June 15, 2011

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:51 pm by suebe2

The Secret Year
by Jennifer R. Hubbard
AR 4.3

When Colt and Julia get together, they don’t tell anyone.  She’s from the mountain (think the rich right side of the tracks) and he’s not.  Really not.  His yard is junk cars and a shooting range.  Besides she already has a shiny parent-approved, country club boy friend.

Colt and Julia’s relationship is on the sly, hot and heavy.  They talk, actually quite a bit, and Colt’s sense of humor is one of the things that Julia loves about him.  But Colt is going to need a lot more than a sense of humor to get by when Julia is killed in a car accident the night she promised to break up with said country-club stud.

Then Colt faces a new challenge.  How do you mourn someone that you weren’t technically dating?

Then Julia’s brother slips Colt a surprise — letters that Julia wrote to Colt, but never shared with him.  Doling them out a few at a time, Colt gets to see their relationship from Julia’s unguarded perspective.  He hopes to find the answers to why she refused to break up with her boyfriend and go public.  He longs to know that what they had was something more . . . but you can’t ask a notebook questions.  You can only get what it gives you.

A lot like people.

Then Julia’s brother let’s loose with another surprise.  He publishes one of this sister’s poems and now everyone knows about Julia and Colt. The reaction is immediate and it is strong.

To escape the turmoil for a few days, Colt visits his brother in college. While there, he finally tells someone his side of the story and gets some helpful advice from his brother, who knows first hand what the price is when you live life pretending one thing when what you feel is something very different.

Hubbard’s book is unique in many ways.  There are a lot of young adult books that deal with relationships from the female perspective.  This is one of the few that shows things from the boy’s point of view.

Don’t let the AR level fool you — this is not an elementary school story. Sexual situations occur off camera but the narrator is a teen age guy — references to same are there.  Face it, this is realistic fiction.

In spite of the male narrator, the book may still appeal more to female readers.  It is a very character centered story and while there is action it isn’t the focus of the book.

An excellent fast paced read.



June 6, 2011

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten by Audrey Vernick illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:28 pm by suebe2

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten
by Audrey Vernick
illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
AR 2.5

As you approach the first day of school, there is one very important question you should ask yourself — is your buffalo ready for kindergarten?  If he has his very own backpack,  the answer is YES!  But that’s important to know, because some people will tell you that a buffalo has no business in school.

Whether your child is the shy one who has troubles making friends or is a social butterfly, this fun book will make a good read as they get ready for that first day.  Vernick manages to work in a host of school issues from worrying about being different to having to learn the rules as well as how to disagree with others.

Because the child is preparing her buffalo for school, this puts the child reader a step back from the problem itself.  “This isn’t a child’s problem.  The buffalo is the one who doesn’t know what he can eat or when!”  Young readers will see their worries on the page but will have the distance needed to deal with them comfortably.

Jennewein’s illustrations add to the humor showing the buffalo’s exaggerated expressions within a diverse classroom of students.  Who knows — your child may be inspired to draw his very  own buffalo or bear or boar.

Whether your child is getting ready for the first day of school or the first day of camp, this book will give you a humorous way to discuss potential problems and how to deal with them.  An excellent choice for the new teacher in your life as well — reading this book in the classroom would be an excellent way to work in a discussion of classroom behavior and the various rules.


June 2, 2011

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:32 pm by suebe2

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Scholastic Press

Its a dark, dark sequin flecked day when a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island. Bound for an away shoot for the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, the survivors hope for a quick rescue, but what should they do while they wait?  Maintain their pageant skills?  Or work on a pesky little thing called survival?

The Corporation sponsors the pageant and, coincidentally enough, has also taken over said deserted island.  Previous inhabitants are gone to make room for experiments on the local wildlife — it is much, much easier to streamline the production of new beauty products without pesky government control.  But beauty queen survivors don’t fit into the Corporation’s plans.  The question is — do you let them expire due to their own stupidity (they are, after all, beauty queens), or do you help them on the way with a ship full of rock star pirates?

Fortunately, for the sake of an interesting story, these are not your typical beauty queens.  Ok, some of them are, but quite a few of the survivors are not.

Now, I can’t give a lot more detail without giving things away, things that you should find out as the story unfolds.  After all, a big part of the experience is finding out about these young ladies as they find out about each other and themselves.  And they find this journey of self discovery much easier when there are no adults around telling them how to act, think or speak.

Libba Bray has a wicked sense of humor and she uses it to full effect throughout this novel.  There were numerous parts I forced my husband to listen to and I even saw him paging through the book on his own.  My son also announced that he wanted to read it but at 12 there are certain things that should remain a mystery.  Translation:  I do not want to have to explain Petra or how you can mess around without “going all the way.”

Yes, this is YA.  There is sex.  But this is also a story about girls finding out who they are, who they really are, when no one is telling them what not to do.  And this isn’t gratuitous sex.  It always leads to some deeper revelation.   Sometimes these revelations aren’t 100% comfortable but that is the nature of self awareness so teens will appreciate the brutal honesty.

There’s a lot of sand and grit in the story but I wouldn’t call it a beach read.  If you want to read it on the beach, I won’t stop you.  But don’t expect it to be fluff.  This is a story to make you think even as you laugh and run off, book in hand, to find to someone to share it with.


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