20 March 2009

Leaving Dirty Jersey : A crystal meth memoir by James Salant

While at first solely intrigued by the title and cover of this book (I am a Jersey girl, and have often come across people with the infamous words "Dirty Jersey" tattoed onto their own skin), I couldn't resist the temptation of Jimmy's world of crystal meth, heroin, sex, lies, cheap motels, love, and survival -- most of which takes place in sunny California. Jimmy soon discovers that the streets of Riverside are a world away from life in upperclass Princeton, New Jersey.

Raised in a supportive, financially stable two-parent home, Jimmy was a smart kid who got into drugs in his teens. Following in his brother's footsteps, he briefly entered a rehab program in Riverside, California after a number of run-ins with the cops and drug possession charges in Jersey. There he met an array of characters with both positive and negative influences, although none responsible for the choices Jimmy made -- or didn't make -- while on his own. After rehab, he stayed in Riverside. He used his newfound independence to sell drugs to make money to buy drugs, from pot to meth to heroin. A psychotic episode finally forced him into reality, just barely enough to decide to get clean. At twenty-three years old, Jimmy tells his all-to-true story about his relationship with drugs, his family, his friends, and his ultimate journey of adventure and survival.

This memoir is recommended for high school and mature readers. For another viewpoint from a young recovered addict try Nic Sheff's Tweak, or No Speed Limit by Frank Owens or Beautiful Boy by David Sheff for further observations and perspective.
Access the BCCLS catalog (
http://www.bccls.org/) or ask a librarian how to place a request on this title.

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Tracking Trash : Flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion by Loree Griffin Burns

Where does garbage go? One Nike sneaker washed up on the coast of Washington state caught the attention of one man. The discovery of hundreds more Nike sneakers (and rubber duckies, and plastic toys, etc.) over time encouraged scientists to track such trash, which is referred to as flotsam and jetsam. By studying ocean currents, scientists are able to determine how debris is carried through the ocean, where it might wash ashore, and what can be done to protect the living things suffering as a result of careless or accidental dumping. The statistics presented in this book are staggering, especially with regard to the destruction of marine life. What began as an oceanographic experiment has turned into a serious endeavor to make people around the world aware of their role in the health and survival of our whole planet. This book forces readers to look at their own actions and to take responsibility for the part they play in keeping the oceans – and land – clean and safe. This is a very readable book, filled with photographs and maps, offering an interesting scientific foundation to lead into a lesson in social and environmental consciousness.

Recommended for middle school students who are researching for a report, are interested in learning more about the ocean and marine life, or are particularly intrigued by trash!

Call number: YA 363.728 BURNS

Reviewed by kate the librarian

11 March 2009

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

A story of this nature might not speak to every reader. But those who can appreciate the layered complexities of Fergus's simple life will not be disappointed by the late Siobhan Dowd's storytelling.

Fergus is living in Ireland during the early 1980s, a time of great tension between Northern Ireland and the Republic, when danger blankets politics, religion, and everyday life, even for a boy who is simply focused on passing his A-levels and his driver's test. One usual morning, Fergus and his uncle uncover a body buried in the bog, and now Fergus and local archeologists become very interested in learning more about this body that he has named Mel. Bogs are areas of wet, marshy land, abundant in Ireland, and it is significant to know that bogs can preserve organic material in remarkable condition. As Fergus dreams about Mel and what her life may have been like, the archeologists discover the Mel was alive in 80 A.D.; how and why Mel died with a noose around her neck reveals much of Ireland’s history as well as human nature. While Fergus is the “student” of the family, hoping to leave the tumultuous Ireland for medical school, his brother Joe is the “soldier,” intent on fighting the good fight for a war-torn Ireland. As Joe takes part in the hunger strikes from his place in prison, their family is torn between respecting Joe’s right to his beliefs and their own desires to keep him alive.

The past and present come together with great force in this fictional account of the struggle of Ireland’s history. Simultaneous issues of political and religious freedoms, self-independence, and faith in the world clash during a time in history – and a time in a young boy’s life – when nothing is as it seems, and surprises and relief seem just around the corner, and yet a world away.

Recommended to middle grade and high school readers, especially those with an interest in good historical myseries.
Call number: YA DOWD (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

08 March 2009

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Living off the land for all of your needs is nothing compared to trying to make it in the modern world. It's the early 1980's and Moon Blake has everything he needs living out in the forest with his dad -- they scavenge and hunt, they have shelter and warmth, and all the medicine or extras they need, they can find, make, or trade for at Mr. Abroscotto's store in town. Very early in the story, Moon's dad dies from injuries that he can't heal and their land has been purchased by a lawyer with development plans. Before he dies, Moon's dad tells him to keep living off the land and try to make his way to Alaska where he can find people who are just like them, who don't trust the government and who make their own way living off the land. But Moon is caught before he can get away and because he's only ten years old, the law plans to send him to a boys' home. Too bad Moon doesn't plan on staying caught. The boy has been brought up to distrust the law, and the law doesn't take all that kindly to him either. Constable Sanders has a particularly large chip on his shoulder, and the friction between the two characters results in much of the action, humor, and progression of the story. This is an extraordinarily original coming-of-age novel, and Moon's relationships with all of the other characters are heartwarming, frustrating, and ultimately eye-opening. As Moon realizes that there is more than one right way to live and act and that not everything in life is black-and-white, readers learn with him that life is about finding what you believe in, standing up for what's important, and always keeping an open mind.

Recommended for middle school readers, especially boys who are constantly looking for their next adventure, and young men who wish they could relive their fort-making days.
Call number: YA KEY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

06 March 2009

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

As if high school couldn’t be bad enough on a normal day, imagine your ex-boyfriend writes a song about your breakup and sings it in front of everyone you know. And then that song makes him (and you) famous. We’re talking MTV, paparazzi, fangirl famous. Audrey was bored with her boyfriend Evan who seemed to have a one-track mind anything Evan-related, especially his music and his band, the Do-Gooders, so she broke up with him. Between the time of the breakup and the time the band was to perform at a club in front of someone from a record label, Evan wrote the song-of-all-songs entitled “Audrey, Wait!” Who knew that just months later, “Audrey, Wait!” would be heard across the airwaves, from California to New Jersey? Now everyone either knows who Audrey is, or wants to know. And Audrey just wants to get back to a normal life, where her best friend Victoria isn’t obsessed with marketing Audrey’s image or keeping up-to-date with the latest Do-Gooders news from around the world; where her new boyfriend James doesn’t have to worry about being stalked, photographed, or generally harassed; and where her parents aren’t overwhelmingly protective (even more so than usual) or constantly upset by interviews taken out-of-context. This book is laugh-out-loud with random antics and sarcastic humor. Each chapter is headlined with lyrics from bands that could inspire the most unique playlists. And just when you start to think that this story couldn’t get any more fun, it totally does. Surrounded by a well-developed, well-rounded cast, Audrey’s might be the truest voice you can find in current teen fiction.

Recommended to you and everyone you know.
Call number: YA BENWAY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian