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Friday, September 21, 2012
John Green’s Paper Towns imagines a unique high school queen bee named Margo Roth Spiegelman and the mystery of finding her. Quentin Jacobsen narrates the story, beginning with a childhood memory of finding a dead body in the neighborhood park with Margo. While Quentin and Margo grew apart over the years, he holds a flame for her and she holds the high school’s ruling class back from bullying Quentin too much.
That’s how things are until Margo appears in Quentin’s room covered head to toe in black and makes him her accomplice in a night of adventure and revenge. Then she disappears. But she left clues, and Quentin tries following them to find her. As he searches for her location, he learns things about her that lead him to consider whether he really know her. Who was she? Does she want to be found?
Like all John Green books, Paper Towns reads easy. It’s hard to put down and over before you know it. There’s a cast of characters you wish you knew in real life, like Quentin’s Wikipedia-editing obsessed band geek friend, Radar. And there’s the question for you to mull over, about whether you can ever really know someone—that’s the one thing that keeps it from being a light read, but it’s nevertheless a fun read and recommended for any teen readers.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Every so often, I'll try a manga. As the young adult librarian, I feel like that's something I should do. I'll hear from teen patrons that they love a title more than life itself and give it a try. Then, often, I'll miss whatever it was that made the manga so great--it's okay, I'm at a different place in life than the teens I work with, but I'd prefer to relate to them through shared love of a story.
That's why I'm hoping they'll enjoy Bunny Drop. It's a series we recently began collecting by Yumi Unita about a young professional named Daikichi who impulsively takes custody of his recently deceased grandfather's lovechild, Rin. Daikichi is single and inexperienced at parenting, not to mention the responsibilities of adulthood. Still, he manages to care for her and it's fun to watch their relationship evolve. The story's touching and funny, though occasionally marred by clumsy translation. It's compelling enough that I powered through those instances to see what happens next. Does Daikichi learn to care for a child? Does he put her above his career? Will he ever find out who her mother is? Will his family accept Rin? Can Rin learn to open up to others?
Really, this manga isn't just for teens. The concept is similar to About a Boy, except Daikichi isn't rich and he's actually related to Rin. If you enjoyed the sweetness and humor of that book/movie, and you don't mind reading a comic book from back to front, give Bunny Drop a whirl.
Monday, September 17, 2012
Ready Player One takes place in a stark, near future where people hide from their dark reality in the OASIS, a virtual world created by James Halliday. As the story takes off lifelong gamer and game creator Halliday has just died and left behind one last game for the ages. I his last will and testament he has bequeathed his entire estate, including control of the OASIS to the first person who can complete his quest in the OASIS.
Our protagonist Wade sees the winning the contest as his only chance to make something of himself and spends nearly every waking moment working on Halliday’s puzzles. Standing in his way is Innovative Online Industries who have created in entire division in their multi-national company to ensure they win the prize and gain control of the OASIS, and they don’t believe in playing fair.
The book is fast paced and littered with reference to the eighties (because Halliday was a 80s fanatic). If you grew up in the eighties you will likely find these references and debate about them a lot of fun. Most of the story takes place in virtual space but the story does spill over into the real world and is pretty dark, as in most stories; good triumphs in the end. I found it a fun read if a little rough around the edges. If good story telling is more important to you than mechanics, this book is for you.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Budo is six years old, but he looks like an adult. To the people who can see him, that is--he is an imaginary friend, visible only to his human imaginer Max and to other imaginary friends. Imaginary friends are born from people's, pimarily chilrden's, minds and come out looking like pretty much anything--a fully formed person like Budo, a spot on a wall, a robot, whatever. One day, they're imagined and exist, knowing what their humans think they know.
Max is different from other third-graders. He doesn't interact well with others, doesn't like to be hugged or touched, and has serious difficulties in dealing with the smallest changes to his daily routine. He also imagined Budo to look like a normal adult who can pass through doors, and brings his imaginary friend to school with him every day. He has special sessions outside of class with other different students and Mrs. Patterson.
Max begins keeping secrets from Budo relating to Mrs. Patterson, and while Max enjoys having his first secret, Budo knows there's something wrong about this. Then Mrs. Patterson crosses the line, and Budo is the only person able to save Max. Except, of course, he can't talk to anyone other than Max and other imaginary friends, so how can he save his human friend?
I enjoyed the imaginativeness of the story, but when that novelty started to wear off I was compelled by the suspense of Max's situation. I did not like feeling like certain characters should have come to certain solutions sooner, but as I was already suspending disbelief in reading a story told by an imaginary friend, I fought through it. This whimsy isn't for everyone, but if the concept piques your interest, you'll likely read Matthew Dicks's Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend from cover to cover, too.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Loved this book! A BBC British comedy in print. The main character is drawn to perfection; Constance Harding is a totally clueless but well meaning, well-bred, English lady. Her home is "a comfortable five-bedroom Georgian house located on the outskirts of a pleasant village in Surrey." She defines herself as wife to Jeffrey, mother to Rupert (a 25 year old IT consultant) and Sophie (a slightly directionless adolescent); she dotes on her Eclectus parrot Darcy. This book is a year in her life, told through her blog entries. Rupert thought she might want to tell the World Wide Web all about it, rather than him -- "He is such a thoughtful boy." -- so she does. Enter a Lithuanian housekeeper, a troupe of bell ringers, a handsome Argentinean gaucho, and Ivan the Terrible. What a year for Constance! There are a couple of British terms I had to look up, but this emerges as a very entertaining, if a bit messy, story of friendship, family, and love.
An Intimate Biography (2009)
Monday, September 10, 2012
When informed that George Gershwin had died, the novelist John O’Hara wrote, “I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.” Gershwin was only 38 at the time of his death, and had been widely seen as the future of American music. Composing since he was a teenager, Gershwin had created symphonic works such as “Rhapsody in Blue,” the majestic opera “Porgy and Bess,” and a series of hit Broadway and Hollywood scores that included such enduring songs as “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “S’Wonderful,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Gershwin packed an enormous amount into a short life, which is well told in this brief biography.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
When Cameron is diagnosed with Mad Cow disease his life changes drastically. No longer is he the social pariah shunned by his twin sister, nor is he an embarrassment to his parents. The school he hates puts on a pep rally especially for him that he gets to watch on his living room television, just before he passes out and is taken to the hospital.
I’ve skipped over a few points, like how Cameron’s been terrorized by giant beings made of fire and stalked by a punk-rock angel. Dulcie, the angel, catches up with him in the hospital and explains that he is needed to fight the fire giants by locating one Dr. X, who also happens to be the only person who can cure him.
But he can't go alone. He must convince his hospital roommate and fellow student Gonzo to go with him. Gonzo is a hypochondriac be-afro'd dwarf who inevitably joins Cameron on his travels to New Orleans and on into Florida. Along the way, they meet a jazz trumpet legend, a group of scientists trying to break into parallel universes, a happiness cult, a garden gnome statue who claims to be the Norse god Baldur who's been trapped in statue form by Loki, and others. All the while, they are pursued by the authorities, the fire giants, and a snow globe manufacturer’s division of bounty hunters.
Libba Bray writes a hilarious story and does so with some serious talent. It's fantastic to see some of the repeated images in the adventure, understand their connection to Cameron, and know what's really happening to him. I truly appreciate her decision not to trick the reader or take an easy way out—you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean here, as I’m verging on giving too much away as it is.
I think most teens and many adults would enjoy this story--I certainly know teens who will laugh at the random caroming of the plot and sometimes bizarre humor of this story. Drug and alcohol use, plus some profanity, may lead gentler readers to abandon the story, but others are likely to find it as much fun to read as I did.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Kommandant's Girl is the story of what an ordinary person will do in impossible circumstances. Nineteen-year-old Emma has been married three weeks then the Nazis invade Poland. Her young husband leaves her alone to go underground with the resistance, and when she returns to her parents' home in the Jewish ghetto she is imprisoned there with the rest of the city's Jews. Late one night she is smuggled out and taken to her husband's Catholic cousin. In order to remain safe, she must assume a gentile identity, the single girl Anna.
Emma/Anna's situation becomes even more complicated and dangerous when she is introduced to high-ranking Nazi officer Kommandant Georg Richwalder. He insists she work for him, and to refuse would be to raise questions she can't afford to answer. The situation provides Anna with the opportunity to spy for the resistance, but does she dare? Things become even riskier as the Kommandant's romantic feelings for Anna become clear. What will she do in order to be safe and protect those whom she loves? The Kommandant's Girl is a compelling story that is ultimately about what a normal person is willing to do in extraordinary circumstances.
(2001 - 2012)
Monday, September 3, 2012
This summer the latest and most-likely last (hopefully not!) installment of the Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen), was released. The 8 books follow Artemis’ adventures with the Fairy world: dwarves, trolls, goblins, centaurs, pixies, and more; they all live under the earth’s surface but pop up every now and then. Artemis is a young, criminal mastermind, determined to steal Fairy gold to fund the search for his missing father and to refill the family fortune’s rapidly emptying coffers. He comes face to face with elf Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon unit and hilarity ensues. I particularly love Butler, Artemis’ bodyguard and best friend; Foaly, the centaur; Mulch Diggums, the dwarf… Really, they are all fantastic. I highly recommend listening to the books on audiobook (I technically haven’t read a single book in the series). However, if you do listen there is an edition of the sixth book that, if you get it, will bring an unwelcome shock: there is a different reader and, by this time, the characters are supposed to sound a particular way (be sure to get this one)! The standard reader, Nathaniel Parker, does an excellent job and provides the perfect -- and necessary -- Irish accent.
Audio/books in the Artemis Fowl series are available both in the Children’s and Teen sections, but, of course, I recommend them also for adults who like Fantasy and love to laugh at extraordinarily likeable characters (even the bad-guys are likeable). I also highly recommend two of Colfer’s books outside the Artemis Fowl series: Airman and Half-Moon Investigations – again, perfect for listening. (My husband for some reason didn’t really like Half-Moon, but my sister and I both laughed and laughed!) Each of these also have a great audiobook reader. In my opinion, you should stay away from Plugged, Colfer’s ‘adult’ book. I hated it and stopped listening after the second disc; the characters were all highly unsavory, unlikeable, and the storyline was not at all compelling.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I liked Meg Rosoff's There is No Dog. It's a funny, somewhat scattered, odd little story that I wasn't expecting. I think when you read the blurb on a book that tells you God is a stereotypical teen boy, you get some expectations--like seeing a preview for a Will Farrel movie. I expected much more zaniness than this story brought, and I appreciate that the humor was more understated.
Rosoff takes the idea that God is a perma-teen named Bob seriously. He Gods the planet earth with the assistance of an older gentleman, Mr. B, who feels he was robbed of the promotion to rule the planet himself. He can't stand Bob's mood swings and laziness, not to mention Bob's tendency to fall for mortals on a whim. Mortals like Lily, who pray for love and are heard by Bob, who then attempts to fulfill their prayers himself to fight off his loneliness and boredom.
Lily works in a zoo on earth with a grumpy boss named Luke, and they're doing their best to help the zoo cope with the crazy weather--flooding and hail in the British summer--which is caused by Bob's mood. Mr. B has been after Bob to fix the off weather, but Bob will do it later.
How did such a layabout get to be the God of his own planet? He got his job as a result of his mother's winning a game of poker. She won the God of Earth job and handed it to her son. At a later game of poker, she bets and loses Bob's pet Eck, a betrunked penguinish creature he'd created long ago, of which Eck is the lone remaining example. She loses it to a God who plans to eat it, but his goddess daughter doesn't want him to. This is troublesome, because he's afraid of looking like a weenie if he caves in and doesn't eat the thing.
One final thread brings in Lily's mom, who hassles Lily to date and find a suitable mate. She gets to meet Bob when he's courting Lily, and is somewhat put off by him. She talks with Lily's god-father, the local pastor she'd once held a flame for, while they care for flood refugees in the church, and they conspire to confront Lily about her bizarre boyfriend. But can they prevent a mortal girl from falling in love with God?
Rosoff's humor-writing chops are strong--there are some very funny moments in this story. The danger is that the premise is so absurd that she has to work to bring the hilarity up to match it. I think she does well, but humor is a matter of taste--mine is undoubtedly different than yours. I would definitely read Rosoff's next humorous story--she's not bad at writing them.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Two strong young women are traveling through the dangerous Wild West of the late 1800s. Jett came from a wealthy New Orleans family, whose wealth and home were destroyed during the Civil War, so she hates Yankees. She doesn’t believe her twin brother Philip is dead, and is traveling the West by horseback to find him. In order to be safe she dresses like a male gunslinger, and earns her way by gambling, though she longs to return to her old life.
Honoria Verity Providentia Gibbons is a genius, raised by a father who never seemed to notice she was a girl. She believes everything can be explained by science, and travels in an Auto-Tachypode (steam-powered horseless carriage with powerful defenses) to research mysterious disappearances in the area. White Fox, an Army Scout who was raised by Indians after his family’s wagon train was attacked, is on his way to discover what happened in the small town of Glory Rest when he comes across her camp.
Jett is caught in a zombie attack on the small town of Alsop and barely escapes with her life. Riding quickly through the night she stumbles into their camp. Though Gibbons and White Fox don’t believe her story of zombies decimating the town, they decide to go with her the next day to discover the truth.
Where are the zombies coming from, and why?
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