Saturday, August 29, 2015

What we're reading: Edgy fiction

I picked up Althea and Oliver, honestly, because the title reminded me of Eleanor and Park. I think, also, that I confused it with Robin Benway's new novel, Emmy and Oliver, because I had just read a review of that book, which starts out with two childhood best friends as well, one also named Oliver! But Cristina Moracho's book is definitely not E&P, although they share some themes and are set in the fairly recent past (E&P in the '80s, A&O in the '90s).

I found the cover blurb a bit misleading (and it seems many on Goodreads agreed with me), and so I'll tell you that if you are picking this up because you're expecting a love story, then stop right here! Definitely a coming of age story, for both protagonists, but romance? That's tough when only one of you wants it.

Althea and Oliver have been best friends since they were six years old--but now, in their late teens, they're in a moment of flux in their relationship. Oliver is that guy with all the friends, social and easygoing in any setting, while Althea is that girl who has only one friend, from whom she needs everything. Oliver is happy with the way things are between them, while Althea finds herself wanting more, and her unrequited feelings for him are painful to experience. Apart from their friendship, Oliver also wants to get out into the world, to experiment, to experience new things, while Althea is so focused on her emotional side that all she can want right now is Oliver, all to herself, wholly and romantically.

Complicating all this exponentially is that Oliver suffers from a rare condition, a sleep disorder that basically puts him out of commission for weeks at a time (he falls asleep and doesn't wake up). Events that transpire during and between his "breaks" put Althea and Oliver at odds, with the result that Oliver angrily leaves town without a goodbye, and goes to New York City for a lengthy sleep study, hoping to solve his problem. Althea, who is still unresolved with her feelings, finds a way to follow him there, but it's not as easy to reconcile as she anticipates, and this is the point at which she finally begins to go her own way.

This is a gritty, raw, and honest book about growing up, beginning with teen angst and suburban drama, and ending with life choices in the big city. Although this wasn't a favorite of mine, I can say that the writing is top-notch and would cause me to seek out other work by this author, and that I thought the story was interesting and different. It's definitely for mature teens on their way out of high school towards their own resolutions!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Now that school is back in session...

...things such as SERVICE HOURS will become an urgent consideration, for high school students in particular. So let us remind you that if you like to read and you like to write, you can write BOOK REVIEWS for the BLOG and receive one hour of credit for each review you write! Some people have done their entire 10 hours by writing reviews for YAThink!

The guidelines for HOW to write the book review spell out exactly what you need to do. Please send your review (either as a Word doc attachment or simply pasted into the email) to burbank.teens@gmail.com!

And remember...you can also write for us even if you do NOT need service hours! And we're taking submissions of original teen poetry and movie reviews now as well!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What we're reading: Realistic romance

The Geography of You and Me is the new book by Jennifer E. Smith, the author of This Is What Happy Looks Like, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Although I had read neither of those books, several teens had recommended them to me. I decided to try the new one first!

There seems to be a certain formula to Smith's books: In Happy, there's a mix-up in email addresses that brings the two main characters together, while in Love at First Sight, it's a meet-cute in an airport after a missed flight. Similarly, the two protagonists of Geography encounter one another for the first time in a hot, stalled elevator in the midst of a New York City blackout.

Shortly after Owen and Lucy get out of the elevator, though, they go their separate ways--and those prove to be radically separate, with many moves and changes on both their parts--but they manage to keep an at times tenuous connection going, despite everything. There is doubt and confusion about how the other person feels and what he or she wants; but they both hold the night of the elevator as a special turning point in their lives and hope that it will turn out to be more than just an accidental meeting, soon forgotten.

There are some unbelievable aspects--not with the relationship between the two of them, but rather with their respective family situations--but in the main, I enjoyed the pacing, the dialogue, and the storytelling. And the famous star at the center of Paris makes another appearance here (it last played a significant role in Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins). Bottom line: Who doesn't love a book that includes Paris?

Although the postcards were a nice device, I have to say that I found the lack of any connection to social media unbelievable. As a librarian who works with teenagers, I don't meet many who aren't welded to their cell phones, busily texting away; and I actually had a teen come to the reference desk a few weeks ago to ask me where to put the stamp on a "snail-mail" letter! I know that Owen's situation didn't allow for "fancy" devices such as iPhones, but I found his sentiments about using email too old-fashioned to give credence!

Over all, this was a sweetly romantic book that held my attention. I will look back on its characters with gentle fondness rather than with great enthusiasm, but it definitely hooked me from the beginning. Fans of Stephanie Perkins would probably enjoy it, and vice versa!