Tag Archives: social issues

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

Standard
Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown wasn’t really on my radar until I saw it on the Amazon editor’s picks for YA in April, but I’m so glad I snagged a last minute ARC on NetGalley.  I could not put it down. There is a lot going on in this story beyond the very compelling mystery of who is trying to ruin Kyla, and it is both timely and engaging.  The Takedown is publishing Tuesday, April 11, 2017, and it is well worth your time.


Goodreads Summary

Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?

My Thoughts

It was thought-provoking to follow Kyla through an experience that blurred her carefully cultivated and curated image.  I really thought I would be cheering for the downfall of this queen bee, so imagine my surprise when her narrative voice spoke to me deeply.  Some people will only see a teen drama with a scary message about personal privacy, but I saw it as a book that makes readers think about how actions will always have consequences – good and bad.  Kyla’s character goes through a nice development without betraying her – she doesn’t have to become the things others want her to be in order to grow into a better version of herself – and that was really important to me as a reader.  The messages are relevant and strong, and I think they can speak to a wide audience.  And that mystery?  It kept me guessing right up until the big reveal – bravo! This is definitely going on my high school classroom library wishlist, and it is a book I will highly recommend to my students.  Language (some of it in annoying but relevant text talk) and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You might also like

 

Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls – for those who love (and love to hate) reality tv

Standard
Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls – for those who love (and love to hate) reality tv

I really enjoyed Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls despite (or because of) my innate cynicism about modern reality TV.  I’ve always delighted in pointing out every staged scene in my husband’s favorite shows, and this book confirmed all I believe about what goes on behind the scenes.  This is the perfect book for someone who wants a funny, fluff mystery read.  I gave it four stars, but fans of the author are a little more torn.


Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce seems to have it all: an actual Bentley, tuition to a fancy private school, lavish vacations, and everything else that comes along with being an LA starlet. But after five seasons on her family’s reality show, Rolling with the Royces, and a lifetime of dealing with her narcissistic sister, Porsche, media-obsessed mother, Mercedes, and somewhat clueless brother, Maybach, Bentley wants out. Luckily for her, without a hook for season six, cancellation is looming and freedom is nigh. With their lifestyle on the brink, however, Bentley’s family starts to crumble, and one thing becomes startlingly clear–without the show, there is no family. And since Bentley loves her family, she has to do the unthinkable–save the show. But when her future brother-in-law’s car goes over a cliff with both Bentley and her sister’s fiancé inside-on the day of the big made-for-TV wedding, no less-things get real.

Really real. Like, not reality show real.

Told in a tongue-in-cheek voice that takes a swipe at all things Hollywood, Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with an LA noir twist about what it means to grow up with the cameras rolling and what really happens behind the scenes.

My Thoughts

A Kardashian-esque family is the center of this story, and they manage to be absolutely fake and absolutely real at the same time.  The main character’s irritation with the whole fame-for-the-sake-of-fame scheme plays well to readers like me.  She is dark and witty, and quickly became the trusted voice of reason in her mother and sister’s insane last grab for fifteen more minutes of fame.  There are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and the opening lines set up a nice mystery that is engaging to unravel.  There is also plenty of glam for those who want it, but beneath the clothes and makeup, there is some depth.  I will say the ending is a little overproduced, but it is acceptable because the story does take place in a TV world where anything goes.  I absolutely enjoyed reading this book, and I think my high school students will as well, so I’m adding it to my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You might also like

  

Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

Standard
Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars is another amazing addition to the YA SciFi genre.  If you enjoyed Ami Kauffman’s Illuminae, you definitely want to give this book a look.  I gave this book my rare five star rating because it grabbed my imagination and high jacked my evening from the first chapter.


Goodreads Summary

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My Thoughts

What a great read!  Plenty of action and suspense kept me glued to this one for a straight read through.  There is attention and detail given to the building of characters and a fascinating new world.  I cared about these characters and the conflicts that drove them.  I liked the fact that the relationship between the main characters is believable despite the seeming impossibility of feelings and AI. It is also a timely read – Westworld has us questioning what it means to be a human while current political debates have us thinking about isolationism, terrorism, and the environment.  This book does a great job of giving readers room to consider these issues in a thoughtful way without ruining the story for those who just want a good escape read.  I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist, and I have already seen it in our high school library (but it won’t be there for long once I start talking it up).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but it will appeal to adult readers of YA as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You Might Also Like

  

Emma Wunsch’s The Movie Version proves that no one’s life is perfect

Standard
Emma Wunsch’s The Movie Version proves that no one’s life is perfect

So, here’s the thing – when your life crashes down around you, you don’t always do, feel, or think the right things.  That is the honesty this book has to offer.   If you are looking for a perfect protagonist, don’t bother.  If you are looking for a book that is realistic and relatable, this might be your book.  I gave The Movie Version four stars.


Goodreads Summary

A whip-smart, heart-wrenching debut YA novel about first love, first loss, and filmmaking that will delight fans of Jandy Nelson and Jennifer Niven

In the movie version of Amelia’s life, the roles have always been clear. Her older brother, Toby: definitely the Star. As popular with the stoners as he is with the cheerleaders, Toby is someone you’d pay ten bucks to watch sweep Battle of the Bands and build a “beach party” in the bathroom. As for Amelia? She’s Toby Anderson’s Younger Sister. She’s perfectly happy to watch Toby’s hijinks from the sidelines, when she’s not engrossed in one of her elaborately themed Netflix movie marathons.

But recently Toby’s been acting in a very non-movie-version way. He’s stopped hanging out with his horde of friends and started obsessively journaling and disappearing for days at a time. Amelia doesn’t know what’s happened to her awesome older brother, or who this strange actor is that’s taken his place. And there’s someone else pulling at her attention: a smart, cute new boyfriend who wants to know the real Amelia—not Toby’s Sidekick. Amelia feels adrift without her star, but to best help Toby—and herself—it might be time to cast a new role: Amelia Anderson, leading lady.

My Thoughts

Amelia, the narrator, experiences a bunch of life altering events all at the same time, and she doesn’t always come across looking good.  She is sometimes selfish, sometimes angry, sometimes willfully ignorant.  She is also loving, resilient, and open minded.  That doesn’t always make it easy to like her, but I think it does make it easy to feel like average and good human beings sometimes flub things up and they can bounce back.  That is the message of the story for me, and I think it is a message that many YA readers will respond to.  The beef some readers will have with that honesty is that it doesn’t portray the perfect and socially progressive response to mental illness.  However, that is the point – people aren’t living a movie version of life, and we certainly aren’t always camera ready.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t flinch in the face of adversity, but real YA’s need to know they aren’t alone when they find themselves in our imperfect reality with their own imperfect responses.  This book offers that perspective, and I think it is an important one.  That being said, I found Amelia frustratingly awkward at times, and her experience with first love isn’t going to be the romance you keep coming back for.  Again, it’s honest but not always pleasant.  I did like the way the author used flashbacks to reveal Amelia’s devotion to her brother, but sometimes I thought they were just distracting.  Overall, I liked the message, but I wasn’t as engaged by the presentation.  Language and some sexual situations make this most appropriate for more mature high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Life In A Fishbowl

Standard
Life In A Fishbowl

Len Vlahos’ Life In A Fishbowl is an unexpected find. The reality show horror angle drew me in, but the message kept me reading.  If you are up for a contemporary YA with some real, smart, thought-provoking social commentary, you should give this book a go.


Goodreads Summary

Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone is a prisoner in her own house. Everything she says and does 24/7 is being taped and broadcast to every television in America. Why? Because her dad is dying of a brain tumor and he has auctioned his life on eBay to the highest bidder: a ruthless TV reality show executive at ATN.

Gone is her mom’s attention and cooking and parent-teacher conferences. Gone is her sister’s trust ever since she’s been dazzled by the cameras and new-found infamy. Gone is her privacy. Gone is the whole family’s dignity as ATN twists their words and makes a public mockery of their lives on Life and Death. But most of all, Jackie fears that one day very soon her father will just be . . . gone. Armed only with her ingenuity and the power of the internet, Jackie is determined to end the show and reclaim all of their lives, even in death.

My Thoughts

Ultimately, this is such a satisfying book about the little guys (and gals, in this case) versus The MAN.  I am so glad I stuck with it. While I initially found the huge list of narrative perspectives annoying, and I wasn’t sure if I was okay with the humor or the Debbie Downer of a main character, I eventually found myself engrossed in the epic battle this story follows.  I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so I’ll just say that you have to trust the author on this one.  He deftly weaves all these perspectives into a master story that will leave you satisfied.  There will be tears, but there will also be fist pumps.  The social issues are pretty heavy – cancer, privacy and media, euthanasia – but they are countered by strong themes about love, friendship, and good people doing the right thing.  It won’t be the book for everyone, but it is certainly one I think many of my high school readers will enjoy.  Some mature language, but it is appropriate for grades 9+.  Adults readers of YA will appreciate it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When The Moon Was Ours – An Enchanting and Enigmatic Modern Fairytale

Standard
When The Moon Was Ours – An Enchanting and Enigmatic Modern Fairytale

Lush and vivid imagery make for a beautifully written, if somewhat enigmatic, modern fairytale.  Fresh character concepts blend with universal and timeless themes to make something that feels weighty and exotic, and yet, still welcoming.  In short, Anna-Marie McLemore spins a pretty and a pretty strange tale that I gave four stars.


Goodreads Summary

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

My Thoughts

The book is paced for a leisurely read – rife with descriptions of pumpkins and petals, well drawn emotions, and pauses where characters ponder how much self discovery they can handle.  Both Miel and Sam are carefully crafted characters that transcend the page, and I enjoyed their journey towards acceptance.  I loved their friendship – the kind that lasts despite  the ugliness of life.  At the same time, the magical realism did, as usual, leave me feeling like I was a step behind.  I never fully understood the mystical bond of the Bonner sisters, and that left me a little frustrated.  Don’t get me started on the glass pumpkins – that is a mystery beyond my comprehension.  However, if you are willing to embrace the tale and let go of some of your rational questions, this is enchanting.  Some language and sexual situations make this most appropriate for the 15+ crowd.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Other F Word

Standard
The Other F Word

Natasha Friend’s The Other F Word is a funny and honest look at the mess that is family.  I enjoyed it, even though it made me cry a teeny, tiny bit.  I gave this book a four star rating.

Goodreads Summary

A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the dual narrative perspectives – it was a smart and interesting way to give two viewpoints about the topic, and the fact that it gave a male and a female perspective made this a book that I would hand to readers of both genders.  The narrators are funny and embarrassed of their family and amazed by their family and pretty much feel like real teenagers.  The decisions the characters face bring up a lot of emotions, and the book does a good job at portraying them honestly and in a way that allows readers to connect with them even if this is nothing like their own situation.   I also appreciated the fact that it gave both of the main characters a journey that was meaningful.  This really is a book about family, and it does highlight the fact that family can mean a lot of things.  Themes of grief, independence, and belonging add a nice weight to the story. I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist and recommending it my my school librarian.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, but adult readers of YA can enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

Standard
Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

Enter Title Here – a book with enough buzz that I actually heard about the buzz.  In truth, it is a buzz-worthy read.  The main character, Reshma, is a real deal antihero – driven, calculating, and selfish.  The tiny evil part of your soul is going to recognize her as your kindred or, if you really are that nice, you will be appalled by her.  Real people, though, will probably feel both by turns.  This is such a unique read – I’ve never really seen anything like it – and that means you might not love it at first sight.  I wasn’t sure I loved it by the end.  I do have to say, though, that it is a stunning testament to the author’s creativity.  I gave it four stars.

image

Goodreads Summary

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

My Thoughts

However you feel about Reshma, her story is one you will keep reading because you can’t give up the hope that, eventually, she will have that epiphany that will turn her from a monster into a functioning human. Or for the moment when her conniving and manipulation finally pays off.  I’m not going to tell you whether you get those moments or not.  Half the fun is seeing exactly how far this crazy train will go, and I can assure you that Reshma is the most determined character I have ever encountered (so she gives the energizer bunny a run for its money).  I’m not going to tell you if she gets her just deserts or if hard work really does pay off in the end.  That, too, is one of the best knots to work through in this novel. I am going to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  Funny, unexpected, and unbelievably and horrifyingly honest – this is a book that digs into the dark heart of a girl with a goal and the venom and cynicism that won’t let her fall short.  I would say this is a book that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl because Reshma is the younger, Indian equivalent of Amazing Amy.  It will also appeal to anyone brimming with potential that others can’t see, folks who have ever been taken down by that ridiculous overachiever in your high school, and people who like to laugh – that should cover just about everyone.   Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This Raging Light 

Standard
This Raging Light 

This is a surprisingly hopeful look at a teen dealing with a profoundly upsetting situation.  Lucille’s dad lost his mind and her mother took off, leaving Lucille to deal with her younger sister, a quickly amassing pile of bills, and questions of the heart that could destroy the fragile support system that she depends on to keep going.

image

Amazon Summary

For fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell comes a gorgeous debut novel about family, friends, and first love. 

Lucille Bennett is pushed into adulthood after her mom decides to “take a break”…from parenting, from responsibility, from Lucille and her little sister, Wren. Left to cover for her absentee parents, Lucille thinks, “Wren and Lucille. Lucille and Wren. I will do whatever I have to. No one will pull us apart.”

Now is not the time for level-headed Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

 “A funny, poetic, big-hearted reminder that life can—and will—take us all by surprise.”

—Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

“Lucille may not take down a beast or assassinate any super bads, but she’s what heroines look like and love like in real life.”

—Justine Magazine

My Thoughts

I haven’t cried while reading a book for years, but this one got me.  Lucille is a great character, and anyone who has been asked to take on burdens too big for young shoulders will find her voice true to the situation.  She is willing to sacrifice so much of what it means to be a carefree teen if it means she and her sister can stay together, but she just wants one thing of her own, and that was spot on. Some of the other characters were a little less developed than Lucille, but I felt like that was part of the alienation her situation demanded of her, so it was really a virtue more than a fault.  The prose is smart and drifts to dreamy at times, and it is well paced to develop both the situation and the romantic relationship.  I can’t say I was completely satisfied by the ending, which left readers to make a few inferences of their own, but it was very compelling.  Themes about friendship and support add a nice depth to the story. I think this will be a book that many of my high school readers will enjoy, so I’m adding it to my classroom library.  I would probably recommend it to readers who enjoy realistic contemporary YA, especially YA that explores the hard hitting situations.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.