Category: Teen


audacity

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Told in masterful verse, this is the story of real-life heroine Clara Lemlich who led the largest strike by women in the history of the United States.  Born in Russia, Clara was forbidden any education because her devout Jewish father did not approve.  When her family emigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, Clara was required to go to work to support her family while her father and brothers dedicated their lives to prayer.  Clara got work in the garment industry, discovering horrific working conditions and refusing to just accept them.  Clara worked to get women workers taken seriously by the male-driven unions and for their plight to be incorporated into union strikes and negotiations.  Along the way, she also used the public library and free classes to teach herself English.  Anyone wondering if one person can truly make a difference in a larger world has only to read this book to be inspired to action.

Crowder’s poetry here is completely amazing.  From one page to the next, she captures the incredible spirit of this young woman and her desire to educate herself.  When she finds something to fight for, she is unstoppable, fearless and unbeatable.  Crowder also ties Clara to nature, even in among the tenement buildings of New York City.  She is a small hawk, a flower in the concrete, she herself is the force of nature in the city.

Just the descriptions of the horrific beatings that Clara withstood on the streets and the picket lines would make most people quit.  But Crowder makes sure to depict Clara as a person first and a hero second.  It makes what she did so much more amazing but also encourages everyone to realize that they too have this within them if they are willing to take on the fight.  This woman was a heroine in such a profound way, unsupported by her family and willing to use all of her free time to make a difference, she is exactly what the modern world needs to have us make change now.

Strong, beautiful and wonderfully defiant, this book is an incredible testament to the power of one woman to change the world.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.

x

X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

This is the story of Malcolm X’s boyhood and teen years.  Malcolm Little grew up during the Depression, surviving on dandelion greens soup after his father is murdered.  When his mother gains the attention of social services, Malcolm is moved out of the family home and away from his days of stealing melons from patches and apples from stands to fill his belly.  When Malcolm gets a chance to leave his foster home and head to live with his half-sister in Boston, he jumps at the chance.  Boston and its neighborhoods are a buzz with activity and nightlife and Malcolm immediately joins the fray, turning his back firmly on the way he was raised.  Malcolm continues to explore the dangerous side of society by dealing reefer, drinking, and dating a white woman.  He moves to Harlem where the jazz is even more incredible and where he really gets into serious trouble.  This novel follows Malcolm from his childhood until he is imprisoned for theft at age 20 and eventually converts to Islam.

Shabazz is one of the daughters of Malcolm X and according to the Authors Note at the end of the book the story while fiction is firmly based in real life people and events.  The writing prowess of Magoon is also here in full force, directing a story that is a headlong dash into sex, drugs and jazz into something that speaks volumes about the intelligence and emotions of the young man at its center.  The result is a book that shines light on difficult years of Malcolm X’s life where he lost himself and then the tremendous results of having returned and found himself again. 

There is such emotion here on the page.  Malcolm’s heart shows in each interaction he has, each moment of losing himself that he manages to find.  It is a road map of hope for those who are lost to these moments in their lives that you can return and be better than ever.  It also shows the humanity behind the historical figure, the real boy behind the legend.

Powerful, gritty and honest, this novel expands what young readers know about Malcolm X and offers hope for those in their own crisis.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Candlewick Press and Netgalley.

all the bright places

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Finch and Violet go to the same high school but don’t move in the same social circles.  So when they both find themselves at the top of the school’s bell tower one day, it’s a chance for that to change.  Finch is a boy who flirts constantly with death, thinking about different ways to kill himself and researching suicide statistics.  He’s known as “Theodore Freak” by his classmates and has a couple of close friends but that’s it.  Violet moves among the popular kids at school, but lost her older sister in a car accident the year before, something she’s having problems coping with.  The two of them start working on a school project together since Finch tricks Violet into agreeing.  For the project, they travel the state of Indiana finding unique places to visit and leaving small things behind.  As they travel, the two become closer and more honest with one another about what they are going through.  Violet begins to come out of her grief and live more, but something different is happening to Finch.

Niven creates a movie-like novel here with scenes that comes to life complete with cinematography in your mind.  There are iconic moments throughout the book, thanks to the plot of them moving from one unique spot to another.  Moments that stand out as important and vital even as they are happening, moments that disguise but also highlight what is happening to the two main characters.  There is a moment in the middle of the book where things switch and change starts to happen for both characters, but in opposite directions.  There is a sense of loss at that moment, of being unable to save someone that echoes suicide right then and there.  It is beautifully done.

The two main characters are brilliantly written as well.  The sorrowful Violet who can’t see her way towards trying at school or connecting with others at all and who finds her light in Finch that moves her forward.  The clever and sarcastic Finch who steeps himself in dark thoughts but flares alive, sleepless and awake, desperate never to fall into the trap of sleeping for days or months again.  He is a deep character, fighting being bipolar on his own. 

Niven writes with a simple beauty that will appeal to teens, especially as they explore these complicated subjects.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf.

there will be lies

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

Shelby is about to be hit by a car, in four hours.  She lives an isolated life with her mother, one where she is homeschooled and doesn’t really know anyone else outside of the online forums she visits without her mother knowing.  Every Friday they have a day out, one with ice cream for dinner, batting in the batting cage, and a visit to the library.  There’s a cute boy there that Shelby has seen, another thing that her mother doesn’t know about.  But the car is coming, and Shelby’s quiet life is about to change.  After she is hit by the car, a coyote appears to her, warning her that she will be told two lies and then she will know the truth.  Immediately after she is released from the hospital, her mother takes her away in a car, fleeing from dangers that only her mother understands.  As Shelby begins to see her mother in a new light, she also starts leaving real life and spending time with Coyote in The Dreaming, a place where she is responsible for saving the world.  And soon she will have to deal with the truth and that may be a lot harder than dealing with the lies along the way.

Lake has written a book that is a real page turner.  Readers will know immediately upon meeting Shelby that something is wrong with her living situation, though it is vague enough to be almost anything.  I don’t want to ruin at all that exploration of the lies and truth, because it is a large reason the book is so compelling to read.   Lake has also constructed the book so it’s a count down.  First readers know that the car accident is coming.  Then readers will see that the chapter numbers are counting down, one after another towards another impact, one that readers know is coming but can’t avoid or quite understand yet. 

One of the revelations that comes early in the book is Shelby’s deafness.  Written in the first chapters without any acknowledgement, readers will be stunned by the news that Shelby is 90% deaf.  Then they piece together the clues of it, the many gestures used as she communicates with her mother, the subtitles, the way her mother tells her to be careful because she is special.  I appreciated this treatment so much because Shelby is a person first and then her disability is revealed.  Exactly the way it should be. 

Strongly written, compellingly structured, with one strong and very human heroine, this book of family, lies and truths is a riveting read.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Bloomsbury and Edelweiss.

My Top 25 Picks for 2014 Teen Reads

Here are my top selections for the best books for teens in 2014.  Please share your favorites in the comments since try as I may, I never manage to make it through all books published during the year!

100 Sideways Miles Beetle Boy

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Beetle Boy by Margaret Wiley

Belzhar Complicit

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

A Creature of Moonlight Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1)

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future Half Bad (Half Bad, #1)

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King

Half Bad by Sally Green

I'll Give You the Sun The Impossible Knife of Memory

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lies We Tell Ourselves My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

Never Ending Noggin

Never Ending by Martyn Bedford

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The Scar Boys She Is Not Invisible

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, #1) Through the Woods

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone We Were Liars

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Why We Took the Car Wildlife

Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

ghosts of heaven

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick once again takes readers on a unique journey, this time all bound together by spirals both symbolically and tangibly.  Told in four sections, which Sedgwick explains can be read in any order, the book begins in Paleolithic time with a young girl who has become a woman but not yet borne children being selected to travel to the special caves where someone more important with do the painting on the cave walls.  She is meant solely to climb the walls burdened with his supplies.  But the story twists and turns away from what is expected into a different story entirely.  The second tale is of the witch hunts in England, where another girl is trying to survive after her mother’s death.  Her mother was the cunning woman of the village, caring for the health of everyone.  And the girl has caught the eye of the landowner’s son, but things are not that simple and when a new religious leader comes to town, the girl finds herself at the sharp end of his attention.  The third tale brings readers into the world of a 1920s asylum for the mentally ill where a poet who is incarcerated there is obsessed with spirals and draws a young doctor into his world.  The final story is set in the future, aboard a spaceship where only one person wakes at a time, keeping the ship maintained as it heads on its lengthy journey that will save the human race.  Then things start going wrong.  Four stories, each spiraled with one another into a whole novel that is dark, deep and incredibly engaging.

Each of these stories stands on its own merit, each one more dazzling than the next.  Yet as a whole it is where they are truly powerful, tied together with spirals of time, spirals of power, the spiral of humanity too.  Sedgwick excels at creating tension in each of these stories, each building ever so cleverly and enticingly towards an ending that readers long to arrive and yet dread.  Sometimes you know where they are headed, others you have no idea, and in each there are connections to the others, echoes from one story to the next through time and space.

This is a book that requires strong teen readers.  Some of the stories are less about teens than about adults, yet it is the stories of those teen girls that echo through time, tying the stories into one novel.  It is a book that will be welcomed in high school classrooms, one that insists on discussion, one that will resonate with certain readers who see the world as one enormous spiral too.

Exquisite writing, beautifully plotted and filled with powerful tension, this novel for teens is a great way to start a  new year.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Netgalley.

my true love gave to me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

Twelve bestselling young adult authors come together to create an amazing collection of holiday stories for teens.  Each story in this collection is a delectable treat, contrasting with the others yet each is just as romantic, snowy and filled with holiday spirit as the one before.  The twelve authors are Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White.  Each brings their own unique voice to the collection, each celebrates the holidays with their own twist.  Some are pure holiday bliss, Christmas centered and lovely, while others are gorgeously twisted and wild yet also speak to the real spirit of the season.  You never quite know where the next story will take you, and that is a large part of this collection’s appeal.

Perkins has done an amazing job of creating a holiday collection with plenty of diversity.  There are Jewish characters, characters of different races, pagan characters, those who believe in holidays, those who are jaded as can be.  There is magic in some of the stories, tangible magic that you can feel and touch, while other stories have that indefinable magic of love and connection. 

You are guaranteed to have your favorites among the stories.  For me, one of them hit my heart so hard that I wept, but it may not be the one you’d expect it to be.  Each one connects deeply with the characters, making them real people even such a short span of pages.   Each one offers up the author’s voice with a clarity that is incredible.  One could pick many of the authors out even with the stories mixed up and unnamed. 

An outstanding collection of holiday stories, these stories focus on the new adult rather than teens in high school, which makes it even more rare and lovely.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

2015 Morris Award Finalists

YALSA has announced their picks for the finalists for the 2015 Morris Award.  The award is given to the year’s best books written for teens by a debut author.  Here are the five finalists:

The Carnival at Bray Gabi, a Girl in Pieces The Scar Boys

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, #1) The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The shortlist for the 2015 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults have been announced.  The award honors the best nonfiction books for teens written between Nov 1, 2013 and October 31, 2014.  Here are the finalists:

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! Laughing at My Nightmare

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business – and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

love is the drug

Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The author of The Summer Prince returns with another wild ride of a book.   Emily attends a prestigious prep school in Washington, DC.  Her parents have raised her not to ask questions and to show respect at all times.  She has her entire life under control: she’s part of the top group of girls at school, she has the ideal boyfriend, and she’s headed for Stanford in the fall, one of the small ways in which she is defying her mother.  But when she meets Roosevelt, a government agent, at a party, her entire life changes.  She wakes up days later with missing memories of that night, knowing only that her boyfriend helped get her into a car, took her away from the party, and that another boy, Coffee, desperately tried to stop them.  Meanwhile, the entire United States is caught in a viral disaster with many people dying.  Even Emily’s parents are trapped on the other side of the quarantine.  Now Emily is left to put the pieces of her memory back together and figure out the truth of why the government is interested in a high school senior.

Johnson writes with an elegant looseness here, along for the ride of the story arc with the reader.  There is a lot going on here, from budding romances to breakups to government agents to worldwide plagues to harsh parenting.  Yet somehow, amazingly, it holds together into a book that is an astonishing pleasure to read.  Well suited to the world of teens caught in a viral outbreak, the free flowing nature of this novel allows those teens space to breath, moments to connect, and a fairly rule-free environment to explore.

This is not a mystery where the pieces click together at the end into a satisfying result.  Rather it is an exploration of a theme with one great protagonist at the center, a girl who struggles with female friendship, refuses to fall in love with the boy she clearly connects with, and who battles her mother’s control even from afar.  Emily reinvents herself in this new world she finds herself in, and that is the story and the point.  This is a refreshing read that defies the expectations of dystopian fiction and creates something new.

A dystopian fantasy with an African-American heroine, this teen novel will appeal greatly to some readers who enjoy a lively, loose and wild read.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

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