Like the Red Panda
Young Adult / May 22, 2017

Author: Andrea Seigel. Summary: Stella Parrish is seventeen, attractive, smart, deeply alienated, and unable to countenance life’s absurdities. She is not nihilistic; she is prematurely exhausted. Since her parents OD’d on designer drugs when she was eleven, she has lived with well-meaning but inexperienced foster parents, while her grandfather, her only living relative, tries ever more ingenious ways of committing suicide in his retirement home. Here are the last two weeks of Stella’s senior year in Orange County, California: the intensive AP final exams; the childish, celebratory trips; the totemic importance attached to graduation. Beneath Stella’s mordantly funny take on her life is the decisiveness with which she disengages from it, planting clues and providing explanations for those who will try to understand the act she is about to commit. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: As the story of an atheistic girl’s loss of hope for meaning in life, and subsequent slide into clinical depression and suicide, Like a Red Panda is certainly well-written in terms of believability and depression on the reader. It was not the type of story I meant to pick up, and I didn’t enjoy it. Content Review: Sexual content: Young girl asking a neighbor if he…

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Young Adult / May 21, 2017

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Summary: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual Content: Light kissing. “They’d waited more than a year, until they were both ready. And then one night, […] it had happened right here on this couch.” Characters “end up tangled together” – they’re engaging in sex, but it’s no more explicit then that. Language: 6 scatological terms, 3 hell Violence: Two boys fistfight, and a nearby girl gets accidentally hit in the eye. Other: Some under-age drinking.

A List of Cages
Young Adult / May 19, 2017

Author: Robin Roe. Summary: When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives… (Published summary) My Thoughts: I’m not going to comment on the content. But focusing on the other parts of the book… Chapters go back and forth in viewpoint between the…

Everything, Everything
Young Adult / May 12, 2017

Author: Nicola Yoom. Summary: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. My Thoughts: I found it pretty fluffy, despite the live vs. living themes, but fun. For the first part, where she’s just messaging back and forth with her new friend. Once they were obviously boyfriend/girlfriend it kind of went downhill for me – I prefer plots that don’t revolve around romance/one special person. I mean, Everything Everything tried not to; the whole “am I living or…

The Fault In Our Stars
Young Adult / May 10, 2017

Author: John Green. Summary: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.” Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. My Thoughts: Well, I picked this up because of popularity. – it made a big splash in a certain section of the bookworm community, and there are intriguing quotes floating around in all the fan merchandise, and- I was curious. I probably should have known better. Anyway, I was really disappointed. All those quirky quotes about the nature of life and death just sound pretentious and vaguely existentialist coming from a teenage boy. And having your signature ‘thing’ be ‘okay’? I’m sorry, that’s just… boring.  I get that all the characters have cancer and it’s tragic and painful and unfair. But that’s still not enough to automatically make you an interesting character. (And how could the author miss the opportunity of ending mid-sentence? It would have been simultaneously meta and tragic and funny…

Because of the Sun
Young Adult / May 7, 2017

Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez. Summary: Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on. But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own. Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Kind of a hard book…

City of Saints & Thieves
Young Adult / May 6, 2017

Author: Natalie C. Anderson. Summary: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it. With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering…

And We Stay
Young Adult / April 20, 2017

Author: Jenny Hubbard. Summary: Senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend, Emily Beam, and then takes his own life. Soon after, angry and guilt-ridden Emily is sent to a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where two quirky fellow students and the spirit of Emily Dickinson offer helping hands. But it is up to Emily Beam to heal her own damaged self, to find the good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow. (Goodreads Summary.) Content Review: Sexual Content: MC notes how she remembers the weather on the day she lost her virginity, but not details. “In the four months they were together they had sex fifteen times.” A few details in a memory of one of those times. Language: 10 scatological terms, 2 hell, 1 d*** Violence: Character remembers hitting a dog while driving. Girl remembers the painful aftermath of abortion.

Holding Up the Universe
Young Adult / March 20, 2017

Author: Jennifer Niven. Summary: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets…

Speak
Young Adult / January 28, 2017

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson. Summary: Melinda’s place in the high-school hierarchy was set before she ever set foot in the building. Because of the shame of calling the police on a wild summer party, none of her friends will speak to her, and Melinda is alone except for the friendly new girl. Confused by her own thoughts, wounded by past events and despairing of any hope for highschool, Melinda isolates herself further, withdrawing into her mind and becoming more and more silent. Unless she can find new depths of resolution within herself she will vanish into the background for the rest of highschool – or perhaps collapse in on herself under the confusion and depression she fights. My Thoughts: There’s no gorgeous prose or rich-drawn multi-character arcs or exciting action scenes. Nothing I might normally look for. But that’s partly why the power of this painful, plain, and even occasionally funny story caught me. It’s told in a teenage girl’s voice, a girl I can identify with and imagine being, even as she retreats into silence and confusion. By the time it was revealed what had really happened to her, I had already guessed – but this didn’t abate the…