26 November 2011

Between by Jessica Warman

It's Liz's eighteenth birthday, and it seems that life couldn't get much better.  She had a party with her closest friends, her stepsister, and her super cute boyfriend out on her family's boat, complete with cocktails and birthday cake.  But then, before anyone else is awake, she finds her body in the water just off the boat, and she meets up with Alex Berg, a classmate who died in a hit-and-run accident a year earlier.  Liz is hovering somewhere between life and death, and she has no idea why, or how to change the situation.  And to make it all the more frustrating, she has almost no solid memories of her life.  With Alex's help, she finds that she is able to slip into flashbacks of her life -- more than just memories.  As more of the gaps of her life fill in, we begin to uncover some of Liz's dirty little secrets of Liz's . . . We learn that life is often more than what it seems to be on the surface, and that some of us will do anything to protect ourselves and the ones we love - we might be willing to die, and we might even be willing to kill.

A mix of mystery and paranormal, this is a striking story placed among a bunch of rich, over-entitled kids.  Perhaps, a bit over-the-top and over-emotional, some humor finds its way through the cracks at times, especially through the subtle character of Alex.  This title will stand out for those who liked books like Before I Fall, Elsewhere, and If I Stay.  Recommended to high school readers; there's some tough stuff here.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 November 2011

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

We meet Raisa in Poland, living alongside the only family she has left since her sister left for New York City a few years before, and we are beside Raisa when she decides she must travel to try to rejoin her sister.  We follow Raisa by ship though her journey to America, where she meets and cares for young Brina after her mother dies aboard the vessel.  And we struggle along with her as she tries to find her place alone in a vast strange city, filled with people, words, and streets that she cannot understand . . . until she finds Gavrel, a young Jewish man with dreams of being a Rabbi, who brings Raisa and Brina home to his family and to their small Polish shtetl.  Raisa soon finds work making shirtwaists in the city's warehouses, ultimately joining her friends at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  When a terrible fire engulfs the building, her American dreams all but shatter.

By far one of the most enthralling historical fiction titles I've read lately.  It's in a completely different ballgame from one of my recent favorites, Revolutions by Jennifer Donnelly, but it's equally amazing in its character development - especially if you consider the physical setting a character, which I very often do, if the setting is done well enough!  Recommended to all ages, and particularly those who like to get sucked into the world of historical fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

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16 November 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Karyn is pressing charges of rape after a bad night at a classmate's house.  Her brother Mikey is out for revenge.

Tom says he didn't do it; says that she wanted it but then changed her mind in the morning.  Ellie is his little sister, set on supporting him and believing in him, no matter what.

It's a matter of "he said, she said" unless Ellie wasn't really sleeping the whole night like she said she was.  If Ellie heard something, or spoke to Tom that night, or remembers more than what she originally told the police, it might change everything.

If Mikey sets out to teach Tom a lesson, but meets Ellie instead, that might change everything too.

This is a story of mixed-up love, lust, forgiveness, power, and terror.  Twists and turns lead all around in a situation where there doesn't seem to always be a right or wrong; and even if there was, where would each characters' loyalties lie?

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

01 November 2011

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Take one look at Habibi and you know you are in for a masterpiece from the author/illustrator of Blankets.  This thick tomb of story and artwork is completely captivating, thought-provoking, and inspirational.

The story is told in pieces, skipping delicately through time.  Dodola first met Zam when she was a teenager and he was only three years old, both of them orphans with no money, no food, and no home.  Dodola saves Zam and they find an abandoned ship in the dried-up dessert to make their home, and she cares for Zam as though he is her own child.  She finds them food each day, and Zam finds their water supplies.  Of course as Zam grows older, he becomes more and more curious -- both of their living situation and survival, as well as of Dodola as a woman.  When he follows her one day and finds that she trades her body to men for their food, he ventures to the village hoping to be able to provide for her, and for them.  This growth and this journey separate them.

This is the story of how they come back together again.

Told beautifully in words and images, the Arabic language revealed as art in and of itself, the reader is immersed in the hardships of poverty, the abuse of power and strength, and the joy found in shared experience, passion, and hope.  Recommended to all adults.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.