07 September 2013

The Program by Suzanne Young

Teenage suicide has become an international epidemic, ending in the death of one out of every three teens in the United States, and as a result a few larger cities have been trying out a new solution to end the killing. Even London is moving towards instating the Program.

The Program is a place that teens can go to be cured of all of the things that cause them to be upset, distraught, depressed, and desperate to end their lives. When teens go into the Program, they are in a very bad place, and when they come out they are calm and peaceful - and they remember almost nothing of their life "before." 

Sloane, her boyfriend, and their friends are terrified of the Program, knowing that it leaves the cured as blank versions of themselves. So they hide their grief (because all life is a natural balance of joys and pains) as best they can, but when the Program starts to come after those they love, they might not have the power to stop it. 

Sloane narrates this story, and being able to see all sides of the program is a special treat. Readers will root for the characters every step of the way, through their love, their hurt, and their love again. The worst thing about this story is that the sequel, The Treatment, isn't scheduled to be due out until 2014! :)

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

As a little girl, Anna loved her life with her mom. But as she started to grow up, the cycle of men in and out of their new home (after new home) was confusing and frustrating. Her mom spent less and less time with her, and more time away with her new husband when things were good and away at work when things weren't so good. When boys at school started to pay attention to Anna, she found ways to feel good about herself - and ways that she allowed them to make her feel good, too. It seems like overnight she grew a reputation, but she never quite seems to lose just who she is at heart.

She has one girlfriend in her life that she cares deeply about, but Toy is always off with a different man who is treating her to all of the wonderful things in life, and Anna can't understand why she isn't good enough. And then Sam changes everything. 

This book is recommended to high school girls, who will meet a seriously strong female character who might be a little lost but who is never untrue.

05 September 2013

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Rafe is a pretty average gay high school kid. He doesn't get bullied, he doesn't get beaten up, and his friends and family accept him just the way he is. The problem is that what he IS seems to equal the fact that he's GAY, and that's all anyone sees. He's Rafe, the gay kid. So he decides to go off to the faraway east coast to an all-boys prep school, un-gay. He's not straight all of a sudden, but he decides that he's not going to "be" gay either.

Unfortunately, Rafe falls in love with one of his new friends, a guy that quickly becomes one of the best friends he's ever had in his whole life. And when their relationship starts to get, um, intense, Rafe know he needs to come clean. But he also knows that telling the truth could cost him his happiness. Or is it the lies that have cost him everything?

Recommended to anyone - there is enough humor here to balance out the harshness of the situation, and everyone is forced to answer the question of self-acceptance. 

Period.8 by Chris Crutcher

Period .8 refers to Mr. Lodgson's class, where honesty is the best policy and everything is confidential, where you can talk about anything or nothing, and where you can skip without getting in trouble, but nobody ever does. Period .8 is the "safe place." Mr. Logs has respect for his students, and they have respect for each other. Everybody trusts that what they see is the truth.

Everything starts to go to hell when Paulie admits to his girlfriend Hannah that he cheated on her. He loves her and wants to explain himself, that it really isn't what she thinks, but she won't give him a chance at redemption. She's pissed, and he should definitely have known better. But as the story begins to unravel, more and more questions are raised without any clear answers. There's one guy, Arnie Stack, who seems to want to reassure everyone that everything is fine, and Paulie is convinced that Arnie knows more than he's letting on. And when Arnie sets his sights on the now single Hannah, Paulie sets out to prove it.

This is a mystery of a different sort, combining the traditional with the psychological, and mixing our emotions up all along the way. There's really intrigue here, and more than anyone's fair share of danger. It seems that nobody and nothing is off limits. 

Recommended to high school readers. There are lots more titles available from classic YA author Chris Crutcher.