Wintergirls


Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: New York: Viking 2009
ISBN-978-0670011100
pages: 278
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Issues
Topics: Eating disorders
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9-Adult


Reader's annotation:
Lia doesn’t eat, she knows it is a problem but that doesn’t change anything. Now Cassie is dead, will Lia follow her lead?

Summary: Lia struggles everyday just to keep going. Her life revolves around not eating. The book opens with the news that her best friend Cassie had died from the eating disorder alone in a motel room. Any progress that Lia had been making, though it is difficult for us to know what that progress was, doesn’t seem to be working anymore. She goes through the next days at school and the funeral of her friend continuing with the self-destructive behavior she lives by, cutting, and not eating - convinced that this is making her stronger. Cassie is often in Lia's thoughts and so are the hallucinations haunting her. She is so isolated yet we see that it is all a front to keep everyone else thinking that she is fine, normal, and doing all the things she should be doing. No one has any idea what is going on in her head. But she can’t go on much longer like this. Something needs to change.

Evaluation: Powerful and raw, this is a difficult topic to read about but Anderson’s ability to show us this side of human nature and the possibilities of how far the human mind can take things is important. This book should instigate many worthwhile discussions among teens.

The Comet’s Curse: A Galahad Book



Author: Dom Testa


Publisher: New York: Tor Teen 2009
ISBN- 978-0765321077
pages: 240
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Media Type: Book

Grade level:8-adult

Reader's annotation: As the adults on earth slowly die out, a bold plan to send 251 teens to find a new planet to live on and save the human race takes shape. Now they are off in space but is there a stow-away on board?

Summary: When Bukhtul’s Comet just barely missed colliding with earth everyone thought they were safe, until people started dying. When it was determined that the comet left behind deadly particles in the air that only affected adults a desperate plan was put into place to try to save the human race. 251 teenagers would travel for 5 years on a huge spaceship to a faraway planet in another galaxy that looks like it has the right conditions to support human life. The story alternates between the teens as they take off and their first few weeks in space, and the scientists as they plan and organize the flight. We see how and why the people who are part of the mission were picked and hear about the opposition to the plan as well. Everything seems to be going fine until they discover evidence of a stowaway. And this stowaway means to harm them all. Can they stop him in time to save the mission?

Evaluation: This book has a great premise that will really hook teens in. It has enough technical jargon and description to fit the sci fi label but is really about the people and the problem(s). Great sci fi choice for girls as the teen leader is a girl and the personalities are important.

Series:
Book 1 in a 6-part series
Book 2 - The Web of Titan
Fan club for the series

Dom Testa's writing tips and resources

How to Build a House


Author: Dana Reinhardt

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books 2008
ISBN-978-0375844539
pages: 240

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Life
Topics: family, romance, divorce, blended families
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation: Harper, 17-year-old girl “runs away” from her tumultuous life in LA to Tennessee where she participates in a summer teen volunteer program building houses for tornado victims and rebuilds herself in preparation for returning home and her changed life.

Summary:
This is two stories told simultaneously - Home: Harper’s life in LA from the day she met her ex-stepmother at the age of 6 until the days before she left for - Here: in Tennessee participating in a summer teen volunteer program building a house for a family whose house was destroyed in the tornado that hit their town shortly after the Katrina disaster. We hear the story of how she grew up with her blended family, her dad , step-mom, two step-sisters and much younger brother. We hear about how her friend since 12, Gabriel, turns into a friend “with benefits” in the last year, though Harper doesn’t actually see what the benefit does for her except confuse her and leave her empty. At the same time we are experiencing her summer life, meeting interesting new people and gaining confidence as she actually builds a house and learns the skills that go along with that. Then there is Teddy, the oldest son of the recipient family who is out there building right along with everyone else. Now Harper sees what real caring and a true boyfriend can be. As the house turns from a pile of rubble and wood into a livable building, so does Harper's life as she rebuilds her own psyche in preparation for returning to LA.

Evaluation: A story of self-discovery, beginning with a lost confused teenage girl struggling with the divorce of her dad and stepmom, loss of her best friend and step-sister, and uncertainty of a boy “friend with benefits”, to a self confident high school senior ready to face life on her terms. This is a very good coming of age story that teens will enjoy. With the variety of characters in the story, every teen is sure to connect with one of them.

On the Jellicoe Road



Author: Melina Marchetta

Publisher: Bolinda Audio Books 2006
ISBN- 978-1740938563
length: 9 hr. 5 min.
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary life
Topics: Coming of age, abandonment, romance, mystery
Media Type: Audiobook, read by Rebecca Macauley

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation: This summer brings clarity and belonging as Taylor finally decides that the questions of her past need to be explained . As head of her boarding school house she negotiates their turf with the Cadets and the Townies while finding her past and future place in the world.

Summary: It is the summer before her last year of high school at the boarding school on the Jellicoe Road, where Taylor Markham has been since her mother abandoned her down the road six years ago. We hear her story as she pieces it together, first with memories and then with facts. This story is not linear, we get bits and pieces from the past and present, and some of it really happened, some of it is a dream, and some of it is speculation. The summer turf wars are in full swing with the Cadets at the military camp down the road and the townies, some of whom are connected with the school. All want to claim their share of the clubhouse and river crossings. Taylor is the head of the school group, a tough and angry negotiator. But as the talks continue the friendships start to build until the lines of division are completely blurred. Then Hannah disappears and forces Taylor to look at her past and try to figure out some of the questions she has about where she came from and what happened to her mother. Does Jonah, one of the enemy Cadets, have some answers for her? We listened to the audio version of this, read with an Australian accent which really put you into Taylor’s head. Some of the writing is almost a stream of consciousness. This is a fascinating and confusing book that I think I will have to reread this summer.

Evaluation: Told in first person, this is a very complex book. There is no background information so the story unfolds as Taylor herself figures things out. This makes it challenging reading but the reader becomes so invested in her search for the truth that one will find they can’t put down the book. Excellent coming of age story that shows how we are all flawed but worthwhile people.

Slam



Author: Nick Hornby

Publisher: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 2007
ISBN-978-0399250484
pages: 370
Author's blog

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Life
Topics: teen pregnancy, skateboarding
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9-Adult

Reader's annotation:
Sam is a happy teen, skateboarding through life until he finds out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his child. He turns to Tony Hawk, his idol, for advice.

Summary: Sam is 16, skateboarding is his life and Tony Hawk is his idol; he has read Hawk's biography 40 or 50 times. Now he finds out he is soon to be a father. At 16, this was not something that was in the plan. He seems to be reliving his parents life. His mother was pregnant at 16 and his father left soon after and the last thing he wants to do is repeat that. He goes to Tony Hawk for answers, talking to the poster of him on his bedroom wall and listening to the answers he hears back. Sometimes Tony Hawk also takes Sam into the future to “see” what is in store for him. These events are often quite funny. We do see Sam come to terms with his life and move forward towards adulthood.

Evaluation:
A cautionary tale for older boys, especially those considering sexual relations with a girlfriend. Nick Hornby approaches the topic of teen pregnancy from the boys side of things in this funny sometimes serious insight into the male psyche.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension


Author: Earl MacRauch
Director: W.D. Richter
Actors: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd

Publisher: Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment 1984
ISBN-978-0792848981

Classification: PG
Genre: Fantasy, adventure, romance
Media Type: movie

Grade level: 6-Adult

Reader's annotation: World-renowned scientist, rock musician, surgeon, and adventurer has developed the Overthruster which takes him to the 8th dimension and back again. Once aliens steal it Buckaroo and his band of men (with a couple women along for the ride) have to reclaim before they destroy earth.

Summary:
This movie has more costume changes and identity changes than any other I can think of. Opening with Buckaroo finishing up in the operating room, he goes off to his test drive of the Overthruster which takes him through a mountain and out the other side by rearranging the molecules to let him pass through. Then he and his band of followers are off to a press conference where his Overthruster is stolen by John Lithgow who plays an alien. One of the zaniest movies you will ever see, that is just the beginning.

Evaluation: A timeless crazy adventure that almost all teens will find some part of that they can relate to, whether it is the adventure, the musicians, the romance, the aliens or the fast cars. Somehow the story holds together even though it jumps from one wild adventure to the next. This is the type of movie that you want to watch again every year or so.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko




Author: Daniel Pink
Artist: Rob Ten Pas


Publisher: Riverhead Books 2008
ISBN-978-1594482915
pages: 160
Author's website

Classification: Non-fiction
Genre: Self Help
Media Type: Graphic Novel

Grade level: 10 - Adult

Reader's annotation:
Johnny, unhappy with his job and outlook for the future learns six valuable lessons that turn his life and career around.

Summary:
Johnny is just following his plan. Why then is he so unhappy? After working late again he gets some take out food to eat at his desk. When he snaps apart his chopsticks he is shocked to see a woman with pointy ears appear in his cubical claiming she will help Johnny get out of his unhappy rut. Suspicious and defensive he doesn't really know what to believe. Before he knows it, she is gone. The next day when he tells his friends about her they don’t believe him, so he proves it and snaps apart one of the six pairs of chopsticks he has. Poof, there’s Diana, pointy ears and all. Thus start the lessons. Each lesson is clearly explained and the pictures give all the background and nuance. We see Johnny as he gets out of his rut and transforms his life. Each lesson is a basic life lesson that is timeless and so useful to know.

Evaluation:
This book should be read by everyone whether they have a job, are looking for a job, are planning for their future or think they have their life all planned out. Quite enlightening and entertaining.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl




Author: Barry Lyga


Publisher: Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2006
ISBN-9780618723928
pages: 320
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary life
Topics: graphic novels, bullying, individuality
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9-Adult

Reader's annotation:
Hoping to remain invisible so as not to get bullied in school, our storyteller lives for his graphic novel that he is drawing and writing. Then he meets Kyra aka Goth Girl who not only wants to talk to him but gives him the support he needs to stand up for himself.

Summary: Written in first person, our narrator spends much of his time at school trying to be inconspicuous so as to keep from getting bullied. At the same time he is a straight A student in all of the top level classes. While trying to ignore the jock who is punching him in the shoulder over and over, he attracts the attention of Kyra (aka Goth Girl) who gives him the nickname of Fanboy. This is his first real friend since he moved to this town 6 years ago. His only other friend is Cal who can’t be seen with him in public for fear of alienating his jock friends, but they share a love of comics and graphic novels. Fanboy is working on his own graphic novel, Schemata. He is anxiously awaiting the convention where he will show twenty of his best pages to his favorite writer/artist Bendis. He and Cal have been planning this for months, that is until Cal’s lacrosse team wins and gets to go to the playoffs. He still has Kyra, that is until he has a fight with her too. It will all be worth it when Bendis sees his work.

Evaluation:
A good choice for those interested in graphic novels or comics and for anyone who has been bullied or feels alone and invisible at school. Lyga touches on issues of suicide, family dysfunction and violent fantasies. He captures the “voice” of teens in both of the main characters.

About a Boy


Author - book: Nick Hornby
Screenplay: Peter Hodges
Directors: Chris & Paul Weitz

Publisher: Universal City CA: Universal 2002
ISBN-978-0783268644
Rating: PG-13

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Media Type: Movie

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Self-absorbed, cool, playboy bachelor Will lives his life on his own terms. Then Marcus is there, trying to include himself into Will’s life whether he likes it or not. Every man is an island, or is he?

Summary: Independently wealthy Will Lightman lives his self-centered life in units of time. One unit for a haircut, another for dinner, two units for a movie. There is no future plan but to go on this way, no real responsibilities to anyone but himself. He likes the companionship of a girlfriend but as soon as the girl thinks there is some kind of future, he bails out. Then he dates a single mom who breaks it off first! Will now realizes this is his gold mine - single moms who don’t want to commit. But how can he find them? He attends a single parent support group but then realizes they expect him to be a single parent, so he makes up a child. That gets him a date with her friend’s son Marcus in tow. But the date ends with the discovery of Marcus’s mom’s attempted suicide. Marcus liked Will and decided that he better have more people in his life than just his mom, just in case she wasn’t there anymore. Marcus’s tenacity and determination coupled with his charm and openness about the bullying that is going on in school hook Will into caring, even though he tries not to. As the story develops more people come into their circle and before he knows it Will feels responsible.

Evaluation:
This is one of my favorite feel good movies. It is funny and heartwarming without being sappy and kids relate to the difficulties Marcus has with his mother and with school. They laugh at his geekiness and enjoy Will's attempts staying independent and failing. The movie has a great soundtrack as well as a very good cast.

What I Saw and How I Lied



Author: Judy Blundell


Publisher: New York: Scholastic Press 2008
ISBN- 978-0439903462
pages: 284
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 8-adult

Reader's annotation:

Summary: Evie (Evelyn) is a typical teenager right after WWII. Her step-father comes home from the war, she practices smoking with chocolate cigarettes and hangs out with friend Margie. She and her mom lived with Joe’s mother in a house that is now too small. Joe came back and opened several appliance stores and seems to be doing well, following the American dream. After avoiding some phone calls, dad says, “let’s go to Florida for a vacation, so what if school starts next week”. They go to Palm Beach only to find it sweltering and almost completely shut down. They discover one open hotel which is for sale and a few other guests that they become friends with. Wishing she was included with the adults and feeling quite grown up Evie meets Joe, also back from the war, and instantly falls for him. Convinced they have a future together Evie is thrilled to spend days with him understanding that her mother must come also to chaperone. Her father starts working out a business deal with the other guest to buy the hotel, its his big break. Everything is wonderful until a secret is revealed and it all falls apart. Then Evie doesn’t know what is really true anymore or who she can trust. As she works her way through her memories, armed with new information, she gains a new understanding for the nature of people and grows up really fast. Greed, jealousy, passion, adultery, it is all there.

Evaluation: Excellent book about perception, growing up, loyalty, and what is right. Told in the first person, Evie’s perspective will ring true with teens and the girls will easily relate to her desires even set in a different time period.
National Book Award winner

The Bourne Conspiracy



Author: Sierra Entertainment
Publisher: Fresno, CA: Sierra Entertainment 2008
ASIN: B000X2TZY2
Xbox 360
Rating: Teen

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Action/Thriller
Media Type: Game

Grade level: 8-Adult

Reader's annotation: Third person game reliving the movie series as you play Jason Bourne, running for your life and completing your missions at the same time.

Summary: The game begins in Marseille, where CIA assassin Jason Bourne, operating under the black-op organization called Treadstone, has been tasked with assassinating a former African dictator named Nykwana Wombosi. Wombosi knows too much about the agency's involvement in Africa and must be silenced. However, Bourne learns his cover has been blown, and Wombosi has hired an assassin named O'Conner to kill him. In this level, Bourne takes on O'Conner's men in the alleys and in a bar before fighting him, and kills him in hand-to-hand combat. After killing him by bashing his head in, Alexander Conklin, assistant operator of Treadstone, is uneasy with Bourne continuing the mission, but Bourne insists on completing the task another way. You control Jason Bourne as you lead him through the maneuvers to complete his tasks.

Evaluation:
A fast paced thriller game full of action based off The Bourne movie trilogy. A surprise around every corner, and always keeping the adrenaline pumping. Very exciting and a great story.

The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery


Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: New York: Knopf 2008
ISBN- 978-0375845161
pages: 230
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Mystery
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation:
Sally has just found out her father is dead, she is now alone in Victorian London, the mysterious ruby that belongs to her now missing. A story of intrigue, opium addicts, new friends, and cryptic clues to unravel.

Summary:
Sally Lockhart is almost an adult, but she had her father to look after her until recently when he vanished somewhere in Asia and is now found dead. The news saddens her but leaves her with questions that don’t seem to be answered. The lawyers are clearly keeping something from her but she doesn’t know what to do. Then one of the clerks, Jim, gives her some information which leads her into the search for a giant ruby. Along the way she meets Fred and his sister Rosa who are struggling to get a daguerreotype business going. Sally finds she can help them with their business and they help her escape the attempts on her life, rescue someone from the clutches of opium, and ultimately find the ruby.

Evaluation: Not in the least bit like Pullman’s Dark Materials series, this book is more a combination English mystery and Nancy Drew story. It is lots of fun, especially the setting in a Dicken's style Victorian London, this story keeps moving all the way to the end. The twists and turns and intrigue make the story interesting and non-formulaic.

Series:
Sally Lockhart Quartet - book 1

Mirror's Edge


Creator: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts 2008
ASIN- B00149PCAO
Rating: Teen

Classification: Young Adult Game
Genre: Sci Fi or Futuristic
Media Type: XBOX 360 Game

Grade level: 8-12

Reader's annotation:
A rebel group in a future city leads your character on an epic chase to rescue your sister from the enemies.

Summary:
In this first person action-adventure game, you are a runner (an agent that is trained to escape any situation by running and using their gymnastic skills to maneuver over and around objects and buildings as fast as possible) in a rebel agency against the government. You're trying to save your sister who was kidnapped and you are chased through the city, as well as chasing others in search of your sister. Sticking to the rooftops, you run through this futuristic city, getting into gunfights and chases, jumping to helicopters from rooftops and swinging down cranes.

Evaluation:
As a fast paced action thriller, there’s a surprise around every corner. Lots of colors and action bring this game to life and it’s hard to look away with everything that's going on. The camera action makes you really feel like you are there.

The Graveyard Book


Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Dave McKean
Publisher: Harper Collins, New York
Year: 2008
ISBN- 978-0060530921
pages: 312
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Topics: paranormal, family
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6-adult

Reader's annotation: A normal boy is raised by ghosts in a graveyard protected from the man from who murdered his family.

Summary: After his parents are coldly murdered in the night, the toddler wanders outside, up the road, and into the graveyard. There he is protected by the dead who are buried there and looked after by Silas - someone who lives both in the world of the dead and the living. Bod, short for Nobody, Owens is a sweet innocent boy who is open and caring. He makes a friend when he is 5, a girl named Scarlett whose parents think he is an imaginary friend. At this point the reader realizes that Bod has abilities that are a little out of the ordinary. When Silas has to go away for a while Miss Lupescu comes and takes care of him. Bod doesn’t appreciate what she is teaching him until he makes the mistake of trusting the wrong characters who visit the graveyard. However, Miss Lupescu comes to the rescue and Bod learns his lesson. There are several interesting characters in Bod’s life to keep him occupied but the knowledge that a man is out there who wants to kill him weighs on Bod’s mind. When Scarlett returns as a 15-year-old she brings danger as well as a chance for retribution.
After I read the book I listened to the audio version which is read by Neil Gaiman and it was even more engaging the second time around. The CD has great music at the beginning and end of each CD by Bela Fleck.

Evaluation: Winner of the 2008 Newbery Award this book definitely deserves it. Story is engaging and charming with memorable characters. Although the story is built on some creepy events it doesn't feel like a horror story.

The Lightning Thief


Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: New York: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children 2005
ISBN- 978-1415662987
pages: 377
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Myth Fantasy
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6-adult

Reader's annotation:
Percy was always told he was different, special, but not until he had to fight a minotaur did he realize quite what they meant.

Summary: Percy Jackson was on a field trip to the museum with his boarding school class when things started getting a little weird. After this classmates and teacher had no idea who Mrs. Dodd was, the teacher who just transformed herself into some mythic creature that Percy slayed with a pen turned sword, Percy knew something was wrong. When he was told he would not be returning to this school again in the fall he was disappointed but not surprised. Now he has to start all over again at a new place in the fall. When he gets home he is thrilled to discover that his mother has a weekend trip to the beach on Long Island all planned out. Unfortunately, they aren’t there long when something comes after them and his mother reveals that she knows that he is being pursued by unknown evils. As she tried to get him to a safe zone - a summer camp called Camp Half-Blood, they were attacked by a Minotaur and Percy barely made it alive onto the property. There he discovers people he knew are really satyrs and centaurs and his father was one of the Greek Gods. This marks the beginning of a new era for Percy where he discovers his differences are not necessarily bad.

Evaluation:
There is a certain urban edginess to Percy that draws teens to his character. He’s not perfect and gets in trouble which is appealing to kids. The mix of myth and modern day life is a great combination, it’s a promising start to a series.

Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


Author: Sherman Alexie

Publisher: Prince Frederick MD: Recorded Books 2008
ISBN- 9781428182974
length: 5 CDs
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Media Type: Audiobook, read by Sherman Alexie

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation:
How does a geeky teenage Spokane Indian get off the reservation? He goes to the all-white school where he finds his place among the outsiders.

Summary: “I was born with water on the brain.” These are the opening words of the book. We then hear about all the other quirks and anomalies Junior (Arnold) had growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. The Indians were poor and there wasn’t much to do, so fun often involved getting into trouble. When one of Arnold’s teachers encourages him to transfer to the better high school off the reservation, he decides it may be his only way to escape the cycle of poverty and does it immediately before he can change his mind. Being the only Indian in an all-white school makes him a curiosity at first but he eventually finds a place and makes some friends. He definitely has two lives, school and “the res” that do not intersect at all. They become difficult to juggle when the alcoholic, self-destructive behavior of some family members result in some deaths. But it doesn’t bring him down and he is stronger for living through the difficulties. Listening to the tape meant missing the cartoons that are in the book but hearing the author tell the story makes up for it.

Evaluation:
Alexie reads his story with a mix of seriousness and sarcasm that had us laughing at some of the most difficult moments. Wonderful coming of age story that impresses one on the author’s ability to keep his own life priorities in place while strong surrounding influences could bring him down.

Flygirl


Author: Sherri L. Smith

Publisher: New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2009
ISBN-978-0399247095
pages: 256
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Ida Mae loves to fly planes and desperately wants to serve her country after the US enters WWII, but she has two problems, she’s a woman and she’s black. Somehow she figures out a way to get in the air.

Summary:
Within the first few pages we know that 17-year-old Ida Mae is a light skinned African American(Negro in those days), who is working extra to earn travel fare from Louisiana to Chicago where she will be allowed to get her pilot’s license. It is the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, then her brother enlists in the army and the stage is set. Skip ahead two years when Ida Mae manages to pass for a white woman and join the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program. Although she is doing something she loves, living a life of deception can be difficult.

For those who would like to see the real story, the PBS series from WGBH Boston, American Experience has an episode entitled “Fly Girls” made in 1999 that features interviews and archival footage of women from the WASP program.

Evaluation: This is a fictional account set in a very real historical setting which the author clarifies at the end of the book. Smith has a very engaging writing style, leaving just enough unsaid to keep you wanting more, bringing in details of wartime on the home front. Both girls and boys will enjoy this book.

Annie on My Mind


Author: Nancy Garden

Publisher: New York: Random House/Listening Library 2008
ISBN-978-0739367452
6 CD’s
Read by Rebecca Lowman
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Romance
Topics: GLBT
Media Type: unabridged audiobook

Grade level: 9th - adult

Reader's annotation:
After Liza and Annie discover each other and their love for each other, they discover how love can end up hurting and healing.

Summary: Liza a senior at private school Foster Academy, and lives in Brooklyn Heights with her parents and younger brother. President of the student council, she hopes to get into MIT. Annie lives uptown in the Bronx with her immigrant father and grandmother. She wants go back to CA as soon as she finishes high school, hopefully to UC Berkeley.
But when they meet at the Metropolitan Museum these differences only make them more interested in each other and romance blossoms. By Christmas they have acknowledged their feelings and have exchanged rings. They continue to see each other throughout the winter and into spring getting only so close but keeping their relationship from getting physical. Then over spring break Liza offers to feed the cat belonging to two teachers’ who live nearby while they are gone. Liza and Annie discover they can spend all day there “playing house”, and their relationship goes beyond platonic. When they discover that the teachers are gay themselves this gives both of them strength and validation. However, when judgmental people discover their love, both their lives are turned upside down. Now Liza is at MIT trying to write to Annie and decide if she can get beyond what happened.
Originally written in 1982, it was rereleased in 2007. Audiobook includes an interview with the author discussing what it was like to grow up gay in the ’50’s, what her experiences have been, the process of writing the book, reactions to it and how times have changed, (or not changed).

Evaluation:
Somewhat dated now, this gentle love story holds universal truths that will never be outdated. A good portrayal of teenage angst that could be centered around any love story but is sensitively told about two teenage girls in NYC. A beautiful love story told with concern and compassion, we feel their isolation and wish they had more support.

Whirligig


Author: Paul Fleischman

Publisher: New York: H. Holt 1999
ISBN-978-0805055825
pages: 133
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Issues
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7+

Reader's annotation:
After causing the death of a young woman in a car accident, Brent travels to the four corners of the United States at the request of her mother, building memorial Whirligigs for her, and finds forgiveness and direction.

Summary: Arrogant, wealthy and privileged Brent leaves a party drunk after feeling humiliated when the girl of his choice turns him down. Completely self absorbed he thinks ending it all is the best solution. He only succeeds in ending it all for an innocent young women when he lets his car go out of control. As retribution, the woman’s mother asks Brent to go to each of the four corners of the US and build a whirligig as a memorial to her daughter. Brent, anxious to get away from Chicago and his parents, agrees to go. Starting outside of Seattle, armed with some materials and a how-to book, Brent’s journey is one of self-discovery, humbleness, and growth. His self imposed isolation gives him time to think about what is really important in his life. When he does choose to interact with others he finds new meaning in his life. Interspersed throughout his story is the story of the people that are affected by the whirligigs he builds.

Evaluation:
Excellent story showing the interconnectedness of the world and how the actions of one person can change lives. One message for readers is that even really bad mistakes can be redeemed.
Awards: BBYA,

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography.


Author: Chris Crutcher

Publisher: Random House/Listening Library, p2004.
ISBN-9781400095001
length: 4hrs. 30mins.

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre:Biography
Media Type: audiobook
Read by: Chris Crutcher
Author's website

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation:
Growing up in a small town in a remote area under the thumb of an older brother isn’t always easy. Being a very non-athletic person in a school that worships its athletes is even more difficult.

Summary:
This is the autobiography of Chris Crutcher, mostly his experiences from his childhood and high school years. He keeps us entertained with stories about his sports experiences as he is not really a very good athlete, and being bullied and/or controlled by his older brother, whatever you want to call it. He referred to himself as a bawl baby, and shamelessly told us about all the times he got tricked into doing something he didn’t want to do and ended up crying his way out. There were several touching, and heart-wrenching, in some ways, events that gave the reader insight into how similar his novels are to his real life. At the end he does talk a little bit about his life as an adult.

Evaluation:
It is almost hard to remember that this is not one of his novels, especially when you hear a story that sounds familiar. This gives great insight into why Chris writes the kinds of books he does and where his stories come from.

Yes Man



Writers: David Heyman,Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul
From a book by Danny Wallace
Director: Peyton Reed
Publisher: Warner Home Video 2009

Classification:PG-13
Genre: Comedy
Media Type: Movie

Interest Level: 8th grade to Adult
Grade level: 9th to Adult

Reader's annotation:
Carl Allen stuck in a rut is pressured into committing to say “yes” to everything that is asked of him, regardless of the consequences. And some of them can lead you to places you never expected to go.

Summary:
A Dramatic Comedy about a man who has spent the previous three years of his life saying no to everything has now made a huge turnaround in his life. Sworn to a covenant in a local seminar on making your life more exciting, the main character Carl (Jim Carrey) is forced to say yes to every opportunity that comes his way, from middle eastern dating ads to giving a hobo a ride to a park. On his journey with the hobo he runs out of gas and has to walk to a gas station where he meets a girl that he soon falls in love with and has many adventures with throughout the story.

Evaluation:
A witty, dramatic comedy full of twists and turns. You're always laughing when you watch it, no matter how serious it gets, Jim Carrey always seems to squeeze in a pun to lighten the mood. In all its laughs, it does get serious towards the end and has a good message for us all.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime


Author: Mark Haddon

Publisher: New York: Doubleday 2003
ISBN- 978-0385509459
pages: 226
Author's website

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary life
Topics: mystery, autism, divorce
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation:
Even though the gifted but autistic Christopher is afraid to interact with others, he is motivated to push himself out of his comfort level to find out who murdered the next door neighbors dog. When he discovers information about his mother his world really takes a turn.

Summary:
Christopher lives with his dad and goes to a special school for autistic children where he gets special math lessons because he is beyond all the other students. There are lots of quirky things we learn about his life such as how the color of the cars he sees from the bus will affect what kind of day her will have. Then there is the murder of the neighbors dog and Chris just has to find out what happened. It takes a lot of effort on his part to convince himself he should actually approach another person and ask some questions. Then he discovers some things about his supposedly dead mother and he needs his courage even more now.

Evaluation:
Excellent story and insight into the world of an autistic person. Told in first person by someone with autism you understand why someone might act the way they do. The self-discovery aspect of the story is appropriate for teens and and the learning aspect is valuable for tolerance and understanding.

Whitbread Award

Born on a blue day : inside the extraordinary mind of an autistic savant : a memoir


Author: Daniel Tammet

Publisher: New York: Free Press 2007
ISBN- 978-1416535072
pages: 240
Author's blog

Classification: Adult
Genre: Biography,
Topics: autism, GLBT, coming of age
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 10+

Reader's annotation:
Take a journey into the mind of someone who sees personalities in numbers and can learn new languages in a snap but struggles with some of the things most of us take for granted.

Summary:
This is a memoir of an autistic savant who really wants the rest of the world to understand what he and others like him go through on a daily basis as they live with their condition. At the time of writing his story, Daniel lives with his boyfriend, has a job that he enjoys and is living an almost normal functioning life in a lot of ways. But it wasn’t always this way and we see the kind of internal struggles Daniel had to deal with as he grew up. Fascinating story that is a great follow-up after reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He takes us from the beginning, from how is parents dealt with him as a baby and small child, through his childhood and teenage years to his adulthood.

Evaluation:
Amazing insight into the life of a savant. The reader gets a front row seat to how he got where he got without feeling like you are invading his space, which of course is what he is struggling with all the time. The way he “sees” the world will benefit anyone who reads this and peak their imagination.

Stargirl


Author: Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: New York: Knopf/Random House 2000
ISBN-978-0679986375
pages: 186
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Topics: friendship, individuality, romance
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6+

Reader's annotation:
He noticed her the first day of school, her long skirt, ukulele and sunflower bag. Stargirl changes Mica High and Leo’s life forever.

Summary:
Leo can’t keep his eyes off her when he sees her in the cafeteria and he is terrified she’ll single him out with a birthday serenade. Somehow she seems to know things about people, like when their birthday is. It takes a little bit but eventually the whole school warms to her and is positively affected by her energetic personality. By the winter Stargirl and Leo are inseparable. But then Stargirl goes too far and is shunned by her classmates and eventually Leo wants her to conform as well. Stargirl makes a go of it but finally realizes it isn’t her and so she reverts and Leo can’t handle it. The choice is between the group and being true to oneself. Everyone has to make their own choice and then live with it.

Evaluation:
A bittersweet story about first love, conformity, popularity and individuality, the reader roots for Stargirl no matter what happens. A great story for anyone who has felt out of place or wants a different perspective on the same old things in life.

Sequel - Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl


Author: Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: New York: Knopf 2007
ISBN- 978-0375813757
pages: 288
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Topics: diaries, friendship, individuality
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Stargirl writes “the longest letter ever” to Leo as she recounts her life in Pennsylvania with an odd collection of townspeople and kids.

Summary:
Stargirl misses Leo and still loves him. She starts a letter to him which turns into her journal for the year. Back to homeschooling she starts a project mapping out the path of the sunrise for a year which we follow throughout the book. In the meantime she hangs out with six-year-old Dootsie and becomes a mentor for grumpy, difficult Alvina and regularly visits agoraphobic Betty Lou and then she meets the mysterious Perry and his harem of girls. Their brief romance only makes her appreciate and miss Leo more but she resolves herself to let things be and know that whatever happens in the future happens.

Evaluation:
Although this is a sequel to Stargirl, this is her story and a completely new one. A kind of modern day Pollyanna, Stargirl collects an eccentric group of people around her with whom she feels a certain responsibility for their well-being. Her methods are completely unconventional but that makes it all the more charming.

Sequel to Stargirl

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Author: J.K. Rowlings
Illustrator: Mary GrandPre

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books - Scholastic 2007
ISBN-978-0545010221
pages: 784
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 5-adult

Reader's annotation: Hermione and Ron stay by Harry’s side as they work out the final puzzle. Can Harry defeat Voldmort once and for all?

Summary:
This book departs from the usual structure of life at Hogwarts as the majority of the story takes place while Harry and his friends hide out in a magical tent while they try to work out the final puzzle in collecting the all of the horcruxes to defeat Voldmort once and for all. While there is lots of sorcery and battles against magic forces throughout the tale, Harry has to make some difficult decisions. This book ties together many of the lessons he and his friends have learned throughout the earlier books in terms of emotional growth and maturity that really bring this story to its end.

Evaluation: The last book in the series comes to a very satisfying end. This series has been so influential to young adult literature and this book keeps the bar high. Not in the least bit predictable, it keeps one attention throughout all 759 pages of the story.

Series: book 7(last one) of Harry Potter series

Flush


Author: Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: New York: Knopf/Random House 2005
ISBN-978-0375821820
pages: 263
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6-11

Reader's annotation:
Noah and his Dad are trying to catch, the owner of the gambling boat sitting in the harbor, in the act, as they dump their waste directly into the water - the water that the kids swim in during the day.

Summary:
The book opens with Noah’s dad in jail because he sunk the Coral Queen, a gambling casino boat that sits a harbor in the Florida Keys. An act of civil disobedience he says, and tells his son they are dumping their nightly waste directly into the water. Unfortunately the boat is back in action a few days later. Noah is sent by his dad to talk to Lice who used to work there, to see what kind of information he can get and if he’ll submit a notarized statement of what is going on. After some haggling a deal is made but things don’t ever seem to go quite smoothly. What seems to be a side story, Noah gets bullied by son of casino owner and his friend Bull, but this ends up an integral part of the whole picture. The story is full of twists and turns as is Hiaasen’s style, this one including his little sister , the disappearance of Lice and his scary girlfriend, and a long lost grandfather. Justice is had by all, in the end, also characteristic of this author but the journey to get there is all the fun.


Evaluation:
A classic Hiaasen story where the underdog has to overcome some pretty powerful characters to get justice. This story has a definite “what goes around comes around” message that is very satisfying.

Here Lies the Librarian


Author: Richard Peck

Publisher: Dial Books 2006
ISBN-978-0803730809
pages: 160

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction
Topics: coming of age, humorous
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6+

Reader's annotation: Back when cars were pretty scarce, a teen and her older brother are living on their own trying to keep the family garage going in a small mid-Western town. But everything changes when the librarians’ car breaks down.

Summary:
The almost gruesome opening, a tornado torn-up cemetery, introduces us to the two main characters Jake and PeeWee (Eleanor), living on their own since their parent’s death, and the fact that after the town librarian fell down dead on the job, she has never been replaced. It is a simpler time, especially in small rural towns with one room school houses and just a few cars. Jake runs the garage left by their parents and PeeWee would rather help out there than look like a girl and go to school. But then one day a car full of library students from the city, who are out for a drive, have a need for the services of the garage. The attention Jake and PeeWee get from Irene does not go unnoticed and soon they are anxiously awaiting another visit. As their friendship develops Irene becomes a mentor to PeeWee and an encourager to Jake . The librarians manage to shake up the town with their modern ideas of what a library should include as well as their involvement in the first drag car race of the times.

Evaluation: I little bit of history and a lot of old-fashioned fun keep this story from just feeling dated. The tie-in the the first drag races at the end adds to the relevance. It is a time in American history we don’t read about much, but the main character’s search for her identity is timeless. Peck plays with language so there are quite witty conversations which add to the enjoyment of the book.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


Based on the book by Ann Brashares
Publisher: Warner Home Video 2008
Rating: PG-13
ASIN: B001ASQ9OM

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Topics: coming of age, romance
Media Type: Movie

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation: Four girls miraculously fit into the same pair of jeans which gives them a connection over the summer while they are scattered around the world. Each one has a turn with the jeans and passes along their journal when they send it on to the next friend.

Summary:
This is a story about friendship and growing up. Four best friends will be spending their summer in very different places doing very different things. They discover this pair of jeans at a thrift store that fits all of them even though they have different body types and sizes. They decide to each take a turn with the pants and keep a journal that they will send along to the next friend. The pants are sent from Tibby (staying at home) to Bridget (in Baja California, Mexico at Soccer camp) to Carmen (with her father in North Carolina) to Lena (visiting her grandparents in Greece). All the girls learn valuable, different lessons that they share with each other as they take the next steps to becoming independent young women.

Evaluation:
This is a fun coming of age story that most girls will really enjoy. The filming is beautiful, especially the scenes in Greece. The acting is very good and the story is very well adapted to film.

Stormbreaker


Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publisher: Philomel Books 2001
ISBN- 978-0399236204
pages: 192
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Adventure
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7+

Reader's annotation:
Alex goes undercover to find out why the new “Stormbreaker” computers are a danger to the country. Will he get out alive?

Summary: After his uncle is killed in a car accident, Alex is suspicious about the story he was told. A little investigating turns up a bullet riddled car, this was no accident, and the adventure begins. His uncle wasn’t working for a bank after all but he was an MI6 agent and now they want Alex to take over where he left off. His task is to find out what is so special about the new Stormbreaker computers about to be handed to every school in England. Posing as the boy who won the contest to be the first to see the computers Alex goes into the compound where they are made. You won’t be able to put the book down until you reach the exciting action-packed, nail-bitter ending.

Evaluation:
A thrill a minute teenage version of James Bond type spy, action thrillers. This is a great book for reluctant readers and boys who like adventure. It is pretty fantastical but not any more than most spy thrillers, it’s lots of fun and a quick read.

Series:
Alex Rider adventures - 7 books. There is a graphic novel version of Stormbreaker and Point Blank, the second book in the series as well.

Abarat


Author: Clive Barker

Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books 2002
ISBN- 9780060280925
pages: 388

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 6th +

Reader's annotation:
Candy Quackenbush runs away from school and Chickentown MN and into another world full of fantastical creatures and islands to mark each hour.

Summary: Candy is having a bad day in her small Minnesota town whose main industry is chickens. She walks away from school and just keeps on going, right out of town into the empty fields where she meets John Mischief, a man with seven extra heads - his brothers! And if that isn’t strange enough who is the creature coming after them? Candy follows John’s directions to get the ball back in the bowl at the top of the crumbling lighthouse which triggers the sea to fill up the fields and take them all away. Candy is rescued by a boat as she is carried away in the sea and brought to the first of the islands of Arabat. She discovers all sorts of creatures and strange beings and visits several of the islands, each one with its own time. She makes a friend, Malingo, and they fight off all sorts of things that are after them that have been sent by evil Christopher Carrion. But she belongs and feels like she has been there before, she isn’t shocked by what she sees. At the end of the book is an appendix which describes several of the islands of time with the 25th hour added in.

Evaluation: If you like fantastical worlds this story has things you could never imagine. Illustrated by the author, one is given additional help to visualize this amazing world. It is a great escape with something exciting escapes though not much more.

Series: Abarat - book 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War

Martin the Warrior: A Tale from Redwall


Author: Brian Jacques
Illustrator: Brian Chalk
Publisher: New York: Philomel Books. 1994
ISBN-978-0399226700
pages: 376
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7th - 12th

Reader's annotation:
Young mouse slave Martin transforms into a warrior to release himself and other enslaved animals as they fight their way free from the tyrannical corsair stoat Badrang.

Summary: The story opens with Martin a prisoner slave in the fortress of Badrang, a greedy tyrant who has visions of ruling an empire of woodland animal creatures. Martin manages to escape with a small group who immediately get separated from each other. Martin teams up with Rose and her friends and family who gather together an army. Badrang is having his own problems when he is attacked by another evil character Captain Clogg. There is much sword fighting and swashbuckling in some very tense scenes that make for exciting reading. One that was particularly intense involved river otters, rats and mice. Other animals featured are weasels, foxes and ferrets (bad) and badgers, hedgehogs, and squirrels (good). Each of the animals has distinct character traits which make this fantasy so engaging. As the stories weave their way through triumphs and setbacks the characters gather together for a final climactic battle.

Evaluation: An action-packed book and series that really appeals to teen-age boys, both avid and reluctant readers. When I asked the high school boys what their favorite fun reading was I wasn’t surprised to hear the Redwall series as a top choice. It is a bit like an animal version of Lord of the Rings without the magic.

Series:
Redwall. This is how the story all begins, though this book was published 6th in the series. There are currently 20 books in the series with The Sable Queen scheduled for release in January of 2010. The series has spawned an animated TV series and graphic novel rendition of the first book Redwall. Only four of the books have not been made into audiobooks.

Redwall, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. retrieved May 1, 2009 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redwall

Lord of Rings - the movie



Author: J.R. R. Tolkein

Director - Peter Jackson
Distributor: New Line Home Entertainment 2004
ISBN- 978-07880647404
Rating PG-13

Classification:Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Media Type: Movie

Grade level: 6-adult

Reader's annotation: The epic story of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the ring is brought to life in all its colorful grand imagery on the screen.

Summary: The three books in the series - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King make up a larger than life epic tale that is well known to most people at this point. A classic in the fantasy genre, Middle Earth has elves, dwarfs, orcs, both good and evil rulers, sorcery and magic. Large battle scenes are interspersed with traveling through magical lands. Basically the powerful ring needs to be destroyed and Frodo leads a band of assorted people across Middle Earth to throw it in to the Cracks of Doom. There are many adventures and side trips along the way with many characters some who remain strong and others who fall to the evil forces. Though when the books were written they were considered for adults, this seems to be a classic high school reading selection.

Evaluation: When surveying teens and their favorite movies Lord of the Rings won hands down. The combination of a great epic story that closely follows the book, which most of them have read, coupled with a great cast and beautiful cinematography in the fabulous setting of New Zealand makes this series a winner all around.

Luna


Author: Julie Anne Peters

Publisher: New York: Little Brown 2004
ISBN- 978-0316733694
pages: 256
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Topics: GLBT, family, coming of age
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 8-adult

Reader's annotation:
Regan’s life has always been difficult, but now that her brother wants to be a woman in public, it is harder than ever for her to have her own identity.

Summary:
Regan is used to Liam, her brother by day, waking her up as he becomes the she that is inside by transforming herself into Luna. The siblings have rooms downstairs and Liam has rigged it to give them maximum privacy. Mom is wrapped up in work and dad is trying desperately to have that picture perfect family life that seems to be just outside his grasp. Wishing his son would go out for sports he pressures him into going to try outs while Regan tries to keep the peace between them. Now Liam isn’t satisfied with keeping Luna a secret and only for the middle of the night. Luna wants to go out in public and needs Regan’s help for this. The deceptions that she must concoct to make this happen start to really take a toll on her but she can’t let her brother down. As this plays out they both realize what is really important in life and how other people can surprise you both in a good way and in a bad way but trusting in yourself will take you a long way.

Evaluation:
Uplifting book about a girl who watches her brother who is really a girl trapped in the body of a boy make the transition into his/her own. A story about identity and confidence, and what makes things work with other people. Great book for any teen to read as it will give a perspective that isn’t widely known.

My Sister's Keeper


Author: Jodi Picoult

Publisher: NewYork: Atria 2004
ISBN- 978-0743454520
pages: 432
Author's website

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary life
Topics: issues, siblings, coming of age, emancipation
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 8-adult

Reader's annotation:
Conceived to become a bone marrow donor for her leukemia-stricken sister Anna decides that she has had enough and it is time for her to take a stand and take control of her own life.

Summary: The story takes place when Anna is a teenager, but through flashbacks and memories from all the characters involved in this dilemma we get a complete picture of all the issues and a bigger story about family, loyalty, love and responsibility - to ourselves and to others. Anna was conceived to help her sister Kate, who was diagnosed with leukemia when quite young, it seems certain she will die without this drastic measure taken. It was just supposed to be for the use of some stem cells and then when that didn’t work the doctors started on more aggressive measures. By the time Anna is thirteen, she is ready to hire her own lawyer to take control of her life. Kate seems to understand but her mother is devastated with this turn of events and does whatever she can to stop her. Their brother is no help and he has problems of his own and the father tries to stay calm and supportive of everyone. A riveting story that includes several surprise twists.

Evaluation:
Picoult writes books about ethical dilemmas and this one is full of them. Told from several viewpoints this book makes the reader think about right and wrong and what is morally correct. Good book to start a discussion about a variety of issues including loyalty and responsibility versus free will and personal needs.

The Book Thief


Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: New York: Knopf 2006
ISBN-9780375831003
pages: 560

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction
Topics: holocaust, coming of age
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 10-Adult

Reader's annotation: As Liesel, her family, friends and Death live through World War II they find distractions in the stories that Liesel reads from the books she has stolen.

Summary: Narrated by Death, this is the story of a foster girl and her anti-Nazi family living in a small town in Germany as Hitler gains control and war erupts in Europe. Liesel’s first stolen book happens almost by accident after the funeral of her little brother. Although her foster parents are disappointed when her mother arrives with only one child, a girl not a boy as promised, they take her in and grow to love her. Struggling to make ends meet doing whatever they can, life in the working class neighborhood is hard-bitten and caustic. The opportunities for more stolen books keep presenting themselves to Liesel and her collection grows. She makes life bearable for herself and those around her including Max, the Jew they are hiding, with the diversion of the books and their stories. There are many “asides” from Death, some that clarify things and others that confuse, which may make it difficult for less strong readers to follow. is heart-wrenching and spell-binding.

Evaluation:
This book can be very intense, with the backdrop of the Nazi’s growing control and WWII. The poetic style of Death’s narration is beautiful and thought provoking. Definitely a must-read and make sure you have your box of tissues.

The Golden Compass


Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: New York: Knopf/Random House 1996
ISBN-978-0679879244
pages: 399
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Young Lyra and her daemon Pan leave Oxford in search of the kidnapped children that are rumored to have been taken to the Far North and stories of gruesome experiments chill to the bone.

Summary: When Lord Asriel comes to Oxford to tell the scholars about his discoveries and ask for money, Lyra eavesdrops on her uncle and is fascinated with his stories. Seduced by the lady Mrs. Coulter, Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon (shape-shifting animals that are invisibly connected to their counterpart human and part of their soul) go to London thinking they will enjoy a different life. Lyra was given the mysterious Golden Compass just before she leaves and told to guard it well. Later when her best friend Roger disappears, Lyra fears the worst - that the Gobblers have taken him to the north to do horrible things. Lyra and Pan take off to save Roger and the adventure grows. They travel with the Gyptians and meet friendly witches, armoured bears, a Texan balloonist on their travels. Lyra learns to use the golden compass to determine what the future holds and what she should do next. What is really happening to the children is too terrible to even think about, but Lyra’s spunk and courage lead the others forward to do what’s right.

Evaluation: Excellent fantasy world that is well thought out and very believable despite the improbabilities. The daemons are like having your soul or personality and intuition take form and sit on the outside of your physical body. Of course with an ending like this one, you will want to start on the next book in the series immediately. It is a very popular and involved series.

Series:
His Dark Materials - book 1

The Subtle Knife


Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: New York: Knopf/Random House 1997
ISBN-978-0679879251
pages: 326
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Topic: parallel worlds
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Will Parry, from the Oxford we know and Lyra from an alternate Oxford, meet in another parallel world and help each other. Will is looking for his father and Lyra is searching for the meaning of “dust” but they find so much more.

Summary: The book opens with Will and his concern over his mother’s safety as they try to avoid the men who are after them. Then Will discovers some information about his missing father and while running away from his pursuers manages to walk through a “window” into another world. It is here in Cittagazze where Will meets Lyra and in an unintentional fight where Will is merely defending himself, he acquires the Subtle Knife. Or should I saw the Subtle Knife acquires Will. This knife is very powerful and has the property of allowing the owner to cut windows into other worlds. The two continue on their searches, now in several different worlds with a large cast of characters including all of the characters from The Golden Compass.

Evaluation: The second installment of this series is just as good as the first and the cliffhanger ending will have you eagerly finding book 3 to read. There are now parallel worlds that the characters are moving through, increasing the complexity of the story while retaining the charm of the characters and the believability of it all. One almost believes that if you had the right knife... you could do that too.

Series: His Dark Materials - book 2

The Amber Spyglass


Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: New York: Knopf/Random House 2000
ISBN-978-0679879268
pages: 518
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Topics: parallel worlds, romance
Media Type: Books

Grade level: 7-Adult

Reader's annotation: Will and Lyra have been separated but they find each other and defeat the evil powers that threaten the existence of any life form at all.

Summary: This book picks up right where we left our characters at the end of The Subtle Knife. Will and Lyra are separated for quite a while each focusing on their own tasks. Will is joined by two angels that will help him to complete his mission. Lyra is being held by her mother in a cave, now trying desperately to protect her as her motherly instincts finally kick in. Convinced that Lyra will be killed if she doesn’t keep watch over her, Mrs. Coulter keeps her drugged and hidden. But as it is in Will's destiny to help Lyra, he does manage to rescue her and together find the courage and direction to do what needs to be done. They are joined by some tiny people who fly that protect them by attacking unseen. There is also an extensive side story with the scientist from Oxford who is in a world of very strange creatures. Here she actually finds the “dust” and figures out, through the use of an amber spyglass, what exactly is going on with dust. The final showdown is expected but the resolution is not what I expected.

Evaluation:
The epic conclusion to the series, bringing all the previous series's characters as well as quite a few new ones together for the final power struggle that will determine the fate of all the universes. If you haven’t read The Subtle Knife you will be lost in this book. Pullman continues to paint a rich picture of his world that completely absorbs the reader.

Series: His Dark Materials - book 3

Ender's Game


Author: Orson Scott Card

Publisher: New York: T. Doherty Assoc. 1985
ISBN-978-0312932084
pages: 357
Author's website

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9-Adult

Reader's annotation:
Chosen by the government to go to The special school, Ender leaves home at the age of six. Will he be the savior of the human race?

Summary:
After feeling very unappreciated in school and as the youngest child in his family, Ender is chosen by the government after all to attend the special training program at the age of six. Now Ender can excel at what he is good at, computer gaming. He still has to deal with personality issues and competitiveness, something that he would rather put aside. But the training is rigorous and exciting, especially the descriptions of the games in the weightless room. Ender though has strong internal conflicts when he is forced to be brutal in order to survive.

Evaluation:
Full of retribution and space age action this book is a real hit with teen boys. Some of the ethical and moral questions are good for teens to think about, especially those related to the value of life. The story is told as if it was happening at the moment which brings an excitement and urgency to it.

Series:
Ender Wiggin - book 1

Blaze of Silver



Author: K.M. Grant
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers 2007
ISBN- 978-0802797377
pages: 288

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Topics: horses, Crusades, friendship, adventure
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 7-11


Reader's annotation:
The Earl of Heartslove is charged with delivering part of the ransom to free King Richard to the German Emperor when he is double-crossed by his Saracen friend. Can he and Ellie save the King?

Summary: Set in the 12th century, the conclusion of the trilogy, where William de Granville, Earl of Heartslove, ladies Ellie and Marissa and their Saracen friend Kamil discover what loyalty and friendship really mean. Back in England after fighting in the Holy Wars, life at the manor is peaceful and relaxing. Kamil, the Saracen friend who returned from the East with them has settled into manor life as if he was born there. Marissa carries a torch for Will though she knows he doesn’t feel that way about her. Ellie is getting over the death of her fiance, Gavin, who was Will’s brother. They all love their horses and much of life centers on their riding. But someone back in the Holy Land has other plans for Kamil which starts with Ahmal’s delivery of a beautiful horse that King Richard had promised Gavin. The action starts when most of the manor sets off to deliver ransom money to the Emperor of Germany for the release of King Richard. Thinking he is serving his motherland, Kamil is double-crossed by Ahmal, as he is convinced to steal the money, only to discover it is all set up by his old enemy, assassin Old Man of the Mountain. Will Kamil be able to help his imprisoned friends Will and Ellie? Will they be able to save the King? The action-packed story will keep you on the edge of your seat as the twists and turns take you to its conclusion.

Evaluation:
Horse lovers will enjoy this series as the main characters’ horses are their companions and much of the story revolves around the animals. Thoughtful issues dealing with revenge, loyalty, and friendship are the themes of this concluding book which makes for a satisfying ending.
Series: Book 3 de Granville Trilogy; Book 1 - Blood Red Horse, Book 2 - Green Jasper

The Devil Wears Prada




Author: Lauren Weisberger


Publisher: New York: Doubleday 2003
ISBN-978-0385509268
pages: 360
Author's blog

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Chick Lit
Topics: humor, journalism
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 10-Adult

Reader's annotation:
Is suffering under the editor from hell really going to get her a writing job at the New Yorker, even if she is the most powerful? Andrea is going to find out, if it kills her.

Summary:
Ivy league graduate Andrea, wants to break into the magazine business but she knows she will have to pay her dues. Although she wants to work for the New Yorker, it is a fashion magazine that will hire her. She walks unsuspectingly into a vipers next of competition and expectation. Although she is clearly being abused in her job, editor Miranda is too powerful to complain so Andrea does the best she can and then does better. We laugh at her escapades and marvel at her creativeness in pleasing her boss.

Evaluation:
Very funny book, a great summer reading choice. Teens who read fashion magazines or are thinking of going into publishing will enjoy this chick lit story. The movie was also very funny and stayed fairly close to the book.

About Me

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I grew up outside of Boston, went to college in western MA and lived in NYC dancing for several years before getting my teaching credentials and unintentionally moving to Santa Cruz CA. Married and divorced with two kids almost grown, a daughter in college and a son in high school, I am thrilled to be a librarian now, something that I should have done years ago. I love the applications of technology and realize that I have been interested in that since my first computer class back in 1986 - a new requirement for teaching degrees. Finally I can combine my love of curriculum, educational resources, working with adults and children, and technology applications.

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