Friday, November 28, 2014

Teen review: Realism and romance

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell
328 pages
Realism / romance
Stand-alone book
Reading Level: High School (mature subject matter)

The year is 1986, the school year has just begun, and both Eleanor and Park couldn’t be more stressed. Near the bottom of the social ladder, Park tries very hard to remain unseen and unheard. Eleanor, upon arriving on the first day of school, is immediately put on the chopping block and thrown to rock bottom. With her flashy clothes and insane, red, very curly hair, the kids in their high school find no limit of things they could tease her for. In the beginning, Park and Eleanor are wary of each other. Forced to sit next to one another on the bus, they form a strong friendship. Soon after, they realize the depth of their feelings for one another. However, when other people in their lives find out about their relationship, they become plagued with insults and rejection. But at least they have each other, right?

On a scale of 1-5 I would give this book a 4. I loved how relateable it was. I found the characters easy to connect and sympathize with. There are a multitude of allusions and references to other books and fantastic music and movies, which made the characters even more lovable! What I love most about this book is that, unlike other YA romance novels, the characters are not consumed by the relationship. Even whilst dating, they both have things that make them people rather than just defining their entire lives by the relationship. The only reason it’s not a 5 is because I feel that the writing style could be improved.

I feel like this book would be fantastic for someone who is lovesick, and a hardcore romantic. It would also be great for geeks anywhere due to the allusions. But, this book does contain some mature subject matter, and if you cannot handle reading about domestic abuse then please do not read this book.

Editor's note: Here is another review of this popular book...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What we're reading: Magical realism

At the beginning of I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, 13-year-old twins Jude and Noah are two halves of a whole. Noah is introspective, and relates to the world through his drawings, both real and imagined, but he is starting to have a sense of who he is in the world, including his fascination with the boy next door. Jude is outgoing and expressive, confident and popular, and looks out for Noah when he is targeted by bullies.
Three years later, at 16, they almost seem to have swapped places: Noah has inexplicably quit making art and is busy being--or at least looking like--a "regular guy," while Jude seems fragile and broken; and far from finishing each other's sentences, they now hardly speak to one another. What happened? and what will it take for them to realize that neither of them knows the whole story?

I loved this book so, so SO much. I think it is my new YA favorite for 2014. The characters in it relate to the world through art, and find the art in everything, which is always a plus for me; but the way in which they do this is so quirky and endearing, it made me immediately like and understand the characters and want to know them. The elements of magical realism (visitations from dead relatives for Jude, and inanimate objects that come to life through Noah's artistic vision) definitely give the book something extra.
The relationships between brother and sister, parents and children, and love interests are all complex and filled with joy and pain, but told in such a fresh, smart, different way. This isn't a typical "teen angst" story--the adults have a place on the page too, and this enriches the story without taking it over. The depth of the misunderstandings and betrayals, and the breathless anticipation to see whether any or all of them will be resolved carries you through the time switches (the book spans about three years' time but jumps back and forth between ages 13 and 16, and between narrators Jude and Noah). It was such a good story that I'm dying to sit down and read it again, just to renew the experience. I never read Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere, but NOW I will!
I usually hate it when publishers compare one writer or work to another in the cover blurbs, because usually it's just jumping on the coattails of a more popular book, hoping to benefit; but I truly believe that readers who loved Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, or Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, would also adore this book. Let me know if you agree.
5 out of 5 from me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teen review: Magical

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
512 pages
Fantasy, stand-alone
Reading level: high school and up

Reviewed by: IMC, grade 9

The Circus is an impressive sight. Nothing announces its appearance. One night there is nothing but a barren field, the next there are soaring black and white tents with an iron gate enclosing everything. The Circus opens at Sunset, and closes at Dawn. It is unlike any other Circus the world can offer. But, it’s the story behind the curtain that holds the real magic.

Since they were six years old, Celia and Marco have been bound to one another. They were chosen to partake in a duel; a duel of magic. Not the silly parlor tricks that clowns do for fun--real magic. But when they begin to fall in love, everything holding the Circus together falls out of place. The lives of not only themselves, but everyone around them whom they hold dear to their hearts is at risk.

On a scale of 1-5, I give this book a 5 and would rate it higher if I could. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. The writing style is very poetic, with long, detailed descriptions so that you really feel like you’re in the story. I liked the different points of views from the different characters because Ms. Morgenstern wrote the book in a way where each point of view would tie together in the end.

The suspense is one of the best things about this book. It’s not the type of suspense in a horror book/movie, but there is suspense for the duel and a general, “What’s going to happen?!” sense throughout the entire book.

I felt like the characters were relateable, they were practically lovesick teenagers despite their age. The book invoked a sense of wistfulness and it truly did feel magical. All books are precious, but every time I cracked open the pages to continue reading I couldn’t help feeling that there was true magic woven into the pages somehow. I would recommend this book to any teenager (or adult) who wants to read about love and magic in a sense that is not childish, but mature and intriguing.

Editor's note: For some other thoughts about this book (and some links to more great circus reads), read previous reviews here and here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

This week at the library... pretty quiet! The library is open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday, but closes at 6 p.m. at all locations on Wednesday.

The library is closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Anarda and I wish you a warm and happy holiday!

We reopen on Saturday the 29th, regular hours.