Archive for October, 2007

Bittersweet Sixteen by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  230

RAC Book:  Yes

Laura Finnegan is the daughter of two brilliant professors living in New York City.  Despite the fact that her parents are professors, Laura still has to go to her private school on scholarship.  Laura’s best friend, Whitney, is the most beautiful and wealthy girl in school.  Sometimes Laura envies how easy everything is for Whitney, but then realizes that if she had everything so easy she never would have begun designing and sewing her own clothes.

Everything gets thrown into disarray when Sophie, the daughter of a movie producer, comes to their school and Whitney becomes territorial.  Laura manages to play peacemaker and even convinces the two of them to share their sweet sixteen party since they have the same birthday, but eventually they get into a fight over a boy and all bets are off.  Laura eventually gets punished for refusing to take sides.

Karasyov and Kargman do a nice job of depicting the haves and have nots in Manhattan.  Although some of the eventual outcomes seem too easy or perfect, many readers will enjoy the ending.  The feelings of the main character are portrayed in a way that most readers will be able to identify and sympathize with her.  A fun read.

The Noah Confessions by Barbara Hall

Genre:  Mystery

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  215

RAC Book:  Yes

Lynnie Russo is disappointed when her father fails to give her a car for her 16th birthday like everyone else at her California private school gets.  She rebels by skipping school to go surfing and in response her father gives her a letter written by her mother when she was Lynnie’s age.  Her mother died when Lynnie was in elementary school in a car accident.  As Lynnie starts reading her mother’s story, she starts to realize why she has never met any of her parents’ family and why they ran away to California.  As Lynnie begins to piece together the terrible events from her mother’s childhood she begins to wonder how she can go on without changing her entire outlook on life.  Lynnie also begins dating a young man she meets at her mother’s cemetary.  He is not like the boys at her private school, but as time goes on she begins to think that maybe that is a good thing.

Lynnie’s story is a little slow at times, but many readers will want to know what big secret her mother is hiding.  Although parts of the story seem unclear or impossible, the author does a fair job of explaining it in the end.  This is not the most compelling mystery out there, but readers who like quick picks will enjoy it.


Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

Genre:  Romance, Realistic fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  250

RAC Book:  Yes 

Luke and Ella are working at the Disney World theme park as characters while the real characters are on strike.  Ella plays Cinderella and Luke plays Dale of Chip and Dale.  They feel a connection to each other, but Ella starts dating her Prince Charming (Mark) and Luke starts dating his Chip (Cassie).  They are each spending the summer after their high school graduation grappling with some issues.  Ella tragically lost an older brother around Christmas and her parents completely checked out and moved to another country leaving her to cope alone.  Luke has a built in career with his father’s business, but he’s not sure it is what he’s meant to do.

Ella and Luke seem to be able to ask deep emotional questions that they are coping with and only the other is able to respond.  As Cassie sees Luke and Ella’s connection growing, she becomes territorial and defensive.  Mark, on the other hand, is a true Prince Charming and does not want to hinder Ella’s happiness for his own.  The true story is about Luke and Ella coming to terms with their as yet undecided futures and deciding where to go once the strike inevitably ends.

Although this book has many Disney facts and references, this book is much more than people who work as Disney characters.  Ella and Luke grapple with death (through two different incidents), ambition, goals, healing, choices, and happiness.  The two help each other learn how to move on in a way they can manage without feeling forced or unhappy.  Many teenagers or adults who are making major life decisions and/or are dealing with personal tragedies will find this book interesting and insightful. 

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  291

RAC Book:  Yes

In this sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know we find out what happened when Sophie went to sit with Robin instead of her friends.  Instead of supporting her new relationship with the school outcast, her friends and everyone else choose to cast out Sophie as well.  Since this book is told from Robin’s perspective we find out just how difficult it is to be a social outcast.  His name is even used as an insult toward others.  Even though he tries to be cool with the teasing and cruel jokes, this story makes it very clear how much it hurts him not to fit in anywhere.

As Robin is a gifted art student he is invited to audit a Harvard art class and finds himself immersed in an environment where he is not treated as a freak, but instead as a person.  He finds these classes as an escape from daily life because as bad as it was being an outcast, it feels worse now that he has made Sophie one too.  Sophie refuses to give in, however, and insists that everything will be all right, but at times things at school get so bad that neither one of them seem to believe that.

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is an interesting story because we pick up with a new character telling the story.  We see the relationship through a boy’s eyes, which changes the perspective quite a bit.  Bullying is a strong theme in this book and while the students can be extremely cruel at times it never seems unrealistic.  High school students can be capable of anything if the circumstances align.  Students who enjoyed the first book will enjoy seeing how the relationship continues, but hopefully they will also take notice of how bullying effects those on the receiving end and not be so tolerant of what they see, hear, or actually do.

La Linea by Ann Jaramillo

Genre:  Multicultural literature

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  129

RAC Book:  Yes

Miguel lives in a small, poor town in Mexico with his grandmother and younger sister. His father and mother crossed the border into California years ago and have been struggling to get settled so that they could bring their other two children over.  On Miguel’s 15th birthday he is given a letter from his father saying it is time to come over.  On the day Miguel is set to leave, Elena, his sister, runs away because she can’t stand the idea of being left behind.  Her arrival messes up Miguel’s plans and they must create a new plan so that they can both cross the border together.

Many hardships await Miguel and Elena as they make their journey toward the border and there are many times when they feel like giving up.  Although the story is fast paced and told quickly, the idea of the length and hardship of the journey is brought across clearly to the reader.  Obviously, Mexican immigration is a big issue in today’s world and this story will help students to think about the issue from the side of the immigrants.  Reasons and motivations for coming to America are provided, as well as reasons why people want to stay in Mexico.

Summer Intern by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  184

RAC Book:  Yes

Kira has been chosen for an elite unpaid intership at Skirt Magazine in New York City.  Quickly she learns that hard work does not necessarily overcome money and influence.  Daphne, another intern, is also the boss’s daughter so even though she takes long lunches and fails to do much work she is expected to get the coveted intern’s position for the editor in chief.  Kira decides to throw herself into her work and compete for the prize.  At the same time, Kira finds she is attracted to Daphne’s boyfriend, a photographer who also works at the magazine.  Kira often wonders how one person can get everything just because she is rich and gorgeous.

This novel is similar to the Devil Wears Prada, but also puts its own spin on working in the fashion industry.  For example, Kira is acknowledged for her hard work, just not always in the way she would like.  The characters in this book are fun, interesting, and always hopeful for their uncertain futures.  Stereotypes, nepotism, friendship, and fashion are all themes in this book and anyone who loves fashion will enjoy this story.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Genre:  Romance, Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  15 and up

# of pages:  196

RAC Book:  Yes

Jane has had an obsession with Jane Austen or more specifically, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, for many years.  As she experienced one horrendous boyfriend after another in her life she began to dream of the perfect gentleman.  Her great Aunt saw this and in her will arranged for Jane to visit Pembrook Park, which is a place where people dress, talk, and live like they are in Jane Austen’s books.  Jane is unsure if this vacation was for her to get the fantasy out of her system or for her to embrace it.

Upon arriving at Pembrook Park Jane is fitted with clothes and taught the rules she is to follow during her stay.  As Jane interacts with other guests and actors playing parts she begins to have trouble deciding what is real and what is part of the fantasy.  She befriends a gardener as well as the difficult Mr. Nobley.  The idea is for all women to feel like they have lived the romance, which is why Jane struggles to choose which man she really likes as well as which one, if either, truly cares for her.

Austenland is a must read for fans of Jane Austen.  The story is unpredictable, but yet contains many Austen elements, which makes it a lot of fun for those of us who enjoy those types of stories.  Jane is not the only one who would love to live this fantasy and through this book we are all led through this time with a modern eye.  This book is for all those women who love Jane Austen, her stories, her romances, and most of all her men.