Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Top Ten

These are my top ten books... in no particular order... all of them are suitable for YA even if not orginally published that way. There are way more books that I could have included here but these are the first ones that popped into my mind. Some of these annotations are from bookmarks I've done for the library because I do not feel like making new ones.

Rats Saw God
Rob Thomas
In order to graduate on time, failing Steve York agrees to write his life story in 100 pages. As he writes his story, we realize why he went from an “A” student to a troubled teen and he realizes that his life doesn’t have to be as difficult as he makes it.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
Perks is the story of a young boy’s mental breakdown but is told through letters rather than traditional narrative. A true coming of age story, Perks will resonate with teens who are dealing with their own demons, while also leaving them with hope that even if things are not good, “they will be soon enough.”

Princess Bride
William Goldman
This is the only book/movie combo that I loved equally! I've read the book so many times. It's supposedly an "abridged" version of a much older work by some old guy. It's not. Goldman completely made up this fairy tale story of true love and adventure. In the book it's Goldman's father who is telling the story to him.

Stravaganza: City of Masks (and the rest in the trilogy)
Mary Hoffman
In this first book of a planned trilogy, courageous fifteen-year old British boy Lucien wages an all out war with cancer and is rewarded with a gift from his father in the form of a beautiful notebook that transports him into the fantastical world of 16th-century Bellezza, a place where he is miraculously healthy.

Golden Compass (and the rest in the trilogy)
Philip Pullman
Lyra and Will explore the mysteries of dust and the meaning of life and love in this engrossing trilogy.

Sabriel (and the rest in the trilogy)
Garth Nix
The Abhorsen and her offspring battle the ultimate evil and keep the border between life and death secure.

Keeping the Moon
Sarah Dessen
I love all of Sarah Dessen's books, but this is the first one I read so it has a special place in my heart. Colie is a former overweight girl who spends her summer living with her fitness guru aunt and working at a restaurant with two twenty-something girls. Colie didn't have any close female friends and the older girls adopted her. At the time I didn't have any close female friends either and this book really spoke to me.

Dark is Rising Series
Susan Cooper
I read this series when I was 10 years old. Will Stanton is the last of the "old ones," a mysterious group of wizard like people. He must battle the forces of evil and save the world. The was written way before the phenomena that is Harry Potter, and is in many ways a superior series.

The Once and Future King
T.H. White
I love King Arthur, so much so that I took a college class entirely devoted to the Arthurian legend. I loved this book when I read it as a teenager. It tells the story of King Arthur as a young boy nicknamed Wart and how he grows up to be the Once and Future King.

On the Road
Jack Kerouac
I wrote my undergrad thesis on Jack Kerouac, as well as a major seminar paper my senior year of college, for a total of 60 pages all about Jack... I fear that Kerouac is lost to today's teens, but his most popular road trip novel really resonated with me when I was a teen. Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty will always be classic figures of literature for me.

Honorable mentions
Sign of the Qin
L.G. Bass
Based on Chinese legends, this engrossing first book in a trilogy introduces the major characters in an upcoming battle between good and evil, focusing on the Chosen One, the young Starlord prophesied to save the world from evil.

Young Wizards Series
Diane Duane
I read the first one in this series when I was a teen and never knew there were sequels... until I became a YA librarian myself! There have been seven of eight books now and in each one Nita and Kit are wizards sworn to preserve life and fight the Lone One—the power responsible for creating death.

Reading: Grim Tuesday--Garth Nix
On My Nightstand: Others

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom) -- Garth Nix

I don't know why I waiting so long to start this series. I finally picked the first one up just to see if it's really YA since so many libraries have it in J. I think it's YA. Definitely middle school, and that's YA in my library...

Arthur Penhaligon is starting seventh grade in a new school. Unbeknownst to him the entire seventh grade is forced to participate in a cross country run on every Monday, and naturally he's starting school on Monday. Even though he's a severe asmastic Arthur doesn't have a note from his doctor because he didn't know he needed to bring one... he tries to do the run anyway and winds up passing out.

While he's struggling to breathe he witnesses a strange interaction between a couple of men who just appeared out of thin air. A man being wheeled in a bath tub carriage gives Arthur a key (the minute hand to a huge clock) in the hopes that Arthur will die and he can take the key back having fulfilled his part of a Will demanding he give the key to a mortal. But Arthur doesn't die and is instead revived by the Key. Thus enters Mister Monday, the lesser Key to the House, and the strangeness begins...

I love Garth Nix. I loved the Sabriel trilogy. This isn't quite as great as that trilogy (at least not yet) but it's still pretty good. It's a great fantasy about a young boy who has to save the world when all he wants to do is be home and have friends. Kids who like Harry Potter will like Arthur and this series. There's so much more to it than a simple save the world scenario. Nix has created a really unique idea that I don't want to diminish by trying to explain. Careful readers will recognize the religious allegory, but it's not necessary for the story... kids who don't pick it up won't be any less satisfied. I think younger middle school kids will like the fantasy elements and older teens will like the deeper meanings.

I can't wait to start Grim Tuesday next...

Reading: Grim Tuesday--Garth Nix
On My Nightstand: Drowned Wednesday-- Garth Nix

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jailbait--Leslea Newman

This book has been on my nightstand for a little while... I had another library's copy (in fact the only other copy in the system) because mine was checked out. Apparently the day my copy came back (isn't that rather possessive of me? I should say my library's copy, but let's face it I *am* the YA Librarian and that teen section is mine, baby!). Where was I? Oh yeah, the day my copy came back, a father saw it on the shelf and decided it wasn't appropriate. He filled out a form and everything. I just happened to check my e-mail on a Sunday evening and my co-worker had e-mailed me to tell me what happened, so I was able to read most of the other library's copy and be prepared when I went to work on Monday. It's still an official process that I probably can't talk about. I will update when I can...

Andi is an overweight, vulnerable girl in 1971. Her best friend has moved away. Her brother is in college. Her parents are self-involved people. She's picked on at school, friendless and pretty isolated from anyone who could help her. She's walking home from school one day and an older man drives by and waves. She's intrigued by him and begins fantasizing about him. After repeatedly driving past her, one day he stops. She gets in his car. (This is where the new mom in me said "That's it, my children go nowhere without me until they're 30!"). He takes her to an abandoned house and they become more and more intimate, until after her 16th birthday when they "go all the way." She lies to him and tells him her name is "Vanessa" but she knows nothing about him at all. She foolishly believes she is going to marry this man but she doesn't know his last name or where he lives or how to reach him. She is beyond stupid, but it's realistic. Teenage girls, especially ones with self-esteem issues (um, all of them) and ones who have no one to say "Dude, wake up!" do stupid things. I am so glad I had a boy first. (Yes another baby reference, deal with it.) Things progress and get creepier and creepier until Andi finally realizes that she's engaging in risky behavior and learns her lesson. The book has a strong moral lesson and it's clear that this is a cautionary tale.

Aside from the author saying "This is 1971" there were no clues as to the time period. There were no internet or cell phones, so I suppose it was easier for Andi to be cut off from people, but other than that there wasn't a very good sense of setting.

I admit that while I was reading this I was looking for things that could be objectionable and arguments against those objections, so my review is probably a bit skewed... it's not great literature, I didn't enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed the other controversial books I've read this year, but it's an important book and it deserves to be read.

Reading: Mister Monday--Garth Nix
On My Nightstand: Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday--Garth Nix

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sandpiper--Ellen Wittlinger

Sandpiper Hollow Ragsdale is not even 16 yet, but she's got a pretty bad reputation as a slut--with good reason. Believing that oral sex is not "real sex", she willingly and easily performs it for multiple boys at school. Not interested in having any of them as actual boyfriends, she quickly moves on from one boy to the next until she meets...

The Walker is an 18 year old boy who lives alone and spends his days walking through the town and his nights stocking shelves at a store. He refuses to get in a car, but can diagnose skidmarks on the road. He is a loner, keeps his personal information to himself and likes to stay in the background until he meets Sandpiper.

The Walker renames her Piper, because Sandpiper is too weird and Sandy is too normal. He and Piper begin a friendship and help each other overcome their pasts and look forward to the future.

At times I wanted to strangle Piper, but that was the point. She didn't start out as a very sympathetic character, but as the book went on she matured and realized that her actions affected more people than just herself. Wittlinger's novel is about a controversial topic--oral sex--but she doesn't sensationalize it. The act itself is never described or depicted, but it is referred to numerous times. Piper uses the familiar slang to describe it. Although Piper doesn't think that oral sex is real sex, Wittlinger makes clear that it is and that even though pregnancy is not a threat, there are consequences for her actions.

I liked the relationship between the Walker and Piper. I liked Piper's parents. They were absent enough to let Piper deal with the consequences, but in the end they were there to help her pick up the pieces.

This is an important book and should be mandatory reading for all girls who think that just because they don't have intercourse they are still virgins and can have oral sex as often and with whomever they want. Definitely high school reading, although middle school girls are engaging in this behavior as well, and may benefit from reading this.

Reading: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke--Suze Orman
On My Nightstand: Jailbait, Keys to the Kingdom series

Blog Archive