Archive for Friendship

Booktalk: Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling cover

I’ve been a fan of Lucy Frank’s writing ever since I read her YA novels I Am an Artichoke and Will You Be My Brussels Sprout? back in my librarian trainee days. Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling is also an excellent book, told in a unique writing style (as a poem-format novel, with poems in each girl’s voice on different sides of the page) and with powerful themes of friendship and overcoming odds.

This would be a great choice for books about death and grief as well as survivor stories (because yes, this story includes a range of possibilities).  Do you know teens who finished The Fault in Our Stars and are looking for more books that will make them contemplate their own mortality?   Share this book with them!

BOOKTALK:

Francesca was sick for a long time, but she didn’t know it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  She knew that something was wrong, and that some days she felt so sick that she didn’t want to move, or walk, or get out of bed.  But she just figured that she ate the wrong thing … or maybe she was imagining it … or maybe it was real, but if she just ignored it, it would go away.  Well, ignoring it didn’t work.  And one of the most romantic nights of her life quickly turned into one of the most EMBARASSING nights of her life when she got so sick that she wound up in the hospital.  Where she got a roommate named Shannon who’d been sick for a VERY long time.

Shannon tells her what it’s like to live when your body is full of steroids and painkillers.  What it’s like to live with a chronic disease that isn’t fatal … unless, of course, you die from it.  What it’s like to live when everybody you know is either lying to you or feeling sorry for you.

Francesca and Shannon are two girls lying next to each other in a hospital room.  Two girls separated by a thin curtain that hangs between them.  Two girls staring at the ceiling.

Booktalk: The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

Nethergrim cover

When I first picked up The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin, I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that it was a fantasy book, the cover looked ominous, and the tagline “when magic sleeps, evil awakens” sounded promising.

What I found was that this was an exciting story with three different teenage protagonists who were all empathetic and interesting for different reasons, and there were lots and lots of MONSTERS.  There were the typical physically scary monsters of the supernatural strength / pointy teeth variety but then there were also many aspects of the story that were psychologically scary, as well.  And of course, the closer our protagonists get to the Nethergrim’s lair, the scarier it gets!

This would be a great book to give to fans of the stories it echoes — The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the Narnia series. But it would also be a great book to give to teens who don’t think they like fantasy but are willing to be swept up into an exciting and suspenseful story.  This is the first book of a planned series, so get in now on the ground floor!

BOOKTALK:

Edmund, Katherine, and Tom are all fourteen years old, they all live in the small village of Moorvale, and they’re all teased for being different from the typical kids their age.  Each of them has dreams of having different lives, but little hope of ever achieving those dreams.

But then some strange things start happening in their village.  First, animals start disappearing.  Soon after that, children start disappearing.  The last time something like this happened was years and years ago, when an ancient and evil creature called the Nethergrim was still around.  It was killed by a knight and a wizard who joined forces and raised an army of men to defeat it.  Everyone has heard the songs and the stories, so it MUST be true.

Except … maybe the songs and the stories were wrong.  Maybe the Nethergrim isn’t dead after all.  Maybe it was only sleeping all this time, and now it’s waking up.

Edmund has a very personal reason for wanting to find and destroy the Nethergrim.  His younger brother is one of the children who disappeared.  Edmund is very interested in magic and has read lots of magic books, which is why he has a theory that those missing children aren’t dead after all.  Or at least they’re not dead … YET.  There might still be time to save them, IF Edmund and his friends can find the Nethergrim’s lair before it’s too late.

Booktalk: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since Youve Been Gone cover

I’m not usually a chick lit kind of reader, but I do like books about friendship and books about unravelling mysteries so that’s why I originally picked up Since You’ve been Gone.  When I started reading it, I was pleased to discover that this is a sweet and life-affirming book about the power of friendship and what happens when a wallflower is brave enough to step away from the wall for the first time.

Check out Morgan Matson’s website for more information about this book and her other summer-themed reads for teens!

BOOKTALK:

Sloane and Emily were best friends, and they had their whole summer planned out.  They were going to get a summer job together, and travel, and hang out, and have fun.  But then Sloane and her family disappeared, and Emily had no idea what to do.  Sloane was always the one with the plan.  She was the one with the big ideas, and she was the one who was brave enough to try new things.  Emily was just “Sloane’s friend,” and where Sloane went, Emily followed.

And then Emily gets a letter from Sloane, and the envelope contains one piece of paper — a list of thirteen things that Emily would never normally do.  Some of them seem pretty tame, like “apple picking at night” or “sleep under the stars.”  But others are a little more daring, like “kiss a stranger” or are things she would never do in a million years, like “go skinny dipping.”

Now that Sloane is gone, Emily has no sense of direction … except for that list.  Now that Sloane is gone, Emily has the whole summer free to herself.  She doesn’t have anything ELSE to do.  Maybe doing the things on that list will help her figure out what happened to Sloane.  Maybe doing the things on that list will transform Emily’s summer into something new, brave, and completely unexpected.

Booktalk: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars cover

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart seems like an ordinary story at first.  It almost seems like a “why am I reading this?” story, because teenagers who spend their summers on a private island are more likely to attract envy than sympathy.  And yet, and yet, and yet …

Cadence is the center of a story that seems ordinary but has an undercurrent of something being wrong but we don’t know exactly what.  She is an unreliable narrator, but it’s not her fault because she doesn’t remember what happened when she had her accident two years earlier.  And since her family won’t tell her what really happened SHE doesn’t know, so WE don’t know …

This is definitely a book to read, discuss, absorb, and remember.

BOOKTALK:

Cadence is upset with her so-called friends.  The four of them spent every summer together on her family’s private island, but then two years ago everything changed when she had an accident and almost drowned.  Then last summer when she was traveling with her father she emailed her friends, but they never answered.  Maybe they forgot about her, or didn’t care after all.

Now this summer she’s back on the island and Johnny, Mirren and Gat are acting like it’s old times again, like their friendship stayed the same.  Now it’s just Cadence’s family acting weird.  They keep acting like she’s fragile, like she can’t be trusted, like every time she gets one of her headaches it means more than it should.  Things haven’t been the same since the accident she had two years ago, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t live a normal life now.  It’s important for Cadence to get back to normal.  It’s important for her to be with her friends again, because when her family starts driving her crazy, her friends are the support system she needs.

And even more important than their support, Cadence realizes that her friends know what happened during her accident, the one she can’t really remember.  She already knows that her family is lying to her, or at least not telling her the whole truth.  But she has to find out what really happened.  She has to make her friends tell her the truth that her family has been keeping from her.  After all, what are friends for?

Booktalk: Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

Dear Nobody cover

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose is a powerful and painful story about a girl who was plagued by bad luck and bad choices.  Give this book to your teens who are looking for real-life tragic stories.  As the editors say in this interview about the book in School Library Journal, Dear Nobody is “the authentic version of Go Ask Alice.”

BOOKTALK:

Mary Rose kept a diary where she wrote about all the things that were going wrong with her life.

She wrote about how her mother kept getting back together with Joe, even though they fought all the time and even though he’d been violent with both of them.  About how they moved to a new place to get away from Joe, but how Mary Rose was lonely because all the other kids already knew each other and none of them wanted to be friends with her.  About how drinking made her feel better, even if it made her sick.  About how taking drugs made her forget how unhappy and lonely she was, even though they made her forget things sometimes, like who she could trust or how she woke up in this strange place.  About falling in and out of love with different boys.  About going to rehab to try to break her addiction to drugs and alcohol … and failing.

Mary Rose is a real person who kept a diary.  THIS is that diary.

Booktalk: Breaking Point by Alex Flinn

Breaking Point Cover

Alex Flinn has become popular for her novels in different genres.  While many of her recent successes are fantasy books with ties to fairy tales like Beastly and Towering, today I decided to highlight Breaking Point, one of her realistic fiction books.  Like Breathing Underwater, this is a powerful novel featuring a boy who has to overcome some major obstacles as he struggles to find out what kind of person he is and what he really wants to become.

BOOKTALK:

Paul Richmond is having problems at Gate, his new school where the students are rich and they don’t like outsiders.  Paul doesn’t fit in, but some days it’s worse than that.  Some days he hears whispers behind his back, he gets spitballs in his hair, he’s tripped in the hallways, and he even has garbage thrown in his locker.  Paul is tormented more and more every day, and soon he hates going to school.

But everything changes when Charlie Good offers his friendship.  Paul doesn’t understand why Charlie, one of the most popular boys in school, is so friendly to him.  Charlie offers Paul a chance for something he wants very badly; a chance to fit in and be part of group.  So it doesn’t even matter what kind of a group it is, or what they do, as long as Paul can fit in.  It doesn’t matter, even if the group is called the Mailbox Club, and the whole purpose of the club is to drive around late at night drinking and destroying mailboxes with baseball bats.  At least Paul fits in.

But soon he realizes that the Mailbox Club is only the beginning, and that Charlie Good has even more plans in store.  Dangerous plans which, if he carries them out, will leave behind a lot more than just broken mailboxes.

Booktalk: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl cover

I’d never read Zita the Spacegirl before this week, but I’ve been hearing good things about it for a while.  I was trying to familiarize myself with the books on our summer reading lists, and Zita was an easy choice for me!  It’s a graphic novel, it’s a quick read, and it reminds me both of The Wizard of Oz and Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series.  Check out Ben Hatke’s website for more information about Zita the Spacegirl as well as his other books.

BOOKTALK:

Joseph told her not to push the red button.  The button was part of a device that they found inside a meteor which had fallen from outer space and landed in a field.  Joseph told her not to push the red button, but Zita was feeling curious, and she didn’t think it would do any harm.  So she pushed that red button, and after a moment a bright light suddenly appeared before them.  But this wasn’t exactly a light — it was really more of a doorway.  And through that doorway came something that Zita and Joseph had never seen before.  They couldn’t even see the whole creature.  All they could see were its long dark tentacles … just before those tentacles grabbed Joseph and pulled him through to the other side.

Joseph has been pulled into another world, a place filled with creatures more strange and astounding than he or Zita could ever have imagined.  When Zita follows Joseph into that world, she will meet many of these creatures, and she’ll have to try to figure out which ones she can trust.  She’ll have to figure out who’s good, who’s evil, and who’s somewhere in between.  She’ll also have to figure out who can help her find and rescue Joseph, and who can help both of them get back home to planet Earth.

Booktalk: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead cover

This book falls into a rare sub-category of fiction — not just a letter-format novel, but an unanswered letter-format novel (see Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott for another great example).

Love Letters to the Dead is an excellent debut novel that will speak to teen readers looking for realistic fiction about life, death, friendship, and family.  You can learn more about this book on Ava Dellaira’s website or the Love Letters to the Dead website.

BOOKTALK:

Laurel’s assignment for English class is to write a letter to a dead person.  She writes a letter to Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, was a fan of his music.  Kurt Cobain is gone now, and so is May, but Laurel still thinks about both of them.

Laurel is supposed to turn in the letter to her teacher, but she doesn’t.  Instead she writes another letter, and another, and another.  Sometimes she writes to Kurt Cobain, or River Phoenix, or Janis Joplin, or Amelia Earhart, or Amy Winehouse, or Judy Garland, or Jim Morrison, or e.e. cummings, or Heath Ledger.  She writes to dead singers, dead actors, dead poets, dead people who weren’t brave enough or dead people who might have been too brave.  She writes to them about their own lives and about her own life.  She writes about starting over at a new school, about trying to make new friends, about falling in love for the first time.  But she also writes about May, about trying to understand May’s life as well as her death, and about learning to live now that May is gone.

Booktalk: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines cover

I’m guessing that all of you have already heard of John Green, but on the slight off-chance that you haven’t …

Now most discussions of YA literature rebound back and forth between “Hey, why is John Green getting all the attention on the bestsellers lists when more diverse authors aren’t being recognized the same way?” and “Hey, check it out!  John Green is the best thing ever, and I love his books more than anything in the whole wide world!”  FWIW, I lean towards the “best thing ever” view myself.

If you want to learn more about John Green, you will discover that he’s a very social network-friendly / multimedia-savvy kind of guy.  You can start by checking out his website, his tumblr, the YouTube videos he makes with his brother, the videos they make explaining all kinds of smart stuff, and then go on from there!

BOOKTALK:

Colin has just graduated from high school, and he has just been dumped by a girl named Katherine.  Graduating from high school is something new, but being dumped by a girl named Katherine isn’t.  That’s because this is the nineteenth time that Colin has been dumped by a girl named Katherine.  Some of his Katherine relationships have lasted for only a few hours, some for days, and the last one, K-19, for almost a year.  But they all ended the same way, with Katherine as the Dumper and Colin as the Dumpee.  With nothing to do over the summer but feel sorry for himself, Colin joins his friend Hassan on a road trip, exploring the country and meeting new people, anything to get his mind off of you-know-who.

Along the way, Colin reads lots of books and works on his theorem – the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability.  He hopes this theory will be able to plot the history and predict the future, not just of Colin and all nineteen Katherines, but of dumpers and dumpees everywhere.  On their road trip, though, Colin finds a lot of things to distract him from his misery, including the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and a hunting trip for feral pigs.  They’re a lot larger and a lot meaner than you might expect – the pigs, that is, not the Archduke.

Colin also meets a girl named Lindsey, who is pretty and smart and has a crazy sense of humor … in fact, she’s the first girl NOT named Katherine that he’s ever found attractive.  Unfortunately, Lindsey is already taken … by another boy named Colin.

Booktalk: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Noggin

Full disclosure: except for the fact that I belong to a YA book discussion group composed of like-minded librarians, we’d settled on “boy books” as our monthly theme, and Noggin by John Corey Whaley won the vote for which book we would read, I might never have read this book.  Having said that, I really REALLY enjoyed it.

As I was putting this booktalk together over the last few days, I was feeling a little stuck.  I started thinking, “How am I going to get kids to take me seriously about this book, when as soon as I tell them it’s about a boy who gets his head cut off and cryogenically frozen they’re going to get so distracted that I’ll lose their attention?”  Okay, to be fair, I don’t actually KNOW that’s what would happen since I haven’t shared this book with any classes yet.  But based on years of prior experience (read: horror stories) one part of my mind always anticipates possible distractions.  So that’s why I tacked on the opening sentences to the booktalk, to try to get my audience warmed up to the idea that they were going to hear a story that was a little … “out there.”

BOOKTALK:

Let me start by saying that this story is a little weird, a little unusual, and even a little ridiculous.  So don’t say I didn’t warn you …

Travis Coates was a 16-year-old boy who had no hope of surviving the cancer that was attacking his body.  So he agreed to have his head cut off and frozen, with the hope that one day it could be attached to a new body.  His parents?  His best friend?  His girlfriend?  None of them really BELIEVED that he would ever come back.  Maybe they hoped it, but they didn’t believe it.

This is the story of what happens five years later, when Travis comes back from the dead.  To Travis, it was like no time had passed at all.  He was sixteen years old when he closed his eyes and went to sleep, and he was sixteen years old when he woke up.  It felt like just yesterday.  But five years passed while Travis was sleeping, and he’s going to learn just how much things have changed since he’s been away.