Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bystander By: James Preller

This novel takes place in a Middle School called Bell Port Central in Long Island. Eric is a new student from Ohio in seventh grade. The students had a year to make groups of friends in 6th grade,while Eric wass in Ohio.
Eric had one friend in Long Island called Griffin, who seemed to get along with Eric. Eric played the electric guitar, and used it as a shield when he needed it. His Dad walked out from the house, and never returned, when he was a young boy. It was just as well, because the father had a short temper, and was an alcoholic, and threw plates around. One of the reasons why Eric, and his sister Tina pulled up stakes with their mother, and moved to another city from their Dad.
As we read more pages of the novel Eric finds out that Griffin is a liar, and a bully. Griffin is a thief on top of his other traits. School Officials are not aware that Griffin is hurting other teens and not aware of Griffin's activities, and don't careless. Eric the new teen in town has a solution for Griffin's nonsense. Eric plans to get inside of Griffin's house, when no one is at home. Eric forgot about Griffin's Dad who works at night. Eric reaches the upstairs with no problems, and goes to Griffin's room and finds the wooden box with special items. Eric takes out a CD. that belongs to him. His Father gave Eric this CD before he left as a gift. As Eric did not plan Griffin's Dad in the house snoring, he was super quiet. Eric removed his running shoes, and left them in the house as he made the escape. In the end, Griffin's Dad woke up, but did not notice Eric leaving the house.
The novel was good, and I liked it.

LRD 2/23/10

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gringolandia By:Lyn Miller - Lachman

The novel is an indepth story about Chile during the dictatorship of Pinochet's regime, which lasted eight years. Many people disappeared, or were put in jail to receive harsh punishment, or torture. This novel is about a family the Aguilar's, who suffers persecution because the father of the Aguilar's, Marcelo publishes an underground newspaper that exposes Chile's military regime. Marcelo is arrested in 1980, and literally stays in jail for eight years. He is tortured to the extreme. Marcelo's wife is a school teacher in Chile; they have a son Daniel, and daughter Tina. The wife is scared for her two children, and herself so they move from Chile to Madison, Wisconsin
One type of torture used in Chile when Marcelo was in prison known as El" Submarino" which means in English, the submarine. The prisoner was dropped in a vat full of sewer water to force the jailmate to confess. After six years of Marcelo being a prisoner in Chile he is able to be free . He is now able to be reunited with his family in Wisconsin. They are all changed. Daniel the son plays in a rock band in Wisconsin. The wife Victoria wants a divorce from Marcelo. When he returns to Wisconsin he goes to rehab to get rid of smoking & alcohol. Also he has a problem with walking because of the torture in jail. Daniel has a girlfriend called Courtney. She speaks Spanish very well. She helps Marcelo translate when he writes the articles about his time in jail. Courtney is the daughter of the Church's Minister.
Marcelo Aguilar has a dream t0 return to Chile. Daniel his son, and Courtney desire to go with. They all must travel with fake documents to arrive in Chile. The three are US citizens with Anglo names.
All the documents are false to keep the three safe in Chile. Mr. Marcelo has his head shaved, and has a bandage on his scalp. Daniel, & Courtney tell the immigration at the Airport in Chile their Dad has cancer, he has a few weeks to live. His dream is to visit Patagonian, and then he can die.He also wants to Camp by the second largest Lake in Chile.
The ending of the novel was interesting to me. Read the novel, and you will be astonished in what you learn. the book is very good.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bad Apple by Laura Ruby

Bad Apple is one of those books that leaves me unimpressed, but I can't pinpoint why I feel this way. All I know is it was forgettable.

Tola is considered weird because she has green hair and is obsessed with Grimm's fairy tales. Now the vast majority of her school is against her because of a supposed affair with the art teacher. She denies any affair ever happened, but no one seems to care what she has to say. Just the same, a witch hunt ensues to destroy her and the teacher, lead by a fellow student who delights in messing with people's reputations. In the meantime, Tola has to deal with a mother who wants to see the end of the teacher's career and a sister suffering from depression. Feeling she has nothing to lose, Tola starts to act out, but then her grandfather gets sick and the truth about what happened between the teacher and Tola is revealed.

I think this story had a lot of potential, but it just fell flat. The witch hunt has already begun by the time the story starts and to be thrown into the middle, you don't really have a chance to pick sides. Maybe if I saw more of Tola before hand, I'd be more sympathetic to her, but I didn't particularly care about her as a character. Even now, having just finished the book ten minutes ago, I can't tell you what honestly made her stand out compared to the other narrators I've read about. I'd be more outraged over the attacks on her and the teacher if I could have seen before it all happened, rather than be told about how nice he was. At the same time, she has a fascination with the Grimm fairy tales, and while that was obvious, I think it could have been played up more to accentuate the "weirdness" of the character.

If this novel is supposed to be about the persecution of people who are different, it failed to move me. If it's supposed to be about a wrongly accused teacher - who was barely even in the novel - I didn't care enough about the character. Yes we see her struggles with the high school villain and she has a snarky personality, but in the big picture, it didn't go anywhere. I'm probably too critical, but I just walked away from this book feeling blah and unable to really say why.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

tales of the MADMAN underground by Barnes

This seems like a novel who's audience is unclear. I enjoyed it but can't really think to whom I might recommend it. People might think its about kids with mental illness or about alcoholic kids and parents, but ultimately its about allies, the closest of friends. Its really a wonderful tale of friendship. All the characters, teens and adults are flawed as is true in real life.
MADMAN underground is the title a group of teens gave to themselves years earlier. They are all part of a therapy group at school. They are all from homes that are dysfunctional in their own often horrific ways. Everyone at schools knows everything (or think they do) about them. This is small town USA 1973. The teens are very close. They try to protect each other from bad stuff at home and at school. They really discover how close during the months of this story when two of the members try to have a normal, non-therapy year.
Karl is the protagonist/main character. He is scary as people believe he tortures small animals. Before he died his father was well respected in town. Those who knew him try to look out for Karl the way they know how. Karl has numerous odd jobs all over town and several stashes which unfortunately his alcoholic free spirited mother sometimes finds and uses to get drunk, etc. Enter new girl in town, Marti, new member of the underground because her parents believe she needs to be. They periodically lock her out of the house at night as punishment. Other members are Paul, who may be gay and is subjected to beatings by members of the sports teams. Not all however, since Squid and Danny, also MADMEN play sports. Then there is Cheryl and Darla. Marti is dating Paul who is having issues with his best friend Karl. Darla and Karl go to a pond that doubles as a place for dating teens to park and he almost loses his virginity. Karl takes Marti in to a hotel room one night when both have been locked out and Marti's mother accuses him of giving her STD and getting her pregnant. Paul is rescued by the MADMEN before he gets beaten one more time. More stuff happens and is sorted out in quite hopeful ways. There is a side thread, popular Staci is witness to many of the MADMEN troubles and proves to be one of few that doesn't spread rumor or harass the group. This is one of several books I've read recently in which a popular girl/cheerleader is shown to be more human and less snobbish than one might believe a popular teen to be. JDW 2/10

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Heartless: A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard

**SPOILER WARNING** This is book seven in the Pretty Little Liars series and will reference information from previous books. I won't give away too much from this novel, but the others might be spoiled. Read on with caution...

At the end of the last novel, a fire nearly kills all four girls and in the twist ending of that novel, the girls saw Ali alive! In this novel, when Emily admits this to the police, everyone gets fed up with the drama these girls are creating. Finally deemed in the press as the "Pretty Little Liars," Hanna, Spencer, Aria, and Emily are slowly becoming the prime suspects in Ali's murder. Fearing for Hanna's sanity, her father ships her off to a spa/rehab/mental institute. There she befriends her roommate who isn't as trustworthy as she seems. Aria, on the other hand, might be the one who needs to be committed as she tries to get in contact with the dead, thinking Ali might be trying to communicate with them from beyond. Emily, under "A"'s advice, dresses up as an Amish girl and heads to Lancaster where she meets a girl whose family has a mysterious past to Darren Wilden - whom they all at one point thought killed Ali. Things begin looking up for Spencer as her family apologizes for treating her like dirt, but that only lasts so long as she begins digging into her family's past and her parent's connections to Ali's family. All of this drama climaxes to the point the girls are all arrested and Ali's killer is identified.

Of course this isn't the last novel in the series as at least one more book remains. A huge part of me hopes the next book is the last. The series has run it's course and I think the story is just being dragged out. Why do the girls keep falling for A's tricks? You'd think by now they'd learn but no, each new text lead to a whole new soap opera storyline. True, the story does draw you in as you're eager to find out where it all leads but it's getting a little old. I think some of it has to do with the time between when books are released. I would almost recommend waiting until all of the books are out and reading them all together. That way your excitement for the story doesn't dwindle.

For what the story is, the novel is good. There are some interesting new leads and twists which makes you wonder what's really going on. But, overall, this storyline needs to come to a close. How much more can realistically be done to the girls before even the readers lose trust in them?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Going Bovine by Bray

I read this book because it received top honors for a teen book of 2009. The first chapter or so are an angry rant by a teen boy - Cameron. The language and the anger may be a hook for some teen readers but I am an adult who had trouble getting past this. The story changes when Cameron hallucinates that he is fighting fire giants - scary. At first it is believed he is doing serious drugs. Until he has a seizure and winds up in the hospital with a very critical condition. From here on, Cameron lives in an unreal world of fire giants and quests to find a strange hero, Dr. X to save him, led by a pink haired angel named Dulcie and accompanied by Gonzo, his dwarf, hypochondriac roommate. Even though we know the quest is in Cameron's unconscious mind it reads like a fantasy and is exciting, fast, easy to get involved in. This is a very modern re imagined Man of La Mancha retelling. It doesn't hurt to go to wikipedia and look up the summary of the musical to see the connections and differences. I quite thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe goth kids, manga readers and any one who likes quirky, extraordinary books will enjoy it too. JDW 2/10

Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things, Mackler

This book is popular with the kids and I can see why. Ginny is a very real teen. She is easy to like and sympathize with. Ginny is the youngest and imperfect kid in an apparently perfect family. Things have already begun to change, the perfect facade is beginning to crumble. Oldest daughter Anais, expected to become a doctor has graduated from college and gone into the peace corps instead of continuing her education. Son Byron has gotten in trouble in college for date raping a girl at a party while very drunk, something that affects Ginny very profoundly. Ginny, meanwhile has to deal with mom constantly lecturing her about her grades, her weight, her lack of exercise, her life goals, her weight, her friends, her weight, her diet etc. If its a lecture, teens tend to shut down, rather than cooperate and Ginny does just that. But, she is a strong kid and slowly finds her own way. She establishes her own life goals, starts a surprising athletic activity her mom has nothing to do with, gets pierced and died and really begins to find her way. She even asks her dad to let her confide in him, to be more involved in her life and he seems happy to have been asked. Its easy to cheer Ginny on. Way to go girl. Fun Read. JDW 2/10

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flash Burnout - L.K. Madigan

Blake's life is going good. He's got a great girlfriend, Shannon, he's got his guy friends to hang out with, and he's got Marissa, a girl he met in photography class last year as a freshman, as a friend too. While doing one of the photography assignments in Old Town, Blake takes a picture of Marissa's mother. Marissa sees the picture the next day, and she heads to Old Town. She finds her mother, brings her back to her grandma's house, and gets her into rehab for her meth addiction. Blake starts to spend more and more time with Marissa and less time with Shannon. One day Blake, Garret (Blake's brother), and Marissa go to the morgue because Blake's dad was talking about a drug overdose victim that came in the night before. Marissa fears its her mother, who's been missing for a few weeks. They break into the morgue, and find out it isn't Marissa's mother. Blake and Marissa spend the whole day together when Blake was supposed to go to Shannon's recital. Blake and Marissa end up having sex, and Blake takes a few pictures of her afterwords. The next day Shannon tells Blake her grandmother died, and she wanted to know why he wasn't answering her calls. After those two days Blake's world falls apart.

I really enjoyed this book. It tackles the question can guys and girls just be friends, which in Blake's case is good for awhile, but then certain urges take over and things fall apart. I also liked that it was told from the guys point of view. Flash Burnout won the 2010 William C Morris YA Debut Award at last months ALA Midwinter conference.

T.B. 2/10/10

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mission Telemark By Amanda Mitchison

This novel is about four teen freedom fighters, who fought during WWII. The novel has one teen girl named Ase, and three teen males. Frederick a red head speaks Norwegian, Jakob also speaks Norwegian, and so does Lars. To me the novel is exciting, and very detailed about WWII. The teens are on a mission to destroy the water plant the Germans controlled in Vernock.

The Colonel's student's that were teens, had to go through training that was tough; to prepare them for their mission. It was like going to boot camp for the United States Marines at Paris Island in Virginia. The teens endure a lot of hardship, but the British Colonel knows what the teens will face.

In case the teens are captured by the Germans, each teen has a cyanide capsule to take. Fortunately the teens were not captured. What the teens accomplished was great. They had to ski on the slope of huge mountains, and climb big rock cliffs that were not easy. They had to hide from their enemy as they approached the large water plant. he enemy was the German soldiers. Frederick hides in a deep freeze, Ase hides in a locker,Lars and Jakob hide in a deep freeze together. They complete their mission by placing the explosives around the water plant.
Their escape is very difficult. Frederick dislocates his shoulder, which slows the teens down. The teens had to hunt for food. They hunted rabbits, and deer meat for survival. The teens endured harsh cold, and hunger.
I enjoyed the novel very much, because it was fascinating, and educational too.
LRD 2/4/10

Monday, February 01, 2010

Black-eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw

Although I never read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I know enough about it to recommend Black-Eyed Suzie if you enjoyed Speak. This novel is another powerful story about facing the hard times in order to find your voice and heal.

Suzie is a young girl who feels trapped in a box and has lost the use of words. All day long all she does is sit curled up on her chair, not speaking or eating, just occasionally crying. Her mother can't stand it and frequently gets angry at Suzie but insists it's just a stage and fights getting her daughter help. Soon Uncle Elliot - her father's boss - comes and takes Suzie to the hospital where she is admitted. The long journey begins as Suzie remembers her mother's temper and violence and learns to trust the doctors and nurses, but she still can't find the words to speak, especially since it means hurting the ones she loves. She also makes friends with fellow patients and enemies with others - only to discover some problems aren't as obvious as you might think. Soon, though, when her sister's life is in danger, Suzie finds her voice and discovers that sometimes the truth hurts, but silence can be even more painful.

I couldn't get into Speak because of the choppy, snapshot format of the novel and while Black-Eyed Suzie is a little bit choppy, I felt as though it created a more fluid, detailed story. I wish it went a little bit more into the lives of the others at the hospital because Suzie's constant silence became somewhat annoying. Maybe if there was more going on around her, the silence wouldn't become so monotonous. For example, Karen finally started to develop and right when it gets good, her story is left hanging. True, some people don't recover, but don't give us a taste and then take it away.

This was a very easy novel to read, therefore making it accessible to everyone. It has a great message and definitely is a novel people should read, especially for teens living in abusive relationships - whether with parents or boyfriend/girlfriend. Silence doesn't solve anything. By not speaking, no one gets the help they need - you're only protecting the abuser and that's not right. Yes, coming out with the truth will hurt, especially if you honestly love the abuser, but in the long run, the truth will be better for everyone.

The First Part Last By: Angela Johnson

Most stories about teenage pregnancy tend to be seen all through the females point of view. In this novel, a boy named Bobby and his girlfriend Nia are madly in love but then find out that she is pregnant while they are still in high school. The story is told through Bobby's eyes, and it is interesting to see what might go through a young boys mind when he finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant. The novel has a lot of flashbacks and can be confusing at times but it a fast, suspenseful, and dramatic piece. Will Bobby and Nia keep the baby? How will they deal? Will Bobby learn what it means to become a man and accept the consequences of his actions? GV