Saturday, May 5, 2018

9 Days and 9 Nights, by Katie Cotugno

I love Katie Cotugno's writing. Her stories always delve into challenging themes that will make you really think about how you feel about so many things!
9 Days and 9 Nights is the second book of the 99 Days series. It's been a while since I've read the first book, but Cotugno reminded me wonderfully in the first few chapters! That said, it might be better for me to read her series back to back in the near future.
The main character, Molly, is now living in Boston where she's majoring in Business and she's not the same girl she was when we first met her. She's reinvented herself and she's got a serious boyfriend and a plan... her life is back on track and getting back to normal. A European trip with her boyfriend Ian is the perfect next step.
While in London, she runs into the guy who derailed her life the last time and Ian unwittingly invites Gabe and his girlfriend to join them to the next leg of their trip to Ireland, and Molly can't share why it's so awkward without sharing the past she's managed to hide from the people in her new life.
Sometimes the plot is sort of awkward that it will make you cringe and my first reaction was, "Thank goodness this didn't happen to me!" But I definitely have to say the story will make your heart rise. There's no denying that this story is messy, but life is messy and complicated and Cotugno doesn't sugar coat anything.
This is a smart and riveting story and it reminded me again why I love the Cotugno's writing so much. Her amazing voice and writing style definitely make her a favorite author, but her realistic, stories are what keep me coming back again and again. She's an all-time favorite in the YA contemporary genre and I look forward to reading more of her books! *JK*

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Breadwinner

Inspired by the award winning historical fiction book, The Breadwinner (the animated movie) does not disappoint. Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, Parvana’s family is completely dependent on her father to provide for them. The women of Kabul are forbidden to work, go to school, or be outside the home at all without a man. Most girls are too afraid to be outside the home under the Taliban rule. One day, her loving father is wrongfully arrested, which in turn, puts the rest of the family’s survival in danger. Eleven-year-old Parvana cuts her hair and wears boy clothes to disguise herself as a boy so that she can work and buy food for her mom, sister, and baby brother. By disguising herself as a boy, she faces new adventures and new dangers than she did before. She is forced to grow up fast in her harsh environment and copes with it by telling stories.

Throughout the movie, the viewer gets to see Parvana’s is gift in the art of story-telling come to life. The colorful story she tells throughout the movie amidst all of the tragedies she witnesses in reality becomes more than just a tale. Her story gives her a power that helps her to sustain hope throughout her challenges.

This animated movie has some strong themes of feminism and the importance of stories themselves. I also love that the author of the book that it is based off of interviewed refugees from Afghanistan to base the events off of real world experiences. The book (which we also own if you are interested in checking it out) and movie is set in the late 1990’s, and the laws and political climate are true to the story even though Parvana and her family are fictional characters. I love it so much and I would highly recommend it to any teen and especially those who enjoy a great historical fiction. 11/10 stars from me.   -MC

The Wendy Project, by Melissa Jane Osborne with artwork by Veronica Fish

The art in this graphic novel was so incredibly beautiful. The Wendy Project is a retelling of the story of Peter Pan, but this time a lot- and I mean A LOT- more sad. Seriously, it ripped my heart out. Please don’t read this if you want to cry. In fact, you can stop reading this review now. Consider this a “Lemony Snicket” warning.

The Wendy Project takes place in modern day, and we see the Darling children again by another name. In this version, they are called the Davies, which is the family that author J.M. Barrie based the Darling children off of. It should be noted if you do not know already, that J.M. Barrie, who was the original author of the story of Peter Pan, suffered a lot of personal loss throughout his life. His older brother died in a skating accident when he was just a teen. I felt like this is important to know when reading this book because I think that Melissa Jane Osborne was paying some homage to J.M. Barrie’s early childhood life in this graphic novel. Anyway, in this book, the Davies experience some serious turmoil right off the bat. While Wendy is driving, the children are in an awful car accident. Wendy and John make it out, but Michael is missing. Dealing with loss is never easy, but since Wendy and John believe he is still out there somewhere, it is even harder for them. Will they ever see Michael again?

One thing I have always loved about the story of Peter Pan is that there are many different adaptations. Even with the play or movies, the tale is usually altered from the original J.M. Barrie classic. The interesting theories that are out there about the story of Peter Pan go to show the many different ways to look at and analyze the original story. I do not want to give too much away about the twist in The Wendy Project in my review here, but this book is in full support of one of the main theories out there. If you are a fan of any Peter Pan adaptation (AND are okay with crying today), check out The Wendy Project.    - MC

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins

Great stories don't always have to involve Grand Adventures or Epic Quests. Sometimes great stories are just about life and the ordinary magic that happens every day (if one only knows how to look for it). This is the basis of Lynne Rae Perkins' Newberry Award-winning novel Criss Cross

It begins with a single wish. For something good to happen. Something different. And soon. And the story unfolds from here.

It is the summer of 1970-something, a time before cell phones and social media, and friends Debbie, Patty, Lenny, and Hector are poised to discover the meaning of life, the universe, everything. Or at least that's what each teen is hoping for. What really happens is life: Events, choices, actions, decisions. And all those things lead to other things. Snapshots of moments, ordinary and extraordinary. And these moments strung together is what makes the story so amazing.

How ironic is it that the very thing I loved most about Criss Cross is what makes writing a review so difficult? After all, nothing really happens here (and yet everything does). Criss Cross is not so much a story in the traditional sense. Rather, it captures a certain elusive feeling. Criss Cross is watching fireflies on a warm summer night. It is sharing with your best friend things silly and profound. It is the butterflies you get the first time you see your first crush. It is hearing a new song and instantly connecting with it. Criss Cross is the best kind of magic. The sort you don't need a wand or special words to conjure.    
I'll admit it: Criss Cross is not for everyone. If you want a lot of heart-pounding action or epic romance, you best look elsewhere. But if you're sick of reading about drama, love triangles, and all the ways the world could end...If you want a sweet, quiet story that will transport you... Well, Criss Cross is exactly what you're looking for. Read it! And I hope you'll love it!


Monday, April 23, 2018

Legendary Ladies, by Ann Shen

In the past 10 years as a teen librarian, I've seen a lot of trends come and go. This years most popular book can become next year's joke...or, if nothing else, a guilty pleasure no one will admit to liking. I've seen it happen. But the one thing that always seems to be popular is Mythology. Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc. If it's about gods and goddesses, it's sure to fly off the shelf. We can thank authors like Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) for that.

So when I encountered Ann Shen's book Legendary Ladies: 50 Goddesses to Empower and Inspire You, I predicted it would be super popular. For one thing, it's all about Mythology. And BONUS! it also fits the bill for the recent reawakening of the Girl Power movement that has filled so many books with strong, empowered heroines. When I read about it, I knew we had to have it for our collection!

I just didn't realize how cool this book was until I flipped through it today!

Each page features a different goddess and includes a color illustration and a brief write up about what she represented within her mythology. But Legendary Ladies doesn't just stick with the more well-known Greek and Norse myths. Also featured are goddesses from Native American, Polynesian, Hindu, and Ibo (to name just a few). So its pretty diverse. However, there are several similarities among the stories. For example, the tale of Creiddylad, Welsh goddess of Springtime, is very similar to that of the Greek Persephone.

Overall, Legendary Ladies was a very interesting read. I think the teens here will really enjoy it! I know I did. --AJB

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Altered History of Willow Sparks

Willow Sparks is at the bottom of her high school's social food chain. Each day she and her equally unpopular best friend, Georgia, run the gauntlet of mean girl bullies, deal with unsympathetic gym teachers, and nurse crushes on boys who don't know they exist. 

Then something miraculous happens: While working her after school job at the local library, Willow stumbles upon a secret basement storage room. And in this room she finds a blank book bearing her name as the title. Attached to the book is an old fountain-style pen with the inscription "For Emergencies Only". Willow smuggles the book home and soon discovers she can re-write the parts of her life she doesn't like, replacing those parts with how she wishes things were. She starts with small things, like getting rid of her acne and a new designer wardrobe she'd never be able to otherwise afford. But as her wishes get bigger and bolder, other things in her life begin to change as well...and not necessarily for the better. Suddenly Willow's BFF no longer wants anything to do with her and her mom doesn't trust her anymore. And then it gets worse.

Maybe the Book isn't such a miracle after all. But Willow finds that the more she re-writes her life the harder it is to stop. There's only one person who can help her, but will she find the courage to seek him out before it's too late?

Like Willow Sparks?
Try this read-alike!
The Altered History of Willow Sparks has been on my "To Read" list for several weeks, and I was not disappointed. Although I pretty much knew what was going to happen from page one (predictable), I nevertheless enjoyed this book. Author Tara O'Connor's minimal but well-placed dialogue moves the story along and the detailed artwork does the rest. Willow is a sympathetic and likable character. Although she doesn't make the best choices for much of the story, she learns from her mistakes. Eventually Willow learns that cool clothes and being liked by popular boys aren't what makes her happy. Rather, it's her true friends and, even more important, self-acceptance that is most important. Pair this one with Lisa Daily novel Beauty and the 80s-era comedy film Teen Witch, all three of which center around the same universal themes. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles, by Amy Spalding

With winter seeming to drag on and on, I've been in desperate need of something light and summery and beachy. And Amy Spalding's new novel The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles was exactly what I was craving. I'm serious! This book was adorable! And a lot of fun!

Abby Ives feels like her world is falling apart: At 17, she's never been kissed. Sure she's had crushes on girls in her school, but they've never liked her back the same way (Not that she's ever had the guts to approach any of said crushes, but that's beside the point). What's more, she feels as though she's a constant disappointment to her skinny, health-obsessed mother. 

The one bright spot in Abby's life is securing the coveted summer internship at Lemonberry, her favorite couture clothing shop. Not only will this mean free clothes and fodder for her fashion blog, but it will be excellent experience for the career Abby someday plans to have in the plus-size fashion industry. What's more, everyone knows this internship usually turns into an actual paying job come fall. 

Maybe things aren't so bad after all. But then...

Abby learns she'll be sharing the internship duties with fellow classmate and rumored bad girl Jordi Perez. Problem is there will only job offer at the end of the summer. To complicate things further, Abby begins crushing on Jordi. And by some miracle, Jordi likes her back! When the girls begin dating, Abby wonders how she can feel right about competing with someone she only wants to kiss. And what will happen to their relationship at the end of summer when one girl gets the job and the other doesn't?

Maybe Abby won't have to worry about any of that. Maybe fate will decide things for her.

The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles read like the script for a teen rom-com from back in the day. Perhaps something directed by John Hughes of Sixteen Candles fame. Abby is the perfect atypical heroine: Insecure, sarcastic, quirky, and completely oblivious to how awesomely cool she really is. I adored her! And her relationship with Jordi is very sweet. Even side characters come alive within the pages: Jock Jax, who is not really as cool as he pretends to be and ends up being the best sort of friend... Maggie, the frazzled owner of Lemonberry... Abby's circle of supportive friends who are there for her no matter what... As with any good rom-com, the plot is predictable and the issues resolve themselves just in time for the Happily Ever After ending. 

I enjoyed every moment of this amazing book!

(Also, it really got me craving a hamburger! With lots and lots of pickles...)