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Online Voyeurism

posted by: October 9, 2012 - 7:55am

ButterJournalist Erin Jade Lange turns to fiction to shine the spotlight on the epidemic of childhood obesity in Butter. Alternately chided by his mother for being too heavy and then for not eating enough, teenaged Butter cannot win the battles in his life. Worse than the bullying is the way his classmates, teachers, and even his father seem to look past him rather than at him. One day, a news story about an airline charging obese fliers for 2 seats prompts a reaction in Butter. Tired of being invisible, he decides to do what he does best…he will eat and eat and eat until he dies, and he invites his classmates to watch online.


The reaction to Butter’s announcement is swift and unexpected. Rather than prompting more taunting, the "event" gains him a morbid popularity. Everyone is talking not just about him but to him. He no longer sits alone at lunch, and everyone wants to wish him luck and make suggestions to his last meal menu. For the first time, Butter has friends, and it is intoxicating. If only things could be this way all of the time. But as his self-imposed deadline approaches, can he go through with it?


Lange’s writing is very matter-of-fact and her tough honesty blends well with her dry humor. She has created a fascinating character in Butter, who is by turns hilariously witty and tenderly heartbreaking. He gives voice to all of the geeks, nerds, and fat kids of the world who just want to be seen and heard.


Another Opening, Another Show

posted by: October 2, 2012 - 8:11am

DramaFans of graphic novelist extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier will be thrilled to get their hands on a copy of her latest work, Drama. Seventh grader Callie’s life revolves around the annual school theater production, and this year it’s the musical Moon over Mississippi. Callie’s not an actress; she’s all about the set design. Told in a traditional comic panel style and rendered in vivid full color, Drama follows Callie and her production crewmates as they navigate relationships both onstage and off. Intended for a slightly older audience than the autobiographical Smile, this graphic novel addresses not only the complexities of boy-girl relationships, but also those of boy-boy.


A former high school drama performer herself, Telgemeier stays in touch with her inner theater geek, perfectly capturing the immersive nature of working on a school production. Can inexperienced Callie pull off an incredible set design (including a real working cannon and a leaf-shedding tree) on a bare-bones budget? What will the new guys at school, twins Jesse and Justin, lend to the show? And will Callie ever find her very own leading man?


Drama is rife with in-the-know backstage details, from the somewhat creepy costume vault to the lighting cues and the set change challenges. Callie is a likeable, fully-realized girl who readers can’t help but root for. Telgemeier populates Eucalyptus Middle with a diverse group of passionate, relatable friends. Her drawing style portrays both expression and depth, realism layered with comic conventions. Drama stands out as an appealing, addictive graphic novel, a book that will no doubt be read, re-read, and passed from friend to friend.


Teenage Tartare

posted by: October 2, 2012 - 8:01am

ShadowsFlesh & BoneThe InfectsThere's no escaping them. Fast or slow, dead or alive, zombies and zombie-like cannibals are everywhere right now. From The Walking Dead to ParaNorman, their bloody, shuffling antics entertain and disgust us in equal measures. Or not. For some people, the only good zombie is a zombie they don't have to think about, and for those people, here's a handy guide to Teen Books to Avoid. But if you or a teenager you love can't get enough of the hungry dead and their gross-out antics, here's grist for that mill:


Shadows, the sequel to Ilsa J. Bick's marvelous wilderness apocalypse novel Ashes, takes up immediately where Ashes ends. All teenage Alex had wanted was peaceful camping trip alone with her thoughts after the tragic death of her parents, but when a brilliant light bloomed on the horizon and most of the adults fell down dead and the other teenagers turned into silent, bloodthirsty monsters, well, let's just say it was a good thing she brought her father's Glock in her backpack. Ashes and Shadows should be read back-to-back - there's no time for recaps as Alex flees the fundamentalist sect that has taken her in only to fall directly into the hands of...


Zombies! Ever since they escaped the mayhem of First Night, when the dead suddenly began to rise, and bite people, and make more zombies, Benny and his big brother Daniel have lived in a small town surrounded by a big fence. Life within the fence is good, but rather strict. When Daniel agrees to take Benny on as an apprentice zombie killer, Benny imagines he is in for a life of adventure, but the truth turns out to be not quite what he had expected. Fast-paced and tightly plotted, Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin is like a classic Old West gunslinger novel set in a beautifully imagined post-apocalyptic America. First in a trilogy, the sequels are Dust & Decay and the recently released Flesh & Bone.


The Infects is prose stylist Sean Beaudoin's entry into the teen cannibal catastrophe sweepstakes. Loaded with pop culture references and sarcasm, this book is fast and freaky and lots of fun. Seventeen-year-old Nero was already having a bad week, sentenced to an Outward Bound-type trip for juvenile delinquents, when all of a sudden everybody but the bad boys on the bus falls victim to a virus that causes zombie-like behavior, i.e. lurching, drooling, and lusting after human flesh. You'll never look at fast-food chicken the same way again. 


Bone appétit!


Catch the Ripper!

posted by: September 25, 2012 - 8:11am

RipperJack the Ripper has long captured the imaginations of readers and writers. Stefan Petrucha’s new teen novel Ripper brings a new twist on the well-known Ripper mythology.


Carver Young loves mystery novels and breaking the rules, which recently led him to find a letter from his father. This is the only information that he has about his parents. When the orphanage where he lives is forced to require all children over eight years old to find homes, 14-year-old Carver is adopted by a retired Pinkerton detective. Soon, Carver is being trained as a detective by his eccentric mentor, and his first assignment is to follow the clues to learn about his father. As his investigation progresses, Carver begins to see more and more parallels between his father and a killer who is stalking women in New York City. With Carver, the New Pinkertons, and the New York City Police led by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt on the trail of the killer, two questions emerge: Is Carver really Jack the Ripper’s son? Can he stop the Ripper? 

Gadgets abound, giving this fast-paced novel a hint of steampunk feel. The New Pinkertons’ headquarters is a haven for contraptions that will make the detectives’ work easier. From an analytical engine (a steam-powered computer) to a stun baton and an auto-lock pick, these devices add a quirky element to the story. Petrucha takes liberties with historical details, but he does include notes to help readers distinguish between fact and fiction. Although they are on the trail of Jack the Ripper, the story is low on gore and high on action and suspense. Petrucha has created a non-stop thrill-ride with a killer twist that will leave readers waiting for the sequel, which he is already writing!


Before the Maze

posted by: September 25, 2012 - 8:01am

The Kill OrderFans of James Dashner’s best-selling Maze Runner trilogy rejoice! The events preceding the construction of the maze and the fates of the Gladers are now revealed in The Kill Order.


Long before Thomas created and entered the maze, the earth was bombarded by solar flares which destroyed most of the living creatures on the planet. Those who survived were left to fight against a disease that ravages both brain and body. Alec, Mark and Trina are among these survivors, and with a small group in tow they stay on the move in the mountains near what was Asheville, North Carolina. They do their best to avoid others at all costs, for fear of contagion, but other wanderers do find them. The group gets smaller and smaller as members succumb to the disease, and Mark and Alec strike out alone to find answers and hopefully a cure.


Much like the Maze Runner trilogy, Dashner presents as many questions as answers in this prequel; however, the background information regarding the solar flares and their consequences does explain some of the events that follow in latter books. As always, Dashner provides a good mix of high-octane action and intense emotion that will keep readers engaged. He is currently working on the screenplay for the film adaptation of The Maze Runner, which is now in pre-production with Wes Ball making his directorial debut.


Tell Me Something Worse

posted by: September 18, 2012 - 8:00am

The RaftIn this year of the anniversary of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage, survival at sea has been a common theme. In S.A. Bodeen’s deceptively simple novel The Raft, the clear-cut lines between life and death become as blurry as heat rising from asphalt, when a young girl struggles to stay alive. Fifteen-year-old Robie’s method for overcoming her fears has always been to ask people to "tell me something worse", but what do you do when there is nothing worse?


Robie lives a life that many her age would kill for. Her parents are research biologists, and the family lives on Midway Island, west of Hawai`i. Robie is home-schooled, makes her own schedule, and hangs out with naturalists and National Geographic photographers. When she gets bored, she hops a plane to Honolulu to visit her uber-cool aunt AJ. She is returning home from her aunt’s when the unthinkable happens—the engines fail and the small plane plummets into the sea. Robie and the co-pilot, Max, are the only survivors. Adrift in a leaky raft with an unconscious pilot, Robie is on her own. While food, water and the elements are the major physical concerns, keeping herself mentally present is proving to be an even greater challenge. As her body grows weaker, it becomes all-too-easy to simply close her eyes and give up. Max won’t let her do that, however, and he wakes just often enough to force her to stay alert, alive, and ready for rescue.


Bodeen is the author of many books for teens, including the best-seller The Compound. She ventures away from her usual science fiction fare with The Raft, but keeps firmly grounded in marine biology for her descriptions of ocean and island wildlife. Readers will be absorbed but also torn between lingering over the vivid details and rapidly turning the page to discover Robie’s fate.


Free As We’ll Ever Be

posted by: September 18, 2012 - 7:55am

Pushing the LimitsDebut author Katie McGarry’s edgy new contemporary novel Pushing the Limits was written for older teens, but it is also attracting the attention of Romance readers.


Echo Emerson and Noah Hutchins are high school seniors brought together by Mrs. Collins, the new social worker who has taken on their cases. Each of them is facing serious struggles. During Noah’s freshman year, both of his parents died, and he and his two younger brothers were placed in separate foster homes. He hates the system and is desperate to find a way to bring his family back together. Echo is dealing with the loss of her brother Aires, a Marine killed in Afghanistan. She is also trying to understand another event that rocked her world. During Echo’s sophomore year, something happened while she was visiting her mother. What happened that day left Echo’s arms badly scarred, but she can’t remember anything about it. No one will tell her the whole truth, and a restraining order now prevents her from having contact with her mother. Rumors about what happened to her have made her a social outcast at school. As Echo and Noah fall in love, they both search for the truth and work to repair their own lives.


This novel takes on loss, mental illness, and family dynamics. Echo and Noah are both damaged people, but despite their unusual circumstances, they are also both relatable characters. The narration alternates between their points of view, giving each of them a unique voice and perspective. Pushing the Limits marks Katie McGarry as a hot new author to watch.


More than Meets the Eye

posted by: September 4, 2012 - 8:30am

SeraphinaSeraphina is a quiet, lonely teenager, a gifted musician, and the keeper of a dangerous secret. She works in the palace as an assistant to the court composer and teaches music lessons to the Princess, all the while keeping her true identity hidden. Seraphina is part dragon. Rachel Hartman’s novel Seraphina is a richly-detailed and cleverly written fantasy that brings new life to these mythical creatures. Hartman’s dragons are coldly intellectual, mathematically brilliant, but most strikingly, they are able to take on human form.


In the land of Goredd, there is a deep-seated distrust between the humans and the dragon community. The tenuous truce they share is threatened when Prince Rufus is murdered in a very dragon-like manner, his body found decapitated. The rising tensions make for a volatile atmosphere leading up to the celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty. And right in the middle of the political intrigue, the heated encounters between the dragons and humans, is Seraphina. She teams up with Prince Kiggs, the Captain of the Guard, in an attempt to discover who is trying to sabotage the peace agreement and restart the war.


This debut novel made the New York Times bestseller list in its first week of release. Seraphina has been praised by popular fantasy writers and notable dragon experts Tamora Pierce and Christopher Paolini. Experience the well-rounded characters, the intricate plot, the raw emotions, and fall under its spell.


AdaptationCrash your car miles from nowhere on Nevada's Route 375, aka Extraterrestrial Highway, after a series of strange events have led to airplane crashes and highway closures, and what do you expect? Recover from life-threatening injuries only to be handed a non-disclosure agreement and be escorted home by two agents in black suits... oh yeah, this can't be good.


In Adaptation, many questions are posed to the reader. What happened to debate partners Reese and David in the month following inexplicable bird attacks that shut down the nation's air traffic? How have they recuperated so quickly from their crash? And what's with the strange vertigo that Reese feels whenever she touches David, or her mom, or even total strangers? Then there's the free-spirited pink-haired girl to whom Reese is irresistibly attracted.


Malinda Lo sets up an intriguing situation for her appealing, believable characters, and does a particularly nice job communicating Reese's discomfort as the unusual things she experiences and observes after she attempts to resume her normal life in San Francisco grate against everything she knows. The book loses some steam in the last third, as other characters drop away and we are back to just Reese and David, but by then it is too late for the reader - how's it going to end?


Suspenseful, girl-powered, contemporary science fiction full of realistically diverse characters making realistic contemporary use of technology. Plus hot kissing! Hard to resist.


Once Upon a Time in the West

posted by: August 21, 2012 - 10:15am

The Best Shot in the West Born into slavery in Tennessee in 1854, Nat Love left home to seek work when he was just a teenager, hoping to send money home to his large family. Patricia and Frederick McKissack's The Best Shot in the West: the Adventures of Nat Love describes how his skill with horses, willingness to work hard, and a fair amount of bluffing led to a career as an expert roper and marksman. He also became an acquaintance of Wild West legends such as Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid. This fictionalized biography is based on his memoir, published in 1907 after he had retired from the cowboy life and was working as a Pullman porter. Exciting episodes include bucking broncos, runaway horses, and Apache raids, not to mention his capture by hostile Native Americans, the drunken theft of a cannon from a U.S. Army fort, and the cowboy competition that gives the authors the right to call Love “The Best Shot in the West.”


Randy DuBurke’s muscular, colorful art features flying bullets, billowing dust, and driving rain. Panels tend to be large, the better to depict the wide open spaces of the Great Plains and the cattle, horses, and buffalo that Love lived and worked among. Exciting and picturesque, Nat Love’s life makes for a great graphic novel.



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