Book Review: A Girl Named Disaster

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Nahmo, fleeing an impending marriage to a cruel man with three wives, sets out for Zimbabwe on a leaky boat. Soon, strong currents sweep her entirely off track and she struggles to overcome drowning, starvation, and attacks by animals. Nhamo's journey brings her closer to the African spirit world as she struggles against lonliness and toward a new life.

OPINION: Although this book is set in Africa, it is not fantasy like Farmer's book The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. It is historical fiction, set in the early 1980s, when Mozambique and Zimbabwe had recently won their independence from colonial Portugal and Britain. This book deals with the intersection of tribal traditions and modern lifestyles, and tells a gripping story as well!


Book Review: Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

SUMMARY: Francesca (Frankie) is one of only 30 girls at the formerly-all-boys St. Sebastian's...and the only girls she knows from her old school are psycho. Throw in living with a depressed mother, being dissed by former friends, and being surrounded daily by lots of gross, sexist boys, and you can see why Francesca needs saving!

OPINION: This book nicely walks the fine line between fluffy chic-lit and serious drama. It deals with friends, boys, and romance...but also concerns a family falling apart from depression. It takes place in Australia, so there are a few obscure cultural references. But it is a great read, simultaneously humorous and serious. FYI--This book was on the BBYA 2005 Top Ten list.


Don't Ask Alice

Did you know that the famous diary Go Ask Alice is really just anti-drug propaganda written by adults, including Beatrice Sparks? Beatrice Sparks wrote several other fake diaries about issues like teen pregnancy, AIDS, and homelessness. To find out more, read some of the negative reviews on Amazon or visit the Snopes urban legend article about the book.


Book Review: Boy2Girl

Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker

SUMMARY: Matthew's American cousin, Sam, has come to London to live with the family. Matthew and his "mates" decide that Sam must undertake a challenge to prove that he will be a loyal friend: he must start the new school by year posing as a girl for an entire week!

OPINION: This book is really funny and upbeat. It is not an "issue" book and does not really address issues of gender or sexuality. The situation with Sam just escalates until it is way out of control, invoving a soccer riot, a smitten 12th-grade hunk, a dad who just got out of jail, and a school talent show gone bad!


New Books!

I just covered ten NEW books for the teen corner, so look for them next time you come in!

1. Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker
2. The Artemis Fowl Files by Eoin Colfer
3. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
4. LBD: It's A Girl Thing by Grace Dent
5. Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
6. It's Your World--If You Don't Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Mikki Halpin
7. Talk by Kathe Koja
8. Brother Hood by Janet McDonald
9. The Search for Belle Prater by Ruth White
10. A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones


Book Review: Heaven

Heaven by Angela Johnson

SUMMARY: Marley has lived in Heaven since she was two years old, when her mother found a postcard postmarked HEAVEN, OH on a park bench and decided that was where she wanted to raise her family. And for twelve years, Marley's hometown has lived up to its name. Then one day a letter arrives from Alabama, and Marley's life is turned upside down. Marley doesn't even know who she is anymore--but where can she go for answers, when she's been deceived by the very people she should be able to trust the most?

OPINION: This book is short and beautiful. It includes unique and mysterious characters, and is a satisfying read. This book is a partner book to The First Part Last, which is about teen-aged Bobby and his daughter, Feather. Although this book is about Marley, Bobby and Feather are characters, and we get a glimpse of how he is managing.

Book Review: Hard Love

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

SUMMARY: Since his parents' divorce, John's mother hasn't touched him, her new fiancé wants them to move away, and his father would rather be anywhere than at Friday night dinner with his son. It's no wonder John writes articles like "Interview with the Stepfather" and "Memoirs from Hell" for his zine, Bananafish. Hanging out at Tower Records, John finds other zines, like the amazing Escape Velocity by Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian." When John meets Marisol, hard love is born.

OPINION: This book was not at all what I expected it to be. And I really liked it for that. The story is an intimate look at a not-so-intimate friendship. If you are a writer of any kind, you will appreciate the centrality of teens' writing to this story.


Book Review: Bad Boy

Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers

BEST QUOTE: "My response to my problems was to immerse myself in literature. Books are often touted by librarians as vehicles to carry you far away. I most often saw them as a way of hiding one self inside the other. What I had to hide was the self who was a reader, who loved poetry." (page 126)

SUMMARY: As a boy, Walter Dean Myers was quick--tempered and physically strong, always ready for a fight. He also read voraciously--he would check out books from the library and carry them home, hidden in brown paper bags in order to avoid other boys' teasing. He aspired to be a writer. But growing up in a poor family in Harlem, he began to doubt himself and the values that he had always relied on, attending high school less and less, turning to the streets and his books for comfort. This autobiography is a interesting window into Harlem as it was the 1940s and 50s.

OPINION: Walter Dean Myers is one of the most famous YA writers, not even counting the fact that he is one of a few people writing convincingly about young black men. If you have not read his books, look for Monster, Shooter, Hoops, or Scorpions next time you are in the Teen Corner.


Book Review: The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein

SUMMARY: Medraut, illegitimate eldest son the high king of Britain, cannot be heir to the throne. Instead, his younger half-brother, Lleu, fragile and inexperienced, is chosen. Medraut cannot bear to be commanded and contradicted by this weakling brother who he feels has usurped both his birthright and his father's favor. Torn and bitter, he joins Morgause, the high king's treacherous sister, in a plot to force Artos to forfeit his power and kingdom in exchange for Lleu's life. But this plot soon proves to be much more--a battlefield on which Medraut is forced to decide, for good or evil, where his own allegiance truly lies.

OPINION: This book uses a unique storytelling style, which is cool but also hard to follow in the beginning. Nonetheless, it is a great story with plenty of treachery and betrayal to keep you interested. Plus, it draws inspiration from the Arthurian legend. This is the first book in a trilogy that also includes A Coalition of Lions (book 2) and The Sunbird (book 3).


Book Review: A Coalition of Lions

A Coalition of Lions by Elizabeth E. Wein

SUMMARY: After the death of virtually all of her family in the battle of Camlan, Goewin, Princess of Britain, makes a desperate journey to African Aksum to meet with Constantine, the British ambassador and her fiance. But Aksum is undergoing political turmoil, and Goewin's relationship with its ambassador to Britain makes her position more than precarious. Caught between two countries, with the power to transform or end lives, Goewin fights to find and claim her place in a world that has suddenly, irrevocably changed.

OPINION: This is the second book in the trilogy that also includes The Winter Prince (book 1) and The Sunbird (book 3). I liked this book very much, expecially because it has such a strong female character! It is also the only one that has an author's note at the end explaining the history behind the books. It was really interesting to learn about the real events and people that inspired the book!


Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

SUMMARY: Charlie is a freshman. And while's he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. He's a wallflower--shy and introspective, and intelligent beyond his years, if not very savvy in the social arts. We learn about Charlie through the letters he writes to someone who he hopes will be a good listener. Charlie encounters the same struggles that many kids face in high school--how to make friends, the intensity of a crush, family tensions, a first relationship--but he must also deal with his best friend's recent suicide.

OPINION: This was Chbosky's first novel, and it is amazing. Charlie is a unique character, yet his high school experiences are very realistic. Whether you love high school or hate it, whether you agree with his choices or not, you will feel infinite along with Charlie as you read this book. This is a classic coming-of-age novel with a striking perspective.