Category Archives: teen

Good guys and bad guys, survival and struggle

1saboteurI’ve loved historical fiction about World War II since I was first reading chapter books.  One of my all-time favorites as a kid was Snow Treasure, a story about kids who foil the Nazis by sneaking gold out of the country on their sleds.  Over the years, I’ve also read a lot of nonfiction on the topic, everything from Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts to Double Cross by Ben Macintyre and quite a lot in between.  I also have a fondness for World War II era mysteries – everything from the Foyle’s War TV series to the Bernie Gunther novels of Philip Kerr, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series (which actually starts at the end of World War I) and the Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal.

So it’s no surprise that I loved The Saboteur: the Aristrocrat who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix.  French Resistance, Nazis, escaping certain death several times – I’m there!  The story of Robert de La Rochefoucauld reads like a spy novel instead of a series of documented life events, which has ensured that I’ve suggested it to all of my patrons who like reading about spies, war, or French history.  It’s also a wonderful book, because it addresses the gray areas in which people exist during war.  Not everyone is 100% good or bad; there are compromises and bad decisions in addition to all of the luck and occasional happy endings.

While I can see many adults and even some teens enjoying this book, you might also consider some fictional favorites of mine on similar topics.  Some are specifically for younger readers; others work for many ages.

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2017 – at least we had some good books….teen & adult!

Here are the last of my favorites from 2017.  I don’t read as much in teen and adult books, but these are all keepers.  Take a look if you missed them the first time around!

Teen:

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela McColl

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius (also appropriate for older middle grade readers)

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (also appropriate for older middle grade readers)

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

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

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

Wonder Woman:  Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

 A few great books written for adults:

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Killers of the Flower Moon:  the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI by David Grann

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: a True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

Whew!  Now on to 2018!

Good guys, bad guys, gray areas

renegades552 pages.  Sigh.

There is a whole lot of this book to like, I guess.

By the last third, you pretty much know you’re going to be reading a sequel a year from now.  There are just too many unexplored tunnels to snoop down and unanswered questions to wrap it all up in one book, even one that is 552 pages long.

The average teen super-reader can probably power through this in a few days.  There’s so much happening, some seriously conflicted characters, and loads of action.  And superheroes.  The villains might not be so bad. Some of the good guys are kind of jerks.  There’s a lot to work with here.

The writing is pitched perfectly – sometimes little jokes and sly remarks pop up, sometimes characters get dinged for taking themselves too seriously, sometimes it’s dark, sometimes silly.  Marissa Meyer manages to keep this monster of a story hurtling along, maintaining your interest, creating new things to wonder about.  It’s almost cinematic (and would make a great movie), although you might have to make a few of them to be able to cover it all.

552 pages.  Sigh.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many picture books and middle grade novels, but working this one into an already busy life takes some serious commitment in time and focus.  I hope the right readers find it.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

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One of the 99%? It could be worse.

landscape with invisibleWhen the vuvv arrive, they come in peace.  They make deals and work with the super-rich to create a world without work, which means the rest of the world has an even harder time surviving.  Nice.

Adam and Chloe come up with a scheme to help their families survive, only to realize that making their relationship into a 1950s reality show will kill their respect for each other and any smidgen of love that might have sparked it and leave them wide open for vuvv lawsuits, too.  (Litigious aliens… what a concept.)  Add in a disease, some art, and absent family, and you’ve got a real recipe for disaster.

Strangely, there is a sort of happy ending here, but it doesn’t involve getting the vuvv to leave or becoming a part of the 1%.  Life still kind of sucks, but oh well.

Why did I like this book?  I don’t read a lot of sci-fi these days, so it was nice to come across this.  Dealing with aliens (or the 1%) is bewildering and absurd here, but it’s mostly Earth-based, not on a ship in space. Adam and Chloe are great characters who aren’t trying to save humanity–just themselves and their families–and they’re not even doing a good job of it.  I’d probably loathe Chloe as much as Adam does, but you can’t really blame her for hating him, either.  This relationship is toxic all around, which shouldn’t be a reason to like the book, but kind of is.

Maybe none of this matters?  Really, it’s just a good story—no surprise from M.T. Anderson.  It’s not 500 pages long either, although it’s stayed in my head longer than some of those have.  Good enough reasons to read it?  Yes, yes.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

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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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