If I was Your Girl
Amanda has just moved from her mother’s house to her father’s in Tennessee. She moved to get a fresh start, to be somewhere where no one knows her past, where she doesn’t get bullied and terrorized for being transgendered. For the first time in her life, she seems to make friends easily, despite the fact that she is trying to lay low. She even meets a boy who she really likes. Will her secret destroy the new life she has worked for?
In many ways, Amanda is a very lucky person. She has a family that has supported her through all of the changes she has undergone, they have embraced her as the person she is, and not who they want her to be. But the rest of the world isn’t as understanding as her family. In fact, as we all know the world can be a very cruel place. Amanda does her best to navigate the world with grace and confidence, not without her missteps. In some ways this book feels very real to life, and it others it feels way out in outer space. Meredith Russo herself is a transgendered woman, who states that she wanted to write a book that showed support, and a hopeful outcome. Do not be fooled, it is not all rainbows, unicorns, and sunshine. There is real pain, and feels in this one.
Highly Illogical Behavior
John Corey Whaley
Agoraphobic teen faces debilitating anxiety (duh!) Enter overachieving college bound female who needs a special project. Smush them together and what do you get? A raging train wreck! Lisa has got to write an essay about her experience with mental illness in order to get into the second best psychology program in the country, which she wants to attend because she know she can be the best at the second best school. So she chooses Solomon, a kid who used to go to her school until he had a complete meltdown and hasn’t left his house since.
I loved the idea of this book. But honestly, I couldn’t like the characters. Solomon doesn’t feel like he has any depth. And Lisa, ugh. I think she should be writing her essay about her own mental illness. What a horrible human being, I’m not even sure she gets any better in the end. The plot seemed formulaic, with your well known love triangle in young adult novels. It read quickly and easily, but it just fell short of what I have come to know and love of John Corey Whaley. Noggin, is one of my absolute favorite books, and Where Things Come Back was so beautifully written. Right after I finished this book, I really liked it, but the more I have distanced myself from it, the less I like about it, the more I feel like it missed the mark.
Every Exquisite Thing
2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780316379595
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
Nanette has been given a copy of The Bubblegum Reaper by her teacher, and it changes her life. As she struggles with the themes in the book, and the desire to know what happens after the story end, she meets the unlikely author. Only, he doesn’t want to talk about his book. He does, however, want to be her friend. Reading this book ultimately leads her to reevaluate herself, and her place in the world, and a whole lot more.
I really wanted to like this more than I did. While I appreciated the intensity of discovering your self in very difficult years, I just felt like Nanette was so busy with herself that she existed in a world where no one else had feelings or needs. Everyone was just a pawn to the greater calling of her life. Also, the third person thing got really old. Saying that, I really did find a lot of value hidden in this book. Life is HARD, and maybe we don’t let kids in on that fact early enough. Often it comes as a shock at some point in young adulthood. Knowing that, I like how the book portrays ways in which we can relate to life and people through literature, and our own emotions. I like that no matter how hard it gets, there are some people who will always be there, and there is always a way to change your own course.
2015 by HarperTeen
ISBN – 9780061134111
Genre – Realistic Fiction? Fantasy? Mental Illness
Age – High School
Caden is a high school student. He is quite a good student. His friends and family start to notice changes in him though. He seems to space out more, his emotions aren’t like they used to be, and he seems to lack interest in the things he previously enjoyed. He is sinking more and more into his own mind, in which another story is unraveling. He is on a ship that is heading to the Marinas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. He is the artist on the ship. But things aren’t always as they seem and he must be careful about who he trusts.
This one took some time to get into, to understand what was happening. It was so involved in a world that I couldn’t possibly understand. Then, all of a sudden I could. This book is a deeply personal account of living with mental illness. It is full of brilliant drawings done by Shusterman’s son, who suffers from schizophrenia. Caden seemingly moves back and forth between his two different realities. I liked that although the story of him on the ship seems to be so fantastical, it has so many parallels to what was happening in real life. The choices he had to make were so similar. On the ship he had to choose if he believed what the captain was telling him, or if he wanted to go rogue. This was also a choice he had to make in his real life. Would he be able to have faith in those who supported him, or would he sink deeper into his own delusions and paranoia? Maybe I’m not spot on, but I think this one may be hard to ever completely understand without being in Caden’s shoes. Maybe not even then. It made me think, and feel, and all the good stuff a book should do. Go Shusterman, and congratulations on the award!
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
2015 by Candlewick
ISBN – 9780763668181
Genre – Biography
Age – High School, Adult
6 stars (on a scale of 5)
Dmitri Shostakovich was an incredible musician by a very early age. By the time Hitler and his soldiers surrounded Leningrad, Shostakovich was writing well known symphonies. The siege went on for an incredible amount of time in which more than one million citizens died. Hitler blocked food and supplies from entering the city. People died in the military, they froze to death, and they starved. The tragedy is unimaginable. M.T. Anderson writes a beautiful and detailed account of Shostakovich throughout his life, but focusing on the time of the siege. He writes about how an entire city faced intense hardship, and how they came out in the end. His focus on Shostakovich allows readers to have a glimpse of the pain that one man experienced, and how his actions affected his city and the world. He used not only his music, but his name to inspire hope around the globe. He faced backlash and criticism, but he never gave up. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is by far Anderson’s greatest work (in my opinion.) Books like this are change the genre of nonfiction for the better. It was full of historical information, but his ability to portray personal accounts so well, made me relate to a time and a place that seems so distant. I can’t say enough good about this book. I have chills just thinking about it. Gah!
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story
2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780316251020
Age – High School
Genre – Biography, Humor
Josh has not had the best luck with girls, in fact, his only girlfriend was in the 8th grade. It lasted less than a day. This is not for lack of trying. So Josh goes back to all the girls he tried to date to find out what went wrong.
This book is full of hilarious stories that brings me back to the most awkward years of my life. Dating can be tough, but Josh seems to struggle a bit more than others. As a result of a major illness, he is left with one foot, and has a prosthesis for the second. I loved the way he shamelessly talked about all of the silly mishaps, some having to do with his prosthesis, and some just having to do with his shy personality. I think it takes a brave person to go back many years to learn about your mistakes, but I think there is a lot to be learned from an act like that. Josh writes with humor, and unfaltering honesty, and it make this an easy story to follow. In a way it kind of seemed like the real life version of An Abundance of Katherines. I thoroughly enjoyed this one! ***SPOILER ALERT*** Worry not folks, he got married last year! He is also hugely successful, so good things…those who wait. Yes.
Serafina and the Black Cloak
2015 by Disney•Hyperion
ISBN – 9781484709016
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Elementary, Middle School
Serafina lives with her Pa on the Biltmore Estate. Her existence is a secret, and none of the residents are allowed to know about her. She has quite a sense of adventure, and explores the estate to her heart’s content. But the rule is that she must never go outside of the grounds. Then children start disappearing from the estate and Serafina thinks she knows who is taking them. There is a man that trolls the corridors in the night, and he wears a black cloak. Serafina must stop him before he steals her or her new friend.
I thought this book was slow. The plot seemed so exciting, but it just wasn’t able to keep my attention the entire time. I liked Serafina, she was quiet, adventurous, brave, and vulnerable. She reminded me a bit of how I might have been had I lived hidden away in a giant estate in my childhood. I liked the concept of defining oneself. Serafina had many questions about her past, and she was very concerned about how the answers may define her future. I think there is a powerful message hidden (not so much) about choosing who we are and who we can become. My biggest complaint is that the book wasn’t more exciting.
This Monstrous Thing
2015 by Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN – 9780062382771
Genre – Horror
Age – High School
The wounded are being put back together with clockwork parts. They are shunned from society, and those who care for them, are working illegally. In the midst of all this, Alasdair’s life is shattered by his brother’s tragic death, and so he does what some men have dreamed about and others have nightmares about. With the help of his friend Mary, he brings his brother back to life. But something isn’t right, his brother has returned a shell of his former self. Alasdair is forced to put the life he dreamed of on hold to help his family business and to take care of his brother that he has hidden away. He is able to balance everything, until a strange book about bringing a dead man back to life is published. The city of Geneva begins a massive manhunt for the reanimated monster as well as the evil genius who brought him back. Aladair’s father is arrested, his mother has disappeared, and he must find a way to hide as well. Who will pay the price for everything that has happened?
I thought this book was pretty fantastic. It wasn’t a huge leap of a retelling, but it gave an interesting perspective. I enjoyed the inclusion of Mary Shelley into the Frankenstein story, and her fictional biographical story. I thought that the demonstration of the fear of industrialization was a nice touch. It felt steampunky, without being overly so. I liked the idea that there is good and evil in everyone at some point in life, and we cannot be categorized by “eithers” and “ors.” It was a great portrayal that showed that life is not black and white, but there are many shades of gray. I didn’t want to stop reading this once I got started. I just wanted to know what happened. There is so much mystery and so many underlying plots, but they were worked together in a practically seamless manner. I can understand the criticism that the dialogue was not set in the proper period, but I didn’t mind. Honestly, I just don’t have much bad to say about it!
Out of Darkness
Ashley Hope Perez
2015 by Carolrhoda Lab
ISBN – 9781467742023
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – High School
A new romance is budding in New London, Texas in 1937. The romance may cross the lines of interracial dating, but for Naomi and Wash it brings them happiness, no matter what any one else thinks. Still they must keep it a secret as it could be dangerous for both of them if anyone finds out. In the midst of the two forming plans to escape the harsh life in their current home, a tragedy strikes. The 1937 New London School explosion, a real event, was one of the worst school disasters in history. Will their love be able to survive such an atrocious event?
Oh my Gosh, this book. It was so close to getting that five star review, but then after finishing, I just couldn’t and it broke my heart. The writing was so beautiful, and the emotions were so raw. It was hard to feel like I was there in the same place, because it was so completely different from anything I have ever known. But I felt the joys, and I felt the sorrows like no other. Then I felt the massive punch to my gut. Thinking about it still makes me feel sick to my stomach. I know that a book must be amazing to make me feel so strongly, however, I also feel like it might have gone overboard. Honestly, I am so undecided about the end of this book. I finished it about two months ago, and feel like now I am just barely able to talk about it. In some respects I feel like it was just right, but in others, I kind of hate it and what it did to me. Seriously, whoa. But, on another note, don’t read this book if you are not comfortable with all sorts of racist, violent, and sexually explicit scenes.
Recently, I was offered and accepted a new position at work! Starting in February, I will be the new Teen Librarian at the Johnson City Public Library! While I will miss doing storytimes, dancing, singing, and playing with the kiddos from 0-5 years old, this is a good and maybe even great thing!
While going through school, I focused on YA lit and services in the public library, so this is essentially what I have been wanting for the last 5 years. Alas, I am still quite nervous. But here we go anyway. This shouldn’t have much of a change in the blog…EXCEPT…My attempt to post my storytime plans will end, as I won’t be making new ones. I may try to add in some of my teen programming, but for the most part this will probably remain book reviews. Hopefully, my very few and faithful followers will be okay with this.
So here’s to something new! Wish me luck!