A book is like a baby. . .it doesn't matter how ugly it is,
the mom/writer is still going to love it.

You won't find snarky reviews here.

What you'll find in this blog are books that teens
who hate reading are reading. . .and liking.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me by Kerry Cohen Hoffman


Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan

Blake is a regular fifteen/sixteen year old guy going to school in Portland, Oregon.  He is going out with the lovely and talented Shannon, but still can't believe he could be that lucky.  His world changes when he takes a picture of a woman who has passed out on the street in Old Town.  Who would have guessed that the strung out woman would be the mother of a friend of his in his Photo class?

Now Blake is sucked into the world of Marissa.  Marissa is living with her grandma because of her mom's meth habit.  When she sees Blake's picture, she begs him to help her find her mother.

So what happens when a guy starts hanging out with a "girl" friend?  Especialy when he already has a girlfriend?  The rumor mill starts grinding away, creating drama where there shouldn't be any drama.  What will happen if he messes up?  How long can Shannon believe there's nothing going on between Blake and Marissa?  What will she do when she sees the pictures?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In the future a war is fought in the United States over one issue--abortion.  To end the fight, the two warring groups come to an agreement: parents can no longer abort their children, BUT they can, for whatever reason, choose to have their son or daughter unwound while that child is between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.  Unwinding is the term used to describe the process of taking the different body parts and giving them as an organ donation to other people, so technically, the teen isn't dead, he/she is alive in hundreds of other people. 

Connor gets into too many fights.  His parents are planning a vacation to the Bahamas while he is getting unwound.  Risa isn't good enough.  She lives in a State Home.  New babies are coming in, and if you aren't good enough, you get unwound.  Lev is a tithe.  In his religion, God is given ten percent of all a person possesses.  Lev is the tenth child, he is going to be unwound as a way of giving back to God. Being a "tithe" is a great honor, and Lev is proud of his status.  That changes when a crazy guy grabs him and takes him on a wild trip.
With short chapters and lots of suspense, this is a book you won't want to put down.

AWARDS: Evergreen Young Adult Book Award Winner - 2010, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers - 2008

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Why would beautiful Hannah Baker kill herself? And why has Clay Jensen gotten a package of cassette tapes addressed to the people who had a part in Hannah's life and death?  When Clay gets the "package" he is warned to listen to the tapes and follow the map that explains why Hannah Baker decided that life wasn't worth living or risk having his part in her death exposed to everyone in their small town.  The story told in her own words make him both thoughtful and sand.  Could he have changed her mind?
AWARDS: ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers - 2008, VOYA - 2008

How to Take the Ex out of Ex-boyfriend by Janette Rallison


The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau


Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez


Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

Simon Glass is the butt of everyone's jokes.  But what if he could actually become the most popular guy in school? Rob Haynes has the plan to take Simon from geekdom to hottie, but everyone in his clique has to follow Rob's rules--especially Simon.  What if Simon doesn't want all that popularity?  This showdown is going to end with someone dying and someone taking the fall.
AWARDS: ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (2003), Evergreen YA Nominee

Kendra by Coe Booth


Snitch by Allison van Diepen

Julia has managed to stay out of the gangs who run her school.  She hangs out with Black Chuck, a Crip, and Marie, a Blood, and no one has any problems with it.  Until Eric.  How far would you go to protect the person you love?  When Eric gets jumped into the Crips, Julia breaks up with him.  That doesn't mean she has managed to forget him.  When she finds out from Marie that Eric is going to get jumped, Julia snitches.  It saves his life. . .this time.  It almost costs her hers.  How loyal will her friends be?  How loyal will her homies stay if she snitches again?

This book has short chapters.  If rough language and violence bother you, this isn't the book for you.  Still, in spite of the subject matter, the author manages to tell a real story without using a lot of profanity.

AWARDS: Evergreen YA Book Award Nominee - 2010, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers - 2008

Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson

When the planes flew into Twin Towers many Americans were sporting bumper stickers that said "These colors don't run." When it all came down, Ryan Smithson enlisted.  From Basic Training to the war zone, he talks openly about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the war in Iraq.  He doesn't debate the politics and he doesn't feed the stereotypes. Instead he talks about the good that the US military is doing--the good that few people hear because it just isn't as exciting as the car bombs. In a story as gritty as the sand that surrounded him, he talks about what it was like to weld thin Haji armor onto the convoy vehicles, sweep for  mines the fast way rather than the right way, and to clean the human remains out of a Humvee that was attacked by terrorists.  These anecdotes (stories) are told side by side with other stories of protecting a village from terrorist kidnappings and what it is like to see a child get tears in his eyes because he is given a clean drink of water. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Quaking by Kathryn Erskine

DO NOT call her Mattilda.  Her name is Matt, and she has had a hard enough life already.  She does not need the kind of attention that a name like Mattilda will give her--especially from Richard, better known to Matt as the Rat.  She also does not need the kind of attention that she gets from living with a couple of Quakers in a town that is very pro-war.

As the response to those holding the local peace vigil begins to grow violent, Matt is forced into looking at what true strength of character can accomplish.

This can be a tough book to read because of Matt's somewhat quirky sense of humor and her sometimes scattered thoughts.  It's worth hanging with the story, though, as Matt's tough exterior is explained in a series of flashbacks that show how tough domestic violence survivors can truly be.

AWARDS: VOYA - 2007, ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers - 2008

Response by Paul Volponi

Would you deserve to get your had bashed in with a baseball bat?  How about if you were boosting a Lexus? 

Noah Jackson is a super senior with a baby mama to support.  He knows he doesn't want to marry DeShawna, but he also knows he loves his baby girl, and he's doing his best to make sure he gives DeShawna some money every month.  But the Mickey D's paycheck isn't getting it done.  When one of his buddies suggests his connection with a chop shop will net Noah some serious cash, stealing a Lexus sounds like a good idea.  Unfortunately, the theft is going to happen in the white part of town.  A glitch in the plan means Noah and his two friends decide to put a hold on the heist, and a trip to a pizza parlor with a badly timed gesture leaves Noah with a baseball bat upside the head and his diamond stud and tennis shoes jacked. 

The attack of a young black man by three Italian students lands those three young men in prison with a charge that gets a whole lot uglier when the charge of "hate crime" is the tune the prosecuting attorney is playing.  And that is the charge that tears the town and Noah's school apart. 

This is one of Volponi's BEST books.  As usual Volponi uses the language of the street to discuss the sticky issues of racism and forgiveness.  This book has some amazing characters who dispense a great deal of wisdom.

Awards: ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers - 2010, VOYA Award - 2009

Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz

Life isn't easy when you are one of eighteen kids.  It isn't easy when your father is a voodoo spiritualist and your parents make a living with magic and casting out demons.  It is especially not easy when your mother says that you are the Son of Satan. . .not her son. 

Nicky Cruz had lots of reasons to be filled with anger and hatred.  He brought that anger to New York where he quickly became the leader of a gang so bloodthirsty that even the New York Police were afraid of them.  Finally, Nicky was brought before a judge who told him that he was either going to have to change his life or he would be in prison or dead. 

Gang warfare isn't new.  The Bloods and Crips weren't the first.  This book tells how David Wilkerson, the one courageous man who chose to share God's love with Nicky even going to Nicky's turf to do it, introduced Nicky Cruz to a radical life change. 


Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (Edited by Beatrice Sparks)

Too fat.  Life going sideways.  Forced to move.  No friends.  This young woman hates her life until she discovers how a high can knock the sharp edges off of all her problems.  This series of fictional diary entries have caused quite a stir ever since the book was published.  As late as 2003, Go Ask Alice was still #6 in the ALA'stop ten challenged books in the country for its profanity, discussions about sex, and drug use.  And it's still a favorite of teens who can relate to the issues "Alice" faces both in her addiction and her attempt to master that addiction.
AWARDS: ALA Notable/Best Books

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Have you ever felt like you hated your mother?  Madeline can sure understand.  It's 1977 and her mother is an alcoholic blowing their welfare money on beer and cigarettes.  While her mother drowns her sorrow in beer, "Fatty Maddy" drowns her own sorrows in food.  That is, until she meets Tad, who is better than food.  As Madeline sheds the pounds she discovers that she has become a brand new beautiful girl who has just been asked to share the head cheerleader's dirty little secret. 

Madeline is connected to Desiree.  It's 1993. Desiree is cute and thin and loves to dress in a way that shows off her figure.  Too bad she showed too much of her figure to Larry, her mom's new boyfriend.  He has decided that's all the come-on he needs.  Larry makes her feel dirty and ruined.  Jeremy, her boyfriend, is the guy who can take her away from all that.  She takes her unborn baby with her.

It's 2009.  Ariel isn't named for the Disney mermaid.  She's named for the book, Ariel, by Sylvia Plath.  She doesn't know her dad.  He's in prison for murder. What she does know is that her mom, Desiree, loves her.  She thinks Shane loves her.  But now he's given her a cell phone, with a GPS tracking device, and if she doesn't answer it the minute he calls, he wants to know why. 

These three women are tied together in a story that is one of the better ones I've read dealing with teen sexuality and pregnancy.  It's not too graphic, so if you're looking for descriptive naughtiness, you won't find it here.  What you will find will be a story that feels genuine that looks unflinchingly at the good and bad of being a mother and a daughter.

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

This is not a story you read before you turn out the lights to go to sleep. It’s not because the story is scary. This book is an adrenaline rush that I devoured in two days (when I should have been getting my beauty sleep).

Alex Sawyer, fourteen-year-old petty criminal in the UK has been framed for murdering his best friend—another petty criminal. For this crime, he is sent to Furnace, the new penitentiary that has been created for the most hardened juvenile delinquents. In fact, as the gang violence became more bloody, the prison became more populated. Now, however, teens are being framed by odd men in black suits with silver eyes and are being sent to Furnace in an alarming number. Unfortunately, if a person is sent to Furnace, it’s for life, so if a person dies in the first couple of days, it’s just not that big a deal. The rules are carefully policed by inhuman jailers, and there is some speculation that the warden is Satan. It’s a survival of the fittest mentality, and into this, Alex is dumped. The vestiges of Alex’s humanity, however, cause him no small amount of attention and potential grief. The book is gory, violent, and action packed. There is little profanity. It just isn’t necessary. Readers become so quickly engaged that the story relentlessly propels them along, and ends abruptly. But wait. . .there’s a sequel that is already being advertised.

NOTE: This book has been nominated as a 2010 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers--is anyone surprised?