Archive for October, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

alongfor ride

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/ Romance

# of Pages:  383 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Like other Dessen books, Along for the Ride follows a teenage girl, Auden, who is trying to enjoy the summer before her freshman year in college.  Her entire life she has worked hard at academics and let everything else fall away.  Her parents are divorced and both authors and professors, so there has always been a lot of pressure to excel.  Auden’s older brother, Hollis, is more of a free spirit and has been backpacking through Europe for almost two years.  Meanwhile, Auden’s dad recently remarried and had a baby girl.  When life with her overbearing mother gets too difficult she decides to spend the summer with her dad and Heidi in their small beach town.  Heidi is having trouble adjusting to life with a newborn since Auden’s dad spends all of his time locked in his office working on his next book.  Auden meets a troubled young man who seems to open up to her when he won’t talk to anyone else about the horrific event in his past.  As Auden navigates her own life she learns a lot from those around her.

Dessen portrays in this story how easy it can be for anyone to pass judgment on another person while not taking responsibility for his or her own choices.  In the end, many of the characters learn that in order to truly be happy you have to try things that are scary, which can be anything from relationships to riding a bike, even if that means you might fail.  In other words, playing it safe does not make for a satisfying life without regrets.  Auden’s family has always judged anyone who does not consider academics to be the most important thing to be beneath them.  During this summer of enlightenment, Auden begins to see that each person should be able to make his or her personal decisions about how to live life to the fullest and those people should have the benefit of not being judged for those choices.  A page turner!

Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner

nobodysprincess

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mythology

# of Pages: 305

RAC Book: Yes

In this fictional account of the childhood of Helen of Troy, Helen grows up wanting to learn swordplay with her two older brothers and fighting with her twin sister, Clytemnestra. She is heir to the throne and in her sister’s eyes it seems like she gets away with everything. Helen does manage to get the same training her brothers have because their teacher believes her motives for wanting to defend herself are reasonable. When her sister is betrothed and asked to leave at the age of 14, Helen and her brothers accompany her so that she will feel safe. This begins a few crazy adventures for her and her brothers that include a boar hunt and visiting an oracle. The story is continued in Nobody’s Prize.

This retelling of Helen of Troy’s childhood puts a fun spin on a character that has been mainly known for starting the Trojan War. The author does a nice job of explaining why these characters worshiped the gods and why they had to provide valuable offerings in order to please them. Helen seems unaware of her beauty throughout a lot of this book, which makes her seem more driven to reach her goals in her own way. Her desire to hunt, use weapons, and even go on dangerous adventures endears her to readers. For those readers who like adventures and mythology this will be a winner.

Three Willows by Ann Brashares

cover-3-willows

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 12 and up

# of Pages: 318 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Ama, Jo, and Polly are three friends who met in 3rd grade and have drifted a bit over the last few years. In the summer before their freshman year of high school they each take a different journey. Ama reluctantly takes an opportunity to go on a wilderness adventure in which she can earn school credit.   In order to get credit, however, she has to survive to the end and rappel off of a mountain. Jo goes to her family’s summer home with her mother and gets a job at a restaurant. Polly decides to go to a modeling clinic. Ama has a difficult time adjusting to her wilderness adventure because she is weak, slow, and seems to get hurt a lot. She thinks about giving up and going home several times, but she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about her real feelings. Jo realizes that her parents’ marriage is in trouble and makes some bad choices over the summer in order to avoid dealing with it. Polly feels very lonely with no friends and a mother who spends all of her time in her workshop. She responds by putting herself on a strict diet. As the three struggle with their personal problems they all realize how important it is to keep your true friends close.

Those who were fans of the original sisterhood books will like this story. The writing style is the same and it is easy to care about these three girls and the struggles they have to deal with over this very important summer. The girls from the traveling pants series are mentioned briefly, but it is not a sequel to those books. Instead, it is a book about friendship with three new girls. These girls are a bit younger than the traveling pants girls, but they will find an audience who cares about them and wants to hear what happens to them after they start high school. The transition to high school is a time of many changes for young girls and that is illustrated beautifully in this story as each girl struggles with different challenges and finds inner strength she never knew she had. Brashares knows how to write very relatable and interesting teenage girls.

Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

persistance

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 212

RAC Book: Yes

Erin grew up believing she was mentally ill because from time to time she becomes an alter personality, a personality which is extremely violent. Over the years she has visited many hospitals and therapists and is taking multiple medications to try and help her condition. She is very surprised when two friends of hers reveal themselves to be shapeshifters and tell her that she is not Schizophrenic, but in fact many of the hallucinations she has are actual magical things that do exist in this world. The only question is how to convince Erin that she is not crazy and how to stop her alter personality from taking over her mind.

This is a complex fantasy story packed into a short amount of pages. The characters are interesting and multi-dimensional as they struggle to figure out the situation and correct it without causing any undue harm to anyone else involved. Although the characters are not entirely human, they are rational and compassionate when they need to be. Fantasy lovers will enjoy following Erin’s story as it is revealed. The ending is a bit abrupt, but definitely worth a read.

To Be Mona by Kelly Easton

mona

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 15 and up

# of Pages: 218

RAC Book: No

Sage Priestly wants to be just like the most popular girl in school, Mona. She wants to be her so bad that she highlights her hair, loses weight on a crash diet, and throws out all of her black clothes and starts wearing pastel colors. The problem is that her mother has undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and cannot be depended on to get a job, buy groceries, or do any motherly duties. Her best friend, Vern, lives next door and tries to take care of her, but does not like the new changes she has made. Despite his efforts to become more than friends, Sage does not want to date him. Worse yet, she decides to date the high school jock who forbids her to see Vern. As Sage tries to deal with her mother spiraling out of control, the abandonment issues of her father, and completely changing her life, she starts to wonder if she really wants to be Mona at all or if she is happy being Sage.

This story has a good message to share with young readers, but takes a slow path to get there. The book has a few characters who do not seem to ever fully develop and one character that uses some very derogatory language which may offend some young readers. The ending is a little abrupt and it is unclear how Sage’s life will continue from this point. Mona’s character is not at all what most readers will expect and is a nice surprise in an otherwise fairly predictable book.

Dirty Laundry by Daniel Ehrenhaft

dirty

Genre: Mystery/Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 229

RAC Book: yes

Carli is an actress who has just landed a role as a tough boarding school girl, which is a problem because she considers herself a “nerd.” Her agent sends her to The Winchester School, which is the boarding school where all the students who were rejected from other boarding schools go. They are called the “dirty laundry.”  Her agent’s son, FUN, is supposed to be Carli’s assistant and help her keep her undercover identity of Sheila Smith. On the first day of school a girl named Darcy goes missing and no one seems that worried about it. Carli and FUN decide to do some investigating on their own and start to worry about some of the people around them. Could some of their friends be possible kidnappers or even murderers? Or is someone setting others up to take the fall for their crimes?

This is a very lighthearted mystery in which there is a sinister plot going on, but it is very subtle and not always the focus of the story. The perspective changes from Carli to FUN throughout the story.  Both of them focus a lot on themselves and their own situations and observations of what is going on around them. Some students will feel it drags in the middle, but if they make it, will enjoy the ending. A fast and enjoyable, but fortgettable read.

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  240

RAC Book:  Yes

Lucy Peterson is an army corporal’s daughter and a great tennis player.  When she decides that she is tired of moving around and wants to have a more stable high school experience, she decides to apply for a scholarship to the exclusive Van Pelt Academy boarding school in Switzerland.  She quickly discovers that these are by far the wealthiest and most powerful teenagers in the world, some of them are even royalty.  The three most popular girls are called the Diamonds and immediately dislike Lucy, so she befriends a girl named Sofia.   Sofia is nice enough, but seems too worried about gossip and pulling mean pranks on the Diamonds and Lucy starts to wonder what her true motives are.  At the same time she works hard at her tennis and gets to know two powerful boys.  One is a powerful prince that seems nice, but distant.  The other wants her attention, but Lucy can’t get over the fact that so many people have warned her about him.  Which boy should she try to get to know better?  Can she trust Sofia or is she going to be an enemy?  Can she ever learn to get along with the Diamonds?

Readers who enjoyed Bittersweet Sixteen and Summer Intern will not be disappointed with this new book by the same authors.  Teen drama, gossip, and of course fashion labels are all mixed together to create an enjoyable light read.  The characters are all unpredictable and interesting to watch as they grow and develop.  The ending is a bit predictable, but that’s what readers who like this type of book will want.



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