Archive for November, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

frankie1When Frankie discovers that her formerly all-boys prep school has a secret society whose past exploits seem a dim memory and its reason for existence reduced to lame pranks, she takes it upon herself to mastermind the revitalization of the group and its aura of mystery. Yet she does this from the ‘outside’ because the group, headed by her hot-but- aloof senior boyfriend (Frankie is a sophomore) will not accept females. Nor will her boyfriend admit to Frankie that the secret society even exists. Frankie creates a series of pranks that society members believe are the schemes of one of their own, and Frankie seems happy enough to let it be so. Until that boy is caught and faces expulsion. Frankie has found the strength to be the equal of the most talented boys in her school, but does she have the strength to expose herself as the perpetrator of the pranks?The book is intelligent (mentioning Focault and prison theory) and smart (think John Green), full of witty dialogue and clever pranks. I found Frankie to be too manipulative to really care for, but her learning to stand up for herself and coming to terms with the cost of popularity and romance with cutest boy in school ring true. Girls will likely love it. John S. WLS

November 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Octavian Nothing ~ traitor to the nation : Vol II KINGDOM on the WAVES

octM.T. Anderson’s sequel to the National Book Award winner Octavian Nothing ~ traitor to the nation : Vol 1 The Pox Party follows Octavian into the nightmare of the Revolutionary War and the dream of freedom from the bondage of slavery. Having heard that Lord Dunmore, exiled governor of Virgina, would liberate any slave who took up arms and fought with the British against the rebels, Octavian joins up only to find himself and his fellow soldiers being betrayed, isolated and ultimately abandoned into mismatched battles with the revolutionaries. It would be difficult to summarize this book (as a NYT review noted, “summarizing such a sweeping and epic novel is a bit like saying Moby Dick is about a fishing trip”). This novel sprawls and stalls. And then it soars. As a reflection of the human condition, and is, indeed, ‘astonishing’. Do not expect it to be as riveting or surprising as Volume 1, which by comparison had a kind of youthful exuberance to it. This volume is a more mature and somber look at war and the human spirit as we join with Octavian in the complex no man’s land between hope and despair, life and liberty. John S. WLS

November 18, 2008 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment


13Published in late 2007, Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books whose audience becomes its best marketers, and somehow achieves cult-like status among its readers. It is the story of Hannah Baker whose sucide shocks everyone at her school because no one could have predicted that the beautiful, popular Junior would ever take her own life. Sara left behind something that will help some of her classmates have a better idea of how each of them played a role in her suicide: a box of 13 cassette tapes in which she tells her story of hurt, isolation and despair. The box is mailed from one former schoolmate to another, and we discover the tapes along with Clay, who made out once with Hannah at a party, and dreads learning why he is included among those who hurt Hannah so badly. The listening becomes a taut, mesmerising mystery as Hannah chronicles her downward spiral and her final appeal for help. But no one notices.  And no one hears her until the tapes arrive in the mail. By then it’s too late.

Suicide is a difficult topic in teen fiction, but Asher has found a way to make the story compelling and topical and especially painful for both Hannah, and those who have survived her. The final message of the story is hopeful and teens will immediately be drawn to discussing Hannah’s choices and the typical adolescent behaviors that are so often hurtful. Recommended for older teens. John S. WLS

November 18, 2008 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel

scfMost people define a family as a unit consisting of a mother, father, and children. But what about a single parent? Or two parents of the same sex? Or, in the case of Leah Hoffman-Ross, a mother, a stepfather, a half brother, and a donor father. Thirteen years ago her unmarried mother had gone to a sperm bank and had selected donor 730. In her old house, she had fended off inquiries on the whereabouts of her “dad” by telling everyone that he was living somewhere in Europe. But she now moved to a new home and thought she was off the hook because there is a step dad. However, the mystery-surrounding donor 730 was never far from her consciousness. There came a day when she found a web site that listed the siblings from donor 730. Her mom and step dad wanted nothing to do with these unknown siblings, but Leah made it her mission to meet them. This is a simply told story of a normal, curious girl who needed to find where she belonged and who was her family. Recommended. Lillian Hecker (Pelham)

November 18, 2008 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

3 Willows by Ann Brashares


The torch has been gracefully passed from the original Sisterhood to a younger group of 3 girls, Ama, Jo and Polly. Their story evolves during the summer before their freshman year in high school. The bond developed when they met in grade school, and planted 3 willow trees together from seeds. They tried to imitate the famous 4 from The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants, who are now a legend in their Bethesda school and community. However, these three seem to have drifted apart by the end of 8th grade.

Ama, an overachiever, from Ghana is plunked into a summer achievement scholarship program, where she is assigned to a wilderness group, despite her best efforts to get into her first choice, a study program at Andover. Despite her straight A average she’s forced to face an ugly lack of confidence in herself she never knew existed.
Jo is running away from past and current family pain, while bussing tables with the wait staff of “older and cooler teens” at a beachside restaurant. She faces her internal and external struggles in a remarkable way.

Polly, who’s Mother has been neglectful, amongst other things, finds herself in some excruciatingly painful situations while trying to find herself through modeling camp.

The 3 Willows successfully make their own imprint as they separate and find their way back to each to learn what real friendship is all about. This story often leaves the reader at a cliffhanger during one of the girl’s sagas, and magically they will find themselves unable to put the book down. It is a great adventure, and one that Ann Brashares understands and writes about so well.

Recommended by Anne Beier Hendrick Hudson Free Library, Irvington Public Library

November 5, 2008 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

Headlong by Kathe Koja


Where do our leaders come from? There are some who are privileged from birth and feel that they are, indeed, the best – these are the sons and daughters who are educated in private academies and then go on to the Ivies. Is this not their birthright?

Lily is a sophomore at Vaughn, one of the turreted havens for the rich. Academically and socially, she and her cohorts check their grade averages several times per day. But wait – this citadel also opens its doors to a few gifted public school students and gives them scholarships. They, too, then rub shoulders in this heady atmosphere. One such recipient is Hazel, a girl from a city ghetto. The blond elite from Vaughn do not overawe Hazel. The group snobbery or the faculty that transfixes Lily doesn’t intimidate this gifted outsider. It appears Hazel is a lot more savvy about art and literature than the students at Vaughn. She can talk about Modigliani and she has actually read J. D. Salinger. Lily feels an enormous camaraderie with Hazel and thereby becomes estranged from the other students and her parents. The rest of the book covers her feelings and doubts about staying at Vaughn. By the conclusion, however, Hazel returns to her former high school and Lily stays put at Vaughn. This is an interesting book about the search every teen must make to find out who she is and where she fits in. It is about friendships, belonging, mother/daughter relationships, boyfriends, and growing up. More questions than answers remain to be resolved. Recommended by Lily Hecker, Pelham.

November 5, 2008 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling

dream2When Claire Voyant turned fifteen, her ultra-chic, wealthy grandmother Kiki gave her an opal/onyx cameo pendant. Kiki instructed her to always wear it because the pendant had supernatural powers. Claire spends tiring nights dreaming in black and white about clocks, duffel bags, maternity tops and other unintelligible items. The dream elements reappear in various scenes in her waking life. Through luck and determination, Claire follows the dream clues and uncovers a nefarious plot that attempts to kill her friend’s family. Even while sleuthing, Claire also must navigate the complicated maze of a new urban high school. She is subject to the taunts of catty girl cliques. Claire has warm and interesting parents and intelligent friends. She also has a crush on her new best friend’s brother. This is a realistic look at savvy, urban New York teenagers combined with some mystery and fantasy. Recommended. Grade 7 and up. Lily Hecker, Pelham

November 4, 2008 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

November 2008