Friday, September 21, 2012

What We're Reading: Historical Fiction

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
332 pages
Realistic, historical
Stand-alone novel
High school + (is this really a YA novel?)

Reviewed by Anarda

S U M M A R Y :
Julie is a storyteller, but not by her own volition. She’s been captured behind enemy lines during the last days of World War II, and she’s being treated as a spy—one who could be, and probably will be, “disappeared,” which means sent to a prison where she will be experimented on, and then shot, if she isn’t first tortured to death in the small French town of Ormaie. She spoke French like a native and loved German, “das Land der Dichter und Denker” (land of poets and thinkers), and received her degree in German; no wonder she was enlisted to help the British war effort, no wonder they trained her to infiltrate the enemy, no wonder the Germans have a gun to her head, wire wrapping her ankles to the chair, a burning cigarette mark...well, you get the picture. But no, sorry, you don’t.

For this is a story not only about Julie. It is also about her friend, Maddie, a young woman quite unlike Julie in background and aptitude, but who soon becomes Julie’s best and only girlfriend, and the unlikely second heroine of this book. The Germans demand that Julie tell them where the British air bases are and where they keep their planes, so in fear and in physical pain Julie agrees to write out everything she knows. But what she writes, on whatever scrap paper the Nazis can scrounge up for her in this battleground of torture and wit, is Maddie’s story, an unexpectedly tender story about a gifted pilot, a young woman whose fearlessness and talent convinces the male authorities for the British air force to allow her to work in air transport. Julie also writes down the story of “Queenie” (Julie herself), who’s increasingly clandestine and dangerous path crisscrosses with that of Maddie during the siege of Britain. As their stories combine, the Nazi officials (and the reader) are taken on an amazing journey of friendships forged in the furious, chaotic fires of war.

R E V I E W :
I loved this book for a variety of reasons, not least being that it is extremely well written and researched, though it is not factually based on specific people during the second World War, barring one interesting American. I felt I knew these two young women, Maddie and Julie, intimately, and I felt privileged to know them, and about their lives, hopes and dreams. As the story got closer to the time period of Julie’s capture and incarceration, I felt my heart breaking. When the story is taken over by Maddie, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I found I could not put it down, regardless of the hour. I read the book in two sittings, which is not typical for me. I simply put my life on hold while I read, reflected, read some more, and cried.

The cover is a bit frightening: It shows a pair of hands, clasped and roped together. It’s not a bad description of the exterior of Julie’s existence as she writes her treasonous notes for the Nazis.

It’s a 5.

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Really cool book trailer here. And Elizabeth Wein's website here. She's pretty interesting--her hobbies include bell ringing (yes, it's a "thing"--mostly in England) and piloting planes around Scotland. Click on Young Adult Novels (at left) and see what else she wrote. Anarda liked this one so much...maybe her others are amazing as well! (though very different, it looks like, based on Arthurian legend). It seems that we have the sequel but not the original of her other books...we will have to do something about that! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guest Blog: Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily 
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
292 pages
Fantasy
Not part of a series
8th grade up
Review by: Anonymous Librarian

S Y N O P S I S :
This book is a retelling of the classic Peter Pan story (original by J. M. Barrie) through the eyes of Tinkerbell.

Tinkerbell closely follows the lives of both Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, and tells the story of their budding romance and what happens to their relationship, Tiger Lily’s village, and the Lost Boys when the Englanders come to Neverland.

R E V I E W :
I must confess that I have never read Peter Pan, and my limited knowledge of the story comes from movies like Hook and Disney’s version. So if you are a true enthusiast, you may have issues with the interpretation; but I am not, and I thought that this book was fabulous!

Using Tinkerbell as the narrator allowed the book to have such a quiet elegance and a subtlety that is often lost in first-person narratives. Not having to hear every crazy thought that passed through the character’s mind was refreshing, as was how much Tinkerbell left herself out of the story.

Rating: 5

I had no complaints with this book. Often retellings of fairytales are tired and boring, but this book was refreshing, exciting and a beautiful story about first love. I honestly shed a few tears. :’( 

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Here's the official trailer for this book. Jodi Lynn Anderson wrote all those Peaches books, plus a short story in the collection 21 Proms.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teen Review: After Hello

After Hello
by Lisa Mangum
Number of pages undetermined
Realistic fiction
Not part of a series
Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Julia J., 8th grade

S U M M A R Y :
After Hello, by Lisa Mangum, is about two 17-year-olds named Sara and Sam. Sara can pick out details and see things clearly, which is why she’s into photography. Sam trades ordinary things for spectacular, rare things, and finds what he’s looking for. On a fateful Saturday, they stumble upon each other in the streets of New York, and embark on an incredible journey in which they discover things about each other and themselves they never thought they would ever know. Throughout the course of the day, they go on a quest to find something exquisite to save some friends and heed a teenager’s bad temper. But what happens when the day finally closes? Are Sam and Sara meant to be, or will they go their separate ways?

R E V I E W :
After Hello explores many deep and thoughtful topics, one of them being question of how you can take something ordinary, like a sugar packet, and trade it for something special and exciting, like tickets to a sold-out show. Sam has a talent for starting with something small and working up to something big, which fascinates Sara. How is it possible you can use something no one thinks twice about, and turn it into a special gift that you cherish forever? Sam and Sara end up doing this with their day, without realizing it, finding and discovering new and exciting things.

I would recommend this book for anyone who’s up for a good cry, likes a thought-provoking book, and wonders what it would be like to meet a strange boy on the sidewalks of a dazzling place. The general age range for this book, in my opinion, would be from grades 7-12, for hard-to-wrap-your-mind-around concepts younger minds won’t be able to understand fully (no, not like that, it’s just deep).

The cover is cool, and the color scheme was a stroke of genius, in my opinion. However, I can’t tell who the boy is and who the girl is in the picture of them holding hands. All in all, though, it’s an intriguing, good-looking cover.

I thought this book was amazing. It was emotional and deep, and it played with my heartstrings a little. The characters are colorful and relatable, and you are able to connect with them thought Sara and Sam’s journey. After Hello leaves you thinking when you are finished with it.

Note: This book was just released on September 12. It is on order for the Central library, but will take a few weeks to arrive and be processed. Put it on your to-read list!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Writing Contest is ON!

DIORAMA BY LORI NIX, USED WITH PERMISSION

Every year we have a WRITING CONTEST as part of Teen Read Month.

This year's contest: Write a DYSTOPIAN story!

If you're saying "Huh?!" then here's a definition:

A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian domination. Dystopian stories, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system.
Your writing time is from September 12 to October 12! Write three to five pages (when we say write, we mean TYPE, double-spaced) and turn in your story at any library reference desk, OR email your story (as an attachment or within the body of the email) to: oppress_me@earthlink.net by October 12!

Some current examples of dystopian novels:

SHIP BREAKER, by Paolo Bacigalupi
STRUCK, by Jennifer Bosworth
THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins
MATCHED, by Ally Condie
THE MAZE RUNNER, by James Dashner
LEGEND, by Marie Lu
BIRTHMARKED, by Cara O'Brien
STARTERS, by Lissa Price
UNWIND, by Neal Shusterman

or some classics...

THE HANDMAID'S TALE, by Margaret Atwood
FAHRENHEIT 451, by Ray Bradbury
1984, by George Orwell

and so many more! Do YOU have it in you to write a dystopian tale? Start thinking up YOUR future-world scenario...

The WINNERS of the writing contest will be announced at a special Teen Read Week AUTHOR EVENT on October 18, featuring Jennifer Bosworth, author of STRUCK, and Lissa Price, author of STARTERS, two dystopic novels set in Los Angeles! (You can read Melissa's review of Starters on this blog.)