Friday, June 28, 2013

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Matthew kicks butt in the integrity zone; it just takes he and his sister a little time to figure out how to really get away from his psychotic mother, where are their advocates, and how can they survive, all before they get killed by her.

Nancy Werlin is an accomplished author but this is a first-time read for me. A mystery writer, she wrote The Double Helix among a handful of others and has earned a nice kitty of awards. The Rules of Survival models writing craft thoughtfully. The text reads like the letter Matt writes to his youngest sister. Because she is so young, she seemed to have forgotten the dangerous side of her mother at the time of his writing it. But Matthew cannot forget, and neither can his couple of years younger sister Callie. Once identifying why their father really left his marriage to their mother and experiencing her heavy hand in parenting (or whatever you want to call that ongoing sword slash), Matthew and Callie  craft ways to get away from their mother. It is not by any means easy, and the mother fiercely fights to maintain her ownership of them as she maneuvers her disturbed and violent life. Matt does indeed succeed, but the ending is a somber one. This is a rich but heartbreaking read, definitely worth it. I can imagine plenty of teens resonating with this book. That sad truth makes me want to shout the title to the world....The Rules of Survival!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Little Bird by Germano Zullo

Looking for a lovely book about supporting those around you-- and not just the ones who look and sound like you?

Seeking a book that is both sparing and dramatic? Centering and deep? Useful with all ages?

 Little Bird is your book.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mercury by Hope Larson

Hope Larson won an Eisner Award for this graphic novel and I can see why. This twisty little tale combines the lives of two teen girls, one current day and one living in 1859 and a remarkable mystery that ties them together despite such differences in time. The comic industry's equivalent to the Oscar Awards, Eisner Awards is give for creative achievement in comic books. Creative this one is.

First things first: true confessions. I am not a big comic-book reader. Sure, I read the comics in the paper, returning to a few most days. But I have not grown a tremendous following for comics and more, for graphic novels. If they were more like Mercury, I might.

Historical fiction tied together with mystical realism, the author offers us readers stellar comic illustrations and a storyline that keeps you hoping throughout. I would love some recommendations from folks about similar next reads: what do you recommend I search out? And what is that necklace all about anyway?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Teen-aged sports these days must be wicked difficult. To participate and successfully steer clear of all of the awful things lurking out there in America simply confronts the integrity of each player head on. The fall of adult athletes who used to be heroes to young people in this country is remarkable and frightening; Alex Rodriguez (accused at this date) and Lance Armstrong (confirmed and still returning his earnings from what I know) are only the beginning of a rapidly growing list. Leverage names some of those challenges-- steroids and bullying absolutely a part of this book, offering a voice to experiences that are often unnamed in the media except in teen literature.

Danny is a high-school gymnast who appears gifted enough to possibly have a chance at a college scholarship. Kurt, a similarly gifted athlete, becomes a football player at the same school after switching schools mid-year by way of a new foster mother. The way these boy's lives intersect shines light on the frequently-quiet, outside-of-cliques' friendship that occurred when I was in school, and I celebrate still occurs nowadays. On Kurt's first day of football, he is offered money (poor boy from poverty, according to the clueless coach's view) and steroids (again said clueless coach demonstrates his win-at-all-costs ethics). Kurt accepts, knowing that he is new to the school and not knowing rules or consequences of either. Over time, Kurt asks Danny to teach him how to do a back handspring, something giant lumbering Kurt indeed learns. Eventually Kurt and another friend ask Danny to stand with him as they confront the awful actions from three leaders on the football team.

This book kept me holding tightly to it. I loved the story, appreciated the rhythm and timing of the text, and really connected with the sports theme central to the novel. With superb cover art, Leverage is a keeper, and I look forward to seeing where Cohen leads next in his writing.