Saturday, August 1, 2015

Teen review: Belzhar

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 11


What happens to your entire life when the love of your life dies when you’re a teenager? Obviously, your parents send you to a boarding school in Vermont!

In Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, Jamaica, known as Jam to her friends and family, is distraught when Reeve dies, and she plummets into a deep depression from which no one can rescue her. Jam is sent to boarding school at a place called The Wooden Barn for “fragile” teenagers, and stuck in a class called Special Topics in English with a mysterious Mrs. Quenelle. This class is strange. It’s been called legendary by the students at The Wooden Barn. It’s been known to change the students’ lives. It isn’t even taught every year. Mrs. Quenelle only picks five students to be in it, and sometimes there aren’t even the right people for it, so she doesn’t teach the class that year. She hands out journals to the five students: Jam (who didn’t ask to be in the class and wants nothing to do with it), Sierra, Griffin, Casey, and Marc. The five are told to write in the journal twice a week for an assignment.

When Jam finally writes in the journal, she is thrown into a sort of alternate universe where everything in her life is perfect again. Reeve is alive and well, and he’s the only one there. When she is finally sucked back into her reality at The Wooden Barn, she doesn’t understand what just happened and she doesn’t want to say anything because they would think she was crazy. The thing is, though, it’s not just her who’s thrown into this trance when writing in her journal. It’s the entire class. Throughout the novel, they work together to help each other overcome their terrible pasts and figure out the enigma of Belzhar, which is what the class has come to name their special new world.

I thought this book was amazing. In its 264 pages, I felt that I was in my own special Belzhar that Wolitzer had created just for the reader. The only thing I did not like about the book was how The Wooden Barn describes itself as a place for “fragile” teenagers, because it isn’t that they’re fragile--they’re just teenagers to whom bad things have happened, and these young people are strong but reacted to them like any human being would do. I love Belzhar and every aspect to its magical realism qualities.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Another teen poem

This one is from Amy Sepulveda, grade 11, from her book Just Another Smudge in the Dark. If you like it, seek out her book!

A Game Called Life

Play with me
a game called life,
In a far away land.
Play with me
a game called love,
In no man's land.

Play with me
a game called life,
Where a grown man never sleeps.
Play with me
a game called love,
Where a thin woman never eats.

Play with me
a game called love,
Where some people just don't live.
Play with me
a game called life,
Where some people just can't breathe.

Play with me
a game called life,
Where sick love never dies.
Play with me
a game called life,
Where sick love always lies.

Play with me
a game called life,
Once upon a time.
Play with me
a game called love,
Fin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Teen Book Clubs--Summer Meeting!


If you are in a teen book club (6+7, 8+9, or 10-12), come to the Central Library this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. for our summer meeting!
This is the meeting at which we get acquainted and also pick our books that we will reading during the next month and discuss at our first meetings of the year in September! So if you want to know who's in book club, and/or if you want some input into what we're reading for September, please come!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Teen review: Me and Earl...

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 11


When people compare Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews, to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I’m not quite sure I agree or see why they are compared. Both are memorable stories that involve cancer, but that is where the similarities stop. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is so funny that if people saw you reading this book in public and laughing, they’d think something is wrong with you after seeing the title. But the truth is, there are jokes in it that are hysterical, and you can’t stop yourself from laughing out loud.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is about a high school senior named Greg whose mom is always getting involved in his (inactive) social life. Greg tries to belong to every clique in his school, but none of them at the same time. He really doesn’t have any friends except for Earl, with whom he pretty much just makes really bad, amateur movies. He also, believe it or not, likes his life like this. He thinks it’s organized. Greg’s mom finds out that Rachel, Greg’s technically ex-girlfriend, has leukemia, so she forces Greg to hang out with her to make her feel better. This is exceptionally awkward for the two, because they haven’t been around each other in years, unless you count classes at school, which no one does. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will surprise many readers who choose to pick it up, and it will make them realize that some people really can make a difference in people’s lives without even realizing it.

I thought the characters, (Greg and Earl) were actually somewhat immature, but honestly, it was realistic because that’s what high school is like. I found their personalities lacking better judgement, but altogether, they were vital to the story’s hilarity. Sometimes I literally rolled my eyes at some of the stupid things the two would say, but still found myself laughing at it. It’s such a realistic story, and it could honestly happen to anyone. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a pretty quick read; it’s 295 pages, but they go by fast. The only thing I hated about this book was the ending; it was unpredictable in a bad way, and somewhat uneventful. I thought the author could have done better with the way he wrote the rest of the book.

I think this book is definitely at a high school reading level: Some things in it are a little mature for 8th grade and younger. I think it deserves a 4/5, but it really was a hysterical book.


Editor's note: And of course, there's the movie, which was recently released.... Would anyone like to review that?


Monday, July 27, 2015

Teen review: Fairy tale prequel


Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 11
   

Magical. Enchanting. Despicable personalities. The Beast Within, by Serena Valentino, is a wonderful 215-page tale of the life of the Beast before he meets Belle. This novel was inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and instead of being told from the perspective of Belle, it is from the Beast’s point of view. The Beast Within basically explains why everything in Beauty and the Beast happened, all the way to the end of the movie. It is truly spectacular how everything comes together and makes so much sense. It tells of the friendships and relationships the Prince had before the curse was set on him, and shows how he treated those around him.

I really loved every single thing about this book. It seems like it could be a bit childish, but it really isn’t. I love how all of the characters in the book are the same in the movie, but there are some new ones added to the picture as well. It’s basically just a prequel to Beauty and the Beast. I find it really remarkable how the author, Valentino, was able to make such an amazing story with new little quirks, and add things that some would never have thought of.

The cover art is just another amazing thing about The Beast Within. The dust jacket shows a profile of the Beast, but if you take off the dust cover, it shows the profile of the Prince before he was cursed!


The one thing I found mildly frustrating was that even before the Beast was cursed, all of his friends just refer to him as “Prince.” No one ever calls him by an actual name. I understand that he was technically never given a name, but I wish the book had referred to him as Adam, as he is later known in the spin-off CD-Rom trivia game.


Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this book (although we own quite a few other things by this author), but after this stellar review by Amy, we will seek it out for the collection!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Teen Poetry

A poem on a familiar (and occasionally controversial) topic, from Friday night's Open Mic Night and Karaoke! (If YOU have poetry you'd like to share here, please send it to melliott@burbankca.gov.)