Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

Chess would like to think of herself as a normal girl, but lately her body is not behaving in a normal manner. She’s been ill frequently but doesn’t know why and her undiagnosed condition even caused her to have a humiliating incident with a guy she has a crush on. It turns out that she has Crohn’s disease. She ends up in the hospital depressed and trying to come to terms with the diagnosis. One of her roommates, Shannon, has been in and out of the hospital with Crohn’s for a number of years. To put it mildly, Shannon is sassy with the doctors and nurses. She also isn’t one to throw a pity party for herself. Much of the book centers on Shannon and Chess trying to learn to deal with each other and Crohn’s disease.

Written in an unusual manner, Lucy Frank’s Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling takes an honest and realistic look at the subject of young people suffering from a chronic illness. Plenty of books have focused on terminally ill adolescents. (The Fault in Our Stars and Jenny Downham’s Before I Die come to mind.) It’s good to see an author exploring chronic illness as so many young people suffer from these health problems.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What the Librarians Are Reading

YS &Teen Staffer Andrea:

Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber  
Lillian Firestone’s Chinese mother gave her up for adoption upon arriving to the United States.  She is adopted by a family in Kansas City, Missouri and is brought up as an upstanding student with typical American ideals.  When America goes to war with Korea right after being at war with the Japanese, Lillian begins to face racial prejudice from her schoolmates.  She decides to investigate her birth mother and finds the strength to face prejudice.

27:  A history of the 27 Club through the lives ofBrian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and AmyWinehouse by Howard Sounes The 27 Club is the name used for the connection between the musical artists known as the “Big Six” who died at the age of 27.   The biographer looks at their backgrounds and the historic musical careers that made these six artists legends and ultimately led them to their tragic deaths.

Librarian Katie:

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg   Rafe is tired of being known as “the gay kid” in high school, and decides to enter an elite Massachusetts prep-school where he can start fresh. However, denying part of his identity complicates matters and opens his eyes to what it really means to be a true friend.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso shares what it takes to go from a troubled childhood and teen life to being known as one of the most current and successful business women having founded Nasty Gal, a fashion e-tailer, without even a college degree. Amoruso has used her passion, energy and wits to become  a success, and reveals her thoughts and tips in this rather entertaining memoir.

Librarian Lisa B:

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
Glory's mother put her head in an oven when Glory was four and she has felt like she has spent much of her life on the outside. However, then a few nights before graduation her and Ellie (her sort of best friend) drink the remains of a petrified bat and  wake up with the ability to see into the future; and Glory sees the coming of a second civil war. King expertly weaves together realistic fiction, magical realism, and hints of a dystopia.

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington
In Holocaust concentration camps different patches on prisoners clothes stood for different things. The pink triangle was for homosexual (generally male) prisoners. This is the story of the horrors they endured at the hands of the Nazis and how they were treated after the war.

Librarian Lisa S:

Say What YouWill by Cammie McGovern Amy has cerebral palsy, and she speaks with the help of a computer.  For her senior year of high school, she has requested peer assistants instead of adults.   Amy is brilliant and plans to attend an Ivy League college in the fall.   Matt, one of her assistants, is battling his own illness, OCD.  He has no plans for the future.  Together, they help each other overcome obstacles, physical and mental, while they find out what they mean to each other.  

Popular:  A Memoir: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya VanWagenen Can Curlers, girdles, Vaseline and a strand of pearls help a shy girl become popular?  Maya Van Wagenen is about to find out.  Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya has never been popular.  But before starting eighth grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment: Spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.  The real-life results are hilarious, painful and filled with unexpected surprises. 

Librarian Mary Beth:

Bomb: the race tobuild—and steal—the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin
In late December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered that uranium atoms could be split, and just a few months later the race to build an atomic bomb was on. The story unfolds in three parts, covering American attempts to build the bomb, how the Soviets tried to steal American designs and how the Americans tried to keep the Germans from building a bomb.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen An unlikely grouping of robot-builders and cheerleaders rally together for a common cause. Charlie and Nate have been friends forever, and even though Charlie is a quiet jock and Nate is the president of the robotics club, they remain friends against the high school grain.

Librarian Petra:

Out of Eden by Peter Johnson Stony and his family are headed for a quiet vacation. They plan to watch movies, hike, and visit the local caves. On the way Stony’s father gets into an argument with a creepy-looking skinny guy and his huge friend at a rest stop. After everything calms down Stony, his mom, dad, and sister drive away.  Little do they know that these two guys are stalking them; waiting for their chance to attack the family. This is a story of how one family comes face-to-face with real evil.
Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell  
As WWII began, nearly 100 Navy and Army nurses were stationed in the Philippines.  Once a desirable duty station, the Philippines quickly became one of the most dangerous places these young women could be.  The many nurses who stayed behind to care for the wounded after the US was forced to retreat from the Philippines quickly find themselves prisoners of war.  Includes primary source material.

Librarian Phyllis:

Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
Michael Vey, a fourteen-year old who has Tourette’s syndrome and special electric powers, finds there are others like him, and must rely on his powers to save himself and the others from a diabolical group seeking to control them.

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson The author brings together the recollections of the survivors and witnesses to the disaster and includes historical photographs and illustrations.

YS &Teen Staffer Rozanne:

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier The year is 1918, and seventeen-year-old Cleo Barry is restless. While living in the dormitory of her Portland boarding school, she longs for excitement, independence, and adventure in ways that are uncommon for young women of this era.  She soon gets her wish, but in ways that are unwanted and unexpected. The Spanish influenza pandemic has hit the Western United States, and a terrible fate awaits those unlucky enough to contract the deadly virus. While tempted to take measures to protect herself from illness, a devastating childhood memory propels her to volunteer for the Red Cross in order to take care of those who are gravely ill. As death begins to strike closer to home, Cleo wonders which one of her loved ones will be next. Will it be the handsome young doctor, her close friend, Katie – or will she be next? For lovers of historical fiction and suspense, Lucier’s novel will not disappoint.

Ghosts by Stuart Webb
Part of the Paranormal Files series, this factual account focuses on the various type of ghostly encounters, including ancient and medieval apparitions, early ghosthunters, communications with the dead, possession, and haunted houses. 

Librarian Ruth Anne:  

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman Seven-league boots, Snow White’s Step-Mother’s sinister mirror, and a golden key are a sampling of unique items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales now locked away in the Grimm Collection, housed in the New York Circulating Material Repository. Not your typical lending library, high school student Elizabeth is pleasantly surprised when she encounters these magical items, until she and her fellow workers discover things are not what they should be. They follow a dangerous journey to try to reclaim these priceless items, but someone is waiting to fight them, and the big mystery is could it be someone from the library staff?

Hidden Like Anne Frank: Fourteen True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins
Holocaust survivors relate their childhood memories of escaping the Nazis in the Netherlands.

Librarian Sandra:

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his. Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?

Sunrise by Mike Mullin (Ashfall Trilogy Book 3)
The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors' constant companions.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

The Waking Dark opens on "the killing day," when 5, seemingly normal people, become murderers. At the end of the day 12 are dead, including all, but one, of the murderers. A year later and Oleander, Kansas has resumed some sort of normalcy, but then the storm hits, leaving residents cut off from the outside world, and trapped inside town limits by officials. There's something in the air after the storm though and residents begin to search out and use their own forms of justice (or are they just acting out their own dark desires). Little old ladies are shooting cocky football players, the church Deacon is claiming to hear the voice of God, and the lone surviving murderer from the killing day has gotten herself back into town limits. A small group find themselves thrown together (mostly based on the fact that they seem to be the only ones who think the town is losing it) and try to figure out what's going on and survive the chaos before Oleander implodes.

Wasserman, gives readers a solid horror story, incorporating our own dark desires, the claustrophobia of being locked in a small town, perhaps a government conspiracy, and even hints of supernatural forces lurking beneath the surface. While this book had enough intrigue to keep me reading, and was an excellent read for a rainy October evening, this reader found it to be missing an atmospheric element that would have pushed it over the top to be a truly great horror novel.

Great if you're looking for a dark read.

If you like this you may want to try:
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Amity by Micol Ostow
Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Stolarz

For more horror stories check out our Chilling and Creepy blog post.


Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Teens' Top Ten Announced!

YALSA's (Young Adult Library Services Association) Teens' Top Ten for 2014 have been announced! These are titles that have been nominated and voted on by teens. For more information check out YALSA's Teens Top Ten page. What do you think of this year's list?

10) The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
9) Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
8) Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
7) The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau - Also a Lincoln Nominee; check out the book trailer!
6) Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
5) Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne
4) The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - Also a Lincoln Nominee; check out the book trailer!
3) The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
2) Splintered by A.G. Howard
1) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Also a Lincoln Nominee; check out the book trailer!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

Shin was born and raised in labor Camp 14 in North Korea. He (and his family) were punished for the crimes of Shin's father's brother (which were committed before Shin's birth). Shin was taught from birth by the camp guards to be a snitch on his fellow prisoners and not to bat an eye when they were beat (or killed) in front of him for disobeying camp rules. Everyone was a competitor for food, including his mother. Ultimately, he informed on his mother and brother when he learned they were planning to escape, which lead to their execution, and felt nothing but anger towards  his mother about it until long after he escaped from the camp. Shin's story is not sugar coated and can be difficult to read and heartbreaking, hearing about his torture after his mother was arrested, hearing about the way students routinely (and without a second though) participated in the punishments and beatings of their fellow classmates at their teacher's request, and about the hunger, the cold, and the discomfort that was just a fact of life for Shin and the rest of the prisoners in the camp. Interspersed into Shin's story is information about everyday life in North Korea outside of the labor camps and the history of the Kim Dynasty. A corrupt government that isolates and tries to brainwash its people, that allows them to starve while their palaces include water parks.

At times Escape From Camp 14 has hints of being a fictional dystopia (kids will inform on their parents as in 1984, a government and elite inner circle that have an excess of goods, while everyone else is scrounging as in The Hunger Games), but this world and these camps are life for around 24 million people. While many escape from North Korea every year Shin is thought to be the only person born and raised in a labor camp to have gotten out of the country. And all those that defect have a hard time to adjusting to life outside; they learn that nearly everything about the world they have been taught by their government is a lie, they find it hard to let go of paranoia and hold on to jobs. While Kim Jong-Un can be something of a joke sometimes (he even has his own memes), life under his regime is a stark and harsh reality for many, especially those who have spent their entire lives in one of its labor camps.
Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden is a 2015 Abraham Lincoln Nominee. Check out the book trailer.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a work of fiction that reads as a biography (generally in a good way, not in the too long, stuffy, must read this for a paper way). It opens with an article of Addison Stone's death at age 18. Addison was an extremely talented  up and coming artist who recently moved to New York City; people knew of her, her art work was being represented and sold, and she liked to make a splash with outrageous YouTube videos (that she considered a part of her art). Her story is told posthumously by the people who knew her in life; some loved her, some profited off of her, others disliked or distrusted her. The tales of her artistic genius and emotional and mental states are interwoven with pictures of Addison, her family, her friends, and those that she created.

The anecdotes told from multiple points of view, from those who viewed Addison in vastly different ways, along with the photos, and artwork help to create a full (both wonderfully exciting and tragic) picture of the title character. Addison is quirky and fabulous and sometimes you just want to be her, but the demons that she struggles with make you think twice.

Not necessarily a page turner, but if you enjoy reading nonfiction you may want to give Griffin's work a try.

If you enjoyed this you  may also want to check out:
Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle