Archive for October, 2008

The Snows by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 225 p.

RAC Book: Yes

The Snows follows four generations of the Snow family who live in Jefferson, Iowa. The four sections of the book focus on when one of the Snows was sixteen and the turmoil that year brought to the entire family. The first section takes place in 1931 as the Snows struggle through the depression. The second section takes place in 1942 when Cathy Snow gets unexpectedly pregnant and her family has to deal with a teen pregnancy during a time of low tolerance. The third section follows Jill in 1969 during a time of rebellion and protest over the Vietnam War. Finally, the last section connects the previous three sections together when Mona goes home for a family funeral in 2006 and reunites with many family members whom she has not seen much in her sixteen years.

The Iowa backdrop for this story will appeal to any Iowans because there are mentions of specific towns and places that any Iowan will know. The first two sections seem the most compelling as they introduce the family and their dynamic. The section in 1969 reveals some strong language in the protest for the war. The protest is not explored in depth enough for those readers who do not know a lot about this time. The final section is used as a way to pull the four parts together. All in all a nice read, but may be difficult to sell to young adults.

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Endgame by Nancy Garden

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 15 and up

# of Pages: 287 p.

RAC Book: NO

Gray Wilton and his family have just moved to a new town partially due to his behavior in the previous town. The book is set up so that Gray recounts the events of the past year to his attorney, but the reader does not know why he needs an attorney for a while. Gray began the school year with a positive attitude. He wanted to have good grades and play drums in the band, but despite his best efforts he becomes the target of some ruthless bullies. If that’s not bad enough, he fights with his father a lot because he does not feel he can be honest with anyone regarding the bullies and therefore gets into other kinds of trouble on his own. As the year goes on, things get worse and worse until Gray feels he must take drastic and disturbing measures.

This book focuses on violence in schools. While some scenes in this book may be a tad dramatic, there are probably many students out there who live life with daily fear of getting made fun of or physically injured at school. Gray’s reluctance to seek help starts to seem difficult to understand as things continue to get worse for him. In the end, it is clear that he has no idea what he has really done and what it means for the rest of his life. This is a powerful story that contains no easy answers, but many questions for adults and teens to consider about this difficult topic.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 281 p.

RAC Book: Yes

In one of Sarah Dessen’s early books, Halley struggles through her junior year of high school. Things do not turn out as planned when her best friend, Scarlet, finds out she is pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. The boyfriend died unexpectedly in a motorcycle accident over the previous summer. At the same time, Halley begins dating a boy her mother disapproves of and they begin fighting constantly. Finally, her grandmother whom she is named after is dying.

Dessen’s work has come a long way in the last ten years. While there is nothing bad about this book, the characters fail to compel readers to continue turning pages like some of her more recent books like The Truth About Forever. Teen readers will still enjoy this one, but the lack of resolution at the end will bother some of them.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 422 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Ruby was abandoned by her mother just mere months before her eighteenth birthday. Despite her efforts to live alone, she is found out by her landlord and taken to social services. Soon she is living with her estranged older sister, Cora, in her huge house with her wealthy business minded husband. Ruby and Cora were close as children and so when Cora went off to college and never came back Ruby took it very hard. Soon she comes to find out that nothing was as simple as she thought it was. As she struggles to remain a loner in her new caring environment, she also struggles against becoming friends with the ambitious eager to please neighbor boy, Nate, who often gives her rides to school. She finds out that life isn’t just tough for the people who live in low rent housing, however, as she begins to get closer to Nate and catches a glimpse at his real life.

For fans of Sarah Dessen this book will not disappoint. Dessen has once again managed to create characters that are complex and interesting that readers want to know more about. In Cora’s opulent lifestyle it’s hard to imagine that anyone could be unhappy or unsatisfied in any way, but as Ruby begins to get to know the people who live in this world she sees that no one’s life is perfect. This book covers some serious issues such as abandonment, child abuse, infertility, alcoholism, and workaholics. A great read.

Tamar by Mal Peet

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 420 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Tamar is the spy name of a man who parachuted into occupied Holland during WWII for the Allies. He asks his son to name his daughter Tamar, but reveals very little about the time he spent as a spy. Years later his fifteen year old granddaughter, Tamar, finds a box full of information and clues left behind by her grandfather before he died. As she pieces together his mysterious past she is shocked to find out the truth about his actions during that difficult war time. She also begins to understand why her own father mysteriously left her when she was very young.

This Carnegie Medal winner uses different time periods to reveal this story. There are flashbacks to the war and what Tamar and his pal, Dart, are sent to do in Holland. It also shows Tamar’s granddaughter in present day trying to put the pieces together in order to discover who her grandfather truly was. The ending is a bit predictable, but interesting nonetheless. Students who like historical fiction may enjoy this, but it is a bit slow moving at times and takes longer than necessary to reach its conclusion.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages: 288 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Clay Jensen is shocked to find a box of 13 audio tapes in a package addressed to him on his doorstep one afternoon. The note says that the tapes are to go to 13 people and if someone fails to send them on to the next person on the list then another copy of the tapes will be released publicly. As Clay begins to listen to them he learns that they are spoken by Hannah Baker, a fellow high school student who recently committed suicide. Each tape discusses one of the reasons that led to her suicide and which people were involved. As Clay anxiously awaits to find out how he played a part in her suicide he can’t help but notice how terrible high school can be and how a bunch of little, seemingly insignificant, incidents can add up to a terrible high school existence for someone else.

This story is powerful and not for someone looking for a fast read. It reminds us all that sometimes when something is said or done to hurt another intentionally it can have lasting effects and can even lead to other major events in that person’s life. The theme of the story is that we are all responsible for our own actions.  Hannah never denies it was her choice to end her life.  However, there were many times where someone could have acted differently that may have changed that decision. Even though it is a fictional story, many students will identify with at least parts of Hannah’s high school career and may even know someone showing warning signs for suicide. A very good read with an important message that students will hopefully think about long after they are finished.

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber

Genre: Mystery

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages: 384 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Lena Dawson is a fingerprint analyst who is known for being very thorough and a bit of a loner. She is famous for cracking some difficult cases in the past and is therefore not surprised when a distraught mother approaches her about the unusual circumstances surrounding her infant son’s death. His case is one of several in the past few months that was ruled a SIDS death. Lena begins to get suspicious, but isn’t sure if she wants to delve into this complicated and difficult case. Many of her co-workers believe the only reason it is coming to light now is because the last victim’s family has connections to some major political officials. At the same time, Lena is dealing with a difficult marriage separation and the realization that she has been pushing people away for some time. This case stirs some uneasy feelings about her own past before she came to be adopted, but she feels she must solve the case in order to move past her own issues.

Mystery lovers will enjoy the story about the infant deaths because it continues to evolve and develop right up until the end. Lena’s own hidden past seems a little too contrived and unbelievable. Once she discovers the truth it seems unlikely that it would have been kept from her in the first place due to the fact that not knowing led her imagination to create unimaginable memories that she came to accept as real. The character of Lena and her co-workers seem flat and uninteresting at times. If the characters had been more interesting the story may have moved along more quickly. Mystery readers will enjoy, but will find it slow.