2010 Random House Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780385737630
Genre – Realistic/Historic Fiction, Audiobook
Age – High School
Andi Alper is a senior in high school. She doesn’t seem to care much about anything, except music. She refuses to complete her high school thesis, which is a requirement for graduation. She is so busy grieving and being depressed, that she can’t think about any thing else. On top of this her mother has gone just a little crazy, and her dad has left both of them. When her school contacts her dad with their concerns about her future, he swoops in and puts rule into place. She will go with him to Paris over Christmas break and work on her thesis. In Paris, her father is researching a found human heart that is believed to belong to Louis Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Soon after arrival Andi finds the diary of the woman who looked after Louis Charles. As she reads her story, she learns about the darker history of the French Revolution, as well as love, loss, and grief.
Ok if that sounded like an earful, its because it was. Not that Donnelly wasn’t a good writer, there was just TOO MUCH in this book. It wasn’t confusing, it just got old. Its like I was trying to read three books at one time, and I didn’t really enjoy any one of them. Andi, was annoying as a character. Her narrative was pathetically “woe is me.” I admit that she suffered a great loss, however, she is not the only person in the world who has ever been through tragedy. Really, who complains about having to go to Paris? Her school friends were for the most part awful, and on the whole quite unbelievable. On the plus side, I really liked the factually based information about the French Revolution. I also enjoyed the narrator’s French accent. On a whole, I felt like the book dragged. It was too long, and not interesting enough to be as long as it was. I keep hearing good things about Northern Lights, Donnelly’s other novel, but after this, I would almost certainly not pick up any more of her books.
All These Things I’ve Done
2011 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN – 9780374302108
Genre – Dystopian
Age – High School
In the year 2083, many ordinary things are illegal or rationed. Chocolate is a big no no, and paper is very tightly rationed. Anya Balanchine is sixteen years old, and the daughter of one of the most infamous crime bosses. Although both of her parents have died, and her grandmother is being kept alive by machines, she still can’t avoid the family business. While taking care of her siblings and grandmother, it seems that trouble can’t help but finding her. When her ex-boyfriend is poisoned after Anya gives him chocolate from her family supply, her world seems to get more troublesome.
I liked that even though this book was set in a dystopian future, it had a realistic feeling. I could really believe that this world, and these events could exist. It is obvious that family is the most important thing to Anya, and it shows in every decision she makes. It is also clear that she had a close relationship with her father. She is often spouting her father’s words of wisdom, which I can completely relate to, even when it isn’t all that wise! I felt like this book was very balanced. It didn’t have too much of any one aspect. There wasn’t too much romance, or dystopian evil. There was conflict but it was all very relatable. The characters were realistic, they battled with their inner good and evil, and I like that the good didn’t always win. It makes for a less predictable ending!
2012 Orchard Books
ISBN – 9780545576048
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
Lily wanted a doggie, but her mom thought they were too much trouble, so she got her a kitten instead. At first the kitty didn’t cause any trouble until one day, all sorts of trouble started happening. Maybe just maybe the cute little kitten isn’t the culprit after all.
Kids will laugh at the obviousness of this book as well as the outrageous shenanigans. The readers can see that there is a big tiger causing all of the mischief from the beginning. Somehow the giant tiger seems to hide from Lily the whole time. The illustrations are fun, they aren’t super bright, or very bold. They are soft and sweet. The little kitten has the most adorable facial expressions, as does Lily, and the tiger as well. I like the use of word bubbles. I also think there is a great opportunity to let the kids guess what happens next.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
2011 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442421769
Genre – Mystery
Age – High School
Mara wakes up in a hospital, and her parents tell her there has been an accident. Her best friend, her boyfriend, and one other girl were killed in the accident, but she remembers nothing of the night. Despite her lack of memory, she has a strange feeling that there is more to that night than just an accident. She feels like she may actually bear some responsibility for the occurrence. Soon after the accident her family moves far from her old home in attempts to give her a new start. However, the move doesn’t prevent more strange things from happening, in fact things may be getting stranger.
I know that this seems like a very vague description, but I really don’t want to risk saying too much. I really enjoyed this book. It seemed to have a bit more depth than most young adult novels. It had many layers that went far beyond the surface. And just when you think you have everything figured out, you realize, that you had barely uncovered the surface. I liked Mara and the turmoil that she was fighting within herself. The descriptions of her inner battle seemed very realistic. Despite how much she has been wronged on her life, she always takes responsibility for her actions, and tries to right her wrongs. The romance was a bit dramatic and unbelievable at times, which is probably the only thing I didn’t like about the story. I liked the suspense, to the point that once I started, I didn’t put it down.
Laurie Halse Anderson
ISBN – 9780141310886
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
Melinda enters her first year of high school as an outcast. She called the cops and busted a party at the end of the school year, and now her friends won’t talk to her. Not even people she has never met before like her. She just wants to be alone, but every time she is alone she thinks about the night of the party, and how it has affected her life.
This book was good because it was simplistic. Don’t get me wrong, it addresses very complex issues that teens may encounter, however, the writing is very simple and very frank. I liked that even though it was a hard topic it wasn’t necessarily a hard read. I felt like a teenage girl was telling me her story as opposed to an over dramatized version told poetically by an adult. It felt honest and real. I felt like I was reading a memoir. It is definitely a book that a lot on teenage girls could find relatable and valuable.
This is What Happy Looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
ISBN – 9780316212823
Genre – Realistic Fiction, Romance
Age – High School
Ellie receives an odd email about walking a pet named Wilbur. It turns out that Graham Larkin, a famous movie star, accidentally mistyped the email address and Wilbur is a pig. Even more odd is that this initial email spurs a pen pal relationship between the two for months. Then Graham shows up in small town Henley, Maine to film his newest movie. It turns out he has ulterior motives. When he shows up in person in Ellie’s life, she must decide if she can put her secretive life at risk for a chance at a very public romance.
This book was sweet, and heartbreaking, and frustrating as well, as any good romance should be. The dynamic between Ellie and Graham is really satisfying, but their struggles make me want to pull my hair out. Ellie and her mom’s relationship frustrates me immensely. Its as if Ellie has to be the adult, because her mother is constantly hiding from her past. AAARRGH! If nothing else this is a lesson as to why secrets are bad, they tend to get in the way, in the worst way! Jennifer Smith has a way of writing realistic fiction that isn’t at all realistic, and despite the fact that I do not generally like this genre, and I am not a hopeless romantic, I still like her books. What can I say? They are easy and light hearted, and sometimes that is just what I need.
Tumble and Fall
2013 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN – 9780374378615
Genre – Realistic Fiction/Apocalyptic
Age – High School
Persephone is an asteroid that is scheduled to hit the earth in one weeks time. There is a good possibility that it will destroy civilization. We follow three teens as they decide what they will spend their last week doing. The choices they make will define their relationships with friends, and family, and complete strangers. It will define the community they choose to build, and the regrets they choose to leave behind. These teens may have their own lives, but they become intertwined with the community and each other.
The genres are a wee bit blurry in this book. Although it takes place in an almost apocalyptic world, it is not necessarily an apocalyptic book. It explores how the world, and a specific community spends their last moments on earth. Each teen has their own adventure that they must embark on. They each must learn the truth about themselves and their loved ones. This is a great exploration of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of kids facing the end of the world. As long as you walk into the book knowing this, it can be a good read. However, if you think you are getting into a survival novel about the world ending, think again.
2014 Harper Collins
ISBN – 9780062014559
Genre – Suspense, Mystery
Age – High School
Carp is a small town in which nothing ever happens. To create excitement, the town has created Panic, a game for graduating seniors. Panic is meant to test your limits in everyway. It is dangerous, and at times deadly. The prize is 67,000 dollars. This year Heather has a lot to play for. Her mom is an alcoholic and addict and is a danger to her and her kid sister. If she can win the money, she can leave all of that behind. Heather makes an alliance with her best friend Nat, and Dodge, another graduating senior. While playing the game she learns more about her two friends and herself than she may have wanted to know. Can Heather win and have a chance at a better life? Can she even make it out alive?
I made the mistake of reading reviews before I read Panic and formed my own opinion. Despite the poor reviews, and the simplistic comparisons to The Hunger Games, I liked this book. The only similarity to The Hunger Games is that there is a game, and it is at times dangerous. I suppose that you could make the case that everyone has something to play for, but it ends there. Each player in Panic has to complete six tasks that are reminiscent of Fear Factor. I like that everyone has a very pressing reason to play, not just to win, and I like that players are judged on how they complete the task, not just that they did. The book was slightly predictable, but there were some unexpected twists to mix things up a bit. I liked the characters, and how they all have very different lives despite the fact that they have grown up in the same small town. Overall, I thought this was a solid book, not amazing, but good.
2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442472884
Genre – Adventure, Historical fiction
Age – Middle School
William Everett and his father James, are going on an adventure. The Boundless, is the greatest train ever built and is embarking on its maiden voyage. Will is in possession of a key that unlocks unimaginable treasures. When a group of shady characters are on to him, he must go into hiding. He joins the travelling circus that is performing for the passengers on the train. Can William make it back to his father, and save the fate of The Boundless, before luck runs out?
This book was full of action and adventure. I love the historical aspect, however imaginative it is. It was an interesting book, but I never felt fully captivated by the narrative. The characters were wild, wacky and fun. I listened to this as an audiobook, and the narrator was fantastic. He was really able to capture the attitudes and personalities of the widely varying cast. I liked that William had a passion and a talent for drawing, and was able to use it to get through his challenges. I also liked the father son relationship that was portrayed throughout the book. All in all it was fast paced, fun, and fantastical.