Tell Us Something True

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt, Wendy Lamb Books (June 14, 2016). ISBN: 9780385742597. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

tell us something

Penny dumps River. Well people break up every day, don’t they? They do, but when the guy never learned to drive or bother to get his license because the girl had both her license and a car, getting dumped, especially when you’re miles from home, hurts. For River, the hurt is double, it hits his ego and his heart. In response, he starts walking home, but on the way, notices a sign on a building that says “Second Chance”.

After entering the building, River discovers he’s about to join a self-help group for teens. His gut tells him it’s the right place to be, but he must scramble for an addiction so he can fit in. He fakes being a marijuana addict. Despite some of the members looking scary or different, River discovers a sense of ease being around them and one girl, Daphne, who is Latina, gets his attention. Can she be the cure for his Penny-induced heartbreak?

Discovering the answer to that question will take readers on a roller coaster. Daphne and River have a connection neither is aware of, one that rears up and bites him in the backside. That’s not a bad thing because it forces him to do some much needed growing up and in the process realize that while he’s not a drug addict, he does have issues that are bigger than he realizes. How he deals with them and what happens between him and Daphne made for a very satisfying read. It’s a book that will be a good addition to any library where realistic YA fiction is valued.

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Filed under Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Fiction

The Season

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer, Viking Books for Young Readers (July 12, 2016). ISBN: 9780451476340. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

the season

Meagan is the jock half of twins. She and Julia are in college and share an apartment. They come from a long line of Texas cattle barons, but the days of making money in that enterprise are near their end. Dad still loves being a rancher, but Mom frets more and more about finances, particularly now that she’s sprung the ultimate horror on Meagan—signing her up for the Dallas Bluebonnet Club Debutante season, an affair both Mom and their grandmother participated in.

While Meagan always knew that Mom would rope Julia into this, she’s beyond angry at being added to the list. Unfortunately, her father hints at there being issues behind the scenes that make him almost beg her to go along, so she does, but not without keeping her snarky, sassy attitude.

Given her druthers, Meagan would prefer focusing on her dream of becoming an Olympic soccer player, so in an act of desperation, she cuts a deal. She’ll play nice (or as nice as she can), if she can remain on the soccer team at college.

What follows is a grand mix of comedy, deception, balky growing up and falling in love (not once, but twice) for Meagan. She’s got zero experience with guys when this all begins and her learning curve in that area is both hilarious and painful. The debutante process involves compromise, some crow eating and lots of hilarity. In addition, there’s a deceitful villain and a dashing hero, but you’ll have to read the book to learn who they are.

Meagan is an endearing protagonist and it took less than five pages for me to know I wasn’t going to be able to put the book down. Yes there’s profanity and sex in it, but neither should deter libraries from adding it. Teens who like funny, snarky and a relatable heroine will really like it.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Life After Juliet

Life After Juliet by Shannon Lee Alexander, Entangled: Teen (July 5, 2016). ISBN: 9781633753235. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

life after juliet

It’s easy to get irritated with Becca Hanson, particularly if you didn’t read Love and Other Unknown Variables, or have never experienced the paralyzing feeling that accompanies severe grief. (I’ve done both). Becca’s locked in a small emotional space a year after her best friend Charlotte’s death from brain cancer. Add in that Becca’s brother Charlie was Charlotte’s boyfriend and you begin to understand how her death affected the siblings.

Charlie has been able to move on a bit better, in part because he’s a freshman at MIT and a genius, so the challenge of academics is something he’s embraced to help dull his hurt. Becca has no such emotional pain killer. Yes, she reads obsessively, but even getting lost in books begins to lose any anesthetic power. Her grades are sliding, her parents are worried and she’s beginning to realize that unless something changes, she’ll likely lose herself.

Enter Max who also understands loss, but has been able to come out of the darkness surrounding grief. He pulls Becca into his world that revolves around his wonderful family and being a theater techie at their school. When he sandbags her during tryouts for Romeo and Juliet, it’s the beginning of a new world for her. That world involves a scary drama queen named Darby whose tough exterior hides things Becca can relate to, Max’s best friend Victor, sitting with a new crowd at lunch instead of hiding, finding a way to get outside herself (even though it’s terrifying) and having to face the choice to stay or run when another tragedy hits her life.

While reading the first book isn’t absolutely necessary to enjoy this one, why reduce your sense of satisfaction? Teens liking an emotionally impactful love story that also addresses the overwhelming way grief can hit will love this book. It’s a great add for school and public libraries.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Mirror In the Sky

Mirror In The Sky by Aditi Khorana, Razorbill (June 21, 2016). ISBN: 9781595148568. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

mirror in the sky

Tara already feels intimidated, particularly at the exclusive private school she attends on scholarship. In addition to having far less money than most students, she’s the only half-Indian student. Then, just prior to leaving to spend her junior year in Argentina, her best friend drops her abruptly. Tara expected they would have difficulty remaining friends while Meg was away, but getting cut the day Meg leaves really hurt.

When news breaks about the discovery of a mirror planet, so similar that every person on Earth is likely to have a twin on what becomes called Terra Nova, Her family is affected by the news which captured the world’s attention to a point of obsession. Her mother stops going to work and sits in front of the TV constantly, absorbed at first, but then sounding scary as she begins talking about mystic changes and contact with those on the new planet.

At school, an impulsive act by Tara opens up opportunities for friendships with the popular girls as well as garnering attention from Nick, the most popular boy at school. Fueled by her imagining what her alternate self on Terra Nova might do, she starts taking risks, first with friendships, then with her family. After a major crisis at home, Tara must learn to rely on herself instead of others. How this plays out involves pain, loss, self-examination and her having to wonder what role she plays in a tragedy.

Watching these unfold as a reader is mesmerizing. I found the ending disturbingly satisfying and one I could accept and understand. I suspect others won’t, but this is still a worthy book for libraries to add to their collection.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Science fiction

You Have Seven Messages

You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis, Delacorte Books for Young Readers (September 13, 2011). ISBN: 9780385908320. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

You Have

Luna’s dealing with both grief and mystery. Grief over her mother’s death a year ago and mystery over the seven messages she found on Mom’s cell phone when she finally started cleaning out her studio. Mom was a fashion model and her dad is a film director. Luna always believed everything between her parents was good, until she starts listening to the messages.

Deciphering them involves the help of her musical neighbor Oliver, her uncle, eventually her father and people she never knew who were part of her mother’s life. The unraveling involves feelings of attraction, betrayal, confusion and forgiveness. In the process, Luna discovers her own artistic calling and does some serious growing up. This is a good book for teens liking a mystery about family dynamics and secrets with a cast of interesting and unusual characters.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Josie Griffin is NOT A Vampire

Josie Griffin is NOT A Vampire by Heather Swain, Speak (September 13, 2012). ISBN: 9780142421000. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

Josie

If discovering that your boyfriend has been hooking up with your best friend behind your back, and your other best friend knew, but never told you wasn’t enough to knock you off the rails, then how about ending up in court? That’s what happens to Josie. Granted, she took a baseball bat to her cheating ex’s vintage car’s windshield, but she felt justified. Now she has community service at a home for runaway girls and weekly anger management classes. Humiliating, sure, but then things get really weird. Everyone in her group is different..as in not exactly human and it doesn’t help that she suddenly has the hots for a Greek god. Then there’s the disturbing stuff happening at the girls’ home, like teens vanishing and let’s not mention all the freaky billboards for a new clothing line featuring zombie-like female teens. Is there a sinister connection?

This is a funny and quite intelligent read and one that teens who like their paranormal with nice dashes of snark and romance will very much enjoy.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Supernatural

The IIiad

Cover ArtThe Iliad.  Retold by Gillian Cross, illustrated by Neil Packer.   Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Here is the tragic retelling of Homer’s epic tale, the Iliad, written at a child’s level, but the story still retains the original’s focus on heroism and the cruelty of war.  Depending on the maturity of the reader, this book may be the perfect choice for those who favor mythology and yet do not want too many violent details, to be able to appreciate the story and its message.

The illustrations work well in conjunction with the plot.  They are rendered in gouashe, pen and wash, and the font is large enough to make this an easy read.

Because the story’s lessons are still mature in nature, I would recommend this book for most children, ages 8 and up.

 

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Filed under Fantasy, Grade 10-12, Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9, Nonfiction

Summer of Supernovas

Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods, Crown Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2016). ISBN: 9780553537048. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

summer of supernovas

Wilamena Carlisle is in a panic. The horoscope chart which is her strongest connection to her deceased astrologer mother says she has a very short time to find the perfect match or have to wait ten years before another favorable alignment will happen. At seventeen, that ten years scares her silly because she has visions of becoming an old maid in the interim. Her grandmother, who she lives with, thinks astrology is hooey, so Wil can’t process fears and feelings with her. Instead, she sets out, chart in hand, so to speak, to find the right guy. Before she gets a chance, however, there’s the incident on top of the town water tower where she’s ‘rescued’ by the very interesting Grant, even though she’s up there to enjoy the view and he’s terrified of heights.

Urged on by her best friend Irina, a Russian immigrant whose social bravery and impulsiveness is a perfect counterpart to Wil’s reluctance and dependence on what the stars dictate, she seeks the perfect match in a nightclub. What she finds is Seth, brother of rescuer Grant, who seems to be her perfect match, but is he? And why can’t she stop thinking about Grant, even when the stars proclaim him off limits?

This is a seductive and extremely satisfying read, made so by the tension between Wil and the brothers, not to mention the mystery surrounding her deceased mother, the quirkiness of Irina and her grandmother. Teens liking a romance with tension and an interesting plot are going to like this big time. It’s a definite add for libraries.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Pax

cover artPax. Written by Sara Pennypacker. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Pax, a wild fox, and Peter are the best of friends.  However, Peter’s dad enlists in the army and Peter is being sent to live with his Grandpa so, Pax must be returned to the wild.  Although over 300 miles from home, Peter decides to strike out on his own, into the woods, to try and reconnect with his beloved friend, Pax.

I really enjoyed this bittersweet story because it is well-written, with inspiring, timeless characters.  If you know a child that enjoys animal stories of love and loss, this book will fill that need.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Historical Fiction

What I See

See What I See by Gloria Whelan HarperTeen (December 28, 2010). ISBN: 9780061255458. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

What I See

Kate Tapert is eighteen, lives in near poverty with her mother in rural Michigan. She sees the world as a continuous series of paintings and that’s how she makes sense of things, so well, in fact, that she’s gotten a scholarship to a prestigious art school in Detroit. One problem, she has no money for room and board.

Her father, who abandoned her and Mom years ago, is a famous artist and recently moved to Detroit from NYC. Kate, gathers her belongings and her courage, boards a bus and goes to Detroit, determined to convince him to let her stay with him while attending school.

It’s a prickly, adversarial relationship, but Kate’s determined to ride it out in order to achieve her dream. In the process, she finds someone who cares for her, that her father is more important to her than she ever believed, sometimes dreams must be placed on hold because life is both unpredictable and rewarding in unexpected ways.

This is a somber story, but one with moments of hope and happiness. It’s a very good book for older teens who have experienced or are experiencing the effects of a family breaking up. Kate is a strong and extremely likable character.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12