August is the perfect time to while away a hot, humid Baltimore afternoon in an air-conditioned theater, munching on popcorn and getting lost in a movie. Don’t miss these two new films based on popular novels for teens.
Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning novel The Giver has been a school reading list staple since its publication, and now, it has finally been adapted for the big screen. Jonas is honored to find that he has been selected to be the next Receiver of Memories for his community. Initially, he doesn’t know what that means, but he soon learns that he will become the sole member of his community who knows the world's history and remembers the time before they adopted Sameness. Jonas’ new knowledge forces him to see everything in his world differently, including his family and friends, and he is faced with a difficult choice. The star-studded cast includes Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and Brenton Thwaites. The Giver will be in theaters on August 15.
Gayle Forman’s popular novel If I Stay is the story of a young woman who must choose between life and death after her family is in a catastrophic car accident. With both of her parents dead and her brother critically injured, 17-year-old Mia finds herself somewhere between life and death. Over the next day, she looks back on significant moments in her life while the hospital staff fights to save her life and her friends wait to see if she will survive. In the end, Mia must decide what happens next and if she will stay. The movie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, premieres in theaters on August 22.
"My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman. I live in Burlington, Vermont, with Mummy and three dogs. I am nearly eighteen. I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools."
So begins and ends E. Lockhart’s new book We Were Liars. Yet, by the end, the reader will have a much clearer perspective on the narrator's words. Cadence is part of the powerful and distinguished Sinclair family of New England. Every summer, the extended families vacation on their private island, each family set up in their own beautiful house. Idyllic? There’s been an unchallenged stoicism to the Sinclair family, but modernism with its myriad of issues is breaking to the surface: divorce, debt, addiction, the welcoming of outsiders — and the family hasn’t handled it well.
Then there’s Cadence herself. Every summer, she has been with her two cousins – Mirren and Johnny, later joined by Gat, the nephew of one of her aunt’s new husbands. They became known as “The Liars” for the trouble they caused as a group. But something happens on the island at the end of Cadence’s 15th summer, something of which she has no recollection, except that she almost drowned. Plagued by health issues, she doesn’t return until her 17th summer. She tried to reach out to her cousins and friend during her absence but heard nothing. No one else will talk about what happened that year, or what led up to her near death. Everyone tells her she must remember herself. Slowly, she recovers memories of her life that summer and puts pieces together to reveal a much darker family history. By the end, she will be face-to-face with grief and the full horror of events.
Told with beautiful poetic lyricism and sparse wording conveying rich description, this book shouldn’t be overlooked by adults or book clubs. Rife with character introspection, family dysfunction and mystery layered with fractured reality, in its final pages, We Were Liars packs a powerful punch.
Walter Dean Myers, author of more than 100 books for children and teens, passed away on July 1st at the age of 76. Myers wrote with depth and authenticity. His novels included realistic characters, and he didn’t avoid difficult topics. In his Michael L. Printz Award-winning novel Monster, Myers delves into the world of a 16-year-old boy on trial for murder. His novel Fallen Angels is about a Harlem teen who enlists in the Army and spends a year on active duty on the front lines of the Vietnam War.
Throughout his distinguished career, Myers earned many prestigious awards for his work including two Newbery Honors, three National Book Award nominations and six Coretta Scott King Awards. He was also awarded the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. In 2012, Myers was named the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
A lifelong champion of diversity in children’s literature, Myers passionately addressed the issue in an essay in The New York Times, writing, “Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?” The essay ended simply, “There is work to be done.” That work will be done in his memory as his legacy is carried on through his writing.
Theo, short for Theodora, is a talented ballerina on her way to joining a professional ballet company when her life becomes infinitely more complicated. After her best friend Donovan disappeared when they were 13, Theo struggled with an eating disorder. Now, four years later, she feels like she’s recovered – that is until the fateful day when Donovan reappears, and new, unexpected complications pop up. Brandy Colbert’s debut, Pointe, is a thrilling novel that leads readers on a twisted path as they follow Theo’s spiral out of control.
When Theo hears the news that Donovan has returned home and isn’t speaking, she is shocked. When she realizes she knew Donovan’s accused kidnapper, she must come to terms with this discovery and decide what to do with her information. Theo considers her options, all while going to school, preparing for ballet auditions and getting involved in a relationship with the pianist at her ballet studio.
Throughout Pointe, Colbert deftly deals with many heavy issues, such as race, drugs and abuse, and does so in a way that keeps readers intrigued throughout the novel’s many twists and turns. Colbert has created a complex character in Theo, one who is far from perfect, but one readers will root for. Mature teen readers looking for a dark novel with intrigue will want to check out Brandy Colbert’s Pointe.
It has happened to most of us at some point. You’re reading a book on a plane or on the beach. Suddenly, there is a heartbreaking plot twist or a beloved character dies. You try to fight it, but it’s a lost cause. You’re crying in public, and it’s not pretty. These sad stories highlight the deep emotional power that books have over us.
• Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is one of the first books that made many of us cry. This novel about the friendship between a boy and his two hunting dogs is a modern classic.
• Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is an unforgettable story about a girl named Liesel living in Nazi Germany. The novel was recently adapted into a movie, but this is a book that you simply must read.
• Me Before You by Jojo Moyes follows Louisa Clark, a young woman who takes on a job as a caretaker for Will Traynor, who is a quadriplegic. The two of them quickly grow close, but Will’s plans for his assisted suicide loom ahead of them in this tragic, romantic tale.
• Ian McEwan’s Atonement is an elegant exploration of guilt and forgiveness. During the summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony accuses the family maid’s son Robbie of sexually assaulting her cousin. The consequences of her testimony haunt her for the rest of her life.
• Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia is a beloved childhood favorite for many readers. Despite their differences, Jess and Leslie become inseparable friends. When tragedy strikes, Jess must use the lessons that their friendship taught him to heal.
• Set in a post-apocalyptic America, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is the story of a father and son who walk through the desolation, depending only on each other while they try to make their way to the coast.
• Gail Caldwell’s Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship will make you want to call your best friend. In this poignant memoir, Caldwell chronicles her friendship with her best friend Caroline Knapp from their first meeting through Knapp’s death of lung cancer at age 42.
The Geography of You and Me, the latest romance novel from teen author Jennifer E. Smith, is sure to capture the hearts of both teen and adult romance fans. The novel begins on a sweltering day in New York City when Lucy and Owen get trapped in an elevator in their apartment during a blackout. Lucy has lived in the apartment building with her jet-setting parents for years, and yet again finds herself alone as they travel the world. Owen, on the other hand, has just moved to the city because his dad took a job as the apartment building’s new superintendent. Though their paths have crossed before, it’s not until this fateful day that they truly meet.
After being rescued from the elevator, the two spend the night together talking about their lives. But when Lucy wakes up, Owen is gone. She looks for him for the next few days, but must quickly leave when her parents decide they want her to come visit them in London. After learning that her parents want the family to move away from New York, Lucy knows she has to find a way to contact Owen again. She decides on sending him a postcard, which he receives as she returns to New York to pack up the family apartment. Thus begins their long-distance relationship through a series of postcards, as she moves to London and Owen moves around the states with his father.
Readers are taken along on the journey of Lucy and Owen’s relationships — across continents, through scattered correspondence and the promise of the pair one day reuniting. Their relationship is hopeful and romantic.
In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic had such a profoundly devastating impact that drastic measures had to be taken to stem the infection, Elizabeth Fama’s new young adult novel Plus One covers this period in history. To keep up with the additional demands brought on by the pandemic, many more medical professionals were brought in and worked in shifts divided by night and day. This dual system worked so well in the medical field that it was integrated into other industries and finally the government.
Though the system was first designed with equality in mind, over time things changed. Day became the sought after curfew, offering better jobs and more economic advantages. Sol wanted nothing more than for her grandfather to see his first grand baby, but with her brother being day and she and her grandfather being night, the task was almost insurmountable.
Sol had almost no plan when she set out on her mission, so it was no surprise that an adventure ensues. This young adult novel follows Sol as she is betrayed by someone she’s supposed to love, loves someone she’s expected to hate and finds strength in unlikely places. Fama creates a fast-paced and compelling story with compassionate characters and an unexpected ending. Fans of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth should check out this standalone dystopian novel.
Jonah Prentiss may be the only person at Cross Pointe High School who does not like Brighton Waterford. Brighton is popular, smart, pretty and universally admired – that is until Jonah transfers to Cross Pointe for his senior year of high school. Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt alternates between the two points of view, telling the story of how they are thrown together over and over again during the course of one evening.
Jonah is angry that his mother and new stepfather forced him to move from Hamilton to live in the snooty neighboring town of Cross Pointe. He decides to avoid making friends at his new school and to spend as much time as possible in his old town with his friends and girlfriend. Brighton, on the other hand, pretends that her life is perfect, while underneath she is still mourning her father’s death. As a result, she throws herself into school and extracurricular activities to avoid dealing with her feelings. Brighton has made it her mission to befriend everyone, so when Jonah spurns her friendship, she is annoyed and determined to make him change his mind. Jonah comes home early after being dumped by his girlfriend to find Brighton in the house after she unknowingly offers to babysit his little sister. His parents then force him to drive Brighton home. As the night continues, the two end up both willingly and unwillingly in each other’s presence.
Bright Before Sunrise convincingly tells Brighton and Jonah’s stories from both perspectives. Readers come to understand the challenges both are facing, and why they behave the way they do. Meanwhile, the relationship that develops between the two teens will keep readers guessing until the very end. Fans of Jennifer Smith’s books will enjoy Tiffany Schmidt’s latest teen novel.
As a boy, Jacob Portman was always spellbound by the stories his grandfather told him about children with strange powers who lived in an isolated house on a Welsh island. After his grandfather’s violent death, he receives a mysterious letter from a Miss Peregrine, travels to the island and discovers that his grandfather’s stories — and the children — are very much real. So what happens next to the Peculiar Children? Ransom Riggs’ much-anticipated new book, Hollow City, is the second book and sequel to his bestselling novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In Hollow City, Jacob and the peculiar friends he meets in the first book have escaped Miss Peregrine’s island and are now traveling to 1940s war-era London. Their purpose for the journey is to try to help Miss Peregrine who, thanks to a spell, is now in bird-form. Along the way, they make new friends, become acquainted with some truly unique people and animals, and continue to battle the monsters who threaten the Peculiars’ existence.
Similar to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the characters in Hollow City have matured, and the issues and relationships they face have also become more serious. There is a balance of fast-paced suspense and horror melded with lighter and touching moments of friendships and loyalties, making this book and its predecessor good picks for both those who like fantasy or realistic fiction. Riggs continues the practice of using old, strange and, in some cases, disturbing vintage photographs to tell a story that combines real history with the fantastical. As many reviewers have pondered, in a “chicken or egg” fashion, did the photographs inspire the story or did the story create a search for unique photographs which would enhance the plot?
The film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton, is in development, and is due out in 2015.
Since its publication in 2012, John Green’s teen novel The Fault in Our Stars has been wildly popular with teens and adults alike. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you certainly will this summer when the film adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, comes to theaters.
Hazel Grace Lancaster has had 33 half-birthdays. She and her family choose to celebrate them and, well, anything these days. Since she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 13, nothing has been guaranteed. That cancer metastasized to her lungs, and now, she’s being kept alive by her oxygen tank, her BiPAP machine and a wonder drug called Phalanxifor. At least, she is for now. Hazel’s mother forces her to go to a weekly support group for teens with cancer. That’s where she meets Augustus Waters. Gus, who is in remission from osteosarcoma, and Hazel are drawn to each other, but Hazel has reservations. She is a grenade waiting to explode. She knows that her life won’t be a long one, and she wants to protect Gus from the eventual pain of losing her. Despite Hazel’s misgivings, the two grow closer, but they both know that happy endings aren’t real.
Green’s novel is simultaneously funny, beautiful and painful. Hazel and Gus are wise beyond their years. Don’t worry. The Fault in Our Stars is not a typical tragic romantic story, the likes of which, incidentally, both Hazel and Gus would hate. It is a story about living your life to the fullest, no matter how long it may be, and asking the big questions even when the answers aren’t easy. The razor-sharp dialogue and Hazel’s astute observations keep the novel from seeming sappy or contrived.
The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most buzzed-about movies this year. It will be in theaters on June 6, but you can check out this sneak peak right now.