Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Stork by Wendy Delsol
16-year-old Katla did not want to leave her father and sunny, fashionable California behind when the divorce was finalized, but her mom gave her no choice and off they moved to Norse Falls, Minnesota. There, she becomes an outcast almost immediately because of an impulsive night with another girl's boyfriend...but there is some other reason that the town views Katla with suspicion.

Adding to the mystery is Katla's new and mysterious power: she is a Stork, one of the mysterious band of women who work to unite a "baby-to-be" with the correct "mother-to-be."

The novel combines a quirky, modern protagonist with "norse mythology lite"; the result is not a classic but is fun and fluffy enough to appeal to teens who want a book about unusual relationships with a bit of supernatural romance. No cussing, some kissing and some off-page sexual situations.

Recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Maddy and Rogan come from a line of Shakespearean actors. They are the children of brothers; Maddy's family consists of only daughters and Rogan's family has only sons. Both families live in the family compound, and the houses are close to each other. Much comment is made about the "kissing cousins", and Maddy and Rogan have always been inseperable.

When Rogan finds an intricate toy theatre locked away in a storage room, the room becomes a refuge where he and Maddy can have peace...and eventually, sex. Rogan pulls away from real life as Maddy begins to embrace us.

This is a tragic novel that never pulls the reader into the characters. Although the form will appeal to literature teachers, teens will shrug after completing this (fortunately) short novella.



Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Raeanne and Kaeleigh are the identical twin daughters of a Superior Court judge and his wife. When a horrible accident nearly kills the entire family, the wife runs for Congress, creating an absence for the family--both in their home and their hearts.

In her mother's absence, Kaeleigh becomes the object of her father's sexual attention. Raeanne begins abusing drugs and alcohol, and laments that her father doesn't love her because she gets none of his attention. Kaeleigh begins to cut and becomes bulimic. This is a pit so deep it seems impossible to find a way out.

This novel is so agonizing that readers are almost soothed by the fact that it is told in blank verse. Anything more would be too hard to read.

Because of the incest, the drugs, and the sheer horror of the novel, it is best placed in the hands of kids in grade 10 and up. (MJH)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I am Number Four (three are dead)

I Am Number Four (three are dead) by Pittacus Lore

If you are not familiar with all the hype surrounding this book, just google the title--it is a review in itself!

This is the first of four in the Lorien Legacies series written by an anonymous author (hence the aforementioned hype) already commissioned for a movie.

And it should be: it is fast-paced, bloody, gory, and not-at-all believable.

A group of nine children and their guardians from the planet Lorien are hiding on Earth to stay out of the reaches of the Mogadorians, who have already destroyed the planet Lorien and are now after the planet Earth. They are seeking the nine to kill them, but they must do it in order, hence the problem for Four when he realizes (via a band automatically burned into his ankle) the three are already dead.

Of course there is a girl, an alien-obsessed sidekick, and the town bully. We really want to believe that aliens are among us--this doesn't really help us do that, but it is a lot of fun.

Recommended for grade 7 and up.

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto by Eric Luper

While his girlfriend is breaking up with him, Seth notices his father at a close-by table, obviously having an affair with a Latina woman. Seth's summer seems to be spiraling downward, with the exception of his golf game, which remains exceptional.

While scheming to get back his girlfriend, he starts an anonymous podcast called The Love Manifesto to explain what love is--to himself and everyone else. The music listed as part of the sessions will appeal (for a few years) to many teens.

After landing a job at the golf club pro shop, Seth becomes obsessed with his father's mistress, finding out where she lives and meeting her.

Seth's hilarious friend Dimitri is obsessed with the one thing he can't have: a girl, any girl, and he provides the smutty dialog that Seth could never deliver.

Anyone can predict how things will go awry, and however predictable, we follow along laughing (mostly) all the way. Recommended for 8th grade and up. MJH

Girl Parts

Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Super-rich David and his friends are into the cyber-world--in fact, they watch, laughing, as a classmate commits suicide online.

David's parents decide to socialize their son through a perfect robot girl who will be a companion with built-in timing for appropriate levels and times for kissing, touching, etc. ...if you go too fast, you recieve an electric shock!

David receives Rose, falls for her, finds out that all these Japanese robots are not really anatomically correct, then loses her when she seems to develop a mind of her own.

Charlie, on the other hand, can't afford a robot but appropriates Rose after she leaves David. Because she is a robot, he feels he can talk to her--and after all, she is programmed to listen well. He can even find someone to make her a "real girl." The "relationship" can't last, however. The company will not allow their expensive robot to roam free--too late for David to realize that he really does care for Rose.

Fun and quirky, this book falls short of the mark on character development. The appeal will be to reluctant reader boys, and while the "robot with a heart" is appealing, the inventive idea just barely saves the book from being a shrug.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.

Jumpstart the World

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

16-year-old Elle's mom doesn't want her at home anymore--in fact, Elle's pretty sure that her mom doesn't want her at all anymore. So now Elle's got an apartment, an ugly cat, and new neighbors of her own, including the married-but-romantically-interesting Frank.

Only, Frank isn't what Elle imagined. Frank is a female-to-male transgendered person. When Elle learns the truth about Frank, she is angry with him...but more importantly, she questions the significance of her crush. Is Elle a lesbian? Or what?

This book is full of people with problems, and it is also full of compassion. Fortunately the characters shine beyond common labels, and even Elle's mom gets a tiny bit of redemption by the end.

No cussing or on-page sex; some underage drinking/drug use; some ice cream gluttony; lots of thought-provoking situations. Recommended for readers ages 16 to adult.