Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

twisted

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tyler Miller has always been a nerd, but his graffiti spray painting prank the previous spring has changed his life in more ways than he could have ever expected.  He’s spent the summer doing mandatory community service which involved heavy physical labor, in addition to a part-time job landscaping.  He begins his senior year tan, muscled and with a dangerous reputation from his stunt the previous year.  He is definitely not the same invisible kid who fly under the radar at Washington High.  He even has his own probation officer he needs to check in with monthly.  It’s not just the popular students who now notice Tyler, but the beautiful queen bee Bethany Milbury, has taken a sudden interest in him.  That she happens to be his stressed out, workaholic dad’s boss’ daughter doesn’t deter Ty in the least.  Everything goes wrong, however, after a party she insists on Tyler attending where she gets so drunk, he ends up driving her and her bullying brother home in their own Jeep.  The next day suggestive photos of a nude Bethany are posted online, and everyone, even the cops, are sure Tyler was the culprit.

I liked this book so much, maybe even more that Anderson’s classic Speak.  It’s told entirely from Ty’s perspective in the first person point of view, and the writer has captured the voice of a smart, insecure and suddenly infamous teenage boy lost in a desperate situation.  His inner dialog is absolutely spot on.  “The short independent film Bethany Milbury Hates Tyler Miller was playing on a constant loop in my head,  I tried everything to drive it out: watched MTV, listened to music as loud as the volume dial would let me.  I even tried beating my head against the wall.  It left a dent, but it didn’t stop her voice from mocking me…”  What I especially liked about the book was that none of the characters were stereotypical, and the father was even extremely flawed.  They reacted in realistic ways to the books many issues, with an ending that felt real, intead of contrived.  I highly recommend this title to all teen readers looking for an engaging and realistic story.  Fans of Anderson’s other titles will be especially pleased that Speak wasn’t her only great title.

speak

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

girl interrupted

Girl, Interrupted  by  Susanna Kaysen

 

The author’s memoir of her teen years in the 1960s focuses on the time she spent in a mental hospital. She had already attempted suicide by overdosing on 50 aspirin when she was committed by a psychiatrist after telling him she needed a rest. She describes the routines, levels of privilege patients can earn, her roommate and other patients, as well as her own state of mind. As she gains a better understanding of  herself and reality, she earns more privileges, finally gaining her release from the hospital. At the end of the book she looks back over that time in her life, trying to figure it out and draw some conclusions. While this book is not long, it offers much to think about.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

impossible knife

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is unlike other titles I’ve read by Anderson, except in its brilliant and captivating writing.  This story of an unusual family with unique hardships is headed by Andy Kincain, a veteran of several Middle East tours with severe Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  It’s so bad he has trouble keeping a normal job, and was a long distance truck driver for a number of years while his daughter Hayley travelled with him.  He’s been “home schooling” her while on the road, but has decided that she needs to be at a real school for her senior year so he moves them back to his family home.  Although Haley lived there as a young child, she has few memories of the time.  Her plan in their new home is to keep Andy safe from his own drugging and drinking and nightmares.  When he had one of his attacks, “the past took over.  All he heard were exploding IEDs and incoming mortar rounds, all he saw were body fragments, like an unattached leg still wearing its boot, and shards of shiny bones, sharp as spears.  All he tasted was blood.”  No wonder the guy drank and used drugs to dull the memories!  All Hayley is worried about is keeping things on a even keel at home.  She’s not out to make friends or go to college,so when she meets Finn when is taken aback by their mutual attraction.  Maybe it’s not too late to find some kind of “normal” after all.

This book was sensitive and compelling.  Anderson does an amazing job with both the character of Haley and her father; readers will feel like they are a part of this dysfunctional family.   I think readers who like stories about families, their problems and Laurie Halse Anderson in general will adore this title.  I would not be surprised if it ends up getting nominating and winning a number of young adult book awards this year.

speak          twisted

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

eyre affaire

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Imagine present day Great Britain in a totally different and alternate reality. Because Great Britain has been at war with Russia more than 100 years over the Crimean Peninsula, the government has established the Special Operations Network (Spec Ops) to deal with mundane crime matters, like Literary and Art crime, to free regular police for more standard cases. Literaary Detective Thursday Next, a veteran of the Crimean War, is working on a case involving the theft of the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, but the case containing it isn’t broken or open and nothing was recorded on the video surveillance camera.  Thursday is recruited by a much higher Spec Ops unit to help identify and track notorious criminal Archeron Hades, whom she knew as a lecturer in college. In addition, due to fluid borders between reality and literature, Thursday and other people are able to travel between literary works and reality. Other subplots and characters include Thursday’s zany inventor uncle, her father who hopscotches through time on the run from the ChronoGuard, the mystery of who really wrote Shakespeare, and more. Fans of Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld series will be thrilled to find another author whose invented world rivals Ankh Morpork. This novel is witty, engrossing and wildly inventive. The best news is that Fforde has written more Thursday Next novels!

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

The One by Kiera Cass

the one

The One by Kiera Cass

This much anticipated conclusion will not disappoint fans of Cass’s first two best-selling books in this series.  America Singer is one of the last four girls left in the competition to become Maxon’s wife and princess of Illea.  She and the prince have still not shared their deepest feeling with each other, and naturally this will lead to problems.  Speaking of problems, the Northern and Southern rebels are still around creating trouble, but readers will learn some surprising information about the rebels that may change the fate of the country.  There are lots of plot twists here to keep readers on the edge of theirs seats, too.

This title ties up all the loose ends neatly, with a satisfying conclusion.  I highly recommend this to fans of the series’ first two installments.  Fan of dystopias and romances will also enjoy the fast-paced story.

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Click Here for our review

Sunday You Learn to Box by Bill Wright

Sunday You Learn to Box by Bill Wright

Louis, a 15 year old African American boy, lives in the projects with his mother, who is a department manager at the Saks 5th Avenue store in their Connecticut town.  Louis’ mother has ambitious plans for them to have better lives, including moving out of the projects into a better place. Even after she marries her new husband Ben, she takes a second job cleaning offices at night, stops having her hair done and finds other ways to save money. Raised by his mother to believe he’s better than the other boys in the projects, Louis never plays with neighbor kids, who bully him often in return. At the same time, Louis idolizes Ray Anthony, an older boy in the neighborhood, who takes Louis under his wing and saves him from a beating.

The title comes from a plan Louis’ mother and stepfather cook up to help Louis get tough by learning to box with Ben every Sunday.  As Louis deals with his own identity issues as well as family conflicts, he starts charting his own path and making independent decisions, including using his new boxing skills.

I liked this book more as I read it and got to know the character Louis better. As he begins to stand up for himself and not be cowed by adults or neighborhood bullies he gains a better image of himself.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

boy nobody

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

I think this book is the perfect fit for any teen who enjoys the Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible movie franchises.  It it the fast-paced story of an unnamed teenaged assassin who is shockingly detached from his bloody occupation,  making him even more deadly for his victims.  He works for some secretive company called the Program, with his “parents” in contact with him by phone giving him new assignments.  As the cover of the book says, “The Mission is Everything.”  The story is told in the first person narration by the sixteen-year-old killer, who moves from place to place, always the new kid.  He stays long enough to blend in, get close to his assignment, and kill the victim, always making it look like an accident.  He’s been living this life since his “new friend” Mike assassinated his own parents when he was twelve, and then indoctrinated him into the Program.  Now it’s the only life he knows.  The problems start when he meets the daughter of his next assignment, the mayor of New York City.  He begins having feelings he only vaguely remembers and starts asking his “parents” questions, instead of going along with the usual protocol like the mechanical killer he is.  The question become if he can complete his assignment, and if he can’t, what then?

I truly enjoyed this book!  I felt empathy for the main character, even though he is a trained assassin because the author Zadoff paints him in shades of grey.  The writing is simple and straight-forward, carrying readers along with the teenager’s thoughts and ideas, creating a feeling if immediacy and of being inside his head.  This is the first in a series and I cannot wait for the next installment.  I would recommend this to fans of thrillers, mysteries and anyone looking for a relentless read.

 

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