Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

 

This week’s topic is Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List. I’m going to create this list of books that are already in my library hold queue or on my Kindle from NetGalley or Edelweiss. I spend an inordinate amount of time staggering books in my hold queue so I don’t end up with thirty books at once. I also am endlessly adding books to my queue, as well as endlessly requesting ARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss, then feeling stressed out by the amount of books I want to read (especially on the days boxes show up from VOYA, Horn Book, or School Library Journal for review work). There are many worse things, though, than having too much to read. That said, here are ten I can’t wait to find time for.

1. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (pub date  4/7/2015SIMON

Summary from bn.com:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

 

myheart2. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (pub date 2/10/2015)

Summary from Edelweiss:

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. 

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. 

 

3. Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (pub date 3/3/2015) nototherwise

Summary from bn.com:

From the award-winning author of Break and Teeth comes a raw and honest exploration of complicated identities in a novel about a girl living on the fringe of every fringe group in her small town.

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

conversion4. Conversion by Katherine Howe

Summary from bn.com:

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversioncasts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

 

Here’s where the list takes a shocking turn! I even have a handful of adult books on my list. I KNOW! 

 

5. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior alljoy

Summary from bn.com:

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents?

In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood’s deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its fi nest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture’s most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

shopaholic6. Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella (pub date 10/21/2014)

Summary from bn.com:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella returns to her beloved Shopaholic series with Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) newly arrived in Hollywood and starry-eyed. She and her two-year-old daughter, Minnie, have relocated to L.A. to join Becky’s husband, Luke, who is there to handle PR for famous actress Sage Seymour. Becky can’t wait to start living the A-list lifestyle, complete with celebrity sightings, yoga retreats, and shopping trips to Rodeo Drive. But she really hopes to become a personal stylist—Sage’s personal stylist—if only Luke would set up an introduction. Then, unexpectedly, Becky is offered the chance to dress Sage’s archrival, and though things become a bit more complicated, it’s a dream come true!

Red carpet premieres, velvet ropes, paparazzi clamoring for attention—suddenly Becky has everything she’s ever wanted.

7. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes oneplusone

Summary from bn.com:

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

frogmusic8. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Summary from bn.com:

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice—if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

 

9. The Fever by Megan Abbott thefever

Summary from bn.com:

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

vacationers10. The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Summary from bn.com:

An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.

Review: The Art of Secrets by James Klise

artoflies

About the book 
Title: The Art of Secrets

Author: James Klise

Age level: YA

Genre: Contemporary

Subjects: Fundraisers, Art, Private schools, Deceptions, Fires, Charity, Families, Pakistani Americans, Outsider art, Lies

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Publication date: 4/22/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: Library

Pages: 272

Series: No

Cover: Pretty simple, but the tag line and the match made me pick it up

Why review this book?: Picked it off the shelf and thought it looked interesting. Haven’t read the first book by Klise (Love Drugged).

 

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Saba Khan’s apartment burns in a mysterious fire, possibly a hate crime, her Chicago high school rallies around her. Her family moves rent-free into a luxury apartment, Saba’s Facebook page explodes, and she starts (secretly) dating a popular boy. Then a quirky piece of art donated to a school fund-raising effort for the Khans is revealed to be an unknown work by a famous artist, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Saba’s life turns upside down again. Should Saba’s family have all that money? Or should it go to the students who found the art? Or to the school? And just what caused that fire? Greed, jealousy, and suspicion create an increasingly tangled web as students and teachers alike debate who should get the money and begin to point fingers and make accusations. The true story of the fire that sets events in motion and what happens afterward gradually comes together in an innovative narrative made up of journal entries, interviews, articles, letters, text messages, and other documents.

 

The details

Characters: Uneven. Many characters tell pieces of the story from their viewpoint. Some of the characters are very well-developed, like Saba, who feels complicated enough to be realistic. But many come across as very flat and serve no real purpose in the story except to be red herrings. Despite being upper high school aged characters, they skew young.
Writing: The writing is strong and I enjoyed the format of journals, interviews, letters, and more. Again, though, the overall story suffers because of the poorly developed characters who detract from the story. Because some characters are so well done and their parts of the story do feel so interesting, it’s extra frustrating to bump into less well-done sections.
Plot: Fantastic idea: a bunch of people tell their pieces of the story about a fundraiser that has turned into something no one could predict. The pacing is perfect–we get closer and closer to figuring things out, then roadblocks pop up and nothing seems certain anymore. Only quibble with the plot and its execution–super rushed ending.
Ending: Wait, really? I mean, yes, mystery solved. But, only sort of. I had lots of questions about how believable certain elements could really be.
Liked: The format–letters, interviews, journal entries, etc. Hearing the story from so many perspectives kept it interesting and suspenseful, for the most part. Fantastically original premise and will be easy to recommend to a wide audience.
Disliked: The parts that felt like loose ends left loose or things/people thrown in just to further the mystery of the story. Totally do not understand why Javier (foreign exchange student) existed in the story at all.  His voice was the least believable/interesting to me. Also I’m not sure how believable much of the story is. Plus, there was this occasional undercurrent of race/the possibility of this being a hate crime–the second line of the flap copy even brings it up–but that isn’t addressed much or developed enough to be significant–so why throw in little hints about it anyway?

 

In summary:
Verdict: Solid pick for fans of mysteries and/or of books told from multiple viewpoints. Interesting premise, unique plot points (especially with the focus on outsider art). For readers who are more plot driven than character driven. Anyone who enjoys a whodunit story will devour this, especially if they can overlook minor issues.

 

Links:

Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

Weekly round-up of book-related links

*This week at Teen Librarian Toolbox I wrote about two memoirs by transgender teenagers. Pop on over there to check out what I had to say about these powerful books. 

 

*At E. Kristin Anderson’s blog, Carrie Mesrobian is guest blogging about “What is Graphic?”  She writes:

“But I think there’s also a form of censorship that we don’t see. This occurs on the part of writers fearing such blowback – is this too graphic? is that okay for kids to read? – and so when it comes to writing sex or anything else controversial, they step back. The scene fades to black. The scene pivots and becomes a summary. The scene gets edited out. The end result is the reader doesn’t get to see that writer’s honest view of the world.”

 

*At Diversity in YA, Malinda Lo has a very important post up. Go read every word of “Book Challenges Suppress Diversity.”  From the post:

“Although the data I am working with is a selected amount — these are Top 100 and Top 10 lists, not the raw list of 5,000+ challenges that the OIF received over the last decade — I think it’s still quite revealing. It’s clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo.

This isn’t surprising, but the extent to which diverse books are represented on these lists — as a majority — is quite disheartening. Diversity is slim throughout all genres of books and across all age groups — except when it comes to book challenges.

The message this sends is loud and clear: diversity is actually under attack. Minority perspectives are being silenced every year.”

 

*SLJ is sharing that the In The Margins committee presents their nominations for the 2015 list. From the article: “ITM, under the umbrella of Library Services for Youth in Custody, strives to bring to light self-published and small press published titles by, for, and about people in poverty, on the streets, in custody, or otherwise living in the margins. Books from larger publishers are also considered if they fit our charge. Teens are the target audience for the lists we create and promote.”

We hope our book list will empower librarians working in difficult situations to legitimize their book choices in order to promote positive reading and literacy activities for teens in the margins.

 

*At Publisher’s Weekly, check out National Book Award’s longlist for Young People’s Literature.  One of the books nominated is the absolutely fantastic Greenglass House, which I recently reviewed for VOYA. If you follow the link to the book, you can scroll down for my review. I adored it.

 

*Speaking of recent reviews, I keep quiet online about what I’m reading andreviewing for work, but once the reviews are published, it’s nice to share some of these titles. Scroll down through the reviews to see what I thought of the following titles:

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

–Made for You by Melissa Marr

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

 

*Not really book-related, but I love Gilmore Girls, so I also loved this article, “6 Reasons the Internet Loves Gilmore Girls.” 

 

*At Fuse #8, “Newbery/Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition.”  Looks like I need to get reading!

 

*How did I miss this post on After Ellen, “An Alternative School Reading List: Here is Every YA Novel with Lesbians.” What the list misses, people in the comments are sure to add.

 

*At Teen Librarian Toolbox, Robin’s “Take 5: Doing Time” list is a great resource for novels about the justice system. Read it in addition to reading Kelly Jensen’s Book Riot piece, “Doing Time: Stories of Juvenile Delinquents.”   

 

*Make sure you’re keeping up with the new pages of the excellent webcomic The Dead Have Issues!

 

*Did you see the trailer for Mockingjay yet?

This week at Teen Librarian Toolbox

I’ve joined the excellent website Teen Librarian Toolbox, where I will be posting primarily about LGBTQ books. My post from this Tuesday has book reviews of two memoirs by transgender teenagers. Pop on over there to read about Rethinking Normal and Some Assembly Required.

rethinkingsomeassembly

 

From my post:

When Arin and Katie met, they felt an immediate connection. It wasn’t just that they each thought the other was cute (though they did), but it was more that they understood each other in a way that not many other people they knew could understand them. Katie, born Luke, and Arin, born Emerald, are both transgender, and they met at an Oklahoma support group for trans teens. Their memoirs tell their individual stories of growing up and transitioning, as well as their story as a couple.

Waiting on Wednesday: Tape by Steven Camden

waitingonwednesdayWaiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I’m looking forward to reading Tape by Steven Camden.

 

Summary from bn.com: tape

TAPE is an outstanding debut. Told with crackling prose, shimmering with humour and deeply moving, it will haunt anyone who reads it…

Record a voice and it lasts forever…

In 1993, Ryan records a diary on an old tape. He talks about his mother’s death, about his dreams, about his love for a new girl at school who doesn’t even know he exists.

In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die. There, she finds a tape in the spare room. A tape with a boy’s voice on it – a voice she can’t quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her.

Ryan and Ameliah are connected by more than just a tape.

This is their story.

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Publication date: 9/23/2014 (I’m actually a little confused. I see the ebook has been available since January of this year, but it looks like the hardcover is first coming out this month.)

 

Why I’m excited: Honestly, I am judging this almost solely on its cover. I try real hard NOT to do that in my professional reviewing life, because I know better (though I do wish all review ARCs came with a blank cover). But in my leisure reading, I do judge books by their covers. The premise sounds interesting. I know nothing about the author or the book, so I’m truly going on a gut feeling that I’ll enjoy it. We’ll see, huh?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

 

This week’s topic: Top Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More. I’m going to take this as authors who both have more than one book out, have a book forthcoming, and don’t have a second book out yet, but I really hope will.

 

1. Elizabeth Ross:  I thoroughly enjoyed Belle Epoque, which surprised me as I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

 

2. Brandy Colbert: Damn, Pointe was EXCELLENT. Need more books by her–lots more.

 

3. Nina LaCour: As I shared last week, I adored Everything Leads to You. Definitely one of my favorite reads for 2014. Why haven’t I read anything by LaCour before? I’ve added The Disenchantments and Hold Still to my library queue.

 

4. Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being an Wallflower is such a good book and has been embraced by so many over the years. I’ve seen interviews with Chbosky where he talks about the next book he’s working on, but don’t think it has a release date yet. At one point I’d seen 2015 as a possibility, but we’ll see.

 

5. Matthew Quick: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was intense and memorable. Sorta Like a Rock Star sounds like my kind of book, so I should get on that.

 

6. Sherman Alexie: I KNOW! I’ve only read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time IndianI have a friend who’s been telling me for YEARS how great his other stuff is. I have no excuse.

 

7. Benjamin Alire Saenz: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was stunning–just phenomenal. Why haven’t I picked up another book by Saenz yet? No good reason, other than the fact that my TBR list is a million pages long and I can’t read everything at once, as much as I’d like to.

 

8. John Corey Whaley: Look, I know his new book, Noggin, is about a dude who is dying and has his head cryogenically frozen, and later that head is attached to a new body. Why wouldn’t I want to read this? Again, it’s on the list. THE INFINITE LIST. I thought Where Things Come Back was unique and kind of profound.

 

9. Jennifer E. Smith: I really liked The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. And every time I see any of her other books in a store or the library, I think, hey, I should pick that up. So I’ve just added two of her books to my library hold queue to finally take some action on those thoughts.

 

10. Emily M. Danforth: The Miseducation of Cameron Post was SO interesting and beautifully written. MORE, please!

 

bell eppointeeverythingperks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

leonardabsolutelyaristotlewherethings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

statisticalprobmiseducation-of-cameron-post-emily-m-danforth-morris-seal

 

Weekly roundup of YA, children’s lit, and other book-related links

*Very interesting post at Disability in Kidlit, “Emma Crees, Courtney Gilfillian, and s.e. smith review Say What You Will.”

 

*Teen Vogue is talking about “The Best YA Books You Should Read This Fall.”  Great list! There was only one I haven’t already read/didn’t have on my TBR list.
*At Stacked, Kelly Jensen has a great post up, “The Big Male YA Narrator Round-up.” Given that a library professional recently said to me “there are no boys in YA,” I find it extra useful. Can I secretly send it to her?

 

*YALSA announced the winners of their first ever Teen Read Week Blogging Contest and I’m thrilled to share that Abby Hendrickson, one of the members of the YA book club that I run, was selected as a winner. She’s working on a great blog–I can’t wait for everyone to read it. Congrats to this smart, articulate girl!

 

*At Teen Librarian Toolbox, go read “Teens Talk About Life, Reading, and Blogging.”  Stories about teens in their own words? Yes, please!

 

*At A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy, “Reading: It’s Good for You!”  From the post:

“I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal human experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under…. because I want to.

And if that’s why I read, why shouldn’t that be OK for teens and kids?”

 

*Love this post from A.S. King about her new novel and what happened leading up to it. In “We Make Paper Boats; We Cannot Control the Wind”she writes:

“So what drove me to quit writing in late February 2013?
I have no idea, but I did.
I said, “I’m done. I quit. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
I decided I’d go work in a library and maybe go back to school at night.
I decided I’d do anything but write another novel.
Eighteen was enough.

I lasted two days.”

Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

everything

 

 

About the book
Title: Everything Leads to You

Author: Nina LaCour

Age level: YA

Genre: Contemporary

Subjects: Los Angeles, Movies, Actors and acting, Families, Lesbians, Dating and relationships, Friendship

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 5/15/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: Library

Pages: 320

Series: No

Cover: Lovely in an eye-catching way. Suits the book well.

Why review this book?: Positive buzz

 

Summary (via bn.com):

“I want you to do something with the place. Something epic.”
 
After being entrusted with her brother’s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn’t sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he’s gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance.
               
But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades’ old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.

 

The details

Characters: I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept the fact that this is going to be a gushing review. Every single aspect of this book was wonderful to me, but especially the strong, unique characters. In many ways, it’s easy to forget that Emi and Charlotte are teenagers–their jobs sound sophisticated and they have a lot of freedom (as they spend most of their summer living in Emi’s brother’s apartment). But they are teenagers–they’re flawed, they make mistakes, they lose their cool, they’re short-sighted, and they have big feelings about many things. Once Ava and Jamal join the story, we see another side of teenage life, as both are living in a shelter and have had much less privileged lives than Emi and Charlotte have led. Jamal is an excellent example of how to write a non-white secondary character and not have that character feel like a token. He’s a great friend to Ava, is working hard to get his life where he wants it to be headed, and has no problem challenging Emi to think hard about her life and her privilege (in a way that comes off as totally organic and not Jamal teaching Emi some life lesson). All of the secondary characters stood out as well-rendered.

 

Writing: I’m not much on kinda empty terms like “beautiful,” but “beautiful” is what I’m going with here. The writing flows well, the descriptions of Los Angeles and aspects of Emi’s life made everything feel so real. I felt right in the middle of the story, totally pulled in.

 

Plot: In many ways, you can kind of tell exactly where this story will go after only reading a few chapters. But I’m okay with that in this case. It was such a joy watching the plot unfold, seeing the mystery element mix with the love story angle. Some of the twists and turns feel a little too convenient, and a few loose plot points dangle, but the big picture of this story is a unique and engaging one.

 

Ending: I cried. So there.

 

Liked: Everything. No, really. Honestly. Everything.

 

Disliked: Other than things sometimes working out too easily, nothing. I adored this book.

 

BONUS!: Book about LGBTQ main character that is not *at all* a coming out story! Hard-working teenagers! An amazingly close and supportive friendship. Interesting parents!

 

In summary
Verdict: This book rockets to the top of my “best reads of 2014″ list. It was the kind of book that I force myself to read slowly, to enjoy, to make it last. LaCour’s characters and setting were so strong that I felt kind of lonely after finishing the book. Truly a wonderful book.

Quotes:


“There’s still this thing that happens after you break up with someone. It barely takes any time to work. All you have to do is continue with your life, and then when you find yourself in a room with her again it’s as if you’re a different person. Maybe your posture is a little more confident. Maybe your laughter is louder. You’re wearing a perfume she’s never smelled before and you have a new way of pinning back your hair. You don’t even have to say anything because your presence alone is enough to say Look at who I am without you.”

 

“Because in the conversation beneath this one, what we’re really saying is I am an imperfect person. Here are my failures. Do you want me anyway?

 

“When I was a young man I fancied myself a philosopher. I enjoyed thinking about the tragedies of life. I thought all of the feeling out of everything. But not anymore.”

Links:

Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

See also: LaCour’s essay on Medium, “Love Can Be Simple.” Breathtaking.

Waiting on Wednesday: Transgender Teen Memoirs

waitingonwednesdayWaiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I’m featuring two books that I’m anxiously awaiting, Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews and Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill. You can head on over to Teen Librarian Toolbox next Tuesday, September 16th to read my reviews of these titles. 

 

Summary from bn.com for Some Assembly Required:someassembly

Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning memoir.

We’ve all felt uncomfortable in our own skin at some point, and we’ve all been told that “it’s just a part of growing up.” But for Arin Andrews, it wasn’t a phase that would pass. He had been born in the body of a girl and there seemed to be no relief in sight…

In this revolutionary memoir, Arin details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a girl, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began. Arin also writes about the thrill of meeting and dating a young transgender woman named Katie Hill…and the heartache that followed after they broke up.

Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.

Summary from bn.com for Rethinking Normal:

rethinkingIn her unique, generous, and affecting voice, nineteen-year-old Katie Hill shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment.

Have you ever worried that you’d never be able to live up to your parents’ expectations? Have you ever imagined that life would be better if you were just invisible? Have you ever thought you would do anything—anything—to make the teasing stop? Katie Hill had and it nearly tore her apart.

Katie never felt comfortable in her own skin. She realized very young that a serious mistake had been made; she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy. Suffocating under her peers’ bullying and the mounting pressure to be “normal,” Katie tried to take her life at the age of eight years old. After several other failed attempts, she finally understood that “Katie”—the girl trapped within her—was determined to live.

In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world and experience heartbreak for the first time in a body that matched her gender identity. Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self.

 

 Publisher for both: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date for both: 9/30/2014

 

Why I’m excited for them: I try to read as much YA as possible that features QUILTBAG characters, and I’m thrilled to see the increase in visibility of trans* young adults. (See also my reviews for Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices by Kirstin Cronn-Mills.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Underrated Books in YA

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

 

This week’s topic:  Top Ten Underrated Authors or Books in YA. I had a little help with this one; I polled the YA book club and teen advisory board I facilitate through the public library and a few of the members offered up some titles. Here are our picks: 

 

1. Anything by Ellen Wittlinger. A. says, “Ellen Wittlinger is my favorite author. She’s won awards (I think…) but everyone I’ve ever talked to hasn’t read her books. (You don’t count; you’re in the acknowledgements of Hard Love.) ” (FYI, I call this fabulous teen friend of mine “90s me” because she is freakishly like my teenage self. I now do most of my hair dyeing vicariously through her. I’m always so surprised to learn which authors I feel like everyone would of course know, but actual teens don’t necessarily know.)

 

2. A. also says, “Better Than Running at Night is A+, and no one really ever talks about it. ” (Again, she and I remain in sync. I absolutely love everything Hillary Frank has written–I’ve been a big fan ever since meeting Hillary in 2002 through an event at Simmons. I’m also always happy to hear her pieces on This American Life or other shows, and her podcast The Longest Shortest Time is required listening for anyone who is a parent.)

 

3. Our book club is filled with girls whose names start with the letter A. It’s kinda freaky. So let’s call this girl A2. She sent me an email about the book Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards. Good pick—I’ve never even heard of this book. I looked it up online and see it has a lot of really positive reviews. Adding this one to my infinite TBR list.

 

4. The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell. I read a LOT of books in a year. I’ve been reviewing professionally for more than 10 years at this point. I can’t say that I commit the details of every plot of every book to memory. But this book has stuck with me. In the link, you can see from my VOYA review that I thought it was pretty amazing. Sandinista Jones (what a name!) is angry, lonely, afraid, and weird. This story of what a teenager does when left on her own with no one to care for her or advocate for her is filled with memorable characters and a lot of pain. Great read.

 

5. Winter Town by Stephen Emond. Do you know this book? You should know this book. I picked it up because of the excellent cover and was not disappointed. A great story about friends who reunite once a year, the ways people can change, and the secrets we keep. Bonus factor of drawings and comics interspersed throughout.

 

6. The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos. It might be my life’s quest to make a teenager actually read this. I loved this weird Gothic story about obsessive love and taxidermy. “Obsessive love and taxidermy,” I mean, you don’t really need more than that to at least go check it out, do you?

 

7. The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. It’s out of print now, as a paper book, but you can still get the ebook, and you should. This sat on my shelf far too long before I got around to reading it, then I kicked myself for not getting to it sooner. Cronn-Mills deftly captures life in a small town. The writing is lyrical and Morgan, the main character, is fantastic. A few of the book club members read this over the summer, too, and thought it was great. Made me wish I’d ever driven somewhere secluded in my own stifling small town and screamed at the sky.

 

8. MELINA MARCHETTA: It’s entirely possible you see this name on the list and think, she’s not underrated! She’s completely brilliant and everyone knows her! BUT I don’t find a whole lot of teens who know her. Or I’ll find people have heard of her, but not read her. I plucked Saving Francesca out of the pile of ARCs at work one day in 2003ish and was blown away. The Piper’s Son was an amazing follow-up to Francesca. But it’s Jellicoe Road that stands out to me as one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read in my life. EVER.

 

9. Adam Rapp. Here’s the thing: most of the adults  I know who read YA certainly know who Adam Rapp is, but not everyone has read anything by him. The teens I know haven’t even heard of him. I read The Buffalo Tree in graduate school, then read everything else of his as it came out. My favorite book of his is Punkzilla (my VOYA review can be found in that link). The words that are probably used most to describe his work would be grim, gritty, dark, and disturbing. If you know me, you know that those descriptors make his work immediately appealing to me. If you don’t know his work, check him out ASAP.

 

10. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. This is another book that I looooved, but none of the actual teens I know have read. Audrey becomes wildly famous after her ex-boyfriend writes a song about her, and that song becomes a smash hit. Funny and smart, this was such a fun read.

 

hardlovebetterthanrunning6monthssharp timewinter townlove cursesky alwaysjellicoepunkzillaaudrey wait