Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Excerpt from the book:
“Some of the others might’ve seen things differently, and some of them might’ve told it better, but you don’t get to pick. You don’t because, for one thing, not all of us made it.”

School is in session at Tattawa High School when the snow starts. Kids are milling around wondering if school is shut down and they get another holiday out of it. But Scotty doesn’t want that to happen. He’s all over shooting out at the basketball game scheduled that evening. Jason wants to work on his amazing go-cart in the shop, and their buddy Pete just wants to hang out. But then the announcement comes all. School and all activities are shutting down and students need to go home now.

The snow is still falling, but the guys have it all figured out. Jason convinces the shop teacher to keep it open and his dad’ll pick them up all. He has a four-wheeler. And then they get to work. And the snow continues to fall, harder and harder….

But now they know they’ve made a mistake. Scotty left his phone at home, and Pete’s and Jason’s won’t pick up signal. Their last hope are the buses, so they head that direction. But they’re all gone, and only Coach Gossell is left with a handful of students. Les, the meanest guy on campus, Elijah, who has a creepy vibe, Krista, the most popular and beautiful, along with her friend Julie are left behind. Now the snow is piling up and the road outside can’t be seen.

A nor’easter, the biggest and baddest in East Coast history has hit, and Scotty and the rest aren’t leaving campus anytime soon. And slowly they’re feeling the effects…first the power goes out, then the water freezes, and outside, it’s a freezing wasteland, where second story homes look like one story. They’re trapped and can’t reach the outside world. But it’s their world inside that is slowly starting to come apart, and it’s only day one…

What a great second novel from this author! A punch right to the stomach within the first two chapters of this book will keep readers turning the pages to find out just what happened to those left at school. Northrop actualizes the dire situation with what typical teenagers without adults around would do and how the environment of the school still resonates loudly with each clique left in the halls. The enemy is nature, and she is violent and dangerous, but Northrop leaves the reader guessing to find out is the enemy wins or not. Although some may disparage the ending, I found it surprising at first, but with a definite mental image in my mind. Excellent for reluctant readers as well as those who enjoy trying to outwit the characters and figure out just what will happen around the next twist and turn in this story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friend is Not A Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft

Henry (Hen for short) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, who also kicked him out of her band.  His sister is on the lam as a criminal, and his parents continue to try hard to make him eat meat.....the only solid thing in his life is his best friend and next door neighbor, Emma. 

And so begins the life of Hen Birnbaum, official bum.  He lives the life of a teenager in NYC, trying to get gigs in places like the Bimbo Lounge and wondering where the popular tag, "Steal Your Parents' Money," found on buttons all over the city, originated.  But right now, he has better things to think about - like why his sister decided to come home after a year of absence without warning and what the heck happened to her, why he and his friend Emma keep having some strange karmic connection through dreams and cell phone calls, and how come his parents are the most uncool people on the planet?

When Sarah, finally gets home, she tells him to see Gabriel, her partner in crime about bass guitar lessons.  It can only help him become that famous rock star he's always wanted to be (according to the VH1 Behind the Music video he plays through his head that happens to star him as uber rock star of the future).  But for now, his rock-star self  gets to walk dogs while trying to figure out what happened to his sister and Gabriel and why they're being sought out by the authorties.  It doesn't hurt that Hen commits his first crime ever by stealing Gabriel's manuscript (aka his love letter to Sarah) but it only adds fuel to the burning question of why (Jean Paul Satre's head, an ex- Nazi and leyaks don't help anything either!)

But along the way, Hen realizes that the Unseen Hand can either give him a fist bump, a high five or slap him in the face, and his life, which he may find pathetic, has some very interesting qualities to it.  And sometimes a crisi-tunity (crisis and opportunity) is the most important thing you can try to overcome. 

Ehrenhaft writes another extremely humorous novel about the life of a typical teen-age guy living out a life of angst with weirdo parents, a failed relationship with a rock goddess, all while trying to live out his dream of rocking out.  Filled with lots of rock and roll references from David Bowie to Green Day to Journey, this novel will make you smile, if not make you laugh out loud.  Along with a great story, Ehrenhaft parallels the plot with the sub-text of true friendship, where the word "friend" was a noun only but is now a verb as well (think Facebook) and how the the circles of friendship created in his story use both type of grammar to make their connections.  What a refreshing, funny and humorous book in the midst of everything dark and deep in YA lit!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yummy: the last days of a Southside shorty by G. Neri

It was 1994, and a hot summer but things in Southside were getting hotter.  There was a dangerous mankiller on the loose and police had no leads.  Everyone in the neighborhood knew him...knew what he did...

A gang shooting took the life of a 14 year old innocent girl, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And she knew her killer - he went to school, even church with her. 

Yummy was 11 years old when he died.  At one point in his life, he was committing a felony every month, but because of his age, he came back to the Southside projects in Chicago, Illinois.  Yummy is the cold-blooded killer everyone was looking for....

This powerful graphic novel takes the short life of a child and pulls in the reader through narrative, images, and a biography.  But it's the essence and the not so black-and-white issue at hand that will draw the reader in.  Although not an in-depth look into Robert Sandifer's (aka Yummy's) life, the reader gets to know him through the words and illustrations Neri and Du Burker have created.  The forward by the author lets the reader know that this is a blend of narrative fiction and non-fiction taken from the stories, news reports and other sources about Robert Sandifer.  The afterward gives a brief synopsis of  Chicago's Southside and the Black Disciple Nation as well as an annotation of additional information.  A very quick read, but one that will leave the reader with lingering thoughts, and for this reader, a desire to know more about the story of this tragic tale and life of this kid....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book trailer: I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena

Here's the newest one born this year!  Enjoy  :)

You can also download it on the Northwest High School Library webpage.  The booktrailer link is under the Might Red "N":

Novels In Verse booklist

This is a very popular genre for students, and novels in verse has been around for quite some time.  I remember the first one I ever read and was hooked as well.  They're short, easy to read, and pack a powerful punch.  Most seem to be based on character's voices, but whether they are or not, these are complex reads.  Here's a list of 34 great novels in verse I've read:

Hard Hit  by Ann Turner (2006) - A rising high school baseball star faces his most difficult challenge when his father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

One Night by Margaret Wild (2002)- a teenaged girl decides to have her baby and care for it on her own after a "one night stand" results in pregnancy

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg (2009)- Two years after being airlifted out of Vietnam in 1975, Matt Pin is haunted by the terrible secret he left behind and, now, in a loving adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events forces him to confront his past.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone (2006)- Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva all fall for the same sexy high school senior, and while they each make different choices, they're all changed by their experiences of love and sex.

Sold by Patricia McCormick (2006)-  Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl from Nepal, is sold into prostitution in India.

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (2009)- The youngest of three siblings, fourteen-year-old Anke feels both relieved and neglected that her father abuses her brother and sister but ignores her, but when she catches him with one of her friends, she finally becomes angry enough to take action.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass (2007)- After an accident in gym class puts sixteen-year-old Tessa into a coma, she re-evaluates her life by visiting the mall stores where significant events in her life took place.

Walking on Glass by Alma Fullerton (2007)- A teenage boy recounts, in a free verse journal, his attempts to come to terms with the realities of his mother's near-death coma.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham (2007)- After a shark attack causes the amputation of her right arm, fifteen-year-old Jane, an aspiring artist, struggles to come to terms with her loss and the changes it imposes on her day-to-day life and her plans for the future.

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (2010)- Fourteen-year-old Kevin Boland, poet and first baseman, is torn between his cute girlfriend--Mira--and Amy, who is funny, plays Chopin on the piano, and is also a poet.

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers (2007)-  mother and daughter, who mainly communicate through short notes left on the refrigerator door, experience a life changing event when one of them is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers (2006)- Damien, a seventeen-year-old from Harlem, takes a bold step to ensure that he and his new love, Junice, will not be separated.

Kissing Tennessee and other stories from the stardust dance by Kathi Appelt (2000)- Graduating eighth graders relate their stories of love and heartbreak that have brought them to Dogwood Junior High's magical Stardust Dance.

Sonya Sones:
Stop Pretending (1999) - A younger sister has a difficult time adjusting to life after her older sister has a mental breakdown.

What My Mother Doesn't Know (2001) - Sophie describes her relationships with a series of boys as she searches for Mr. Right.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know (2007) - Artistic fourteen-year-old Robin Murphy is so unpopular at high school that his name is slang for "loser," so when he begins dating the beautiful and popular Sophie, her reputation plummets.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies (2004) - Fifteen-year-old Ruby Milliken leaves her best friend, her boyfriend, her aunt, and her mother's grave in Boston and reluctantly flies to Los Angeles to live with her father, a famous movie star who divorced her mother before Ruby was born.

Mel Glenn:
Foreign Exchange (1999) - When students from big-city Tower High School spend a weekend in rural Hudson Landing with the students of the local high school, an African-American boy from the city is accused of murdering a local white girl.

Jump Ball (1997)- Tells the story of a high school basketball team's season through a series of poems reflecting the feelings of students, their families, teachers, and coaches.

Split Image (2000) - A series of poems reflect the thoughts and feelings of various people-- students, the librarian, parents, the principal, and others-- about the seemingly perfect Laura Li and her life inside and out of Tower High School.

Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? (1996)- Free verse poems describe the reactions of students, colleagues, and others when a high school teacher is shot to death as the school day begins.

The Taking of Room 114 (1997) - A series of poems reflect the thoughts of school officials, parents, police, and especially a class of seniors who have been taken hostage by their high school history teacher.
Ellen Hopkins:
Crank (2004) - Kristina Georgia Snow's life is turned upside-down, when she visits her absentee father, gets turned on to the drug "crank", becomes addicted, and is led down a desperate path that threatens her mind, soul, and her life.

Glass (2007)- Kristina is determined to break her addiction to drugs in order to keep her newborn child; but when she fails and the pull becomes too strong, her greatest fears are quickly realized.

Burned (2006) - Seventeen-year-old Pattyn, the eldest daughter in a large Mormon family, is sent to her aunt's Nevada ranch for the summer where she temporarily escapes her alcoholic, abusive father and finds love and acceptance, only to lose everything

Identical (2008) - Sixteen-year-old identical twin daughters of a district court judge and a candidate for the United States House of Representatives, Kaeleigh and Raeanne Gardella desperately struggle with secrets that have already torn them and their family apart.

Impulse (2007) - Three teens who meet at Reno, Nevada's Aspen Springs mental hospital after each has attempted suicide connect with each other in a way they never have with their parents or anyone else in their lives.

Tricks (2009) - Collects five stories about three girls and two boys who question how they feel about themselves while learning about love

Fallout (2010) - Written in free verse, explores how three teenagers try to cope with the consequences of their mother's addiction to crystal meth and its effects on their lives.

Stephanie Hemphill -
Things Left Unsaid (2005) - After a lifetime of conforming to the image of what her parents and high school friends want her to be, Sarah must come to terms with her own identity when her destructive best friend tries to commit suicide. Told in the form of free-verse poems.

Wicked Girls (2010) - A fictionalized account, told in verse, of the Salem witch trials, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692--Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam, Jr.

Lisa Schroeder -
Chasing Brooklyn (2010) - As teenagers Brooklyn and Nico work to help each other recover from the deaths of Brooklyn's boyfriend--Nico's brother Lucca--and their friend Gabe, the two begin to rediscover their passion for life, and a newly blossoming passion for one another.

Far From You (2009) - A novel-in-verse about sixteen-year-old Ali's reluctant road trip with her stepmother and new baby sister, and the terror that ensues after they end up lost in the snow-covered woods.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me ( 2008)- A verse novel in which fifteen-year-old Ava, feeling guilty over the role she believes she played in her boyfriend Jackson's death, experiences a whole new range of emotions when she realizes he is back from the dead.



Monday, January 10, 2011

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride dropout, hamburger flipper.  His best friends work with him at Plumpy's and they include Ramon, the connoisseur of burger flipping, Frank who wants to please everyone, and Brooke, the hot chick Frank's eyes follow whenever he gets a chance.  Just a typical burger joint in Seattle.  All it takes is a game of potato hockey and a knocked out light on a Mercedes to change Sam's world from normal to paranormal, to say the least.

Sam has always been an outsider.  He's never fit in, felt right in a crowd....but he's used to it by now.  But when Douglas Montgomery comes into his life, he has to find a way to find himself, especially after discovering he's not just a drop out hambuger flipper whose mother loves herbs and potions.  After struggling through several sources, Sam finds out his mother is a real witch...literally...and Sam is a necromancer - he can communicate and bring back the dead.  And Douglas Montgomery, most powerful necromancer in the Seattle area, wants that power. 

With the help of a ragtag bunch of friends (including a talking head) and some unusual acquaintances (we're talking witches, hounds of hell, fey, a seer and a Harbinger) Sam has seven days to find out if he'll apprentice under the dark and dangerous tutelage of Douglas or try to go back to his normal world, if normal is what you'd call it after the powerful Montgomery kills his family and friends.  Really, what choice do you have?

What a riot to read!  Lish McBride has done a fine job of blending a supernatural story with humor and tongue-in-cheek comebacks.  If the title doesn't send a message, then the chapters will.  Taking from song lyrics like "She's a Lady" to "Sweet Child o' Mine" to "Don't Fear the Reaper," McBride has created a quick read with quick wit.  Readers will enjoy reading about Sam's life from Plumpy's to his messed up, beaten up forays into the unknown world of magic and the power of the Council.  Humorous horror....I've read a few and this one doesn't disappoint.  Recommended.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Julian Game by Adele Griffin

Yes, I've been reading over the break and now it's time to start posting.  It hasn't been many books (I seriously just vegged most of the break!) but I'll post a book a day until I'm done.  And onto the reviews!

Raye is smart.  She knows she's going to a good college and knows that Fulton, a private all girl's school, is a great step in that direction.  She hangs with her best friend Natalya and spends her Tal weekends watching movie marathons on the SyFy channel and eating homemade brownies.  But one night, she decides to step out of her comfort zone.  What better way to do that than online?

Raye sets up a fake facebook page and starts friending people she knows is out of her league.  Like Julian, the hottie from MacArthur, the private all guy's school and some of his friends.  It starts out harmlessly, but we all know what happens with those "harmless" situations....

Meanwhile, back at Fulton, Ella Parker reigns supreme as the most beautiful and untouchable of the Group.  It doesn't matter if she has OCD and wears gloves all the time, or sits on the third row in the third chair or taps things a specific amount of time.  Her beauty overshines everything.  But it's in a Chinese class that Ella has problems with where she and Raye's diverse galaxies collide.

What starts out as an innocent tutoring takes on new meaning when Raye shows Ella her faux facebook page.  With Julian as a friend, and the one to diss Ella at a party, the revenge begins....and the true personalities begin to come out....but can Raye go back to her true friendships or has she crossed the line?  Will the good girl get the guy or will evil and bitchiness triumph?

Griffin creates a quick read that is all about high school cliques, romances and relationships.  Reading this book is like walking down the halls of any typical high school.  It's about mean girls and those that want to fit in.  But Griffin does something different in this book (and you'll have to read it through to understand what I'm saying) and that to me, was the biggest draw of the book.  It's real, it's quick, it's fresh.  The characters, from the main character to the parents, are not drawn out for the reader but the author subtlely draws in reader reaction - you'll know who to love, who to hate, and who to be wary of.  Recommended for high school