Archive for September, 2008

Prom Nights From Hell by Meg Cabot and others

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Reading Level: Ages 14 and up

# of Pages: 304 p.

RAC Book: Yes

This book contains all fantasy short stories written about prom nights. The authors who contributed stories are all ones young adult readers should know from their other books. These authors include Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Stephenie Meyer, and Lauren Myracle. The stories focus on prom night in different ways, but put a new spin on it by including various other fantasy elements such as the grim reaper, dark magic, and vampires. One of the stories, “The Corsage,” is a retelling of the famous story “The Monkey’s Paw” which may or may not be interesting to students who are familiar with this story. As someone who does know the story, it seemed a bit predictable and uninteresting. The other stories had many original elements and should intrigue any readers who are fans of the Twilight series or Wicked Lovely. Readers looking for fluff stories on prom night will be disappointed, however. Fantasy readers will like it, but will want more from these characters.

The Fake Boyfriend by Kate Brian

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 12 and up

# of pages: 262 p.

RAC book: Yes

Lane and Vivi feel that their other best friend, Isabelle, allows her loser boyfriend to walk all over her. When he cheats on her in a very public place they decide to act before she decides to take him back again. They start chatting with her online as a fake boyfriend. They set up the profile online and encourage Lane’s brother to chat with her so that it sounds like a boy. As you can imagine, craziness breaks out when Isabelle decides she wants to ask her mystery man to prom. Lane and Vivi have to scramble to find someone who can play their made up man.  Who they end up finding only causes more problems.

While this story has many predictable factors, there is also something sweet about the lengths these two girls will go to in order to protect their friend from someone they think intentionally hurts and uses her. The ending is a bit more complicated than expected based on the simplicity of the story thus far and packs a few unexpected twists. Girls who enjoy reading Meg Cabot books will be a fan of this one as well. The characters are well-developed and the ending is impossibly happy. Readers who like a little edge in their stories should avoid this one.

Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

Genre: Shakespeare retelling

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 281 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Lady Mary is living with Lord and Lady Macbeth until the war ends and she can officially marry her betrothed. Life is pretty good for Mary as she has money and land attached to her name, but things change dramatically when the king finds her father was actually fighting against him and is therefore executed as a traitor. Suddenly she has lost everything she ever had. Things only get worse when someone murders the current king and suddenly Mary is at the mercy of the very people who used to be her guardians: the Macbeths.

Enter Three Witches is a retelling of Shakespeare’s MacBeth in which a plot between a husband and wife to get everything they want starts to unravel once they have what they desired. In this story there are characters from all stations in life from the scullery maid to the nobles. There are many characters who find they have been deceived by someone they have trusted. Many also lose or gain status in mere moments as traitors are sought out and persecuted. This complicated tale of suspense, romance, revenge, and deceit remind all of us how complex and interesting Shakespeare’s stories were. This retelling also makes Shakespeare a bit more appealing to younger readers.

Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico by Malin Alegria

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Multicultural

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 276 p.

RAC Book: yes

Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, but moved with her parents to the U.S. when she was three. She can’t speak Spanish and knows very little about Mexican culture. Her parents are okay that she is “American” because they came to the U.S. to get her better opportunities. Despite the fact that her parents denied her permission to go to a party in Tijuana, Sofi decides to go anyway because she wants to hang out with a boy. Things do not go as planned and on the way back into California Sofi is told her green card is fake and she must stay in Mexico.

Luckily, Sofi has an aunt nearby, but she finds life in Mexico very difficult and different from what she’s used to. There is limited electricity and running water, little access to phone and internet, and bugs everywhere. As Sofi begins to realize how serious her situation is she is forced to learn more about her Mexican heritage and family.

This story touches on many timely issues such as citizenship and illegal immigrants. Sofi behaved as a typical American teen in many ways, but was shocked to see the poverty in Mexico and realized how much she takes for granted. Sofi’s story forces the reader to think about what it would be like to be in the situation many Mexicans face, which is the choice between poverty and ill-education or trying to make it in a country that does not want you. This story was entertaining as well as informative about this topic, despite the fact that Sofi often gets very lucky at getting out of tough or even dangerous situations, and many readers will come to care about Sofi and her family. A good read.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 263 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Jane and Allison have been best friends for many years. Jane is the brainy girl who will say and do what she wants, even if that means she is not very popular. Allison, on the other hand, wants to be popular so bad it is painful to watch. After a particularly embarassing day, Jane is surprised to find Allison transformed into a trendy, articulate beauty. When she tries to find out the cause of Allison’s newfound confidence she is met with resistance. Jane soon meets a young man named Owen who claims he can explain what has happened to Allison. Jane finds his explanation hard to believe, but eventually realizes that it is the only explanation. The only question is why would Allison sell her soul to the devil? And more importantly, can Jane save her?

This unique story is engaging from the very beginning. Allison is so desperate to fit in that you can’t help but root for her, but when it becomes clear that she has indeed made a deal with the devil the story begins to get more complicated. The resolution seems rushed, under explained, and confusing. Since the beginning was so interesting and descriptive, it was a disappointment to have such a meager climax.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Fantasy

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages:

RAC Book: Yes

In this final installment of the Twilight series, Bella ventures down some very grown up paths compared to her previous high school life. Now that she is graduated and preparing to marry Edward she has to deal with any possible repercussions from the werewolves as the treaty between the werewolves and the vampires will be broken. She also must deal with the possibility that she will never see her family again. Despite these worries, Bella marries Edward and feels happy about her decision. On their honeymoon getaway an unexpected twist shakes their relationship to the core and Bella must make a tough decision about her own survival. In the end, her decision puts both her family and her new in-laws in danger as an imminent threat plans to destroy them all.

This series has such a strong fan base that it is impressive how Meyer managed to create an intricate and detailed final book to this saga. Although most pieces ended up fitting together nicely in the end, many readers will be unable to predict some of the unexpected plot twists and what they will eventually mean to the final story. Fans will feel okay about leaving the characters after this story because it thoroughly sets up what will happen to them after this point. There are no unanswered questions and even the most complicated obstacles are discussed. Considering how many things were left up in the air going into this book, it is amazing how Meyer managed to evolve the characters to deal with all of these issues in a way that didn’t seem too contrived or easy. A very strong and unique fantasy story that will be around for years to come.

Peak by Roland Smith

Genre: Sports Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 246 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Peak was named Peak due to his parents’ love of mountain climbing. They have long since separated and he almost never sees his father, who leads expeditions up Mt. Everest. Peak loves to climb, however, and gets the idea to climb skyscrapers in New York since there are no mountains. After several successful attempts he is caught and there is a media frenzy. He faces several charges and is looking at three years in jail when his father unexpectedly arrives and offers to take him away and pay a huge fine. The judge likes the idea of Peak being out of sight and agrees. Peak’s father has other intentions for him, however, and Peak soon learns that if he goes along with his father’s plan he will not only help his mountain climbing business, but have one of the most difficult and exhilarating times of his life.

This story has everything sports fiction fans love. It has drama, suspense, action, interesting details, and well-developed characters. Mountain climbing is not a subject often tackled by young adult writers, which makes this story that much more interesting. The details are specific and help anyone regardless of experience in this sport learn what it takes to climb high and difficult mountains. Peak’s motivations and desires also help the reader to understand why he feels he needs to climb all the time. Recommended for sports fiction readers, but all will enjoy.

The Fighter by Jean-Jacques Greif

Genre: Historical fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 211 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Moshe is a Jewish boy living in Poland with his family in 1918 when the story begins. He has very weak legs and even when they grow strong enough to stand they are crooked. Due to the brutal bullying endured by Jewish boys during this time he must learn how to fight in order to defend himself since he cannot run away. When his family relocates to Paris and circumstances begin to get better for them he begins boxing in matches for fun. He marries and has a child, but then Germany invades France and he is sent to a concentration camp. He must use his skills as a fighter in order to survive.

This Holocaust story has the unusual twist that the main character is a boxer and because of that survives many difficult situations. It is based on a real man’s story that the author met, but some of the specific conversations are fictionalized. Life in the concentration camp is described from many aspects as Moshe moves through many jobs and sees a lot of what is going on. There are many graphic and violent incidents in the camp, so students reading this should have a basic understanding of the Holocaust before reading it. It is a translated story so it doesn’t flow as well as some stories, but it is still easy to understand and accurately depicts the story this author felt needed to be told. A good Holocaust story.