Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"You gotta know this stuff. And the earlier, the better. Life ain't always fair, and for some it's more unfair than others."

Scott Loring Sanders' new title, Gray Baby, begins with eight year old Clifton witnessing his African American father being beaten to death by two white police officers. This is a tragic beginning to what I think is a hopeful story. Following his father's death, the story moves forward eight years and Clifton's life has gotten only worse. Being biracial in a town that is not accepting, having a mother who is both depressed and an alcoholic, and living on the fringes of town with no one to really pay attention to him, Clifton thinks he will have a mundane summer. However, several events happen that change his life forever. First, he longs for a connection to the world, so he places notes in his mother's empty wine bottles and drops them in the river. The response he gets brings his story full circle in many ways. Second, he witnesses a kidnapping and may be the only person who can save the victim. But, can he put aside the fear he has had since his father's death? Finally, his mother is arrested for a DUI and sent to rehab, which forces Clifton to confront a family he has never met. There are so many layers of sadness to this book, yet somehow I felt hopful throughout the whole story. Even though many horrible events have taken place in Clifton's life, Loring somehow gave me the feeling that it would get better. Clifton would make it--and be better for the experiences he survived. According to the ARC, Gray Baby will be released in June 2009.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"I wondered if people would be happier if they just were who they really were, if they didn't try and find themselves in other people."

Dade Hamilton is in love. Unfortunately, the boy he loves, Pablo, has a girlfriend and a large group of friends who are homophobic. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd follows Dade in his last summer before college as he realizes Pablo is not going to acknowledge their relationship. When Dade meets Alex, though, he finds someone with whom he can truly connect. Many GLBT individuals who have suffered bigotry may relate to Pablo's confusion and frustration which continue throughout the book. Nick Burd's first novel will be released May 14, 2009.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"You can overcome your fears, you can change, you can make life into what you've always wanted it to be. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. So hang in."

Marisa wants to date Derek. He's perfect boyfriend material. There's only one problem: he's dating Sierra. Marisa's best friend Sterling has always been there, through boyfriendless nights and a bout with depression, they can count on each other. Nash, Marisa's next door neighbor, was a close friend, but they have drifted apart over the years. Marisa feels lucky because her family is normal--she has happily married parents. What will happen to these relationships throughout the coming school year? Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti, follows Marisa through her Sophomore year of high school. She begins the year with a plan to change herself, to make more friends, and to avoid sinking back into the depression that took over her life a year before. But, what happens when the plans you make don't turn out the way you want them to? What if the things you want aren't as good as you think they will be? Find out when Waiting for You is released on May 14, 2009.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Physical beauty wasn't the same as True Beauty, any more than pretty ugly meant truly ugly or Magnetic North meant True North."

Few books can make me cry and even fewer can make me cry more than once. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley is one of those books. Terra Cooper, the main character, seems perfect. Tall, thin, blonde=beautiful. Her face, however, is half covered with a port wine birthmark that she carefully covers with layers of make-up each day. Terra, an artist, has been made to feel inadquate by her father for her entire life; she's not pretty enough, not smart enough, and not talented enough, according to his standards. She is working toward one goal: escaping her father and the small town in which they live. However, even though she works to control her future, she thinks she is powerless to the commands of her father. When Terra and her mother unexpetedly meet Norah and her son Jacob, they decide to journey to China to visit Terra's brother and the orphanage from which Jacob was adopted. Will Terra and her mother realize that they don't have to suffer the terror under which they have been living? There are scenes between Terra and her family that made me want to throw this book because I was so gripped by the writing and the strange understanding of what one person can do to another with words alone. The relationships between Terra and her family, as well as her friendship with Jacob, are complex and interesting and they made me want to read this cover to cover in one sitting. North of Beautiful was published in February, 2009.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"I try not to laugh. Three days off, laying around the house. I'm really getting punished now."

R.D. Mitchell is 15. He doesn't really care that he is repeating eighth grade. He knows that through social promotion he will be automatically sent to high school when he turns 16. No problem. Then R.D. comes home to find that Earl, his Grandma's ex-boyfriend, with whom he lives, has died unexpectedly. Going to a group home would be bad and no one really wants a teenage foster kid, so R.D. decides to keep Earl's death a secret and pretend that his Grandma is back to take care of them due to the illness. Janet Nichols Lynch captures the frustration of being hungry and not understanding the adult world as R.D. tries to take care of himself and keep his secret. Some things seem a little too easy, for example, R.D. takes over Earl's at-home car repair business to make money and most of the adults just drop off their cars and go along with it. However, kids will be drawn in by the opening scene--a fight on the first day of school--and probably won't put this page-turner down. Messed Up by Janet Nichols Lynch is now available from Holiday House Books for Young People.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Something tells me it may never truly be over."

Skeleton Creek is the first book in an anticipated series by Patrick Carman, best selling author of the Ahterton trilogy and Land of Elyon series. Honestly, I had never read him before. And at first, I had a hard time with this book because of the typeface. It is all capital letters and I felt like I was moving so slowly though it. BUT then! I was totally sucked in!

This book is really interesting for a number of reasons . . .
First, it is actually a story in 2 parts. You are reading Ryan's part as if he is keeping a journal (hence the all caps). Interspersed in his journal entries are the passwords to see the videos his best friend Sarah is putting up on her website. Yeah. Really. So you go to sarahfincher.com and enter the right passwords to see the video clips in the right order. Part urban legend, part ghost story, the videos give this a very Blair Witch kind of feel . . . and thats a good thing! There are some cool things on Patrick Carman's website, like a video news reel of how he came up with this idea to marry the book with online content. You can't have one without the other, you need both pieces to get the whole story!

Next reason, its creepy. And I LOVE creepy. When I started reading and watched the first few videos I was a little surprised. Not scared or anything but just impressed by the concept and the execution of the videos.

Final reason (at least as far as this post goes): it makes me not want to wait until October for the next installment! I won't say why (I HATE spoilers!) but I want to know what happens next!

This book was released on February 10, 2009.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Without the big sisters, where would the little sisters be? Nowhere."

Lauren Myracle never disappoints and her new book, Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks, is no exception. Myracle shares the story of Carly and Anna, sisters who are only a year apart in age. When Carly goes away to work for the summer, she returns to find that Anna has grown breasts and is "hot." Always the protective big sister, Carly struggles with the changes Anna is experiencing in her first year of high school. Their relationship is further complicated by their father, who can harm his daughters with what he thinks are little jokes, but are truly jabs at their expense. In a story of what it really means to be sisters, Carly discovers that she doesn't always have to make the rules. And, they both find out that if all else fails, they can "just paddle harder!" I was first attracted to this title by its cover and I'm not alone. In fact, I had it on my circulation desk today and at least 10 different kids tried to take it. I promised I'd finish tonight so they could have it! If you, too, judge a book by its cover, check out this great site that provides insight into children's and YA cover art. This book will be available on May 14, 2009.

"It is nothing less than astonishing that her new world -- so far from brave -- has such a person in it."

Willow by Julia Hoban is a book I debated picking up a few days ago when I was ready for something new to read. I knew it was going to be sad and frankly, a little hard to read. I knew this because Willow is a cutter. And her parents died. Not only did her parents die, she was driving the car when both her parents were killed in a car crash. Talk about sad! But immediately you want to know Willow. You know she is in pain and is inflicting physical pain in an effort to stop the emotional pain, to deaden it.

I was surprisingly overwhelmed by this book. I cried towards the end. And while I thought that the ends were wrapped up a little too easily (understandable really), I could FEEL where Willow was coming from, what was at the root of her grief and pain. And why at 17 she couldn't see there was another way. While I'm not that familiar with the ins and outs of cutting (a form of self-injury, where cuts are made usually on the wrists, arms, belly, etc, affecting more girls than boys), I do know people who have been cutters. Without knowing first hand the experience of cutting, I think that Julia Hoban does a good job of writing about a girl and why she cuts and what she thinks she is getting out of it.
This book is due to be released on April 2, 2009.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I wrote about the conclusion of the Jessica Darling series, Perfect Fifths, a few weeks ago. If you are a fan of this series, you know that Barry Manilow gets his fair share of shout-outs throughout Jessica and Marcus' relationship. In what can only be described as one of the most brave AND amazing promo YouTube videos I have ever seen, Megan performs "Mandy" in her very own style . . . Barry-oke! Go Megan!!

"She had always had a perverse sense of humor, and it had become even more twisted over the past year . . ."

Jake Wizner's new book, Castration Celebration, is written in the voices of Olivia and Max, two students spending the summer in an arts program at Yale. Before coming to Yale, Olivia walked in on her father in a compromising position with one of his students and has decided to base her summer work, a musical she is writing, on what she thinks should happen to men who cheat--castration. She also swears off boys for the summer. Max, an actor, falls instantly for Olivia and the conflict begins. Much of the book is written as Olivia's musical (including songs!) and the characters she writes mirror herself and her friends in many ways. The language is irreverent and funny, but I did not find it as laugh out loud hilarious as Wizner's first book, Spanking Shakespeare. You will be able to read and judge for yourself when this book is released in May 2009.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wintergirls Contest!!

Laurie Halse Anderson is celebrating the release of Wintergirls by giving away laptop skins of the cover. Check out the contest information on her blog! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest."

There are some books that I can sit down and read from beginning to end: they demand it. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (winner of this year's Edwards Award!) was not one of those books for me. I don't know if it was the subject (a teen suffering through cutting and anorexia) or the desperate voice of Lia, the main character, but I picked it up and read only a few pages at a time for weeks before being able to actually finish it. After her friend Cassie, from whom she is estranged, dies suddenly, Lia spirals out of control and we follow her as her behavior goes from scary to downright dangerous. Working with preteens and teens daily and having two daughters who will one day become teens made this book even more distressing for me. I have read all of Anderson's other titles and I would say the voice in this is her best yet. Teens who clamor for books "about the things we are going through" will be attracted to this title. Be prepared . . . the rawness will knock you over. This book will be available on March 19, 2009.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"So I wonder if true love is more subtle."

Did everyone have one of those marriage projects in health class senior year in high school? I did but it was only one project in a marking period of health class. We did it because we had to, but we picked our friends in the class to "marry." It was a purely academic exercise.
The premise of A Match Made in High School, by Kristin Walker, is a little more intense. Not only does their project last all of their senior year, they are randomly matched with other members of their class. Of course, Fiona (Fee) is matched with a boy she doesn't like (nor his real life girl friend). The new "couples" have budgets to work out, jobs to find and money to earn. In the process, she finds that the boy she has crushed on is not necessarily who she thinks he is, while learning other classmates are more than she ever gave them credit.
Fiona comes to understand what is it that makes some relationships work and what causes others to fail. She also finds what it means to really be friends. And why it is important to have both.
This book is set to be published on May 14, 2009.

"Just breathe. Relax. I can do this."

Heather McElhatton has written her second novel, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of being Single. The plot of which should seem readily discernible. And it is. Jennifer Johnson is a 30 year old living in Minnesota and wishing that she were no longer single. We get to know Jennifer and follow her as she begins dating Brad, the son of the owner of the department store where she works as a copy editor. Will this be the end of Jennifer's single-dom? Will they live happily ever after?
While the cover of this book (which I absolutely LOVED!) might lead you to believe that this is run of the mill chick-lit, it is very dark and much more believable than much of the chick-lit out there. This book is due to be published in May, 2009.