Monday, May 17, 2010

Georgia Nicolson, for the last time

Are These My Basoomas I See before Me?: Final Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (NY: HarperTeen, 2009).

Hilarious final volume of this British series about a wacky, boy crazy teen girl with a knack for creative word play. Will she finally connect with Hornmeister Dave the Laugh? Or will the fabulously sexy Masimo from Pizza-a-gogo land capture her heart? Her troop of friends, the ace gang, helps her ponder the possibilities as she also deals with school (aka Stalag 14) and her perplexingly (middle-)aged parents, the ever-wild feline Angus, and insane little sister Libby who loves to her Georgia's rendering of Heidi in a Chinese accent. Can she figure out who she loves? And how will this school production of Romeo and Juliet work out?

Super fun read for grades 7 & up. Mild sexual content.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Waiting for You

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti (NY: Viking, 2009)

High school sophomore Marisa wants this school year to be different--and better--than last year, filled with boyfriends and social success. Last year, everyone just thought she was crazy. She and her best friend Sterling make plans, which of course get derailed immediately. Marisa is a brooder; last year she was diagnosed with an anxiety order and depression, and while it seems to be in control this year, the edges whip around her all the time, threatening to overtake the fragile seams of her tensile world. Like all teens, she feels the potential for the perfect relationship is "waiting" for her....and maybe she's found it in Derek, her crush-turned-first-boyfriend. But what about her neighbor Nash, who clearly likes her and with whom she reconnects over Chemistry labs and projects? And then there's the mysterious Dirty Dirk whose nightly webcasts seem to speak directly to her life and issues.

Poignant insights into the tumultuous inner life of a teen make this novel a great YA read. Excellent for grades 7 & up. Language, mild sexual situations.


Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Boston: Graphia, 2008).

Funny novel about a teenager, Kristi, who is convinced she can read minds. Maybe she can, but she sure misses a lot of information, which she eventually figures out. Like how didn't she know that this kid who hangs out with her all the time is gay? He's constantly thinking, she believes, about her "ginormous" chest, often in strikingly graphic circumstances, like decked with marzipan (yup). Kristi is certainly obsessed with her self-image and while claiming to want to be left alone, decks her self out in clothes she makes from recycled materials. Her mom and dad are separated, with her dad saving the world in Africa and her mom saving lives as a surgeon at the local hospital. Neither seems to care much about helping Kristi, or so she believes.

All teens believe they have special powers and insights, so this novel about a teen who believes she is telepathic should appeal to this age group. Yes, there is romance, too, so it's a fun read with lots of humorous potential while at the same time rife with the misunderstandings so common among angsty teens. Great for grades 8 & up. Language, sexual situations, body parts.

Magenta McPhee

Magenta McPhee by Catherine Bateson (NY: Holiday House, 2009).

I love the cover art for this book, which is set in Australia! It captures Magenta's innocent, 1950s-ish view of the world, particularly her girlish worrying about her dad. Dad has lost his IT job and for some reason has decided to simplify his life, particularly all the technology, which is weird for someone who works in technology, right? Plus he seems mopey and depressed and hangs out at the library all the time. Is it just because his ex-wife, Magenta's mom, is getting remarried soon? What can Magenta do? Ever intrepid, Magenta sets up an online dating service account for her dad and even finds him a potential girlfriend. Not that it works out, but it's funny. Magenta is also working on a three volume fantasy novel into which she weaves aspects of her life and concerns.

Altogether a fine novel for young tweens and teens, grades 5& up. No language or violence, just vague romantic fantasies.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cracked Up to Be

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Smith (NY: St. Martin's Griffin, 2009).

Haunting novel about a girl, Parker Hadley, who is contending with spiraling forces within and outside herself. Parker has prided herself on her control--an obsession with making perfect grades, leading an award-winning cheerleading squad, having the ideal boyfriend. Then there's a party and something happens that's slowly revealed through the course of the novel. Parker retreats, even attempts suicide, and continues to alienate her former friends. A new guy keeps scratching at her defenses, and Parker resists, but finds herself relenting as she slowly faces what she thinks she saw at the party, how she feels about it, and what she should have done--or even if she could have done anything.

Extremely realistic and well written novel that catches the confusion of adolescent angst, but treats it in a serious way. Grades 9&up. Intense & sexual situations, alcohol, language.

What They Always Tell Us

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson (NY: Delacorte, 2008).

The main character, Alex, is dealing with the aftermath of his attempted suicide. Told in alternating voices from Alex's perspective and that of his older brother James, the story delineates Alex's mental state and slowly reveals why he tried to kill himself (by drinking cleaning fluid at an end-of-summer party) and how he comes out of his funk. James's perspective as a senior who's bored and disillusioned with his usual friends and pastimes in their Alabama hometown complements Alex's side well. Alex's friendship with a neighbor boy and developing relationship with one of his brother's friends draw Alex out of himself in a way that helps him gain self understanding.

A finely told story with many touching moments. Highly recommended for boys, grades 7&up. Sexual situations, drugs, alcohol.

Birthday Ball

The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry. Illustrations by Jules Feiffer. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2010).

Princess Patricia Priscilla has a few days left before her sixteenth birthday, when she has to select a husband from three nasty suitors at her birthday ball. She needs some excitement, so she heads to the village school to mingle with the peasants.

I probably would've enjoyed this tale a bit more if I hadn't had such high expectations--it's Lois Lowry, right? Instead, I found this story somewhat predictable and even a little creepy. The suitors are really really nasty and it's horrifying to contemplate that the princess is supposed to choose one to marry. I mean, really--conjoined twin counts who fight constantly when they're not making bathroom jokes? A hideously ugly duke who is compared to a warthog? A hateful, narcissistic prince with greasy dyed-black hair who sheds dandruff like snow onto his black silk garments? Might not these characters, however humorously intended, give little girls nightmares? Yes, there's a "happy end," but the path to it shades a little too darkly for me.

Grades 3-5.

Gossipy Girls

Girls by Tucker Shaw (NY: Abrams, 2009).

Boarding schools and gossip just go together, don't they? Peggy is learning all about the incestuous world of Maroon Bells School for Girls in Aspen, Colorado, where everyone seems to be talking about everyone else. Unfortunately for Peggy, a lot of the talk seems to be focusing on her best friend Mary, her cheating boyfriend, and the skanky store clerk he's seeing. How does Peggy cope? Food dreams--elaborate menus and cooking schemes, some of them carried out at the restaurant where she works. Recipes included!

Great speed read for teen girls, grades 7&up. Sexual situations, language, alcohol, drugs.

Access Denied

Access Denied (and other eighth grade error messages) by Denise Vega (NY: Little Brown, 2009).

Quick read for middle school girls featuring Erin Swift, a computer whiz who is dealing with some typical middle school issues--boys, best friends, new friends, boys, parents.

Grades 6-8. Sexual situations, language, alcohol.

Serial Kisser

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

As soon as I started this one, I realized I'd already read it. But I didn't mind revisiting Evangeline Biana Logan's hilarious quest for the perfect kiss. It starts when she finds her mom's stash of cheesy romances (under the bed, of course) and begins yearning for a "crimson kiss," like the one described so passionately in one of the novels. Does it exist? The evidence begins mounting to the contrary almost immediately as Evangeline snatches lip locks left and right--at school, at Starbucks, wherever she happens upon a willing (or even unwilling!) male. This quest has unintended consequences for Evangeline, and Van Draanen once again captures the zany drama of teen life. More serious topics include Evangeline dealing with her mother's lifting depression, her parents' divorce and possible reconciliation, and fall out from her philandering mouth.

Great for readers in grades 6-9. Sexual sitations, language, alcohol, drugs.

The Unwritten Rule

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott (NY: Simon Pulse, 2010).

Sarah's crush on Ryan has never been a problem--until he starts dating her best friend. Then Sarah is breaking that rule about not liking your best friend's boyfriend. Even if it seems as though he might like you...huh?
Excellent teen angst, wonderfully portrayed by Elizabeth Scott. I also really liked her previous novel, Perfect You.

Perfect for teen girls, grades 7 & up. Language, sexual situations, alcohol.

For Middle School Girls....

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne (NY: Dial, 2010).

This novel is perfect for middle school girls as it captures the utter humiliation that families can inflict. What can be worse than having your genius 7-year-old sister attending classes with you in eighth grade? Maybe having wacky Shakespeare scholar parents who wear period costumes all the time...and Hamlet Kennedy has to bear both of these indignities, and so much more.

An excellent incisive read for girls in grades 5-8.

Think Twice

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline (NY: St. Martin's Press, 2010).

I always enjoy Scottoline's fast-paced crime stories, but I have to admit that I particularly enjoy the ones featuring Bennie Rosato, so I was pleased to start reading Think Twice. This one begins with a bang--Bennie goes to visit her estranged twin sister and ends up being buried alive!--and never lets up. An excellent adult read, this one is also impossible to put down!