Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What do you mean you haven't read these yet?

Ok, first I have to say that in the interest of full disclosure, I have been dubbed by a certain friend (you know who you are) as the Master of Cheese.... So let's just say that I knew I would enjoy Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins despite it's cookie cutter, predictable romance plot. Yet, enjoy is not a strong enough description for how much I adored this book. Perkins has mastered realistic teenage voices with great snappy dialog. She absolutely captures scenes conveying a strong sense of time and place- I really felt like I was back in Paris while reading this- all while maintaining a steady pace. Etienne will be the next literary crush for many girls- he is completely swoon worthy.

I am not a runner. I see absolutely no appeal in it. I can't do it. I'm not even sure that I could run if someone was chasing me. Yet, something about Wendelin Van Draanen's The Running Dream completely captured me. This is a quiet and thoughtful look at a teen girl whose world is shattered when she loses her leg after a terrible accident. Running is such a part of Jessica's identity, that she struggles to find meaning in life after she loses her leg. Her growth from the deepest blackest pit of despair is beautifully and realistically handled and deeply compelling.

Kimberly Marcus's Exposed is a powerful verse novel about "forever best friends" whose friendship is shattered after one girl accuses the older brother of the other of rape. The verse is sparse and poignant. The narrative focuses on Liz, who struggles with the loss of her best friend, the tarnished image of her beloved older brother, and the gossip that comes from being the sister of a rapist.

I wondered how Jennifer Brown would top last year's Hate List. I should have known that her second novel Bitter End would be just as compelling, powerful, and heartbreaking. Alex is such a compelling character, even though as an adult reader I couldn't help but want to shake her silly as she continued to justify her boyfriend's physical and emotional abuse. Alex is aware of her situation, but refuses to admit to being "that girl" in an abusive relationship, so she clings to Cole's promises to change. Brown skillfully avoids falling into the afterschool special trap.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A random collection of girly books

Let's start with my favorite of the batch, shall we?

I didn't think I would like the Mermaid's Mirror. I am not usually a fan of girly fantasy and it started out so rooted in reality that I was worried it would be too much like Aprilynne Pike's Wings.

But I was plesantly surprised. Lena is a pretty normal 16 year old beach girl. She wonders about her biological mother and desperately wants to learn to surf. She has friend problems and boy problems. She also has a completely adorable relationship with her 6 year old brother, Cole. She's a regular kid, right?

Then she finds out that her mother is a mermaid. What unfolds is a beautiful allegory of family, identity and the choices teens have to make about their lives. The descriptions are wonderful and completely sucked me in. The end was a little anti-climactic but I'm always critical of endings.

Any book that opens with goat crap on the main character's shoe has my attention. Janie figures that she's ruined her life by convincing her parents to leave the suburbs to live on a farm on the outskirts of town. Well, what she discovers is that normal is overrated (I know, duh, but it's cute.)

This story is full of quirky and lovable characters like her mother who continually fails in her attempts to sew, her library friend Verbena who writes on her arm in Sharpie and Monster (his real name), the huge guy who teaches Janie to play the bass.

Woven into this book is a story about two fearless women who once started the Freedom School to help black people learn to read.

This is a very quick and enjoyable read.

I love Joan Bauer so I had high expectations when I picked up this book. I was nervous at first because the story seemed flimsy. Foster is 12 and wants to become a Food Network chef. She can charm anyone with her fabulous muffins and cupcakes.

She and her mom leave their home to escape from her mom's abusive Elvis-impersonator boyfriend. They end up in a tiny hick town in West Virginia.

But then, in true Joan Bauer fashion, we discover that Foster can't read! The story unfolds in a wonderful collection of characters and heart warming, small town antics.

I was not a fan of What I Saw and How I Lied. I just wasn't. But I figured I'd give Strings Attached a chance and I was glad.

Set in New York in 1950, Kit Corrigan is a dancer trying to make it on her own. As the chapters flip between past and present events (I worry that this will turn off teen readers), the mysteries of her boyfriend, brother and boyfriend's slick mobster-connected father unfold into a dangerous and intriguing tangle.

The whole thing turns into a creepy gangster murder mystery with a heart pounding ending. I wonder, though, if the appeal is really YA or adult. I suspect it will be well received among librarians if not among teens.