The Teen Reader

Your source for reviews and ratings on every type of YA fiction.

Shadows

Posted by Danielle on October 15, 2011

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Posted by Rachel on July 9, 2009

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: General fiction, romance

Reading Level: Moderate

Rating: PG for teenage themes

Summary: “If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d get all his inside jokes, and maybe he wouldn’t be so frustrated with her for forgetting things she can’t possibly remember. She’d know about her mom’s new family. She’d know about her dad’s fiancée. She wouldn’t have to spend her junior year relearning all the French she supposedly knew already. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back. But Naomi picked heads.”

Rachel’s Review: I found this book while I was looking for Zevin’s other novel, Elsewhere (I was going to read it and review it for this site). But I stumbled across this book instead. And what a happy happenstance it turned out to be.

Zevin gets into this teenage girl’s head, literally I guess you could say, and allows this girl a chance to re-evaluate her life. The book is split into three (very appropriate) sections: I was, I am, and I will. I would like it to be put on the record that I really love the way Zevin organized the novel; I think it’s really quite lovely.

Anyways, so since Naomi hits her head and gets amnesia, the first section is devoted to her not remembering who she was. She is looking at her life like an outsider with an insider’s pass, and it’s interesting. She’s searching for clues of who she was and why she was who she was, and Zevin even writes that Naomi isn’t exactly happy with what she finds.

Next, as Naomi is growing and maturing and beginning to look forward from her past a bit, we transition into ‘I am.’ Here, Naomi is defining herself, not by what she used to be, but by who she believes she is now. She breaks ties with her “past life,” for better or for worse (it’s really all up to your interpretation).

Finally, ‘I will.’ The book concludes with Naomi pretty much coming full circle. And I don’t really want to give anything away. . . Mwahahahahaha. . . . 

P. S. I would like to add that I wish Will was a real person. *Sigh.* I wish, I wish. Anyways. . . hehe.

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Good Omens

Posted by Rachel on July 7, 2009

Author: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy

Reading Level: Moderate

Rating: G

Summary: According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing. Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon–both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle–are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist. . . 

Rachel’s Review: I’d been hearing about this book for quite a while before I finally found it at Goodwill (Others may call it coincidence; I believe it to be fate). By that time, I was a rather solid fan of Terry Pratchett, and I hadn’t yet read anything by Neil Gaiman, though one of my friends near worshipped Neverwhere (but that’s another review for another day). So I was excited for this book to say the least.

And I am proud to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Pratchett and Gaiman make excellent co-authors, and it was interesting to see the way their particular writing styles meshed. Pratchett is classic British humour (see what I did there?) and Gaiman has a slightly darker side (as well as great hair). I laughed out loud throughout the book and fell quite in love with Aziraphale (“an angel and part-time rare book dealer”) and Crowley (“an angel who did not fall so much as saunter vaguely downwards”). 

My copy of Good Omens is now beginning to disintegrate at the seams. Some may say that means I am a terrible book-keeper and should be hanged (hung?). I say it means I love this book a lot and carried it with me everywhere while I read it, occasionally forgetting to dodge trucks while crossing the street and getting trampled into the mud (you know how trucks trample these days). All the same. Funny read 😀

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Twilight

Posted by Danielle on July 5, 2009

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Genre: urban fantasy, romance

Reading Level: moderate

Rating: PG-13 (when included with the entire Twilight series)

Summary: “When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…”

Danielle’s Review: Ah, Twilight. If you haven’t heard way too much about it by now, you’ve been living under a rock. If you have been in the vicinity of a teenage girl anytime recently, you will likely have noticed a strange trend appearing in the form of an obsession with blood, pale skin, and sparkly boys.

The problem with the Twilight books is, quite simply, that people either make too much or too little of them. Meyer has been called the new J.K. Rowling, and the Twilight books have been called the Pride and Prejudice of our time, which is a gross overstatement; however, there is the opposite side which calls the books vampire porn and refuses to be seen in the same room with a Stephanie Meyer book. Both are wrong.

If you hadn’t guessed, Twilight is an age-old plot of forbidden love. A human and a vampire; oh, the cruel fate of star-crossed lovers. Obviously, it’s been done before, but never before quite like this. As an (almost) completely unbiased reader, I have to say that the books are entertaining at best, bad poetry at worst. Not to say that Steph Meyer is not an exceptionally talented woman, but don’t go into this series expecting an Austen-style plot. The characters are thrilling, and the romance-laced action scenes are Meyer’s forte, but the classic “love-triangle” and “dangerous relationship” themes will not surprise you. However, there is enough substance and serious entertainment value to these books that if you are of the female persuasion, you could become seriously addicted to Edward’s absolutely perfect charm, despite the sometimes utterly ridiculous romantic dialogue.

Now, let me just say that I have no problem with older teenagers reading Twilight, as long as they don’t elevate it to the position of Austen. But for those of you who are parents, let me caution that younger readers shouldn’t be into these books. I’ve seen junior high girls and even junior high boys reading these in the hallways and it’s very concerning. There are no graphic sex scenes to worry about, though there is enough innuendo and an obvious skip over what would have been a sex scene in the last book (at this point they are married, and like I said, the scene is skipped over). However, the relationship between Bella and Edward is not one that young readers should be treating as normal. Edward is somewhat of a stalker and actually sleeps in Bella’s bed throughout the books, behind her father’s back. Now, a more mature reader can understand how different their relationship is from the normal “human” one, but don’t let your junior highers read this until they’re older, okay? Once you’re fifteen or sixteen you should be just fine.

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Only Call Us Faithful

Posted by Rachel on July 4, 2009

Author: Marie Jakober

Genre: Historical fiction

Reading Level: Intermediate

Rating: PG for war themes

Summary: “Richmond, Virginia, is the heart of the Confederacy, and for those whose hearts are still with the Union in 1861, it is a trying home. Liza Van Lew has long been an outsider in Richmond. She never married, and at her father’s death she gave all of her family slaves their freedom. Her neighbors and friends have begun to believe that she might be losing her mind. But the Rebels don’t trust her, and with good reason. Behind a mask of mental frailty and innocence, she has secretly organized and is operating a hugely successful spy ring out of Richmond. Some in the Confederate Army have their suspicions, though they can’t ever seem to catch her in the act.”

Rachel’s Review: At first I was going to read this for a history report, but it ended up not fitting the exact specifications and requirements and blahblahblah, so I set it aside. After the report was finished, however, I picked this book back up because the plot seemed so intriguing (plus it had to be ten times better than the book I ended up doing the report on).  When I was about halfway through reading this book, I watched The Prestige with my family, and I ended up drawing some parallels (because I’m cool like that). In The Prestige, Borden’s whole life is part of his act, and as a magician, he lays everything on the line for the security of his secrets and his tricks. In Only Call Us Faithful, Liza Van Lew’s whole life is a secret as well, an act, a charade put on so she can get away with helping the Union while in the deep south. She protects her secrets, her tricks, to stay alive. Neato, right?

The book is written so that it cuts between the past, what was happening during the war at the time, and the present (ish), when Liza is a ghost looking back on it all retrospectively. It’s intriguing that the novel was based on true events (not the ghost bits, but the war bits and the spy bits). I found this “other look at the South” interesting because of all of its various insights into the ways of life (the way women were treated back then, the way slaves were treated, how Union prisoners were held, and more). Plus the book has multiple jabs at Scarlett O’Hara (bit of an ‘lol’ there).

Once the war was over, the book didn’t just immediately end, which I liked. It showed the aftermath a bit, how people moved on and how some people weren’t able to deal. It was rather eye-opening because you don’t often think about what happens after the storybook “happy-ending-yay-we-won-the-war” type of thing. Altogether a good book.

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The Little Prince

Posted by Rachel on July 3, 2009

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Genre: Fantasy

Reading Level: Easy

Rating: G

Summary: “The Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house. He owned three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. He also owned a flower, unlike any flower in all the galaxy, of great beauty and inordinate pride. It was this pride that ruined the serenity of the Little Prince’s world and started him on the interplanetary travels that brought him to earth. . .”

Rachel’s Review: This book was intended as a children’s book and it panders to children in a way, beginning with the idea that adults aren’t as imaginative or necessarily broad-minded as children (which, to a large extent and to the extent which the book indicates, they aren’t). I found this book on a dusty little shelf downstairs and was immediately intrigued. I had some time to kill, so I picked it up and started reading and I became thoroughly enthralled by the idea.

There are so many morals and general proverbs in this little book that I wish that everyone would read it, no matter that it was intended for children. I think that as much as it is a lovely story, very visual, that children love, it is a story that sets an example, in a way, for adults (and anyone who has taken an “adult” mindset). There are multiple philosophies that would soar over any child’s head and that seem to be aimed at the older generations that become set in their ways (and I could be reading too much into this, because sometimes that’s a fun thing to do).

Anyways, Antoine de Saint-Exupery is a thoroughly poetic and inspiring writer, and The Little Prince is insightful and beautiful and lovely and sad in the most perfect way.

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Milkweed

Posted by Rachel on July 1, 2009

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Leve
l: Easy

Rating: PG for war themes

Summary: “He’s a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Runt. . . He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels.”

Rachel’s Review: Danielle has been trying to get me to read this book for ages because she is a huge fan of Spinelli, but I was always skeptical because his books looked way too young for me. Recently, I was bored while at her house, so I just picked it up and started reading. After that, I couldn’t really put it down once until I had to leave her house, and then I read it whenever I had the chance and finished it in less than a day.

Milkweed is a story of the Holocaust brilliantly and captivatingly told through the voice of one young boy. Spinelli masterfully catches the spirit and mind of youth and translates their language onto the page. He knows the level of their understanding, so his characters never read as too unrealistically stupid or intelligent for their age category. He writes as though he remembers what it was like to be a child and to believe in everything.

Throughout the book, the little boy assumes the personalities that others have thrust upon him: thief, Jew, Gypsy, etc. He becomes, in a way, what others expect him to be in his attempt to find his true identity. And all his life he is running because he doesn’t know any other way. His experiences in the ghetto and the holocaust are symbolized throughout the book as a stone angel. It’s beautiful, really. Spinelli compares the boy to the stone angel because he has done nothing wrong and yet he still has to suffer, and he becomes changed and hardened in a way by the war and he becomes like stone.

In conclusion, this book is just a really good read. It’s rather short, clocking in at just over 200 pages, but carries a weighty punch. So, yeah. It’s good 😀

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Artemis Fowl

Posted by Danielle on May 3, 2009

Author: Eoin Colfer

Genre: urban fantasy

Reading Level: Easy

Rating: PG for fantasy violence and criminal behavior

Summary: “Who is Artemis Fowl? A genius. A mastermind. A millionaire. And he is only twelve years old. Yet as crafty as he is, Artemis may have met his match in Captain Holly Short, an elf from the LEPrecon Special Forces, when he plots to steal the richest treasure the world has ever known–the timeless treasure of the fairies!”

Danielle’s Review:

Artemis Fowl has turned into a popular favorite among junior-high boys, and that’s probably because it’s full of action, clever ploys, monsters, bodyguards, fantasy weapons, and an ingenious combination of everything cool about the modern world and everything amazing about the fairy-tale one.

Think of Artemis Fowl as a fairy tale for the modern city kid. It’s about a kid who has everything he wants–he lives without parents, without rules. He has a bodyguard and servants at his command, a mansion packed with every sort of technology, a huge amount of money. He travels all over the world, and not only does he have everything already, but he’s also so smart, he can easily obtain whatever he wants. When you push too far, though, you find the same thing you’ll find in the stories that the Grimm Brothers told: when you mess with the fairy world, you find out that pixies are not at all as fluttery, cute, and pathetic as you imagined.

This story has all the same elements of a classic fairy tale, plot-wise, but most of you aren’t going to notice that, because you’ll be too busy watching all the computer technology, trying to crack the codes, and figuring out what sort of trap the ingenious Artemis is going to set up next. You have to give it to Mr. Colfer for bringing the fairy tale back with such class and style.

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Maximum Ride

Posted by Danielle on April 29, 2009

Author: James Patterson

Genre: urban science fiction, action/adventure

Reading Level: Easy to Moderate

Rating: PG for violence

Back-of-the-Book Summary: “Your faithful companions: Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. Six kids who are pretty normal in most ways–except that they’re 98 percent human, 2 percent bird. They grew up in a lab, living like rats in cages, but now they’re free. Aside, of course, from the fact that they’re prime prey for Erasers–wicked, wolflike creatures with a taste for flying humans. The missions: Rescue Angel from malicious mutants. Infiltrate a secret facility to track down the flock’s missing parents. Scavenge for sustenance. Get revenge on an evil traitor. And save the world, if there’s time.”

Danielle’s Review:

The average person either fiercely loves the Maximum Ride books, or fiercely hates them. It’s the sort of thing you don’t pass by without strong feelings. Max is a strong and hilarious narrator, the kind that makes you laugh out loud; the book is full of fight scene after chase scene after rescue scene; mysteries abound, kids run wild, five-year-old girls can control your mind, and who hasn’t wished for wings before?

So you can see why these books would be easily lovable and strongly addictive. Despite the fact that they’re written by James Patterson, who is notoriously an adult author, they’re very appealing to a YA audience, and actually to all ages. I’ve know these books to be read by twelve-year-olds, as well as people who are turning eighteen. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to put these books down, not if you enjoy a good action-packed plot. Think The Bourne Identity for kids with wings.

The reason some people hate these books is because they’re so commercialized. It’s a little like the fuss that’s made over Santa Clause at Christmas. Sure he’s great, but do we really need him glittering in every single window of every over-priced shopping mall, all the time? Patterson runs (or has someone else run) a very successful blog through the viewpoint of one of the book’s characters, which has been very successful in promoting the book as well as promoting other products (like CD’s) which the “characters” love, so you should buy them too. He’s also using the books to help spread awareness about global warming…not that we aren’t already aware.

Seriously though, it’s not that big of a deal. The blog is kind of interesting, the characters are extremely cool, the plot is addictive, and if you can just sigh and ignore the web address in the second chapter, you’re going to love these books. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love the commercialism too.

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The Truth About Forever

Posted by Rachel on April 3, 2009

Author: Sarah Dessen

Genre: Romance, general fiction

Reading Level: Moderate

Rating:  PG for mild romance themes and a scene of underage alcohol substance abuse

Summary: “A long, hot summer. That’s what sixteen-year-old Macy Queen has to look forward to. Her boyfriend, Jason, is going away to Brain Camp. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And all of her free time promises to be spent studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s death.

But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy ditches her library job and joins up with the Wish gang: bighearted Delia; quiet, introspective Monica; and fun-loving, fashion-conscious Kristy. But best of all, there’s Wes–artistic,  insightful, and understanding Wes–who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way. . .”

Rachel’s Review: This is the second Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever read, the first being Dreamland, and I’m really beginning to fall in love with her writing style. It’s fresh and real and doesn’t shy away from what teenagers are dealing with (deaths in the family, running away from home, love,  suicide, abuse). The book is written in a beautifully bare voice. It’s very cathartic, in a way. Every character she writes seems fleshed out, really flesh and blood human beings with strengths and weaknesses and issues. The characters are easy to relate to and they are intriguing in a way that only real people are. Some of their problems are trivial and they don’t handle them properly, and some of their problems are too real and they avoid them completely. Sarah Dessen gives them a life and a vitality and an honesty that leaps off the page so you feel as though you know these characters personally, that you have laughed with them and walked with them for longer than you can remember.

I love the chemistry between Macy and Wes, too. They start out small, but they grow together and learn from each other. Plus, Wes is just a likable character from the start: artistic and handsome but with just enough mystery so that you want to know more about him, and you wonder why he is the way he is.

Throughout the book, there is a recurring theme of ‘forever.’ This is understandable, since it’s in the title. But anyways. It’s not forever in a necessarily religious afterlife sort of way, but in a life in general “the choices you make affect you forever” kind of way. It was interesting to see how each character’s perception of forever changed infinitely with their personal point of view and perspective, as well as what has happened in their lives.

“That was the thing. You just never knew. Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really all about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last. But there was one truth about forever that really mattered, and that was this: it was happening. Right then…and every moment afterwards. Look, there. Now. Now. Now.”

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