A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Okay, I have another heavy book for you, but I promise I’m not obsessed with dark and depressing things.  I wouldn’t exactly describe this next book that way anyway. . . timely, yes, but not depressing.  Cracked is the debut novel by K.M.Walton, and let’s just say that she doesn’t just ease her way onto the teen book scene. 

Title:  Cracked
Author: K.M. Walton
Pages:  311
Publisher:  Simon Pulse
ISBN:  9781442434424
Publication Date:  January 3, 2012
AR Levels:  Interest Level--9th to 12th; Book Level--4.1; Points--8.0

In a Nutshell:  Sixteen-year old Victor Konig is definitely a loner; he doesn’t have a friend at school, he doesn’t have a friend at home (save for the family dog), and the local bully has an eye out for him.  Bull (the bully—aptly named) also has a terrible home life and doesn’t have much going for him at school either.  Their decisions to take matters into their own hands get them into the same psych ward.  There, they must tackle their own demons and try to make sense of their lives, but will having the enemy in the hospital bed next to you get in the way?

I’d Recommend It for Grades: 9th-12th.  Again, this is a high school book because it deals with topics like suicide, abuse, and depression, and it also features some strong language. 

I’d Recommend It To:  Anyone who’s ever felt isolated.  I’d also recommend it to educators and parents just so they can see what depression and suicidal thoughts can look like for teens.

What I Liked Most about This Book:  It’s realistic and not overly dramatic.  The characters in this book could be real people and the events of the book aren’t “Hollywood” storylines (with the exception of Victor and Bull ending up as roommates in the psych ward). 

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I’ll admit that I have a pretty quirky sense of humor, so I appreciated one activity that went on in the psych ward.  The people in the ward had a game they would play in which they would try to guess why a new person was admitted.

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  I’m going with 5 stars on this one.

*****NOTE:  If you ever have feelings like the characters in this book, talk to someone about it—a parent, a teacher, a counselor, someone! Or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.*****

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Title: A Tale Dark and Grimm
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
ISBN: 9780525423348
Publication Date: October 28, 2010
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 4.6, Points: 6.0 

In a Nutshell: Gidwitz tells the story of Hansel and Gretel as you've never heard it before. Our daring duo still encounters the old cannibal lady in the forest, but there's much more to tell before and after that happened! Along the way, they encounter a dragon, an evil warlock, and even the Devil himself on their journey to discover their destiny. This little book packs some punch, and these aren't your grandma's fairy tales! I can almost guarantee you this one is making its way around backpacks in your elementary school or middle school. Kids love this book at my library, and we can't keep it on the shelves.

I'd Recommend It for Grades: 3-6 (and maybe older if they really like fairy tales...I mean I LOVED it, and I'm "ever so much more than twenty" to quote J.M. Barrie)

I'd Recommend It To: kids who love fairy tales, kids who like books that make you laugh, kids who like to be grossed out, teachers who want a fresh spin on Grimm tales

What I Liked Most about This Book: The hilarious narrator is constantly interrupting with clever asides, and I found myself literally laughing out loud. It will have kids in stitches. I also enjoyed how true it rang to the feel of the original Grimm tales. In true Grimm Brothers fashion, it does get a bit gory at times but in a really funny way mostly. There is some death and regeneration and chopping off of things, but again this is Grimm, so it's to be expected. I don't think it will give kids nightmares or anything, but if you have squeamish kids, maybe this one's not for them.

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y): The narrator is always breaking the fourth wall and asking in an aside if all the little kids are out of the room because he's about to tell a really scary part. It makes you feel like he's in the room with you, and for this reason it would make a great read-aloud for bedtimes, book talks, or classroom discussions.   

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): A well-deserved 5 stars

*Plus, I just found out that the sequel is coming out in September!!! Check out In a Glass Grimmly, which will feature Jack and Jill, here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13513080-in-a-glass-grimmly 

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Since we’re just getting started, I thought it might be a good idea to review several books fairly quickly so the other reviews don’t get sad and lonely.  As I was going through the shelf of books that I’ve read recently, I came across Chris Crutcher’s Deadline and knew instantly that I had to write about it.  I’ve read other books by Chris Crutcher and really enjoyed them, but this one went well beyond that.  This book made me want to know more about the author, and I was surprised to learn that he is also a counselor, which made perfect sense due to the content of the book.  The main character in Deadline is Ben Wolf, a sarcastic high school senior who learns that he has one year to live because of a rare blood disease.  While his doctor tries to save his life and his counselor tries to help him get in touch with his feelings, Ben tries to make the best of his senior year by checking a few things off his to-do list.  The book is a high-school version of the movie 50/50, and it packs quite the emotional punch.

Title:  Deadline
Author:  Chris Crutcher
Pages:  320
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
ISBN:  9780060850890
Publication Date:  September 18, 2007
AR Levels:  Interest Level--9th to 12th; Book Level--5.1; Points--10.0

In a nutshell:  Ben Wolf, a high school senior, has only been 18 for two weeks when he learns that a rare blood disease will probably end his life in about a year.  Against the advice of his doctor, Ben decides to keep his diagnosis a secret from everyone, including his family, and have the best possible senior year.  But now, instead of just having a bucket list of things he wants to accomplish before graduation, he has to add a few things he wants to accomplish before he dies—making the football team, getting the girl, leaving a legacy in his small town, etc.  The only people who know his secret are his doctor and his counselor, and one is trying to save him from his diagnosis while the other tries to save him from himself.  From beginning to end, Crutcher takes you on a poignant, funny, gripping, sarcastic, and gritty journey to the intersection of living and dying.

I’d Recommend It for Grades:  9th-12th+ (If this was a movie, it could possibly get an R rating because of pretty strong language and some sexual content.  Parents and teachers may want to preview the book first before recommending it.)

I’d Recommend It To:  Anyone who likes reading about people with real problems, anyone who’s ever been affected by loss or illness, and anyone who just wants to read a great book!

What I Liked Most About This Book:  Deadline gives a realistic view of what it’s like for a teenager to deal with a terminal illness without sugar coating the details.  Crutcher really takes you into the mind of Ben Wolf.

Single Favorite Moment:  In an attempt to make waves and buck the system, Ben tells his very conservative American History teacher that for his class project he wants to convince his small town city council to name a street after Malcolm X.  Chaos ensues.

Star Rating:  Definitely 5 stars!  I thought this one was incredible.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Book 1) by Heather Brewer

Greetings, all.  I pondered over which book I would review first and finally narrowed it down to two that I read recently.  My first choice (which I’ll save for later) also dealt with the topic of bullying, so instead I’ll introduce you to a series that revolves around another popular topic—vampires!  Don’t get me wrong—I was very hesitant to jump on the vampire bandwagon, but a teacher friend of mine recommended Heather Brewer’s The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod to me.  Vladimir Tod is not exactly your everyday teen—the son of a vampire dad and a human mom, Vlad just wants to fit in at his school in Bathory.  The series includes 5 books with one for each grade from 8th to 12th (similar to the Harry Potter series).  Obviously, you’ll want to start with the first book, Eighth Grade Bites.

Title: Eighth Grade Bites
Author: Heather Brewer 
Pages: 172
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
ISBN: 9780525478119 
Publication Date: August 16, 2007 
AR Levels:  Interest Level--6th+; Book Level--5.4; Points--7.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/530848.Eighth_Grade_Bites

In a nutshell: Vlad seems like the typical 8th grade boy. He has a pair of bullies on his tail, a principal who watches him like a hawk, and a best friend who has the hots for the girl of Vlad’s dreams; what most people don’t know, though, is that Vlad’s a vampire and that he’s living with his aunt after his parents’ mysterious death. On top of the Junior High mayhem and his own secrets, Vlad’s favorite teacher goes missing and the creepy sub informs him that he knows Vlad’s true identity, although Vlad himself doesn’t actually know much about being a vampire. All he wants to do is blend in, but now he must protect his secret and solve the mystery surrounding his teacher, all while trying to pass and survive 8th grade. . . which is no easy task! Now, don’t think this is just another knockoff of Twilight—Eighth Grade Bites has moments that are downright hilarious and others that will have you on the edge of your seat. This is a quick read that will leave you wondering what can possibly happen next!

I’d Recommend It for Grades: 6th + (The first book is the tamest of the series, but the content matures with Vlad.)

I’d Recommend It To: Anyone who’s felt different or who’s carried a big secret and fans of other fantasy series like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Also, I would recommend it to anyone who likes books about vampires, but especially to those not on the Twilight train (In the 5th book, Vlad notes that “Vampires, after all, don’t sparkle.”)

What I Liked Most About This Book: Vlad may be a vampire, but the author presents him as a typical teenager; he and the other characters in the book seem like people who you might actually encounter walking down the halls of a school. The book isn’t overly dramatic but, instead, includes just the right amount of teen angst, drama, humor, and suspense.

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y): I’m a sucker for a good pun, so I thought one conversation between Vlad and his substitute teacher Mr. Otis was downright funny. Mr. Otis keeps asking personal questions to Vlad and tells him that the answers are his business, to which Vlad responds, “Well, pardon the pun, Mr. Otis, but you can bite me.”

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I’m giving this one a 4.

***Side Note: If you like this series, Brewer is working on a spin-off series based on one of the characters you'll meet in Book 2. (Review pending!)***

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Our First Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Here it is! Our very first book review, and honestly, I (Stefanie) knew immediately which book I'd want to review. A book like R.J. Palacio's Wonder just begs for parents and educators to snatch it up for their tweens and teens, but I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Pages: 313
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
ISBN: 9780375869020
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 4.8, Points: 11.0 

In a Nutshell: Auggie Pullman is just your normal fifth grader in every way...just not from the look of him. Auggie was born with a facial deformity, and up until now, he's been homeschooled. But now that he's entering middle school, his parents have decided he needs to go to regular school...because middle school is such an open, welcoming, and peaceful world, right? Wrong! Auggie is faced with the difficulty of not only adjusting to the trials of middle school but with trying to make his classmates see the boy behind the face for who he really is. Told in multiple alternating perspectives of his friends and family and Auggie himself, this book gives a fresh and, at times, funny take on bullying, friendship, and self awareness.

I'd Recommend It for Grades: 5-12+

I'd Recommend It To: Anyone who's ever felt misunderstood or left out or had (or is having!) a really rough time in middle school...which, I'm assuming, is anyone over the age of 10

What I Liked Most about This Book: What didn't I love about this book? I don't want you to get the wrong first impression and think that I always love everything I read, but this is seriously the best children's book I've read this year, the best bullying book I've ever read, and one of the most funny, gut-wrenching, and heartwarming books I've read in a long time. The best part is the character development. The characters feel completely real, and you feel completely sympathetic toward them. You'll find yourself cheering, crying, and laughing right along with them. The biggest compliments I can think to give it are that it has Newbery written all over it and that when you read it, it feels like John Green for younger kids. I adored it. 

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y): Okay, I can't pick a single moment, but the sections narrated by Auggie's sister are my favorite. Her dilemma of growing up loving her brother and willing to do anything to protect him yet wanting some attention for herself as well is raw and honest and amazing. While Auggie's entering middle school, she's entering high school and having struggles of her own, and it brings a whole new dynamic to the plot.  

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): Wow. I would give this 10 stars if I could, but since I can't break my own rules, I'll give it a 5. :) Perfect little book. Just perfect.

A Guy, a Girl, and an Introduction

Greetings, Cyberland!

Welcome to our blog!  Just as the title suggests, we're a guy and a girl who will be writing about books for teens, tweens, and the young at heart.  We're hoping that what we discuss will be helpful for those of you out there trying to find a good book and for the parents, educators, and librarians who often make book recommendations.  

Bear with us as we get this party started.  Stefanie is an experienced blogger extraordinaire, but yours truly is a newby at this.  Feel free to make comments about our posts and suggestions about books we should check out (library pun??).  

Also, purely for your entertainment, we have included a 20 Questions section where Stefanie and I will pose random questions to each other.  Some will be related to books and some won't, but we'll try to at least keep it interesting.