Sunday, May 8, 2011

The New York Four, by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly


The New York Four, by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly. New York: Minx, 2008. 151 pp. ISBN 9781401211547


READER'S ANNOTATION
Riley has just arrived at NYU to start her new life...what does the future hold?

GENRE
Graphic Novel

SUMMARY 
"The ultimate insider's guide to New York City is presented through the eyes of Brooklyn-born Riley, who is starting her freshman year at NYU and is about to find out what an adventure--and a mystery--living in the Big Apple can be." (Syndetic Solutions, Inc. summary)

EVALUATION 
This is a light-hearted story about four friends, all freshman at NYU.  The protagonist is likeable yet somewhat self-absorbed Riley, a shy young woman who is learning to break out of her shell.  She finds jobs for herself and her friends which require them to attend biweekly therapy sessions, a creative way for this novel's authors to let us in on each girl's private thoughts and preoccupations.  The black and white illustrations are very stylized, yet they convey character's emotions effectively.  Riley's character is fairly believable, yet we don't learn enough about the other characters to know them  more than superficially.  Overall, this is an enjoyable story about the difficulties of balancing school, work, friendship, and love, and also about the happiness one can find when one takes a chance. Potentially controversial elements: graphic novel format, underage drinking.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book could help teens who are just starting college or life in a new city themselves, or who are dealing with family conflicts.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
My New York City obsession struck again!

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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Witch Baby, by Francesca Lia Block


Witch Baby, by Francesca Lia Block. New York: HarperTrophy, 1992. 115 pp. ISBN 9780440849865


READER'S ANNOTATION
There's just got to be a place in this world for everyone, even a young girl with purple eyes whose birth mother might have been a witch...

GENRE
Realistic Fiction, Fantasy

SUMMARY
"Once upon a time in the city of Shangri-L.A., someone left a baby on a doorstep. She had wild, dark hair and purple eyes and looked at the world in a special way. The family that took her in called her Witch Baby and raised her as their own. But even though she tried to fit in, Witch Baby never felt as though she truly belonged. So one day she packed her bat-shaped backpack, put her black cowboy-boot roller skates, and went out into the real world to find out who she really was...." (barnesandnoble.com synopsis)  This is the sequel to Weetzie Bat. 

EVALUATION
Witch Baby is a character with whom many teens will be able to identify, as she struggles to feel as if she fits in with her family and find her place in the larger world.  With both her positive and negative qualities illustrated, she is more believable than the other characters, but they are all more developed in this novel than they were in the first in the series.  Block continues to include elements of magical realism in this book, especially in the protagonist's personal appearance and qualities.  Beautiful imagery and poetic language also continue to flow through the story.  This is a quick read which will absorb you completely.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book will help teens who feel that they do not fit in with their families and/or other social groups.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I had read the first book in this series, and wanted to find out what happened to the characters next.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dust City, by Paul Weston


Dust City, by Paul Weston. New York: Penguin, 2010. 304  pp. ISBN 9781595142962


READER'S ANNOTATION
With Jack and Fiona by his side, wolf Henry just might be able to make the journey and clear his father's name.

GENRE
Fantasy

SUMMARY
"Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?  His son, that's who.  Ever since his father's arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves . . . until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.  Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City: a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone—and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.  Can Henry solve the mystery of his family's sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf?" (barnesandnoble.com synopsis)

EVALUATION
Through detailed description and imagery, Weston masterfully creates an entire dystopian world in this story.  The novel has a dark, almost noir feel at times.  Weston's inclusion of well-known fairytale characters, yet more interesting than they ever were before, is a wonderful touch.  Protagonist Henry is credible and multi-faceted.  I highly recommend this completely innovative tale.  Potentially controversial elements: violence, drug use.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book will help teens who have had to become independent at an early age.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
The idea of a book for teens based partially on the Big Bad Wolf fairytale character sounded intriguing.

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.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Warp Speed, by Lisa Yee


Warp Speed, by Lisa Yee. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011 310 pp. ISBN 9780545122764


READER'S ANNOTATION
Marley's been threatened, punched, even stuffed in his locker by the school bullies.  How is he going to make it stop?

GENRE
Realistic Fiction

SUMMARY
"Entering seventh grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic; from invisible to center stage. This book directly follows the action chronicled in Lisa Yee's middle-grade trilogy, and features appearances by old friends like Stanford Wong, Emily Ebers, and Millicent Min. But Marley is a character in a world all his own...." (Syndetic Solutions, Inc. summary)

EVALUATION 
Apart from his almost-too-amazing running abilities, Marley is a very realistically drawn character, whose mixed feelings about many things in life will be familiar to many teens.  This story is well-paced and humorous, often hysterical at times (e.g.,  Marley is so into Star Trek that he actually keeps a "Captain's Log").  Yee very deftly makes important points about not letting bullies control one's life, but in a light and non-preachy way.

HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book could help younger teens who are being bullied.

WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
This looked liked a good, fun book on bullying for younger teens

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.