Saturday, August 22, 2015

Replacement Blog

Over the next few weeks I will be transferring some of this blog's content to my new blog, LibraryAnna, and then deleting this blog.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Refresh Refresh, by Danica Novgorodoff


Refresh Refresh, by Danica Novgorodoff. New York: First Second, 2009. 138 pp. ISBN 9781596435223


READER'S ANNOTATION
Apart from a few lines here and there, it's been so long since Josh has received any real contact from his father.  He just wants to know where his dad is...

GENRE
Graphic Novel

SUMMARY
"Fathers, sons, and the war that comes between them. There's nothing Josh, Cody, and Gordon want more than their fathers home safely from the war in Iraq — unless it's to get out of their dead-end town. Refresh, Refresh is the story of three teenagers on the cusp of high school graduation and their struggle to make hard decisions with no role models to follow; to discover the possibilities for the future when all the doors are slamming in their faces; and to believe their fathers will come home alive so they can be boys again." (barnesandnoble.com synopsis)

EVALUATION
This is a heart-breaking and vivid window into the experience of three boys who want nothing more than to hear from their fathers, and the title of the novel refers to just that, the act of hitting the "refresh" key to see if you've received any new email.  The teens' lives are portrayed realistically, and scenes of everyday things such as going to parties or practicing their fighting skills are interspersed with conversations about the future which is just around the corner for these high school seniors.  I highly recommed this honest graphic novel.  Potential controversial elements: violence, underage drinking, sexual activity.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This novel may help teens whose fathers or mothers are in the military and stationed away from the family.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I have always been interested in how teens deal with having parents overseas in the military.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, by Adam Selzer


I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, by Adam Selzer. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. 177 pp. ISBN 9780385904971


READER'S ANNOTATION
To Alley, Doug is the cutest guy, with impeccable taste in music: hers.  So what if he's a little -- well, a lot -- pale?

GENRE
Horror, Humor

SUMMARY
Alley Rhodes is a high school senior who lives in a small Iowa town in what has been termed the "post-human era".  It is so called because humans, zombies, and vampires live together, without harming each other for the most part.  The era began when the vampires came out of the shadows to successfully spearhead a legal action on behalf of the zombies, whom the Megamart chain had brought back from the dead to use as slave labor.  Against this satirical backdrop is an engaging story about Alley's meeting of and dating Doug, a guy from a neighboring town who sings with a local band and shares Alley's taste in music.  But she shortly realizes that he is not quite human.  However, he is her first real love, and their relationship really transforms for the better the way that she treats others.  She also grapples with the question of whether a teen like herself should make permanent life-altering decisions in order to be with the person she loves. 

EVALUATION
This is an easy and fun read which will get teens thinking about social issues and interpersonal ones as well.  The plot is fairly simple but the story is well-paced; Alley's experiences day-to-day at school and dating milestones such as having Doug meet her parents, going to prom, etc. are balanced with her sorting through her feelings about the relationship. The story is quite funny at times, and Alley is a likeable character with whom I think teens will identify.  The other characters are not as developed.
What may make this novel controversial to some are a couple mentions of teenage drinking and teens dying in order to become vampires or zombies.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
I think this novel could help teens involved in romantic relationships to keep their perspective and not let the relationship radically change their post-high school plans.  It could also help teens to develop more compassion for physically challenged or ill classmates.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
The phrasing of the title and the idea of dating a zombie made me laugh.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tantalize, by Cynthia Leitich Smith


Tantalize, by Cynthia Leitich Smith.  Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2007.  310 pp. ISBN 9780763627911


READER'S ANNOTATION
One month before the grand re-opening of Quincie's family's restaurant, their beloved chef has been murdered, possibly by a werewolf.  Or is the new vampire theme of the restaurant attracting real bloodsuckers?

GENRE
Horror, Humor

SUMMARY
After her parents' death, first-person narrator Quincie Morris was left in her Uncle Davidson's care.  Now at age 17, she will help her uncle manage the family Italian restaurant, which they've decided will now have a vampire theme.  When their beloved Chef Vaggio is murdered one month before the grand reopening, they are left scrambling to find a replacement, and Quincie to cling to the hope that her half-human/half-werewolf best friend and love interest, Kieren, was not involved in the killing.  A new chef named Henry Johnson is hired, who is quite talented but also a bit off-putting.  Also problematic for Quincie is the fact that the time has come for Kieren to join a wolf pack and leave Austin.  Then murders begin piling up and Uncle Davidson starts acting very strangely...  Smith continues the stories of these characters in two later novels.

EVALUATION
Of all the monster books I've read this semester, Tantalize has probably been the most fun, and I like Quincie's sense of humor and sarcasm. I think the fact that she, as a teen, is helping to run a restaurant should give teens an enjoyable taste of independence.  And at the same time give an idea of the huge sacrifices that one makes in other areas of life, such as friendship and school, when one takes on such a responsibility. In addition, there is relevant social commentary in this novel, one example being the fact that werepeople have fewer rights than humans and suffer discrimination. One of my favorite aspects of Tantalize is that we don't find out until the end whether Kieren truly reciprocates Quincie's romantic feelings.  And I also love the ambiguity of the ending as far as what Quincie's future holds. What some may find controversial is Quincie's drinking, but her drinking is included to illustrate how alcohol impairs one's judgement.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book could help teens who find themselves with more responsibility than they can handle, or whose parents/guardians are absent.  It could also help teens who feel they may have a drinking problem.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I liked the idea of vampires, werepeople, and humans together in one city, and the restaurant aspect sounded fun.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki & Steve Rolston


Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki. New York: Minx, 2008. 149 pp. ISBN 9781401215361


READER'S ANNOTATION
Emiko's just about ready to perform live on stage for the first time, but feels she still needs to add a "wow factor" to her show...

GENRE
Graphic Novel

SUMMARY
"A borrowed diary, a double life, and identity issues fuel a teenager's quest to find herself before she cracks and commits social suicide, in this new series written especially for girls." (Syndetic Solutions, Inc. summary)

EVALUATION 
Emiko is a very realistically developed protagonist.  Far from perfect and somewhat shy at first, she nevertheless eventually manages to muster up her courage and step out of her shell.  But even at the novel's end, she acknowledges that she is still a work in progress.  This is a really lovely and incredibly entertaining story about the need to fit in that we all experience at some point and, ultimately, finding one's true self. Potentially controversial element: graphic novel format.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This novel could help teens who are starting over, either in a new town, or building new friendships. 

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I had read about this on a UCLA "best graphic novels for teens" list.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon



Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon.  New York: First Second, 2007. 205 pp. ISBN 9781596431089


READER'S ANNOTATION
Now that Dog and Robot are separated, how will they each survive?  Will they ever again feel as happy as they were together?

GENRE
Graphic Novel

SUMMARY
"This moving, charming graphic novel about a dog and a robot shows us in poignant detail how powerful and fragile relationships are. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves the robot rusted, immobilized in the sand, the dog must return alone to the life they shared. But the memory of their friendship lingers, and as the seasons pass, the dog tries to fill the emotional void left by the loss of his closest friend, making and losing a series of friends, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. But for the robot, lying rusting on the beach, the only relief from loneliness is in dreams." (barnesandnoble.com synopsis)

EVALUATION 
Despite the fact that this novel is completely wordless, Varon tells a completely original story that really grabs at the heartstrings.  We feel the pain of both Dog and Robot at the loss of their friendship, yet also the hope in the fact that  life does go on.  In soft browns, aquas, and other pastel colors, Varon communicates the characters' emotions vividly.  The last few pages of this novel are very touching as one old friend gives another the ultimate gift in the form of music: a wish for him to remain happy. Potentially controversial element: graphic novel format.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This novel could help teens who have drifted apart from a formerly close friends, letting them know that they will indeed make new friends.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I've always loved any anthropomorphic fiction, and I couldn't resist the cover drawing of a contented dog and robot sweetly smiling as they rowed along in a little boat.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black


Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010. 415 pp. ISBN 9781416989530 


READER'S ANNOTATION
Which makes for better fiction: zombies or unicorns?  Read through these twelve inventive tales and decide for yourself!

GENRE
Fantasy, Horror

SUMMARY
This is an anthology of twelve short stories by YA authors, half about zombies and half about unicorns.  The premise by which the editors unite the tales is that they wish readers to read them all and then decide whether zombies or unicorns make for better subject matter for fiction. Each story is preceded by a page of banter between editors Larbalestier and Black about the merits of zombies and unicorns.  Stories vary widely in theme and setting, all the way from Margo Lanagans’ seemingly Middle Ages tale, A Thousand Flowers, which concerns a royal lady who will make the ultimate sacrifice to be with her true love, to Carrie Ryan’s futuristic Bouganvillea, in which a young girl’s mettle is tested .
 
EVALUATION
I really loved the great majority of these stories.  Although it is hard to narrow it down, my favorite is Naomi Novik's Purity Test just because it's so zany, centering around a teenage girl conscripted to help rescue a group of baby unicorns in New York City.  I especially love the unicorn Belcazar's sarcasm, and his lines about Fairyland and chocolate milk really tickle my funnybone for some reason.  I also loved Bouganvillea by Carrie Ryan.  She manages to convey such a heavy expectant mood, and I like the growth and ultimate strength shown by Iza, the main character.  The black humor and thought-provoking nature of  Alayna Dawn Johnson's Love Will Tear Us Apart are also just great.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
I think that one uniting factor of several of the stories is that protagonists are called upon to act decisively in the interest of self-preservation or in order to be true to themselves.  This could inspire teens in any situation in which courage is called for.


WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
Some of the stories sounded really funny and/or thought-provoking.