Dessen Sarah. The Truth About Forever.

NY: Penguin, 2004.

I’ve become a fan of Dessen’s books, which are marketed as “young adult” but the themes of which are of interest to all readers. While there’s always a romantic element, it’s never cut-and-dried and absolutely never clichéd. Certain themes recur, too: The sibling who is either much more perfect than the narrator, providing a role model it’s impossible to live up to, or else a complete disaster, which reflects on the sibling and makes her life more difficult.

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Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything.

NY: Viking, 2015.

I’ve become thoroughly hooked on Dessen’s novels, for all that they’re marketed for young adults. Her narrative and character-development skills make her books engaging reading for any age group. There’s rather more trauma this time, though. Seventeen-year-old Sidney Stanford used to practically worship her older brother, Peyton, the local golden boy, but that was before he started making bad decisions and getting arrested.

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Published in: on 2 October 2017 at 5:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. Sunny Side Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2015.

This generally lighthearted (and apparently semi-autobiographical) graphic novel reminds me in its realistic storyline of the work of Raina Telegemeier. It’s the summer of 1976 and ten-year-old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin (her mom is an ex-hippie) is being packed off from Pennsylvania to Florida to spend a month with her grandfather at his retirement community.

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Published in: on 23 September 2017 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. That Summer.

NY: MacRae Books, 1996.

I discovered Dessen’s Young Adult novels awhile back and was taken with her abilities as a storyteller. She’s done about fifteen of them now, all of them very popular, and I had been reading them pretty much at random. I decided it was time to go back to her first published effort to see how her work had evolved.

Haven McPhail is fifteen, a high school sophomore somewhere in the southeast U.S., and she’s very tall. It’s now late summer and she’s grown four inches just since April, putting her a hair under six feet. This is one of the three main facts of her life.

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Published in: on 8 August 2017 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friedman, Aimee & Christine Norrie. Breaking Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2007.

This is a graphic novel about high school kids, undoubtedly aimed at high school kids, which is fine. But it doesn’t quite work. The focus is on four third-year girls at an arts magnet, each one of whom is (naturally) completely different from the other three. One is essentially a slut and the dominant personality, one is the shy hugger-peacemaker, one is being driven crazy by straitlaced parents, and the fourth, the narrator, is interested in a guy no one else approves of.

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Published in: on 5 August 2017 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stone, Juliana. Boys Like You.

Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2014.

Stone has published a few earlier novels of the adult romance variety but this appears to be her first attempt at a YA story, and it’s not bad. In fact, its frequent emotional intensity will undoubtedly appeal to many younger readers. Monroe Blackwell is a sixteen-year-old New York girl, but she has Louisiana roots on her father’s side, and she’s spending the summer on the plantation her grandmother owns, now converted to a B&B. She was at least partly to blame in the recent death of someone very close to her (we don’t find out who that was for some time) and she’s having a very hard time dealing with the guilt.

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Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. This One Summer.

NY: First Second, 2014.

The Tamaki sisters, one writing the story and the other doing the art, made a splash a few years ago with Skim, about a rather geeky and overweight teenager in a private school. I really liked the true-to-life writing, though I had some reservations about the slightly strange artwork. This one again follows a young girl through a very ordinary piece of growing up, though it seems much more complicated to her.

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Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key.

NY: Viking, 2008.

“Young Adults” is a marketing ghetto I tend to ignore as being self-limiting. A book is either well-written or it isn’t. And Dessen writes very good books. All of them, naturally, focus on teenagers with problems, either personal or societal, but this one is a bit darker than most. Ruby Cooper’s problem is nothing so mundane as just not finding the right boyfriend. Her father left when she was eight and her sister, Cora, was eighteen, leaving just them and their not very stable mother. Then Cora went off to college on a self-earned scholarship and apparently cut off contact, and Ruby had to deal with their mom by herself.

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Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Telgemeier, Raina. Ghosts.

NY: Scholastic, 2016.

I became a fan of Raina’s graphic novels for adolescents with the publication of her first book, Smile. It was first-rate, made the bestseller list, and won every award in sight. She’s kept up that streak with Drama and especially Sisters, both of which are very enjoyable. With this one, though, she may be trying a little too hard.

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Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

Rowell gets strong reviews for her YA novels, especially this one, so I thought I should take a look. Here we meet Cath from Omaha, a new freshman at the University of Nebraska, who is not at all sure she’ll be able to adapt to it. She doesn’t do well at all with new places, new people, or new experiences. She isn’t all that crazy about the Real World, for that matter.

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