Tuesday, February 23, 2010

House of Wacks

House of Wacks by Denise Gwen (Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2008).

Jordan Meadows has led a charmed life in her small Indiana town--she has fabulous friends, shops till she drops, splurges on spa treatments, and drives a brand new car. Then her dad sees her latest spa bill and lays down the law: Jordan has to spend the summer working instead of spending. To avoid flipping burgers, Jordan shows up at a cast and crew call for a horror film that's being filmed in and around Bloomington that summer. Who knew her experience with wax would come in so handy when she ends up helping do the make-up for House of Wax IX! The the world of work isn't all Jordan learns about that summer as she confronts the limitations of cliques and stereotypes. Fun read for grades 7 & up. Language, sexual situations, but nothing too extreme.

Everything You Want

Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup (Woodbury, MN: Flux, 2008).

This novel explores the classic fantasy: what would you do if you won the lottery? That's what happens to Emma Hammond's family, and Emma humorously relates the impact of money on her life. To start, she's a fairly insecure freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington, unsure of what she's really doing in school, unhappy with her appearance, and kind of lost in this new sea of people. (Shout out to Bloomington residents & IU alum--lots of town and campus scenery!) She quickly learns that money is not a panacea, but her journey is worth reading as she learns to deal confidently with the relationships in her life.


sistrsic92 (Meg) by Cheryl Dellasega. Illustrated by Tyler Beauford (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2009).

This is the 2nd book in the Bloggrls series that features girls (obviously) using popular abbreviated texting language to chronicle their angst in a weblog to a few select VBFs (very best friends).

Meg is a classic younger sister who feels dwarfed by her older sister Cara's beauty, intelligence, and popularity. With great humor, she contrasts herself to T2P2 (The Totally Perfect Person)--including a side-by-side features list. Yes, Cara seems to have it all, and Meg (also known as Eggy to her family and friends) is struggling with everything--friends, appearance, school. Meg is a good artist, though, and "her" drawings complement the story nicely.

The story takes a serious turn when Cara develops an eating disorder that destabilizes Meg's family and her prior assumptions about her sister's perfection.

Enjoyable teen read with excellent information about eating disorders. Sexual content. Grades 7 & up.

Teen Sexuality

Giving up the V by Serena Robar (NY: Simon Pulse, 2009).

Spencer Davis's sixteenth birthday means a mom-sponsored trip to the GYNE to get birth control pills. Yikes! Sure, Spencer is interested in sex, but not until she meets the right guy, and that seems unlikely to happen. She's happy with her group of friends and her virgin status. Then a new boy moves into town, and Spencer is tempted. Read what happens in this funny page-turner that taps into teen concerns.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs (NY: Speak, 2008).

Comparisons to the Percy Jackson series are inevitable, but this novel is just frothy fun with none of the apocalyptic potential that propels Riordan's series. Instead, we meet 16-year-old runner Phoebe Castro. When her widowed mom marries the headmaster of an exclusive Greek academy, Phoebe is forced to move to a remote Greek island. She hopes it will only be for nine months--long enough to graduate and get back to USC for her track scholarship. Surely she can maintain a B average and keep up her running times. Then she finds out why the academy is so exclusive--the students are nearly all descendants of Greek gods!

Fun read for grades 7 & up. Sexual situations.


Sprout by Dale Peck (NY: Bloomsbury, 2009).

Transplanted from Long Island to middle-of-nowhere Kansas, Daniel Bradford has plenty of issues to deal with--his dad's alcoholism, his mom's recent death from cancer, his new kid status, and his own eccentricities--like constant reading of the dictionary. So dyeing his hair green isn't a huge deal, nor gaining the attendant nickname of "Sprout." Really, he doesn't mind it. Some things are a bigger deal though--like being gay, but not out, in a small town high school. And then finding, and losing, love. Sprout relies on his trenchant humor and fondness for word play and writing to cope and leaves a steadfast record in the process.

This is an excellent read for high school and up. Language and sexual situations.

Claim to Fame

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Lindsay Scott was a TV star at age 11, but then something happened. She started being able to hear everything that people were saying about her everywhere. Tormented, she and her father flee to a small town, where Lindsay has lived peacefully in a house that somehow protects her from hearing those voices. But she can't leave the house.

When her father suddenly dies, Lindsay has to come to terms with her situation and learn how to live with it. A wacky kidnapping attempt is the first step in that direction, which leads to a series of revelations that help Lindsay see the value of family and connections.

Quality read for grades 5 & up.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Fade by Lisa McMann (NY: Simon Pulse, 2009).

This is a quick, enjoyable read about an 18-year-old girl who uses her recently discovered abilities to enter people's dreams to help the police investigate a possible sexual abuse case at her high school. Fade is the sequel to Wake (which I have not read), but readers will have no problem entering the world of this novel. McMann vividly evokes the confusion and fear of the unknown that Janie feels as she learns how to use her dream catching powers. From her dream mentor, a recently deceased elderly woman who was also a dream catcher, Janie learns that her gift will take a serious physical toll on her, plus she's dealing with a new love relationship with a boy who has his own issues.

Highly recommended for teens (high school & up) who like paranormal fiction. Sexual situations, including rape; language.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Very LeFreak

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).

Very (short for Veronica) functions at two speeds--fast and faster--and her life revolves around her online connections, which often seem more vital to her than the people in her real life at Columbia University, where she's freshman teetering on the brink of expulsion. Pretty much everything about Very's life is extreme and extremely out of control. She needs a pause, and she gets one when her people stage an intervention, strip her of her electronics, and force her to face her demons. But even that's not enough, and Very eventually ends up at a Vermont rehab center called ESCAPE--Emergency Services for Computer-Addicted Persons Everywhere. Can she reform, or will she revert to her old ways given the opportunity provided by an online love connection who shows up at ESCAPE?

Excellent read for high school & up. Sexual situations, language.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Newbery Winner

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (NY: Wendy Lamb, 2009).

Sometimes I don't like the Newbery winners at all--like Criss Cross a couple of years ago. I like this one, When You Reach Me, but I wonder if it will just be another one of those books used to torture kids during the unit on "award winning books."

This novel has all the elements you would expect in an award winner--literary aspirations, deeper meaning, symbolism, good plotting, believable characters--but no action and nothing gross, so limited kid appeal. I would probably not recommend it to an energetic 3rd or 4th grader, but it will appeal to all the frequent visitors--male and female-- to the school or public library who read everything and enjoy science fiction or fantasy. I particularly like the allusions to Madeleine L'Engle's classic Wrinkle in Time, which happens to be the favorite book of this novel's main character, twelve-year-old Miranda. And it's a good thing since she'll use her in-depth knowledge of the book to digest the odd events that she narrates here.

This one is fine for 3rd grade & up, though younger readers may not understand some of the time travel discussion.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fat Cat

Fat Cat by Robin Brande (NY: Knopf, 2009).

Cat Locke is fat and knows it, but she has a lot of other concerns heading into the school year, chief among them her science research class, where she's determined to have the best project and beat all competition, including her former best friend and now enemy, Matthew McKinney. She's still mad at him for being a sore loser when she won a science fair four years before....

Then her science project turns into a personal improvement project, focusing on the benefits of a prehistoric diet regime and foregoing modern amenities, such as television, cell phones, makeup, and cars. The science project evolves in other ways, too, and Cat learns a lot about herself and others in the process.

Grades 7&up. Sexual situations, language.


This Book Isn't Fat, It's Fabulous by Nina Beck (NY: Point, 2008).

You'd think a novel about a girl whose dad sends her to fat camp for spring break would dwell more on diet and exercise, but that's what makes this story so interesting! Riley doesn't much care if she's fat because she knows she's more than the digits on her scale--she is fabulously funny, high spirited, and spunky.

Grades 7&up. Sexual situations, language.


Madapple by Christina Meldrum (NY: Knopf, 2008).

This highly fascinating and unusual novel alternates between two perspectives: that of the court room trial of 16-year-old Aslaug and Aslaug's biographical narrative. Meldrum skillfully weaves an illusive tale of intrigue and family drama. While the trial shows some of the "facts" behind the trial, Aslaug's narrative muddies the waters, showing how "facts" conceal underlying truths, or even dispel the possibility of any truth. Aslaug's mother Maren kept Aslaug isolated for years, telling her she was the product of a virgin birth. Aslaug grows up in a world of nature and science, learning much about plants and mythology. The eponymous madapple, or jimson weed, casts a mysterious veil over the plot as well, its hallucinogenic and toxic properties muddling the truth. After her mother dies, Aslaug finds and then lives with her aunt and two cousins. In the end, Aslaug is accused of murdering her aunt and one of her cousins with the circumstances slowly revealed in both the court transcript and the narrative.

Grades 7&up. Sexual situations, drugs, teen pregnancy.