Thursday, June 21, 2012


Bumped  by Megan McCafferty
In this up-tempo dystopian novel, teen pregnancies are not only normal, they are vital.

A virus renders everyone over the age of 18 infertile, making teen pregnancy essential for the survival of humanity. Humanity has responded to the crisis by dumping societal norms upside-down, and now pregnant teens and pre-teens are considered the apex of beauty and the center of importance.  Children and pre-adolescents play at "bumping", young girls wear "MyTurn Tees" and and Preggerz FunBumps (with real skinfeel and in-uterobic activity!), and 16-year-old twins Melody and Harmony have only two years remaining until obsolesence. 

Melody is a contracted pro-pregger, who has signed with an agent to produce a very expensive delivery that will pay for a top-notch college as well as her adoptive parents' debts.  Harmony, raised in a conservative Amish-esque community, has run away from her adoptive family to bring her newly-found twin into a state of grace with God.

Absolutely nothing goes as planned.

The twins trade the narration back-and-forth as the situation gets increasingly complicated.  Fun slang and the twist on cultural values almost mask important messages about teen sexuality, sibling rivalry, religious tolerance, and the difficulty of living a life different from the life that parents and society expect.

Lots of talk about sex and sexual situations, but nothing happens on the page. Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult. This book would be interesting to discuss and contrast to Libba Bray's Beauty Queens.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Half-Life of Planets

The Half-Life of Planets  by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

"I am not a slut," says Lianna in the opening line of this dual-narrator novel. 

Lianna doesn't ever go farther than kissing with boys, but she has kissed a lot of boys.  Does that make her promiscuous?  She isn't sure.  To answer the question, Lianna embarks on a self-imposed scientific inquiry: to see what changes in her life when she focuses her attention on her summer research project and refrains from kissing boys.  Then, she meets Hank.

Hank has never kissed a girl, but he would really like to try it--and when he meets Lianna, who doesn't seem freaked out by his atypical interest in (and continual babble about) music, he thinks that he would like to kiss her.  Hank, however, has a very typical Asperger's Syndrome inability to read social cues, and so he isn't sure if Lianna wants to kiss him.  Intellectually, he has learned the meanings of conversation gambits and body language, but the details remain mysterious to him.

The narrator perspective bounces between Lianna and Hank, giving readers insight into both characters...and an opportunity to laugh more than once at each of the interactions between them. 

This is a fun summer book for readers who enjoy snappy conversations and rock-and-roll trivia, with lots of humor and a tear or two.  No sex, no violence; a few kisses, minimal cussing, and references to off-page masturbation.  Recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hemlock  by Kathleen Peacock

Mackenzie (Mac) has always had three best friends: Amy and Jason are a couple and the richest kids in town.  Kyle rounds out the foursome, and while he and Mac are not a couple, they both have had thoughts in that direction.  Then Amy is killed by a werewolf.  Since her father is the state senator, he brings in a mercenary army to track and kill the werewolf- and find and trap any other werewolf-citizens. 

In fact, before his daughter was killed, the senator was of the opinion that werewolves could live safely among us.  Jason, however, is  totally devastated and joins the mercenaries, getting the first level tattoo and spouting the “party line” all the way.  Mac, despondent over her best friend, and fearful of the way Jason is acting, sets out to find the killer herself, finding many surprises in a town of many werewolves hiding now to save their lives. Amy keeps appearing to Mac to help her, first in her dreams, then while she is awake. 

Is no one telling the truth in the entire town?  With lots of plot twists and at least two sequels planned, we are in for more surprises.

Kissing, longing, some violence.  13 up.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

For the Win

For the Win  by Cory Doctorow
audiobook read by George Newbern
All over the world, kids play video games...for money.  

They don't make much money, of course.  Their bosses make most of the money, selling virtual treasure--magic swords, talking mushrooms, and virtual gold--to rich gamers who are too lazy to play the games and earn treasure for themselves.  Virtual economies are big business...which is why the mysterious woman called Big Sister Nor is determined to organize the sweatshop virtual workers of the world into a real-life union.
Doctorow has written about an uninteresting topic with such riveting action that I found myself deeply immersed in the tale.  Embedded in the story of the Webblies are mini-lectures about economics, politics, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), which somehow, miraculously, are fascinating rather than boring. 
The audiobook read by George Newbern was so captivating that I found myself volunteering to drive anywhere, preferably somewhere far away, so that I could spend more time in my truck with the characters in the book.
Highly recommended to readers who love gaming...and also to readers who don't love gaming but do love a good story.  Ages 12 to adult; off-page sex, some violence, some cussing (in several languages). 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jumping Off Swings

Jumping Off Swings  by Jo Knowles

Every time Ellie hooks up with a new guy, she's sure that there will be more to the encounter than sex, and that she will finally feel loved.  But the "one-time thing" with eager virgin Josh gets much more complicated when Ellie gets pregnant. 

The events of nine months after that fateful night in Josh's van are told by four narrators:  Ellie and Josh, plus their friends Corinne and Caleb, who live complicated lives of their own.  Their voices are mostly realistic, although the situations often seems straight out of an "afterschool special." 

With repetitive writing (I got tired of reading the word "empty") and mostly-predictable characters, this book is no classic, but readers looking for an emotional problem-novel with minimal cussing will find Jumping Off Swings engaging enough.

The "condom slipping off" situation that causes the pregnancy seems vaguely plausible.Sexual situations are described in flashback sentences, without graphic details, and childbirth is treated with similar distance: Ellie repeats the phrase "it hurts so much" frequently until she is sedated for the caesarean-section birth. Adult characters are flawed, but the reader understands that most of the parents really do love their teen offspring, even if they lack the ability to express their love openly.

On-page sexual situations, mild cussing, underage drinking and partying.  Readers 14 and up.