27 October 2009

Night Road by A. M. Jenkins

About this book, YA author Robert Lipsyte says, "Read this as a tense thriller about vampires on a road trip, or read it as a metaphorical tour de force about a boy becoming a man. But read it!"

Cole has been summoned back to Manhattan to the Building for a meeting with Johnny, where he is given the responsibility of caring for and teaching newbie Gordo how to survive as a hemovore. ("'Hemo, meaning blood. Vorare, meaning to devour.'" Never VAMPIRES.) Since becoming a heme, Gordo has been allowed to live within the safety of the Building, feeding whenever he wants, without the worry of taking too much blood and making a willing participant a victim instead. He doesn't understand self-control, self-sufficiency, or self-discipline. In order to teach Gordo the ways of the world, Cole and Sandor take him out on the road; no destination in mind because, really, it's the being out in the real world that's the thing. Of course, now that he's stripped of security, he's forced to fully grasp the facts of his new life and finds that he's lonely and homesick. His self-hatred and desperation drives him to make a decision: to fast . . . no feeding, at all, ever again. The problem is, hemes HAVE to feed. Eventually he will break and then self-control will be impossible.

The ending of Night Road is a bit rushed and too neatly concluded, some elements don't really add up to much of anything, and the suspense falls short of expectations, but the relationships among the characters are beautiful, and experiencing the lives of the hemes could make us think about our own. I'll admit, as a coming-of-age metaphorical tour de force, I am a big fan of this book. Where the suspense was lackluster, the writing was thrilling.

Recommended to high school readers, especially boys who either won't admit to liking the Twilight series, or those who really didn't like it because of all the romance and drama.
Call number: YA JENKINS (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

25 October 2009

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Sutter Keely lives in the moment. He spends most days of his senior year cutting class, drinking whiskey and smoking pot with his best friend Ricky, cruising around town, and enjoying the beauty that life has to offer. Most days are spectacular. When beautiful Cassidy dumps him because he can't even follow the simple request to try to think of her feelings before he does something, he's a little bit lost. On top of that, Ricky begins dating Bethany, who doesn't find a lot of humor in Sutter's drunken antics. Luckily for Sutter, there's Aimee, the girl who finds him sleeping on a neighbor's lawn early one morning and offers to help him find his car. As the two learn more and more about each other's lives, an emotional attachment forms; only Sutter knows it's not going to last.

This National Book Award finalist offers some truly spectacular writing. Sutter seems to have a way with words that is both charming and frustrating. :: For concerned adults, the alcohol abuse is part of Sutter's life, but it certainly isn't glorified or condoned by his friends or family. In many ways, Sutter knows that he is the one sabotaging his own future and his own happiness. ::

This book serves a dose of deep, with a light, accesssible presentation, and should be recommended to all high school readers.
Call number: YA THARP (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

21 October 2009

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

For a Teen Librarian, I am behind the times when it comes to reading. I know this, and for the most part I've accepted it. I'm grateful for when I can read what I want, and the "popular books" often don't make it to the top of my pile. And "popular books" isn't just the Twilight series (which I have read) or the Percy Jackson series (which I haven't); "popular books" is pretty much anything that gets a lot of favorable talk, and doesn't need much hand-selling to teens looking for something to read from the library. That's why I tend to be slow to read books like the Harry Potter series, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or, apparently, Sara Zarr's Sweethearts

Talk about a book you can read in a day! I knew that when I opened Sweethearts last night and read the first few pages that I should never have started what I couldn't finish. I had to sleep, so I only read about halfway through the book last night . . . and couldn't help but finish it this morning.

Cameron Quick was Jennifer Harris's only friend. They stood by each other when other kids called them weird (Cameron) or fat (Jennifer), and they really believed that they didn't need anyone else in order to be perfectly content. One day in third grade, Jennifer goes to Cameron's house after school, and what Cameron's dad makes them do changes both of their lives. And then Cameron and his dad disappear. The kids at school tell Jennifer that Cameron is dead, and Jennifer has no options left except to become Jenna and be a survivor. But what has really become of Cameron?

Sweethearts is, in many ways, a typical teen problem novel. But rather than being overly-dramatic or stuffed too chock-full of issues, there is nothing in this story that exists just to shock readers or pull at their heartstrings. Cameron and Jenna are real, three-dimensional characters who deal with their problems in the best ways they can, and they learn to live their lives with or without each other. The past is over, but the love never ends.

Recommended to high school readers, the insecure, the lonely, the loved, and the hopeful.
Call number: YA ZARR (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

My Name is Jason. Mine too: Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin.

My Name is Jason. Mine Too. tells the genuine story of two men -- black/white, poet/artist -- struggling to get by and find some food and some happiness in a world of creativity. Drawings and words mingle together to lead the reader through a real life experience of what it's like to have a dream, but not necessarily a plan.

This is my favorite poem from the pages in this book; it reminds me of an artist friend of my own, and sometimes of myself, too:
It's so hard
To explain to people
The beauty in brokenness
The scarring in sweet salvation
The lovely lacerations
Of the unlimited
Who dare to do don'ts
Miss a few meals
But will to do won'ts
While well-to-dos
Whisper questions
Who I think I am
And who they think I should be
I laugh and hope
They leave
Me alone
Because it's just
So hard
To explain to people
That my life
Is not unhard
But not unhappy
--[from My Name is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story. Our Way.]
Visit the authors online, too.

13 October 2009

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

Are you prepared in the case of a nuclear disaster? An escape route, food, shelter, and ensured safety for all of your loved ones? Billionaire Rex Yanakakis, head of “the biggest computer manufacturer and software developer in the world,” has thought of everything. The Compound is an underground shelter built specifically for the Yanakakis family, a pretty close replication of the mansion that existed in their lives before the nuclear attack. One thing that Rex didn’t count on, though, was leaving his son Eddy, Eli’s twin brother, behind.

At fifteen, Eli has survived six years in the Compound. He’s let his hair grow long so that it covers his face, he refuses to touch anyone or be touched by anyone in his family, and he barely talks to anyone if he can help it. He misses Eddy, is reproachful of his sisters, and seriously distrusts his father, who is withdrawn, erratic, and secretive. When Eli discovers a connection to the outside through wireless internet access, everything changes. What if there was no nuclear disaster? What if Eddy and Gram are still alive and well? What if this was all just a game?

This title will certainly appeal to fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, and other apocalyptic fiction. There are plot twists that may be upsetting to some readers, but many will be enthralled by this action-packed survival adventure. The underlying reality of the whole scenario is disturbingly exciting.
Call number: YA BODEEN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

07 October 2009

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Oh Suite Scarlett! Please, join us in taking a peek at the sweet life of Scarlett Martin and her brother Spencer who live in a NYC hotel with their parents and sisters. That's right, they live IN a hotel. In New York City!

Yeah, it's not that cool. Hopewell Hotel is pretty old and definitely falling apart, piece by intricate piece. Almost no one stays there anymore, and the Martins have been forced to let go of most of their staff. On the morning of her fifteenth birthday, Scarlett joins her family for a breakfast of undercooked waffles, charred waffles, and frozen whipped cream. Apparently, Belinda, the beloved (and awesome) cook and the last of the staff, had to be let go from the hotel. And now all of the kids are expected to pitch in and help with the building's upkeep, among other tasks. Scarlett is more than disappointed; with all of her friends being off someplace cool or exotic for the summer, she was planning on getting a job and gaining freedom and a cash flow. As it turns out, she gets everything she thought she wanted and then some . . . and learns the meaning of the phrase "Be careful what you wish for!"

Enter the newest hotel guest: Mrs. Amberson, the best (and possibly most interesting, and quite likely the most tragic) thing to happen to the Martin family in recent memory.

Some elements of the story don't quite work, but the storytelling itself more than makes up for anything lacking within the book. The author make sure that the reader knows what is important. The true-to-life relationships, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and real emotion are outstanding and make this story well-worth the read. Recommended to all readers, especially those with a flair for the dramatic!
Call number: YA JOHNSON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

01 October 2009

Super fun, interactive, new nonfiction...

There is a whole display in the library's Teen Room of the latest and greatest NEW nonfiction titles. You should check it out; these books are FUN.

Skulls by Noah Scalen is the winner of the 2008 "Webby People's Voice Award" in the Personal Website Category, and this book just a representation of what you can discover at http://www.SkullADay.com/. (Seriously, so cool.)
Call number: YA 745.59 SCA
Custom Kicks : Personalized Footwear by Maki, which is an innovative design and illustration studio based in the Netherlands. This book shows images of custom shoes from artists around the world, each with their own websites where you can find much, much more awesomeness. For examples, take a look at Metalwing and Zeptonn.
Call number: YA 391.413 MAK

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

This novel is based on the true story of a Hitler Youth named Helmuth Hubener who was imprisoned and ultimately put to death at the hands of the Nazis. From his jail cell on death row in Berlin, Germany, Helmuth recounts the course of events leading up to his imprisonment. It is 1933 and Helmuth is in fifth grade when Adolf Hitler becomes the new chancellor of the Reich. Helmuth has anticipated this announcement, and is happy that Hitler promises to bring peace to Germany. He admires the Nazi soldiers in his community. But when the harassment of Jews begins and the violence of war and hatred hit closer to home, Helmuth begins to distrust the forces that he has been raised to respect. Helmuth is charged with distributing information about the war that questions Hitler, and it is all he can do to stand up for his beliefs and his loved ones, even at the risk of his life.

Recommended to young readers with an interest in history, World War II, and personal stories. Susan Campbell Bartoletti also wrote the nonfiction account Hitler Youth : Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow.
Call number: YA BARTOLETTI (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian