Friday, May 31, 2013

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Another debut novel that swallowed me up, I'll Be There offers a diverse and rich storyline combined with believable characters and tensions. I have to admit: as a parent, I kinda didn't want to read this story: the father flat out creeped me out. I am glad I did though; I liked it so much that I recommended it to Alysa.

Teen-aged Sam and younger brother Riddle (what a name!) have a father that is a whisper's breath from a mental institution, and Sam just hasn't figured out how to get away from him and still find his mother. Teen-aged Emily takes a smart risk, singing a solo in church one Sunday, and ends up with some good-looking boy holding her hair back after stress makes her vomit on the sidewalk outside of the sanctuary. When her mom shows up, boy disappears. Emily though can't stop thinking about him, and Sam can't stop thinking about her. Their worlds act atomic, colliding and repelling, given the multitude of issues that two teen lives and two very, very, very different family structures can bring to two folks trying to work out how to spend time together. And actually live to experience it.

Author Sloan does a sweet job of weaving these two lives together in I'll Be There. I really liked how she zeroed in on her characters but also broadens the actual storyline in a way that kept me really engaged. I have some serious visuals as a result of how she wrote the book-- let me tell you, I may never see a faded red kayak in the same way again! I will definitely look for this author in the future, and after Alysa finishes, I may just have to read it again!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Have you noticed the multitude of teen books about male-female relationships gone sour? That is such a common theme, and authors (and publishers) are certainly seeking out every corner of that genre (if that is what it is) to sell books. I notice too how many new authors are entering the publishing world through that genre, and I find that kinda fascinating. I tend to seek out books with a power imbalance, and if you studied my library-check-out history, you would see what I am talking about. I am not sure what this means, as in why I am drawn to these stories--is it the cover, is it that I feel the books are safe, is it that I can literally fly through them without studying the books during semesters when I am teaching (yes, a definite maybe here). The truth is out: sometimes I just want to fly through books, not thinking too much but maybe noticing a good character development here or there. Breaking Beautiful does a pretty good job of character development and twisty storyline, and kept me engaged during a particularly heavy reading time of the semester.

What I really liked about the character development in Breaking Beautiful is how twin brother and sister stick up for each some very unique ways. I was surprised at how Wolf wove in a protective brother who has a challenging time physically protecting his sister. I was also surprised at some of the other power misuses the author includes in the book. At times I wasn't sure who had sent boyfriend off the cliff: oops, a hint of storyline there....But really: you have to read it. I am not gonna spoil this one. The ending surprised even me. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bluebird by Bob Staake

This book is without written words and yet with a multitude of them.

This book is loaded with illustrations that demand the reader slow down and study each one. 

Authors rarely capture the wisdom and endurance of relationship like Staake does in Bluebird
I feel as if I am cheating using words. But then, I am nowhere close to being as brilliant as Bob Staake creates in Bluebird. Happy reading!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fourmile by Watt Key

If you have been slogging through my book reviews, you likely have an idea of the types of books I seek out. Alysa is a little more maleable than I am in some ways, and this time, I doubt you will be surprised that I LOVED Fourmile. The cover captured me from the start, and I had heard great things about Alabama Moon but haven't yet read it. Yet. So with the cover leading me, I dove in.

See: the cover has you caught too. I know. What could these two-- a teen boy and his faithful dog Joe-- be looking at? Looking for? And who is walking up?

These questions and more will be answered in this fabulously written tale about the boy on the cover, his dog and all they are yearning for in their lives. Twelve-year-old Foster is trying to make a go at living life without his father who died the year before. Couple that with the fact that his mother is dating a slick fellow who smiles when he is with her and grunts when he anywhere near Foster. Joe growls at boyfriend Dax every time the dog encounters Dax, making for more tension on the farm. One day while Foster is painting, stranger Gary walks up the road, engages kindly with the boy, and is invited  to spend the night in the barn. Dax, furious that another man is on his territory, starts to show his true colors, Foster's mother ends up letting Gary stay and do some home repairs, further ticking off Dax, Joe tries to bite Dax....and this is all in the first third of the book. As Foster searches for that missing father figure, he learns tons about life, commitment, and friendship.

Fourmile. Nicely done.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Period.8 by Chris Crutcher

I squeal when I think of Chris Crutcher creating new work. He is one of my favorite all-time young adult authors. Deadline and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes are simply two of the best books ever to me. Crutcher's own story and his gifted way of weaving the stories of others into his books simply engages me fully. I find his work brilliant. Imagine my anticipation then when I heard about Period.8. Huge fits as a descriptor.

I really enjoyed Period.8. The writing surprised me a little, feeling more like a mystery novel than what I have noticed in Crutcher's previous writings. The typical Crutcher characters show up here: teen boy-- home life totally wonked up by a cheating dad and can't-let-hubby-go mom and school life totally connected to one main important awesome teacher named Logsdon who goes by Logs; teen girl-- key sidekick (read GIRLFRIEND) to said teen boy, total cat's meow in all categories (kind, fierce, thoughtful, dedicated, relentless, smart--the list goes on); and then there are the friends wandering around--they come in all shapes and sizes and I mean ALL. The teacher, Logs, hosts this gathering-for-students time called Period 8. In Period 8, interested students come in and talk about what is bugging them with the complete agreement that what is said in Period 8 stays in Period 8. Unfortunately that isn't quite true. Crutcher does his usual show of throwing in life and death stuff, teen angst and real life stuff, and he ties the stories together in an unusual storyline teens can find ways to deal with bullies (although in this book the dealing with bullies part is fairly brutal). Crutcher seems to know alot about bullies from his work as a social worker, and he brings out the ugly by bringing this particular bully into the picture for this book. Makes me wonder who he knows might have experienced something like this.

Ahhh, another Crutcher fix satisfied!

**Oh and guess what? Alysa told me she wants to start writing for the blog again this summer, said she will have time then. Yippeee!!!!