Saturday, June 23, 2018

What we're reading: Teen romance

Katie McGarry's new book will probably be wildly popular with teens who love romance: a "bad" boy, a "good" girl, and a forbidden relationship, with many complications. All the elements (clichés?) are present and accounted for in Say You'll Remember Me.

Hendrix is convicted of a crime he didn't commit, but because he thinks he knows who did it (someone close to him), and because the public defender presents it as the lesser of two evils, he takes the fall for it. Luckily for Drix, the governor's newest pet project, the Second Chance Program, is one that will interrupt the "pipeline from high school to juvenile hall" by rehabilitating kids and getting them back into society, and the governor's people have picked Drix as their first experiment and poster boy.

Elle, the governor's daughter, has been campaigning for her father and going along with her mother's priorities for so long that she doesn't know who she is any more. She has let her parents, who are strong-willed and know what they want, drag her along with them into the limelight that goes with seeking public office, but with it comes the masquerade of presenting a public face to the media that is not her own. The expectations and pressure to be somebody perfect--perfectly groomed, in a good mood, smiling, denying all her own instincts and wishes--is beginning to get to her.

Then Drix and Elle meet, first by chance and then in the course of their separate roles in the governor's plans, and each sees something special in the other. But Drix, a supposed juvenile delinquent, isn't what the governor and his wife want for their perfect daughter, and Drix is hemmed in by his commitments to the Second Chance program not to screw it up. Her parents make sure of Elle's compliance with their plans by blackmailing her with a computer coding internship she wants--go along with us in this, and we'll let you have it. Refuse, and we won't. It's all couched as "we want what's best for you," but it's harsh nonetheless.

But each of the teens can support the other in solving their problems--Drix to confront the truth about who set him up for juvenile hall, and Elle to claim her independence. In the course of that, who can blame them for falling in love? (Everyone, apparently!)

I've read one other book by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits), and I have pretty much the same responses and criticisms to this one as I did to that:

On the positive side, she writes good characters. Her descriptions are compelling. There is some sharp dialogue and some quotable quotes. I like how she evokes empathy with the characters who have grown up deprived of the things children and teens should have—good parents, good home, stability—and the way she shows them creating an alternate home for themselves with each other. And she knows how to create dilemmas she can then solve. That's all on the positive side.

On the negative: Drama. Too much self-absorption. Way too many clichés. Too many assumptions, voiced long and loud, about what other people are thinking, instead of simply giving them a voice. Too much arguing in circles. She nearly drowns her good plot in chatter and what-ifs and if-onlys and speculation. Nearly. The characters do shine through, and you do invest in their relationship, but at the cost of slogging through a lot of excess baggage.

Here's a minor thing, but it bugged me: I kept waiting the entire length of the 452-page book to find out what the title means. I resented the title from the moment I picked up the book, because I knew it was a romance, and so I figured the title was loudly telegraphing the ending, which is that they wouldn't be together, because it says "Say you'll remember me," implying that they're not together. Now, I'm not going to drop a spoiler, but I kept looking and looking for the reason she named it that, and I can't find one single one. If you figured it out, please let me know!

I did like the cover art, since the initial meet-cute was at the midway under the lights (although depicting a game of Whack-A-Mole would have been more accurate, since they never went on the ferris wheel).

I think this is definitely a book that teens will love. Some of the descriptions from Goodreads (by teens) were, "beautiful, tragic, and heartwarming," and "authentic, real, relatable." Teens will perhaps be less critical than I am of the sloppiness of some of the grammar, and the repeated use of the same phrase or action over and over ("he framed her face with his hands" was used three times in this book). McGarry's books could be called "easy reads," but her characters elevate the books beyond the ordinary.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Breaking news!

We found out yesterday that Maurene Goo is now unable to be our guest at our third Book Café on July 12th, so we had resigned ourselves to no authors this summer. Then we had an inspiration to ask one of our old friends who has a brand-new book coming out in August to jump in, and she saved our bacon! So our new guest author will be... drumroll...Gretchen McNeil!

We know a lot of you are already fans, and from the sound of it, her new book, #murdertrending, will continue the love at BPL for Gretchen and her horrifyingly creepy, funny, entertaining fiction. This one has been described as a cross between The Hunger Games and The Purge! Some quotes from Goodreads (where some people have received advance galleys to read) were, "fast-paced and fun," "intense and gruesome," "creepy but somehow funny as well." Sounds about right.

We will have a drawing for copies of many of her books, so if you don't own any of them, you can win one. But if you do own some, bring them along for an autograph, and bring all your questions for Gretchen as well. Yay, Gretchen!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Teen review: Favorite author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is one of my favorite authors; I have enjoyed everything of hers I have read so far. Her young adult fiction book Among the Hidden is short at 153 pages, and is the first in the Shadow Children series. This series includes Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, Among the Enemy, and Among the Free. I have only read the first so far, but I am excited to read the rest.

Among the Hidden is a dystopian story about Luke, the youngest of three children. He lives in a world where having three children is illegal, so he is in danger if anyone discovers his existence. He never leaves the house, except to sit on the roof to see the outside world, and now that they’re tearing down the trees behind his house to begin construction on a new housing development, he can't even do that. It is a known fact that any child who is found to be a third child will be put to death, so it is in his best interest to stay inside. One day when on the roof, he sees something peculiar. He notices movement in an empty house, and discovers another third child. This girl becomes his friend, and shows him he isn't alone. She plans to gather all the third children to march on Washington.

I really liked this book. It Is a darker version of children’s literature. While I would recommend this book, I’d include a warning for death and violence. It teaches some good lessons, but there are sad aspects to it.

Much like James Patterson, Margaret Haddix isn't shy with the cliffhangers, she likes to keep you interested. This is an easy read, recommended for grades three to twelve. I am a high school graduate who read this in fourth grade, and still enjoy the book. I’ve had children younger than myself, as well as my mother, cousins, teachers, and classmates all tell me they enjoyed it as well, so it is something anyone would like. I give this book a 4, better than most.

Reviewed by E.R.S., grade 12

Editor's note: Elliott makes a good point here; when you're looking for something to read, it doesn't always have to be new, OR new to you. Old books can be as good as new, and rereading is sometimes as much or more fun than reading something for the first time. It's true, you don't have the sensation of discovery, but you do get to revisit favorite characters, stories, or events, and remind yourself why you liked them so much. Next time you're in a reading slump and just can't find something you like, consider something you liked before!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Teen review: Time travel

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

In the beginning of this 336-page novel, Jonah Skidmore receives a note simply saying YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING. This is what begins his fantastic, educational, and dangerous adventures. He learns he is one of many children stolen from history, and he must go back to right what was wronged. In this particular installation of the series, the children learn the truth of their past, and they meet others like themselves. They learn the truth about time travel as well, and get themselves into a lot of trouble along the way.

This book is the first of eight in the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Found, Sent, Sabotaged, Torn, Caught, Risked, Revealed, and Redeemed are the titles. I have read five of the Missing series books, and am almost finished with Risked, the 6th book.

Personally, so far my favorite has been the fifth, but all are entertaining and worth the read. I  like the simplicity of the writing mixed with the complexity of the concept of time travel, making it an easy, quick read but also interesting and entertaining. Though I really like Jonah, my close favorite is Chip. Like most other books, I enjoy seeing the characters change throughout the story, though they don't change much in the first book, they alter greatly throughout the entire series. If you enjoy historical fiction and science fiction, I would recommend this book to you. Like other Haddix books, I have noticed this doesn't particularly have a general target audience. I have seen people of all ages enjoying this series. I’d rate the book a 3, simply because the books to follow get better.

Reviewed by E.R.S., grade 12

Editor's note: For that reason (re: target audience) we have this book shelved in both the children's rooms and the YA sections, and I'm sure there are also some adults who find it there.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Book Café Recap

Much to our surprise (since it's the very beginning of teen summer reading), Thursday night's Book Café broke all records--we had 70 teens at the event! We had to pull out three extra tables, two racks of chairs, and some leftover cookies to get by, but we did it!

Everyone seemed to enjoy hanging out and book-talking, and there were a lot of great book suggestions--I hope all of you who heard about books that interested you were able to write down title and author on your "passport" card for future reference.

We were quite strict this year about only giving our special gift of a Book Café mug to those who are actually registered for the program. We did run out last night (we didn't expect such a large crowd!) but we have enough left that if everyone who came last night who wasn't registered does so now, we can give you a mug!

We will have two more Book Café events: One on June 28th, which will be a repeat of last night (book-talking and socializing), and the other on July 12th, which will include a visit from author Maurene Goo, who wrote The Way You Make Me Feel, I Believe In A Thing Called Love, and Since You Asked.

If you would like to see photographs from our first Book Café, check out our Facebook Page, where we will soon post an album of pix!

And don't forget--if  you want to be included in any of our craft events this summer, you must sign up! There is paper marbling next week, there is travel journal (book) making the week after that, and there is map-making for three Tuesday nights in July. Email with your name, phone, and email address to register for any of these! And if you're thinking of the map-making workshop, be sure to check out some of the many books in your "Reading Takes You Everywhere" book list we passed out Thursday night, to give you inspiration about what to map! If you missed it, we have copies at all the branches in the teen sections, or you can find it online here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

What we're reading: The final chapter!

At last, at last, I have completed reading the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud! I had read the first four books once before, but the last book was yet to be published, and then, while distracted by other fare, I actually missed its release date! We read the first in the series (The Screaming Staircase) for 6+7 Book Club last month, and I couldn't resist continuing to read on; when I finished book #4, I went to Goodreads to find out if that publication date was any closer, only to discover that it had already come out--last September! I rushed to put a hold on it at the library, and was finally able to wrap up this favorite series.

I don't want to tell too much about the plot here, because it would contain numerous spoilers for books 1-4, but The Empty Grave sets our favorite ghost-fighting agents to answering all of our questions about unfinished business from the other story lines. They must survive attacks from spectral foes, but they are also on the run from some nefarious human characters who are highly invested in causing them to fail before they can take on their greatest enemy to date. Everyone you have liked from previous novels--from the supercilious Fittes agent Quill Kipps to the river-dragger Flo Bones (not to mention the obnoxious Skull in his silver-sealed jar)--appears as allies to Lockwood, George, Lucy, and Holly.

This is possibly the most satisfying conclusion to any series I ever read. You get resolution in so many areas, and it's so clever. I love the double meaning of "the empty grave," the conclusion with the Skull, the various changes in relationships among all the members of Lockwood & Co.; everything was wrapped up, but because of the caution of DEPRAC, everything was still left a tiny bit open-ended, so if Stroud decides there are more adventures to come for "the most celebrated agency in London," it's still possible to tell them. Bravo, Jonathan Stroud. Worth the wait. Good job!

Editor's note: We hadn't ordered this book for the Young Adult section, so if you want to read it right this minute, go to the children's department to find it. But we have now ordered copies for YA, so the series will be complete on our shelves in the near future. Check it out! The other titles are: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, and The Creeping Shadow.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tonight: Book Café

Tonight, Thursday, June 14, at 7:00 p.m., please join us at the Buena Vista branch for this summer's first session of Book Café!

Cookies, cappuccino, and book-talking are the plan for the night, and everyone who attends the first session who is signed up for teen summer reading will get a special gift, while supplies last. So sign up, and come!

We'll have two more sessions this summer, but don't miss the first--
if you come to all three, you get to choose a free book from our gigantic stash of YA reads! Speaking of books, don't forget to bring whatever you're reading so you can show as well as tell us all
about it!

Hoping to see you tonight...

This is our fourth year of Book Café--whatever did we do with ourselves all summer before we had it?


                     2015                                                    2016

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Teen review: Continuing the series

The Gift
by James Patterson

The Gift is the second installation of the Witch and Wizard series by James Patterson, including Witch and Wizard, The Gift, The Fire, The Kiss, and The Lost. Ending. At 352 pages, The Gift continues the story of Whit and Whisty Allgood under The One’s dictator-like regime. He began the N.O. (the New Order). Whit and Whisty began the revolution, made up of young adults, both magical and mortal. They run from the authorities and try to do small things like saving books that are to be burned.

Much like the first book, I enjoyed this book because of the cliffhangers. James Patterson makes you fall in love with the characters and make you want to root for them. I disliked the complexity of some of the concepts, regarding dimensions and such. I again recommend this to anyone who likes mystical dystopia. As a young adult book, this is perfect reading levels for grades 6-9. I myself am in 12th grade but still enjoy them. I give this a rating of 4.

Reviewed by E.R.S., grade 12