Tag Archives: teen

Intensity can be illuminating

I’m sure Dr. K doesn’t remember this, some thirty years on, but while discussing personal essays in class one day, he talked about the intensity of living and how when you are young, you feel things so powerfully that the feelings consume you in a way that they never will again.  I remember thinking that I hoped I never lost that intensity about life and what was important to me, but, of course, I did, since to operate in the adult world successfully, you kind of have to calm down, plow through, and let things go sometimes.  And thank goodness, really, because living with that level of feeling is exhausting if you try to do it all the time.  Most of us just can’t maintain that.

The main characters in Turtles All the Way Down and The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily are dealing with that intensity, plus the added challenges of being on the spectrum, ADD or OCD.  The anxiety is high here, made worse by the feeling that so much is new and uncharted and frightening, even though the characters know themselves and their challenges exceedingly well.  In fact, what is so illuminating and wonderful (although difficult at times) is how clearly their feelings and thoughts speak out to us readers in ways we can relate to and empathize with, even if we are not on the spectrum, ADD or OCD ourselves.

Love Letters struck me as a sweeter young love story, partly because the ending ties the characters together in a more positive way, but both are windows into the paths we walk when we are young, the opportunities we take and leave behind, and the mistakes we make while we are trying to move forward.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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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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Secrets and family and love

Pashminacover

Priyanka, like many children of immigrants, lives between two worlds – one Indian, one American.  When she finds a pashmina with seemingly magical powers, she can travel to India, into other possible lives, and maybe even learn about the missing pieces of her past.

What’s fun about this book is the play between the black and white pages and those in color, the linked stories, all of the small ways we see Privanka live with and apart from others, the way her life connects to so many others.  And really, that could be all of us in one way or another, right?

Perfect.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

 

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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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3 simple reasons to give York a look

york

  1. Puzzles — also clues, ciphers, and  mysteries to solve.
  2. Quirky public transportation options and elevators that go sideways.
  3. Kids out to save their world from an obnoxious developer.

Fun, fun, fun.

York: the shadow cipher by Laura Ruby

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