28 December 2011

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Jacob Reckless was just a child when he first found the entrance in his father's study.  Once John Reckless went missing, Jacob felt close to him by being around his things, and one day he simply came to realize the meaning of the inscription on the mirror in the study: The Mirror Will Open Only for He Who Cannot See Himself.

Now it's been twelve years of adventures in a world where Jacob goes treasure hunting for things like gold, invisibility potions, or a strand of Rapunzel's hair, and along the way making friends with shape-shifters, doing business with Dwarfs, and fighting (with or against) powerful Fairies.  Jacob first was just curious about this new world, but soon he found escape from reality and began to crossover more and more until he was hardly ever "home."  One day, when he was in a rush to enter through the mirror, his younger brother Will slipped in after him.  Now Will has been hurt and is transforming slowly (but not slowly enough to save him) into a powerful, unfeeling Goyl -- a being built of stone and driven by violence and loyalty to the king.  What is worse is that it  becomes clear that Will is the legendary Jade Goyl, and is being hunted by the Dark Fairy.

Jacob has long detached himself emotionally, striving only to learn more about the man he lost to this world many years ago, but now he must fight and risk his life to save the only family he has left. This compelling story is recommended to readers of all ages with an interest in fantasy, adventures, fairy tales, or survival.  This is a planned series!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

23 December 2011

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Ivy has been raised by her single mother her whole life in a small, dark Pennsylvania village.  Ivy spent many of her childhood days playing in the basement of the town's pharmacy, owned and operated by twins Adolf and Abner Rumbaughs.  When she is seven, she finds a disturbing secret -- her introduction to the mother-love curse of the Rumbaughs.  A curse bound by blood and strong enough to last generations, separations, and death.

This book is chock-full of death, love, and taxidermy.  Though the setting is contemporary, the atmosphere is decidedly Victorian, and those with an interest in the Gothic and macabre, or with an altogether obsession with things dark and disturbing, will find a lot to revel in with this story.  Boys, you might just find this to be quite creepy.  The ew-factor is immense!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.  (I'm still getting shivers just thinking about it.)

20 December 2011

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Tod Munn is a bully.  And this time he got caught doing something really bad, landing him in after-school detention.  He's stuck with Mrs. Woodrow writing in a notebook every single day for a whole month.  His friends - Rob and Rex - are mad because they are outside the school picking up garbage every afternoon, while Tod gets to stay inside, writing stories.  

Through Tod's "stories," the reader (and Mrs. Woodrow, who reads his entries every day, sometimes making comments) gets to know the bully.  We learn more about his home life with his struggling seamstress mom and his angry stepfather.  We learn more about his life in school:  how the rich kids look down on him, how he uses his size and his power to beat up on smaller kids for their money, and how he manages to maintain Honor Roll every quarter.  We learn about his unsolicited involvement in the school play, and we get to be his eyes and ears when the world seems to turn against him.  There may not be a lot of sympathy for this story's bully-hero, but his story will elicit unquestionable empathy.

Recommended to middle school and high school readers.  One of the best ending "punch lines" I've ever seen in YA fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Sex : a book for teens : an uncensored guide to your body, sex, and safety by Nikol Hasler

Interested in sex?  (Yeah, you are.)  This book has pretty much everything you might have ever wanted to know, and a whole bunch of stuff you probably didn't want to know -- but probably need to know.

From the super-basic (and sometimes boring) information about the parts of the body and the reproductive system, through often uncomfortable topics of masturbation, sexual identification, birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections, and right into the nitty-gritty of dating and relationships, this book offers a non-intimidating look at all aspects of sex and sexuality.  Stressing the importance of protection and communication, the information provided is geared towards helping teens make educated decisions.  This is not a book that "encourages" teens to have sex, rather it points out that teens should feel strongly that they can make decisions based on what is truly comfortable and right for them -- and that what is comfortable and right could change depending on time, situation, or individual.  There is an important balance of humor and seriousness in the way this material is presented that makes it extraordinarily approachable to teens (and, in my humble opinion, it's great for adults, too).

Recommended to all teens thinking about sex (yes, all of you) -- those who are doing it, not doing it, comfortable talking to adults about it, making jokes with their friends about it, or have no idea what the heck sex really involves.  Obviously, this book is about sex, so the effectiveness of the material depends on maturity level and willingness to really learn about the topic.  Since the idea of sex -- what's acceptable, what's appropriate, and how it's thought about and talked about -- keeps changing with the times and new generations, this book is a great guide for parents, too, in talking to their teens.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

19 December 2011

Kirkus - Best Books for Teens 2011

I have a lot of reading to do!  Click here to see what the professional review journal, Kirkus, is claiming as the Best Teen Books of 2011.

16 December 2011

Foiled by Jane Yolen

Aliera Carstairs is not really all that cool, at least not according to her super-girly high school classmates.  But to her fencing opponents, Aliera is magic (though perhaps still not liked for it).  When a new boy at school, Avery Castle, seems to be paying attention to Aliera, she's flustered and confused, but since he's the nicest looking boy she's ever seen, she pushes aside his quirky weirdness and tries not to second-guess his intentions towards her.  She's thrilled -- and terrified! -- when he asks her out on a Saturday night.  Most of Aliera's Saturday nights consist of role-playing with her younger cousin Caroline AKA Queen Furby.  

Typically, Avery is late for their date and Aliera spends quite a while people-watching in Grand Central Station.  Here, she meets a beautiful winged woman.  And then a troll.  And something evil existing within a dark cloud.  And she discovers that she's supposed to be the Defender . . . of someone or something else's world.  

Aliera learns that not everything is as it appears, and that sometimes you can only see clearly with a focus, or a purpose.  She also discovers that the world often doesn't care whether or not you're ready to exert your power when it asks you to do so.  Aliera must always defend her heart, but be willing to talk risks to propel herself further along.  Recommended to all middle grade fantasy readers.  The illustrations in this graphic novel are wonderful!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

13 December 2011

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan

Samantha and her mom have just moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1962, when segregation is still firmly established in much of the south.  Sam's dad died a war hero, and they decided to move closer to her dad's hometown, where Sam's mom got a job as a professor at a local white college.  When her mom decided to give a series of lectures at Tougaloo, an all-black college in Jackson, the two slowly begins to turn against them, warning Sam and her mom that they don't like "outsiders."  In the meantime, her mom's friend, Perry Walker, teaches Sam how to look through a camera lens to not just take pictures, but to capture stories in the people, places, and things around her, even when those things are ugly or scary or dangerous.

This is a compelling account of American race relations that is recommended to middle grade readers; many will relate to the feeling of being an outsider or as the one who seems to see and look at things different than others, and girls will especially relate to Sam's relationship with Stone.  Another great historical fiction novel by Margaret McMullan is When I Crossed No-Bob.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.