Thursday, May 20, 2010

Confessions of a Serial Kisser

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

Evangeline has just been keeping her head down since her parents separated. She didn't try out for the vollyball team, she refuses to talk to her dad at all (since the separation was his fault and she will never forgive him!); instead, she concentrates on doing her homework and trying to keep the condo tidy so her mom can relax a little. While sorting through the laundry, Evangeline discovers her mom's secret stash of bodice-ripper romance novels. Intrigued, Evangeline reads one of the books and decides that what she needs most is a fabulous, passionate kiss like the kisses between Delilah and Grayson in The Crimson Kiss.

Evangeline's search for the perfect kiss quickly gets out of hand, and soon she has a reputation as a "serial kisser." Will she ever find passion and happiness?

The pink cover art and chick-lit plot are misleading. This is actually a carefully-crafted, well-told story about a teen's search for identity and love. The unexpected ending was a delight.

Recommended for readers 12 to adult. No cussing or violence, and no sex...but plenty of kisses!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The most horrible day of the year in District Twelve is "Reaping Day", when two young people are randomly chosen to participate as Tributes in the brutal Hunger Games. When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen's younger sister is chosen, Katness doesn't hesitate: she volunteer's to take Prim's place in the game that will test her resourcefulness. In order to survive, she must win the game. In order to win, she will have to kill the other Tributes, even those who have become her friends and allies.

Katniss' unusual winning solution to the Games brings her fame in the Districts and in the Capital...but not everyone loves her. In book two, Catching Fire, President Snow wants to squash Katniss' popularity, and thus crush the uprisings inspired by her defiance. Only one thing could be more cruel than the ominous threats to family and friends: a return to the Hunger Games arena.

Carolyn McCormick reads both audiobooks with exactly the right pacing to keep listeners avidly tuned in. With themes of oppression and rebellion intricately woven with a tale of survival and abiding love, the quick-paced action sequences are interspersed with nail-biting suspense, and a cliff-hanger ending that left me howling for part 3 (scheduled for publication in August 2010).

Recommended for readers 12 to adult. A few kisses but no sex or cussing, and plenty of blood.


Skinned by Robin Wasserman

17-year-old Lia is rich, popular, pretty, athletic...and technically, dead.

Futuristic technology has allowed Lia's brain to be salvaged from the traffic accident that killed her body. With her memories downloaded into an indestructible mechanical body, Lia tries to re-enter her old life where she left off. However, society now treats her as non-human, her friends have moved on, her boyfriend is freaked out, and her family doesn't want her back. Only Auden, an outcast boy from Lia's old school, is willing to be her friend. But, is there any future to a relationship between an imperfect, easily-damaged "org" and an immortal "mech head?"

This thought-provoking novel is first in planned trilogy that explores the definition of humanity. It contains few wispy hints of frustrated sexual activity (nothing on-page) and no cussing. Drug use is part of this society's normal experience--Lia's exclusion from drug use activities gives her and the reader an interesting perspective.

Recommended for readers who enjoy dystopic and futuristic novels, ages 14 to adult.

Monday, May 10, 2010


by Shelby Hiatt

A 15-year-old unnamed narrator journeys from Dayton Ohio--leaving behind her neighbors Orville and Wilbur Wright--to Panama, where she witnesses the final years of the building of the Panama Canal. In Panama, she falls in love with an older man, a highly-educated member of the Sicilian nobility (who is also a political agitator), and, following an informative visit to the local brothel to ascertain the specifics of birth control available in Panama in 1910, proceeds to have an exotic affair while successfully hiding the relationship from her parents.


Yes, that's what I thought, too.

Although professional reviews of this book are on the "glowing" side and the writing is quite competent, I felt that the story lacks an audience among teens. It features too many coincidentally-witnessed historical events for lovers of historical fiction, and too much on-page sex to be comfortable in middle school (or even some high school) libraries.

Not a first selection, for public library purchase only.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

One Lonely Degree

One lonely degree
c.k. kelly martin

Finn is a ninth grader who is going through multiple serious problems with which she can find no help: her parents are getting a divorce, and she is trying to deal with date rape from the summer. Her friend from childhood, Jersy, moves back into town, and Finn is pleased that he and her best friend are dating. However Audrey’s parents are not pleased, and send Audrey to live with relatives. This leaves Jersy and Finn together, which is natural, but leads to more, creating even more guilt in Finn’s life.

The story is told in flashbacks and in current times, although we are never quite sure when that has changed. As with other Martin novels, the action revolves around a single character, who shows no change from the beginning to the end. It is also difficult to decide who this woman is writing for. Because of the sex and drug use, this should be in high school, although high school teens are more demanding; in addition Finn is only a freshman. The teens who would be interested are in 8th grade. The date rape scene would be difficult for that age.

Not recommended.

After the Moment

After the moment
by Garrett Freymann-Weyr

The story of two 15 year olds in love really begins when they are 21 and have a chance meeting at a dinner party. It is then told in flashbacks, although it will suddenly move into the present while it takes the reader some time to catch up.

Leigh has lived with his mother in a tiny apartment. He has always been a good student, a good son, a great girlfriend, and loves his step-sister, a child from his father’s second marriage. When her father dies, Leigh goes to help her because the family is aware that their father is emotionally withdrawn. There he meets Maia, an anorexic who also is a self-mutilator. And falls in love. As his mother’s boyfriend says, “That’s a beautiful girl screaming trouble. I doubt that there’s a man alive who can resist that at seventeen?”

Leigh, more than anyone we have met, wants to help. For a time, it works well and Maia recovers, but ultimately it does not turn out well. Leigh needs to break up with his girlfriend, and while he is away, Maia goes out with a former boyfriend, gets drunk, is raped, and videotaped. When Leigh eventually finds out who taped the rape, beats the guy senseless and beyond. This complicated plot is hampered by the fact that Maia’s reaction to Leigh’s being gone one weekend is totally out of character. We ultimately do not feel much for Maia. Sure, we feel bad about her problems, but ultimately she is not a strong character. Leigh is the character we care about, who can’t seem to see beyond himself, not matter how he tries to help the people around him, but as the story slogs along at times, I question just who the audience is. This seems to be a more adult-oriented story.

Throughout the story too, runs a theme about Iraq where Leigh questions the concept of violence. This sets the story, but does not add to the story.

Recommended for high school to adult readers

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


by Cynthia Smith

What we wanted was a sequel to Tantalize.

What we get is a companion novel- same quirky world of strange beings. This addition shows us Miranda, who wants to be a star. She is watched over by her guardian angel, Zachary, who has fallen in love with her and tries to prevent her death. That’s a real no-no in the angel world and not only does Miranda die anyway, she rises as the daughter of a vampire. Never fear, she meets Zachary again, and he is really intent on saving her soul now!

Not the romance we wanted, and not as much fun as Tantalize, but still a good ending. If you can conquer the first page, then anyone 8th grade and up would not have a problem with this one!

This is Mary Jo's review of Eternal.
To read Aarene's review of the same book, click HERE

Flash Burnout

Flash Burnout
by L.K. Maidigan

15 year old Blake wants to be a photographer, his specialty being gritty photos. In fact, he takes a picture of a homeless woman passed out in an alley. While showing it in class, his classmate and friend Marissa reacts with recognition: this is her addict mother, and the photo spurs the friendship to a new level, which creates an obvious conflict with his girlfriend. When Marissa’s mother is later believed to be dead, the two find the common connection of sex as a result of dealing with death.

Unfortunately there are other circumstances and events that lead Blake to understand the unintended consequences of his actions.

Blake’s parents are wonderful and real and funny- his dad works as a coroner- rife for jokes. Blake also wants to be a comedian and is constantly trying his one-liners on everyone, often getting a laugh from readers as well.

A best read for this year!

Recommended for readers in high school to adult due to mature themes and sexual content.

Twenty Boy Summer

20 Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler

Anna and Matt and Matt’s sister Frankie have been best friends forever. When Matt and Anna share a kiss, they agree that they have a love interest but agree to wait and tell Frankie. Before Matt can do this, he is killed in a car accident.

Frankie and Anna are still best friends, but Anna cannot reveal her relationship with Matt except to her journal, even when Frankie wants to have a summer of “a boy a day” in California.

Anna is full of questions:
Where does Matt now fit in her life? How can she now tell Frankie? What does she do about the boy she met that she really likes? When does she give up her virginity, which Frankie tells her it is easy, and time, to do?

Both of them have secrets.
But the biggest question of all is: How can your best friend really help?

Recommended for readers in 7th grade and up.