Archive for September, 2008

Bonechiller by Graham Mcnamee

Harvest Cove is a long, long way from anywhere. In the middle of Canada’s Big Empty, winter turns Harvest Cove into a vast white wilderness. For Danny, its just the latest of many places he’s called home. Its remote, cold and boring. But that changes when he is attacked by creature of such horrible proportions that he thinks he must have been hallucinating. But when others from the community go missing, Danny suspects the creature is real and begins to track it down. But will it be possible to kill this creature that has been terrorizing the Big Empty for generations?

Bonechiller is a page-turner similar to the books Paul Zindel was writing at the end of his career: mythological creatures that only a teen can destroy. Its good white-knuckle reading that boys especially will enjoy.  (JS)

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September 29, 2008 at 8:14 pm Leave a comment

Kendra by Coe Booth

Kendra is fourteen years old, the same age her mother was when she had Kendra. Now, for the first time, it seems that her mom is going to be a presence in her life. Kendra has been raised by her granmother while her mom continued her education and has remarkably just earned a doctoral degree. Now with her mom looking for a teaching position in the city, Kendra is certain that she will soon be able to move out of her grandmother’s house and in with her mom.

But that doesn’t seem to be in her mother’s plan, especially when her mom rents a tiny studio apartment and seems to have more time for her boyfriend than for Kendra. But Kendra can barely stand the oppressive vigilance of her grandmother, who is determined that no boy will derail Kendra’s life – no way will she be get pregnant!. Of course, Kendra falls hard for an older boy at school and is unable to resist his sexual advances. Will family history repeat itself, or can Kendra learn from her mom’s choices?

As she did in her first book, Tyrell, Coe Booth hones in on an common but undertold story and crafts it with sharp dialog and believable characters. Kendra’s struggles to find her way though complex family entanglements and adolescent desires are compelling and believable and should attract many readers. (JS)

September 29, 2008 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

The Day I Killed James

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a ghost story of the most haunting kind, because the ghost that troubles Theresa is not a wispy image or unshakeable memory. It is guilt. Theresa feels that if only she had been more kind to the older boy who clearly had a crush on her, then he might be alive today. Maybe if she had not ditched him at the barn party, he would not have taken off on his motorcycle and ridden off an ocean cliff. If only…

Theresa runs away from her home, her hopelessly distant father, the therapist she can’t stand and the best friend who can’t possibly understand the burden she carries. She shaves her head and changes her name and won’t let anyone come close emotionally. But even a new life in a new location can’t resolve the feeling that anyone she cares for is endangered, that she is a toxic threat to those she most cares for.

There is, however, one young gir, a survivor of physical and emotional abuse, who stubbornly defies Theresa’s distance and gets close enough to reflect loss in a way that allows Theresa to see the threads of forgiveness and acceptance that are part of the fabric of life.

Written in an interesting series of journal entries that alternate with first person narrative, The Day I Killed James is an interesting look at grief and the emotional self-focus of a teen who learns that the burdens of life are best eased by helping another. (JS)

The Day I Killed James

Before the book begins, you imagine that Theresa was living a fairly average teenage life – but everything changed the day that James died. And Theresa feels that it was all her fault. James had always been in love with her, and she used him, and betrayed him and broke his heart. The book is about Theresa trying to come to terms with her heart wrenching guilt, alternating betwen reflective journal entries and chapters that chronicle her current whereabouts. Theresa drops out of life for a while, and even tries to escape herself completely by shaving her head, moving, changing her name and never looking back. She discovers that you can never really escape being yourself…This is a short book that explores thoroughly, and from many different angles, a single and profound theme: carelessness with someone’s heart. This would be a great book group book as there is a lot to discuss, ponder and explore here.   (Review by Amy Kaplan)

September 24, 2008 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

Paper Towns by John Green

John Green again creates characters that will stay with you long after you put down his latest book, Paper Towns. What is telling to me, however, is that while I remember the characters a few days after finishing the book, I can’t recall just how I left them at the end. That realization is a way of confirming what I felt as I passed the halfway mark of the book and thought, uh-oh – he’s losing me here. Sometimes you can get tired of being in a maze and just want out. And, in a way, that is the point of the book — wanting out.

Paper Towns is the story of teenage neighbors who have known each other all their lives but whose interests and personalities diverged as they neared adolescence. Though Quentin has longed for and admired Margo from afar, he is the quintessential good student headed for Duke and inhabits a high school niche very different from his daring but troubled neighbor Margo. So it is with some surprise and apprehension that Q agrees to join Margo when she sneaks in his bedroom window and invites him on an unforgettable night of prank-filled vengence. He has never felt closer to Margo than during this exhilarating night. Unfortunately, the next day, Margo disappears and everyone thinks she has run away. Again.

Infatuated with Margo, Q is determined to find her, using clues he thinks she has left behind. He enlists his oddball group of geeky friends to help him. It is questionable that Margo wants to be found at all; more likely she simply wants to disappear from her old town and start life anew somewhere else. Q and his friends become obsessed with finding her and their journey of discovery is the result of an overworked and, for me, unlikely and exasperating) series of events.

Sometimes Green can be too clever for his own plot, and a couple of twists lost me a few times along the way toward finding Margo. (Uh-Oh… spoiler alert! the next sentence is……fateful!) By the time she is discovered, I hardly cared about her, especially when it had become clear she hadn’t committed suicide (the ghost of Looking for Alaska effect – knowing Green can do that to one of his characters, you prepare yourself for the worst).

Ultimately, Margo comes across as self-absorbed and cruel in ways that, while not unlikely for some teenagers, lacked any kind of compelling intrigue and left me feeling she wasn’t worth the effort Quentin put into finding her or that I put into reading about her. Still, it IS John Green, whose wit, intelligence and style make Paper Towns an enjoyable and thoughtful read.  (Review by John Sexton)

September 19, 2008 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena

Danny is the skinny kid who would never be mistaken for an athlete, no matter how talented he might be. He just didn’t have ‘the look’. But when he throws a baseball, he can blow away even the best hitters. Except in a game. Under pressure, his anxiety makes it impossible for him to throw a strike when it counts. His talent seems useless to him.

It doesn’t help that he is Mexican-American but looks white and speaks no English. At his mostly white private high school that doesn’t make much difference, but in the border barrio where he is spending the Summer, it makes his life impossible.

Danny is eventually befriended by Uno who can use Danny’s talent as a hustle that he thinks will make them enough money to fix the holes that each of them has in their families.

De la Pena, author of Ball Don’t Lie, writes great sports and has a great ear for real teen talk. But this is more than a sports tale, because he touches on the strengths and resilience of family, the rocky path toward self-discovery, love and truth. Relcutant teen boy readers who are into sports won’t be disappointed. Age: 12 and up. (Review by John Sexton)

September 19, 2008 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment


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