Buxbaum, Julie. What to Say Next.

NY: Delacorte, 2017.

This is a much deeper and more thoughtful examination of high school romance than most I’ve seen. David Drucker is a very high-functioning borderline autistic whose life has long been made hell by classmates sneering at him as a “retard,” when he actually has the highest IQ of any kid in the school. He copes with the outside world by wearing headphones that surround him with music as he walks from one class to another, and by referring regularly to his notebook of rules and character sketches of everyone he interacts with.

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Stevenson, Noelle. Nimona.

NY: Harper, 2015.

EXPLOSIONS! SCIENCE! SHARKS! NERDS! SYMBOLISM! Yep, that’s the kind of graphic novel this is. It won a bunch of awards, not only from other artists but from its (mostly) teenage readers, as well. Lord Ambrosius Goldenloin is the Official Hero here and Lord Ballister Blackheart is the Bad Guy, but neither of them is really terrible — even though the former hacked off the latter’s arm back when they were students together. Now, Ambrosius works for the Institution while Blackheart tries to keep the kingdom’s growing police state from impinging on its subjects any further.

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Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. Swing It, Sunny.

NY: Scholastic, 2017.

This is a sequel to this sister/brother team’s Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s pretty good. It’s set in the closing months of 1976 and Sunny, now starting middle school, misses her older brother, Dale, who has been sent away to a military boarding school for his own (and everyone else’s) good. The story is episodic, going from the start of school to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s — all the landmarks in an adolescent’s calendar

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Gauld, Tom. Mooncop.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016.

Gauld is a new author/artist for me, but I definitely like his style. He’s been published in various newspapers for awhile now, and this appears to be his third graphic novel. Every community needs law enforcement and in the lunar colony, it’s provided by a nameless young man with a glass helmet and an anti-grav patrol car (which doesn’t always work).

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Published in: on 14 March 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zarr, Sara & Tara Altebrando. Roomies.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

Lauren Cole of New Jersey has just graduated from high school and is headed for UC-Berkeley in a couple of months. She’s an only child, living with her neurotic mother, her father having left them years before when he discovered he was gay. She can’t wait to escape to the West Coast. Elizabeth Logan of San Francisco is also headed for Cal, which is only twenty-five miles away for her, but it’s still an escape. She’s one of six kids, the other five all being very young, so that she’s more or less an assistant parent. She loves her family but she can’t wait to get away, too.

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Published in: on 28 February 2018 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.

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Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

The author has apparently aimed this series (it’s up to at least eight books now) at the teen market — and I mean that in the most denigrating way possible. She seems to think that as long as there’s a swashbuckling female lead, plus magic and a bit of romance, the reader won’t notice the plot holes, the seriously non-credible characters, or the gratuitous overwriting. Celaena Sardothien is the most able and successful hired assassin in the kingdom (or empire, or whatever it is) of Adarlan, even though she’s only eighteen.

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Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland.

NY: Penguin, 2000.

I’ve been working my way slowly and sort of randomly through Dessen’s Young Adult novels, all of which have been well above average in many ways. This is one of her earlier ones (she’s published thirteen books now) and it’s much darker than any of the others I’ve read. I can’t even say I enjoyed it, exactly, though it certainly has a powerful impact.

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Published in: on 7 November 2017 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.

NY: Viking, 2011.

Dessen is a first-rate author whose novels are directed at young adults but which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys a good story and thoughtful writing, regardless of age. The protagonist of this one is seventeen-year-old McLean Elizabeth Sweet, who was named after her basketball-fanatic father’s favorite college coach. But then the coach retired and his younger replacement ran off with McLean’s mother, which kind of soured both of them on the sport.

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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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