Sunday, April 20, 2014

Teens' Top Ten Nominees 2014 and Book Review Musings

Celebrate Teen Literature was on Thursday, and YALSA announced this year's nominees for Teens' Top Ten.

This is a teen choice list, selected by participating teen book groups throughout the country, and their top 25 titles are this year's nominees.

Starting in August, any teen can vote online for their favorite nominee and the final Top Ten will be announced during Teen Read Week in October.

I promote Teens' Top Ten nominees as much as I can in the library because I know these are books that teens already love. I already had most of the nominees on the shelves and only had to order a few to round out the list.

But what I found interesting is that the few I hadn't ordered had mixed or even bad reviews from the publications I use most to select books - Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and VOYA. The main complaint with the reviewers was that they couldn't connect with the main character, and therefore, couldn't connect to the story.

Yet these teen reviewers had no problem connecting with either the character or the story. What could cause this divide between adult and teen reviewers? Are adults too sophisticated and teens too naive? If the story is good enough, are cliched characters worth putting up with? Do characters that are considered underdeveloped by adults give teens an opportunity to better see themselves in that character?

As someone who reviews books, I think these are important questions. When I review a book, I try to make clear that my perceptions of the book are my own. Then I try to think of who else might have the same feelings about the book as I did. One size does not fit all when it comes to books.

That's why I think a teen review list like the Teens' Top Ten is so important. Because sometimes the adults get it wrong.

2014 Teens' Top Ten Nominees:

  • The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
  • Of Triton by Anna Banks
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  • Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
  • Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
  • Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray
  • The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
  • Splintered by A.G. Howard
  • Teardrop by Lauren Kat
  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
  • Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne
  • Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
  • This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • A Midsummer Night's Scream by R.L. Stine
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke
  • In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Bonus Video: Teens' Top Ten Nominees

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reality Boy Book Review

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316222709

368 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I've worked in "reality" television, so I know there's a lot of manipulation in creating what the audience sees.

Sometimes it happens during production by influencing what participants are doing or saying. Sometimes in happens in post-production by changing context during editing. It's usually done to build a narrative arc, to streamline the messiness of real life into a half-hour or hour format.

But at least on the shows I worked on, it was never done maliciously. Reality Boy, however, imagines a show that does. Gerald was on a Supernanny-like show when he was five years old and became known as The Crapper because he defecated all over the house, including the dining room table. Millions of television viewers think he's the problem child.

What the camera doesn't show is that Gerald's psychopathic sister, Tasha, brutalizes him and crapping is his way to get attention. All he gets is the wrong kind of attention. The show comes and goes, but the stigma of being The Crapper stays with Gerald. Worse yet, Tasha stays, continuing to terrorize Gerald.

Now Gerald is sixteen years old, full of rage that has him going to anger management, and his parents are still clueless about Tasha. Gerald tries to control his anger by boxing, but he figures he'll likely end up dead or in prison in a couple of years.

Then he meets Hannah, a girl who has problems of her own and who sees beyond The Crapper. How these two people gain strength from each other to change their lives is a compelling read.

I recommend Reality Boy to readers who enjoyed Tangerine by Edward Bloor or Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316213103

432 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Tana wakes one morning to find that while she was passed out in the bathtub, everyone else at the party has died.


Well, not everyone has died. There's her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, tied to a bed. And a cute boy she doesn't recognize is chained up.

She decides to rescue them even though Aidan is clearly infected and the cute boy is clearly insane. She decides to rescue them because it gives her something to do instead of going insane herself. Because there's a pile of corpses who used to be her friends in the next room. Because there's a terror of vampires waiting for the sun to go down in the next room.

There's only one place Tana and the boys can go. That's Coldtown, a barricaded city where vampires, the infected, and the desperate go. Tana knows chances are she'll never get out. Chances are she's infected, too. But it's a chance she has to take.

But Tana doesn't know that the mystery cute boy she rescued is an ancient vampire with a vendetta. And surviving has become that much more dangerous.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a fast-paced romp of terror and romance. Tana is no Bella Swan. She is terrified half the time, but she uses the adrenaline to act and she's smart enough to come up with a plan when she's not terrified. Her only weak spot is Gavriel, the mystery cute boy.

The horror is chilling and portrayed realistically. The romance is a little too instant-attraction, but the romance is secondary to Tana just trying to survive. The ending is open-ended enough that a sequel seems likely.

I recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown to readers who enjoyed The Diviners by Libba Bray or The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Trailer:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Audiobook Review

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperAudio
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0062263032

Listening copy via public library

I've written before about my love for Neil Gaiman (and Doctor Who) and fans will not be disappointed by Neil's latest work.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has tropes familiar to both the author and the Doctor: a thing that is bigger in the inside, transformation of a harmless thing into a creature of terror, an offer to help that is spurned and will lead to the creature's ultimate demise.

And while it is not a groundbreaking work, it is still a delightful mix of the eerie and the everyday.

The unnamed protagonist remembers a time when he was seven years old and he meets a strange girl under strange circumstances who lives at the end of the lane. She has a pond on her farm that she calls an ocean, and the little boy almost believes her.

Together, they come across an ancient thing, a thing that the boy unwittingly unleashes into his own world, a thing that seeks to stay in this world at any cost.

Read by Neil Gaiman, the story unfolds at a leisurely pace. He is an amiable narrator, his placid tone only dropping during the moments of terror.

Highly recommended.

Bonus video: Neil Gaiman discusses audiobooks & The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Book Review

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0316221337

288 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Matthew Quick has had a lot of heat since the film adaptation of Silver Linings Playbooks came out, and I was as eager as anyone to read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

It's Leonard Peacock's eighteenth birthday and he plans to go to school and kill his former best friend and then commit suicide.

As the day progresses, we learn why Leonard has decided this is the best way to escape the loneliness and hopelessness of his shitty life. His self-absorbed Mom doesn't even remember it's his birthday, so he knows he's not going to get any presents, but he gives presents to four people he thinks of as friends, although he doesn't really have any friends.

These four people react to Leonard's gifts in different ways, including anger and suspicion. But one person, a teacher, realizes what Leonard's gift means. And that one person tries to give the gift of hope back to Leonard.

Although Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock can be bleak and intense, it is ultimately about hope. It is not a book for everyone, but it will be the book to make a difference to many.

I recommend Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock to readers who enjoyed Blankets by Craig Thompson or Winger by Andrew Smith.

Bonus Video: Matthew Quick introduces Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock


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