Archive for January, 2009

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  136 p.

RAC:  Yes

Miles recently moved to live with his musician father in New Orleans and is still trying to get used to his new city when Hurricane Katrina unexpectedly changes his life forever.  Miles, his father, and his uncle all end up in the overcrowded Superdome.  There are terrible living conditions, including not enough food, gang activity, and limited bathrooms.  They also lose the freedom to come and go freely.  Miles and his family try to make the best out of their stay, but face many hardships as they try to wait out the storm.  In the process, the people around Miles struggle to come to terms with the fact that their entire lives and the city they love are all gone.

Many people saw accounts of Hurricane Katrina on the news, but this book gives an inside view of what it would have been like to actually live through this catastrophe.   There are some violent and difficult situations that arise as people panic and strive to keep their families safe.  For anyone who has not been in a situation this sudden and severe this can be an eye opening read about the many aspects of human nature during a natural disaster.

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My Life: The Musical by Maryrose Wood

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 228 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Emily and Philip are two best friends who love the musical Aurora. They have accumulated a substantial debt going to see it every weekend for three years. Now they are shocked to learn that their beloved Broadway musical is set to close and there are no more tickets to be had.  Emily had borrowed all of their money for these tickets the last three years from her grandmother, who now wants to elope with her boyfriend and would like her money back.  This puts Emily and Philip in a bad situation as they have no way of paying this back and they can’t tell their parents because they never told them where they were going every weekend.  Can they manage to see their favorite show one more time or has their obsession ruined their lives forever?

This is a cute story about young adults who love musical theatre.  It is not fast paced or full of action, but students who enjoy the arts will find it amusing and fun to read.  Some young adults identify with activities such as sports and others enjoy the performing arts.  This is a book for those students who cannot live without the performing arts.  For students who do not know anything about Broadway and musicals they will learn a lot about this form of entertainment from this book.  This is a good book for those wanting something light that is not a romance.

Blind Faith by Ellen Wittlinger

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  280 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Liz’s grandmother, Bunny, dies before the book begins and Liz watches as her mother sinks further and further into a depression.  Liz and everyone else loved Bunny too, but she feels helpless as she watches her mother withdraw from everything important to her.  Meanwhile, the mean old lady across the street has some new visitors.  Liz learns that these visitors are her estranged daughter who is very sick and her two children.  Nathan is about Liz’s age and extremely angry about the fact that his mother is dying.  Courtney is younger and no one seems to want to tell her the true prognosis of her mother’s condition.  As Liz struggles with everything around her the one constant is her love of the piano.  She finds that playing the piano can help her cope with anything, but can she help those around her find their own ways of coping?

This story about life and death reaches out to everyone.  It illustrates how differently people handle loss and how all of their relationships are affected by it.  It also shows how important it is to communicate with people you care about, whether it be during a difficult or easy time.  When people fail to communicate with each other about anything it can cause tension and lead to bigger problems later on.

Host by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 619 p.

RAC Book: Yes

The planet Earth has been taken over by a species who need human bodies to live off of. This species takes over the human mind, but has the power to heal any physical problems easily and painlessly. Wanda or the Wanderer has been a host on many planets, but has difficulty in her new human body when she can’t seem to suppress the soul that lives inside it, Melanie. As her and Melanie struggle for power inside this one human body, Wanda starts to grow weary of her overbearing alien supervisor. She decides to go find the people Melanie left behind in order to see if the memories Melanie has of love and friendship are true. They are met with suspicion and aggression by these humans who have thus far protected themselves from this species. As she strives to prove that she won’t hurt Melanie’s family and keep them from hurting her she begins to understand the capacity humans have to feel and love.

This book by Meyer is very different than her Twilight series and appeals to a different audience. I think the action and scientific aspects in the story will appeal to more young adults and even adults who have reservations about reading about vampires, especially men. The story is long and a bit slow at times, but it is also unique and interesting. Fans of science fiction or even fantasy books will enjoy it.

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 228 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Jared Finch and his family have agreed to take in a refugee family from Africa that their church is sponsoring. Jared is less than thrilled with the idea of sharing his room, his house, and his school with total strangers. The arrangement was made at the last minute when the planned apartment fell through. When the family arrives they seem distracted and afraid of everything as if something is chasing them. Jared also starts to notice that they do not act as a family. They hardly speak to each other and no one seems that concerned that the young daughter, Alake, has yet to speak or show any emotion about anything. Despite all of his misgivings, Jared begins to feel compassion and love for this family as his family helps them adjust to life in America. His concerns are not unfounded, however, and a dark secret is about to expose them all to terrible danger.

This book discusses what life is like in Africa including child armies, cruel treatment, and blood diamonds. The Finches, like many American families, are oblivious to the fact that people have to live in conditions like this. They are surprised that this African family has never seen a grocery store before and therefore cannot even fathom losing family members to preventable diseases and being forced to do things they would never do otherwise simply because a gun is pointed at their heads. This story discusses real issues that are going on in the world and would be a great read for any person. In addition to being informative, it is compelling and interesting all the way through. Highly recommended.

Losing Forever by Gayle Friesen

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Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 13 and up

# of Pages: 247 p.

RAC Book: yes

Jes is struggling with every aspect of her life. She is still dealing with the death of her younger sister and subsequent divorce of her parents. Meanwhile, her mother is engaged to be married again and her new fiancee has brought his teenage daughter to live in Jes’s room. Jes’s best friend is smitten with her new boyfriend, which makes Jes feel unneeded and forgotten. Everyone keeps trying to include her in their plans, but she doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere anymore. Can she ever communicate her feelings to those she loves without alienating everyone around her?

This story appears very simple, but resonates with many teenagers who feel like life is passing them by while they try to make sense of what is around them. Teenagers go through many changes with friends and family and often need time to process and adjust to all of these changes. This story finds an audience and conveys a story that the audience can truly relate to. Life is never easy and people often respond to major life changes in different ways. It’s important for young adults to have characters like this one to read about in order to better understand their own feelings about major life changes.

Cover-Up by John Feinstein

Genre: Sports Fiction

Age Level: 12 and up

# of Pages: 298 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Stevie and Susan Carol are back in this sequel to The Final Shot: A Final Four Mystery and Vanishing Act. At the beginning of this book, they have been working together on a sports show designed for kids, but Stevie gets fired when a popular singer becomes available. Stevie rebounds by getting invited to the Super Bowl as a reporter for a popular newspaper. Things become a little crazy when Susan Carol inadvertently learns that some of the drug tests were changed before the game. They decide to investigate and find that indeed several players should be ineligible to play in the big game. Finding this information puts them at great risk to both their physical well-being and their careers. They underestimated the amount of power the people who covered this up have and wonder if they will ever be taken seriously as reporters again.

Stevie and Susan Carol’s stories continue to get more interesting and well developed. This one is the most exciting and suspenseful yet and still packs in a lot of sports action. They do have a lot of lucky breaks in their methods of investigating, but they are also young teenagers who need to rely on many people coming to their rescue in order to get the story. Since the first book these two have gained great fame and admiration from many people. It’s nice that no one feels these two should not be allowed to have the access and opportunities that are handed to them despite their lack of qualifications, but in such a competitive environment it is a little hard to believe. It was a fast paced and well-written mystery that sports fans will enjoy.