Sunday, April 29, 2012

WANT TO GO PRIVATE? by Sarah Darer Littman

WANT TO GO PRIVATE? by Sarah Darer Littman is a hard-hitting take on the dangers of the Internet.  I'll admit my first impression was that it was overly graphic while at the same time annoyingly innocent.  Now that I've finished the book, I must retract this first reaction.

Littman plays hardball with her subject matter.  Abby's story is divided into three sections.  The first part focuses on Abby and her changing life.  She is beginning high school and is very clear about her fears.  Her best friend Faith seems to be slipping seamlessly into high school life and is making friends right and left, leaving Abby behind.  Abby's parents are increasing the pressure from home about the importance of good grades, and Abby's younger sister Lily continues to be an irritating pest.

A newly created website allows Abby to anonymously chat with random teens without the pressures she feels at school.  When Luke begins to join her in chats, she is flattered by his glowing praise and his sympathetic ear.  He invites her to "go private" and she jumps at the chance.  Abby becomes so taken with Luke that even asking her to remove her top and bra and expose herself to him, doesn't seem to be overstepping any bounds.  She remembers the warnings of countless school presentations and the words of caution from her parents, but she is convinced that Luke cares deeply for her.

Without spoiling specific story details, I'll quickly mention that the second part of the novel focuses on the other people in Abby's life and their concern for her.  The third section directs attention to the lesson to be learned from Abby's experience.

In conclusion I would like to commend Sarah Darer Littman for the approach she takes in her latest novel.  Daring to use graphic details and emphasize the naivete of our children despite lectures and precautions, Littman makes a strong and necessary statement in WANT TO GO PRIVATE.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Pete Hautman never disappoints me.  WHAT BOYS REALLY WANT grabbed my attention on the first page, and I couldn't put it down.

Lita and Adam have a comfortable friendship.  If asked, they would say they don't keep secrets from each other, and although they may not always see eye-to-eye on the details, they are loyal to a fault.

As their voices alternate throughout the book, readers are let in on the truth.  The two high school students might be great friends, but they are definitely living separate lives.  Lita expresses herself through her alter-ego Miz Fitz as she offers snarky advice on her blog.  Adam is sure he knows the ins and outs of boy/girl relationships, and takes things a step farther by deciding to write a book.

As Miz Fitz, Lita takes a mis-step or two and sometimes worries about what would happen if anyone ever found out she really doles out the advice instead of a real Miz Fitz.  Adam learns that writing a book isn't as easy as it might first appear.  With the help of the Internet and Miz Fitz's blog, he cobbles together some wacky information meant to help girls navigate the mixed-up world of guys.  As Lita and Adam become more deeply involved in their individual projects, their friendship is tested and their reputations hang in the balance.

Hautman's humor is evident from page one.  I found myself chuckling frequently and genuinely laughing out loud on a regular basis.  I found myself sharing funny moments with friends who probably didn't give a hoot what book I was reading, but it's the kind of fun one just has to share.  I already have a student asking to read this one, and I'm sure it won't take long before there is a waiting list.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Natalie has long dreamed of being crowned prom queen.  Ever since her mother's romantic exploits landed them on the "right" side of the tracks, Natalie has plotted and schemed to land the perfect boyfriend to have by her side as prom king.

An unfortunate car accident almost derailed Natalie's plans, but life is slowly returning to normal.  Yes, the accident resulted in tragedy for one and also left Natalie's best friend walking with a cane, but the traditions of Palmetto High are not to be destroyed.

Lauren Kate, author of the popular FALLEN series, gives readers another novel filled with twists and turns and devious human behavior.  At times I felt sympathy for Natalie, but mostly she's one of those characters I love to hate.  The stereotypical southern charm and focus on the trappings of society are such a far cry from my Midwestern lifestyle that I found it fascinating and at the same time disturbing.

THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE came highly recommended by several of my students, and I wasn't disappointed.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

BREAKING BEAUTIFUL by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: April 24, 2012

Allie is attempting to put her life back together after the tragic death of her boyfriend.  She has very little memory of the accident that threw her from the truck just before it went over an ocean side cliff killing Trip Phillips.  Although Trip's parents seem concerned about her and the trauma she suffered, they are insisting on a full-scale investigation into the death of their son.  Even though Allie is unable to recall details of the accident, she knows she must protect another secret that could devastate Trip's parents and perhaps ruin their reputation.

As Allie works her way back into normal life attending school and interacting with her family, she battles memory flashes and dreams that threaten to destroy her fragile self-esteem.  Her twin brother tries to offer support despite the fact that cerebral palsy keeps him bound to a wheelchair.  Allie, however, doesn't feel a great deal of support from her parents.  Her mother is wrapped up in her job, and her father, newly retired from the military, has never really had a close relationship with her.

The one person Allie can count on is her childhood friend Blake.  Blake has had problems of his own in the past and many believe he will not be a positive influence in Allie's life.  At one point she is given some advice that she will need to trust someone someday, but is Blake the one?

BREAKING BEAUTIFUL is the first book from author Jennifer Shaw Wolf.  She takes her time building great depth in her characters and fills Allie's story with many twists and turns.  Relationships form the main focus in this striking novel as readers learn the main layers involved in the creation and destruction of some of the most complex relationships.

Saturday, April 7, 2012



When asked what my favorite book is, for years I have responded, "THE GIVER by Lois Lowry."  Move over, GIVER.  There is a new favorite on my top shelf - THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green!

I've enjoyed all of John's books and didn't think anything would top AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, but I was wrong.  He has topped himself yet again.

Hazel's crisp and irreverent voice captured me on the first page.  Her battle with cancer and her struggle to be her own independent person is only one part of this amazing book.  When she meets Augustus, another cancer survivor, the talent of John Green shines even brighter.

Between Hazel and Augustus, Green is able to give voice to the fight against cancer but also to young love.  There is no way to stop either one.  What is meant to happen will happen, and perhaps we are just along for the ride.

I realize this review simply heaps on the praise and doesn't reveal much about the substance of the plot, but this is one you truly must experience for yourself.  A huge thank you to John Green.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Announcing the winner of Joan Bauer's BACKWATER!!

The winner is   *Kim*

Congratulations, Kim.  I've sent you an email and will be waiting to hear where to mail your new book.

PINCH HIT by Tim Green

PINCH HIT introduces readers to two interesting boys.  One is a star baseball player with his sights set on the major leagues, and the other is already famous for his acting ability.  When the two meet, they are in for a shock.

Sam's life is all about baseball.  He does have some interest in the movie business since his dad's dream is to create the next great script for a classic horror movie.  It is his father's ambition that leads Sam to find Trevor.

Trevor is a young star.  His mother is a star and his father is a fearsome force in the movie industry.  When Trevor and Sam meet on the set of Dragon's Empire, it is changes their lives forever. 

Sam and Trevor both knew they were adopted, but what no one seems to know is that the two boys were twins.  This unusual situation allows the two boys to live their secret dreams.  With the help of a few friends, they switch places and manage to create quite a sensation.

Author Tim Green once again brings the excitement of sports front and center in PINCH HIT.  In addition to baseball, he adds the movie making business and the mystery of twins separated at birth into this latest novel.  Green fans will find PINCH HIT filled with his usual fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and the possibility of a sequel makes further adventures with Sam and Trevor likely.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

BENEATH A METH MOON by Jacqueline Woodson

Laurel Daneau lost her mother and grandmother in hurricane floodwaters.  Her father took her and her three month old little brother to higher ground at her Aunt G's house while her mother stayed with her grandmother who refused to leave their family home.

Now Laurel is trying to settle in and adjust to life without these important women.  A new friend encourages her to tryout for the cheerleading squad, and she is soon shaking her poms poms in support of the Tigers.  One of the Tigers is a star on the basketball team.  T-Boom makes Laurel feel special.  He also introduces her to meth.  The two assure each other that they can stop any time.

Meth soon takes first place over the relationship, and Laurel's life spirals out of control.  She risks the love and support of her family and friendship with her best friend Kaylee to chase what she calls the "moon." 

Talented author Jacqueline Woodson takes readers on an emotional journey as Laurel remembers her past and struggles with her future.  Woodson emphasizes the power of meth and the ongoing determination required to deal with its life destroying force.  At less than 200 pages, this fast-paced read is one you won't want to miss.