Category Archives: Young Adult Literature

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

I had no intention of liking this book.  The cover didn’t grab me and the jacket made me think this was going to be an “issues” book.  It’s one of my required readings for the GSTBA ballot and I actually tried to pawn it off on someone else!  But I picked it up and started reading and discovered that it’s ok to be wrong sometimes because this was one great book.

Sixteen-year-old Drea has bounced around from place to place, home to home, while her mother chased boyfriends who never seemed to stick around for very long.  They finally end up at her grandmother’s house in Washington.  There, Drea meets Naomi and Justin, two people who love music as much as she does.  But after being diagnosed with ADHD and what her mother deems “a touch of Asperger’s”, Drea has a hard time believing that anyone could simply like her for her.  Why does being “normal” have to be so hard? 

Drea’s story isn’t necessarily new or even told in a groundbreaking way.  We’ve read tons of books about people who have a hard time fitting in.  What makes it special is how nuanced it is.  How rich the characters are.  Take Drea’s mom.  She’s man-crazy.  She’s had boyfriend after boyfriend.  Yet, she’s not your one-dimensional selfish, neglectful mother.  She has faults, but she also loves Drea like crazy.  She comforts Drea.  She’s doing the best she can to take care of her.  And you reallyfeelthat.  And that is what makes the difference.

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
Young Adult | 278 pages | Henry Holt & Co. | May 2010 | 080509010X | Library copy





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The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

Gaby Rodriguez decided early on that she wouldn’t be another stereotype.  Even though her mother and older sisters had babies while they were teenagers, Gaby realized that she wanted more and worked hard in school to ensure that her future would be bright.  So it was quite a shock that for Gaby’s senior project she decided she was going to fake her own pregnancy.  

Telling very few people the truth, Gaby perpetuated a pregnancy in order to find out what it was like to be a pregnant teen.  Would all of her accomplishments be negated because of this one mistake?  What would people say about her?  Who, if anyone, would offer their support?  The implications would go much deeper and spread far wider than Gaby could have ever dreamed.

Gaby’s story is told in a straight-forward, easy-to-read manner that I think will be appealing to teens, but for me it fell flat in places.  It was hard for me to connect emotionally to her writing.  Her tone is reflective and puts distance between the reader and the events.  Other than that, I think she has a strong message on an issue that has become something of an epidemic in this country and a real heart for those in need.

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
Young Adult – Memoir | 218 pages | Simon & Schuster | January 2012 | 1442446226  | Library copy

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Garden State Teen Book Awards 2013 Ballot – Fiction Grades 6-8

Last week was the first day of deliberations for the GSTBA 2013 ballot. Thankfully everyone played nice and we were able to get a list together without too much bloodshed (I’m not so optimistic when it comes time to discuss the Grade 9-12 fiction list!). In no particular order, here are the titles:

  1. Scrawl by Mark Shulman
  2. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  3. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  4. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  5. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
  6. Trash by Andy Mulligan
  7. Crazy by Han Nolan
  8. Heist Society by Ally Carter
  9. 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
  10. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  11. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
  12. Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
  13. Sons of Liberty by Alexander and Joseph Lagos
  14. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
  15. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  16. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  17. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
  18. Mindblind by Jennifer Roy
  19. Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
  20. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“Find the bird.  In the loop.  On the other side of the old man’s grave.  September third, 1940.”  I nodded, but he couldn’t see that I didn’t understand.  With his last bit of strength, he added, “Emerson – the letter.  Tell them what happened, Yakob.” (p. 33)

Jacob Portman believed he was destined to live an incredibly ordinary life.  But then his grandfather is tragically killed, spewing the above disjointed jibberish as he lay dying in Jacob’s arms.  Could this cryptic message have anything to do with the strange photographs his grandfather used to show him when Jacob was younger about the magical children’s home he lived in on a small island off the coast of Wales?  Jacob had long ago dismissed his grandfather’s stories as rubbish, but now he’s not so sure.  In order to make sense of everything that’s happened, Jacob and his father travel to Wales.  Cairnholm is shrouded in fog and mystery, but Jacob is determined to honor his grandfather’s last request and find out the truth about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Riggs’s debut novel is unique in that he blends Jacob’s story with some fantasically creepy photographs borrowed from collectors around the country (including himself).  Unfortunately, I felt some of the fantasy elements of the story could have been explained better and that, at times, the story was written to complement the pictures and not the other way around.  Readers who are looking to be thoroughly creeped-out may be disappointed as the story is not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.  Overall, though, I was impressed with the writing and was intrigued enough to read it all the way through.  The ending seemed like it might lend itself to a sequel, though I probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Young Adult fiction | 352 pages | Quirk Publishing | June 2011 | 1594744769 | Library copy

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled.” (p. 35)

A Monster Calls left me breathless.  Speechless.  And completely incapable of producing a coherent review.  All I had were a bunch of words tumbling around in my head, an ache in my heart, and one charge:  READ IT.  Below, see my best attempt at captivating what this book meant to me.

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Young Adult fiction | 224 pages | Candlewick | September 2011 | 0763655597 | Library copy

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Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy

“Let me tell you what I think about bicycling.  I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”  -Susan B. Anthony (1896)

Wheels of Change:  How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) documents the rise of the bicycle in American culture and the social impact it had on women.  Cycling was fun, good for your health (once they fixed the design so you wouldn’t take a header!), and provided a newfound sense of freedom for women around the country.  Not everyone was a proponent of women and cycling, though; opposers  like Charlotte Smith believed the bicycle was the “devil’s advange agent” and would cause young ladies to plummet into a moral downward spiral.  Thankfully, those ideas petered out rather quickly.  I found it fascinating how much influence the bicycle had on everything from fashion to sports to health and how far women were travelling (hundreds of miles at a time!).  This was definitely a great read whether you’re a sports fan, cycling enthusiast, or woman’s history buff.

Wheels of Change:  How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy
Young Adult Nonfiction | 96 pages | January 2011 | National Geographic Children’s Books | 1426307616 | Library copy

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Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

All year long, the residents of West Lake look forward to Hell House, the annual haunted house of sin. Sixteen-year-old Lacey Anne Byer is especially excited because this year she can try out for one of the lead roles, and there is nothing better than having the chance to win lost souls to Christ. But this turns out to be a year of change for Lacey, beginning with the arrival of Ty Davis, a cute, funny, smart boy she can’t stop thinking about. Controversial events in Lacey’s small town cause doubts to swirl in her mind, and issues that seemed so black and white before have suddenly become muddled shades of gray. As her faith is tested, Lacey is forced to examine what she believes, who she loves, and where her loyalties lie.

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Young adult | 273 pages | July 2011 | Bloomsbury | 1599905272  | Library copy

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