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…

Twisted
Young Adult / January 19, 2017

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson. Summary: High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world. (Goodreads summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Boy ogles some girls in bikinis who are conducting a car wash. “I wasn’t supposed to think about that [death], but it was like porn. The idea would sneak in, and then I was off.” Narrator is aroused by a pretty girl. Narrator: ‘Hannah pealed off the shirt Mom made her wear and revealed a scrap of fabric that was just barely keeping her boobs under control.’ Girls all over the highschool dress very scantily one day, and the boys are…

The Assassin Game
Young Adult / December 31, 2016

Author: Kirsty McKay. Summary: Who will be left after lights out? Tag, you’re it… It’s 4:00 a.m. when they come for me. I am already awake, strung out on the fear that they will come, and the fear that they won’t. When I finally hear the click of the latch on the dormitory door, I have only a second to brace myself before— At Cate’s isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs. But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target? (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Despite the death, much less of a thriller than I expected. Somewhat disappointed. Content Review: Sexual content: Boy strips naked (in front of other students) to go swimming. Video of boy/girl kissing released. Some innuendo. Language: 9 d***, 6…

Thirteen Reasons Why
Young Adult / December 30, 2016

Author: Jay Asher Summary: You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play. Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: I didn’t like this book at all. It’s obviously not meant to be an easy read, but a painful, thought-provoking book – I certainly found it painful, but not so much thought-provoking in the right ways. I would agree with those (numerous) fellow readers who thought it glamorizes suicide in a certain way, through the implicit changes wrought by the end, and moreover gives a…

Skinny
Young Adult / November 26, 2016

Author: Donna Cooner. Summary: Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it. But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over. With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: I think Skinny is supposed to be very inspirational, and I understand it is sharing an experience the author has gone through herself, but I just found the situation very unlikely. Ever talks about how she isn’t…

After Ever After
Young Adult / October 6, 2016

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie #2. Author: Jordan Sonnenblick. Summary: Jeffrey isn’t a little boy with cancer anymore. He’s a teen who’s in remission, but life still feels fragile. The aftereffects of treatment have left Jeffrey with an inability to be a great student or to walk without limping. His parents still worry about him. His older brother, Steven, lost it and took off to Africa to be in a drumming circle and “find himself.” Jeffrey has a little soul searching to do, too, which begins with his escalating anger at Steven, an old friend who is keeping something secret, and a girl who is way out of his league but who thinks he’s cute. My Thoughts: Eh. The subjects were YA but the writing style felt aimed toward middle grade, a characteristic I’m beginning to associate with this author. Also, I didn’t find out this was a sequel until after I read it, which may explain why I didn’t get it very well. Content Review: Sexual content: Some implied kissing, off screen. Two friends, boys, seem to make a running joke of talking about dating each other’s mothers. (Yeah, I didn’t get it either.) Multiple instances of a boy…

Zen and the Art of Faking It
Young Adult / October 3, 2016

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick. Summary: When eighth-grader San Lee moves to a new town and a new school for the umpteenth time, he doesn’t try to make new friends or be a loner or play cool. Instead he sits back and devises a plan to be totally different. When he accidentally answers too many questions in World History on Zen (only because he just had Ancient Religions two schools ago) all heads turn and San has his answer: he’s a Zen Master. And just when he thinks everyone (including the cute girl he can’t stop thinking about) is on to him, everyone believes him . . . in a major Zen way. My Thoughts: Silly, light-hearted, with a few morals tossed in for good measure. When San Lee is mistaken for a Zen Master, he decides to run with it – and despite the fact he’s a massive fake, this Zen thing is beginning to get to him. His approach to the problem was also interesting, not something you see a lot – a flagrant admittance of the fact that everybody tries to fit in. He was just going to choose where he fit in. Content Review: Sexual content: Boy thinks…

The Long Game
Young Adult / October 1, 2016

The Fixer #2. Author: Jennifer Lyn Barnes. Summary: For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets. Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she’s about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.(Published summary) My Thoughts: I wish the over-arcing plot hadn’t come on quite so fast – it would be fun to see more of Tess in the normal school environment, fixing the everyday (or not so every-day considering her classmates!) problems people bring to her. A little more real development between Tess and her mother in the next book would also be nice, but it was good to see them interacting, and see the natural tensions playing out. Fast-paced as…

A Mango-Shaped Space
Young Adult / September 20, 2016

Author: Wenda Mass. Summary: Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she’s keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses. My Thoughts: The parts about synesthesia itself were cool, although not having this condition myself I can’t attest to their accuracy. The rest of the book was okay, some parts interesting, but mostly meh. It was strange how long they took to figure out what she has – neither the licensed doctor nor therapist can figure it out (frustration at this may have been because I recognized it from the beginning). Mia is believably portrayed as a thirteen year old – but that does mean we have to deal with all the problems, angst and uncertainty of that period. Content Review: Sexual content: “It’s not a school book,” she whispers. “It’s a dirty book I put the cover on to fool people.” Language: None Violence: An old dog is euthanized.