Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: You

Charles Benoit
2010; HarperTeen; ISBN 978-0-06-194704-9

Summary:  Kyle Chase has made some bad choices, and now those choices have lead to disaster.  If he could go back, he wouldn't have blown off his smart friends, blown off his homework, blown off his parents.  But most of all, Kyle wouldn't have become friends with Zach.  Maybe if he hadn't, he would have gotten his act together.  He could have turned things around in school.  He might have even asked out Ashley, the girl of his dreams.  But none of that stuff happened, and now, it's too late for Kyle.

A common story is elevated by its style.  Charles Benoit, in his first YA novel, choose to use second person narration--a choice that breaks an unwritten rule of writing.  Yet this daring gives You its appeal.  It's like the reader is directing Kyle, but towards a conclusion that the reader doesn't suspect.  As a result, the reader is drawn even deeper into Kyle's story, into his feelings and thoughts.  An interesting look at a teen boy discovering his actions have consequences, You will be enjoyed by fans of Hate List.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us
Tanya Lee Stone
2010; Penguin; ISBN 978-0-670-01187-2 (hardcover)

Summary: She's been a heroine, a role model, and perennial career-hopper.  She's also been a villian, a target, and a symbol of all that's wrong with society's treatment of females.  Funny how a 11 3/4 inch tall doll can be all that.  Yet in the fifty years since the introduction of the Barbie doll, that's what this toy has been.  For decades, little girls have wanted to play with Barbie.  But is playing with Barbies harmful?  The history and impact of the Barbie doll is full of depth and contrary opinions.

Tanya Lee Stone, author of the YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist Almost Astronauts, looks at another extraordinary female in her latest book.  Whether you think Barbie is a harmless toy or a symbol of evil, Stone takes an even-handed approach to her subject.  She lays out the criticism against Barbie while also presenting the praise for this remarkable doll.  Considering such varied topics as the creation of Barbie, ethnic Barbies, and even why we're always taking her clothes off, this book is a loving yet just examination of the Barbie doll.  Bound to provoke nostalgia and discussion, The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie would be an excellent choice for mother-daughter book clubs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: The Tension of Opposites

The Tension of Opposites
Kristina McBride
2010; Egmont; ISBN 978-1-60684-085-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Ever since her best friend Noelle was kidnapped two years ago, Tessa hasn't really lived; she's been in limbo.  But when Noelle miraculously escapes her kidnapper, Tessa is so happy to have her friend back.  But the girl who returned isn't the same as Tessa's friend.  Calling herself Elle, she acts recklessly, her emotions extreme and quicksilver.  Tessa wants to help Elle, wants to protect her from being hurt.  But in protecting Elle, Tessa hurts herself: it interferes with Tessa's new relationship with Max, for one.  How can Tessa strike a balance between herself and Elle?

Part of a wave of kidnapping novels, The Tension of Opposites chooses to begin with Noelle returning home.  Thanks to this choice, readers experience the tangled aftermath along with both Noelle/Elle and Tessa.  On the one hand, Elle attempts to live life on her own terms, certain that she can never be hurt again like she was by her kidnapper.  Tessa, meanwhile, wants to protect Elle so that she won't be hurt.  This sets up an interesting dichotomy between the two girls, and adds a crackle of suspense to the novel.  Dark yet hopeful, The Tension of Opposites will appeal to readers who enjoyed page-turners like Bonechiller by Graham McNamee.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Emily Horner
2010; Penguin; ISBN 978-0-8037-3420-3 (hardcover)

Summary: The car accident that kills Julia has a huge impact on her best friend, Cass.  Losing Julia makes Cass take a look at her life, dealing with questions she's tried to avoid.  Is Cass a lesbian?  Did she love Julia?  Who is she now without her best friend?  Shifting back and forth between Now (the end of the summer and the beginning of school) and Then (the weeks immediately after Julia's death), Cass begins to find answers to those questions, thanks in part to the musical Julia wrote.  As Cass helps Julia's friends put on the show, she realizes that these are her friends, as well.  Who would think such self-discovery would come from a show called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad?

From debut author Emily Horner comes a moving story about loss and life.  Cass's journey, both internal and external, rings true to the teenage experience.  Just as boys pull the hair of the girls they like, the middle school tormentor becomes Cass's girlfriend: an interesting twist on relationship dynamics.  Full of well-drawn characters and juggling shifts in storyline, this novel offers an in-depth look at one girl's coming of age.  Pair this with My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger for two feel-good reads.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl
Siobhan Vivian
2010; PUSH (Scholastic); ISBN 978-0-545-16815-8 (hardcover)

Summary: Natalie is a smart, in-control girl.  She's in AP classes, the president of her school's student council, and full of plans for her future.  But in her senior year, Natalie finds herself confronting a lot of questions about what it means to be a girl.  Her best friend Autumn, the victim of a no-good boy three years earlier, seems to be making the same mistakes again.  Spencer, the freshman girl that Natalie is trying to mentor, doesn't want Natalie's advice on how to act around boys.  And then there's Connor, the football player that makes Natalie feel so many new emotions.  To figure otu what kind of girl she is, Natalie will end up asking herself one important question.

A moving look at self-discovery and female dynamics, Siobhan Vivian is establishing herself as the voice of teenage girls.  In the tightly-wound Natalie, readers can see the perils of staying closed off from experiences and people.  The relationships are spot-on, a real highlight of this very readable novel.  Pair Not That Kind of Girl with Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl for a one-two punch of female empowerment.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reminder: Call for Contributors

In November, librarian by day is full of historical fiction, and I need help!  Read this post for more info about how you can contribute to this blog.  Remember, you only have until Friday, September 17 to sign up.  Thanks!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: White Cat

The Curse Workers #1: White Cat
Holly Black
2010; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 978-1-4169-6396-7 (hardcover)

Summary: In Cassel's world, some people have the ability to make things go their way.  It might be working on a person's emotions, changing their memories, or inflicting physical harm--all of these can be achieved with a simple touch.  Cassel, though, isn't a worker.  But three years ago, he killed his best friend, Lila.  This action still haunts him, especially since he can't really remember killing her.  Being vulnerable like that makes Cassel, a talented con artist, feel very unsettled, and he's determined to con others before he gets conned again.  When he realizes his older brothers are keeping something from him-something that's tied in with curse-working, Lila's death, and more-Cassel sets out to find the truth.  But he'll discover that maybe the con is better than the truth.

Holly Black creates a compelling, layered world in her new urban fantasy series.  The first book, White Cat, gracefully builds the world and establishs its rules.  What's more, the story of Cassel untangling the mystery he's part of is an action-packed one, full of fistfights and subtle plots.  Through it all, Black's gift for language shines through.  White Cat will be enjoyed by readers of Sisters Red and Beautiful Darkness.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Review: Glimpse

Carol Lynch Williams
2010; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 978-1-4169-9730-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Lizzie has always looked after Hope, just like Hope has always looked out for Lizzie.  They're more than sisters: they're best friends.  So when Hope walks in on Lizzie holding a shotgun, Hope's confused.  Why would Lizzie want to kill herself?  Why would she want to break up their family, take away one of the Chapman Girls--Momma, Lizzie and Hope?  As Hope navigates her memories and reaches out to Lizzie, she sees glimpses of the secrets she never knew.  And when she realizes just what secrets there are between her mother and her sister, Hope will be forced to choose between them.

A heartbreaking novel in verse, Glimpse explores the destructive power of secrets.  Lizzie hides the truth from Hope, trying to protect her, but this sacrifice leaves Lizzie unable to help herself.   It's up to Hope to show Lizzie how to save herself.  Thus, this novel is also about the power of family and love.  Well-paced with moving characters, Glimpse has a tone similar to Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, but with a more hopeful ending.