Friday, August 29, 2014

Flashback Friday: Let's Go Back to The Nineties

We are already missing our fabulous teen reviewer, Mira, while she's on a semester abroad, but we're glad she's still sending us reviews! Today, she takes us back, to the last decade of the last millennium....
Ahhh…the 90s. Scrunchies. Dawson’s Creek. Big phones. As someone born in the late 90s, I learned all my historically accurate 90’s culture through Clueless. As many people do. For my 90’s historical fiction book I picked Way To Go by the wonderful Tom Ryan. I believe this is his debut book. Let’s do this! 

Way To Go is about a teenager named Danny who lives in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. His friends are totally opposite ends of the spectrum, and he kind of just floats in the middle. He also is gay, which everyone suspects but he doesn’t want to believe. After he gets a summer job and befriends a new girl working with him, he tries to prove to everyone that he’s straight. 

I don’t want to say too much else about the plot of the book, as it’s relatively short. It was a very easy read, I think I finished it in a couple hours. I loved the message of acceptance in this book, specifically of self acceptance. I think that’s something that is very hard for a lot of people, especially teens who are still trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. The dialogue in the book made it more relatable, and the characters were extremely accessible. I almost wish the book was longer because the characters were so much fun to read. One of the best characters in the book is Danny’s younger sister, Alma. She is hilarious, constantly quoting movies and lightening the mood. Younger siblings are the best. 

For anyone looking for a short, summer read with strong characters and a moving plot, I would highly recommend this book. It’s too hot outside to not visit the air-conditioned library every week! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Up and Coming: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

 Did you know that Scott Westerfeld has a new book coming out this fall? Librarian M has the details to get you ready!
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Release Date: September 23, 2014

You may be asking yourself: “Why is Scott Westerfeld’s new book 600 pages long?” Well, it is actually two books in one! They alternate chapters, and if you think that sounds like a disaster, let me assure you that you are wrong. It actually works out really well.

The first book is about Darcy Patel. She is only 18 years old but she has won the publishing lottery: the novel that she wrote during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you now in the know) was picked up by a major publisher for a rather large sum of money. Clearly, the only course of action for her to take is to ditch out on college and move to New York so she can soak in all those writerly vibes for her sequel. Of course, first she has to get through all those rewrites….

The second book is Darcy’s novel. It’s about a girl named Lizzie who survives a terrorist attack and in the process is touched by death and finds herself with access to the afterworld. Now she can see ghosts (of people, animals, buildings, etc.) and other psychopomps such as herself. Her problems multiply as she gets romantically involved with another psychopomp, learns that the ghost of her mother’s murdered childhood friend lives with them, and tries to stay away from a creepy old psychopomp trying to extract favors from her.

While Lizzie’s new powers are fairly straightforward, Darcy also has new powers. She suddenly has access to lots of money and independence and reading about how she deals with it is a real treat. If you want to read either a book about a teen in the NYC publishing world OR a teen who travels to the afterworld I recommend you pick this one up. Both stories are great and are great together!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Middle School Monday: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Librarian M has the scoop on the latest by one of our most popular graphic novelists (of all time, forever and ever):
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier has a new book out! Raina Telgemeier has a new book out!

Sisters is a companion book to Smile, but you don’t need to have read Smile to enjoy Sisters. (But really, you should Smile, too, because it is also great.) This story chronicles a road trip that Raina’s family takes from San Francisco to Colorado. Raina and her sister Amara have never been simpatico, but being trapped in the car together taxes their already strained relationship. Can two sisters who have nothing in common ever get along?

This book is very insightful about family dynamics and realistically portrays a family weathering different kinds of hardships. It’s also very funny and you’ll probably want to read it all in one sitting. Get yourself to library catalog to place your hold now!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flashback Fridays: Totally 80's

Katie puts on her acid-washed jeans to bring us back to the 1980s.

Want to take a trip back in time but not too far back? I give you the 1980s and all the things that come with that fascinating decade--the good, the bad, and the ridiculously awesome.
The Berlin Wall: Going Over by Beth Kephart brings 1980s Berlin alive. A Berlin that was still divided by a wall, tearing apart families, challenging the brave to escape. It is a love story, a story of survival, and a beautiful glimpses into life on both sides of the wall. I loved it. (see our full review)
Mixed Tapes: If you’ve never known the joy of a mixed tape in a walkman, find yourself a copy of Eleanor & Park ASAP. And maybe a walkman just for good measure. Rainbow Rowell has crafted a book that celebrates a decade, celebrates the power of love, embraces misfits, and boldly tackles the darker sides of family and the challenging decisions we sometimes must make for ourselves. But yeah, my favorite part is the music. (see our posts)
Thirty-Five Cent Candy Bars: This used to be a thing, guys. I’m sorry if you missed out. Candy bar inflation is one of the 21st centuries great injustices. But you can live out this dream vicariously through Dana Reinhardt’s The Summer I Learned to Fly. It’s the summer of 1986, and 13-year-old Drew Robin Solo is waiting for life to happen. That something turns out to be a someone in the form of Emmett. And this book is not just about a decade but about summer in all of its glorious possibility.
Arcade Games: Okay, so Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is the opposite of historical fiction. It’s actually set in a dystopian not-so-distant future (2044), but it belongs on this list because tucked away not-so-subtly in the plot of a young dude on a supremely nerdy cyber-quest involving virtual reality and old video games is so much 1980s pop culture trivia you might want to read it with Wikipedia close at hand. This is an incredibly fun book that somehow captures--in between the nostalgia for the past and the future it creates--some very important truths about the world we live in today. (see our reviews)

New York City: This is not the city you may have come to know from weekend trips up I-95. 1980s New York was a rawer version of what it is today (or so I’m told). And it’s that city which is explored in Jennifer Banash’s White Lines. Cat is 17-year-old “club kid”. Despite having her own apartment and plenty of money, she isn’t exactly living the fairy tale. Her coming-of-age story, which wouln’t be complete without a Ramones-loving boy, is every bit as gritty and challenging as the place and time in which it is set.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Rachel L tells us about a book for all the gamers (and not-quite-gamers):

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

My brother played a lot of RPGs (that’s role-playing games to you noobs) when we were growing up. I’d like to say that I teased him for being a total computer geek like a good sister should, but that’d be lying. If I were being honest (which I am, always, as all of you should be), I’d tell you that I used to pull up a chair, sometimes with a bag of microwave popcorn, and watch him play like it was a movie. I also wasn’t the only one. My brother’s friends--jocks and student government officers, mostly--would come over just to watch him play too. He’d have a little audience of fantasy video game viewers peering over his shoulder, holding our breaths during boss battles, eyes widening at what we thought were amazing graphics for the video sequences, and even tearing up a little as the dramas unfolded (okay, maybe that was just me).

So I know secondhand the power and draw of games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda and other RPGs. (Am I dating myself too much here?) When I heard about Guy in Real Life, I just had to get my hands on it, and it didn’t disappoint.

Lesh is a Goth kid whose best friend is really into online multi-player RPGs. Lesh himself is more into the metal rock scene, but when he gets himself grounded, Greg convinces him to spend his extra time gaming. Meanwhile, as school comes back into session, Lesh befriends a stunning and eccentric girl named Svetlana, who happens to be an avid tabletop role-playing gamer. As Lesh becomes more entranced with Svetlana, he creates a secret online RPG character named Svvetlana, and begins to lose himself in this alternate world he’s become a part of through her. As Lesh and Svetlana grow closer, he has to find a way to sort out what is real and what is just a fantasy.

I loved so many things about this book, but especially the friendship that develops between Lesh and Svetlana. Their relationship felt so true to me that I was almost certain that I knew a Lesh and Svetlana in my own high school years. The other characters, while at times crass and perhaps a little ugly, were natural and real to me as well. Told from Lesh, Svetlana, and Svvetlana’s perspectives, Guy in Real Life will have you wondering who these characters really are--and maybe even finding yourself blurring the lines between reality and fantasy too.​

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Up and Coming: Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Librarian M has got the scoop on the super anticipated last book in the I Hunt Killers trilogy:
Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Release Date: September 9, 2014

So, I never wrote up Game because I was just SO MAD that it ended with a cliffhanger and I needed to know what happened to Jasper Dent RIGHT AWAY, not almost a year and a half later. Anyway, I’m sure you know that books exists by now. If you don’t, go read it (and also I Hunt Killers if you missed that one) and then you can immediately read this one and have the complete story!

I won’t go into plot details for those of you who haven’t read the first two books in the series, but rest assured that you will find out what happens to Jasper, Billy, Connie, Howie, and everyone else. And don’t worry, it is all VERY DISTURBING and satisfying.

Go place your hold now!


Video: Shut Up and Write with Barry Lyga

Up and Coming: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flashback Fridays: The Feel Good 1970s

Lisa has a book list from the seventies that has so many books you might need that time machine just to find enough time to read them all!

The 1970s might feel like distant history to you, but those were my high school years. It’s not that long ago really…. Or perhaps it’s just that it doesn’t feel that way to me!

What else was going on in the 1970s (besides my high school graduation)? LOTS of changes. President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate Scandal. The Vietnam War ended. The Cultural Revolution in China ended. The Iranian revolution started. And a chimp name Nim was fostered by a family in Manhattan as part of a psychology experiment.

Not surprisingly, Watergate isn’t the subject of many YA novels!

But for a taste of the 70s check out these “fab” reads.

It’s 1973 and Karl wants to start senior year with “Operation Be Fucking Normal.” That’s not so easy when his friends are all misfits from his years of group therapy and his alcoholic mom makes life unpredictable.

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
Thirteen-year-old Ben becomes “half-brother” to a chimp when his family adopts baby Zan as part of a behavioral study. What happens when the chimp grows up and the funding runs out? Inspired by real chimp experiments, Project Nim and Project Washoe.
Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine.
 Ling struggles to understand her changing culture when her father is imprisoned as a class enemy and a member of the Communist Party moves into their home.

Meanwhile, in Iran, a revolution was brewing. See it up close and personal through the eyes of a young girl in this award-winning autobiographical graphic novel. Or watch the film.

Vietnam series by Chris Lynch
Four friends serve in four different branches of the armed forces during the Vietnam War. Read all four books in the series to follow their various experiences.

If you just can’t get enough of the 70s, check out the following titles that were published in the 1970s, and still going strong!

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (1971)
Controversial novel in diary form about a teenage girl who becomes addicted to drugs.

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
A classic rabbit fable featuring heroic, quest, and other themes that made it a favorite of English teachers everywhere.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)
Full of adventure, comedy and romance… ah, Westley and Buttercup, how we do love thee! If you’ve only seen the movie, you’re missing out.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)
Groundbreaking YA book that’s on the list of Most Commonly Challenged Books in the United States.

Forever... by Judy Blume (1975)
Another groundbreaking YA book, this one about teenage sexuality, has also made the list of Most Commonly Challenged Books in the United States.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (1974)
It’s not really a teen book, but if you haven’t read these classic poems yet, there’s no time like the present! Or better yet, listen to Shel Silverstein read them to you.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)
Did you have to read this in elementary school? If you haven’t yet read this Newbery winner, now’s the summer to fill that lacuna in your literary life!

Just for Fun:

If you want to see what Arlington looked like in the 70’s check out the aerial view of Arlington then and now.