Posts Tagged ‘Young Adult fiction’

Best New Books of 2014: Kerri H’s Picks

December 15, 2014

I read everything… fiction, nonfiction, short stories, young adult fiction. Happy books, sad books, disturbing books, thought provoking books. I try to round out my reading experience each year with a variety of genres and themes.

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
This is an important, thought-provoking, disturbing and humbling collection of stories. They are written by a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq during the surge. Each story is told from the viewpoint of a different character… a chaplain, a Foreign Service Officer, a Mortuary Affairs Marine and many others. Descriptions evoke the grit, stench, claustrophobia, nonsensical situations, and collateral damage both physically and emotionally found in twenty-first century war.

Best to LaughBest to Laugh by Lorna Landvik
You will laugh at the quirky cast of characters and fun storyline. Candy Pekkalo is living a non-descript life in Minnesota when her cousin calls to see if she would like to sublet her Hollywood apartment. Once there, Candy thrives. She meets a diverse group of neighbors who become family, and works an odd, yet interesting, assortment of temp jobs. She even succeeds in the male dominated stand-up comedy world of the late 1970’s. You’re going to have fun living Candy Pekkalo’s life vicariously.

Dept. of SpeculationDept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
If you’ve ever experienced infidelity, bedbugs, motherhood, or feel like your brain goes from one random thought to another… this book is for you.  Written from the perspective of “the wife” it’s a collection of random thoughts and famous quotes.  It sounds disjointed, but it flows together perfectly.  It’s also about teaching college students, ghost writing, general discontent and hope.

JackabyJackaby by William Ritter
This young adult novel enraptured me. I read this fast-paced mystery with evidence of the supernatural in two nights.  In 1892, Abigail Rock arrives alone in New England from Ukraine via a boat from Germany. She’s in need of a job, room and board. After applying to an advertisement for an investigative assistant, she begins working for the eccentric R.F. Jackaby. Together they investigate a series of murders. This is a funny, rollicking read about a serial killer. I know it seems strange to call a book about a serial killer funny; but trust me, there are some hilarious scenes and dialogue in the book. This is the first book in a series. I anticipate this will be the next big young adult series.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
An autobiography in verse which resonates with readers is an amazing feat! Jacqueline Woodson elegantly portrays her childhood; evoking the love her family poured on herself and siblings. She perfectly distills the reality of the civil rights movement and her experience being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. These poems merge to form a fluid and beautiful story.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

November 21, 2014

Teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson (yes, his middle and last names are both Johnson) lives in the offbeat town of Never Better, which can only be located by those searching for it (but if you find it once, you’ll never lose your way when you try to return). He and his father run the Two Book Bookstore, which stocks just two books. And Jeremy’s best friend is the ghost of Jacob Grimm. This quirky setting is the backdrop for one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while – part ghost story, part dark fairy tale. Like many fairy tales, the good characters are truly good, the villains are shockingly evil, and the magic is unexplained but ever present.

Jacob doesn’t know why he has a duty to look after Jeremy, but he knows he does. He knows that he must find and protect Jeremy from a mysterious figure known only as the Finder of Occasions. Jeremy is the only one who can hear Jacob, and Jacob has become his constant companion as he struggles to cope with his mother having left the family and his father sinking into depression as a result. Jeremy is focused on his schoolwork, his one man lawn business, and planning for a better future – until the day he and the daring, beautiful Ginger Boultinghouse meet and she takes an interest in him. Much to his surprise, he and Ginger become fast friends. But soon, an innocent enough prank goes wrong and the town turns on Jeremy. Soon, Jeremy is at risk of losing the bookstore and his home. As Ginger tries to help Jeremy figure out a way out of his dilemma, they start to uncover dark secrets about Never Better: the town has had a mysterious string of disappearances of children and teens, and they may be in danger of something far worse than being shunned by the townspeople.

Jacob continues to fret about the danger Jeremy is in from the Finder of Occasions as more and more ominous signs appear – but the truth about the missing children is darker than anyone in Never Better suspects. As things start getting more twisted, the story gets more and more gripping. McNeal writes the kind of fairy tale that grabs you and won’t let your imagination go – and the kind of story that makes you want to leave the light on if you read it late at night!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Wave by Todd Strasser

September 11, 2014

Ben Ross was an enthusiastic young teacher, always leading his high-school history students toward deeper understanding, rather than just memorizing battle dates and lists of kings. The older teachers tolerated his style, figuring that it would wear off soon enough. When Ben showed his students a film about the Nazi concentration camps, some of his kids woke up from their bored lethargy, but they raised questions about how this could have happened. A few of them openly stated that they did not believe that ordinary people would stand by and let their neighbors be treated this way. Ben needed a strategy to convince them that the Holocaust really did happen— and could happen again.

The next day, class was conducted differently. Ben wrote on the board: “Strength Through Discipline.” He made the kids stand beside their desks and start all of their answers with, “Mr. Ross!” There was no discussion, just questions and rapid-fire answers. To Ben’s surprise, the students ate it up! The class showed a cohesion that he had never seen before, and later they opined that they all felt equal for the first time. As the days went by, they created a salute and a motto, and the movement spread beyond Ben’s class. Even the football team began to incorporate the disciplined group mentality that began as Ben’s experiment. Students who had always been shunned as outsiders were some of the most enthusiastic adherents, as they fit into a group for the first time. Chillingly, however, Ben’s students began to persecute those who were not part of the group, and at least one young man landed in the hospital. How could Ben bring this experiment to an end?

Although The Wave is a novel, it is based on the true story of a classroom experiment in Palo Alto, California, in 1969, and is often assigned in high schools. The writing is simple and straightforward, but the message is frightening. Pair this with the spectacular novel The Book Thief (also based on a true story) or the movie based on this title, which I highly recommend. Sometimes it feels as if we are awash in Holocaust stories, but their importance goes far beyond the history of what happened in Germany seventy years ago. It is the revelation of the evil that lies within each of our souls that needs to be kept out in the open, warning us that this was not just a German phenomenon; it is a human phenomenon. Even at our best, we rush to self-preservation against the slightest danger, but at our worst, we can perpetrate terrible cruelties toward our very own neighbors if the opportunity presents itself—and opportunities are always presenting themselves. If you are looking for ways to discuss these issues with your teens, or even among an adult book group, this story is a great springboard. Weighing in at 138 small pages, everyone should be able to get in on the conversation.

This review was adapted from the original on EatReadSleep.

 

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Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

August 29, 2014

ComplicitJamie and his older sister Cate had a tough start in life. Their mother was just a teenager when they were born. She was raising them in a run-down basement apartment in a rough neighborhood near San Francisco when she bled to death from a gunshot wound. The orphans were adopted by the Henry’s, a wealthy couple offering them all the advantages, including but not limited to, a private school, new cars, and horseback riding lessons.

James both thrives and wilts in this environment. He’s a gifted student and talented piano player, but he finds it hard to make friends and suffers from several psychosomatic illnesses. For instance, his hands go numb when he is under stress and he has a tendency to faint under pressure.

Cate does well at first, but then grows wild as a teen. She dabbles in drugs and becomes known as the school slut. When a fire at the stable where she rides kills several horses and seriously injures her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, Cate is found responsible and sent to juvenile detention. Now Cate is out, and the first thing she does is call her brother Jamie. Jamie teeters between trying to find and meet Cate, and trying to avoid her, just hoping to hold himself together long enough to figure out how that fire really was set – and what really happened to their mother.

This is a finely crafted, dark and disturbing psychological thriller from William C. Morris Award winning author Stephanie Kuehn.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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