Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita
Dakota Lane
2008; Atheneum (Simon & Schuster); 978-1-4169-1396-2 (hardcover)

Summary: Chelsea and Miya have so much in common, in spite of being separated by thousands of miles. They're both half-Japanese with a little brother. They're both fans of the Gothic Lolita look, combining ruffles and parasols with black and boots. And they're each utterly devoted to the manga Shonen Rainbow Warrior. They found each other through their blogs, and spent years following each other's lives. But then, one day, Chelsea stopped posting. Why did she stop? Why does Miya keep checking Chelsea's blog? Will they ever reconnect?

In a dreamy book, interspersed with photographs and subtitled "A Mystical Thriller," Dakota Lane explores how the Internet can create connections between people with similar interests. Originally drawn together by their interest in a style, Chelsea and Miya slowly reveal some of their secrets--but not the ones that show how truly linked they are. As the two separate plotlines come together, the magic of their shared story becomes clear to the reader. Fans of Francesca Lia Block will definitely snap up this slim book, as well as those teens who are intrigued by all things Japanese.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: The Carbon Diaries 2015

The Carbon Diaries 2015
Saci Lloyd
2008; Holiday House; 978-0-8234-2190-9 (hardcover)

Summary: Environmentally speaking, everyone's up the creek. After a Great Storm hits London, the desire to reduce greenhouse gases and stop climate change becomes a necessity. So Great Britain agreed to institute carbon rationing. Every citizen is issued carbon points. Go over your monthly points, and you have to pay fines, get reeducation counseling--even have your power shut off. In her diary, Laura writes about how climate change has also changed her life: family, friends, school, her band. Will things be better by the end of the year?

Three Things to Know About The Carbon Diaries 2015

#1: After disaster comes change.

The Great Storm-alluded to but never fully described-apparently lit a fire under people to prevent further similar tragedies. Instead of gradually phasing in emissions restrictions by 2030, as originally planned, Great Britain decides to institute restrictions right away. Over the course of the year that Laura keeps her diary, emissions levels do fall. Yet there's still disasters and tragedies. A massive super-hurricane devastates the American East Coast, blizzards and wildfires wrack Europe, and England itself has a prolonged drought followed by unprecedented flooding. Sadly, it took over a hundred years to radically alter Earth's climate; one year won't make that much of a difference. But it's the first year of change.

#2: Within a family, you see the worst.

It's tough times for Laura's family. Her older sister Kim planned to spend her gap year in the United States, working in a clothing store and having fun. But with carbon rationing, her plans are canceled and she rebels against the new carbon rationing. She flies to Spain, keeps her TV running 24/7--and thus drains her carbon points and wracks up such a big fine, she has to go to Carbon Offenders counseling. Laura's parents aren't much better. Her father loses his job as a travel and tourism instructor at the local college, thanks to the new carbon rules. With travel now an extreme luxury, students just aren't interested in travel and tourism anymore. Meanwhile, her mother is forced to give up her beloved car, and keeps getting lost on buses. And when one family member goes over their points, everyone is affected, like when the power is shut off in the middle of cooking dinner. For the first half of the year, Laura keeps seeing the worst in her family, how none of them seem able to deal with these changes. Slowly, though, everyone adjusts and carbon rationing isn't that big of a deal anymore--not with the problems that Great Britain faces.

#3: You still have to live even as the world is falling apart.

In spite of all these negatives, Laura tries to focus on the good things in her life. Her friends, her crush on the boy next door, her band the dirty angels: that's what matters to Laura. Not everything is good, of course. One of her friends has become environmentally liberal, encouraging destruction of inefficient gas cars and other such acts. Laura manages to get her crush to notice her, but once he does, he can't seem to commit to a real relationship. Her band goes from the highs of playing gigs to falling apart due to infighting. But through it all, Laura doesn't give up on her friends or her band. Even as there's so many hardships to face, by maintaining the things she enjoys Laura weathers the storms of 2015.

An intriguing look at how climate change for the better could be started, this novel is bound to provoke discussion in the same way as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Although both books work better as consciousness raisers than as literature, The Carbon Diaries 2015 will appeal to many teens with its relatable protagonist and quick-paced storyline.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Revamping a Teen Area

This is part of the Teen Zone at my library. Over the last few days, I've been working to revamp this area. I've done it for almost nothing, using resources that were already available to me. Thanks to buy-in from the different departments within my library, and working with my supervisor and the branch administrator, I was able to succeed (so far) in the revamp. Basically, I shifted various parts of the collection to different shelves, and as the biggest change, rearranged the YA fiction so that it would flow continuously, instead of being broken into two sections. You can see more pictures of the transformation here.

And now that the books in the Teen Zone are arranged better, here's hoping circulation goes up and the teens who visit, as well as me, will discover some great new books!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Just One Wish

Just One Wish
Janette Rallison
2009; Putnam; 978-0-399-24618-0 (hardcover)

Summary: Annika's little brother, Jeremy, has cancer. Soon, he'll be going in for surgery to see if the tumor can be removed from his brain. Annika decides to focus on the positive and tells Jeremy she has a genie--a genie who can grant him two wishes. She expects him to wish for a Teen Robin Hood action figure and for a successful outcome to his surgery. Instead, Jeremy wishes for the real Teen Robin Hood. So now, it's up to Annika to get the actor who plays Robin to visit her brother, all within four days.

What appears to be a fun, fluffy book has surprising depth. With a lot of pluck and determination, Annika manages to pull off the near-impossible: bringing Steve Raleigh, aka Teen Robin Hood, to her brother. She has a gift for reading people, being able to find a way to make them help her, and she uses it fully during this adventure. The trip from LA to her home in Henderson, Nevada is full of roadblocks like paparazzi, a broken-down car, and family tension, but Annika won't give up. Annika can't help hoping that because of this, her brother will be fine--that his surgery will be a success. She tries to outrun her fears, but it's only at the end of the novel that she has to finally face them. Then Annika finds out what the true power of hope and wishes is.

This novel is more serious than some of Rallison's other works, but bound to be a crowd-pleaser. With a great family story intertwined with a fun romance, it has appeal for those teens who like Lurlene McDaniel but don't want something that angst-filled.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crosspost: New to Me: Johnny Tremain

At the YALSA blog, the latest post in my "New to Me" series is up. In this review, I talk about that historical fiction classic Johnny Tremain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Congrats to the winners of the four copies of Far from You: Hannah, Terri, Sherry, and Kathy. Your books will be sent out this week.

For everyone else--thanks for participating! I hope to have more of these contests in the future. Now, back to reviews!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reminder: Win a Book

Entries for the contest to win a copy of Far from You will close on Monday morning at 9AM EST. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Review: Far From You

Far From You
Lisa Schroeder
Simon Pulse; 2008; 978-1-4169-7506-9 (hardcover)

Summary: Ever since the death of her mother, Alice has been trying to cope with the loss. But music and friends and a boyfriend haven't been enough. Add in her stepmother and the brand-new half-sister and Alice wonders if anyone would notice if she vanished into wonderland. Then, Alice is stranded with her stepmother and half-sister in the midst of a snowstorm. How will they escape? Perhaps Alice hasn't been as alone as she thought . . .

In spare, wintry verse, Lisa Schroeder captures the individuality of the grieving process. Even though people tell Alice that she needs to move on, Alice knows it's not time yet. She still has songs to write about her loss, memories of her mother to hold close. It takes the moments of honesty with her stepmother and the responsibility for her half-sister to show Alice the way. And once she's found it, she's able to climb out of the rabbit hole. Fans of Margo Rabb's Cures for Heartbreak will embrace this novel-in-verse.

If this sounds like a book you'd like to read, why not enter the contest to win a copy?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Photo Story Booktalk: Because I Am Furniture

I just finished taking an online class called The Tech-Savvy Booktalker, instructed by Nancy Keane herself. It was a great class--I highly recommend picking up Nancy's book of the same title to find out more about using technology to create booktalks.

As part of my final project, I made a booktalk using Photo Story 3 for the book Because I Am Furniture. I hope you enjoy it--and I'm hoping to do more of these in the future!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Review: Because I Am Furniture

Because I Am Furniture
Thalia Chaltas
Viking; April 2009; 978-0-670-06298-0 (hardcover)

Summary: Anke is invisible to her father--she's nothing more than a piece of furniture. So while her brother and sister are abused by his words and his hands, Anke tries to deal with her conflicted feelings. Does her father love her at all? Why does everyone in her family let this happen? How can Anke carve out a life for herself amidst the tension?

In riveting, well-crafted verse, Thalia Chaltas explores the way a family is destroyed by abuse, yet how a girl can grow strong in such an environment. Anke has not had beauty and kindness and courage beaten out of her by her father's neglect; she is still a teenager, occasionally insensitive and melodramatic, but she is also brave and determined. When Anke stands up to her father, ending the abuse that is now spreading to outside their family, it's another step in the growth we've seen from the first page of this book. Fans of Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins will want to check out this novel-in-verse.