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Recommendations for Friday, February 14, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coming of age

Unshelved strip for 2/14/2014

@bookblrb: Cath’s boyfriend dumped her, her twin is distant, and she just got her first F. Online she’s famous for her fanfic.

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

Link to this review by darcy tagged coming of age

Ritchie Sudden has ninety days to serve in a juvenile facility, and his assignment is to write his story. It goes something like this: in the year before Ritchie's arrest, his dad walked out on his family, his mother's girlfriend moved in, and his sister Beth died. Ritchie and his best friend Elliot (also known as El Hella) jam together, find a drummer, and start a band called Wise Young Fool. They practice hard to try and win a Battle of the Bands.

When he's not telling us the story of his life, he's telling us about the juvenile detention facility that smells like sweaty teen boys and angst and what it takes to survive there. He writes about jail, but what really haunts him and keeps him moving forward is the memory of his sister and what she told him before she died.

Why I picked it up: I love books and movies about bands. Rock and punk biographies are my favorite pasttime, but fiction about bands runs a close second. The guitar on the front caught my eye so I had to read it.

Why I finished it: The story of the organized fights in the juvenile detention center was just as intriguing as the conversations with his counselor. I liked Ritchie from the first pages when he bought a guitar with a wad of twenties stashed in his sock. ("I slide up the neck, go for an arpeggio and miss it by a mile. The guitar is clearly defective. Worthless. I am completely in love.")

It's perfect for: Brenda, who had the best sixteenth birthday party I've ever been to -- her older brothers arranged garage bands like Wise Young Fool to play in their basement. 

@bookblrb: In juvie, Richie writes the story of his band, his dead sister, his messed-up family, and his arrest.

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart

Coltan, or “blue gold,” is a rare mineral used in making cell phones and computers. Across continents, the lives of three teen girls are affected by the “blue gold” trade.

Sylvie’s family had to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo after her father was killed by a rogue militia gang in the conlict for control of coltan. The refugee camp where she now lives is deplorable, and Sylvie yearns for a way out—to save not only herself, but her remaining family.

Laiping labors in a Chinese factory, soldering components for cell phones. She had left her small village to make her fortune, but the factory conditions are crushing, and the constant pressure to send money home adds to her misery. Yet when Laiping tries to improve her situation, she sees what happens to those who dare question the electronics company’s policies.

Fiona is a North American girl who, in one thoughtless moment, takes a picture on her cell phone she comes to regret. In the aftermath, she learns not only about trust and being true to oneself, but the importance of ighting for what is right.

All three teens are unexpectedly linked by these events.

Elizabeth Stewart conducted extensive research to authentically capture the experiences of all three girls. The result is an intense and powerful story about their struggles to create better lives for themselves in the face of the world’s increasing appetite for coltan.

“… manages to cram an enormous amount of geo-political strife into her brisk and eventful novel without violating a YA novelist’s more fundamental requirement to entertain.”—Quill & Quire

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Jessica Darling's IT List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection by Megan McCafferty

Link to this review by gigi tagged coming of agehumor

Jessica is just about to start middle school when her older sister, who was Miss Perfect in middle school, gives Jessica the IT List, which tells her what to do to be popular. It gives Jessica much more to worry about than just starting a new school, like joining the CHEER TEAM! and wearing something different everyday. But even with the list things don’t go as well as they should. When she gets to middle school, her best friend, Bridget, who used to be dorky like Jessica, suddenly looks fashionable. They make new, popular friends (the IT clique, in Jessica’s sister’s words), though a few of those girls are a bit nasty. Jessica gets stuck taking wood shop instead of home economics -- her teacher is insane (he can’t remember anyone’s name so he makes up obnoxious nicknames for all of them), and she’s the only girl in class.

Why I picked it up: My dad told me that our friends Ali, Phyllis, and Ella, who used to be middle school students in his book club at the library, loved the other books about Jessica Darling by Megan McCafferty.

Why I finished it: I wanted to find out if Jessica would make the cheer team (her tryout doesn’t go as planned), and what would happen to her friendships if she did but her friends didn’t.

It's perfect for: Linda, who would laugh when Jessica’s friends were going to call their cheer squad “the athletic supporters” until they found out what that meant.

@bookblrb: When Jessica is about to start middle school, her sister gives her a list detailing what to do to be popular.

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Link to this review by rose tagged coming of agescience fiction

Found by the side of the road when she was five, Darcy was bounced from foster home to foster home. Finally in a good place with great friends, her happy life is turned upside down by Conn McCrea. They get to know each other while working on an English project for high school, but then he handcuffs her and drags her through a portal to another reality where shades, beings that can “ghost” (turn invisible and fly), threaten humanity. Conn and the people he works for tell Darcy that she is a shade. They offer her a deal: if she spies on other shades for them, they’ll eventually let her go home to our reality.

Why I picked it up: The idea of an alternate universe hooked me. I love fictional worlds where things are just a little bit different.

Why I finished it: The feud between the humans and the shades really bothered me. Everyone on both sides is constantly living in fear and full of hate, and it’s unclear what started the fighting. How could they resolve and get past a conflict like that?

Readalikes: The Rules by Stacey Kade. Its main character, Ariane, and Darcy are actually similar -- they’re both different from normal humans and they’re both orphans -- but while Ariane knows she’s an alien-human hybrid, Darcy is completely oblivious to her nonhuman heritage.

@bookblrb: Darcy is handcuffed and taken to another reality where she finds out she’s not human.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems

Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

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Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of agescience fiction

After Hurricane Katrina, a series of increasingly devastating storms beat the Gulf Coast. The government supported efforts to rebuild until the deadly Delta Fever virus hit. After that, they gave up on the people of New Orleans and much of the south and built a wall around the area.  What was once New Orleans became Orleans. And the United States became the Outer States and the abandoned Delta.

Fen de la Guerre is a teenaged girl growing up in Orleans. She lost her scientist parents to blood hunters and fell prey to a voodoo queen pimp who sold her blood and her virginity, but she’s finally found a tribe she can trust. She endears herself to the leader. But then everyone except for Fen and a newborn girl is killed during a raid. Now Fen must find a way to get her out of the Delta before the baby becomes infected and has no chance of ever leaving.

Why I picked it up: This book was nominated by a coworker for our library system's Mock Printz, and I love New Orleans.

Why I finished it: Fen is one of the strongest female characters I've come across in a while. At one point she purposefully burns her arms on a cooking pot to create thick scars over her veins in order to hamper blood theft. Having her as a guide through the transformed city makes this not only a kick-ass, post-apocalyptic survival story, but an excellent warning to those who think we can build walls of any sort to keep world-wide catastrophes at bay.

It's perfect for:  Brittney, who would enjoy seeing how the French Quarter is converted into a Beyond Thunderdome-style marketplace.

@bookblrb: In post-apocalyptic New Orleans, Fen must save a newborn from the Delta Fever virus.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Link to this review by darcy tagged historynonfiction

Rowing has had a place in prestigious universities for ages. It was synonymous with privilege and tradition until a team of working class boys from the University of Washington made it to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and took the gold from Hitler's team.

Why I picked it up: My book group wanted to read it, and I was happy to agree. My morning commute takes me past the University of Washington, and I often see crew teams on the water. Rain or shine (but mostly rain) they are out there working. I admire their drive and dedication.

Why I finished it: I enjoyed the description of college life and Seattle history during the Great Depression, and the beautiful description of how George Pocock built his boats for the university. Throughout the book are quotes from Pocock on racing, rowing, and boat design. But I was really drawn to the story of Joe Rantz, a student who was cast aside by his father at a young age after his mother's death, and again later by his selfish stepmother. Joe was a hard working kid and took on dangerous jobs like logging and working on the Grand Coulee Dam to pay for college. His life told him that nobody else would help him fulfill his dreams. Through rowing he was able to rebuild his self-confidence.

Readalikes: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, my go-to book about the value of hard work and persistence, and A Prayer For Own Meany by John Updike, which has one of the least likely heroes in all of literature. Owen is intelligent instead of strong, and it’s his persistent which pays off in the final scenes of the book. 

@bookblrb: How a rowing crew of working-class boys from the University of Washington took gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More by Jane Fonda

From Jane Fonda, the founder of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP) and Emory University's Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health comes an all-encompassing guide that parents and educators will want for their teens.

This thorough, concise guide offers straight talk about:

  • The male and female body as it changes and matures.
  • Teen relationships: what it takes to create happy, supportive, positive, and meaningful connections with family, friends, and others.
  • Identity empowerment: how to be authentic and thrive in today’s world.
  • Strategies for working through the toughest challenges, including bullying, sexual abuse, eating disorders, pregnancy, and more.

Being a Teen should be in the hands of every teen in the world. It is a myth-busting, fact-filled treasure full of life information all teens want and need to know.”—Christiane Northrup, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

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The Cute Girl Network by Greg Means, MK Reed, Joe Flood

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novel

After hapless but well-meaning Jack starts to date skate girl Jane, they both start to get relationship advice. Gil urges Jack to make lewd, sexist comments, while Rose seems to think he should just give up. Jane’s roommate Harriet is alarmed at her choice of men. She introduces her to the Network, an alliance of women who share information about the men in the city to prevent one another from wasting time on a lame guy. She takes her to meet women who dated Jack and to hear about their experiences (for example, when he dated Nikki, he carried his cell phone in his underwear).

Why I picked it up: Greg Means publishes my favorite anthology comic, Papercutter, and I loved MK Reed’s Cross Country and Americus.

Why I finished it: After pages four and five, I had to. Jane crashes after skating over a screw-on cap whose interior reads “SORRY you are not a winner.” When she lands on her butt, she exclaims, “Ow! My coccyx.” It’s a nice opening sequence that all takes place in front of Java the Hut, so I was totally onboard.

It's perfect for: Mapes, who has nicknames for all of her guy friends (Doctor Guy, Lawyer Guy, Workout Guy, etc.). She’d like that Jack is “Soup Dude” for a while.

@bookblrb: Her roommate doesn’t like her boyfriend. She introduces Jane to a network of women who share information about him.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of age

Two young Iranian women, Sahar and Nasrin, have been in love since they were six. But their secret relationship must end when Nasrin’s parents arrange her marriage to a young doctor. In despair, Sahar turns to her cousin Ali, who is gay and as out as one can be in Iran, where homosexuality is both a sin and a crime punishable by death. At one of Ali’s illegal parties, she meets Parveen, a young transgender woman.  As Parveen tells Sahar what it’s like to be a man, Sahar starts to think that she can save her relationship with Nasrin by having sexual reassignment surgery.

Why I picked it up: I love reading about other cultures.

Why I finished it: The writing took me right to the heart of a doomed relationship. Understanding Sahar’s desperate attempt to save their relationship depends on seeing how repressive Iran is towards gays and lesbians, yet also on how the state views transgendered individuals as mistakes that can be fixed with surgery. This is a strange concept to me (and to most Americans, I suspect), but this wonderful story reveals it all through its utterly realistic characters.

It's perfect for: Linda, who would love the depth of detail about Iranian life, whether it's the simple daily routine of Sahar cooking for her father while he serves her weak tea or how she refers to the two main Ayatollahs as "Angry Grandpa" and "Disappointed Grandpa."

@bookblrb: Two young Iranian women's secret romance must end when one becomes engaged, so one considers gender reassignment.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

A perfect book for your YA and Adult Book Clubs.

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay-help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores-Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

Find out more about the author’s journey to publish this book,.

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Hostage Three by Nick Lake

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agethriller

Amy detests her new stepmother and her distant father, an investment banker who is always working. So when her father comes home, tells her they are purchasing a yacht, and going on a family cruise for several months, Amy is less than thrilled. Along with a small crew, they are soon on the water and sailing through the Gulf of Aden. Despite warnings about pirates in the gulf, they are surprised to be attacked by gun-wielding men on a small boat. The captain has planned for this contingency, but the ropes meant to foul the small boat's propellers do not work, and neither does his attempt to outrun the pirates. Within seconds, Amy, her family and the small crew are in the yacht's dining room with guns to their heads. The US Navy arrives very quickly, but despite their million-dollar weapons, they can do nothing but monitor the situation for fear of hurting the hostages.

Living with the pirates on board the ship while waiting for ransom negotiations to conclude is both frightening and tiring. Amy’s family and the crew try to keep secrets from the hijackers, because if the pirates find out Amy's father owns the yacht, the ransom demands will grow exponentially.

Why I picked it up: Nick Lake’s last novel In Darkness won the Michael L. Printz award for Young Adult Literature. When I saw this new book was being published, I knew it would be worth reading.

Why I finished it: I felt helpless. Despite the US Navy’s huge advantage in terms of firepower, it can’t attack for fear of hurting the hostages. And the pirates can’t hurt the hostages without inviting a reprisal. A strange peace fell over the negotiations, which may take months to conclude. 

(The book’s title comes from the pirates’ habit of trying to dehumanize their hostages by referring to them by numbers rather than using their names. Amy is Hostage Three.)   It's perfect for: Anyone who has seen the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips. Even though it is about a tanker crew and not a private yacht, people who want to know more about how pirates work can get details in Lake’s book, like that occasionally pirates will cut off part of a hostage’s finger to show that they are serious. Also, there are investors who put up seed money to supply pirates with the boats and weapons they need. If the pirates are successful and receive a ransom, the investors make a hefty profit.

@bookblrb: A family on a yacht in the Gulf of Aden is taken hostage by pirates.

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