Posts Tagged 'death'



Princess of Las Pulgas by C.Lee McKenzie

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  348

RAC:  Yes

Carlie, her mother, and her brother must move from their home after the death of their father/husband due to the mounting medical bills.  Not only must they leave their home, school, friends, and neighborhood, but they must move to a rough part of town that is the rival of their old school.  When they begin their new life they are all still dealing with the loss of their father/husband and therefore appear disengaged from their daily activities.  Carlie in particular is targeted as being standoffish and is criticized for believing she is better than everyone else.  Can she ever find a place for herself in this new school?  Will she ever find a way to cope with the loss of her father?

This story shows how the death of a loved one can and often does affect every aspect of a teenager’s life.  Carlie’s mother is clearly struggling with the loss of her husband, but at the same time is having a difficult time helping her children come to terms with the loss of their father.  Carlie’s brother, Keith, and herself handle their new surroundings differently, but the reasons behind their actions are very much the same.  Carlie’s perception at her new school clouds her experience and makes her easy fodder for bullies.  All in all, a good story about a family coping with death and transition after death.

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  349

RAC Book:  Yes

Carmen, Tibby, Bridget, and Lena are back ten years after the last installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  Now they are all approaching the age of 30 and they have struggled to keep their friendship alive.  Tibby moved to Australia with Bryan, Bridget lives with Eric in San Francisco, Lena lives alone in New York and works as an art professor, and Carmen lives with her horrible fiance in New York where she works as an actress.  Tibby has especially fallen out of touch with her friends, which is why they are all so surprised when she invites them to Greece for a reunion.  When the three girls arrive, Tibby is not there to greet them.  By nightfall they know something is wrong and by morning their worst fears are confirmed.  The way each woman handles this tragedy is to run away from each other, which seems a bit surprising considering how long they have been friends.  Can they ever recover from their loss?  Can they ever find their way in this world without wandering aimlessly forever?

Most of this book centers on Bridget, Lena, and Carmen coping with Tibby’s apparent suicide.  During this time the three women rarely speak to each other and choose to throw themselves into various other activities.  It seems sad they have been a bit lost these last ten years and it took a tragedy to wake them up.  It’s difficult to take characters who became famous in young adult novels and make them realistic adults.  In many ways, these characters were still the same immature girls who traded pants.  The ending was satisfying, but the journey was a bit frustrating as the characters repeatedly made decisions that seemed unrealistic for thirty-year-olds who have been friends since birth.

The Vision by Jen Nadol

**Special Review**

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  229

RAC Book:  Yes

In this sequel to The Mark, Cassie is now living in a new place with a roommate and trying to make it on her own.  She has the ability to see marks that mean a person is going to die soon.  She has found that if she intervenes it can save a person’s life, but she does not know if it has any negative affects and decides to find out more about her gift.  One way she studies death is by working at a funeral home and studying the different ways people handle death.   When her roommate informs her of a girl at a nearby mental ward, Cassie begins to wonder if they in fact share the same gift.   When she goes to meet with the girl she sees a mysterious boy from her class and begins to wonder about his intentions and motivations.  As the two get closer she learns that he may have more to teach her than she thought.  Can she trust this mysterious boy, Zander?  Are there others out there like her?

Cassie’s gift creates an interesting premise for a book and there are many worthwhile situations that help her better understand how her gift can affect people.  One great example is when the father of a classmate dies.  There are a few mentions of her past from the first book that may confuse some readers if they have not read it, but the new characters in this book prove to be engaging.  The relationship dynamic between Cassie and Zander changes with every revelation they learn about each other, but it is still unclear what their ultimate relationship will be like.  Fans of supernatural and fantasy will enjoy the story, but will probably want to start with the first in the series.

Between by Jessica Warman

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  454

RAC Book:  Yes

Elizabeth Valchar wakes up to find her own dead body, but she can’t remember anything before she died.  As she watches her friends and family move on from the tragedy she realizes that her life was not as perfect as everyone thought it was.  She had already suffered the loss of her mother at a very young age, and of her father’s hasty remarriage afterward.  She did truly love her boyfriend, Richie, which is why it’s so hard to see him suffer after her death.  She has a ghostly companion in Alex, a boy in her high school who died a year before Elizabeth.  He was very unpopular and people did not react to his death the way they do hers, which makes for an uncomfortable situation.  Can Elizabeth find out what happened to her so that she can be free?

This story grabs readers right from the beginning because there is so much that Elizabeth does not know.  The more she remembers about the months before she died the more confusing it gets.  She is surrounded by a bunch of questionable characters who could either be on her side or working against her.  Her circle of friends is particularly mysterious as they appear vapid, but some of them know more than they are saying.  Fans of The Everafter, Elsewhere, and Thirteen Reasons Why will enjoy this book, but there are some heavy issues discussed.

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  424

RAC Book:  Yes

A computer hacker in Pakistan finds some mysterious threats directed toward the U.S. and he alerts the proper authorities.  The threats are examined, but there is no evidence found of any bio threats.  Then, in the U.S. two women who live on the same street die of mysterious aneurysms on the same night.  The daughter of one woman and the two sons of the other try to find out what happened to their mothers even as they start exhibiting similar symptoms.  Meanwhile, the computer hacker is moved to the U.S. where authorities hope he will be able to pinpoint a location and identification of the culprits behind the attack on a neighborhood water supply.

This bio-thriller moves at a brisk pace for the beginning and end of the story, but the middle lags a bit as the characters try to put the pieces together for why they are all getting sick. The idea behind the attack is clever and well-executed which forces the reader to think about how easily any of us could be influenced by a terrorist attack.  The steps authorities take to locate and extinguish the threat seem realistic and make the officials seem very knowledgeable and credible.  The characters are interesting, but a few have some habits of using bad language on a regular basis.  For students who enjoy spy and terrorist books this is a must.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  390

RAC Book:  Yes

Chloe Saunders believes she can see ghosts.  After a particularly traumatic experience, she is sent to live in a home for troubled teens.  She is diagnosed with Schizophrenia and even though she does not believe this to be true, she goes along with the therapy in the hopes that she will be released soon.  As she gets to know others who live in the house she realizes that they all seem to be hiding secrets as well.  When her roommate is taken away to a hospital and then later visits her as a ghost, Chloe gets concerned that she may not be safe in this house and tries to find a way out.

Fantasy lovers will devour this story.  It is fast paced and the characters are intriguing.  Nothing is as it first appears and there are many unexpected twists, including a surprising ending that readers will love.  Many questions are left unanswered, but there are two sequels as Chloe’s story continues.  At first glance, this seems like a story that is very similar to many others in the YA market right now, but the ending provided some unexpected surprises.  Recommended for fantasy readers.

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  324

RAC Book:  Yes

Lyn does not want to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a gladiator wife, but when her seventh gladiator father falls in the arena she worries about the future of her family.  The gladiator association has rules that her mother can never marry again and due to an illegal disqualification of her stepfather, her family loses all benefits and assets.  His opponent picked up the bracelet she had given her father for luck and keeps it as a prize, but this means that by the rules of the arena she must marry him.  Lyn cannot bear to marry the man her murdered her father, but her only other choice would be to face him in the arena herself…

Fans of The Hunger Games series will find this interesting, but not as appealing as that trilogy.  There is some gore and violence, but most of the story deals with Lyn and her family coping with the loss of everything after the death of Tommy, her mother’s seventh husband.  Lyn’s brother has some mental disabilities, but is also able to make predictions.  These predictions give the story an interesting twist as his predictions grow more and more surprising.  The premise behind this story is a bit more exciting than the actual execution of it, but readers of this type of fiction will enjoy it.

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  325

RAC Book:  No

Jem has always seen numbers when she looks directly into people’s eyes, but she never knew what they meant.  When her mother overdoses and dies, Jem realizes that the numbers she sees spell out the day a person will die.  Naturally, Jem tries not to get close to anyone or look directly into their eyes because she cannot bear knowing such important information.  A boy named Spider tries to befriend her anyway, and Jem finds herself wanting to spend time with him, even though she knows his death day is mere weeks away.  Can she change his fate?

This story has an interesting premise, but drags in places and many readers will struggle to get through it.  The ending is fast paced and interesting, but the journey to get there may lose some readers along the way.  Jem’s character seems flat and uninteresting until the end when she accepts her role in life.  This was a clever idea, but only somewhat realized through the story.

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  281

RAC Book:  Yes

Alona is arguing with someone on her cell phone when she fails to look before she crosses a street and is killed by a school bus.  She dies, but does not go to heaven as she expects.  Instead, she remains around her high school and finds she can see how everyone is coping with her death.  To her dismay, her high school did not come to a screeching halt merely because its most popular girl died.  She begins to get frustrated because she doesn’t know how to get to heaven, but then she realizes that the weird goth kid, Will Killian, can see and hear her.  She makes it her mission to make him help her get to the other side, but Will needs some favors of his own.  Can the two overcome their differences to work together and find happy outcomes for both?

This is a fun, light story with some very real problems in it.  Alona was the popular girl of the class, but that did not mean her life was perfect and Will soon finds that she hid some very serious problems from her classmates.  Meanwhile, Will is struggling with his gift of seeing the dead and worries he might end up like his father who had shared the same gift.  There is a bit of swearing, but it won’t be anything most high school students aren’t used to hearing.  The message of the story is clear and readers will move through the fast paced story quickly.  The ending is a little unclear, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of pages:  245 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Madison wakes up in a strange reality she calls “is” because there’s no way to describe it.  She believes she is dead because she can’t feel a body, but she does see objects in the space around her.  If she touches an object she is brought back to her life through a memory of when she lost that item.  She quickly realizes that she does not have memories past the age of 17 and knows she died young, but cannot remember how.  As she tries to navigate through the memories of her life she realizes she is not the only spirit lingering in those memories.  Will she ever be able to talk to anyone from her life?  Will she ever find out how she died?  Can she ever move past this place of “is” to the everafter?

This book was engaging, unique, and interesting.  As Madison moves through the memories of her life the reader cannot help but think about how she will meet her untimely demise.  Despite the fact that the reason behind her death is set up throughout the story, it will be a shock to most readers the way it actually happens.  Madison’s friendships and family relationships are easy to identify with and it’s hard to imagine how they must cope with her death.  Madison, however, believes that everyone dies when they are supposed to go and it’s okay, but she would like to know how it happens.  She feels no regret about how she lived or died.  This is a very interesting read that will leave the reader thinking about life and death long after the final page.

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  321

RAC Book:  Yes

Emily throws a party when her parents are out of town and is not expected to be caught by her Aunt Jolie.  Jolie is not there to keep an eye on Emily, however.  Instead, she is there to inform Emily that her parents’ plane has crashed and her parents have in fact died.  As Emily tries to cope with the loss of her parents, it is only made worse by the discovery of an airplane tray in the wreckage with the words “Emily Please Forgive Me” written on it in her mother’s favorite shade of lipstick.  As Emily struggles to understand what her mother is apologizing for, she is moved to NYC to live with her aunt where she has to begin a new school and try to make new friends.  As Emily tries to navigate dating, high school, and friendships, she can’t help but keep trying to figure out what her mother’s apology meant and if she will ever find out the truth.

This book starts out very dramatic and really draws readers in.  It then moves into a typical teenage book with a new school, bullying, boyfriends who cheat, etc.  Emily’s life is interesting because her aunt is a famous make-up artist, which seems to give her an edge as she enters this posh lifestyle she is not used to.  As interesting as Emily’s new life is, the real draw for this book is the mysterious apology her mother left for her.  Readers will not be disappointed when the reason behind this apology is revealed.  Overall, this is a fun teenage book with romance and mystery.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  522

RAC:  Yes

CeeCee Wilkes is a sixteen-year-old girl whose mother died when she was twelve.  Now she is a high school graduate and living on her own trying to support herself as a waitress.  She hopes to save enough money to go to college one day.  Her favorite regular customer, Timothy Gleason, is rich and handsome, so she is thrilled when he shows some interest in her.  Soon they are dating and she feels she is in love with him and finally has a place to belong.  When he tells her his sister is on death row for a murder that was self defense, CeeCee finds herself helping in a scheme to get her freed.  Timothy and his brother plan to kidnap the governor’s wife in order to get him to release their sister.  Meanwhile, CeeCee is supposed to watch the hostage while the negotiations go down.  What CeeCee doesn’t count on is the fact that the governor’s wife is 8 months pregnant with a high risk pregnancy.  When the stress of the situation leads her to go into labor early, CeeCee does not know what to do or where to go and the situaiton quickly escalates out of control.  Once the baby is born, CeeCee is unable to stop the bleeding and the woman dies.   CeeCee knows that her life will never be the same again and she has some very difficult decisions to make.  Will she ever see Timothy again?  Will she have to change her name?  Will she have to go to jail for her role in this crime?  What will happen to the baby?

For readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, or similar authors this would be a good story.  It delves into the emotions and motivations of the characters while following an interesting story.  Readers will come to care about what happens to CeeCee and the baby despite the terrible circumstances that bring them together.  The ideas of taking responsibility for one’s actions and second chances are pronounced throughout the story.  The plot will keep readers thinking about justice long after finishing the book.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  289

RAC Book:  Yes

Award Winner:  Iowa Teen Award 2009-2010

Jeremy Fink still mourns the loss of his father five years ago, which is why he is so happy when his father sends him a wooden box for his thirteenth birthday.  A lawyer had been holding it for him all this years.  The box claims to have the meaning of life in it, but requires four keys to open and unfortunately, they are lost.  As Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy try to find the keys they end up meeting a lot of interesting people and Jeremy becomes very interested in their views of the meaning of life and what everyone’s purpose is on earth.  As the journey goes on Jeremy wonders if he is meant to open the box or if he is supposed to learn the meaning of life for himself.

Jeremy Fink’s story seems rather simple at first, but as the story evolves the reader sees that there are in fact many layers to this story as Jeremy learns about himself and all of the people he has developed relationships with.  The characters are interesting in a way that they are easily remembered and the reader cares what they have to say to Jeremy and Lizzy as they go on their quest.  The ending was very satisfying and leaves the reader thinking about Jeremy’s quest and his final conclusions.  Highly recommended for anyone from junior high to adulthood.

Invisible by Pete Hautman

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  149 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Award Winner:  Iowa Teen Award 2009-2010

Doug Hanson is the social outcast of the school.  He has trouble interacting with people, he spies on the prettiest girl in school, and he spends all his time building a train set in his basement.  His parents make him go to counseling even though he doesn’t think he needs it.  The most important thing to him in life is his best friend, Andy, who lives next door.  Doug admits that they have gotten into trouble together in the past, but he doesn’t like to think of those times.  Doug sees Andy as everything he is not.  He plays sports, has lots of friends, and even performs in school plays while Doug fails to interact at school at all.  Doug begins to realize that people including his teachers, parents, and therapist are deeply worried about him.  The question is whether they have a right to be.

There is an aspect of this story that is not immediately apparent, but becomes so fairly quickly.  Most readers will be able to pick up on it early on in the book, which may or may not entice them to keep reading.  It is unclear if this plot element is supposed to be apparent to the reader early on or it if it supposed to be a surprise at the end.  Either way, it is a plot development that has been used quite a big in movies and television.  The character development is strong in this book, but some of their motives seem confusing.  For example, if Doug’s parents are so concerned about his behavior why don’t they try to do more to help him before it is too late?  Readers who liked Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted will like this title as well.

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.


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