May 14, 2012

Take Me There by Carolee Dean

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:47 am by suebe2

Take Me There
by Carolee Dean
Simon Pulse
AR 4.8

Just a few weeks short of his eighteenth birthday, Dylan already has a criminal past.  He knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that his life is heading no where good.  Even when he tries to go legit, trouble seeks him out.

This particular Trouble is named Eight Ball.  He’s the head of a gang, and not just any gang.  This gang runs the chop shop that stole a car involved in a homicide.  Dylan was working in the shop when the cops arrived.

But Dylan has good reason to go legit.  He’s met an amazing girl, Jess.  Jess has the voice of an angel and, unlike his teachers or his uncle, she can see the good in Dylan.  Like his reading tutor, she believes in him.

Not surprisingly, Dylan has a reading tutor because (drumroll) . . . he can’t read.  Sure, he can pick out words but by the time he finishes piecing together a passage, the meaning is lost.

He realizes that he’ll never get his GED without this skill but there’s more. Waves of words roll through Dylan’s soul.  In his heart, he’s a poet and he struggles to get his words down, especially when he’s inspired by Jess.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot of this book, because I don’t want to give anything away.  And there is so much to give away.

Dean has created a story that is wonderfully complicated (so many things feed into Dylan’s troubles) but also astonishingly simple.  At the heart of it all is his inability to read.  Without this skill, his options are limited to bad and awful.

Fittingly, this book has a low AR level, perfectly suited to potential teen readers who don’t read at grade level.  But the content is pure YA.  Dylan’s life has been difficult and it doesn’t get any easier in this course of this book.  There is alcohol, violence (not graphic but on camera) and sex (off camera).

This a story about hope, sacrifice and fighting for justice.

It is definitely a book that teens should read but it is also a book that those who work with teens, especially teen boys in trouble, should read.  Dean has a lot to say about the connections between illiteracy and prison.

That said, it was a hard book to read.  Normally, I can finish a book of this length in two or three days.  This one took me five.  I wanted a fairy tale ending and Dean doesn’t pull any punches.

Teens will love her for her honesty.  Adults?  Some will.  Others, not so much.

That in itself says worlds about this book.  YA all the way.



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.


March 19, 2010

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:38 pm by suebe2

The Demon’s Lexicon (AR 5 .9 )

by Sarah Rees Brennan

“The pipe under the sink was leaking again.  It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink.”

Author Sarah Rees Brennan loses no time in plunging readers into the world of Nick and his older brother, Alan.  From their rundown home to the demon attack while Alan is fixing dinner, it is “been there, done that” for the brothers who have been on the run from demons and the magicians who summon them since their father died.

Things go from bad to worse when two kids from school show up in the middle of the attack.  How do you explain a dead guy in the middle of the kitchen and a swirl of attacking ravens?  Not to mention Mum — black-haired, wild-eyed and terrified of her youngest son who has no clue why his mother hates him.

But clues start to come together as Nick finds a hidden photo and figures out that his brother is lying to him.  Before Nick can unravel the lie, he has to find a way to save his brother’s life after Alan is marked by a demon.

Tween boy readers will love Nick and his sword.  Slice first.  Think later.  And maybe work in a worry or two about why you aren’t as emotional as those around you.

Tween girls will love Nick and his sword — what’s not to love about a good-looking bad boy who, in spite of everything, fights to save Alan and, because they matter to him, the two kids from school.

Action abounds but there is plenty to think about too as readers question the age-old battle of good vs evil, what it is to be human, and just what it means to have a soul.

A well-written addition to the genres of fantasy and the paranormal.  This book  stands a good chance of holding even a reluctant reader from beginning to end.

This is the first in a trilogy and I am looking forward to book #2, The Demon’s Covenant.


March 10, 2010

Need by Carrie Jones

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:54 pm by suebe2

Need (AR 3 .3 )

by Carrie Jones

Zara, sent to live with her grandmother following her father’s death, feels betrayed.  How could he just die?  How could her mother just dump her?

Slowly, Zara realizes why her mother made this difficult choice and the teen starts to live again — actually paying attention to the world around her and noticing some disturbing things.  First of all, who is the shadowy man she keeps seeing?  Second, what has happened to the two boys who disappeared?

Zara quickly makes friends and one of them is as into helping people as she is. Nick is tall and handsome and Zara wants to get to know him better.

::spoiler alert::

Zara gets to know him when she pulls an arrow out of his shoulder although she doesn’t initially realize that the huge dog (she’s never seen a wolf) is actually Nick.  And the creature that shot him is a pixie — not a cute pixie but more like a killer faerie.

Reviewers have compared Need to Twilight.  To me, Zara seems much more capable than Bella.  Sure, Nick saves her a time or 20 but she saves him too. And the plan that rids them all of pixie problems is Zara’s.

Like Twilight, this is a paranormal romance although the paranormal/fantasy elements take off slowly enough that you might initially think you are reading a straight up contemporary novel albeit a dark one.

This would be an excellent choice for a teen or tween who is suffering from Bella and Edward withdrawal.   Although there is some violence, the romance is mostly of the yearning variety (no sex).

I will definitely be checking out the next book — Captivate.


February 16, 2010

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:27 pm by suebe2

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks (AR 3. 9)

by Lauren Myracle

Carly has never been like everyone else — in fact she prides herself on her off-beat nature, wearing peace signs, listening only to music from the 60s and not being as into girly things as the other girls she knows.  But things seem especially different when she gets home from a summer service project.

No matter what is going on, her sister Anna has always been there for her, backing her up and accompanying her on whatever adventures lie ahead. But over the summer, Anna has gotten hot, as in the kind of hot that boys notice, certain grown men have trouble making eye contact, and a lot of women expect the worse.  Why can’t they see beyond her bra size to the girl she really is?

Still, Carly tries to shrug the changes off.  After all, Anna is going to need her big sister’s help when she start high school and, sure enough, day #1 brings a misunderstanding that could easily lead to suspension.

Then a new boy shows up — Cole is amazing, unconventional and does things his own way.  He’s also into 60s music and seems to be everything Carly could possibly want.   While he and Carly become casual friends, the deeper connection she longs for is missing.

At least with Cole.  Carly still spends time with Roger, who adores her even if she doesn’t want to be more than friends.  After all, they like such different things.

Things build and Carly must  re-evaluate how she sees the world.  Does she really see beyond the surface to what is truly important or are her surface expectations just different from the norm.  New friends, new boys and Anna’s new bra sizes force Carly to re-examine herself and her world view.

This is definitely a girl book and in spite of the lower reading level is early teen in content.  There isn’t any sex but Carly does walk in on a serious grope session. Carly’s body issues as well as having to reconcile her expectations with the very real boys in her life could make for some really interesting discussions between Mom and a daughter who is just entering the dating scene.

As the mom of a soon to be teen (though a boy), I loved how Myracle played with our expectations of the various teens.  Those who seem different from each other actually have similar values and expectations.  The value of friendship vs pure physical attraction and how both apply in dating was also stressed.  As a parent, I also loved how her father, who initially came across as a self-centered dope, is shown to be a feeling, caring human being.

This book will leave girls in their early teens with plenty to think about once the last page is turned.


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