Category: Teen

Review: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (InfoSoup)

Emily prides herself on being a leader in a group at her high school that promotes good causes and explains larger issues. So she is very ashamed when she freezes in the middle of a crisis. When she witnesses Belinda, a developmentally disabled classmate, being assaulted at a football game, she does nothing to intervene. Now she and Lucas, a boy who also failed to come to Belinda’s rescue, have to do community service at a center for people with disabilities. As work at the center, they start to realize the damage that they did through their silence. They search for ways to also directly help Belinda, but Belinda is no longer at school. It will take one big idea that will stretch all of their abilities to start to see serious healing.

McGovern has written an amazing book here. The narration in the novel switches between Emily and Belinda, so readers are able to see the true impact of the assault on Belinda as well as the repercussions in Emily’s life. The book moves readers from the drama of the assault to focus much more on the aftermath and the need for understanding and advocacy.

Belinda is a great character. Her point of view is such an important piece of this novel, showing a bravery after taking time to simply disappear into Pride and Prejudice and Colin Firth for awhile. Her disability is never hidden and yet also not exploited in any way. The way she is shown honors the way her brain works and the intelligence that she clearly has. I also appreciate that Belinda is far from perfect. She is demanding of others, often rudely criticizing them in public, and is not subtle at all. Again, this rings very true and honest. She is not a victim but a survivor.

An important teen novel about stepping up and taking action and responsibility but also about the lives of people with disabilities and the place they deserve in our communities. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from HarperCollins.

Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is transformed into a tale of modern English teens in this masterful novel. Claire and Ella are the closest of friends, in fact Claire is in love with Ella. The two spend all of their time together and with their larger group of friends. When Ella is forbidden to go on the trip with all of the friends to the beaches of Northumberland, Claire goes without her. Throughout though, Claire is longing for Ella. Then she meets Orpheus, a strange and handsome musician whose music is so powerful that all of nature seems to stop when he plays. She calls Ella and holds the phone out so that Ella can hear the music too. That one impulsive moment sets in motion a story of profound love, deep loss, death and beyond.

Almond’s own writing is like the music of Orpheus. It creates an intoxicating blend of timeless Greek myth and wild modern teens. The girls become legends, their longing the desire of ages, their love the love to last all time. Orpheus is directly from myth, a wanderer who is captured in a love that seems to have been in existence for all time. There is such beauty here, not only in the myth itself but in the characters too. This book speaks to the power in each of us to live a story, a legend, a myth and to love in that way too.

Almond’s language is exquisite. His writing flows around the reader, inviting them into the magic that is happening on the page. He focuses on small things, showing how the tiny things in life are the most profound from falling rain to trees in the wind to sand drifting by. It is Orpheus’ music that brings these things to life for his listeners. And the reader falls in love with him alongside Ella, never having heard the music itself but having felt its impact to their bones.

Beautiful, mystic, and mythical, this book is a love song for young people, capturing the tumultuous feeling of tumbling into love and the tenuous nature of life and death. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

Review: Willful Machines by Tim Floreen

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (InfoSoup)

Lee is the son of the President of the United States, but he isn’t a teen who is particular positive or popular. A year ago, he tried to take his own life and now is left with a fear of heights. So when he sees a new boy at school balancing on his hands only inches away from the edge of his elite school’s waterfall, Lee is shaken. Later, the boy approaches him and the two become friends. It helps that Lee is immediately attracted to Nico with his Chilean accent and loud laugh. It’s an attraction that his ultra-conservative father will not approve of and one that his father’s national policies has made illegal. In order to get to know one another better, the two boys manage to lose Lee’s security detail a couple of times. But things at school are starting to get weird with one of Lee’s robotic creatures attacking him and a threat from a sentient computer program promising continued attacks. Lee finds himself at the center of the battle for robot rights as the robots begin to turn on him.

Floreen has set his novel in the near future. It’s a future filled with clever devices that keep people connected to the internet at all times, robots that are nearly flesh and blood, and one where terrorist attacks are created by sentient computers. He keeps a tight rein on the setting, an elite prep school where security is tight and the security around Lee is even tighter. This creates a wonderful claustrophobia as well as a paranoia about being watched and spied upon. It’s a great setting for this nail-biting adventure.

Lee is a character I adored immediately. I love his morose sadness and his unwillingness to display emotions unless he is feeling them. He is deeply grieving for the loss of his mother and his suicide attempt is an adept mix of tragedy and humor. He is honest through and through, a complete disappointment to the men in his family, and they don’t even know that he’s gay. Floreen incorporates that aspect of his character throughout the book. His romance with Nico is wonderfully hot and deeply romantic.

A great mix of LGBT, robots and science fiction, this book offers a bleak look at America’s near future with the spiciness of one hot romance. I’m hoping there’s a sequel on its way! Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Simon and Schuster.

Amazon Best of 2015 – Young Adult Books

Amazon has released their lists of the Best Books of 2015. They have two youth categories and offer a Top 20 in both. Here are the top 20 books according to Amazon in young adult books



A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) Dumplin'

 The Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) Everything, Everything

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Finding Audrey The Game of Love and Death

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Mechanica More Happy Than Not

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Mosquitoland Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

We Are All Made of Molecules Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf, #1) The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (InfoSoup)

When Nimona joins forces with Lord Ballister Blackheart, she brings organization and a need for real vengeance to the ongoing battle between good and evil. Her shape-shifting abilities add to her usefulness as a sidekick so even though Blackheart usually works alone, he agrees to let her join him. Good and evil aren’t so clear cut in this graphic novel where the bad guys help the downtrodden people and the good guys are in power and unwilling to let it go. The dynamics between Blackheart and his arch nemesis Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin also complicate the situation, since the two are clearly attracted to one another. As their small heists gain the attention of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, Nimona and Blackheart get into deadly battles where Nimona’s mysterious background may be what destroys them all.

Stevenson has created a graphic novel where nothing is as it seems. Readers will fall hard for this villainous duo, even when they think they are bad guys. As that morphs throughout the book and readers question what makes a villain or a hero, the book becomes more complicated and more interesting. Serious questions are asked about morals and right and wrong here, a depth that is great to find. Yet there is also humor to lighten up the situations, mostly provided by Nimona herself and her deadly yet playful approach to life and villainy.

I also applaud this graphic novel for having a romantic attachment between the two lead male characters. It is implied at first and then overtly shown. I love the dynamics of two men who both intended to be heroes but only one was willing to give up his principles to do so; the villain was not. Nimona herself is wonderfully curvy and filled with punk energy that shows in her hairstyles and their wild colors. I love a heroine (or is she a villain) who is far from a stereotype and who has incredible power.

Great art, a complex world, lots of feminism, and plenty of moral questions to grapple with create the teen graphic novel of the year. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (InfoSoup)

In the slums of Ketterdam, you do anything you can to survive. The Dregs are a gang in the area, up and coming and led by Kaz Brekker, a teen who walks with a cane that can kill and has a ferocious personality to match. When he is offered a remarkably high sum to pull off an impossible heist, he knows just the group of people who can help him do it. The group of six teens from very different backgrounds don’t exactly get along perfectly. Some of them hate one another, others are drawn to one another for romance and still others are completely indifferent to the rest. But each of them has hidden talents that this heist will demand that they use, if they are going to survive at all.

Bardugo is a master storyteller. Here she continues the story of the Grisha world with a new cast of characters. Their world is the mix of danger, thrill and torment of the slums that are also dashed with fakery and glitter. It will take those harsh survival skills for them to pull off the gambit, but it will also take them each wrestling with their past and how they got to Ketterdam in the first place. Bardugo makes sure that we know each of the six intimately, allowing us to see how poverty, war and loss can turn someone to a criminal.

Set in the same world as her previous trilogy, this new series adds even more depth and breadth to an already rich setting. Bardugo makes the world of Ketterdam almost its own character, filling it with villains, rivals and all around bad people. One can hear the cacophony of the streets, the sounds of the gambling, the calls of the vendors. One can smell the sweat, dirty bodies, and desperation. Against all of that, you have these teens who are all unique and fascinating, each driven by something personal to them alone. It’s a beautifully built book.

Rivetingly written, richly drawn and filled with fascinating characters, this book will please fans of the previous series and create new fans too. Appropriate for ages 14-17.