Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

love letters

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

High school freshman Laurel begins the story of her life since her older sister died as an English assignment.  Write  letter to a dead person.  “She probably meant for us to write to someone like a former president or something, but I need someone I can talk to.  I couldn’t talk to a president.  I can talk to you.”  She writes her first letter to Kurt Cobain because he May had always loved him. He and the rest of the people Laurel writes letters to died young, just like her sister.  She writes about starting high school, not the high school May went to, but the one near her Aunt Amy’s house where she lives part time.  When May died, their mom moved to a ranch in California because she was just too sad.  But,  Laurel wonders, what about me?  Why can’t she stay and take care of me?  Readers learn about Laurel’s life through the letters she writes in her journal–from her new friendships, to the mystery Hottie named Sky, to the truth about what happened to her sister.  Although Laurel introduces her sister to readers as the most beautiful and perfect person, as the book progresses we learn along with Laurel that all human beings are flawed, even those we love the most.

I really liked this book, although want to warn readers that it is really sad.  I found myself spending more time reading just to finish it, so I could move on to something a little less depressing.   Debut author Ava Dellaira does a great job bringing the lives of emotional fragile teens to life, and I’m looking forward to her other books.  I would recommend this to students who like true life stories, Ellen Hopkins’ books and stories about troubled families.

identical          glimpse          looking          mayas notebook

 

Click on any book cover to see our review!

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If I Stay – movie

I saw this movie last weekend and really want to recommend it to our readers.  The movie makers did a good j0b sticking to the story, and the acting was actually decent.  It made me want to go back and read the second book, Where She Went, which picks up the story three years later.  I got my copy from one of the local libraries, and kids have told me they found it through the online usual online sources, Netflix, etc.  Click on either title below for our reviews.

if i stay          where she went

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.

 

Review by Ms. Provence

speak          twisted

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

first phone call

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom is a bestselling writer for a good reason: his books are page-turners that somehow combine the ideas we have about the afterlife and life’s other enigmas with just enough of a mystery story to grab and maintain a readers’ interest.  In this quick read, a small town in Michigan suddenly begins to get calls from deceased relatives who say they’re in heaven.  The novel’s main narrator is an air force pilot whose just been released from prison for a crime he may or may not have committed.  That story unravels in flashbacks as the main thread about the heavenly phone calls develops.  Seven different people get calls from passed on loved ones, and the story goes from being an oddity on the local television network to primetime news as the media becomes frenzied about what’s now being called the “Coldwater Miracle.”  All this time, the disgraced pilot, Sully Harding, is trying to uncover what he’s sure is a hoax because his young son keeps asking when his own late mother will call.

I really enjoyed this book as I have Albom’s other titles that I’ve read.  Keep in mind, though, that I adore emotional stories and have been known to shed more than a few tears while reading.  Albom has been called a populist writer since his books appeal to the mass market readers.  I don’t see anything wrong with that, especially since he does it so well.  I would recommend this title to fans of Albom and readers who enjoy Nicolas Sparks.

five people          tuesdays with morrie          for one more day

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This touching debut novel tells the story of first love between two extremely awkward teens.  It’s 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska, and the school year is just starting.  Eleanor is the new kid; big with wild red hair and dressing in oversized men’s clothes from thrift stores.  When Park sees her getting on the school bus, he averts his gaze, hoping she won’t see the empty seat next to him.  Her family is poor and she has only recently been “allowed” to move back in with this if she stays under her step-father Richie’s radar.  In contrast, Park comes from a loving family where his dad is a Vietnam vet and his mom is Korean.  He loves punk music and usually wears band T-shirts and definitely tries to keep to himself at school.  Despite themselves, Park and Eleanor begin to fall in love, and it’s an urgent and uncomfortable business and first love often is.

What will stay with readers is the realistic way Rowell draws her characters, moving the narration back and forth between the two.  We feel like we are there with them, wanting to protect them both from the outside world and themselves.  I would highly recommend this to all types of teen readers.  It’s a quick, engaging read that will leave you wanting to spend more time with this intriguing and quirky couple.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This heartbreaking story describes the journey a boy is forced to take as his beloved mother struggles with debilitating cancer treatments.  Thirteen-year-old Conner has to contend with bullies each day at school, and terrible nightmares nearly every night.  Suddenly, a strange looking monster joins his tormentors, appearing each night just after midnight.  Since Conner’s too old to believe in monsters, he tells himself it’s just part of his nightmares, but he listens as the monster tells him three disturbing stories, demanding that Conner tell him a true one of his own in return.

This story is clearly not a horror tale, but one about life, death and facing one’s greatest fears.  The original idea came from writer Siobhan Dowd, who passed away before being able to write this, her fifth book.  Patrick Ness (author of the fabulous Chaos Walking series) says in the author’s note that he felt “as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go.  Run with it.  Make trouble.’  So that’s what I tried to do.”  Ness is certainly successful with this book, which is enhanced by beautiful and haunting drawings by artist Jim Kay.

I really enjoyed this book, and need to warn readers that it is very emotional and some of them might need lots of Kleenex before they’re done reading.  I recommend this to readers not afraid to look at fear, loss and their place in our lives.  This short book packs a powerful emotional message, and can be read over the course of an evening.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This charming book is a must read for any middle or high school student.  Even the adults are discovering it and in the UK they even made an adult-oriented cover!  This novel details the story of August Pullman’s (Auggie’s) first year of middle school at Beecher Prep in New York City.  Even though he’s had twenty-seven facial surgeries, the 10-year-old’s face is severely deformed.  He tells readers, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” He’s always been home schooled, but his loving parents think it’s time for him to be with other kids, and he tentatively agrees.  His first year of regular school is full of ups and downs, and to no one’s surprise, bullying by the class snob.  His surviving this will depend on his own inner strength and the few friends he is making at school.  The climax of the story involves a sleep-away nature camp and a group of boys whose cruelty brings out the best in Auggie and his friends.

I loved this book and recommend to all tween and teen readers.  It speaks to the ideas of unconditional love, kindness towards one another, and hope.  This book made me both laugh and cry, a great response in my mind!

Here’s a professionally made book trailer: