Saturday, October 3, 2015

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate (Tween)

Crenshaw is a cat, but not just any cat. He surfs, he skateboards, he turns cartwheels. He enjoys bubble baths, loves purple jelly beans, and chasing frogs. He even speaks like a human. Crenshaw was Jackson's imaginary friend back when Jackson was in first grade and his family were homeless. In fact, back then, Crenahaw was Jackson's only friend.

But that was then.

Now in 6th grade, Jackson has become obsessed with science and facts. Anything magical, fictional, and imaginary has no place in his life. Facts and truth are concrete. They're absoloute. They're something Jackson can hold onto. And Jackson especially needs that now, when there's less and less food, when his family has sold off everything but the bare essentials, and when his parents just won't be straight with him about the dire-ness of their situation. When Jackson's biggest fear is becoming homeless again and when it's looking more and more like that fear will come true. Facts, Jackson has decided, are something that will never let him down.

So why has Crenshaw suddenly come back into his life? Because maybe right now is when Jackson needs him more than ever.

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, is one of the newest additions to our ever-growing Tween collection. And it was much deeper and more thought-provoking than I imagined (given that it's about an imaginaty cat, I expected sort of a light, fluffy story). However, it is very good and deals with some very real issues in a way children and younger teens can understand and relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed it. --AJB

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ready for Halloween

Tomorrow is October, so we in the Teen Department have been getting ready for Halloween. Today three very creative, enthusiastic, and ever so slightly "batty" volunteers decorated the blank back wall of our magazine room, and it looks awesome! Thank you to Anna, Sophie, and Ella! You guys rock!

Next week after Banned Books Week is finished, we'll be putting up a display of Scary Books. 

Stay tuned! There's lots of great things coming up in OPL Teen!

George, by Alex Gino (tween)

To the world, George, 10, appears to be a boy. But appearances are deceiving. George knows she's really (secretly) a girl named Melissa, and has known this for as long as she can remember. Lately, it's gotten harder and harder for George to keep this secret from her best friend and even her family. Then George finds the perfect way to introduce her true self to the people she cares about: By playing the part of Charlotte in her class production of Charlotte's Web. Despite not getting the part because the teacher "doesn't want to give the part of Charlotte to a boy," George comes up with a plan. And with the help of her best friend Kelly, that plan just might work. At least it will be a step in the right direction.

George is the first book middle school book I've encountered that has a transgender main character, and it is an awesome (Terrific! Radiant!) book! Author Alex Gino handles this very sensitive topic with the utmost care and respect. Characters are realistic and well-rounded. The ending seems a bit tidy, but it is a happy and hopeful one that will leave readers satisfied.

George, just out this month, will soon be available on our Tween shelf.

The Verdict:
George is a beautifully-written novel about family, friendship, acceptance, and not being afraid to be yourself. Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder will adore George! --AJB

Monday, September 28, 2015

Violent Ends: A Novel In Seventeen Points of View (various authors)

Kirby Matheson loved reading, played saxophone in the high school band, had friends, had a crush on a girl (and had a different girl have a crush on him). He was a smart, quiet, thoughtful, and seemingly ordinary kid who kept out of trouble. No one could have ever predicted what would come next.

On a seemingly ordinary fall day, Kirby Matheson marched into his school's gymnasium during a pep rally and fired a gun into the crowd. Six were killed and five others were injured before Kirby turned the gun on himself. Nothing could ever be the same again.

Violent Ends: A Novel In Seventeen Perspectives tells the story of that fateful day, but it also tells so much more. Seventeen different stories, seventeen different perspectives, seventeen seemingly-unrelated puzzle pieces that, when fitted together, paints a haunting picture of a very disturbed boy and what could have driven him to commit such a horrible crime. 

Some of the well-known YA authors contributing to this masterful novel are Neal Shusterman, Beth Revis, Kendare Blake, and Shaun David Hutchinson.

The Verdict: 
Haunting, deeply disturbing, and unforgettable. Give to fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. --AJB

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead (Tween)

I have never read a book written by Rebecca Stead, but Goodbye Stranger was a fantastic surprise, so I am sure this won't be my last book from this author. The writing was simple but profound which is why I think it will appeal to a broad range of readers. The main character of the story is Bridge, who survived from being hit by a car as a child and now, in junior high, has an existential question hanging over her head; did I survive for a reason? That question is built upon as the stories start to take shape and each character has to make decisions about the type of person they are and the type of person they want to be. First romance, social media, and trusting your instincts all played a part in building the book's foundation. I enjoyed the theme of friendships in Goodbye Stranger. Tab, Bridge, and Em are supportive of each other, even if they don't always agree. I also love the fact that the adults were always in the background. They were there in the story and they were not absentee or negligent; they were an influential part in the lives of their kids and I felt their presence in the story, even if they weren't completely fleshed out as characters.

Every character is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to a situation, a friendship, an interaction, or just a way of doing things that isn't working. While the characters were young, I could still relate to everything they were going through, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any adult who couldn't relate this book to things they have experienced both in adolescence and their adult life.

There are two narratives happening and they eventually intersect, but until they do, the reader is treated to two very engaging and, at times, emotional stories. I really really loved the way I came to care about each person in this story and how they eventually found what they were looking for in order to say that special goodbye. I would definitely recommend this heart warming book to readers of all ages. *JK*

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman

Once upon a time, a magical sleeping sickness began to spread across the land. Foregoing her impending nuptials to a man she did not love, an unnamed Queen (who had overcome her own sleeping curse and was therefore immune to all magical sleeps) set out with three dwarf companions to attempt to break the curse and free the peoples of the land from their enchanted slumber.

Once upon a time a witch cursed a princess to prick her finger and sleep forever. A well-meaning fairy attempted to adjust the curse so the princess could be awakened by a kiss, but the witch intervened at the last moment and did something no one ever expected. Not even the princess herself. Now a lovely maiden sleeps--and the sleep spreads across the miles. The only one awake is an ancient crone who keeps watch. And the Queen and dwarves are awake too, of course.

No spoilers, but the ending will definitely surprise you.

Grand Master of Fantasy Neil Gaiman takes the time-honored tale of Sleeping Beauty and puts an entirely new twist on it with The Sleeper and the Spindle. Black and white illustrations by Chris Riddle enhance this lovely and incredibly creative retelling. Originally appearing in the short story collection Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales (2013), The Sleeper and the Spindle is now its own separate volume, which can currently be found on the New Book shelf.

The Verdict:
Slightly dark (but, really, what fairy tale isn't that way?), but absolutely gorgeous! Fans of Gaiman's work (and fans of fairy tale retellings in general) won't want to miss this! A masterpiece! --AJB

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Accident Season, by Moria Fowley-Doyle

To most people, October means colorful leaves, cozy things like hoodies and bonfires, and, of course, Halloween. To most people, October is fun. But not for Cara's family. Each year as October approaches, Cara, Sam, Alice, and their mother prepare themselves for the worst. Corners are padded, sharp objects are put away, and extra precaution is taken when driving (or even walking) anywhere. For Cara's family, October means The Accident Season. Some years this just means lots of minor cuts and bruises. Other years, when things are particularly bad, people actually die--like what happened with Cara's father. And this particular Accident Season is predicted to be the worst of them all. What is The Accident Season? Why has it plagued Cara and her family? And what does it have to do with Elise, the mysterious missing girl who seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time? To say anything more would mean spoilers. You'll just have to read The Accident Season for yourself.

Author Moria Fowley-Doyle's debut novel is perhaps one of the oddest things I've read this year. It is filled with mystery, intrigue, and atmosphere so thick it could be cut with a knife (if all the knives hadn's been hidden safely away, that is). It will have you watching your back, checking your phone's photo albums for hidden images you may have missed, and wondering what sort of secrets those around you are keeping (and if they know yours). And when all is finally revealed, you may still have questions. 

The Verdict:
A bit slow-going at first, but the mystery of what's going on will keep you turning the pages. A great book to read as October approaches. --AJB