Monday, December 15, 2014

THE IMPLOSION OF AGGIE WINCHESTER by Lara Zielin

The Implosion of Aggie WinchesterMuch to her mother's shame and disgust, Aggie Winchester has followed her friend Sylvia to the dark side.  Aggie's Goth persona may be a form of rebellion against her principal mother, but it is also a way for her to step outside of herself when things get beyond her control.


Things have been pretty bumpy with boy friend Neil, and when he actually breaks up with Aggie, she can't seem to get over it.  If she is honest with herself, she should recognize that he was only interested in her for one thing, but she felt so complete when she was in his arms.  Now when she is hoping to confide in her best friend Sylvia, Sylvia has news of her own.  She is pregnant.


Maybe it's the pregnancy, or maybe it's the new girl, Beth, who has Sylvia acting so weird.  She stops calling Aggie and barely acknowledges her at school.  The real shock comes when Sylvia announces that she is running for junior prom queen.  When she tells Aggie it is because the father of her baby is up for prom king, Aggie tries to convince Sylvia that isn't the right way to get his attention and acceptance. 


Just when Aggie's relationships are all crashing, her mother announces she has cancer.  Aggie feels left in the dark by her parents and begins making even more questionable choices.  When the prom queen vote turns into a controversy, possibly involving Aggie's mother, she isn't sure where to turn.  It seems no matter what decisions Aggie makes, things get more complicated.


Author Lara Zielin deftly portrays the angry teenager.  She has created a sixteen year old struggling with self-expression and standing up for what she believes is right.  Readers will surely relate to the difficulties of balancing family loyalties with the pull of peer pressure.  I found Aggie to be both a refreshing and frustrating example of the teen spirit. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl DreamingThis National Book Award Finalist is definitely worth checking out.  Written in verse, it tells the story of the author's own childhood experiences.  Growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and eventually New York City during the years of the Civil Rights movement, Woodson shares what it was like to live in a non-traditional family situation, experience prejudice, and follow her dreams.


"Jackie" Woodson was a second child born to her parents in Columbus, Ohio.  Her parents' marriage was never stable, and when they split up, Jackie was still a babe in arms when her mother moved her and her brother to South Carolina to live with grandparents. 


Jackie immediately took to her grandfather "Daddy" and remained close to him until he died.  Her grandmother, a strict Jehovah's Witness, introduced Jackie to the Bible and taught her the ways of their often misunderstood faith. 


When Jackie's mother left South Carolina to search for a better life in New York City, Jackie and her brother stayed behind.  The love of their grandparents helped life seem normal even with their mother gone.  They still remained close and returned for visits even after their mother returned to retrieve them and take them to the big city. 


In BROWN GIRL DREAMING Woodson explains her love of words and writing.  Readers will follow Woodson through her childhood experiencing the happy memories, disappointments, and loves and losses that all combined to influence the amazing writer she would  later become.

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

FirecrackerAstrid Krieger's life is about to change.  She has been kicked out of multiple private schools so her parents have decided she will be attending public school for the first time in her life.


Raised in a wealthy family with the best of everything, Astrid is spoiled and insists on breaking every rule she can.  When her parents decide her punishment is to attend public school, she responds by telling them she is moving out.  Since she has no independent source of income, and her parents remind her that her older sister is already living in the guest house, Astrid moves into a prototype of a rocket ship in the backyard. 


Living in a rocket ship will definitely be a topic for small talk at her new school, but will Astrid fit in and be able to adjust to life with "regular" people? 


FIRECRACKER by David Iserson has been compared to John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA.  Given the fact that Iserson has written for shows like NBC's Up All Night and Saturday Night Live, readers are in for a fun ride as they follow Astrid in her adventures.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU by Lisa Schroeder

The Bridge From Me to YouLisa Schroeder's new novel combines prose and verse in a touching story about friendship, love, and believing in yourself.


Lauren has moved in with her uncle and aunt and their three young children.  Lauren is still reeling from the fact that when things got tough with her mother, the woman who gave birth to her sent her away.  Now she is starting her senior year at a new school with no friends and not knowing if she will ever see her little brother again.


Colby's mother died years ago so he has been used to living with his dad.  Recently, his grandparents moved in, partly to make things easier for Grandpa who has MS, but also because Gram wants to lend a hand in taking care of Colby and his dad.  Right now football is consuming Colby's free time.  The team is hoping to make the state playoffs this year, and Colby's talent has attracted a number of college scouts.  His dad is excited about helping his son select the best scholarship offer, but Colby has other ideas.  Unfortunately, breaking the news about not wanting to play football in college is not going to be the news his dad wants to hear.


When Colby stops in at the town's bookstore to pick up a book he ordered, Lauren's uncle, the store's owner, asks Colby a favor.  Since Lauren is new in town, he is hoping Colby will introduce her around and help her make friends. 


A quick stop at the nearby convenience store results in a chance meeting between Colby and Lauren.  He is immediately captivated by the pretty girl and her quick humor. 


As the story unfolds, Lauren and Colby both face problems that threaten to derail their growing friendship.  Readers will cheer them on as they face these challenges and attempt to beat the odds to maintain a successful relationship. 


Author Lisa Schroeder's fans will be pleased by this latest offering, and it is a great way to introduce her to potential new fans.  I can't wait to get it in the hands of the teen readers I know.

Friday, November 28, 2014

DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin

Donut DaysWhat do you get when you combine Crispy Dream donuts, the Living Word Redeemer church, and a Harley motorcycle gang?  You get a fast-paced story about a cheeky teen named Emma who is on a soul-searching mission to find where she fits in her family, her church, and her community.


Both of Emma's parents are pastors at the Living Word Redeemer church, and for as long as she can remember, she just hasn't fit in.  When everyone else is having visions and speaking in tongues, she is sitting on the sidelines wondering when God is going to speak to her. 


When the science teacher presents the unit on evolution, Emma doesn't jump up to protest like several of her classmates from the church.  Instead, she wants to listen and learn and compare the facts to what she hears her parents preach.  She also wants to warn her best friend Nat about the guy she wants to date, even though Nat tells her she needs to mind her own business. 


Emma knows there is a controversy brewing in the church, but her parents don't seem willing to share the details.  Since they are busy with church business, Emma decides to use her time trying to win a scholarship offered by a new local business.  Crispy Dream Donuts is opening a new store in the area, and in addition to other amazing prizes, they are offering a college scholarship to the young journalist who writes the best article for the local newspaper.  Emma sees the opportunity as a way to earn acceptance to the college of her choice rather than the Christian college her parents have said they want her to attend.


Torn between her parents troubles and her desire to win the scholarship, Emma camps out at the donut camp in the days before the grand opening.  Her experience not only broadens her view of what faith means to some people, but also helps her develop a deeper understanding of just what might be her future path in life.  From crooked businessmen to born again bikers, Emma observes a cross-section of humanity that renews her faith and brings her closer to her family than ever before.


Author Lara Zielin's character Emma is sure to capture the hearts of readers.  Zielin's novel speaks to the questions we all have about right and wrong and our place in the universe.  DONUT DAYS provides an entertaining story with a positive message for readers.



IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis

In a Handful of DustIN A HANDFUL OF DUST is the sequel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis.  This second novel returns to Ohio and reunites with Lynn, Lucy, Vera, and Stebbs.  They are dealing with a new threat to their fragile existence - an outbreak of polio.


Vera and Stebbs are the lucky ones having been immunized against polio when they were young.  The generations since the Shortage were not as lucky.  With more people living in the area of Lynn's pond, the disease has claimed many, including Lucy's best friend.  Vera is working hard to determine the source of the outbreak, hoping to save the lives of those still remaining.


Lucy has learned much from Lynn since the loss of her mother and Eli.  She now considers Lynn her mother, but they often don't see eye-to-eye on what's best.  Lucy has also met Carson.  A love interest is quickly blossoming and both are planning a future together.  Unfortunately, Vera's discovery is about to ruin everything.  She believes that Carson is the carrier of the polio virus.  It might even be possible that Lucy is a carrier.


When Lucy learns the bad news, she is devastated and decides to accept Lynn's invitation to leave the safety of their pond and head to California and a settlement rumored to be the only place where things resemble the world before the Shortage.  Together they head off on a perilous journey hoping to find safe water along the way and avoid the other dangers sure to cross their paths.


Author Mindy McGinnis presents a completely new set of challenges for her characters that are sure to fascinate fans of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.  What could Lynn and Lucy possibly encounter as they attempt to cross the country from Ohio to California?  Get your hands on a copy of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and find out.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

RANDOM by Tom Leveen

RandomTori is known as one of the Canyon Seven, a group of teens whose malicious online comments may have caused the death of one of their classmates.  It is the night before her trial begins, and she is busy hating everything about her life.  She hates her parents who removed the computer from her room and took away her iPhone, leaving her with a crappy, old flip phone.  She hates her brother who stopped talking to her when she was arrested.  She hates the reporters who keep pounding on the door wanting her to make a statement.


When the piece of crap phone she's being forced to rely on rings, Tori assumes it is someone calling to harass her about the trial.  Great, a crank call, just when all she wants to do is sleep until this whole thing is over.


Tori doesn't recognize the voice at the other end of the line.  When the male voice identifies itself as someone named Andy, Tori still doesn't have a clue who he is.  It turns out this Andy fellow has punched in her number at random.  At least that's what he tells her.  He then tells her he is planning to commit suicide.  He describes how he is in his car parked at the top of a mountain road, and unless she can convince him that life is worth living, he plans to drive his car off the cliff.


Can Tori convince Andy not to end his life?  Will talking to him help her make sense of the mess she is in and the potentially life-changing trial she faces in a few short hours? 


Author Tom Leveen presents a powerful story with a plot so real, readers will be gripped from the very first page.  With all the attention on bullying and the connection to social media, RANDOM strikes just the right tone and its message will resonate with teens.  RANDOM is a must read for teens and anyone with the power to influence young people.