Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ARTICLE: A teen looks at the flaws in YA

One of my reviewers pointed out a new article from a teenager who is not a big fan of popular YA titles.  I found it a great, insightful read.  Kudos for Vivian DeRosa for a very articulate look at the vagaries and shortcomings of soft-baked YA novels.  Do I agree with everything she says - to some extent, yes, I do.  I think I am going to have to sit down and see if I can come up with a list of books that breaks Vivian's stereotypes, if just to give her a list of books to restore her faith in the genre.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland - OPTIONAL

Howland, Leila Hello, Sunshine, 358 pages.  Hyperion, 2017.  $18.  Language: R (50+ swears, 25+ ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (off page sex, body parts); Violence: G.

As her long-time boyfriend drops Becca off for her new life in LA, he also dumps her – right at the curb.  Not the way Becca thought her one year to a new life would start.  Instead of living with her aunt in safe Pasadena, she takes a risk and moves into a dingy apartment in Hollywood.  Since her life is falling apart, she is determined to put herself in a place where she has a chance of making it.  Following the advice of a self-help book, Becca makes her list and slowly starts crossing off items.  She finds a couple of friends in her complex, hits the street with determination and some head shots and finds a day job at a diner ruled by a thankless head waitress.  Small steps and setbacks come in succession.  Then comes that point when Becca has to decide – is it finally time to call it quits?  Perhaps it is.

While Howland makes some parts of Becca’s life a little easier than reality (and why shouldn’t she), she still very adroitly weaves a real-feeling tale of making a go of it in Hollywood, without venturing into the unbelievable.  I found that I liked Becca and her friends very much and wanted her to be happy more than anything else.  Howland’s work is a cut above.

HS – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Spill Zone (Book #1) by Scott Westerfeld -ADVISABLE

Westerfeld, Scott Spill Zone (Book #1) 215 pages. First Second, 2017. $22.99. Language: G ( 0 swears) ; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.GRAPHIC NOVEL 
Addison is a young woman who must take care of her younger sister. To do this she must venture into a terrible place, her former hometown. There a horrible and mysterious incident occurred, turning the entire place into a zone of horror; monsters, mysterious floating items, strange colors, transformed animals, and adult meat puppets who aren't dead but for sure aren't alive (including Addison's parents presumably). Addison photographs the unusual and escapes with her life, then sells the prints to support her and her sister. When she gets an offer she can't refuse, and must face the epicenter, the hospital where her parents were when the disaster occurred. Features dark and intriguing illustrations. 
This is a horror graphic novel, so not appropriate for elementary. There is some creepy doll action which is almost scarier than what I described above. Despite this, it was absolutely fascinating and engaging, like the TV show Stranger Things. The characters are memorable and venerable, and I found myself really hoping the best for them, and I can't wait to read future books in the series. I think teen readers would LOVE this book!
MS, HS –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Stone Heart (The Nameless City #2) by Faith Erin Hicks -ADVISABLE

Hicks, Faith Erin The Stone Heart (The Nameless City #2) 245 pages. First Second, 2017. $14.99. Language: G ( 0 swears) ; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (murder).GRAPHIC NOVEL
In the first book Kaidu and Kat stopped an assassination attempt against the General of All Blades. Now the political scene is heating up. The General wants to start a ruling council, decreasing his power and building peace. But his son, who was set to inherit the empire, doesn't agree. Kaidu and Kat discover some pivotal information just as the kingdom is thrown into chaos. Features amazing illustrations with memorable characters. 
The first book was more about the relationship between the two children, but this second book was very much political, and complex at that. I just think its moved more to a middle school arena and I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first. Students at my school LOVED the first book, so of course I will add this book to my collection. 
MS –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale -ESSENTIAL

Hale, Shannon and illustrated by Pham, LeUyen Real Friends 215 pages. First Second, 2017. $12.99. Language: G ( 0 swears) ; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.GRAPHIC NOVEL
This is beloved Utah Author Shannon Hales' memoir of her elementary school years. Readers discover the complex world of elementary school relationships as young Shannon tries to make and keep good friends. It doesn't go quite as planned and there are just as many bad times as good times. Luckily she has a fantastic imagination and loves to read. Her home life is also complex due to the poor relationship with her much older sister. When some cool sixth graders take her under their wing, she finds her confidence. Features stellar graphic novel illustrations by LeUyen Pham, which are both bright ans adorable. 
This book is absolutely heartbreaking. I see this type of cliquey and exclusionary behavior in the students all the time. There is often this attitude that its normal as children learn interpersonal dynamics, but I think people skills need to be taught.  As the librarian I am not around the entire class for the amount of time the classroom teacher is and I wish there was more I could do to build healthy people skills. This is a great read for students to see how those kids that are left out and emotionally bullied feel. This book could be very beneficial to many young readers and they will relate to many of the situations. As a librarian I love to add non-fiction graphic novels.
EL, MS –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Piper Morgan Makes a Splash by Stephanie Faris -- OPTIONAL

Faris, Stephanie Piper Morgan Makes a Splash (Piper Morgan #4), illustrated by Lucy Fleming. CHAPTER BOOK. Simon & Schuster, 2017. $5.99. Content: G.

In the fourth installment of the series, Piper's mom now has a temp job working at a local pool store. When Piper discovers that the store is about to give its famous commercial a makeover, she's determined to be in it. But her attempts, well, end up all wet.

Piper is cute and fun, and the breezy writing and action-packed story make for a quick read. Unfortunately, Piper is also fairly self-centered, and that makes it hard to root for her all the time. It's also difficult to believe that some of her mistakes don't have more consequences.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields - ADVISABLE

Shields, Breeana Poison’s Kiss. pgs. 304. Penguin Random House, 2017. $17.99. Language: PG, Mature Content: PG, Violence: PG

An assassin for the Raja, Marinda is charged with kissing the ruler’s enemies. Until now, all the men have been strangers. Then, she receives order to kiss her friend, Deven. If she doesn’t kill him, her handler will kill her brother. Can Marinda save Deven and her brother?

Full of fantastical detail, the plot is a complex mix of Indian folklore and fantasy. The plot is slower paced, but is intriguing and the world building draws the reader into the story. The characters are flawed, likable, and engross the reader into Marinda’s world. Fans of world building fantasy will enjoy reading this book.

 MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Jessica M, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin - OPTIONAL

Werlin, Nancy And Then There Were Four, 415 pages.  Dial (Penguin), 2017.  $19.  Language: R (30+ swears, 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (same sex kiss); Violence: PG-13 (suicide, death, stabbing).

Why was Saralinda invited to a meeting of the Student Leaders Club at Rockland Academy?  She’s a day student, she struggles dealing with the consequences of being born with a club foot, and really never puts herself out in classes.  But here she is with four fellow students – all prettier, smarter, richer, and mostly more personable than Rachel.  Then the roof comes crashing down.  It takes the kids a while, but they realize that something is really wrong here.  Unless they can put together the hidden motives and stay half a step against the enemy, death for all of them may be inevitable.

At first I thought that 400+ pages was pretty excessive for a murder mystery, but the text is not dense, the personalities are intriguing, and the action, once it really gets going, will grab your attention.  That action approaches unbelievable, but the tension and drama holds up as you will be glued to the pages as you rush towards the resolution.  Werlin pulls off a major coup – I was shocked at one of the twists, because I did not see it coming (that’s a rareity!).

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley - OPTIONAL

Crowley, Cath Words in Deep Blue, 269 pages.  Knopf (Random), 2017.  $18.  Language: R (30+ swears, 21+ F – I stopped counting after page 144); Mature Content: R (off page sex, body parts references, other sexual references); Violence: G.

Three years ago Rachel moved away without saying goodbye to her best friend, Henry, but she left him a love letter tucked between the pages of his favorite book in his family’s bookshop.  Now, after her younger brother’s death, Rachel is back in town to hopefully pull her life together.  Henry has just been dumped, again, by the same girl who distracted him before Rachel left originally.  Rachel wants nothing to do with Henry, but her aunt, not knowing, got her a job at the store, so the two are constantly thrown into each other’s sphere.  Henry is still torn up over his girlfriend and wants Rachel’s sympathy. 

While the summary of this book makes it sound like a trite teen romantic triangle, Crowley has actually done a skillful job of weaving something much, much better.  Despite the tragic swear count and maturity, I read this all the way through in one sitting.  The main plot and several small plot points are skillfully interwoven to create a complex whole that rises above the norm. 

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher