Category Archives: teen

International buddy road trip – Amazon style

wwoman warbringerLike the recent Wonder Woman movie, this book lets Diana Prince be Wonder Woman with no apologies.  She’s fast and strong and can whip that lasso around and deflect bullets, too.  So what?  She’s been training for this moment her whole life, even if she might not have realized it.

Instead of saving a downed pilot, she saves Alia Keralis, a rich girl who turns out to be a Warbringer, a modern relative of Helen of Troy.  In saving Alia, Diana has messed things up for a whole island of Amazons and possibly the world, too.

And this is where it gets really fun.  After landing in New York by mistake, Alia reconnects with her brother Jason, his friend Theo, and her bestie Nim.  A gala is destroyed by bombs and dudes with semi-automatic weapons, and Diana must do what she can to protect Alia long enough to get her to a place that can cleanse her of her Warbringer heritage and fast enough to beat a deadline.

If your road trips usually involve wealthy people jetting off to Greece, morphing into gods of panic, and fighting off lots of men in tactical gear in black vehicles, more power to you.  For those of us who live much quieter lives, we can still enjoy the chase, worry about possible betrayals, and be happy about the conclusion.

There’s just enough information about Greek history and myths to keep it interesting and moving along, without seeming like we’re going to be tested on everything at the end.  And Wonder Woman?  She’s awesome – smart, funny, strong, strategic, and even kind – just like we’d expect her to be.

Wonder Woman:  Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

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The grim reaper does not ruin this party

denton little 2Denton Little was supposed to die in the last book, but he didn’t.  He doesn’t die in this one, either.

Surviving is complicated when there are government agencies interested in keeping the status quo, however.  There may be false identities, strange viruses, car chases, lies, secrets, a romance or two…

There’s some behavior that might be deemed inappropriate for younger readers (drug and alcohol use, sex, etc.) but if you can get past that, you’ll love this sweet, wild ride.  The voices of the characters are among the best-written I’ve come across in books for teens and/or young adults, because they’re so honest, quirky, sarcastic and funny.

A note:  If you haven’t read the first book, get it first.  You won’t find a lot of explanation and back story in this one, which I found refreshing but might be confusing if you’re trying to read it as a stand-alone.

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin (sequel to Denton Little’s Deathdate)

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Love. Loss. Revenge. A little history. A little fantasy.

book of pearlIf you are looking for a straightforward action story, do not read this book.  If you are 100% anchored in reality, maybe take a pass.  If, however, you are on vacation, like to think about alternate realities, or don’t mind a love story which stretches far beyond the “normal” lives of two people, find a way to get your hands on The Book of Pearl.

I think it’s fair to say that Timothée de Fombelle has reached a status with me that almost touches Kathi Appelt.  I sought this book out, ordering a copy from England when I didn’t see it in the libraries around me. (Apparently, on further research, it won’t be released in the U.S. until Feb. 2018.  So that’s why…)  I loved de Fombelle’s Vango stories and have recommended them to several kids who like action but also appreciate good writing and story development and all kinds of twists and turns.  He’s not a popular author in the U.S., I don’t think, but maybe he should be.

And the extra work was worth it.  It’s a beautiful book, although maybe not one that you’d want to try to read in just a chapter a day.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of, characters who dip in and out and who might just seem to inhabit the fringes until suddenly they don’t.  There is evil and loss and quite a bit of sadness, but the joyful moments are almost luminous.  (I’m assuming the translators get some gold stars for that, too.)

It’s the perfect book for a long afternoon of quiet in a state forest.  Detach from technology and give it a try.  It’s not exactly a happy ending, but hey—he’s French.  Deal with it.

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

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When your parents are kind of homicidal

andthentherewerefour

In this case, “kind of” is generous.  The parents and guardians of these five teenagers want them dead.  When the first attempt fails, managing only to bring the kids together and make them realize something nefarious is up, it’s on, baby.  The parents have a variety of reasons – fear that a child will die of a horrible disease, feeling like their child is becoming too independent, not liking their sexuality, money, just being a psychopath.  Ok, so it’s a little absurd, and there are moments when it’s all just a little too lucky or unlucky, even when you’ve given yourself over to it, but it’s fun in a dark and gripping kind of way.

My first thought after I finished it?  “Well, at least I’m not THAT bad at parenting.”  My son would never have recommended it to me otherwise, right?

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Fangirls and glass slippers

geekerellaA fondness for Star Trek (or Starfield).  A love of cons.  A pumpkin orange vegan food truck.  A fairy god-seamstress.  Evil stepmother.  Mean stepsisters.  Glass slippers.

It’s all here.  It might sound a little clichéd at first, but Geekerella does a splendid job of mashing all of these worlds together, creating a heroine who’s more than a Disney princess waiting around for a guy and including support characters who are fully formed and seem appropriately geeky or evil, depending on their role.  Elle is an outsider in an image-obsessed family, and her Prince Carmindor has challenges of his own.  It’s a sweet, modern re-telling, perfect for a summer afternoon, especially if you are a fan.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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The sparkling eyes of Mary Alice

ghost shipA ghost ship.  An evil tech gazillionaire.  A missing girl.  One boy in a red shirt.

There are so many details that add to and flesh out the characters in this excellent graphic novel – small things that quickly begin to link together everyone and everything in this book.  It’s a joy to read, quick but full of wonderful small moments – John Blake talking to the ship, shipmates who’ve escaped from other places and times. Fog fades in and out, and there’s time travel, long lost families and friends, debts to pay.

One storyline has ended, but there will be more, right?  Please?

The Adventures of John Blake:  Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham

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Luck and love and survival

survivors clubI first heard Michael Bornstein’s story on Iowa Public Radio this spring.  By the time I remembered to put myself on the holds list for it, there were quite a few people in front of me.  Anything they talk about on public radio, whether on the local shows or national shows, gets a bump in holds at the library.  It’s a nice reminder that there are other people out there listening to the same things I like, although I sometimes have to wait a while.

It’s such an incredible story – at any point, a wrong word or move could have and did mean that people he loved were led off in a different direction and killed.  Why is it that we humans seem to find, over and over, so many opportunities to dehumanize and kill each other?  It’s horrifying, and yet unsurprising, that after surviving Auschwitz and other camps, Michael and some members of his family returned home, only to be kept out of their homes and attacked by local bands of thugs who were looking for someone to brutalize and blame after the fact.

Michael was very young and very lucky.  What a gift to all of us that he shared the story, particularly now.

Survivors Club:  the true story of a very young prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

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Prequel? Do I care?

pearl thief cover USA_0Well, it depends.  This one, a prequel to Elizabeth Wein’s excellent Code Name Verity, was one I waited for, wondering if it would really match up with what I remembered of a character, her situation, and a time period.  Then, about five chapters in, I realized I didn’t really care if it was a prequel or not.  It’s just a good story.

Why?  The mystery involved in a missing man, a body, the Water Bailiff, and a family of aristocrats reminds me of great English mysteries where thin layers are peeled back, one after another, to reveal all kinds of ugliness, bitterness, secrets, and even good.  Julia Beaufort-Stuart is bold and afraid, cautious and confident, aware of her privilege but limited by its demands, too.

This book may explain a lot about the character she becomes in Code Name Verity, but while the connection is wonderful, it’s not necessary.  Julia and the story are enough.   Wonderfully enough.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

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Anger. Grief. Bitterness. Oh, and some fun.

optimists“This group…it’s like a twisted version of The Breakfast Club.

Hmmm.  I was just thinking the exact same thing.  And the author has now taken care of my whole intro to the book.  Whew!  That was hard work.

Petula’s art therapy group is an emotionally bruised group of kids which she would rather not be a part of.  If only she hadn’t thrown that cup at the other counselor…  They snipe at each other and make rude remarks, yet are somehow  exactly the kind of people she needs.  It’s only with Jacob’s arrival that they really begin to pull together and trust each other, however.

Adults are often making life miserable for Petula, but even the principal, her parents, and the goofy and well-meaning art therapist have their moments.  I loved the way the author took these wounded and struggling people and made them real, bringing their joys and sorrows into the light.  There is sadness galore, but there is also hope.   And it is funny, at least in the way that people joke after death or screwing up their lives or alienating their families.  Oh, and there are Canadians in it.  That’s a bonus, too.

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

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Swim with me a little while

fishgirlDavid Wiesner’s work has always been a magical and whimsical wonder.  In the author notes on this one, he mentions moving into unfamiliar territory – graphic novels – to grow as an artist.  I’m not sure why I didn’t expect this earlier, because this guy doesn’t even need words to tell a story beautifully.  Tuesday is one of my favorite picture books ever, and is one of the few author-signed books on my shelf, thanks to a family member who went to an ALA meeting several years ago.

Here, though, with Donna Jo Napoli (another wonder of storytelling), his genius rises to a whole new level.  The detail and movement in his art is perfect for the story, and it’s still magical and whimsical.  A girl without a name becomes a miracle.  Friendships grow on many levels.  We see smart girls and difficult choices and danger.   The innocent are protected and an evil is overcome.

More, more, more.

Fish Girl by David Wiesner & Donna Jo Napoli

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