A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

When I first started reading Where Things Come Back and noticed that it is set in Arkansas, I researched the author, John Corey Whaley, to find that he is a fellow educator AND a fellow Louisianian.  This book had me hooked by page 4, and it read much like a John Green novel but with its own flair.  Part heart wrenching, part humorous, and part philosophical, Where Things Come Back makes you ask whether things happen for a reason or if life is a series of coincidences.  

Title:  Where Things Come Back
Author:  John Corey Whaley
Pages: 256
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN:  9781442413337
Publication Date:  May 3, 2011
AR Levels:  Interest Level: 9th-12th; Book Level: 5.7; Points:  9.0 

In a nutshell:  Cullen Witter is a rising high school senior in small town Lily, Arkansas.  Over the summer, he loses his cousin to a drug overdose and his beloved and revered brother Gabriel disappears; at the same time, his town is in a frenzy over an extinct woodpecker that has suddenly reemerged.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Africa, a missionary struggles to find true meaning in his life.  Their stories collide in a way that leaves you wondering and questioning til the very last page.

I'd recommend it for grades:  8th-12th+.  The book does contain some cursing and the philosophical/religious elements might be too much for younger middle grades.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who's dealt with loss or who enjoys a good, well-crafted story.

What I liked most about this book:  I liked that the book allowed us into the mind of all different kinds of people who are experiencing the main events.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  Cullen's brother, Gabriel, keeps a journal of random thoughts, musings, song lyrics, etc.  I was very excited to see shout outs to one of my favorite musicians--Sufjan Stevens.  

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 3 stars is atrocious):  4 Stars

Saturday, September 22, 2012

She Reads His Pick: Playground by 50 Cent

Chris and I thought it would be fun from time to time to pick a book for each other to read that we might not normally read. He picked this one for me, and I'll admit, I was skeptical, but I ended up liking it.

Title: Playground
Author: 50 Cent
Pages: 314
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN: 9781595144348
Publication date: January 1, 2012
AR levels: Interest level: 6th and up, Book level: 5.4, Points: 7.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9754801-playground

In a nutshell: Butterball is sent to see a therapist after attacking a friend on the playground at his school. To the casual bystander, it appears to be an unprovoked act of violence, but through the eyes of this troubled teen, the reader begins to see just what lead to his actions, and it's anything but what one might think. Take a walk in Butterball's shoes, and you'll learn what it feels like to be a bully and to be bullied too. This is a book for anyone who's ever felt misunderstood or had a misunderstanding derail his or her life.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12 (There is a good deal of cursing, references to some mature themes, and off-screen drinking and violence.)

I'd recommend it to: future filmmakers (Butterball loves making movies and talks a lot about film), anyone who's ever felt bullied or been tempted to bully someone themselves, and professionals who work with tweens and teens

What I liked most about this book: My favorite thing about this book is that you get to see the horrors of bullying from both sides of the coin in one character. Butterball lashes out at others because of pain in his own life, and he also is a victim of bullying himself, finding himself eating lunch alone in the restroom many days. Yet, he finds a way to stop being the bully and stop being bullied. It'd be a great read for a kid who's bullying others or being bullied himself. Also, Butterball is just so loveable. You really feel for this kid. You hurt when he hurts. You cringe when he does something wrong. You cheer for him when he does something right. The relationship between him and his therapist is both emotionally charged and sweet too. There's lots of great character development in this book, and the writing style is melodic too. 50 Cent definitely has a way with words.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's a moment when Butterball and his dad are shopping for new shoes when he sees the most beautiful pair of sneakers he's ever seen and he describes them, saying, "they were really incredibly beautiful - the way a sunset or the last shot of Planet of the Apes, the original I mean, not that remake..., the way it cuts from the beach to that wide shot of the Statue of Liberty" (111). At the beginning of this book, I was a bit worried I'd be able to relate to Butterball as a character, but by page 10 or so I was already feeling him. After this scene where he falls in love with some shoes, I was definitely understanding him because who hasn't done that? It's such an innocent and universal moment that quickly turns sour, but that's spoilers. ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 409
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545224901
Publication date: October 18, 2011
AR levels: Interest level - 9-12th grades, Book level: 5.5, Points: 17

In a nutshell: Every November, the courageous riders on the island of Thisby face off in The Scorpio Races, a dangerous race in which they must attempt to tame and race the wild and bloodthirsty capaill uisce. These beautiful but deadly water horses emerge from the surf, and if a lucky rider can find one to lead him to victory, there's fame and fortune and glory to be had, but death could also be a raging hoofprint away. 

Both Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly feel the pull of the Races. Repeat champion and orphan Sean is tired of living under the bondage of his despicable employer, so he's laying everything he has on the line in order to start a new and independent life for himself. Puck Connolly, also an orphan, has no choice but to enter the Races; she must win in order to keep her family together, but the islanders won't be kind to the only girl to ever enter the Races. In a deadly race where only one can win and anyone can die, both Sean and Puck find themselves with equally vital motives for victory and a luring camaraderie that's as strong as the pull of the tides.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12 (It gets a bit bloody at times.)

I'd recommend it to: Hunger Games fans and horse lovers

What I liked most about this book: Simply put: the language is gorgeous. Stiefvater definitely has a way with words and imagery. I felt completely transported to this island, and even though the beginning is a bit slow plot-wise, I was so pulled in by the descriptions and the characters, that I couldn't stop. The race scene had me on the edge of my seat, and I think I may have held my breath a few times. The book is an alluring blend of violence, romance, courage, hope, suspense, action, and myth. This would make a breathtaking movie as well.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Any scene where Sean is working to tame the capaill uisce is utterly magical. He's a water horse whisperer of immense talent, and it's incredible to watch him work with those beautiful and terrifying creatures. The character development of the water horses is amazing in and of itself too.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): a solid 4 stars

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Literary QOTW: Bringing History to Life

Lots of books have been written with a major historical event as the setting backdrop, giving us a teen or tween's view of what that event was like.  For example, Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing), Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (9/11), and Deborah Wiles' Countdown (Cuban Missile Crisis/1960s).  What major historical event would you like to see in a YA novel and why?

Stefanie Says:  I'd like to see a YA book set in Haiti during the recent-ish earthquake. I'm not familiar with many contemporary YA novels set in the Caribbean. It'd be nice to get a glimpse of what life was like before and after the earthquake and what life in present-day Caribbeans nations is like too. 

Chris Says:  So, by coincidence, we both picked earthquakes.  The only difference is that mine is almost 200 years earlier and centered around New Madrid, Missouri.  The New Madrid earthquake was actually a series of earthquakes occurring over a 4-month period that were felt as far away as Maine.  The quakes were powerful enough to create waterfalls along the Mississippi River and even made it flow backwards at several points and almost an entire town was washed away.  In addition to all of the destruction, the quake helped uncover evidence that solved a famous murder investigation involving nephews of Thomas Jefferson.  A YA book set during this event would be a mix of Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, and Earthquake.  

If you like historical YA fiction, check out this site:  http://plymouthlibrary.org/index.php/teen/teen-booklists/67-american-historical-fiction-for-teens

He Says/She Says: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Title: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Author: Christopher Healy
Pages: 419
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
ISBN: 9780062117434
Publication date: May 1, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 5.0, Points: 12.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12969560-the-hero-s-guide-to-saving-your-kingdom

In a nutshell: You've probably never heard of Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Liam, or Prince Duncan, but I bet you've heard of Prince Charming, right? In a fairytale world where word travels via song, the heroic deeds of princes are often lumped under the fake title of "Prince Charming," and poor Frederic, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan get no fortune or glory. But when an evil witch threatens to murder the minstrels of five fairytale kingdoms, these unknown princes step in to save the very bards who stole their rightful fame. You'll love this swashbuckling, funny fairytale that combines the stories of Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. (Plus, it's going to be a series! No publication date yet though.)

He Says:
I'll admit I was a bit skeptical at first about this book, but it turned out to be one of the best books I've reviewed to date!  If this is ever turned into an animated movie (and it should), I hope someone will allow me to help with casting people to do the voices.  I can best describe this book as a cross between The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Shrek.  It takes everything you thought you knew about classic fairy tales and turns them upside down.

I'd recommend it for grades:  4th and up.  Not gonna lie, even adults will love this one!

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who loves classic fairy tales but doesn't take them too seriously.  This book might change your opinion of a few of those princesses, and even Prince Charming.

What I liked most about this book:  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book out loud (to myself, yes), but still it's hilarious.  Hero's Guide doesn't have a dull moment, and it's chock full of daring adventures and close escapes.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I love the part of the book when the princes share the names of their horses.  One of them is so random but fits the character very well.  You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  5 stars, hands down!!

She Says:
I recommended to Chris that we read this book together as our next he says/she says review because it sounded funny, and boy was it! I hope they make it into a movie too!

I'd recommend it for grades: 4th and up (Ditto to what Chris says about adults loving this too! It will also make a fabulous read-aloud book for even younger children too. I definitely hope to read it to mine one day!)

I'd recommend it to: fairytale lovers and tween boys (They'll love the humor in it and will be able to identify with at least one of the princes. Plus it's got very little romance in it and lots of action!)

What I liked most about this book: The four princes in this book couldn't be more different, and yet I love them all, and they all grow so much during the course of the book. You've got Frederic, Cinderella's sheltered, scaredy cat prince; Gustav, Rapunzel's gruff, devil-may-care prince; Liam, Sleeping Beauty's handsome and genuinely brave and kindhearted prince (my fave!), and Duncan, Snow White's quirky, spastic prince (He's a hoot!). They really make the book what it is, but there are some strong female characters in this book too. Ella (Cinderella) kicks major butt, you love to hate Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), and my personal favorite is spunky little Lila, Liam's little sister, who is quite an adventurer in her own right! Also, the chapter titles are really, really funny.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I have lots of favorites, but some of my favorite scenes are the ones where Duncan randomly names animals on the spot. He'll see an animal in the woods, and he has to blurt out a name for it immediately, so he's forever randomly spurting out names, and it's hilarious! It reminds me of the dog in Up.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Pages: 292
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN: 9780062003256
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th, Book Level: 5.7, Points: 10.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12924326-tiger-lily 

In a nutshell: Before Peter gave Wendy a thimble, he loved a strong, exotic native girl named Tiger Lily, but this is the tale of three girls who loved Peter Pan - an English girl, the daughter of a medicine man, and a spunky fairy. Narrated by Tinker Bell, this entrancing love rectangle is beautifully written and is sure to leave you spellbound.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12

I'd recommend it to: fans of Peter Pan and romance lovers

What I liked most about this book: Besides the fact that the writing is just gorgeous, it's incredible to see a fresh interpretation of Neverland. All your favorite characters are here - Captain Hook, Smee, the Lost Boys, the mermaids, and of course Peter, Wendy, Tiger Lily, and Tinker Bell, and there are some delightful new characters too. One of my favorites is Pine Sap, a bookish native boy who's in love with Tiger Lily. Anderson takes some liberties with the original, but I loved the idea that you stop aging when the most significant moment of your life happens. Also, while you would think that having a "jealous" Tinker Bell narrate the love story of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily would be petty and rude, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily actually have an incredibly authentic and loyal friendship that's every bit as heartwarming as the romance in the book.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I can't give away too much, but the book puts a spin on how the crocodile ended up with the clock, and it has nothing to do with Captain Hook. That scene is one of the turning points of the novel and one of the most heartbreaking ones too. I teared up a bit.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'd give it 6 stars if I could.