Tag Archives: friendship

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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Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth

It’s the summer before 7th grade.  Spunky, headstrong Violet Raines plans to do what she always does; go to fish fries with her best friend Lottie, bike and explore with her friend Eddie, and watch the thunderstorms her sleepy town of Mitchell Hammock, Florida is famous for. But when new girl Melissa Gold shows up from Detroit, she threatens everything that Violet holds dear. Soon Lottie is more interested in soap operas and makeovers than swimming and alligator hunting. Despite Lottie’s attempts to bring the trio together, Violet and Melissa just can’t seem to get along. When lightning literally strikes, Violet must decide what’s more important: desperately clinging to the past or embracing changes for the future.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is a wonderfully sweet story about that precarious time between childhood and adolescence, growing up and the power of friendship.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
Juvenile fiction | 176 pages | August 2008 | Walker Children’s | 9780802797919 | Library copy

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Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Have you ever had a teacher that changed your life?  That brought learning alive in such a way that by the end of the school year, you hadn’t just learned what you need to know for the tests, but learned some lessons about yourself?

For me, that teacher was Mrs. Bryce.  She was my AP English teacher during my senior year of high school.  We studied existentialism that year.  I can still remember the novels we read, the discussions we had, and the way she made it all applicable to our lives.  She was truly amazing and I will never forget her.

Mr. Terupt is that teacher for 5th graders Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna and Jeffrey.  He’s new at Snow Hill School and at first the students are more concerned about what they’ll be able to get away with than what they might learn.  But Mr. Terupt quickly proves to be different from any teacher they’ve had before. 

Through his unique teaching style, Mr. Terupt makes learning fun and interesting, allowing his students the freedom to explore and grow, while also giving them a sense of personal responsibility.  Mr. Terupt’s method seems to be working…until one winter day when an accident changes everything.

In this touching debut novel, Buyea shows us how caring, dedicated teachers can inspire, motivate and change their students.  There were a few points where the dialogue between the kids seemed a little unbelieveable and it took me out of the story, but for the most part, I loved the idea of this story and thought Buyea did a good job conveying the  impact Mr. Terupt had on each of his student’s lives.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Juvenile | 288 pages | October 2010 | Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 038573882X | Library copy

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Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King

“I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.  If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.” (p. 44)

Vera Dietz and Charlie Kahn have been best friends since they were four years old.  In a world where mothers left their families and husbands beat their wives, Vera and Charlie were there for each other, were solid for each other, kept each others secrets.  Until Charlie turned his back on Vera.  And then died.

Now Vera is facing the fallout from Charlie’s death.  She knows more than she’s letting on, but in order to tell the truth, she must first come to terms with everything that’s happened between her and Charlie-good and bad.  Even though she’s been told to ignore the ugly things in the world for most of her life, Vera knows that ignorance doesn’t make them go away.  It just makes you feel like a chump for not doing anything to help.

I absolutely loved this book.  From the first page, I was drawn into Vera’s story.  Her voice is vivid and full of personality; she’s quirky and smart and funny.  She’s also been hurt very deeply by the people who were supposed to love her.  Watching her experience that cruelty was literally heartbreaking.  Several times I found myself clutching my chest, fighting back tears for this girl.  But don’t think Vera’s some helpless damsel-in-distress; she’s tough in ways she shouldn’t have to be.

Vera tells us her story in alternating perspectives:  present and “history” – glimpses into her relationship with Charlie as they grew up.  There are also some interjections from “the dead kid”, AKA Charlie, Vera’s dad, and the Pagoda.  Although the sections told from Charlie’s and the Pagoda’s perspectives add a bit of fantastic realism to the story, they weren’t distracting or jarring as you might expect. 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is as much about death and loss as it is about love and life.  It’s about letting go of the past so you can embrace your future.  It’s a complex and nuanced exploration about the complicated nature of love, whether it’s romantic or familial.  I think Vera put it best when she said:

“True love includes equal parts good and bad, but true love sticks around and doesn’t run off to Vegas with a podiatrist.” (p. 97)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
Young Adult | 336 pages | October 2010 | Knopf Books for Young Readers | 0375865861 | Library copy


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All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang (2010)

“She said that the most memorable and significant relationships in literature have not typically fit into a conventional mode.  She said that longing matters in literature, more than love.  The power of that relationship which is undefinable.” (p. 102)

“Art made strange allies.” (p. 20)

The year is 1986; Roman, Lucy and Bernard are part of a seminar run by the feared and revered poet, Miranda Sturgis.  Miranda is notorious for her harsh critiques (“bludgeonings”), yet Roman and Bernard find themselves vying for her attention and praise.  As these four lives intersect over the course of twenty years, secrets are revealed, friendships are tested, and love is found and lost. Prevalent throughout the novel is the question of craft vs. talent in relation to writing.  Can poetry be taught?  Is it possible to improve as a writer over the course of time?  Can you write without soul?

Lan Samantha Chang’s elegant and vivid prose will draw you into this slip of a novel and haunt you long after you read the last page.  In All Is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, Chang tackles some deep questions about writing, art, love, betrayal and self-worth.  I love, love, loved this book.

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