29 July 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

If this story starts to hit too close to home, then you should definitely make sure you read it through.  You can't understand the power of another's control over you unless you've been there, but Alex, Cole, and Zack pave a pathway to understanding.

Alex has always felt a little bit lost.  Her mother died in a car crash when she was very young and all she really knows is that her parents didn't have the happiest marriage and her mom was supposedly trying to escape for a more inspirational life in Colorado.  All Alex has left of her mom is a dream-catcher charm that she wears around her neck, a broken father, and a handful of pictures.  But Alex also has her friends, and she lives a pretty happy "typical" high school life.  Until Cole shows up as the new boy at school.  The new hot boy.  The new hot boy that actually seems to be interested in her!  But as Alex begins to spend more time with Cole and less time with her friends, more time lying and less time smiling, more time covering up and less time being herself, there is clearly something wrong.

This is a story of physical and emotional abuse, a story that affects many relationships - even at the very barest of levels.  Adults and teens should find this story uncomfortable and challenging, but will find even greater strength in the end.  (For more from author Jennifer Brown, check out Hate List.)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Jem's had it pretty rough.  She was only six years old when she found her mother dead from a heroin overdose.  She had always known that her mother's addiction was more important than love and family, but it was only this moment that Jem learned something new: She could see the date of her mother's death in her eyes.  She has always seen a string of 8 numbers when she looks at people, and for a while, she thought that everyone could.  Now she knows that she must keep the numbers a secret.

Until she meets and gets close to Spider.  After living the last of her 16 years in and out of foster situations, Spider is the first person she allows herself to connect with.  Spider is laid back, adventurous, thoughtful, and just as damaged in a lot of ways as she is.  Spider also only has three months left to live.  When an unpredictable event takes place and Spider and Jem are accused of being involved with a terrorist attack, they decide that the only way to live their lives is to escape to a better place.  But, as Jem knows, the outcomes of their lives can't always be controlled.

Recommended to all adventurous readers, and in particular to those intrigued by mystery, romance, and the unknown.  The sequel, Numbers: The Chaos, is available, and coming soon is the third in the series, Numbers: Infinity.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

25 July 2011

family by Micol Ostow

Melinda Jensen left home at seventeen to make her way to San Francisco, the city of freedom and acceptance.  What she found was a bench on the street to sleep on, and that's where Henry finds her.  Henry is able to offer Mel the one thing she craves the most deeply.  She's never had a real family, only a mom who wasn't all that interested in being a mom, and her mom's boyfriend who molested and berated her most of her life.  Henry takes her in, brings her to his home, introduces her to her new "sisters," one of which becomes her confidant, her comfort, and her legs to stand on.  How would Mel survive without them?

But Henry has more grand powerful plans in this world than just being a father, brother, and lover to Mel and her sisters.  And when Mel is included in on a murderous plan, she becomes more and more confused about what it means to be part of a family. 

The language of family is gorgeous, and the book is based loosely on the Manson Family murders of 1969.  The story is told in episodic verse, tying in elements of poetry with pure emotion, and the characters are purely original.  The format and the topic are sure to draw in the interests of a broad variety of high school readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I know, I know, I'm probably one of the last people to read this book.  But a regular library user and friend enthusiastically and strongly recommended that I get a hold of the audiobook (knowing that I do most of my adult fiction reading during work and babysitting commutes), and I finally got around to acknowledging her suggestion.  Told from the point-of-view of a five-year-old boy, this audiobook is stunning.

Hachette Audio presents Room with a full cast and the five-year-old voice portraying the character of Jack is both heartwarming and gut-wrenching, as the story is splayed out in all its glory and horror.  Jack has never known anything outside of Room.  He knows Rug and TV and Wardrobe and Bed, but he knows nothing about Outside.  He's not even sure that Outside is really real.  Until his mother comes up with a plan to escape from Room and from the man who kidnapped her seven years ago.

Outside is a whole new world to become accustomed to, both for Jack and for Ma, and it may end up being the hardest experience that either of them have to survive.  Recommended to adult readers and older teens with a taste for the depressing and the hopeful.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Will Supervillains Be on the Final? by Naomi Novik

Leah is a superhero prodigy and there is a lot of pressure on her as she begins classes at Liberty Vocational.  Liberty is a special college for superheroes to master their powers, and Leah's acceptance into the school at sixteen is pretty exceptional.  Leah just wants to be accepted (and maybe noticed by the cute guy in her dorm!), but her lack of control over the use of her powers keeps causing trouble for her.  The reader learns that there is a supervillain in their midst -- isn't there always? -- who happens to be an arch-rival of the school's adviser.  Armed with her roommate and one friend, will Leah be able to figure out who the bad guys are, and control her powers so that she can become a force for good?

Predictable and safe, filled with the character types of traditional manga, this book is sure to please manga readers, but might not be quite as popular with comic book and superhero aficionados.  And yet, though I didn't expect it, this book became my superFUN read of the summer!  I loved it way more than I was anticipating, and I can't wait for more!  Recommended to all ages and readers of all types, especially as an introduction to a format with which "traditional" readers might be uncomfortable.  I'm serious; go ahead, give it a try!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

23 July 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Melody and Harmony have nothing in common except for their identical DNA.  They were separated at birth, handed over to different families, and raised without the knowledge of the other's existence. Only recently has Melody, to her horror -- and Harmony, to her joy -- become aware that there is someone in the world just like her.

America has encountered a time during which it is impossible for women over a certain age to get pregnant and reproduce.  Society now can only look to teenage girls to continue to produce offspring, and as a result become pregnant is not only the popular thing to do, but it is an expectation and a responsibly placed on all girls.  Even though Melody is under contract with a wealthy family to "bump" with another "repo" (reproductive professional), she isn't convinced that she wants to satisfy this business and societal requirement.  Without the knowledge of Melody's contractual situation nor her personal dilemmas, Harmony leaves her Christian community to find Melody and help direct her moral compass.  But nothing is really quite as it seems, and it's all too easy to slip up, even within the best laid plans . . .

The interesting concept behind this dystopian existence isn't played out quite as effectively as I would have liked to see, but the story is interesting nonetheless and should be enjoyed thoroughly by female readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Anne Green is dead.  All of Oxford was there to see her hanged for the crime of infanticide.  Even Anne Green knows that she's dead.

Told in alternating perspectives – that of Anne Green as well as that of the doctors examining her body following her public hanging – this is the story of the events leading to Anne’s eventual conviction.  However, in an unbelievable turn of events, a roomful of witnesses notice a twitch in Anne Green’s body, and none are able to deny when she takes a breath of air.  A mixture of history, science, and mystery, this story captures the attention of even the most skeptical of readers.  Recommended especially to early high school readers looking for something different – maybe for an unexpectedly pleasant read to satisfy a historical fiction reading requirement?

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

19 July 2011

DC relaunching series . . .

For all my comic book fans . . . Is this interesting to you?  Check out Robin Brenner's write-up on EarlyWord:


15 July 2011

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Paige Turner (yup, her parents are writers; no pressure) is missing the natural beauty of her Virginia home and isn't immediately digging the craziness of her new New York City lifestyle.  Her parents are concerned that she's having trouble adjusting to the new environment, but Paige really just wants to be left alone. Armed with her sketchbook, she begins to follow her own rules for survival, starting with an actual social life.  And luckily there is a small group of independent-thinking friends willing to take her under its wing.

The story and illustrations found within the pages of this graphic novel are absolutely gorgeous.  Getting to know Paige is a pleasure, and the inspiration to find your own way within your unique circumstances is unmistakably endearing.  Recommended to all readers, young and old, artist, writer, and observer.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

06 July 2011

Evermore by Alyson Noel

The book Evermore is part of the Immortals series. It takes a new spin on immortality. Ever was in a car accident where she nearly died and ever since, her life has been different. She can see people's auras and read their thoughts. It is very overwhelming. However, once Damen, a new guy in town, comes, she hears nothing. This spirals into a romantic love story that has been going on for about 600 years but Ever did not know it. It goes beyond love; action is involved, but in few parts. It is a really good book for girls who like romances!

Reviewed by Neha.