Calvin
Young Adult / August 18, 2016

Author: Martine Leavitt. Summary: As a child, Calvin felt an affinity with the comic book character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even had a best friend named Susie. Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death, Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him, and Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip—until now. Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that Watterson is the key to everything—if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured. Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson. (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: Low. Two kisses, a boy and girl sleep in the same tent alone through necessity, one mention during a (compliment? Discussion? Hard to tell) of the part of the brain that stimulates sexual impulses. Language: Very low. Violence: Some school-boys steal…

Swing Sideways
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 12, 2016

Author: Nanci Turner Steveson. Summary: Annie has always wanted to be a country girl, and now she finally has her chance. The doctor has prescribed a summer of freedom. Out go the spreadsheets, the schedules, the rules that bind Annie’s life – she’s ready for adventure. California lives right down the road, and she seems to be everything Annie has ever wanted to be. More, she wants Annie’s help; she’s hatched a plan to bring her own mother back to the farm, by finding her mother’s old horses and returning the farm to its old state. Annie is delighted by this chance for adventure, but she’ll have to lie to her mother – California’s family is looked down upon in Annie’s family. The truth comes out in unexpected ways and from unexpected places, and this will be a summer Annie’ll never forget. My Thoughts: A well-told, tender story. The friendship between Annie and California, misunderstandings and reconciliations and all, was believable and interesting, the back-and-forth friendship more true to life than many. The relationship between Annie and her parents was also fine-tuned and tender as Annie learns to understand both her mother’s love and need for control and safety. Too…

We Are All Made of Molecules
Young Adult / June 7, 2016

Author: Susin Nielsen. Summary: Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules. My Thoughts: The viewpoints were grating – Ashley may be going through a lot, but that doesn’t completely excuse her being the complete stereotype of the popular mean girl, down to her shallow thoughts and back-stabbing habits. Stewart was more interesting, but seemed much younger than his given age. The book tried to tackle difficult topics, but overall it was a letdown. Content Review: Sexual content: Character threatens to tell school classmates that her friend “stuffs her bra”. Smaller boy in gym class has to strip and shower with other boys, and worries about being teased because…

The Kite Runner
Adult / May 10, 2016

Author: Khaled Hosseini. Summary: Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had. (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: My feelings about this book were complicated; no conclusion formed at the moment. I will say that while at first I strongly disliked the main character, I found it very powerful, disturbing writing, with complex characters and vivid description. Hosseini brings multiple themes into play through the book, including yet not stopping at friendship, betrayal, courage, honesty, and love. It would be hard to appreciate how well he weaves these together into a single heartbreaking story until you’ve read it. Content Review: Sexual content: Soldier implies that he raped a character’s mother. One boy sexually assaults another and…

Saint Anything
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Sydney’s life is tumbling topsy-turvy as she has to move, adjust to a new school, and make new friends, all while dealing with the guilt and trauma left from her brother Peyton being arrested and jailed for hitting a child while drunk driving. The charismatic older one, Peyton has always been the focus of her family’s life – and even now he holds the spotlight of her parents’ attention. But for the first time, Sydney is looking away as she tries to make a life of her own. My Thoughts: Dessen certainly tackles an interesting and lesser known topic, as she considers what it’s like to be related to a juvenile delinquent. For the most part the story was well-written and interesting, with Sydney’s problems and friendships believable and moving, but at times the drama felt overdone. Not every coincidence has to be against the main character. Content Review: Sexual content: An older boy/girl couple are supposed to stay with a teen girl while her parents are away, but only the boy shows up, and makes romantic gestures. At a party, a character sees a girl and boy heading to the back of the house where…

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
Young Adult / April 22, 2016

Author: Robin Brande. Summary: Mena’s starting highschool at the worst time of her life. Her old friends all hate her and even her parents are distant and cold – she tried to do the right thing, but everything went wrong and she doesn’t know how to recover from the effects. Things begin looking up in biology class, when she is assigned to a completely capable and rather engaging partner, but some of her old friends from church are in the same class – and when the syllabus moves onto evolution, they’re not going to stand for it. Caught up in her partner’s enthusiasm for their science project, Mena is dragged into an ever deepening whirlpool of lies with her parents so that she can go to his house and work on their project. She must struggle to balance all her old beliefs and the new teaching that sounds so convincing, separate her life cleanly between home and school without slipping up, and walk the gauntlet of her classmates’ hate. My Thoughts: Written in the first-person voice of a teenage girl journaling, the writing was convincing and realistic, if occasionally grating. Mena as a character was also believable and relatable, a…