Saturday, February 14, 2015

Teen review: Realistic fiction

by Stephanie Kuehn
256 pages
Realistic/contemporary fiction
For grades 9 and up

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn was one of those books that totally mess with your brain and your emotions. Simple and straightforward, Complicit was a likeable book that was definitely also bizarre and rare, with a couple of surprises.

Complicit is about Jamie Henry, a 16-year-old boy who had an unfortunate life. Two years ago, he was happy that his older sister, Cate, was sent to juvenile hall because of all the bad things she did. But now she's back, and she's back for Jamie. The whole plot and concept of the book was really interesting. I was intrigued the whole time reading it, and it was easy to get into Jamie's story, you could definitely feel what he went through. Jamie was a great character and it was interesting seeing him deal with his sister, his girlfriend, and his mom. 

The book did suffer from a lack of characterization at times. Jamie felt a little one-note and stale, and so did the plot. Since Complicit was a character-driven book, when the characters were not up to standards, the book felt flat.

One thing Complicit had that set it apart from one of those "mysterious YA books" was the pacing and the ending. The moment I found out how everything was connected, I was like:

It was SO EXPLOSIVE! I did not expect it at all! Kuehn definitely had the element of surprise on her side.

Definitely pick up Complicit if you're looking for a book that will surprise you! It may not be for everyone, but definitely give it a try!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Club Report for February

Of the 19 members present at this month's 10-12 Book Club, sadly only two became fans of Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta. In fact, so few people finished the book that we all declined to rate it. This was disappointing for us, since Anarda and I love this series, but some of the comments about the book were "too convoluted" and "confusing" and "too much back story." We had prefaced our recommendation of this book with the caveat that while we didn't feel this was Marchetta's best book, the two sequels, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, are so awesome that you must read Finnikin first in order to understand what's happening in them, and you MUST read THEM! Two people said they would go on to do so, and I guess that's all we can ask!

Next month's book is the much-anticipated Vicious, by V. E. Schwab, and there are early signs (from read-ahead people) that this selection will meet with more success!

There was a close-run race for April's book between The 5th Wave, The Martian, and Tell the Wolves I'm Home, but the sci fi crowd split over the first two, giving the win to the third, so we'll be reading this set-in-the-1980s Alex Award-winner by Carol Rifka Brunt in April.

Other books we considered:

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer
Meet Me at the River, by Nina de Gramont
Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Martian, by Andy Weir
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The 6+7 Club had all but two in attendance to discuss Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, and those 19 people were pretty uniformly enthusiastic about the book, giving it a final rating of 8.5, our highest so far this year. We split down the middle on who would rather be a cyborg vs. who would prefer to have the mental powers of Queen Levana. Three people have gone on to read Scarlet, and two people had also read Cress and were lining up for Fairest. The last book in this retold fairy tale series, Winter, will (ironically) release in the fall. Here is a review of Fairest by our own Daryl M., reference librarian and sci fi/fantasy maven.

Next month this club will read The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, and for April the club finally voted in The Maze Runner, by James Dashner.

Other books we considered:

13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison
Freakling, by Lana Krumwiede
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch, by Joseph Delaney
The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy
My Friend the Enemy, by Dan Smith
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements
Vampirates, by Justin Somper

Getting Over Garrett Delaney, by Abby McDonald, was our February book in the 8+9 Club, and 11 of our 13 members were there to discuss it. Seven people were big fans of this realistic anti-romance, while a couple were lukewarm and two actively disliked it. The final rating was 7.5.

Next month's book is Seraphina, by Rachel Hart (a wonderful fantasy including dragons), and for April we'll be reading the skewed retold fairy tale novel, Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross.

Other books we considered:

The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Matched, by Ally Condie
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkoski
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Teen review: Contemporary fiction

Dream Factory
by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
250 pages
Contemporary fiction, recommended for grades 7 up

Reviewed by Kayla, grade 10

Disneyland is on strike! Or at least the people who play the Disney characters in the park are. After a scramble to find new “actors,” many high schoolers are hired for a so-called internship. Ella is ironically cast as Cinderella, and she meets Mark, who is cast as Prince Charming. It only seems natural and normal that they should be together, but normal is not a word that could be used to describe Ella. The cast is sent on a scavenger hunt to get to know the park better, and everyone is paired with an unusual partner. Ella, for example, is paired with Luke, who plays Dale (of chipmunks Chip and Dale fame). They need to get to know the park, but in actuality they must get to know each other first. But will getting to know each other bring on some unexpected feelings between Cinderella and Dale?

This book had a great plot that had some unexpected turns in it. It also had some cool facts about Disneyland, and I got to see the park as I’d never seen it before. I could relate to the characters also, because they were high school students trying to figure out what they needed do next. I definitely did not want to put this book down! I highly recommend it to all people, but especially to those who love all things Disney.

I rate this book as a 5.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Alex Awards--adult books with teen appeal!

Never heard of them? Here's a short explanation...

The Alex Awards are given to 10 books that were written for adults but may have special appeal to teens. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing.

The Alex Awards are named after Margaret A. Edwards, the first teen librarian ever, who was called “Alex” by her friends.

Here is the list for 2015, several of which have been previously reviewed on the main BPL blog:


All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
Bingo’s Run, by James A. Levine
Confessions, by Kanae Minato
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Lock In, by John Scalzi
The Martian, by Andy Weir
The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice, by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles
Those Who Wish Me Dead, by Michael Koryta
Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle

Those of you whose tastes in fiction are becoming more sophisticated and who are starting to jump from YA to adult fiction might consider these (and previous Alex award-winners) as a great starting point! You can find lists from previous years here. We have read and liked other, previous years' Alex winners in book club, including:

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

And we're reading one from 2013 in 10-12 Book Club in March: Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt!