01. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, read by Sarah, on 06/21/2014

16068341Alice is not an innocent teenage girl, but she’s not a killer.  This book explores bullying from the viewpoint of the bullies, friends or ex-friends of the victim, and eventually, the Alice herself.  I like how the author doesn’t give you all of the information upfront.  You have to piece together what really happened the night of Brandon’s death from the snippets of info given by the other characters.  It was a pretty typical teen flick, but I enjoyed it anyway!

11. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

November Blues by Sharon Draper, read by Sarah, on 06/10/2014

This is the sequel to “The Battle of Jericho” that fills you in on Josh’s girlfriend, November, after he’s gone.  Within a couple of months of Josh’s passing, November finds out that she is pregnant.  All of her friends rally around her to support her, but her Mom’s disappointment is almost too hard to bear.  Jericho (Josh’s cousin) feels like he is responsible to help November through this but he is still aching over Josh, too.  Complications and ugly high school life make this very believable and heart wrenching.  November has to find the courage to do what is right by the baby, regardless of what others think.  This was a good book, but I enjoyed the first one more.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper, read by Sarah, on 05/27/2014

   Jericho has a chance to pledge with the Warriors of Distinction, a club in his school that seems to have it all going on.  The pledges are told all or none so they have to stick together through pledge week through all types of challenges to prove themselves worthy of the group.  At what point do the challenges cross the line?  Should Jericho and his friends stick together and endure the worst?  Or band together to stand up for what is right?

This book was very intense at times when the kids were pledging.  I was disgusted by what they were asked to do and wondered how this type of hazing could ever be allowed.  Obviously, the adults didn’t know the full extent of what was going to transpire that week.  This was a powerful book that serves as a reminder to always listen to that little voice in your head that tells you if something doesn’t feel right…or if you need to get the heck out of a situation.  It was well told, but predictable.

07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, read by Angie, on 05/06/2014

The Freedom Summer Murders covers the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi. The book really brings the crime and its impact to life. There is a lot of information packed into this book, but it is all stuff the reader needs to know. However, I do think it might be a little too much for some younger readers. The book first describes the murder, then introduces the three men, then details the aftermath and the trials that resulted from the murders. I did find the narration a little choppy and wished we had been introduced to James, Andrew and Mickey before we learned about their murder. I especially enjoyed the aftermath section which talked about the difficulty in getting information out of the Neshoba County residents and how much resistance there was to prosecuting the men who murdered the civil rights activists. It is strange to me to think this happened just 50 years ago. It was definitely a dark time in our history. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

19. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football: Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty, read by Angie, on 04/17/2014

This was a fascinating look at the connections between football and concussions. The first thing you read about in the book is the history of the sport of football. One of the things I found most interesting was the fact that conversations about the dangers of concussions with football players started at the beginning of this game. Football has always been a dangerous sport and it started out even more dangerous than it is today. I knew players didn’t start out with the padding and helmets of today. What I didn’t realize was that they started out with no padding or helmets and that it was a fairly common occurrence for players to die. From the time football started in the 1890s to when it was reformed in the 1900s it seems between 10-20 players died each year as a result of injuries sustained playing football. The fact that the game persists to this day is astounding!

The other thing I found really interesting was the fact that brain injuries are so very common among all ages of football players. The book gets into the science pretty heavily which I think will go over some kids heads, but they will understand the injuries and deaths that football players have sustained. Concussions and football have been in the news a lot lately, but the connection actually started in the 1980s. Repeated concussions and repeated blows to the head without concussion have resulted in dementia, ALS, Alzheimers, and death among football players. And it isn’t just the professional players that have to worry about it. Brain damage has even been found in high school and college football players. The fact that we let our boys start playing at a very early age and then have them continue into their teens means they are likely to get hit thousands of times. This means there is a greater chance they will sustain brain damage or injuries. I’m glad I never played football, but I worry about those who have and will.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Rookie Yearbook Two by Tavi Gevinson, read by Courtney, on 03/27/2014

Can I just say how much I love Rookie? Loooove it. And it makes me really happy that a good deal of the online-only magazine is being published in these “Yearbook” editions. The format is identical to the first Yearbook, but the depth and breadth of the subject matter is fresh and relevant. Rookie tackles things that most other teen magazines wouldn’t dare to. Faith, sexuality, art, music and activism are all given equal weight and credibility. The fashion spreads are moody and creative (and refreshing free from brand names and prices; something I’ve always found particularly irritating about most magazines). Themed playlists and colorful art abounds throughout. There’s not a single teenaged girl I wouldn’t recommend this to. In fact, I think most adults should check it out too. I know I learned a thing or two. And boys? If you want to understand girls a little bit more, consider this a really good starting point.

02. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart, read by Sarah, on 04/01/2014

  This was a haunting book that will keep you guessing until the very end.  A family of three (mom, dad, and Ellie) are in a terrible car wreck on their way to their new home and one of them doesn’t survive.  How would you cope if one of your parents died?  Ellie’s mind is a beautiful and terrible thing.  I would love to tell you more, but you have to read it for yourself.  It will touch your heart and leave its mark on you forever.

17. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, read by Sarah, on 03/04/2014

Ok, so I read Divergent and Insurgent…wonderful…then I read Allegiant.  First, the idea behind it was great.  It starts off right where Insurgent left off and leads into Tris and Four joining a group to find out what is on the other side of the fence surrounding their city.  They discover they are part of an experimental group with genetic implications.  New allies and enemies are made in the compound where they are staying.  I have mixed feelings on this one.  The other two were told from the exclusive point of view of Tris while this one bounced back and forth between Tris and Four.  Sometimes, the continuity was not there to keep up with the story.  Although it was helpful to hear Four’s view, I enjoyed Tris’s storyline better.  Their relationship was tested, and they alternate between loving and fighting.  Overall, it did not live up to my expectations, but it was still pretty good.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, read by Tammy, on 02/04/2014

ameliaA coming of age story, a mystery, a mother-daughter relationship story are all wound tightly together in this novel. After Amelia’s suicide her mother, Kate searches to find who her daughter really was and if she really committed suicide. Told from both Kate and Amelia’s perspectives and through text, email and Facebook posts the story shows how today’s teens smoothly communicate on all the numerous social media that exists today and how easy it is for a parent to fall behind. Kate has to come to terms with who Amelia really was and all the events that led up to her death. A moving, relate-able story that keeps you turning the page.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, NonFiction, Teen Books

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, read by Courtney, on 07/19/2013

When it comes to serial killers, few are as well-known as Jeffrey Dahmer. To the author, “Jeff”, was much more than a face on the news. Backderf grew up in the same town and went to the same school as Dahmer. Long before the name “Dahmer” entered public consciousness, he was an awkward and troubled kid. Through the eyes of a friendly acquaintance (Backderf never genuinely appears to consider Dahmer a true “friend”, but more of kid on the periphery of his social circle), we meet a boy who was certainly unusual and somewhat anti-social. Readers will follow Dahmer from childhood to his teen years and, while it paints a slightly more sympathetic version of Dahmer, it never explains or excuses the actions he eventually takes. In hindsight, the signs were there, but it was clear that, at the time, Dahmer was simply regarded as the resident odd-ball and few thought little else about him.
What makes this graphic novel particularly interesting is the inclusion of both photos and documents from Backderf and Dahmer’s school years, as well as the detailed, page-by-page annotations provided by Backderf. This graphic novel is morbidly fascinating. Readers with any interest whatsoever on the topic will find themselves sucked in with no chance of escape until the end of the book. I was intrigued, horrified and even occasionally amused by Backderf’s story.

01. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Revived by Cat Patrick, read by Sarah, on 01/30/2014

  What if there was a drug that could be administered when you die that would revive you?  Daisy has been revived five times in her short life and is a part of a secret government case study.  Each death means a move to conceal the secret, so putting down roots has been a problem until she moves to Omaha.  Here she makes good friends with a brother and sister who make her realize that she wants more of a normal teenage life.  This experiment is more sinister than Daisy realizes and a thriller ensues that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.  This was a very enjoyable book!  I had read Cat Patrick’s The Originals last year and loved it, too.  I highly recommend it!

22. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Children's Books, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books, Teen Books

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, read by Rachel, on 01/21/2014

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

Journey into the land beyond the wardrobe! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been captivating readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like journey back to Narnia, read The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

15. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Classics, History, Rachel, Teen Books

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, read by Rachel, on 01/15/2014

Anne Frank, June 1929 – March 1945 Anneliesse Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne’s father was a factory worker, who moved his family to Amsterdam in 1933 to escape the Nazi’s. There he opened up a branch of his uncle’s company and Anne and her sister Margot resumed a normal life, attending a Montessori School in Amsterdam.

The Germans attacked the Netherlands in 1940 and took control, issuing anti-Jewish decrees, and forcing the Frank sisters into a Jewish Lyceum instead of their old school. Their father Otto decided to find a place for the family to hide should the time come that the Nazi’s came to take them to a concentration camp. He chose the annex above his offices and found some trustworthy friends among his fellow workers to supply the family with food and news. On July 5, 1942, Margot received a “call up” to serve in the Nazi “work camp.” The next day, the family escaped to the annex, welcoming another family, the van Pels, which consisted of Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter. Fritz Pfeffer also came to stay with them, causing the count to come to eight people hiding in the annex.

Anne, Margot and Peter continued their studies under the tutelage of Otto, and all of the captives found ways to entertain themselves for the long years they remained hidden. On August 4, 1944, four Dutch Nazis came to arrest the eight, having discovered their hiding place through an informant. Anne’s diary was left behind and found later by one of the family’s friends. The eight were taken to prison in Amsterdam and then deported to Westerbork before being shipped to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the men were separated from the women and Hermann van Pels was immediately gassed. Fritz Pfeffer died at Neuenganme in 1944.

Anne, Margot and Mrs. van Pels were taken to Bergen-Belson, leaving behind Anne’s mother, Edith, who died at Auschwitz of starvation and exhaustion in 1945. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot contracted typhus and died of the disease in March of 1945. Anne was 15 and Margot was 17. The exact date and the place they were buried is unknown. Otto Frank was the only one of the original group of eight who were hidden in the annex to survive. He was left for dead at Auschwitz when the Russian Army came to liberate the camp. It is due to him that Anne’s diary was published and became the success it is.

13. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Sarah, on 01/03/2014

  Divergent is an awesome, thrill-ride full of an attempt at a utopian society, romance, death-defying experiences, and life choices that will change the world.  Society is divided into five different factions with each focusing on a different personality characteristic that is believed to be the best.  Courage, pursuit of knowledge, selflessness, and peacefulness are a few of the ideal traits.  When a person reaches 16, he or she can choose which faction to join for the rest of their lives.  This decision can make all the difference in how your life unravels afterward.  I highly recommend this book.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached, read by Courtney, on 12/30/2013

A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the ’80′s. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina’s parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment’s inhabitants make their way down to Zeina’s apartment because the foyer there is the safest room in the building. Before long, everyone they live with is grouped together in the small room. As the bombs start falling, the adults tell the children stories and fix them food to help them keep their mind off of their absent parents. The reader learns a bit about each character and how the war has affected them.
It’s a sweet story and it gives the reader a bit of perspective on how everyday citizens dealt with an ongoing civil war in their own backyards. The artwork will definitely draw comparisons to the now-classic graphic memoir, Persepolis, with its bold, black-and-white illustrations. It is, however, stylistically different and well-suited to the story it tells. I wish there were more to the story. Readers not familiar with the region’s troubled history will probably be left with more questions than answers. The ending feels very abrupt and anti-climatic, which is probably best for the real-life individuals involved, but not as exciting or compelling for the reader.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, NonFiction, Teen Books

Rookie Yearbook One by Tavi Gevinson, read by Courtney, on 11/24/2013

Tavi Gevinson started her personal blog, Style Rookie(http://www.thestylerookie.com), in 2008, when she was eleven years old. It was a place where, from the confines of her bedroom in the suburbs, she could write about personal style and chronicle the development of her own. Within two years, the blog was averaging fifty thousand hits per day. Soon fashion designers were flying her around the world to attend and write about fashion shows, and to be a guest of honor at their parties.
Soon Tavi’s interests grew beyond fashion, into culture and art and, especially, feminism. In September 2011, when she was fifteen, she launched Rookie (http://rookiemag.com), a website for girls like her: teenagers who are interested in fashion and beauty but also in dissecting the culture around them through a uniquely teen-girl lens. Rookie broke one million page views within its first six days. Rookie Yearbook Onecollects articles, interviews, photo editorials, and illustrations from the highly praised and hugely popular online magazine.
In its first year, Rookie has established a large inclusive international community of avid readers. In addition to its fifty-plus regular writers, photographers, and illustrators (many of whom are teenage girls themselves), Rookie’s contributors and interviewees have included prominent makers of popular culture such as Lena Dunham, Miranda July, Joss Whedon, Jon Hamm, Zooey Deschanel, David Sedaris, Elle Fanning, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, John Waters, Chloe Sevigny, Liz Phair, Dan Savage, JD Samson, Ira Glass, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Clowes, Carrie Brownstein, Paul Feig, Bethany Cosentino, Kimya Dawson, Fred Armisen, and Winnie Holzman.
As a young teenager, Gevinson couldn’t find what she was looking for in a teen magazine; Rookie is the one she created herself to fill that void. Her coolheaded intellect shines in Rookie, arguably the most intelligent magazine ever made for a teen-girl audience. Gevinson writes with a humble but keen authority on such serious topics as body image, self-esteem, and first encounters with street harassment. She’s equally deft at doling out useful advice, such as how to do a two-minute beehive, or how to deliver an effective bitchface. Rookie’s passionate staffers and faithful readers have helped make Rookie the strong community that it is.

13. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel by Marc Aronson, read by Angie, on 11/12/2013

Marc Aronson takes a look at the history of Israel and what it means to be Jewish in Israel. This is not a straight-forward historical book, but a personal soul-searching by the author. He does a lot of back and forth between the ideal Israel and the actual Israel. He also compares Israel to America and American Jews to Israeli Jews. Even though he does touch on some controversial topics in this book, it is still more of a personal journey about why Aronson does not live in Israel and what he wishes it was. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be and was a little difficult to read. Aronson never really comes to any conclusions, just back and forth on the topics he discusses.

28. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Pretenders by Lisi Harrison, read by Sarah, on 10/17/2013

This book is told through journal entries from 5 different people attending high school during their freshman year.  Each one of them has an interesting back story that leads them to intertwine with the others.  Secret crushes (and obsessions!), a gay friend, movie-star wanna-be’s, basketball stars, hurt feelings, muddled grades, previous home-schooled experience….these kids have a lot on their plates.  AND they are each pretending to have it all together on the outside, while things are really falling apart.

This was a pretty good book, but confusing to keep track of who was talking during each chapter.  There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the order of their freshman year being told out during the book.  The ending is a cliff hanger that screams for a sequel, so if you can’t stand to wait….read this after the next one comes out!!

03. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson, read by Angie, on 10/02/2013

The assassination of JFK was a pivotal moment in American history. James Swanson leads us through the lives of JFK and Oswald leading up to the assassination. He takes us step by step through the day of the assassination and the immediate days following. Swanson definitely has a bit of a bias in the way he treats Oswald. Not that Oswald was a good guy, but at one point Swanson even calls him evil and describes him in very derogatory terms. His attention to detail is very good however, with lots of source material and photos. This book is geared towards the older kid and some of the graphic explanations of what exactly happened to Kennedy may be too much for more sensitive readers.

I received this book from netgalley.com.

01. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

The Journey Back by Priscilla Cummings, read by Leslie, on 09/15/2013

The Journey Back

After breaking out of juvenile detention, fourteen-year-old Digger stops his trek across Maryland at a campground where he recovers from injuries, cares for little Luke, works with smart and pretty Nora, and begins to understand how his behavior and choices shape his life.

This a companion book the The Red Kayak, continuing the story of Digger.  I liked the story and feel compelled to read the previous story to find out what led him to the decisions that landed him in a juvenile facility.  Digger learns a lot about himself in his journey to get back to his mom and siblings.  His heart is in the right place, if he only learns to control his impulses and think of the consequences of his actions.  Highly recommend it to any reader.