Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

suicide

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

This engaging thriller is being marketed as  Gone Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why.  I suppose it is a thriller like Gone Girl and does, at least potentially, have a suicide like Thirteen Reasons.  But in my mind, it wasn’t nearly as good as either of those titles.  Not to say it didn’t catch my interest and keep me turning pages, at least for the first half.   June’s former BFF Delia has burned herself to death in a shed behind her house.  At least that’s what the authorities are saying.  But June doesn’t buy that explanation and goes on a hunt to find out who murdered Delia.  Along the way, her boyfriend and Delia’s boyfriend also get involved and there are rumors of conspiracy, illicit sex and betrayal.

While I really enjoyed the first part of the book, the last half sort of dragged by.  And I personally found the end disappointing, but maybe that was just me as a reader.  I would recommend this with caution to readers who like mysteries.

Review by Ms. Provence

 

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Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

yaqui delgado

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Tenth grader Piddy Sanchez doesn’t think is can get much worse.  She’s been moved out of her childhood house in Queens New York to a “better” apartment, losing her best friend Mitzi, her familiar surroundings, and the high school she had settled into with friends and activities.  Until today.  “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass,” she’s told by a girl she hardly knows. Huh?  When she investigates with the office student aide she does sort of know, she’s told that Yaqui was suspended twice last year for fighting, and thinks Piddy acts stuck up and shakes her booty too much when she walks.  “Interesting,” she thinks to herself.  “I’ve only had an ass for about six months, and now it seems to have a mind of it’s own.”  Told in the first person perspective, this story of escalating bullying feels urgent and realistic.  Piddy finds out that she’s not safe anywhere when Yaqui and her friends jump her on her walk home and post the fight on the internet.  Her grades start going down and Piddy has to figure out how to survive–become tough just like Yaqui or run away from her problems.

This book is a fast and compelling read that deals with lots of universal teenage issues: having a single parent and wondering about one’s real dad, starting a new school, being harassed by a bully, and knowing how to reach out for help without being a “snitch.”  I think readers will be caught up in Piddy’s life immediately, and will identify with the problems the teen faces.  I recommend this title to all teen readers, especially fans of Sharon Draper.

One Shot at Forever: a small town, an unlikely coach and a magical baseball season by Chris Ballard

one-shot

One Shot at Forever: a small town, an unlikely coach and a magical baseball season by Chris Ballard

When Lynn Sweet drove into Macon, IL, a town of 1200, in 1965, to interview for a job teaching English at the local high school of 250, he told himself he didn’t have to live in Macon forever. He could always look for a new job and move if he wasn’t happy in Macon. Hired by a principal who valued a diverse staff and was eager to have a young male English teacher, Sweet’s unorthodox methods, such as seating students at large tables instead of individual desks and giving a wide range of choices for independent reading, drew negative parent and community attention while popular with students. Four years later, when the school needed a new baseball coach, parents and boys who wanted to play approached Sweet without realizing he had been good enough in college to play on semipro teams. Persuaded to take the job, Sweet approached coaching as he did teaching. He rejected the stereotypical coaching pattern of yelling and military style drills to making practice optional and giving the players positive guidance. To the surprise of other teams Macon’s Ironmen started winning, beating even larger schools and those with long traditions of winning. Sweet himself attracted attention, having grown his hair longer and a Fu Manchu mustache. Coaches and fans from conservative backgrounds were scandalized their teams were being beaten by a team of boys with peace signs on their hats coached by a “hippie.”

During the two years he researched this story, first for a Sports Illustrated story then this expanded book, author Chris Ballard chased down every lead, from interviewing Lynn Sweet and his family, all the surviving team members and their families, community members, players from opposing teams, reporters who covered the story and school and town records.   In fact, the notes at the end of the book, organized by chapter, add so much depth to the story that I kept referring back to each chapter while reading them. The notes add flavor, including details not in the narrative itself. Anyone who doesn’t usually read nonfiction for independent reading would be drawn in both by the engrossing story itself and Ballard’s gifted writing in telling it.

 

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

This Girl Is Different by J J Johnson

different

This Girl Is Different by J J Johnson

Evie (born Evensong Sparkling Morningdew) lives with her”hippie” mom in a geodesic dome in the woods near their small town.  After being homeschooled since forever, she’s finally convinced her mom to let her finish high school at the local public school, claiming she would be like a gonzo journalist studying the ethnography of the public school system.  The question isn’t the obvious one of Evie being ready for public school after so many years with just her mom, but is the school ready for Evie.  She is strong-minded, confident,not afraid to share her opinion on anything and everything, and a budding activist.  Whenever Evie is about to do something unexpected, she tells herself, “This girl is different,” and she certainly is.  When she is faced with the inherent lack of student rights at her new school, she feels compelled to take on the system, getting herself into all kinds of trouble.

I found this book to be absolutely delightful.  It’s awesome to see a teenager so empowered  such that she follows her own conscious, even when she knows it will lead to trouble.  The book has some interesting minor characters: Evie’s mom Martha, a love interest named Raj, and a smarter than average administrator named Dr. Folger.  I would recommend this title to students looking for humorous books, titles about challenging authority, and  “green” lifestyles.

 

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

sloppy firsts Sloppy firsts by Megan McCafferty

Almost 16 year old Jessica Darling has started an occasional diary in January of a new year to chronicle her life after best friend Hope has moved with her family from their New Jersey shore town to Tennessee. Each month starts with Jessica’s monthly snail mail letter to Hope, giving her a summary of the most important events and her thoughts each month. Without her best friend, Jessica eats lunch with three girls she calls the Clueless Crew, since as a sophomore she can’t sit with upperclassmen. She doesn’t fit into other social groups and has no interest in joining them. Smart and diligent, Jessica ranks near the top of her class and is also a champion runner on the school track team. An insomniac, Jessica is faking being sick to nap in the nurse’s office when she is awakened by Marcus Flutie, a notorious Dreg, to supply urine for an unscheduled surprise drug test for his parole officer. Jessica surprises Marcus and herself by agreeing to do it on his promise he won’t narc on her. The surprises continue as she and Marcus start a tentative friendship.

The first in a series, this diary reflects a true to life teen girl’s voice, full of drama about family, friends, school and life in general. I am eagerly anticipating reading more about Jessica’s adventures as her life continues.

Reviewed by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

Light of Day by Allison Van Diepen

LightOfDayLight of Day by Allison Van Diepen

From the author of Takedown and Street Pharm, comes Light of Day – a love story that’s ensnarled in the underground world of date-rape drugs and teenage prostitution. Gabby Perez is an intelligent and attractive high school student who hosts a call-in program on a local radio station. She has fallen from grace due to a recent break-up with Mr. Popular, but still walks the hallways with pride. One night while out partying she and a friend almost become victims to a pimp who drugs girls before kidnapping them. The evening is saved by a mysterious (handsome) stranger, who warns Gaby before it is too late.

Gaby is a strong female character who stands up for herself with her family, friends, and romances. She is loyal and headstrong, and wants to do right by the world. Gaby finds that not everyone wants to be helped and some people are never as real as you want them to be, while others might surprise you by stepping up just when you need them the most.

Author Allison Van Diepen writes a lot of exciting and popular titles. Check out her website for more info about her.

Titles by the same author: Takedown, Street Pharm, The Oracle of Dating, Raven, Snitch

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

WhatWeSawWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Rape Abuse & Incest National Network…Every 8 minutes, Child Protective Service responds to a report of sexual abuse. 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.

When a group of teenagers get together for a high school party with lots of drinking, it’s hard to say exactly who did what and when things went so wrong. Kate knows she had too much to drink from the headache she wakes up with. She also knows she was taken care of by her best friend, and (just maybe?) boyfriend Ben. But what about the other girl? What about Stacey, the girl in a video who has no memory of the events that get posted online when all is said and done? The basketball stars are quick to deny any wrongdoing and almost everyone seems convinced that there’s been no foul play. But Katy’s not sure, and she’s not sure if she can let it go either.

This book is based on the very real Steubenville high school rape case in Ohio, 2011. It sheds light on a tragic reality of intoxicated partying that can turn girls into victims and boys into perpetrators. And then there are all of the bystanders who witness and do nothing to stop it, and those who condemn the young girl for her clothes, her poverty, and her drunkenness. Although light and romantic at times, this is a heavy fiction account of an ongoing and serious issue for the young people of today. Read it and ask yourself, what will you do when you are at the party?

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz