Maggie Lynch has just been uprooted from Chicago to Bray, Ireland. Her mom has married an Irish man and they have followed him to his home town, leaving behind her grandmother and beloved uncle Kevin. Weeks before leaving Chicago, Uncle Kevin had taken Maggie to a Smashing Pumpkins concert in the midst of the Siamese Dream tour. It is 1993 and grunge music is Maggie’s new-found daily soundtrack as she adjusts to living in Ireland. She attends an all-girls school called St. Brigid and befriends Dan Sean, an elderly legend in Bray. Uncle Kevin implores Maggie to view her life as an adventure. When tragedy strikes, the connection between family, grief, and music all become clear.
Why I picked it up: I originally picked this up because it was one of the finalists for the Morris Award.
Why I finished it: The 1990s, grunge music, rock concerts, Chicago, Ireland, and growing up…all of this things together made me want to read this book and finish it.
I’d give it to: Anyone that is a fan of anything in the aforementioned category.
Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.
I loved this–a strange and oddly beautiful look into the mind of a boy as mental illness takes over his life and how that effects him and his family and friends and others around him.
There are two different stories being told at once, at least that’s how it seems at first, but I found both compelling, and even more so towards the end as it becomes clear how things are connected. It’s subtle and introspective and does a really good job of showing the seriousness of mental illness, and bringing attention to how those with mental illness are often perceived and treated, while ending with definite hope.
I really liked Caden, and he seemed very…real to me. And relatable, even though what he goes through is not something I’ve really experienced or been able to imagine. And the book is made even more poignant by the fact that this is something that has touched Shusterman and his family deeply, and that the drawings included were actually done by his son Brendan during a time very much like Shusterman describes here.
A very different sort of story than Shusterman’s previous books, but I think it’s going to go down as one of his finest. It’s already my personal favorite of his!
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail. (Summary from cover.)
Why I picked it up:
I’m not really sure why I was initially attracted to this one. I enjoy historical fiction but I’m typically not a fan of westerns. I’m sure, though, that the stellar reviews posted by prominent YA authors on the back cover helped to convince me not to overlook this great story.
Why I finished it:
Each and every character was so well-developed they virtually leaped off the page! The friendship between Samantha and Annamae was the heart and soul of the story. The cowboys gave it that extra dose of humor while also contributing to the action and adventure and (romance?) in this well-written and researched novel of life on the Oregon Trail. This is NOT your old computer game! It is much much more!
I’d give it to:
I would highly recommend it to fans of well-researched historical fiction with strong female characters as well as anyone who loves a good adventure.
“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” – Al Capone
Fifteen-year-old James has a rough home life, no friends, and desperately wants someone to guide him into manhood. His major model of masculinity is his cool older brother, Louis, but when Louis gets him into trouble and fails to help him out of it, James is sent to Morton, a juvenile detention center, to do twelve months of time. How will he learn how to be a man, or a good friend, when he’s more on his own than ever and stuck in a place where violence often is the only option?
Why I picked it up: I was intrigued by the cover art and title, and I wanted to know why James is being airlifted by paramedics in a helicopter on the first page.
Why I finished it: James is a deep and likeable character, and the boys he meets at Morton have an admirable strength that is only matched by their heartbreaking fragility.
I’d give it:
Four stars. Goodman’s condemnation of the juvenile justice system is a little heavy-handed and gets in the way of the narrative sometimes, but I can’t blame him; if these are the kinds of things he witnessed when he worked for facilities like Morton, the system deserves to be condemned. Be warned: this one doesn’t have a happy ending.
Why I picked it up: I picked it up due to the popularity of the book and also because I have enjoyed reading many of Christie’s other novels which have involved mystery themes and were very good and well-written.
Why I finished it: I finished it because the development of the plot compared to other books was comparatively faster than other books and was very engaging to read.
I’d give it to: I would give this book to anyone who loves a good mystery novel and has a keen understanding of the concepts of a good mystery.
To live in a society where women are treated as slaves, trained, dressed up and sold at an auction to the highest bidder is a pretty good summary of this book, The Glass Arrow. Freedom, if any was found in the wilderness, in the mountains far away from city life. We meet Aya a young women who lives in the mountains with her family and cousins. It was hard life but Aya was taught to be strong, brave and knew how to survive and take care of her family. Living cautiously everyday and being aware of her surrounding helped her avoid the trackers who captured nonconformist, young girls and women. Her luck finally ran out and she was captured and sent to the city to be primped, trained and sold at auction. Even though she had to face many obstacles in her path Aya’s courage and rebellious nature and fierce determination guided her to remain positive and never give up hope. Aya is sold to a master but escapes with help from a mute friend but continues to endure battle after battle in hopes of finally finding freedom.
Why I picked it up: When I read the inside cover of The Glass Arrow, I knew it was a must read. It was exciting, mysterious and a true page turner.
I’d give it to: Teens who enjoy a good survival story.
Bone Gap is a small town where secrets are hard to keep. Roza mysteriously disappeared from the town quickly after she inexplicably appeared in Finn and Sean O’Sullivan’s barn. The townspeople just assume that she moved on to another town, but Finn knows she was kidnapped. He was there. The trouble is, he cannot describe the kidnapper’s face. Finn cannot even convince his brother Sean that she was kidnapped. It’s up to Finn to find Roza and bring her back to Bone Gap.
“As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.” – Goodreads
This is a great book for anyone interested in magical realism, mythology, A.S. King, and stories with an eerie, yet not totally scary, tone.
Why I picked it up: I picked up this book because I heard that it was written from a dog’s perspective, and it caught my interest because I love dogs.
Why I finished it: It was really funny to see how Enzo (the dog) saw the story of the family and how he loved watching race cars on TV. The story became serious and sad and I could not wait to find out what would happen to the family.
I’d give it to: Both genders, teens and adults would enjoy this book, especially if they love dogs.
Stephen King isn’t exactly an unknown author to many. And as I learned by reading The Shining, that’s for a good reason. The book follows Jack Torrance, a man with a troubled past who takes a new job at a hotel with a shrouded past of its own. Jack brings his family along for what should be a peaceful, easy season devoid of complications as the hotel is vacated for the winter, but as I can attest, the book is anything but simplistic. At the hotel, Jack’s son, Danny, realizes his special gift, his “Shine” that allows him to interact with the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel and perform a whole host of other things a normal ten year old shouldn’t be able to do. This power intertwined with Jack’s growing insanity due to his surroundings and self-resentment converge to form a plot so engaging that you’ll start the book one night, and by the time you put it down, it’ll already be sunny outside.
Why I picked it up: Most people have seen a Stephen King movie. Whether it’s something great like Green Mile or something awful like Maximum Overdrive, King’s movies are popular. I’ve seen a few myself – for better or worse – and decided to try a novel. A friend of mine specifically recommended The Shining to me, so I decided to start with that. Surely it couldn’t be so bad considering how many movies King’s books had inspired, right? Well my initial assumption was wrong. The book wasn’t just “not bad.” It’s a modern masterpiece.
Why I finished it: The book crafts an interesting tale starting off by explaining why Jack ended up at Overlook Hotel. King continues to say just enough about Jack’s past to keep you going through the book while also gradually revealing more about Jack’s son, Danny and the supernatural side of the story to not just pique, but completely engulf your interest. The exposition never felt like it was bogging me down and the book kept a great pace and featured an exceptionally tense feeling. That tension accumulated into a gripping feeling of suspense that prevented me from putting it down as it just kept building until the terrifying breaking point. I’ll let you read the book and figure out when that happens….
I’d give it to: I strongly recommend this to anybody who’s a fan of horror, suspense, or good books. If you’ve seen the movie, the book has a few differences and is actually better – yes better than a Stanley Kubrick film – mainly due to how much more story King can cram into the book without compromising the pacing. The Kubrick adaptation, unfortunately, skimps on vital backstory, making the book truly the definitive version of The Shining.