Teen Picks

Books, movies, and more.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart July 24, 2014

We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
Delacorte Press. 2014. ISBN: 9780385741262

Summary

The Sinclairs are a perfect all-American family – tall, tan, athletic old-blood Democrats with a private summer island. The three grown daughters of Harris and Tipper Sinclair vacation here with their children every summer, each in their house built by Harris. Cadence, Johnny, and Mirren are the eldest grandchildren, and together with Johnny’s step-brother, Gat, form the Liars, who are inseparable in the summers they spend together. But tragedy strikes the summer of their fifteenth year, when Cady is found unconscious and cold on the beach, and suffers from amnesia and migraines. Now, the Sinclairs seem far from perfect. The daughters drink, the family patriarch is suffering from dementia, and Cadence’s life is ruled by doctors and medications. The seventeenth summer on Beechwood is different from the summers before the fifteenth year, but it is also the summer where the truth about that fateful summer will be revealed.

Critical Evaluation

We Were Liars  is the newest book by the celebrated young adult writer E. Lockhart. Lockhart’s writing style is somewhat different from other young adult books. In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, a book also focused on a well-to-do family, precocious Frankie’s voice is conveyed well through the cerebral writing style. However, Cady is not Frankie, and the narration seems somewhat removed and difficult to relate to. Given Cady’s history, this may be intentional, since Cady does feel somewhat distant from her family and the island since the accident, but readers who are new to Lockhart’s writing might have a difficult time relating to the writing style.

Essentially, the novel is a mystery with an unexpected ending, which is what makes the book a worthwhile read. However, this is not a gripping, page-turning mystery. The pacing of the book is kind of slow, which might make the readers wonder why they might want to care about the unrelatable, hazy heroine and her similarly one-dimensional cousins. Although the novel falls short of achieving a gripping suspense, the ending, like in Code Name Verity, makes the book definitely worth reading, and wanting to go back and rereading again to look for clues. Those who decide to stick with the book will definitely be rewarded.

Reader’s Annotation

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat call themselves the Liars, and spend every summer inseparable on their grandfather’s private island, until tragedy tears them apart.

About the Author

I am the author of We Were Liars,  Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver quartet: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book,  The Treasure Map of Boys, andReal Live BoyfriendsHow to Be Badwas co-written with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski. – from the author’s website

Genre

Realistic Fiction. Mystery.

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Introduce the Liars.
  2. Talk about Cadence’s accident and memory loss.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade7+/ATOS 4.4

Challenge Issues: sexuality

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rightsto show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

Popularity. Critical Acclaim.

 

 

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale July 22, 2014

No One Else Can Have You

Hale, Kathleen

HarperTeen. 2014. 0062211196

Summary

Friendship, Wisconsin is a typical small town, where everyone knows each other and people go out of their way to be friendly. The town does not see much violence, except when involving violence against deer or by deer. But the delicate sensibilities of the town’s 688 people are turned upside down when eighteen-year-old Ruth Fried is found hanged from a tree in a cornfield, her mouth stuffed with straw. Her boyfriend is hastily apprehended by the police and blamed for her murder, and although was never a sympathetic character, Ruth’s best friend Kippy Bushman is not so convinced that he is the killer. When the naïve Kippy goes around asking too many questions, she rouses the ire of many of the city’s inhabitants, including the Sheriff’s. But just like her hero Diane Sawyer, Kippy is determined to put all her investigative talents to use to uncover her friend’s murderer.

Critical Evaluation

No One Else Can Have You might seem like a disturbing mystery thriller at first, with its initial gory  murder scene and its devastated narrator, Kippy. However, the novel’s dark humor surfaces quickly, and makes the reader think of the dark, twisted humor of the Coen Brothers’ mystery satire Fargo. There is some seriously good satire in the book that those who like dark humor will appreciate. However, there is also a great deal of seriously emotional dialog dealing with real issues like dealing with the loss of a loved one. However, it seems like dark satire and the realistic fiction elements do not blend well together, and the novel falls short of being either one. Those looking for a realistic fiction novel will find this novel ridiculous and unbelievable, while those looking for a funny take on a murder mystery might get tired of the emotional parts after a while. The ending is a standard mystery novel ending, making the reader question whether the author really was trying to write a serious mystery novel. However, this is not a badly written novel at all, and is a good debut from a young writer.

Reader’s Annotation

After a girl is found murdered in a small Wisconsin town, her friend tries to find the killer.

About the Author

Kathleen Hale grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from Harvard in 2010. No One Else Can Have You is her first novel. – from the author’s website.

Genre

Mystery. Satire.

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Talk about Friendship, Wisconsin, the novel’s setting.
  2. Show pictures from the author’s website that go with the book.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade10+/ATOS 5.6

Challenge Issues: sexuality, violence

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rightsto show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

New mystery.

 

 

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder July 13, 2014

Filed under: Book Review,Fantasy — anushb @ 9:11 pm
Tags: , ,

Poison Study
Snyder, Maria V.
Mira Ink. 2013. 9781848452398

Summary

Yelena is a prisoner in the Commander’s dungeon, waiting to be executed for the murder of one of the generals’ only son. It does not matter that she had suffered years of abuse from the general and his son – the only punishment for murder in Ixia is death, even if the murder was done in self-defense. When Yelena is visited by the Commander’s commander Valek and offered to be the Commander’s food taster, Yelena jumps at the opportunity, even if it means a sure death later than sooner, for the job of a food taster is a dangerous one. Escape will be impossible too, as Valek gives Yelena a poison that will require a daily dose of antidote that only Valek can provide, and without which Yelena will die. Yelena, however, tries to make best of her situation, as she learns about poisons and makes unlikely allies in the Commander’s castle.

Critical Evaluation

Poison Study is a fantasy novel focused with plenty of political intrigue. Set in a fantasy world that is ruled by a military commander rather than a monarch, the novel’s focus is as much on its wonderful heroine as it is on political intrigue. Yelena is one of the best female characters in young adult novels – a survivor in its truest sense. An orphan held captive by a sadistic general and his even more sadistic son, Yelena realizes that her only way out is through violence, although she realizes the consequences of her actions. When she is given a chance at a new life, she wholeheartedly takes it, knowing that survival will be entirely in her hands, and will require great effort. She is a fascinating heroine that readers will immediately feel close to, which is one of the strengths of this novel.

Publishers Weekly compared the author to George R. R. Martin in her focus on political intrigue. The spare use of magic seems also comparable. There is a suggestion of more developed fantasy in the rest of the series, but the first novel does not put strong emphasis on magic. If the book had a more complex plot and better world-building, it could have been a great young adult fantasy novel. As it is, this is a good book but not a great one, with the promise of a more complete and complex series continuation, which are all currently out.

It seems like the book might have originally been published with an adult audience in mind, as there are some violent sexual themes in the book that might be more appropriate to older teen and young adult readers.

 

Reader’s Annotation

After killing a general’s son and awaiting a death sentence, Yelena is recruited to be the Commander’s food taster.

About the Author

Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (POISON STUDYMAGIC STUDY and FIRE STUDY) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Maria dreamed of chasing tornados and even earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. Unfortunately, she lacked the necessary forecasting skills. So she worked as an environmental meteorologist until boredom and children drove her to write down the stories that have been swirling around in her head. Writing, proved to be more enjoyable than meteorology, and Maria returned to school to earn a Master of Arts degree in fiction writing from Seton Hill University. Unable to part company with Seton Hill and its wonderful writing program, Maria is currently a teacher and mentor for the MFA program. – from the author’s website

Genre

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Talk about Yelena’s predicament.
  2. Discuss Yelena’s decision to become a poison taster despite the odds of her surviving her job.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade10+/ATOS 5.6

Challenge Issues: sexuality, rape

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rightsto show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

Well-reviewed fantasy series.

 

 

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Ann Peters June 20, 2014

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Peters, Julie Ann

Little, Brown. 2014. 9780316234979

Summary

When her parents wake her up early in the morning to tell her that her girlfriend died from a sudden cardiac arrest, seventeen-year-old Alix feels like her life is over. After being with Swanee for six weeks, Alix feels like the free-spirited Swanee is the only one for her. But when she accidentally discovers that Swanee might have led a second life, and a girlfriend in another city, it leads Alix to question her relationship and everything Swanee ever told her. When she contacts the other girl, Swanee is surprised to find a kindred soul who feels as betrayed by Swanee as she was, and the two unexpectedly hit it off, providing a silver lining against the grief and betrayal. But will their unusual relationship last against the odds?

Critical Evaluation

Like most of Julie Ann Peters’ books, this book deals with difficult issues. Losing the person one loves, and furthermore discovering a chain of lies and betrayals after her death is indeed a very difficult thing. Going through this at age seventeen is even worse. But far from being whiny, this book is full of hope and romance. It is about going through a difficult time and in the end finding hope and love. It is also about making mistakes and learning to make amends and to also forgive. This is a great pick for those who like realistic fiction with romance elements, or LGBT fiction.

Reader’s Annotation

When Alix’s girlfriend Swanee dies from a sudden heart attack, Alix discovers that she was not the only girl Swanee was dating.

About the Author

Julie Anne Peters is the critically-acclaimed, award winning author of more than a dozen books for young adults and children. Her book, Luna, was a National Book Award Finalist; Keeping You a Secret was named a Stonewall Honor Book; Between Mom and Jo won a Lambda Literary Award; and Define “Normal” was voted by young readers as their favorite book of the year in California and Maryland. Julie’s books have been published in numerous countries, including Korea, China, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil. – from the author’s website

Genre

Realistic Fiction.

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Talk about the idea of finding out that someone close to you was not actually the person you thought they were.
  2. Talk about the relationship that develops between Alix and Liana.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade9+

Challenge Issues: sexuality

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rightsto show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

LGBT selection.

 

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick June 5, 2014

Midwinterblood
Sedgwick, Marcus
Roaring Book Press. 2013. ISBN: 9781596438002

Summary

Midwinterblood is a collection of seven interlinked stories set on the mysterious and remote Blessed Island. In 2073, a young journalist named Eric Seven is on his way to investigate a strange orchid that grows on the island, which rumor says is the key to eternal life on the island. But as soon as he approaches the island in his plane, Eric can sense something strange about the island.  He is welcomed on the island by a group of people, one of whom – a woman named Merle – seems strangely familiar to Eric. But the longer Eric stays on the island, the further he seems to get from his goal, drifting more and more each day into a haze of forgetfulness. The novel continues with six more dark and foreboding stories each going back in time and featuring the same island with the same flowers growing in one part of it.

Critical Evaluation

The 2014 Printz Award recipient is unfortunately not one of the more popular young adult titles. However, the readability and the subject matter of the novel should not be a reason for its lack of popular interest. It has been easy to bypass this book, especially because of its unfortunate first edition cover, which suggests a bad gothic novel from the ‘90s. However, the story is unlike anything I have read in young adult literature. This superbly readable book is neither convoluted nor simplistic and predictable. From the very first story, readers will realize that they have picked up something special.

This is a novel that has been categorized as horror and suspense, but it is not a book with cheap thrills. There is not much violence in this book, but rather a superbly woven sense of foreboding that will greet the reader and not let go until the very last page. The suspense is captivating, even for those who might not normally read suspense. Readers of science fiction and paranormal fiction will also appreciate its paranormal elements. However, do not let the novel’s promise of ghosts and vampires lead you to think that this is your average overhyped teen vampire novel. And even though romance is a central theme of the novel, this is not a paranormal romance. This is a book that shares more similarities with the stories of Edgar Allan Poe than with anything in young adult literature published in the last couple of decades. This is a book that will appeal to male and female readers age 12 and up.

Eoin Colfer’s excellent review in NY Times is a great endorsement for this novel.

Reader’s Annotation

Seven interconnected stories revolve around a remote island.

About the Author

Marcus Sedgwick was born and raised in East Kent in the South-east of England. He now divides his time between a small village near Cambridge and a remote house in the French Alps.

Marcus is the winner of many prizes, most notably the Printz Award (Midwinterblood), the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Blue Peter Book Award. His books have been shortlisted for over thirty other awards, including the Carnegie Medal (five times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (five times). In 2011 Revolver was awarded a Printz Honor.

Marcus was Writer in Residence at Bath Spa University for three years, and has taught creative writing at Arvon and Ty Newydd. He is currently working on film and book projects with his brother, Julian, as well as a graphic novel with Thomas Taylor. He has judged numerous books awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the Costa Book Awards. –from the author’s website.

Genre

Suspense. Horror. Science Fiction.

Curriculum Ties English Language and Literature

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Summarize the first story, without giving away the ending.
  2. Talk about the genre of the novel. Connect with Edgar Allan Poe and the genre of suspense mystery.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade 7+/ATOS 5

Challenge Issues: occult

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rightsto show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

Printz Award Winner.

 

 

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass May 14, 2014

The One

Cass, Kiera

HarperCollins Children’s Books. 2014. ISBN: 0007466714

Summary

The Selection comes to a close with The One, bringing readers back to the sumptuous, albeit dangerous world of the Court of Illea. In the previous books, the trilogy’s heroine, the lovely and daring America slowly fell in love with Prince Maxon, while struggling with the rejection of her childhood sweetheart. But stakes are high, as each of the contestants seems to want to be the queen of Illea, while all America wants is Maxon’s heart. But the rebel threat is stronger than it ever was, and America has to decide whether she is strong enough to go against the rebels, and whether the rebels are really all they seem to be.  The long-awaited answer to whether America will get to say “I do” is finally revealed.

Critical Evaluation

America captured the readers’ hearts in the compulsively readable first novel of the series, The Selection, published in 2012. The novel, albeit not the finest published in the young adult genre, was nevertheless a pleasurable read, with a heroine many girls could identify with – a strong girl who survives against the odds and is willing to do everything in her power to support her family and the boy she loves and hopes to marry. She enters the Selection not to find wealth and luxury, but to support her family. Never too timid to offend a prince, she makes it repeatedly clear to him that she will never cower before him or indulge him. The premise of the story was not a novel one by any means – kind of like a tame version of The Hunger Games, where the winner becomes the queen and the losers all go on to lives vastly improved from being in the competition. However, the author failed to keep consistent with the initial promise of the first book, and the series slowly languished with its to-and-fro teenage drama and a bad model of relationships. The book’s initial promise of a strong heroine was quickly replaced by an indecisive girl who cannot decide who she loves, but is willing to chase a man who is also dating other women. This plot line essentially sums up the second and most of the third books, with a hasty deus-ex-machina ending. The rest of the plot, which includes the political elements of the story, is vastly underdeveloped and badly paced, with most of the story being wrapped-up at the very end of the book.

Reader’s Annotation

At the end of the Selection, America awaits Prince Maxon’s decision to make her, or one of the other girls, the princess of the Kingdom of Illea.

About the Author

I was born and raised in South Carolina, a proud child of the 80’s. Also, my dad is Puerto Rican, and my mom is super white. I have neither a Hispanic or Southern accent. No clue why. Growing up, I was awkward. I didn’t understand fashion at all (not that I do now) and was never into what was cool while it was actually popular.  But I didn’t mind it so much because I had a few really great friends and wonderful outlets. By high school, I was a seasoned dancer, diehard theater buff, and in a chamber choir that at one point was tied for third in the nation competitively. – From http://www.kieracass.com/about-me/

Genre

Dystopian Science Fiction. Romance.

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

  1. Take the whole series.
  2. Talk about America as a character.
  3. Describe America’s decision to join the Selection, and her slow acceptance of Maxon.

Interest/Reading Level

Grade 9+/ATOS 4.7

Challenge Issues: sexuality

Challenge Defense Ideas:

  1. Have a copy of the  American Library Association Library Bill of Rights to show/give to patron.
  2. In addition to, or in place of the above, explain library policy of inclusion of information that might be controversial. For example, Pasadena Public Library, Philosophy of Selection. Have a printed copy ready, with appropriate sections highlighted.
  3. Explain the parental rights and responsibilities with their children’s library use. Explain the different card designations and the parents’ right to monitor or restrict borrowing of materials.
  4. Depending on the library’s policy, either have  paperwork to fill out for formal challenges, or the contact information of those who handle challenges.
  5. Give examples of book reviews from School Library Journal,  Library Journal, or BookList. Note any awards that the book received.

Reasons for Inclusion

Popular new fantasy romance. Series continuation.

 

 

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour May 1, 2014

The DisenchantmentsColby and Bev have been best friends since they were young, and have been making plans to take a year off after high school and travel around the world, after Bev tours with her band, the Disenchantments in the summer. But on their way to the tour, Bev suddenly announces that she has applied and got accepted to college, and no longer wishes to follow through with their plans. Reeling from Bev’s betrayal and his feelings for her, Colby nonetheless decides to put his feelings aside for the sake of Bev’s band and finish the tour as he, Bev, and Bev’s bandmates makes their way through California and to Oregon.

The Disenchantments is a lovely contemporary teen novel that is a great summer read for high school and beyond. It is a light-hearted road trip novel about friendship and romance similar to The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants and Two-Way Street, although it has more depth than the latter. It really captures the freedom and excitement of graduating from high school and having an open road in front of you. But it is also bittersweet, as one seeks to balance this excitement with the realities of life and making realistic choices. Recommended to all who are young at heart.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Rating: 4 stars.

Similar Titles:

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Sisterhood, #1)Two-Way StreetAn Abundance of Katherines

 

 
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