaking historical novel that explores broad themes of love, loss, and sacrifice.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

Categories: Library News

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels

Mon, 2014-11-10 07:39

We’ve suffered from a dearth of adult nonfiction for teens this year, but today I am thrilled to bring you a great recommendation. In fact, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels shares some of the very best qualities of Mary Roach’s iconic Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, especially a gross-out curiosity factor and great story-telling. Add a larger-than-life subject and you have narrative nonfiction magic. Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz tells her story with gusto, taking the reader from the hospitals of Paris to the great medical colleges of Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century. 

There is a lot of medical history here, but it is so unbelievable, so over-the-top (yet true!) that readers will be riveted. Mütter himself is quite a character, from being orphaned as a child to sailing for Paris alone without a dime, to his entertaining teaching style, his incredible bravado and talent for developing new plastic surgery techniques, and a real empathy for his patients, many of whom were societal outcasts due to their terrible deformities.

Back matter includes extensive paged source notes, which allow the narrative to flow like a novel. Illustrations (carefully credited) are black & white, and include sketches of patients, anatomical drawings, and photographs of equipment or works of art depicting a surgical theater from the time period, for example.

*APTOWICZ, Cristin O’Keefe. Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. 371p. illus. index. notes. photos. Penguin/Gotham. Sept. 2014. Tr $27.50. ISBN  9781592408702. LC 2014014747.  

You wouldn’t want to be a patient undergoing surgery in Philadelphia in the 1830s. Anesthesia hadn’t yet been invented, so a cup of wine would be used to dull your senses prior to the procedure. A crowd would watch in the operating theater, and the best you could hope for was a surgeon who was quick enough to lessen your stress and pain, but slow enough to do the job correctly. If you were really lucky, he might wash his hands. After the operation, you’d be promptly sent home in a carriage, bouncing on cobblestone streets. When Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter burst onto the scene, medicine was ripe for change. Aptowicz introduces readers to the pioneering young surgeon responsible for helping to lead a revolution.  Mütter stood out in his field as much for his handsome good looks and colorful silk suits as his engaging, outsize personality. Known for his compassionate way with patients, he saw possibilities in the new field of plastic surgery for helping those with debilitating physical deformities. Informed by an abundance of research, Aptowicz’s crackling prose brings the surgeon to life, immersing readers in the shocking world of primitive medicine in the pre-Civil War era. She gives ample page time to his contemporaries, including those who held vastly opposing views on the best way to treat patients. Chock-full of fascinating facts and anecdotes, this page-turning biography will engage those teens who enjoy narrative nonfiction.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

Categories: Library News

Historical Fiction Round-Up

Thu, 2014-11-06 12:25

I have to say I expected more World War I books this year, considering it is the Centennial of that war. We did have the fabulous poetry collection/graphic novel Above the Dreamless Dead. But other than that we haven’t seen a huge push for books about the Great War. One book under review today takes place during World War I, but The End of Innocence was actually first published two years ago under the title Harvard 1914. Perhaps American publishers are waiting for the Centennial of America’s entrance into the war in 1917?

In any case, the three books reviewed today take us throughout the 20th Century and throughout the world–from Kansas in 1965 to Europe in 1914 to Yemen in the 1920s and 30s–and give us new insights into all three historical periods, as well as our own. All three grapple with issues of prejudice born of racial and ethnic differences–religious and cultural hatred in Henna House; American prejudice against Germans during World War I in The End of Innocence; and all kinds of racial, sexual, and cultural prejudice in Last Night at the Blue Angel. All three of these books are great choices for teens looking for that ever elusive category of “Historical Fiction”

ROTERT, Rebecca. Last Night at the Blue Angel. 325p. Morrow. Jul. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN  9780062315281. LC 2014008671.

Born and raised in Kansas in the early 1950s, wild and impulsive Naomi knows early on that she is different. Drawn to the pretty and wealthy Laura, they become friends and eventually begin a sexual affair that, once discovered by Laura’s father, forces Naomi to run away from home. She runs to Laura’s older brother, David, in Kansas City where their brief affair leaves her pregnant and adrift. Naomi turns to her childhood teacher and mentor, Sister Idelia and together, they travel to Chicago to move in with Sister Idelia’s transgender brother and friends. There, Naomi is introduced to the underground music scene at the Blue Angel Bar. This perfectly suits her unconventional nature and allows her incredible voice to shine. In alternating chapters, readers also hear from Sophia, Naomi and David’s daughter. It is 1965, and growing up in her unconventional family is leaving it’s mark on Sophia, who only wants her mother’s love and attention. It is left up to Jim, Naomi’s faithful and unappreciated lover, and Sister Idelia to provide the unconditional love and stability that Sophia craves.  When fame finally comes, it is only through great tragedy for Naomi and Sophia. This is for mature teens who may find the variations of sexuality, race, gender and lifestyle fascinating, especially for its time. They may also be surprised to discover the time’s harshness of laws against homosexuality and the rampant racial discrimination. Sophia navigates her world expecting at all times that it will fall apart, and yet holds onto an optimism that will make young adults root for her all the way.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

JORDAN, Allegra. The End of Innocence. rev. ed. 320p. Aug. 2014. Sourcebooks. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781492603832.

German-born Wilhelm von Lutzow Brandle, known familiarly as Wils, is related to much of the royalty in Europe. This prestige holds little sway on student opinion at the Harvard campus in 1914, however. Germans are the aggressors in a war that is sucking in all of Europe. Helen Brooks, a freshman at Radcliffe, is a talented writer who is invited to attend a seminar at Harvard, where she meets Wils and his British cousin, Riley. Wils and Helen fall in love at exactly the wrong moment in history, as they are quickly separated when Wils must leave to fight in the German army. Riley also becomes a soldier, fighting for Britain. Part of the book follows these two men, cousins and former Harvard classmates, as they freeze and starve in the trenches of opposing armies. Jordan’s inspiration for her novel comes from a plaque in Harvard’s Memorial Church that reads, “Harvard University has not forgotten its sons, who under opposite colors also gave their lives in the Great War.” Teens may not realize how deeply that war affected an America filling with European immigrants, bringing the loyalties and enmities of their homeland with them. And while Helen and Wils would be an ordinary couple in today’s world, the hatred of all things German was endemic in America during the war years. An excellent choice for romance lovers and history buffs. (Originally published as Harvard 1914: A War Romance, Gold Gable Press, 2012.)—Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library, TN

EVE, Nomi. Henna House. 320p. Aug. 2014. Scribner. Tr $26. ISBN 9781476740270. LC 2013497612.

Using the rituals of henna as a recurring theme, this story features a young Jewish girl in Yemen in the 1920s and 1930s. As the only daughter and youngest child of aging parents, Adela is in danger of being “confiscated” and adopted by Muslims if her parents die before she is married, so at the age of eight she is engaged to a young cousin, Asaf. Meanwhile, another cousin, Hani, arrives in Yemen from her home in Aden. Hani’s mother, Aunt Rahel, is an expert in the art of henna, and Adela is fascinated by the rituals, the designs, and the community of women surrounding henna. When Adela’s parents die, she moves to Aden with Hani’s family, still awaiting the return of Asaf, who has gone on an extended trip with his merchant father. By the time he returns, Adela is in love with someone else, but she marries Asaf out of obligation to her parents and the marriage contract they had made. But Asaf is not the person Adela has been remembering and imagining all these years. This is a fascinating story of family connections, love, loss, betrayal, and secrets, all tied into the designs that the women paint onto one another’s skin. Teens who like historical fiction will find much to enjoy in this tale from a time and place that is unfamiliar to most.—Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library

Categories: Library News

Lockstep & Goodhouse

Mon, 2014-11-03 09:37

Two excellent science fiction titles today, both featuring teen male protagonists.

Lockstep is a hard SF romp that, despite its sophistication, could have been published for a YA audience. Karl Schroeder is a well-known and respected Canadian science fiction author whose output is entirely adult, so his publishers probably did well to keep him in that category. The concept of The Lockstep gives the reader several fascinating worlds to experience via Toby’s adventures, and a terrific challenge wrapping one’s mind around the concept of entire worlds hibernating 360 month for every one month awake–not to mention the consequences  for societies that do not participate. 

Peyton Marshall‘s debut, Goodhouse, is a dystopian novel that comments on a possible United States, a few decades in the future. While there isn’t much to the author’s world-building that is unique, the novel is very well-written, featuring a strong, young protagonist legitimately struggling with both past trauma and hopes for the future. No matter how good his intentions, the corruption of the Goodhouse system makes it impossible for James to “graduate” successfully, and that is going to madden his teen readers! And guarantee their interest in finding out what happens to him.

In other SF news, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that the second in Mira Grant’s Parasitology series, Symbiont, comes out later this month. I reviewed Parasite last December, and although I don’t anticipate reviewing Symbiont (purely due to time crunch), if you have teen fans of the first you will want to order the second.

* SCHROEDER, Karl. Lockstep. 352p. Mar. 2014. Tor. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780765337269.  

For the last few years, young Toby McGonigal and his family have been homesteading on a small, icy exo-planet just outside of the Solar System. In order to maintain a monopoly, the family must claim stake to any orbiting moon they find. On his way to claim one such moon, Toby’s ship’s hull is breached, placing him into emergency deep hibernation. And there he sleeps, lost in space until his ship is pulled into orbit around a planet that appears dead. Luckily for Toby, the world below is not dead, frozen yes, but thriving nonetheless because it is part of the greatest and largest human civilization to ever exist, the Lockstep. The Lockstep has endured and thrived by institutionalizing a rigorous cycle of hibernation in which every member of the civilization lives together in 360 months of hibernation for every one month awake. Toby is shocked to discover that while he has been asleep for over 14,000 years, the Lockstep has been ruled by a single family since its creation: his own. Lockstep is one of the year’s best works of hard science fiction, based around an intergalactic civilization bound by the Speed of Light. Against the backdrop of Toby’s fight to rectify the sins of his family, Schroeder explores complicated topics such as the administration and economics of great empires, the effects of cultural diffusion, the relationship between governance and institutionalized religion, relativistic time, and the complications caused by functional immortality. This title will be especially appealing to advanced readers of science fiction, who will appreciate the opportunity to move out of the worlds of the “Force” and Warp Drives, and into a thriving empire that is well within the theoretical possibilities of human achievement.—Ryan Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle, NY

MARSHALL, Peyton. Goodhouse. 336p. Farrar. Sept. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN  9780374165628. LC 2014008671.  

This propulsive dystopian novel is set in the Goodhouse system—boarding school-like juvenile detention centers created in the near-future to house and educate boys whose DNA inclines them toward criminal behavior. At age three, James was placed at La Pine. Now he is 17, and has just transferred to Ione, one of the only survivors when La Pine was burned to the ground by Zeros, radical opponents of the Goodhouse movement. In preparation for their release from the Goodhouse at 18, Ione boys are loaned out to local families to help with chores. During his first placement, James meets Bethany, a teenager who uses her technical prowess to stay in touch after he returns to campus. Meanwhile, James is changing from model student to violent troublemaker. One night he is abducted and taken to the exclusion zone, an area between Ione and the Mule Creek prison next door, and forced to fight to the death against prison inmates. From then on James has no idea whom to trust. He doesn’t know if he’s hallucinating when he sees the man who shot his best friend the night of the La Pine fire, but he fears that Zeros may be infiltrating Ione and planning another attack. After he learns that the man is Bethany’s father and a doctor at Ione, his suspicions multiply. James’ first-person narration sets this novel apart; he is a strong, sympathetic character who seems to be a pawn in a larger struggle that neither he nor readers understand until the very last pages. Fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent ready for a literary dystopian read are the ideal audience.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Categories: Library News

Displaced Persons

Wed, 2014-10-29 17:17

Derek McCulloch’s Gone to Amerikay was one of our favorite books of 2012. In fact, I even (incorrectly) predicted an Alex Award for it. So I was very excited to see that he was out with a new graphic novel, this time illustrated by Anthony Peruzzo. Like Gone to Amerikay, Displaced Persons has an epic sweep–following the travails of a family over several generations, and using intertwined narratives. So if you or your teens liked Gone to Amerikay as much as we did, this is the one to pick up.

* MCCULLOCH, Derek. Displaced Persons. illus. by Anthony Peruzzo. 168p. Image Comics. Aug. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781632151216.

This graphic novel time travels through three generations of one family, whose connections are symbolized, and realized, by a house in the hills of San Francisco. The themes of politics, family, and crime are showcased in the intertwined narratives, changing through the years only in the details. During the Great Depression, a loving father, pressed by economic forces he’s unable to control, makes a shady deal to keep his loved ones together. Grandiose or ambitious, there’s a lot here to consume, and digest; readers may have to check the proffered time lines more than once to keep their bearings. The sins of the past destroy some characters and cast off others, leaving a faithful few to find their way home. Drug use and dealing cast a pall in the 1960s chapters, and César Chávez gets a mention through a well-meaning in-law as things fall apart in the 1990s. It seems a bit random, but in an interesting play-within-a-play conclusion, a friend writing a book and a time traveling relative find each other and some answers to the family saga. The work’s narrative held together by the art: Shaded in multiple sepia tones to signal different time periods, the drawings are roughly chiseled and remarkably detailed; whole rooms, complete with clues, appear in single frames. This part mystery, part sci-fi graphic novel was crafted over ten years.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

Categories: Library News

Rainey Royal

Mon, 2014-10-27 08:43

Dylan Landis offers a novel in 14 connected stories that spans 10 years, beginning with the title character, Rainey Royal at 14 years old. It is set in the 1970′s New York City of Landis’s own adolescence.

This book explores teenage sexuality, and it can be dark. Rainey is abused by her father’s best friend, and she also uses her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants. She is victim and bully, and she lacks the adult role model she needs. Her father does nothing to protect her.

Like last Monday’s featured books, How to Build a Girl and Not that Kind of Girl, this is most likely to be enjoyed by older teens. I’m sorry I haven’t read this one yet, because I get the feeling that there could be some interesting parallels between Rainey and Dolly, although their goals and methods seems quite different. Add it to the pile!

LANDIS, Dylan. Rainey Royal. 246p. Soho Pr. Sept. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781616954529. LC 2014009580.  

Rainy Royal is the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl—her coolness directly in proportion to the damage done to her. She says cutting things to teachers and wears amazing handmade clothes like armor against her peers. But the dysfunction in her family is most definitely not fabulous. Only her best friend Tina knows what is really going on behind the doors of her townhouse in Greenwich Village: Rainey’s father may be a famous jazz musician but he lets young, beautiful musical acolytes crash in Rainey’s room and steal her clothes; his best friend, Gordy, visits her room at night to give backrubs and stroke her hair; and her mother has fled to an ashram leaving behind a broken sewing machine and useless advice about love. Rainey Royal follows a beautiful, damaged girl from her crumbling townhouse in the twilight of Free Love and into the seediness that was 1970s New York City. Landis takes real risks in presenting Rainey’s story, including allowing her two best friends their own chapters. The unique structure of the book makes for a full, rich, coming-of-age story. Teens who love Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye will be drawn to Rainey Royal and her jaundiced view of the world, but she holds equal appeal for “Gossip Girl” (Little, Brown) fans, as she is the ultimate beautiful, wise-beyond-her-years, mean girl.—Meghan Cirrito, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Categories: Library News

The Final Book in the Southern Reach Trilogy

Fri, 2014-10-24 07:00

You can’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ve been raving about Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy all year, and promising a review of the final volume. So here it is. VanderMeer once again takes readers into the heart of his mysterious Area X (after merely skirting around it through the middle volume in the trilogy), this time expanding our perspective to almost every crucial character in the Area’s bizarre history.

In some ways, this final book is the most traditional of the three, with a plot that seems to be heading towards a real climax, and multiple developed point-of-view characters. But that traditionality turns out to be a bluff as well, as (possible spoiler, but not for anyone whose been paying attention), VanderMeer refuses to answer any of the most key questions, or offer any real resolution to the central mystery and characters. This steadfast commitment to ambiguity, though, is the series’s greatest strength, and what makes it stand out from the over-crowded masses of dystopian/post-apocalyptic SF.

This book most certainly can’t be read as a stand-alone. But for those who have read the first two, it is absolutely essential reading.

VANDERMEER, Jeff. Acceptance. 341p. (Southern Reach: Bk. 3). Farrar. Sept. 2014. pap. $15. ISBN 9780374104115. LC 2014016962.

VanderMeer takes readers for one last trip into Area X in this stunning conclusion to his chilling sci-fi trilogy. Once again, VanderMeer offers a radical change in narrative perspective: in place of the single-character limited viewpoints of the previous two installments, he jumps dramatically through time, space, and character, to give readers the perspectives of every main player. In addition to the biologist from Annihilation—picking up her narration where it left off—and Control from Authority (both Farrar, 2014)—as he travels with the biologist’s doppelganger into Area X—readers follow the thoughts of the previous director of the Southern Reach and her actions leading up to the events of Annihilation; the biologist’s doppelganger, as she helps Control through Area X; and most intriguingly, the Lighthouse Keeper as he lived and worked in the months just before and after the Event which caused Area X. Despite this expansive narrative perspective, the themes and tone from the first two books remain remarkably consistent. The author hammers on the malleability of boundaries, the ambiguity between humanity and nature, and the ineffability of the great mysteries of life. This is heady stuff, but teens who followed VanderMeer through the phenomenal previous volumes should be more than up to the challenge of completing the journey with him.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA


Categories: Library News

Halloween Reading

Wed, 2014-10-22 07:55

The days grow shorter. The evenings grow darker. You’re trying to figure out a costume to wear to school next Friday. In the spirit of the season, we review three new novels for those seeking a thrill this Halloween.

Edgar Cantero’s first book in English, The Supernatural Enhancements, is a secret society mystery/haunted house gothic that moves closer and closer to horror as it goes along. In case it isn’t clear, A’s mute friend Niamh is a teen, and she proves to be one of the most intriguing elements here. (And their dog, Help, is the most lovable.) Any readers you know who are obsessed with dreams–and I’ve certainly run into a few through the years–will LOVE this book.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters is by Keith Donohue, known for his haunting fantasy debut, The Stolen Child. He is a literary writer, whether tackling fantasy or horror, so you know you can expect excellent writing in his latest. If you are a horror reader, you will enjoy Peter Straub’s review in the Washington Post, which is like a short course in the appeal of the genre.

A Sudden Light is something new for Garth Stein, known for his hit debut, The Art of Racing in the Rain. A Sudden Light is the #1 Library Reads pick for October and found a spot on the Indie Next list this month as well–so, a favorite of both librarians and booksellers. This ghost story of family secrets is more creepy than scary, but certainly intriguing.

More? This would be a great time to recommend Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, one of 2014′s most effective scary novels, and let me point out that Horns is coming to theaters on October 31st, starring Daniel Radcliffe. Put Joe Hill’s novel on display now, and watch the hype build!

CANTERO, Edgar. The Supernatural Enhancements. 368p. diags. illus. photos. Doubleday. Aug. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780385538152. LC 2013027730.  

Judging by the cover, this is a gothic horror tale focused on a creepy house. And that’s correct, but it’s so much more. A (no longer name given) inherits a mansion he’s never seen in Virginia, and, with it, a mystery.  Ambrose, his distant relative, was a member of a mysterious group of men that met annually, and A wonders if Ambrose was murdered, instead of being driven to suicide by the house ghost.  A and his female companion Niamh, a mute, are determined to discover the secrets of the cursed house, its old-fashioned visitors, and cryptic messages from Ambrose.  Told through dream journals, video transcripts, letters, photographs, and other writings, the novel is unique in design and doesn’t fit into a genre easily. The setting might be gothic, but the two main characters are lovable and bright new adults. The platonic interaction between A and Niamh keeps readers questioning and the twist at the end of the novel is unexpected. Cryptology, crystal balls, break-ins, a loyal dog, ancient mysteries—what’s not to like? Give this to smart teens who appreciate the witty dialogue in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006), the creepiness of the books by Ransom Riggs, or the nerdy codes and clues of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, 2012), although this is a more rural tale.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

DONOHUE, Keith. The Boy Who Drew Monsters. 272p. Picador. Oct. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN 9781250057150. LC 2014018914.  

Jack Peter has never been the dream son Holly and Tim Keenan had hoped would complete their small family. But things became far worse the summer Jip turned seven and he and his only friend Nick nearly drowned in the surf. Now, 10-year-old Jip is terrified to leave the house, preferring to spend his homeschooled days with his father. The boy has had many obsessions over the years that he demands Nick share (from war to board games to model ships), but his latest is the most disturbing: drawing monsters. Jip appears to have developed a sudden talent for rendering the macabre. Soon Holly begins to have auditory hallucinations at home in their coastal Maine saltbox—it sounds like someone or something is trying to get in. Tim is certain he sees a naked man or some type of beast in the headlights, running off on the beach. Holly is worried about Jip, who is increasingly agitated and even violent. She looks to a priest for help, coming away instead with unbelievable stories of shipwrecked undead. Now Nick’s parents have gone away for Christmas, leaving him with the Keenans. He begins to realize the power of Jip’s pencil as his friend draws like a boy possessed. Donohue masterfully turns real life family drama on its ear, with a Stephen King-worthy spin that gleefully extends the novel’s title. Teens will love this psychological horror story, which combines chilling atmospherics with unsettling nightmares come to life.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

STEIN, Garth. A Sudden Light. 416p. S. & S. Sept. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781439187036. LC 2014006886.  

Fourteen-year-old Trevor isn’t happy that his parents have separated temporarily.  He is stuck traveling with his dad to Riddell House, his father’s childhood home outside of Seattle.  Something drove his father away from Riddell House years ago—Trevor hasn’t even met this side of the family before. His stunningly beautiful Aunt Serena and Alzheimer’s patient Grandpa Samuel help him feel at home. After only a few hours at the decaying mansion, Trevor discovers mysterious family secrets. Does the house have a ghost? If so, whose ghost is it? Coming off the success of his bestselling debut novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain (HarperCollins, 2008), Stein returns with this eerie novel. The first half reads like creepy gothic novel—haunted house, mysterious characters, and a dysfunctional family. But the work takes a spiritualistic turn when Trevor is able to see, hear, and converse with family ghosts. The surprises he uncovers from family letters and journals are unsuspected, but the conversations with ghosts in and out of dreams seemed out of place. Give this to teens who want a Halloween read that isn’t as scary as Joe Hill’s Horns (William Morrow, 2010) or as complicated as Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching (Knopf/Nan A. Talese, 2009).—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

Categories: Library News

Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham

Mon, 2014-10-20 08:40

Today I review two books that have the potential to be wildly popular with teens–and wildly challenging for school librarians. Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham are media forces, women who excel in professions dominated by men. They both succeed through the sheer force of their personalities, and to some extent through their willingness to say outrageous things out loud.

Both of their books are best suited to the New Adult, college-age, early 20’s reader. But older teens are going to be attracted to them, as they are basically the misadventures of two girls growing up.

I’m going to start with How to Build a Girl, one of the most exciting books I have read this year. I can’t remember the last time I dog-eared so many pages in a book. Not just for the pitch-perfect voice and comedic timing, but also for the many beautiful coming-of-age moments.

But can I add it to my high school library’s collection? No. I hope teens find it–perhaps at their public libraries?–but I can’t hand it to them personally. Because the author goes a couple steps too far. It’s not the voice or the language, outrageous as they are. It’s certainly not the family dynamics or the good heart of its heroine, who even in her most raunchy moments retains a certain naivete and sweet determination to pursue her passions. If you read this book, you probably won’t agree with me–until the final quarter. And that’s when the graphic quality of the sex scenes goes over the top. Yes, they are followed by a most lovely denouement, where a girl gets to know and love herself–not the self she layered over her real self, but herself. Still, it’s too much for my community. 

But, if you serve teens in a more liberal community? Oh, please buy this. Please promote it. Readers will love this girl, and they will feel for her so deeply. She quotes the musical “Annie” in her first meeting with a group of hard-core rock music journal executives and expects them to get her humor! She is in some ways wonderfully self-aware, in others completely naive. Either way, she throws herself into situations completely beyond her experience. In the bathroom checking herself out before that first big meeting, “I can see where I have drawn Dolly Wilde on top of my own face–the two uneasily co-existing–but perhaps others can’t. If I walk and talk fast enough, maybe no one will notice.” That’s Dolly all over–fake it ’til you make it.

They will ache to read moments like this one. Sitting next to a co-worker on an airplane, she can’t let him know that it’s her first time flying. “I don’t want him to see what I look like when I do something for the first time. I dont’ want anyone watching me change. I will do all my changing in private. In public I am, always, the finished thing. The right thing, for the right place. A chrysalis is hung in the dark.”

Or cheer for the moment her roll as a vicious, feared critic ends after a trusted friend tells her: “You need to see loads of girls, screaming, because that’s what you are. A big screaming girl from the Midlands. You’re an enthusiast, Dolly. Come and enthuse. Come and be a teenage girl again. Come and be a fan.” I think about his saying that. His words are like Glinda’s kiss on my forehead. I’m an enthusiast who’s been pretending to be a cynic. But I have been correctly labeled now. I am for things–not against them. I must remember this. Mainly because this is more fun.”

And now for Not That Kind of Girl. It was an interesting experience reading these two books one week apart. I read How to Build a Girl first, and I can’t help but think that I might have been more impressed by Dunham’s writing if that hadn’t been the case. But after all of the life in Moran’s prose, all the bravado of her young protagonist, Dunham’s determination to paint herself as the most bumbling and awkward of all girls fell a bit flat.

Of course, Moran’s book is (presented as) fiction and Dunham’s is a book of personal essays. Maybe it isn’t fair to compare. I almost gave up on Not That Kind of Girl about a third of the way through, annoyed by the voice. But I picked it up the next day and read to the end. Then read the whole thing over again more carefully. Dunham is very smart and she’s a unique storyteller. She is talking directly to today’s young people and their experience. But it wasn’t a satisfying experience, and I’m still trying to figure out why. Is it because, despite all the personal stories, I finished feeling like I knew almost nothing about her? Is it because despite placing her book in a feminist context in the introduction, she gives only the barest glimpses of the successful businesswoman she has become? Maybe I’d like to be able to see the connection between her earlier life and what she has achieved?

Will teens agree? I did add Not That Kind of Girl to my library’s collection, because I want to see if Dunham approaches the popularity of Tina Fey and Bossypants, which was such a hit. So far, it’s been on display for a week and no one has picked it up. Maybe this really is more New Adult.

I leave you with two quotes, in which the books end with similar moments of acceptance:

Moran: “And some versions of you will end in dismal failure… Others will achieve temporary success…But one day you’ll find a version of you that will get you kissed, or befriended, or inspired, and you will make your notes accordingly, staying up all night to hone and improve upon a tiny snatch of melody that worked. Until–slowly, slowly–you make a viable version of you, one you can hum every day…until you stop having to think about who you’ll be entirely–as you’re too busy doing, now.”

Dunham: “Soon you will find yourself in more and more situations you don’t want to run from. At work you’ll realize that you’ve spent the entire day in your body, really in it, not imagining what you look like to the people who surround you but just being who you are. You are a tool being put to its proper use. That changes a lot of things.”

MORAN, Caitlin. How to Build a Girl. 341p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2014. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062335975.  

This hilarious, raw, profanity- and sex-filled novel is a gold mine of perfectly turned phrases that illuminate the pain and glory of growing up. Fourteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan lives with her parents and brothers in a council flat in a small town north of London. After humiliating herself on live television, she determines to reinvent herself. She will become a rock journalist and call herself Dolly Wilde. It doesn’t matter that she’s never been to a live show and can’t afford records. She borrows albums from the library and writes reviews and sends them to the editors of Disc & Music Echo magazine. They invite her to London for a meeting. Everything about Dolly is completely outrageous—her actions, words, outfit, makeup. And it works! She leaves high school and proudly uses her earnings to help support her family. Life is full of music, alcohol, and men who will sleep with her even though she’s overweight. She soon becomes notorious for her vicious reviews. The teen also wants to become legendary for having lots of sex, and she does. But by 17, Dolly realizes that she is losing touch with herself, and those realizations ring true and earned. This thinly veiled autobiography is wise and revealing and has a heart of gold at its core. Give it to mature teens and new adults with a high tolerance for profanity and graphic sex. Readalikes range from the poverty and family devotion of Angela’s Ashes (Scribner, 1996) to the bold sexuality of Grasshopper Jungle (Dutton, 2014).—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

DUNHAM, Lena. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Women Tells You What She’s “Learned.” illus. by Joana Avillez. 265p. Random. Sept. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994995. LC 2014029492.  

Dunham, writer, director, producer, and star of the TV show Girls offers a collection of personal essays in which she hopes to make her own misadventures useful to other young women. “I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.” She begins with “Love & Sex,” in which she relates losing her virginity and her attraction to men who treat her badly. Dunham’s writing is self-deprecating, clever, and original, and touches upon deep topics, such as self-respect. Other entries cover summer camp, her first mindless retail job, and what she’s learned from her parents. She throws in humorous lists, such as “My Top Ten Health Concerns” (lamp dust and tonsil stones?). Among the compulsions, obsessions, and insecurities, readers get glimpses of the strong woman who is creating her own media empire. In “Body” Dunham shares what it’s like filming nude sex scenes, and why they’re important in the fight against media images that tell us “our bodies aren’t right.” She is upfront about her relationship with food and dieting, in serious and hilarious turns. The final essay, “A Guide to Running Away for Twenty-Seven-Year-Old Women” is about coming-to-terms with loving your work, becoming yourself, and choosing to settle with a person who is good to you as only Dunham could write it. Teens who watch Girls will consider themselves mature enough for the content, and the overall message is one they need to hear—we all deserve success in work and in personal relationships, even if we are not perfect.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Categories: Library News

Poetry from the Streets

Wed, 2014-10-15 07:00

For teen in my community, in Vallejo, CA, mentioning Tupac Shakur is pretty much guaranteed to give you some credibility, and his book of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete is one of our most read (and lost) poetry collections. So when I saw that David Tomas Martinez’s debut collection, Hustle, not only name-checks Tupac, but recounts much of the same street-lifestyle recounted by Tupac in his hip hop and poetry, I new it was bound to be a hit at my library.

The cover, with its stark, graffiti-style type face, doesn’t hurt either. Give this one to fans of poetry of all kinds, but especially teenage boys who will feel an instant connection to the life Martinez recounts.

MARTINEZ, David Tomas. Hustle.  84p. Sarabande. May 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781936747771. LC 2013031026.

These energetic verses by a young poet from San Diego about growing up in a world of gangs will appeal especially to teenage boys. Martinez chooses unusual topics for his vivid, original poetry.  In “Calaveras,” he lyrically depicts the story of a car that wants to be taken and used as a getaway vehicle in a planned murder.  “A car wants to be stolen,/as the night desires to be revved.” Suspense builds as the boys run through a cactus field to evade the police and continue home to “only a hot bath and plate of papas fritas/from a grandmother’s hands.” Several entries are about the death of a school acquaintance. “Forgetting Willie James Jones” tells of Willie’s demise, which could have happened to any of the boys. “That was the season death walked alongside us all,/wagging its haunches and twisting its collared neck/at a bird glittering along a branch.” The narrator is sorry he wasn’t “in the car that drove by/and dumped death and sickle/ in the yard of Willie’s graduation party.” Readers will see how confused the boys are when they regret deaths yet want to participate in killing. The speaker wants to go to prison as others do to earn the respect of teens in his town.  “Tupac finally turned off/the life he left on/ in an empty Vegas street/ but he was always a winner/ around my block where people got shot.” Martinez is an unusual young poet to read with pleasure and to watch in the future.—Karlan Sick, Library Consultant, New York City

Categories: Library News