10 December 2008

Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling

Abby Savage is the only normal one in her family. She thinks so, and pretty much everyone else around her thinks so, too. Abby has two sisters, a mom, a largely-absentee alcoholic dad, a stepfather (who is also her sister’s ex-boyfriend and the biological father of her niece), a niece, another niece on the way, and – surprise! – another sister on the way. She also has a gay best friend, Cody, and a love interest in Cody’s older brother, Jackson, who are also her next-door neighbors. This mish-mosh of characters perfectly represents the way that this novel is written. This is a just-for-fun book that presents too much sexual banter, drinking, and overall “unwholesomeness” to really warrant a positive recommendation. However, despite the lack of quality that goes into the plot or authentic character development, teenage girls are bound to be sucked into Abby’s drama. The text is quick-moving and readers might just feel compelled to follow through to see how everything wraps up. The characters are all entertaining in the style “Jerry Springer,” but if you have an aversion for soap operas, you might want to choose an alternative brand of chick lit.

Without the quality to make up for the content, too much underage drinking and out-in-the-open sexual behavior limit this book’s readership.

Call number: YA GEERLING (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

Dana Reinhardt does it again. Realistic fiction at its best tells the story of seventeen-year-old Harper, who decides to take a break from life, including from her broken family and her none-too-perfect sort-of boyfriend. Her passion for environmental and social responsibility leads her to the volunteer organization, Homes from the Heart, and she ends up spending her whole summer rebuilding a home in Tennessee that was destroyed by a tornado. Upon her arrival, she is stressed out and tired of having to deal with people, but new friends and tough physical work begin to break her down and win her over. More than anything, it is watching her get to know her new friends and fall in love with Teddy, the son in the family for whom the home is being rebuilt, that allows the reader to become completely immersed in the story, wherever it leads. Her ultimate realizations about family, relationships, independence, and love are the icing on top of the cake. The reader is alternatively heartbroken and uplifted by Harper, and by those who lift her higher. Some age- and situation-appropriate language and some sexual encounters might make this story appropriate for an older readership, but the character’s exploration will appeal to teens and adults alike.

Highly recommended to high school readers.
Call number: YA REINHARDT (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

09 December 2008

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Aslaug is a fifteen-year-old girl who would have been average if she had just lived a different life. Aslaug was born to a woman who claimed to “have never had a lover,” and was then raised in isolation, her only companions being lessons in religion, language, and botany. When Aslaug’s mother dies, she discovers that she has an aunt and two cousins who live nearby. She is fascinated by her cousins, who seem equally fascinated by her, although for different reasons, and her relationships with her newfound family go through dramatic shifts as the plot progresses. Told through shifting time periods, half of the story follows the events following Aslaug’s mother’s death up to the present time; the other piece of the whole covers the trial for the death of Aslaug’s aunt and cousin. Religion, magic, and science play major roles in the mood and depth of this story. Ultimately, this story leaves readers focused on the idea of perspective, and how the understanding of theories and actions can completely change based on the point of view of the storyteller.

While the text of the story sometimes drifts uncontrollably to botany details and longwinded religious debate (mostly historical rather than contemporary controversial), this is an original and fascinating novel about family, self, perception, and love. Because of high-quality content, the writing and story are best suited for high school readers. The cover is breathtaking, and the characters unpredictable, and the story captivating.

This book is recommended to high school readers.
Call number: YA MELDRUM (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

BOOK CLUB - JAN - Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

Ø Could this situation happen? Do you understand how policies are made in government?

Ø What character do you relate to the most? What are the roles that Connor, Risa, and Lev played in this story?

Ø What kind of parent would choose to have their child unwound? Why?

Ø Where does life begin? Where does it end? What does being “alive” mean? Should Unwinds be considered “dead” or “alive,” or something else?

Ø Explain CyFi’s situation. What happens to him, and what do you think happened after he confronted Tyler’s parents?

Ø Describe what takes place during Roland’s last scene with Connor. What is it meant to show about Roland? Is it meant to imply anything about being an Unwind? (Can unwinding take kids that are somewhat deviant and make them far worse? Had the circumstances been different, would Roland have been the same kind of person? “He was a decent kid, protecting his mother like he did, and then his whole situation turned him into a self-centered, power-hungry bully, still with that core of decency that prevented him from committing murder.”)

Ø How did you react to Roland’s final scene? How did you react to Mai’s last scene?

Ø What are your thoughts on the Admiral? Does he redeem himself in the end?

Ø What do you think the ending of the story brings to the story as a whole?

Ø Where there parts of the story that you feel like you missed? Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from three separate points-of-view? How did some of the stories overlap?