Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Doodleville by Chad Sell - ADVISABLE

Doodleville by Chad Sell, 288 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2020. $13.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When Drew and her friends in art club go to the Art Institute, they take away inspiration to make something new. But Drew’s project quickly takes on a mind of its own, wreaking havoc on the other creations. With her doodles creating so many problems, can Drew recover from losing both her art and her friends?

Drew’s doodles are magical, and I love that everyone in the book takes it in stride as if it’s totally normal -- which makes me wonder what the rest of the world looks like as imagined by Sell. I also love that Drew has a great support system around her. The conflict in this book stems from Drew’s internal battles, and the depiction of depression, or at least a depressive episode, was beautifully done. A message to take away from all of this is when we reach out for help from those who love us, our inner demons can be overcome.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
 

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom - OPTIONAL


A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom, 275 pages. Poppy, 2017. $18.

Language: R (99 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mel is holding it together, but it’s been getting more difficult since her brother, Nolan’s, death. Mostly, she ignores the biggest problem to address other issues, and that works for her. Until one secret gets out and starts breaking down the walls Mel has built.

Mel has bipolar disorder, which is a big part of the story (and I love how Lindstrom conveyed her states of mind by writing her stream of consciousness differently depending on the mood), but the book is not just about issues specific to her disorder. As I read, I didn’t know what I liked so much about the book -- it’s pretty unremarkable, story-wise. However, Lindstrom has written about Mel and her loved ones in a way that made me care about them. I wanted to see them resolve their issues and succeed. They felt real to me, and I wanted to keep reading despite not knowing where the story was going. In the end, I felt understood and less alone as I read about how hard life is and about how we all keep going the best we can. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, drug use, and mentions of sex and genitalia; the violence rating is for mentions of death of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen - HIGH

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, 448 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2019. $20.

Language: R (86 swears, 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (unmarried pregnancy mentioned); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Emma’s father has just remarried and she couldn’t be more happy for him. Her mother, Waverly, died 5 years ago, failing to deal with demons from a trauma years earlier. While he and her stepmother are on their honeymoon, Emma is supposed to stay with her best friend, Bridget. But there is family trouble and Emma instead goes to stay with her mother’s family - people whom she hasn’t seen since she was four. Her family has been told to treat her like a guest, but Saylor, as this family calls Emma, is determined to learn her mother’s story and about the other half of her history. It dredges up hard memories for everyone, especially when Saylor makes some poor choices.

Dessen continues to write rich stories - life’s many facets that have a romantic component, but are really about family and self.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Monday, February 24, 2020

Downfall by Inio Asano - NO

Downfall by Inio Asano, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $14.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Fukasawa doesn’t know what to do now that he’s finished his manga series. Without selling more manga, everything starts to fall apart around him. The only solution is to sell more manga -- right?

I found a lot of Fukasawa’s story confusing but especially the beginning and the end. I’m not really sure how everything turned out because there seemed to be some time skipping at the end. Overall, though, this story simply wasn’t fun to read because Fukasawa is an unlikable character. I was sick of listening to him whine after the first chapter, and I only got more frustrated because of the poor choices he was making. Furthermore, the nudity in this manga horrified me; it's basically pornography. The mature content and violence ratings are for prostitution, vaginal and oral sex, and rape.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove - OPTIONAL

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove, 92 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Papercutz, 2020. $15.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wendy and Maureen save the world with their powers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get on each other’s nerves. When Maureen develops a new power, she uses it to get her way and annoy Wendy. Luckily, this new power might also be just the thing to defeat the latest villain.

We first meet Wendy and Maureen in a few shorts that come before the main episode. I enjoyed that opportunity to understand their characters before jumping into their adventure. Cazenove cleverly makes this super-sister-duo relatable for readers with siblings and uses their sister dynamic to the advantage of the heroines. The mature content is for revealing outfits on some of the female characters, and the violence rating is for hero and villain battles (without gore).

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


Language: G (0 swears,0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G ; Violence: G (some danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan and Hawthorne join the other 7 new members of the Wundrous Society with their different talents for training and a wundrous education. While the others have intriguing classes, Morrigan is stuck every day in one class - the History of Heinous Acts of Wundrous Acts. But someone is blackmailing the group - threatening to expose Morrigan’s secret if each group member doesn’t complete a task. There is even more to worry about, because people are disappearing, including people close to Morrigan.

I am so late reading this, but I am so glad I finally did. I love the Wundrous creations that Morrigan discovers, even the creepy ones! What a marvelous fantasy world to inhabit!

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski - ESSENTIAL

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski, 266 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic (Random House Children’s Books), 2020. $13.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 "f"); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Robin runs away from her princess etiquette class to attend a festival in another part of the kingdom, making friends along the way. After returning to the castle, Princess Robin stumbles upon more adventures near and far. Help her escape evil witches, find her way through mazes, and more, so she and her friends can get safely home -- again!

Princess Robin's adventures are a delight to read! While they don't use much logic, I see their nonsensical nature as a strength. With the book encouraging silliness, readers' imaginations are freed from normal bounds and allowed to accept the unexpected surprises Troianowski offers. My favorite parts are the interactive bits -- I got funny looks for going along with the instructions, but helping the princess and her friends gave me so much joy that I didn't care!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild - NO

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild, 301 pages. Akasha Publishing, 2019. $10.

Language: R (102 swears, 45 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

When the dress goes viral, the world divides into two kinds of people: black and blue versus white and gold. This divide is all fun and games, until the white and gold people start evolving into a higher race. A silly argument becomes war, and no one can see the end.

Starchild’s idea to take this real event with the dress and turn it into a fantasy novel was intriguing, but I am not impressed with the outcome. Several elements made the story hard to read. Structurally, the fluid point of view was hard to follow and Starchild seemed to struggle with how to get the characters into their next big scene, which gives readers unnecessary, filler details. Content-wise, I was annoyed by constantly having to skip scenes for the inappropriate sexual content. While there is a lead in for a sequel, I will not be subjecting myself to this story any longer. The mature content rating is for nudity, sexting, fondling of genitals, vaginal and oral sex, and threesomes. The violence rating is for battle scenes and persistent murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


Content: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (kidnappings, some violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan is a Cursed Child, and as such she is supposed to die at Eventide, the end of the current Age. But when that time arrives, she is offered a way out and she finds herself in a whole different world and at the Wundrous Hotel Deucalon, run by her savior, Jupiter North. Morrigan also learns that she is special; she is a Wundersmith, able to use Wunder on her own to create. But Wundersmiths are feared, so she must keep this secret, even as she competes for one of only nine spots available each year in the Wundrous Society.

I am SO sorry I hadn’t read these yet! What a great adventure! I’m am right on to reading #2 and I am so excited for #3! There will be a #3, right? Townsend’s world building will delight every fantasy  reader.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh - HIGH

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh, 332 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books), 2018. $18.

Language: R (107 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Sam and his buddies have a product that’s going to make them all rich, as soon they can get a prototype together. Their portable, infallible lie detector is going to change the world. They aren’t wrong, but it comes at a greater price than they expected.

I enjoyed reading this story set in a futuristic America for a few reasons. First of all, Sam’s story includes a lot of action as he and his friends are forced to flee several times before facing the main antagonist, and the excitement of it all makes it easy to stay engaged. But another reason was more alluring: pondering the repercussions of everyone knowing the truth all the time. Sam and his friends run into several unintended consequences of their invention, and the thought experiment it gives to readers was my favorite part. I wonder which of Sam’s friends I most relate to and why; I wonder what this invention might do to our modern-day America. Do you want a world where everyone has to be honest? The mature content rating is for nudity and a peeping tom incident, innuendo, and mentions of sex; the violence rating is for theft, torture, gun violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom - HIGH

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom, 369 pages. Feiwel and Friends Book (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $19.

Language: R (181 swears, 66 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Gwendolyn has lived around the world, but she’s never experienced anything like this before. When her dad doesn’t come home from work, Gwendolyn learns that he’s been lying to her about his government job. Now with him missing and no one doing anything about it, Gwendolyn takes it upon herself to get him back. No matter what.

Reading about Gwendolyn’s story was fun but not in a light-hearted way. I enjoyed reading this book because I was fascinated and intrigued; I couldn’t get enough of it. The premise and how Bergstrom shaped the story felt real -- real enough to be plausible and get lost in. I loved Gwendolyn’s inner conflict, how she resisted the changes to her life but also felt that she had to keep going for her dad. I felt that her slow descent and gradual concessions to become the hardened person she needed to be was more accurate than most YA books tend to portray this intense character arc. Plans to get the sequel into my hands have already been put in motion. The only reason this book is optional instead of advisable is because of the language rating. The mature content rating is for drug use and mentions of pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape, and oral sex. The violence rating is for mob violence and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Last Lie by Patricia Forde - ADVISABLE

The Last Lie (The List #2) by Patricia Forde, 288 pages. Sourcebooks Kids, August 2020. $17

Language: G (1 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content:G ; Violence: PG (danger, fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lotta and the Creators may have defeated John Noa, but that hasn’t meant freedom for Ark.Amelia has taken over Noa’s work and is more brutal than he was. When a spy infiltrates the safe house, most of the Creators are captured, but Letta and Marco escape to the forest. There they find out the true depravity of Amelia’s plan -taking babies and raising them without language. She will need to gather and convince allies in order to free both Ark and the babies.

Younger students who want to read the Hunger Games but aren’t quite ready for the brutality will very much enjoy Forde’s duology.  Any teacher will find ripe fruit for discussion along many different paths. It is especially a great place to discuss why slave owners refused to allow their slaves to learn to read. Knowledge, words, hold so much power.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher