A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

I had intended to post this one earlier this morning, as it's the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in South Louisiana, but I found myself without power for an extended period of time due to Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Isaac.  I'm typing this review while on an air mattress in a relative's guest room, and I can't help but think back to August 29, 2005 and the days, weeks, and months that followed.  A conversation with one my students earlier this week reminded me that although many of my middle schoolers don't remember vividly what happened 7 years ago, they do remember how their lives changed because of it.  I thought it would be appropriate to review Paul Volponi's Hurricane Song, which is the fictional account of a teenager who was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck.  It is vivid, poignant, and even a little haunting.

Title:  Hurricane Song
Author:  Paul Volponi
Pages:  144
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
ISBN:  9780670061600
Publication Date:  June 12, 2008
AR Levels:  Interest Level--4th to 8th; Reading Level--5.4; Points--4.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2302929.Hurricane_Song

In a nutshell:  Sixteen-year old Miles just moved across the country to live with his jazz musician father in New Orleans.  Their relationship had been almost nonexistent, but with his mom getting remarried and new kids moving in the house, he knew he needed to give his dad a second chance.  After only a few months, their new relationship is tested by one of the worst natural disasters New Orleans has ever seen--Hurricane Katrina.  Getting out of town proves to be very difficult with heavy traffic and a broken down car, so they end up at the Superdome, one of the city's most iconic venues that turns out to be a scene of devastation, destruction, and despair.  Can their relationship survive the storm, but more importantly, can they survive the storm?

I'd recommend it for grades:  8th - 12th+.  There is some language and mature content; plus some of the events of the story may be disturbing.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who wants to see what the center of the storm was like for the poorest of the poor and anyone who enjoys reading about dealing with obstacles and adversity.

What I liked most about this book:  This book doesn't sugarcoat what happened in the aftermath of the storm, but it also doesn't read like a documentary account.  Hurricane Song challenges you to think not only about the characters in the story, but also about the bigger issues that were the cause of many misfortunes during this tragic event.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I loved that the lyrics to "When the Saints Go Marching In" were placed throughout the book.  

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'll say 4 stars. It isn't perfect and seems rushed at times, but what is there packs an emotional wallop.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Literary QOTW: Joining Forces

2010's Will Grayson, Will Grayson was co-authored by John Green and David Levithan, with each author writing every other chapter.  Which two YA authors would you like to see team up to write a novel, and why would they work well together?  

Stefanie says:  Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries) and Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss) should definitely write a book together. Their writing styles are similar, and they're both wonderful at writing strong, funny female leads. Plus, they know how to get a laugh. That book would be hilarious. Add Maureen Johnson to the mix, and that would be one EPIC book!

Chris says:  I'm thinking that Chris Crutcher (Deadline) and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) would write well together.  They have similar writing styles, have tackled similar topics within their books, and know how to throw in a laugh-out-loud moment here and there.  Crutcher tends to write about more popular/jock-type characters, while Green has mastered writing about quirky/independent-type characters.  A book that combines these two perspectives would be a YA lit juggernaut.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Imposter by Gary Blackwood

Okay, I've been scarce for a while.  Between the Olympics, Shark Week, and the start of a new school year, my schedule has been a little hectic.  I know that one reason some people give for not reading more is that they don't have time, so I decided to review a book that's pretty short and very quick.  The Imposter by Gary Blackwood manages to squeeze humor, suspense, and drama into less than 200 pages. The book was just published this year, but Blackwood began drafting this story 20 years ago.   

Title: The Imposter
Author: Gary Blackwood
Pages: 192
Publisher: Red Deer Press
ISBN: 9780889954786
Publication date: May 1, 2012
AR Levels:  N/A 

In a nutshell: Ryan Waite is a 14-year old actor who lives with his mother in Canada.  When he receives a phone call from a mysterious man asking him to audition for a play, he decides to give it a shot but soon learns that this would be a role unlike any other he's played in the past.  The man he thought was a casting director turns out to be a private detective who has been searching for the long lost son of a very wealthy man who happens to be dying; after the search turned out to be a bust, the detective decided to hire an actor to play the son so that they could split the money promised for finding the son. After arriving at the home of his long lost "father," Ryan (now called Allen Kurz) instantly bonds with Kelley--his new "sister"--but his new "stepmother" is on to him from the beginning.  Can Ryan stay in character long enough to pull off this role or will the truth catch up with him?  

I'd recommend it for grades: 6th-12th+.  Very easy read without a lot of PG content.

I'd recommend it to: Students who like acting and drama, as well as those who like a little mild suspense

What I liked most about this book: It was very simple.  Blackwood didn't try to beef up the book with racy content or extra fluff.  The book moves at a fast pace but isn't hard to follow.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I know this isn't a specific part of the book, but I laughed a lot when I finally hit the point in the book that confirmed that it is set in 1990s Canada.  I definitely didn't see that coming.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars.  The book wasn't perfect, but it delivered a pretty good story for what it was.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Literary QOTW: Back to School

Since it's that time of year again, what's your favorite book set in a school?

Stefanie says: I'm going to go with an oldie but a goodie - Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. This is the first book I remember reading as a kid that literally made me laugh out loud. The hilarious antics of the kids at good ol' Wayside are timelessly funny with a healthy dose of science fiction, and I still recommend this book to kids a lot. Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans and My Weird School fans will enjoy it tremendously. Honorable mention goes to the sequels - Wayside School Is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger...and I suppose Harry Potter too if we're counting wizarding schools because we all know I want to go to Hogwarts.

Chris says: I'm going old school, too.  John Knowles' A Separate Peace dates all the way back to 1959.  I never wanted to go to a prep school, boarding school, or a boys-only school, but for some reason, the idea always made for great books and movies (e.g. Dead Poets Society, The History Boys, The Chocolate War).  I remember reading this one in junior high and immediately reading it again.  I always wanted to have my own secret society at school because it sounded awesome, but the band of misfits I was hanging around at the time probably looked more like a page out of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Honorable mention goes to Looking for Alaska, which also takes place at a boarding school.  (Maybe there's a pattern for a reason!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Author: Tom Angleberger
Pages: 152
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 9780810984257
Publication date: March 1, 2010
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 4.7, Points: 3.0

In a nutshell: McQuarrie Middle School is just your typical middle school until the day quirky sixth-grader Dwight introduces his classmates to Origami Yoda, who as you may have guessed is an origami Yoda, but the crazy thing is that this origami Yoda seems to be alive and able to predict the future! Dwight's classmate and fellow lunch table sitter Tommy and his friends begin an investigation to find out whether or not Origami Yoda is real or just a way for Dwight to get attention, and things just get stranger and stranger. Before long every one wants to seek Origami Yoda's advice, and there's trouble for those who do not heed it.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 to 8

I'd recommend it to: fans of Star Wars and/or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, boys, origami enthusiasts, reluctant readers (It's short and easy to read...and funny too!), and anyone looking for a good laugh

What I liked most about this book: The physical design of this book is excellent. The whole book reads like a case file journal of the class' encounters with Yoda, so the pages have a crumpled look to them with different fonts for different handwriting and doodles here and there of Star Wars characters and kids in the class. Plus, at the end there's instructions for making your own origami Yoda. I haven't tried it...yet! ;)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): My favorite piece of advice that Yoda gives is to a boy who accidentally gets water on his pants in the bathroom and is mortified that people will think he peed in his pants. Wise Yoda says, "All of pants you must wet," and the boy just soaks the rest of his pants and shirt so it just looks like he got caught in the rain. Genius.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars (but it would easily be 5 stars for certain readers)

*If you like this one, check out the other two in the series: Darth Paper Strikes Back (book two) and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee (book 3). 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Literary QOTW: You Drive Me Crazy

Chris and I have been distracted during the Olympics, so we've been pretty quiet here lately, but here's your question of the week!

What's one book you've read that drives you so crazy or makes you so mad that you want to throw it across the room?

Stefanie says: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Let me just say first that I am neither a Twilight hater or a Twihard, but man does New Moon drive me nuts! The whole series has its moments of annoyance, but it comes to a peak in New Moon for me because I just want to smack Bella Swan. She is possibly one of the worst role models for girls in YA lit today. She can't do anything without a guy, and she treats Jacob, who bends over backwards for her, like crap. I couldn't stand the mopeyness of this book, and I think I may have actually thrown this book across the room at some point. Also, the entire part in Italy is just ridiculous, and the Romeo and Juliet comparison gets overused and is really tiresome.

Chris says: A book I want to throw across the room is Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech (or most books by Sharon Creech, for that matter). For an acclaimed "young adult" author, I find her way out of touch with her target audience; on that same note, I don't like that this book is marketed as young adult fiction yet has "ages 8 & up" printed on the cover. While I'm sure there are people who love this book, I found it painful to read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NPR's Top 100 Best Teen Novels

And here's the list! Do you agree with the choices? How many have you read? I've read 38, so it looks like I've got some work to do!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto

I was introduced to author Michelle Muto and her books on Twitter.  I will eventually review her other book, but Ms. Muto herself advised me to start with The Book of Lost Souls after I told her I needed something funny to read.  If you are/were a fan of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," then this is definitely the book for you.  Teen witch Ivy MacTavish and her paranormal pals get involved in some magical mayhem and then find themselves in a struggle to save the world--no big deal. The Book of Lost Souls is as funny as it is suspenseful and won't disappoint.

Title: The Book of Lost Souls
Author: Michelle Muto
Pages: 288
Publisher: Independent
ISBN: 9781466463219
Publication Date: March 6, 2011
AR Levels:  N/A
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13291148-the-book-of-lost-souls

In a nutshell:  Teen witch Ivy MacTavish makes an interesting date choice for a Halloween dance when she decides to turn a friend's lizard into her very own college guy--Spike; however, her plan comes unraveled when Spike acts less than humanly at the dance and everyone finds out what she's done, even the guy of her dreams--Dean--and the bad boy she can't stand--Nick.  Her band of friends, which includes a brother/sister pair of werewolves and a brother/sister pair of vampires, help her try to pick up the pieces and also make amends for her actions.  While cleaning up a cemetery with her friends, Ivy finds a pair of magic-related books that she believes were hidden by her father, a notorious outlaw known for dark magic who left Ivy and her mom years earlier.  When a murder spree breaks out in her town, Ivy knows that she not only has a connection to what's going on but also that she must do what she can to stop it.  Along the way, she wants to win Dean, but demon Nick  becomes infatuated with her.  Can she stop the dark magic that's plaguing her town, or will she or one of her loved ones become the next victim? And what will she have to risk along the way?  Read to find out!

I'd recommend it for grades: 8-12+

I'd recommend it to:  anyone who loves books about witches, werewolves, and vampires, as well as anyone who enjoys a good paranormal laugh.  

What I liked most about this book:  This book includes character types that we've seen in other fantasy books, but those other books don't include the hipness and suspense that this book brings to the table.  This book isn't Harry Potter or Twilight, and I found that very refreshing!!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  One of my favorite moments occurs early in the book when Ivy's werewolf friends' senile uncle crashes the dance gnawing on a human bone he dug up from the cemetery.  It was definitely a laugh-out-loud moment for me!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'm going to say 4 stars.  The Book of Lost Souls is a very quick read that will keep you guessing until the end!  I'm looking forward to much more from Michelle Muto!

Ironman by Chris Crutcher

For the past week, I have been glued to coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games, and this inspired me to reread one of my favorites from my early years.  I thought it would be appropriate to review this one even though it's an oldie but a goodie, especially since it's about a triathlete.  Ironman by Chris Crutcher has its fair share of funny moments and delivers a powerful story of perseverance and endurance.

Title:  Ironman
Author: Chris Crutcher
Pages: 288
Publisher:  Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780060598402
Publication Date: April 14, 1995
AR Levels:  Interest Level--9th to 12th; Book Level--5.5; Points--9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/275846.Ironman

In a nutshell:  Bo Brewster is a high school triathlete.  He and his father have been at odds for quite some time, and Bo has also developed quite a temper.  An incident with his football coach/English teacher lands him in Mr. Nak's "Angry Management" class (which, at first, seems like a motley crew of rule breakers).  He enjoys writing letters to one of his favorite celebrities--Larry King, whom he sees as a source of wisdom.  His favorite teacher (Mr. S) and his new friends in Mr. Nak's group assist him on a journey of self discovery, in which he learns about love, perseverance, and forgiveness.

I'd recommend it for grades: 8-12+ (There's some "adult language" and some darker issues discussed in this one, so reader discretion is advised.)

I'd recommend it for: Anyone who appreciates a good sports book enmeshed with a bit of teen angst.  

What I liked most about this book:  It does touch on some serious issues, but Crutcher manages to balance this with many funny moments to keep the reader interested.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  Instead of one particular moment, I'm going to pick a favorite character--Mr. Nak.  He is by far the funniest and most sarcastic Asian-American cowboy that has ever been written.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  5 stars easily. I've read this one three times now, and it never fails to amaze me!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

When I answered the QOTW this week, I totally forgot about one of my other favorite books set partially in London - The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Here's a review of that lovely book.

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Pages: 236
Publisher: Poppy
ISBN: 9780316122382
Publication Date: January 2, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th, Book Level: 6.1, Points: 8.0

In a nutshell: Hadley Sullivan is less than thrilled about having to fly to London for her father's wedding to her new stepmom, whom she hasn't even met, and to make matters worse, she's four minutes late for her flight and is bumped to the next one which will barely get her there in time for the wedding. Fortunately for Hadley, those missed four minutes will end up changing her life because if she hadn't missed her flight, she never would have met swoon-worthy, adorkable Brit boy Oliver, who's traveling home to London for an equally difficult family affair. If you've ever thought there was something terribly romantic about airports and secretly wished you'd meet the love of your life on a routine flight, this is the book for you.

I'd recommend it for grades: 8 to 12+ (This may be a romance, but it gets pretty deep/philosophical about life in general too, and some younger middle schoolers may just find that boring. Some may love it though!)

I'd recommend it for: fans of sweet non-sappy romances, people who like to travel, and fans of Stephanie Perkins' books (Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door) and the movies Serendipity and When Harry Met Sally.

What I liked most about this book: The characters are so realistic and multifaceted. It's incredible how quickly you fall in love with them yourself as the reader. This book also has some really laugh-out-loud funny parts too! Plus, it occurs over a 24-hour period, so it almost feels like it's real time and that you're right there in the thick of the action. Finally, the language and writing style are GORGEOUS!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Oh, I can't pick! Anything and everything they talk about on the plane is fabulously Nora-Ephron-like and wonderful. Please, please, please make this into a movie! Too bad Nora herself can't do it.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars