Archive for April, 2008

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 433 p.

RAC Book: Yes

This story takes place in Manhattan in 1899. Although, it takes place a long time ago it is still relevant to many issues students deal with today such as dating, popularity, clothes, money, scandals, and friendship.

Elizabeth Holland is a very beautiful girl who comes from an elite family. Her and her sister, Diana, rule the social circles of the time. Elizabeth surprises herself by falling in love with the stable boy. She comes to terms with this, but must choose between being with him or saving her family from ruin. Diana finds herself attracted to Henry Schoonmaker, which causes a problem because he is engaged to someone very close to her. Plus, another major player in the social circuit, Penelope, has set her sights on Henry and will do anything to get him.

This story takes the reader inside the social circuits of 1899 Manhattan and does not disappoint with twists and scandals throughout the story. There were some aspects that seemed a bit predictable and superfluous, however. For example, there were some characters that did not seem to have a purpose. Also, the ending and what actually happens to the characters is left somewhat open ended and it is unrealistic that everything works out perfectly. There could still be a lot of deception and trickery brewing before these characters reach the end of their story.  Readers who enjoy Gossip Girl will be fans of this book.

The Moon Riders by Theresa Tomlinson

Genre: Historical fiction/Mythology

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 389 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Myrina has been training to join the Moon Riders, a group of young maidens who dance sacred dances and wield weapons to defend their neighbors, for thirteen years. Her grandmother, mother, and sister have all traveled with this legendary group. Prior to leaving, Myrina meets Cassandra who is a young princess of Troy. Cassandra is special and can see into the future. She sees that her brother Paris will one day help to bring Troy to death and destruction and this thought troubles her deeply. She runs away to join the Moon Riders in order to better prepare for this catastrophe.

Once the Moon Riders decide to take Cassandra and help train her in their ways they all become involved in the battle against Troy. While the Greeks are trying to battle Troy they pillage any nearby communities, which is why the Moon Riders feel compelled to step in and help defend the lands they have traveled for generations.

This interesting and exciting story follows the people around the famous battle of Troy. Students who have some knowledge of this battle and have even read the Iliad will get more out of this story than students who do not know anything about it. The story is well-written and moves at a quick pace. Recommended for students who enjoy mytholgoy.

Crackback by John Coy

Genre: Sports/Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 200

2008 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book: Yes

Miles Manning has been a starting football player since he was in junior high. His team begins the year with high aspirations of winning state, but those dreams quickly vanish when their two starting quarterbacks get hurt and their coach has to leave for radiation treatments. The new coach blames Miles for everything that goes wrong with the team and believes he thinks too much and should just react to situations.

As hard as life is at school, however, it is worse at home. Miles’s dad is like a ticking time bomb that they all tip toe around and try not to set off. He still manages to find things to be angry about and usually goes after Miles when he wants to yell at someone. He was a big football player himself, so whenver he can he tells Miles all the mistakes he is making and never compliments him on what he does well.

On top of everything else, the players who are doing well on the team have all started taking recreational drugs including steroids and want him to do the same. This story accurately depicts the many aspects of a teenager’s life and how pressure can come at a student from all sides at times. Despite the many people trying to pull Miles down he always does what he feels is right, even if he knows there will be consequences. He cannot allow others to think for him and instead chooses to always think for himself. Miles has to learn that there will be life after high school and in order to survive he needs to look ahead. Recommended, especially for sports readers.

Hot Lunch by Alex Bradley

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages: 276

RAC Book: Yes

Molly is a somewhat sullen teenager who makes it her mission in life to keep others as far away from her as possible. When she is paired up with a new girl on a school project she does her best to push the girl away until they each decide to do their own project. Since this was not the assignment they get poor grades and get into a big fight in the lunchroom. This leads to a punishment of serving lunches for two weeks. Unfortunately, they fail to improve their behavior and in a bizarre turn of events end up having to run the entire lunchroom until the students vote for five days in a row that their food is better than the previous lunch lady’s.

While there are several reasons why I believe something like this would never happen in a high school, it was a very funny concept. The two main characters, Molly and Cassie, represent a group of high school students who don’t feel they belong anywhere. Cassie uses this fact as incentive to try harder to fit in, while Molly decides to actually try not to fit in. Together they learn a lot about the groups that make up high school while at the same time learning about leadership, nutrition, cooking, and friendship. This incredibly funny book questions some of the processes that have remained unchanged in schools for so long when better options have come along. Students will enjoy the humor and might look at food and nutrition differently after reading this book.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 250 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Tyler struggles with both his home and school life. His father works for one of the most powerful men in the community and struggles to please him. The stress of his dad’s job transfers to a difficult home life for Tyler as his father often takes his frustrations out by yelling and him, his mother, and his sister. Although his dad never hits anyone, he is not afraid to yell and throw tantrums in order to get the respect from his family that he thinks he deserves.

At the same time, Tyler is still remembered for a vandalism prank he pulled the previous year. He is constantly picked on and ridiculed, but the most popular girl in school, who also happens to be his dad’s boss’s daughter, has decided to show some interest in him. When Tyler makes a difficult decision at a party to walk away from a bad situation, he ends up landing in even more trouble than he could have imagined.

This powerful story will resonate with readers in a similar way to Anderson’s popular Speak. This story asks many questions about high school life such as: Do the rich and powerful always win? Can someone be beaten into submission? Can someone survive abuse in all aspects of his or her life? Is it possible to stand up for yourself against all powerful forces? Students will find this story haunting but possible, which will leave them thinking about these questions long after they have finished reading.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 230

RAC Book: Yes

Junior is a young teen ready to begin high school on the reservation on which he and his family live. Junior was born with several health problems and had to have surgery on his brain at only six months old. Despite that he is incredibly smart, if not maybe a little skinny and dorky. His best friend is the town bully and he often protects Junior from getting beat up everyday. On the reservation there is a lot of alcoholism and poverty and he is always getting picked on by those around him.

After getting suspended by accidentally hitting a teacher with an old text book, he decides to commute the 22 miles to the next town in order to go to a better high school. He wants to go somewhere where the teachers are qualified and the text books are not the same ones his parents used when they were in school. By choosing to leave the reservation for school others on the reservation treat him like a traitor, especially his best friend who now hates him. When he gets to the new school he finds they completely ignore him, which is worse than getting picked on.

This humorous story follows a young boy who sees no opportunities around him and tries to go searching for some. He is courageous and tough as he tries to navigate these two worlds. His accounts of daily events are presented through his comics, which are very inciteful and funny. This story will amuse students while also shedding some light on racism and the true conditions of life on the reservation.

Undercover by Beth Kephart

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  278

RAC Book:  Yes

Elisa loves to write poems and chooses to use that talent to help boys get girls to like them.  She believes that she will always be invisible since she is not pretty or popular.  When she helps a boy named Theo try to woo a popular girl she begins to enjoy meeting with him to share poems and other thoughts.  When his new girlfriend finds out she gets jealous and vows to make Elisa’s life miserable. 

Elisa is not just invisible at school, however.  Her mother and older sister are beautiful blonds who concern themselves with their appearance and the latest fashions.  Elisa doesn’t mind this as much as you would think because she has such a strong connection to her father, the person who showed her how to view nature in a way that she could write poetry about it.  Her father has been out of town on business for a long time and it begins to cause friction between her parents.

The idea of Elisa being a Cyrano de Bergerac is interesting, but not played out enough.  She seems to do it out of sheer kindness even though everyone around her treats her terribly.  Her fascination with skating is interesting, but also rushed in the ending which makes it feel underdeveloped.  The entire ending seemed rushed and too open ended for the intended audience.  Students will have many questions about it when they are finished.  The pacing of this story is uneven and fails to resolve itself by the end.