Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

Levithan, D. (2004). The realm of possibility. New York: Knopf.
ISBN-10 0375836578
ISBN-13 978-0375836572
210 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
The Realm of Possibility contains romantic, heartfelt poems told from many different teenage voices. The realm of possibility is free from discrimination, and is creative and inspiring.

Summary
David Levithan gives readers a great gift by creating a realm of possibility in his works of fiction, a realm that is free of discrimination and filled with characters seeking meaningful relationships and an authentic life experience. The author doesn’t believe in limitations, but believes we can, and do, achieve the impossible every day. This work of poetry is no different. It is poetry in its truest sense, as it includes deep emotions and observations of ordinary events in life, like simply sharing a cigarette with a boyfriend, that can be quite profound. The poems in this book are written from the perspective of different people in a group of high school friends. Some of the personalities are a gay couple in love and a girl struggling to ask for help with an eating disorder. It inspires the reader to create his or her own realm of possibility.

Notes
The characters in this book contain a range of diversity in race, sexual orientation and economic class. The poems are written in different voices, some which ring more true than others.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Marchetta, M. (2008). Jellicoe road. New York, NY: HarperTeen.
ISBN-10 0061431834
ISBN-13 978-0061431838
419 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Picturesque Jellicoe Road is at the crossroads of several mysteries centered around a boarding school in a remote part of Australia.

Summary
At boarding school in remote Australia, seventeen-year-old Taylor Markham is selected to lead her schools six dorms in the annual competition between Jellicoe students, Townies, Cadet’s. Taylor struggles with her role as leader, and her relationship to Cadet leader Jonah Griggs, who she met years before when she ran away to try to find the mother that abandoned her on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven. Taylor’s history is a complicated one, and as the story moves along the interconnectedness of characters is revealed which moves the story forward quickly as each revelation brings new questions. Taylor searches for answers to the questions in her past, why her mother abandoned her, and why her close adult friend Hannah disappeared. Hannah left behind a manuscript she wrote about an accident that occurred on Jellicoe Road that was the catalyst to lifelong friendships between three children. All mysteries seem to lead back to Jellicoe Road in this suspenseful, moving story.

Notes
This story is tinged with an appealing blend of romance, grief, and also independence from, and longing for, parental figures, which will appeal to many teen readers. The voice of Taylor, the narrator is very smart and sincere while the writing is clever and engaging.

Awards and honors
Michael Printz Award, 2009

Other titles by this author
Saving Francesca

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman

Freedman, R. (2006). Freedom walkers: the story of the Montgomery bus boycott. New York: Holiday House.
ISBN-10 0823421953
ISBN-13 978-0823421954
114 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Historical
Classification: Nonfiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
In 1955, African Americans riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama were forced to sit at the back of the bus and leave the first ten rows available for white passengers. Many blacks used the bus to commute to work but during the Montgomery Bus Boycott they walked to work instead and launched a series of peaceful protests that were met with violent opposition from segregationists until their goal of integrated buses was achieved.

Summary
This book gives a riveting account of the key events of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, the most famous one being on December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to moved to the back of a public bus, as was the rule for African American passengers. The bus boycott carried on for over a year and eventually ended segregation on buses. The story is more complex than a few key personalities and events, however, and the author weaves a skillful narrative accompanied by archival photographs. Lawyers, politicians, community organizers and teenagers also played important roles. Also, many of the boycotters were black cooks, students, laborers, teachers, housekeepers, and nurses who walked to work instead of riding the bus. Any protestors were arrested and risked threats to their lives by police and racist segregationists. The peaceful protests continued against formidable odds and by the end of 1956 the Montgomery buses were integrated.

Notes
This inspiring work of non-fiction is a complement to biographies as it digs deeper past Rose Parks famous act and details the acts average citizens who helped ensure the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and launch the Civil Rights Movement.

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke

Heifer, A. (2006). Malcolm X: a graphic biography. New York: Hill and Wang.
ISBN-13 978-0-8090-9504-9
ISBN-10 0-8090-9504-1
102 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Biography
Classification: Non-fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
Malcolm X was only thirty-nine when he was assassinated while giving a speech at a ballroom in Harlem. During his life he overcame a troubled childhood, criminal past and a prison term to emerge as a leader in the Nation of Islam and a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His dramatic story is told in this fascinating graphic novel.

Summary
The story of the rise to prominence and assassination of Malcolm X is told from the beginning in this graphic novel that brings insight to the African American experience. And the beginning is the history of African Americans in the United States, first as slaves, and then through years of servitude and Jim Crow laws, which influences the politics of Macolm X, the controversial Nation of Islam leader. After a difficult childhood in a series of foster homes, Malcolm Little became involved in a life of crime and served time in prison. While in prison he became a member of the Nation of Islam and after his release he became a minister, leader and public face of the organization until leaving in 1964. He was assassinated less than a year later; the motive is unknown. Malcolm X used his fame to work for causes of African American equality. This graphic novel also includes archival photographs that help to provide context to this fascinating and accessible biography.

Notes
This engaging graphic novel will appeal to teen readers because of its dramatic story and serves as a compliment to coursework on American history and the Civil Rights Movement.

E.E. Cummings: A Poet’s Life by Catherine Reef

Reef, C. (2006). E.E. Cummings. New York: Clarion Books.
ISBN-10 0618568492
ISBN-13 978-0618568499
149 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Biography
Classification: Non-fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
E.E. Cummings is famous for his inventive and personal poems that strike a cord with many young adult readers. His tumultuous life story adds a fascinating dimension to his art.

Summary
This biography of the poet E. E. Cummings, known for his inventive style of writing marked by his of use of spacing, lower case letters and punctuation, charts his important life experiences and includes many photographs as well as copies of his manuscripts and paintings. Teen readers will likely be familiar with Cummings poems through class work or personal reading. Cummings states that he didn’t decide to be a poet, he simply was one. His work is known for being personal, honest and emotional. The story of his life is as compelling as his writing. He grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attended college at Harvard University and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English. He lost his father to a car accident at a young age, served in World War I, spent time in a military prison, and later lived in Paris and Greenwich Village, and was married three times. All the while he kept writing, speaking to the reader directly about the secrets of living.

Notes
The book is really a straightforward biography and doesn’t contain many of Cummings’ poems. It’s meant as a supplement to books of his poetry. It’s inspiring and fascinating to see how Cummings made a life out of his art during unstable times and some rocky relationships.

Quinceanera

Quinceanera, (2005). Sony Pictures.
ASIN B000K2Q7CI
91 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Rated R

Reader's annotation
Fourteen-year-old Magdalena is shocked to discover that she is pregnant as the date of her Quinceanera celebration nears. Cast out of her home in shame, she moves in with some black sheep relatives. Meanwhile, more change takes place as gentrification threatens the balance of their close-knit Hispanic community in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Summary
Set in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Echo Park, Los Angeles, Quinceanera stars Emily Rios as Magdalena, a girl who discovers she is pregnant as she nears the date of her 15th birthday. Magdalena celebrates her Quiceanera at a big family party in a beautiful dress, but her future holds a harsher reality. Her pregnancy brings shame upon her family and her parents are furious, though she insists she has never been with a man. She leaves home to live with her great-granduncle and a gay cousin while her boyfriend struggles with the temptations of crime and gangs on the street. Meanwhile, the Hispanic community struggles as the neighborhood tips toward gentrification. The film has the authentic feel of a documentary as dialog slips easily between English and Spanish and much of it was filmed on location. Jesse Garcia, Jesus Castanos and Araceli Guzman-Rico co-star. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.

Notes
Quinceanera is a moving and insightful film about a Hispanic girl’s coming-of-age amid the harsh realities of urban life.

Awards and honors
Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize: Drama, 2006
Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award: Drama, 2006

Persepolis


Persepolis. (2007). Sony Pictures.
ASIN: B000YAA68W
96 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Autobiography
Classification: Drama
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
Persepolis is an animated film based on the graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi about her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and her adolescence spent away from her family attending school in Paris. The dramatic changes that they witness in their culture takes a difficult toll on the family, even as they support each other and try to move forward with life.

Summary
This black and white animated film is based on the graphic novels by Iranian author Marjane Satrapi entitled Persepolis and Persepolis II. The work is based on her childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution in the 1970’s. The story is filled with drama and suspense and Marjane and her family endure seeing changes in the country they love as it becomes more and more repressive. A favorite uncle is executed, and the government places strict restrictions on their dress and activitites. Marjane, as voiced by Chiara Mastroianni, is spirited, smart and rebellious, lending the story much humanity and even some comic relief. Eventually, Marjane’s family decides it would be safer for her to continue her studies in Paris away from the family, launching her into a period of dislocation and depression. She later returns to her to Tehran as an adult, but much changed. In the tradition of Maus, these engaging black and white drawings make the impossible bearable enough to tell us a fascinating story of hardship and endurance. The film includes the voices of actors Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands, Danielle Darrieux, and Simon Abkarian. It was directed and written by Marjane Satrapi, and Vincent Paronnaud. The film is in French.

Notes
Persepolis is a tense film about revolution, conflict and exile that also contains some light moments of humanity, hope and comic relief.

Awards and honors
Independent Spirit Awards: Best Foreign Film nominee, 2008
BAFTA: Best Foreign Language Film nominee, 2009
Golden Globe Awards: Best Foreign Language Film nominee, 2008
Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, 2008

Persepolis Graphic Novel Series
Persepolis (2003)
Persepolis 2 (2004)

Real Women Have Curves


Real Women Have Curves. (2002). HBO Films.
ASIN B00005JLXZ
90 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Coming-of-age
Classification: Drama
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
Real Women Have Curves is a funny, inspiring story of a Hispanic young woman coming-of-age in Los Angeles. Ana faces up against her mother’s pressures to lose weight and go to work in the family’s clothing factory as she contemplates her options and ambitions for her future.

Summary
Eighteen-year-old Ana weighs the choices that will effect her future, including college, working in the family clothing factory, falling in love, in the summer after her high school graduation. Set in East Los Angeles, the movie casts a fresh, feminist, funny take on the familiar coming-of-age theme. Ana’s acceptance of herself and her physical appearance is her rebellion as she defies her mother’s criticisms and eats the flan, and moves forward with her life. Adapted from a play by Josefina Lopez, the film stars America Ferrera. It was directed by Patricia Cardoso and written by George LsVoo and Josefina Lopez.

Awards and honors
Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award: Drama, 2002
Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize: Drama nominee, 2002

Bend It Like Beckham

Bend It Like Beckham. (2002). 20th Century Fox.
ASIN B0000AL9ZM
112 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Coming-of-age
Classification: Romantic comedy
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
High school student Jess is determined to follow her dream to play soccer and finds inspiration in watching David Beckham play, but her traditional Indian family just doesn’t understand her passion. However, she finds an understanding community and great deal of success when she starts playing soccer in a girl’s league.


Summary
Jess, played by Parminder K. Nagra, doesn’t fit in with the women in her traditional Indian community who love feminie clothes, cooking and aspire to be married. Jess is a huge fan of David Beckham and wants to play soccer herself. She secretly joins a girl’s team coached by an encouraging young man, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and befriends teammate Juliet, played by Keira Knightly, who has similar conflicts with her mother over her interest in sports. Soon the team is on a winning streak and Jess’s secret is out in a big way. Bend It Like Beckham is an inspiring, fun movie about following your dreams.

Notes
Though it seems the days of discrimination against girls playing sports is long gone, that isn’t always the case. Bend It Like Beckham shows how stereotypes against girls who play sports still exists, in a humorous, light-hearted way that still rings true.

Awards and honors
BAFTA: Best British Film nominee, 2003
Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) nominee, 2004

Juno

Juno. (2007). 20th Century Fox.
ASIN B000YABYLA
96 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Drama
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
High school student Juno is alarmed to learn she is pregnant after initiating a one-time encounter with Paulie, a sweet boy who is her best friend, but not a boyfriend. Juno sets about finding the ideal couple to adopt her unborn child.

Summary
Actors Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, and Jennifer Garner star in the award-winning film Juno, which was directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. When Juno becomes pregnant after a one-time sexual encounter with her friend, Paulie, she decides to carry the baby to term but realizes she doesn’t have the resources to raise the child. While the folks at home would rather she was into drugs or a life of crime rather than a pregnant teen, she sets about finding the ideal parents by looking at advertisements in the Pennysaver and settles on a well-off thirtysomething white couple that have some issues of their own to work out. Juno often comes across as the most mature character in the film, as even the grown-ups have a good bit of growing up to do. The movie is distinctive for its heartfelt, witty, dialog and quirky soundtrack.

Notes
The film Juno is about an unplanned teenage pregnancy and contains one sexual situation. Juno is an admirable character as she faces up to her problems and looks for solutions and displays a good deal of maturity and a sense of responsibility.

Awards and honors
2008 Academy Award: Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody
2008 Academy Award: Best Director nominee: Jason Reitman
2008 Academy Award: Best Actress nominee: Ellen Page
2008 Academy Award: Best Picture nominee
2008 Independent Spirit Award: Best Female Lead: Ellen Page
2008 Independent Spirit Award: Best Feature
2008 Independent Spirit Award: Best Director nominee: Jason Reitman
2008 BAFTA: Best Actress nominee: Ellen Page

Towelhead

Towelhead. (2007). Warner Home Video.
ASIN B001KQS3WU
116 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Issues
Classification: Drama
Age level: Rated R

Reader's annotation
A thirteen-year-old Arab-American girl named Jasira encounters her first romantic relationship, racism, and a predatory middle-aged neighbor in the Texas suburbs in the early 1990s.

Summary
The film Towelhead is set in the early 1990s in a Texas suburb. Thirteen-year-old Jasira is a beautiful girl of half Iranian descent who moves from her white mother’s home to be with her father, a scientist with an abrasive personality who has no idea how to live with a teenage girl. Jasira finds herself dealing with some serious situations on her own including a flirtatious middle aged neighbor, and changes in her own body. She finds friendship and support in a young couple living a few doors down and they are willing to help her navigate her perilous relationship with her father. Things come to a head when Jasira begins dating an African American boy against the wishes of her father.

Notes
Depite Jasira’s age, Towelhead is more appropriate viewing for older teens due to scenes of sexual encounters and abuse. Overall the tone of the movie is positive as Jasira is very self-possessed and intelligent and has a good support system in her friends. Based on Alicia Erian's novel.

Awards and honors
2009 Independent Spirit Awards: Best Female Lead nominee: Summer Bishil

The Wackness

The Wackness. (2008). Sony Picture.
ASIN B001J9KJ48
99 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Coming of age
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 17 and up

Reader's annotation
During the summer after graduation, Luke forms a close friendship with Dr. Squires, a psychiatrist he pays with bags of weed. Luke falls for Dr. Squires’s stepdaughter Stephanie against a backdrop of New York City in the early 1990s.

Summary
Luke has just graduated from high school and spends his time wandering around New York City in the summer of 1994 listening to hip-hop mixed tapes on his Walkman, and dealing a little pot out of an ice cream cart. One of his best customers is Dr. Squires, a psychiatrist who exchanges therapy sessions with Luke for a little dope. Luke falls in love with Dr. Squires’ stepdaughter, Stephanie, who is a pretty girl killing some time while her boyfriend is away for the summer. Stephanie and Luke spend a romantic weekend at her family beach house in Fire Island and she encourages him to change his view of life and see the dopeness, not the wackness. Dr. Squires and Luke form a close friendship, and each has a lot of growing up to do as their personal relationships change and they struggle to understand those closest to them. Luke’s father has some financial trouble and the family faces a move to New Jersey, and Luke starts to think about leaving for college. Meanwhile, Dr. Squires starts to make some plans for his own future.

Notes
The Wackness stars Josh Peck and Ben Kingsley. Josh Peck does a wonderful job portraying Luke. This character seems so true to life; he’s sensitive without being idealized which makes him very easy to empathize with and relate to. Rated R for drug use and sexual scenes

Awards and honors
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award: Drama, 2008

Also recommended
The Darjeeling Limited, Superbad, Son of Rambow, Mister Foe, Igby Goes Down

Twilight

Twilight. (2009). Summit.
ASIN B001P5HRMI
122 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Drama
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
Twilight the movie offers audiences an enticing mix of innocence and danger as Bella falls in love with the conflicted, gorgeous vampire Edward Cullen.

Summary
The film Twilight is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Stephenie Meyer that tells the first chapter in the love story between Bella, an ordinary high school student, and Edward, a handsome 108-year-old vampire who is immortal and forever seventeen. Initially Edward pushes Bella away in an effort to protect her, even as he is helplessly attracted to her. Slowly, Bella uncovers his secret and is adamant about being with him and his family, a group of ethical ‘vegetarian’ vampires who eat only animals, even as the exposure to other, less ethical vampires, puts her and her family in mortal danger.

Notes
While the movie abbreviates some key scenes from the novel, it picks up the rather slow pace of the book. The story is enhanced by the visuals of the film and the setting. We don’t hear Bella’s constant internal dialog as we do in the book, her stream of insecurities and fawning over Edward’s good looks wears thin after a few hundred pages. Instead we see her awkwardness, and also her appealing sense of innocence, trust and personal conviction in her love, which is her greatest strength. At the same time, the viewer can enjoy Edward’s beauty and see his conflict, as he wants to love Bella and also protect her from himself and his family. The beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest is a character in itself, and compliments the tone of the film. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are perfectly cast, as are the member of the supporting cast. Some of the special effects lend it a B-movie campiness that only seems to add to the fun, adventure and romance of the story.

Film series titles
Twilight (2008)
New Moon (2009)
Eclipse (2010)

Other titles by Stephenie Meyer:
Twilight Saga Series
Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Breaking Dawn (2008)

Author Information
www.stepheniemeyer.com

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees. (2009). 20th Century Fox.
ASIN B001NLJ3NU
110 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Historical fiction
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
Lily runs away from her abusive father and searches for clues about her mother, who she accidently shot to death when she was four years old. Set against the backdrop of the South in the 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees is a film about mothering and the support of strong female friendships.

Summary
Fourteen-year-old Lily is haunted by her mother’s death and is weary of living with her abusive, moody father. When her caregiver, Rosaleen, is injured in a racist attack they decide to run away together. Lily finds direction for their travel through one of the few objects she has left that belonged to her mother, a small painting of a Black Madonna. The painting has its creation location printed on the back, a small town in South Carolina. Lily sets off for clues to her mothers past and is lead to a family of African American sisters who are cultured, independent and live on a thriving beekeeping farm. Lily works for her board, falls in love, experiences more incidents of racism, and learns a thing or two about mothering. When her father tracks her down, can Lily find the courage to stand up for her new life?

Notes
Based on the book of the same title by Sue Monk Kidd, the movie features Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo.

Penelope

Penelope. (2006). Summit Entertainment.
ASIN B0011N1WE8
89 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Rated PG

Reader's annotation
Penelope has spent her whole life trying to outwit a family curse that caused her to be born with the nose of a pig. Her family tries to keep her existence a secret, but when her photo is secretly taken and published, her identity is revealed and her whole life is blown wide open as she goes out into the world to make a life for herself.

Summary
Penelope is a fun movie for all ages but may be most appropriate for teens, with its theme of self-acceptance. Twenty-five-year-old Penelope was born to a wealthy family with a curse on the next daughter to be born. The curse leaves her a perfectly lovely girl, with the nose of a pig. Her parents fake her death and try to keep her existence a secret until a cure can be found. Surgery is out as a major artery runs through this nose. Penelope’s loving but neurotic mother thinks the cure can be found by getting Penelope married off to a young man from a good family. Prospects line up to meet the girl through a one-way glass but even the most serious contenders run off in horror when they meet Penelope face-to-face. Penelope develops real feelings for a sincere loser played by James McAvoy, who may have a secret agenda. Along the way, Penelope’s existence become public, she turns into a famous tabloid star and begins to live on her own, out in the world and discovers the cure for the curse may be within her own mind. The movie has gorgeous art direction; the sets, clothing and scenery create a beautiful, stylized fairy-tale world for this engaging fable with a good message.

Notes
Penolope is a film with a great message about self-acceptance that is put forth in an entertaining way. It will have special resonance with teenage girls.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist


Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. (2008). Sony Pictures.
ASIN B001MM3AZM
90 min
Format: DVD
Genre: Contemporary life
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Rated PG-13

Reader's annotation
Set in the space of one day at school and an evening in New York City, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist follows a group of sophisticated high school seniors as they look for love and great music and contemplate their future after high school graduation.

Summary
Nick, a high school senior in suburban New Jersey, is still getting over his break-up with Tris, a perky student at an all-girls private school who broke his heart. Norah is Tris’s classmate and darkly beautiful nemisis, and she secretly listens to the mixed CD’s that Nick keeps sending to Tris, and which she routinely tosses in the school trash bin. Unexpectedly, the three crosses paths in New York City when going to see a rare concert by a favorite band, Where’s Fluffy. Fans have to follow clues to find the secret location. The evening begins with Nick’s band playing in a club. Norah notices him on stage, and after the performance she grabs him and kisses him after Tris teases her for showing up without a date. Norah sparks Nick’s interest, and Tris’s jealousy. The supporting characters include Norah’s drunk best friend and Nick’s two best friends and bandmates, a gay couple. The story plays out through car and van rides around the city, visits to more clubs and a recording studio, as the characters work out their feelings toward each other and their plans for the future as the end of high school rapidly approaches. The scenes of exploring New York nightlife, traveling around the city, searching out the next great performance, while never quite getting lost, serves as a great metaphor for the journey to adulthood. The movie has a great soundtrack. Based on the novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

Notes
It’s really refreshing to see smart, articulate, sophisticated and creative teens on screen. The film stars Michael Cera, Alexis Dziena, and Kat Dennings.

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman, A. (1973). Maus I: a survivor’s tale. New York: Random House.
ISBN 0-394-74723-2
159 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Biography
Classification: Non-fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Maus tells the true story of the experiences of a family of wealthy Jews in Poland during World War II. Presented in the form of a graphic novel, Jews are depicted as mice and they are slowly cornered and hunted by Germans soldiers, who are drawn as cats.

Summary
The author, Art Spiegelman, takes inspiration from his father’s personal history to craft an extremely moving graphic novel about his family’s experiences as Jews living in Poland during World War II and their subsequent emigration to Rego Park, Queens, in New York City. In the story, Jews are depicted as mice and Nazi soldiers are drawn as cats. Art Spiegelman’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, recounts his youth through a series of interviews and we see him as a handsome bachelor, courting his wife Anja, his service in the army, and his time served in a POW camp. The depersonalized appearance of the characters makes it possible to tell this very personal and heartbreaking story in an objective manner. It’s a story of unbearable loss and also one of survival that combines elements of adventure, suspense and history.

Notes
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale is an emotionally heavy story made bearable by it’s clever and skillful presentation as a graphic novel. It would appeal to teen readers and provides interesting personal insight into European history.

Awards and honors
Pulitzer Prize, 1992

Series title:
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale (1973)
Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began

One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

Barry, L. (2002). One hundred demons. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.
ISBN 1-57061-337-0
216 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
The teen years are filled with demons and Lynda Barry covers quite a few of them in her beautifully rendered graphic novel, One Hundred Demons.

Summary
In Lynda Barry’s autobiographically inspired graphic novel, One Hundred Demons, she takes a cue from an exercise of the same name that she saw reproduced from a 16th century hand-scroll painted by a Japanese monk. Some of the work is collage; most is painted on yellow legal paper. Some demons are head lice, my worst boyfriend, dancing and hate. The demons become to springboard to talk about what is really important, like losing the childhood ability to dance wildly to the self-consciousness of adolescence, and losing a close friend to suicide. She weaves in stories about her family, growing up and going to school in the 1960s. The style is laid out so that each page features two frames and half of each frame is text, a combination of hand drawn capital letters and cursive writing. At the end, the author invites the reader to paint some of their own demons adding that for her, it was an important experience.

Notes
This graphic novel is beautiful to look at while being funny, insightful and heartbreaking in turn. Lynda Barry just captures the equal parts dread and exhilaration of being a teenager. She isn’t afraid to get personal, not in an exhibitionist sense but in service of being real and truthful.

Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher

Crutcher, C. (1989). Chinese handcuffs. New York: Greenwillow Books.
ISBN-10 0060598395
ISBN-13 978-0060598396
202 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Issues
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Sixteen-year-old Dillion finds a sense of control and fearlessness in participating in triathlons that helps him find his way after his older brother commits suicide. He needs all the inner strength he can get to help him be a friend to his brother’s pregnant girlfriend and be a friend to a girl at school who is facing serious problems of her own.

Summary
Dillion Hemingway, a sixteen-year-old athlete, is crushed when his older brother Preston commits suicide in front of him with a single gunshot. Preston was severely disabled in a motorcycle accident and had turned to drugs. He also left behind a pregnant girlfriend, Stacy. Dillon wrestles with his love for Stacy, and another girl, a star basketball player named Jen who just wants to be friends. Dillon learns than Jen is harboring some dark secrets that are eating away at her. By helping Jen and Stacy, Dillon finds a way to move forward in life. The story is told as a series of letters from Dillon to Preston. The letters are intimate, brave and heartbreaking. Even after his violent death, Preston is a source of strength and comfort to his brother.

Notes
Though Chinese Handcuffs was written in the 1980s it feels contemporary because it doesn’t contain a lot of cultural references. It’s a very dark story that covers a lot of issues, but the reader never doubts Dillon’s inner strength and ability to confront problems and find hope in the future.

Also by Chris Crutcher
Ironman
Whale Talk
Deadline
The Crazy Horse Electric Game
Stotan!
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Myers, W. (1988). Fallen angels. New York: Scholastic.
ISBN-10 0590409433
ISBN-13 978-0590409438
309 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: War/Conflict
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Set during the Vietnam War, recent high school graduate Richie Perry enlists in the army and is soon fighting combat missions with his trusted platoon. Issues of racism and the meaning of the war soon come to a head.

Summary
When his dream of attending college doesn’t come to fruition, Harlem resident Richie Perry enlists in the Army during the Vietnam War. Soon serving on the front lines, Richie forms close friendships within his platoon and experiences fighting with the Viet Cong. Richie is exposed to racism in the military when African American troops get assigned the most dangerous missions, and soon his experiences have him questioning the validity of the war and the goals it is trying to accomplish. Themes of the novel include racism, death, and individual responsibility.

Notes
Novels about war are some of the most compelling because events truly have life or death consequences. This story is detailed and rings true, and in this spirit contains a good amount of graphic language.

Awards and honors
Coretta Scott King Award, 1989

Also by Walter Dean Myers
Monster
Dope Sick
Sunrise Over Fallujah

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Benioff, D. (2008). City of thieves. New York: Viking.
ISBN-10 0452295297
ISBN-13 978-0452295292
258 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: War/Conflict
Classification: Fition
Age level: Adult

Reader's annotation
This moving story of an unlikely friendship between two teenage boys is set during the siege of St. Petersburg during World War II.

Summary
This is a story of two very different young men set on a impossible task in war torn Soviet Leningrad during World War II; they have a week to deliver a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of the daughter of an Army officer in a much depleted city. Lev is small, Jewish and inexperienced, while the soldier Koyla is handsome and cocky, and their shared experiences bind a strong bond between them. The story is fast-paced and filled with treacherous adventures as time ticks away. This is humorous and moving story of male friendship set amongst the horror of war.

Notes
City of Thieves is classified as an adult novel but has strong young adult crossover appeal due to the age of Lev and Koyla. It’s easy to read and the story moves along quickly as the reader becomes invested in the lives of the appealing main characters. The author is a screenwriter as well as a novelist and the book reads like a movie.

Awards and honors
Alex Award, 2009

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Zusak, M. (2005). I am the messenger. New York: Knopf.
ISBN-10 0375836675
ISBN-13 978-0375836671
357 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Mystery
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Ed Kennedy’s life is going nowhere in particular; he’s a nineteen-year-old cab driver who hangs out with a coffee-drinking dog and a group of card-playing friends. All that changes when he becomes a famous hero after he stops a bank robbery. Soon he is receiving mysterious messages written on playing cards with clues he must decipher in order to help people in trouble, and perhaps along the way, himself.

Summary
Ed Kennedy is a nineteen-year-old cab driver in New Zealand, and his life feels as aimless and his drives around the city. He lives in a small cabin with his coffee drinking dog, named The Doorman, and spends his time playing cards with a close-knit group of friends. He is still haunted by the recent death of his father from alcoholism. As the story begins, he inadvertently interrupts a frightening bank robbery and becomes a hero. After achieving a bit of fame in the media, he begins receiving playing cards with mysterious messages, sometimes an address or names of people he’s never met. Following the clues, he is led into the troubled lives of others and must decide whether and how to intervene to help them. The clues lead to more personal subjects, his mother and close friends. Through the cards, Ed gains more of a sense of himself and a purpose in life as he realizes he has influence for the better on other people’s lives. Still, he is left to wonder, who is sending the cards, and why?

Notes
This is a fun read with great characters and an engaging mystery about a time in life that can feel uncertain, with a sympathetic male character in Ed, and written by a very gifted author. Be aware that it contains some explicit violence and sexual scenes.

Awards and honors
Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2006
Winner of the 2003 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia

Also by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief

Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

Draper, S. (2006). Copper Sun. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
ISBN-10 1416953485
ISBN-13 978-1416953487
302 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Historical fiction
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Beautiful sixteen-year-old Amari’s life is forever changed when slavers attack her African village in 1738. While most everyone she knows is murdered, she is shipped off to the Carolina’s to be sold at a slave auction. While her new life is unbearably brutal, she takes strength in the pride and dignity of her culture and when opportunity strikes, she makes a plan to find freedom.

Summary
Fifteen-year-old Amari has a happy place within the culture of her Ashanti village in Africa, and is soon to be engaged to a handsome young man she loves named Besa. It is 1738 and all that changes when her village is destroyed by white slavers and she sees her family and most of her neighbors murdered, while she herself is kidnapped and forced on a ship headed across the ocean to the Carolinas. The conditions are deplorable. While she is saved from being raped on the ship by a caring man who teaches her a little English, her life takes a miserable turn for the worse when she is sold to a plantation owner as a gift for his sixteen-year-old son, Clay. Soon she is pregnant and on the run with a condescending, white indentured servant girl named Polly, and the young son of a slave. They are determined to try to trump the odds and make it to freedom, despite no resources and hostile surroundings.

Notes
Copper Sun is a brutal novel, made all the more difficult by how realistically the characters are portrayed. Their thoughts and actions ring true and bring the reader deep into history in a personal way that adds much to factual knowledge of slavery in the United States. There are many graphic descriptions of violence and sexual abuse.

Awards and honors
Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2007

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Johnson, M. (2005).13 little blue envelopes. New York: HarperCollins.
ISBN-10 0060541431
ISBN-13 978-0060541439
317 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Contemporary life
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
Seventeen-year-old Ginny is missing her Aunt Peg and is left wondering why she moved away without a word and chose to hide a serious illness from her family. After Aunt Peg’s death, Ginny receives a package of letters from her with instructions to travel to Europe for the summer. Ginny must decide if this is just another of Aunt Peg’s crazy ideas, but in the end she can’t resist the mystery of the thirteen little blue envelopes.

Summary
Ginny is seventeen and living a sheltered life in a New Jersey suburb when she receives a letter from her Aunt Peg, who recently died in Europe. Before she passed away from cancer, Aunt Peg designed a treasure hunt of sorts for Ginny. She is to travel to Europe on her own during her summer vacation and follow a guide left in a set of thirteen envelopes. The envelopes carry instructions for each subsequent adventure. Ginny journeys all across Europe, from London to Amsterdam to Greece, and learns to rely on herself and to reach out in friendship when she needs to. She also learns a lot about her aunt, and what is meant for her to be an artist, and an independent single woman.

Notes
This novel is an appealing adventure for a teenage girl named Ginny to travel across Europe by herself for the summer, but it is also a time for her to connect to and grieve for her aunt, and to learn more about the person her aunt was. The theme is the conflict between the creative life of a struggling artist and more traditional roles for women.

Other titles by Maureen Johnson
Girl at Sea

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Downham, J. (2007). Before I die. New York: David Fickling Books.
ISBN-10 0385751834
ISBN-13 978-0385751834
326 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
As teenager Tessa nears the end of her life after a battle with cancer, she decides to compose a list of things to do before she dies. With the assistance of her best friend and without the constraints of thinking about the future, Tessa tries to fit a lifetime into a few short weeks.

Summary
Tessa is at the end of her fight against cancer, and now that treatment has stopped she has a lot of time on her hands. She no longer attends high school, as she doesn’t see the point, and her mind rests on creating a list of things to do before she dies. Much of the list involves the help of her best friend. Tessa also begins a tentative friendship with her neighbor, Adam, but he isn’t sure he wants to get involved with a girl who may not be around, not while he is helping his depressed mother get over the death of his father. Being free from the constraints of thinking about the future doesn’t make any of life’s big experiences any easier for Tessa but she plunges ahead into sex, drugs, petty theft and her first road trip with bravery and determination to experience her life while she has it.

Evaluation
This novel is quite morbid, and a lot of times it simply doesn’t ring true because Tessa doesn’t appear to have any symptoms related to someone in the end stage of cancer. Also, Tessa is in a unfortunate situation not only in that she is dying but because her best friend and her father seem to be in denial about her health and don’t offer her a great deal of support. Perhaps the message of the book is that while we may die alone, we should do the things we really to do while alive.

Awards and honors
A Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
A Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Book Sense Children’s Pick
A Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice
A Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

See Delphi and Die by Lindsey Davis


Davis, L. (2005). See Delphi and die: a Marcus Didius Falco mystery. London: Century.
ISBN-10 0312357753
ISBN-13 978-0312357757
301 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Mystery
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
Travel back in time to the Roman Empire for some 1st Century intrigue. Detective Marcus Didius Falco and his wife Helena travel from Rome to Greece to investigate the mysterious disappearance of several women touring the sites at Olympia.

Summary
Part of an eighteen book series, this novel is set in the first century in the Roman Empire. It is a peaceful and prosperous time, and tourism has opened up for those who can afford it. Detective Marcus Didius Falco and his wife, Helena, are a Roman couple who travel to Greece to investigate the death of two women who died under mysterious circumstances. They soon learn that both women died while on excursions with a shady travel company called Seven Sites. Period details, interesting supporting characters and clever dialog keep the mystery moving forward to its conclusion.

Notes
This novel is a great way to get readers interested in Ancient Rome as it brings its daily life alive. The story has many twists and turns to build suspense and keep the pages turning. It includes a lot of history about the Olympics and Ancient Greek and Roman culture and sites, from Greek temples to Roman slums.

Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries Series has eighteen titles which include:
Alexandria (2009)
Saturnalia (2008)
Shadows in Bronze (2007)
The Silver Pigs (2006)
Scandal Takes a Holiday (2006)
See Delphi and Die (2005)
The Jupiter Myth (2004)
The Accusers (2004)
A Dying Light in Corduba (1999)
The Iron Hand of Mars (1994)

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, S. (2008). Breaking dawn. New York: Little, Brown.
ISBN-10 031606792X
ISBN-13 978-0316067928
768 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 12 and up

Reader's annotation
While so many of her longtime dreams have come true, Bella wonders what the cost of her happiness will be for her parents. Bella and Edward are together with a home and child of their own, but if Charlie learns the truth about her transformation into a vampire, his life may be at risk. Jacob remains a close and trusted friend and becomes part of Bella’s new family.

Summary
It’s finally time for Bella and Edward to graduate from high school. Edward proposes to Bella and she reluctantly accepts, only because she never thought she would be a teen bride. She has already resolved to commit to Edward and become a member of his family and is eager to become a vampire like them. Edward insists they must wed first, and they do in a romantic ceremony at the Cullens house surrounded by friends and family. Edward whisks Bella away to a romantic honeymoon but life becomes a lot more complicated when they return home. Meanwhile, Jacob faces some difficult choices as he is torn between his duty to the pack and his love and devotion for Bella. Bella also wants to include her father Charlie in her new life, but at what cost?

Notes
This is an ideal recreational read that appeals to teenage girls. The book is lengthy but the text is easy to read and the suspense and romance make it a page-turner as the reader follows along to see what happens between Bella and Edward. Includes descriptions of vampire activities and some violence.

Twilight Saga Series
Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Breaking Dawn (2008)

Also by Stephenie Meyer
The Host: A Novel

Also recommended
The best-selling five-book series House of Night by P.C. Cast

Author Information
www.stepheniemeyer.com

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, S. (2007). Eclipse. New York : Little, Brown.
ISBN-10 0316160202
ISBN-13 978-0316160209
604 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 12 and up

Reader's annotation
Life happily returns to normal when Edward comes back to town and quickly becomes inseparable from Bella. Meanwhile, a mysterious series of murders in nearby Seattle has the Cullens worried that newborn vampires may be on the loose and headed to Forks.

Summary
The Cullens have moved back to Forks and Edward and Bella are deeply in love as they finish up the final months of high school. Bella is eager to join the Cullen family and become a vampire as soon as possible, but Edward has a few conditional terms: graduation, marriage, and college first. The closeness of their relationship causes conflict with Jacob, as he is coming to terms with his new life as a werewolf.

Notes
This is an ideal recreational read that appeals to teenage girls. The book is lengthy but the text is easy to read and the suspense and romance make it a page-turner as the reader follows along to see what happens between Bella and Edward. Includes descriptions of vampire activities and some violence.

Twilight Saga Series
Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Breaking Dawn (2008)

Also by Stephenie Meyer
The Host: A Novel

Also recommended
The best-selling five-book series House of Night by P.C. Cast

Author Information
www.stepheniemeyer.com

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, S. (2006). New moon New York: Little, Brown and Co.
ISBN-10 0316024961
ISBN-13 978-0316024969
563 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 12 and up

Reader's annotation
After Edward and his family move away from Forks, Bella is devastated and falls into a deep depression. Over time, she begins to rely on Jacob’s friendship to bring her back to life. Meanwhile, huge wolves are spotted around the town of Forks making the forest a dangerous place.

Summary
Bella’s life as she knows it has ended since the Cullens family moved away in an effort to protect her from a vampire attack. Heartbroken and missing Edward, she starts her senior year of high school and falls into a deep depression as the months slip by. Eventually, she reconnects to her friendship with Jacob, much to her father’s relief. Bella also discovers that she can hear Edward in her thoughts whenever she is in danger, and with Jacob’s company begins a pattern of risky behavior. However, she takes things too far and Edward believes that she has died, and sets about trying to end his own life. He plans to reveal himself as a vampire in public, and action punishable by death by the vampire Volturi family in Italy. Bella and Alice race against time to find Edward before it’s too late.

Notes
This is an ideal recreational read that appeals to teenage girls. The book is lengthy but the text is easy to read and the suspense and romance make it a page-turner as the reader follows along to see what happens between Bella and Edward. Includes descriptions of vampire activities and some violence.

Twilight Saga Series
Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Breaking Dawn (2008)

Also by Stephenie Meyer
The Host: A Novel

Also recommended
The best-selling five-book series House of Night by P.C. Cast

Author Information
www.stepheniemeyer.com

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York: Pocket Books.
ISBN-10 0671027344
ISBN-13 978-0671027346
213 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
High school isn’t easy for Charlie, a sweet kid who is trying to make sense of the world around him by being a careful observer of the difficulties faced by his friends and siblings. Along the way, nearly every serious teen issue comes into play, taking a toll on Charlie’s sense of well-being.

Summary
This novel reads like a journal, though it is a series of letters dated in 1991 that fifteen-year-old Charlie writes anonymously to an unnamed friend, who is only described as someone who could have taken advantage of a girl at a party and didn’t. Charlie observes teen life as he enters high school and also takes note what older teens are doing through his interactions with his older brother and sister. Charlie has a crush on an older girl named Sam, attends his first party, and looks forward to learning to drive. Dating violence is touched on quite a bit, as when Charlie witnesses his sister being slapped by her boyfriend and also is in the room when a girl is raped at a party at his house. Charlie loves his friends but has a tough time expressing himself, and he is still coming to terms with the suicide of a close friend. Through these letters and time in therapy Charlie begins to make sense of events in his past that continue to affect his life.

Notes
Charlie comes off as a little wide-eyed at times, but has a good heart. The reader can’t help but wish that life was a little easier on him as he makes his way though many serious issues facing teens. At the end of the novel it becomes clear why Charlie has so many emotional issues and why he has been seeing a psychiatrist.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Zusak, M. (2006). The book thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
ISBN-10 0375842209
ISBN-13 978-0375842207
552 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: War/Conflict
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 12 and up

Reader's annotation
In this inventive novel, death serves as a narrator and takes a special interest in the life of a German girl named Liesel, despite being tremendously busy during the second World War.

Summary
Death narrates this story of an eleven-year-old German girl named Liesel, a Jew living in Germany during World War II. Her brother died in her arms and her mother abandoned her. Later she was taken in as a foster child by an older couple, Rosa and Hans Hubermann. She works for her tough, laundress foster mother, and bonds with her kind, accordion-playing foster father. Death pays some careful attention to her days, activities and loves, as he can’t help but leave his mark on her life.

Notes
The Book Thief is a somber but tender novel that finds a way to describe the Holocaust while still maintaining a sense of humanity.

Awards and honors
Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award
National Jewish Book Award
Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Literature

Also by Markus Zusak
I Am the Messenger

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Alexie, S. The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.
ISBN-10 0316013684
ISBN-13 978-0316013680
240 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Contemporary life
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
Arnold is determined to break the tragic cycle of limited opportunities on the Indian reservation where he lives. Despite several obstacles, like not having any transportation, he decides to enroll in good school in a wealthy white community far outside the boundaries of the rez.

Summary
Arnold, known as Junior, a teenage boy who lives on an Indian reservation in Washington State, takes the advice of his teacher and goes where the hope is and transfers to a high school twenty miles away in an affluent white community. Through his intelligence and skill at basketball he finds a way to fit in, make friends and finds love with an almost girlfriend named Penelope while dealing with the heartbreak of poverty and alcohol addiction among his Indian friends and family. This novel contains many glimpses of insight, like the purpose of life is meeting new people, that will connect with readers and make them smile. The book includes hand-drawn illustrations that reflect the narrators’ love of comics.

Notes
This novel is an insightful, personal, and troubling look at life for a smart teenage boy living on an Indian reservation. What is so inspiring is that he is brave enough to seek out other options for his future and begins by attending high school outside the reservation, even if it means alienating himself from his own community.

Awards and honors
National Book Award, 2007
American Indian Library Association Award
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2008

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Anderson, M. T. (2002). Feed. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
ISBN-10 0763622591
ISBN-13 978-0763622596
237 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 14 and up

Reader's annotation
The future has arrived, bringing with it flying cars, vacations on the Moon, and the Feed, a computer implanted in the brain at birth that makes it possible to access information, chat with friends and shop, all with your thoughts. It also pipes in commercials regularly, which is no problem when kids attend School Inc. But user beware, a faulty Feed can be a deadly problem.

Summary
Spending spring break on the Moon with his friends, Titus meets Violet and begins a relationship with her, although she doesn’t quite fit in with his friends. Violet questions the Feed, once hers starts to break down. But nearly everyone has had a Feed since birth, a computer implanted in the brain that feeds a steady stream of information, ads, and chat from friends directly into your thoughts. There is no need to learn to read, as the Feed will read your thoughts and supply answers to any question. You can even shop on the Feed. Schools are run by a corporation and people get around in flying up-cars. Life runs along pretty smoothly, until there is a problem with Violet’s Feed that endangers her life.

Notes
Feed takes teens to another world far into the future, completely different from our own, or is it such a stretch?

Awards and honors
Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2002

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Block, F. L. (1989). Weetzie bat. New York: HarperCollins.
ISBN 0-06-073625-9
109 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Weetzie Bat and Dirk meet in high school, become friends, and build a life and a family together in a little bungalow in Los Angeles.

Summary
This novel strikes a lighthearted, whimsical tone as we meet high school students Weetzie Bat and Dirk. They live in Hollywood and love the city, its history and old movies. They drive around the city in a ‘slinkster cool’ car and life is perfect, except they are both searching for a perfect Duck to complete their lives. Dirk falls in love with a boy named Duck, and while Weetzie searches a little longer, she eventually falls in love with My Secret Agent Lover Man and the carve out an unconventional family life together in a little bungalow with lovers and children, while keeping a close friendship.

Notes
Readers will be inspired by the unconventional, close family life these characters create, while enjoying the ride.

Weetzie Bat Series
Weetzie Bat (1999)
Beautiful Boys (2004)
Goat Girls (2004)

The Ruby and the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery by Philip Pullman

Pullman, P. (1985). The ruby and the smoke: a Sally Lockhart mystery. New York : Knopf.
ISBN-10 037584516X
ISBN-13 978-0375845161
230 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Mystery, Historical Novel
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Sally Lockhart is lost in a world of intrigue in 19th century England as she investigates the suspicious death of her father.

Summary
Set in Victorian England, The Ruby and the Smoke is atmospheric and dark, and filled with suspense and mystery. Sally Lockhart, a sixteen-year-old orphan, is an intelligent and brave heroine, and it’s fascinating to spend time with her on the streets of London as she tries to solve the mystery of her father’s murder; he drowned in the South China Sea. She is trying to find the meaning of the phrase "the Seven Blessings" and is horrified when it causes a close friend of her father to die in fright when she mentions it. Sally befriends a young photographer who takes portraits in the early days of the medium, and his sister, an actress. They become a kind of found family for Sally even as she feels conflicted about possibly bringing danger into their lives. The novel is reminiscent of Dickens as the reader becomes acquainted with the dire poverty in London, especially as it affects children, and the consequences of the opium trade.

Notes
This novel manages to be both historical and feminist, and while Sally grieves the loss of her father she is a strong, even-headed, intelligent young women who is in charge of her own destiny.

Awards and honors
ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Sally Lockhart Mystery Series
The Ruby and the Smoke (1985)
Shadow in the North (1988)
The Tiger in the Well (1990)

Other titles by this Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials Series
The Golden Compass (1995)
The Subtle Knife (1997)
The Amber Spyglass (2000)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York: Scholastic Press.
ISBN-10 0439023483
ISBN-13 978-0439023481
384 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Adventure
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Katniss lives with her mother and younger sister in an impoverished district of Panem, a country that exists in what used to be the United States. When her younger sister is chosen to fight in the annual Hunger Games at the Capitol, Katniss volunteers to go in her places, even though she faces an almost certain death. The Hunger Games is a brutal, televised competition in which the last child left alive is the winner.

Summary
Sixteen-year-old Katniss is used to struggling for survival as for years she has helped to feed her mother and younger sister by foraging and hunting in the woods near their home and trading with merchants in town. When her little sister has her name drawn to participate in the annual Hunger Games at the Capitol, a brutal televised children’s competition, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. Along with her teammate, the baker’s son Peeta, she travels from a remote district to the Capitol to fight for her life as the nation follows every move. Set in a future in a North American country called Panem that has been degraded by environmental catastrophe, poverty and conflict, The Hunger Games takes our voyeuristic society to a horrifying new level in this suspenseful story.

Notes
The Hunger Games is a thought-provoking and entertaining recreational read for older teens. Katniss is a wonderful character, smart and resourceful, and Peeta brings humanity to the story with his kindness. The story takes some of the defining features of our time, environmental decay and reality television, and mixes it with a lot of imagination and detail to create a believable novel that leaves the reader with food for thought. This is the first novel in a trilogy; the other titles have not been published yet.

Awards and honors
Cybils Award for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction 2008
2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults Top 10

Series title
The Hunger Games (2008)
Catching Fire (2009)

Also by Suzanne Collins
The Underland Chronicles Series

Also recommended
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Slam by Nick Hornby

Hornby, N. (2007). Slam. New York: Putnam Juvenile.
ISBN 0399250484
ISBN-13 9780399250484
309 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Contemporary life
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Grades 9-12

Reader's annotation
Fifteen-year-old Sam struggles to not repeat the mistakes of his young single parents as he begins a passionate relationship with a beautiful girl named Alicia in this British coming-of-age novel.

Summary
Fifteen-year-old Sam is being raised in Islington, London by his thirty-two-year-old single mother. He’s a skater and his hero is Tony Hawk, or TH, and he often confides in him about his problems. TH offers advice back via quotes from his memoir, which Sam has memorized, which is sometimes helpful, and sometimes not. At the party of a family friend, Sam’s mother introduces him to the lovely, and out-of-his-league, sixteen-year-old Alicia. He confronts her attitude with some tart honestly and wins her over, starting a passionate relationship. Soon life is moving along fast and Sam is confronted with his future prospects which plays out in several potential scenarios including teen parenthood, college, marriage, and running away from it all as he tries not to repeat the mistakes of his parents.

Notes
Themes of mistakes and taking responsibility will speak to readers in any circumstance, not just those in the impossible situation of becoming a parent at sixteen. Despite the subject matter the language isn’t graphic and sexual situations are addressed discreetly.

Awards and honors
Booklist Editors’ Choice Books for Youth, 2007

Other titles by Nick Hornby
About a Boy
A Long Way Down
How To Be Good
High Fidelity
Fever Pitch

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Rosoff, M. (2004). How i live now. New York: Random House.
ISBN-10 0553376055
ISBN-13 978-0553376050
194 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Dystopia
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Daisy thinks that life is complicated when her stepmother becomes pregnant, and so she decides to move from New York City to England to go live with relatives. But things take an unexpected turn when war breaks out trapping the family for an extended period.

Summary
Fifteen-year-old Daisy escapes from living with her father and pregnant stepmother in New York City by going to live with her four cousins and Aunt Penn on their sprawling, picturesque farm in the English countryside. Aunt Penn was Daisy's mother's older sister; her mother died during childbirth. Soon after arriving, a London train is bombed and the country is drawn into war and becomes an occupied state. Aunt Penn, who works as a diplomat, is away in Oslo and is unable to get back to the farm. The first few weeks without adults is isolated, free and idyllic but soon the family is split up and Daisy is on the move in the English countryside with her youngest cousin, Piper. As the violence escalates, Piper and Daisy work to find their way back to the farm in an increasingly desperate time as industry and services are shut down. It's never quite clear who the foreign enemy is exactly, but that doesn't effect the themes of the story: survival, search for family and safety. The story is told in a very authentic voice. Many of the sentences run on and on in a rambling, enthusiastic tone and none of the dialog has quotation marks, lending a casual, intimate feel to the novel. It reads almost like a diary, and feels very believable.

Notes
How I Live Now while a thought-provoking and worthwhile read, contains some sensitive subjects. There is a sexual relationship between two cousins aged fifteen and sixteen. There are depictions of violence during wartime, including shootings and a scene of a massacre.

Awards and honors
Michael L. Printz Award, 2005

Also by Meg Rosoff
What I Was

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, S. (2005). Twilight. New York: Little Brown and Co.
ISBN-10 0316015849
ISBN-10 0316015849
498 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 12 and up

Reader's annotation
Seventeen-year-old Bella moves from living with her mom in Phoenix to her dad’s house in rainy, remote Forks, Washington where she makes a place for herself at her new high school and attracts the attention of another student, the pale, mysterious, and handsome Edward.

Summary
Bella somewhat unwillingly moves from sunny Phoenix to dreary Washington State to live with her single father after her mother remarries during her junior year. She is quickly enveloped in the social life of her new school, making a few close girlfriends and is pursued by a couple of boys in her class. However, her heart is stolen to her lab partner, the aloof and mysterious Edward, who usually keeps to the company of his siblings at school. Soon, Bella and Edward can’t hide their attraction for one another and we learn that Edward, as well as his family, are vampires, albeit ‘ethical’ vampires who feed only on wild animals. Edward protects Bella from danger time after time, but their relationship puts her at risk from Edward, and other vampires. As more distance grows between Bella and her father and friends the reader wonders if she will give up everything, including being human, as she pursues her love for Edward.

Notes
This is an ideal recreational read that appeals to teenage girls. The book is lengthy but the text is easy to read and the suspense and romance make it a page-turner as the reader follows along to see what happens between Bella and Edward. Includes descriptions of vampire activities and some violence.

Twilight Saga Series
Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Breaking Dawn (2008)

Also by Stephenie Meyer
The Host: A Novel

Also recommended
The best-selling five-book series House of Night by P.C. Cast

Author Information
www.stepheniemeyer.com

Looking for Alaska by John Green


Green, J. (2005). Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
ISBN-10 014241221X
ISBN-13 978-0142412213
221 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Miles seeks new experiences as he leaves his boring life in Florida and enrolls in a college prep boarding school in rural Alabama. He quickly makes friends and is deep into his new life when events take a tragic turn and lead to some serious soul-searching.

Summary
Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter is bored and out of place at his high school. In search of ‘the great perhaps,’ he decides to leave Florida in his junior year and to go away to boarding school, as many in his family have, at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama. He befriends his roommate Chip, a rebellious scholarship student, and Chip’s best friend, a girl named Alaska Young. Like every other boy on campus, Miles is instantly smitten with Alaska. She’s smart, gorgeous and has an appetite for a little danger. Miles’s social life is soon filled with parties, smoking, drinking, and pranks. As Miles gets to know Alaska better, her deep unhappiness is revealed. When she is hit by a car and killed, Miles is left reeling, unsure if her death was an accident or suicide.

Notes
Looking for Alaska is a smart and literate book that takes on heavy themes of love, death and grief in the setting of a rural boarding school. Readers may feel frustrated by the unresolved ending.

Awards and honors
Michael Printz Award, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2006
ALA Quick Pick
LA Times 2005 Book Prize Finalist
NYPL Book for the Teen Age
Booklist Editor's Choice, 2005
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2005

Also by John Green
An Abundance or Katherines

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

Rabb, M. (2007). Cures for heartbreak. New York: Delacorte Press.
ISBN-10 0385734034
ISBN-13 978-0385734035
238 pgs
Genre: Contemporary life
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
After a string of difficult experiences including the death of her mother, ninth-grader Mia is left reeling. As she tries to move her life forward, she relies on her father and a couple of close friends, and discovers the healing power of forgiveness.

Summary
Ninth grade student Mia Perlman is having some hard times. Her mother died suddenly after a recent cancer diagnosis, her father had a heart attack and endured a long hospital stay, her sister left for college, and to top it off, she might be developing feelings for a cute young cancer patient. It’s hard to concentrate on school and soon her studies fall behind. But after months of struggling with grief, eventually life begins to move on. A new best friend is made, and her father begins to date. When an unexpected tragedy comes calling again, while there may not be a cure for heartbreak, a safety net is in place.

Notes
This novel explores personal as well as cultural grief, as Mia’s mother is among a generation of children of Holocaust survivor’s living in the New York area. In the novel, this generation is marked by many early deaths from illness and suicide.

Cut by Patricia Mccormick

McCormick, P. (2000). Cut. New York: Scholastic.
ISBN 0-439-32459-9
151 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Age 13 and up

Reader's annotation
Fifteen-year-old Callie is spending some time at Sea Pines, a psychiatric facility, where her parents sent her because she cuts herself to relieve her difficult emotions surrounding issues in her family life. Much of the book is a description of daily life in the facility told through the thoughts of the protagonist.

Summary
The novel Cut is set in a mental institution called Sea Pines, and the residents are a group of troubled young women, Most of the story is the internal dialog of a teenage girl named Callie who has a problem with cutting herself in order escape psychological pain she is experiencing related to family problems and her brothers’ health problems. Callie resists the treatment for a long time, refusing to speak in group therapy and generally disliking everything about the facility but eventually opens up in therapy and begins to explore the strong emotions that cause her to harm herself.

Notes
Cut is a short but ambitious novel similar to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg in that is deals with a difficult, painful issue that the protagonist cannot articulate. Cutting is a disturbing and growing problem among teenage girls, so the novel is timely and it lends a sympathetic voice to a little understood problem.

Awards and honors
ALA Quick Pick for YA Readers
A NYPL Book for the Teen Age

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Levithan, D. (2003). Boy meets boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
ISBN 0-375-83299-8
185 pgs
Genre: Realistic fiction
Classification: Fiction
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
Paul, a sophmore in high school, falls in love with a senior named Noah, just as his ex, Kyle, is starting to be friendly to him again. Paul hurts Noah by kissing Kyle, and needs the help of his friends, Tony, Infinite Darlene, Amber, Amy, Emily, Ted and his brother Jay, to win him back.

Summary
Paul is an extremely well-adjusted gay sophomore in high school, who is fully accepted by his family and friends, and spends his time studying, hanging out with his friends and looking for love like anyone else. Paul has had a few boyfriends, including Kyle, who broke his heart when he claimed Paul tricked him and then started a very public romance with a girl at school. But it’s love at first sight when Paul meets Noah at a bookstore event. The relationship struggles however, while they are very attracted to each other, Noah has some trouble trusting Paul after he unexpectedly kisses Kyle in a school closet. Paul’s friendships with his friends are really important to him as well, as is his family and his community. The novel is very well-written and the characters and scenes come to life. Notably, Infinite Darlene, Paul’s transgender friend who is the homecoming queen and star quarterback, and also the schools biggest gossip. There is Joanie, who is drifting away from Paul and their group as she dates a possessive football player. Tony lives with his religious family in a conservative town nearby and struggles to respect his family’s values while being true to himself and his friends. Paul feels it’s his role in their friendship to show Tony what is possible, and he does that for the reader, as well.

Notes
This novel gives a welcome glimpse into an American high school free of discrimination where gay and straight students live together in openness and friendship. Homosexual relationships among teens; bisexual and transgender teens

Awards and honors
ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Quick Pick
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
A LAMBDA Literary Award Winner

Other titles by this author: How They Met, and Other Stories, The Realm of Possibility, 21 Proms, Wide Awake, Are We There Yet?

Also recommended
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Skim by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jilliam Tamaki

Tamaki, M. Illustrated by J. Tamaki. (2008). Skim. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
ISBN-10 1406321362
ISBN-13 978-1406321364
141 pgs
Format: Book
Genre: Realistic
Classification: Graphic novel
Age level: Young Adult

Reader's annotation
High school student Skim has been feeling a little down. She doesn’t quite fit in at her private girls high school but life begins to look up when she forms a close relationship with her free-spirited drama teacher, Ms. Archer.

Summary
This beautifully drawn graphic novel tells the story of love, loss, depression and friendship among students at an all-girls private high school in Toronto. Kim, known as Skim, is a sensitive girl who is learning about Wicca, and hangs out with her best friend Lisa. Skim forms a close relationship to her drama teacher Ms. Archer, and begins to fall in love with her. Suddenly, Ms. Archer pulls away from her friendship with Kim and leaves her job at the school. Skim is confused, heartbroken and hurt, and finds an unexpected connection with a fellow student whose life is upended when her boyfriend commits suicide. The author and the illustrator are cousins and their words and images flow together seamlessly in this story about how first love can change your life, for good and for bad.

Notes
This is an absorbing graphic novel that will appear to teen girls. The frames are so realistically drawn that they pull you into the story easily. While rather melancholy, the novel rings true to life and Skim is a sympathetic character.