When I Was Older by Garret Freymann-Weyr

 

167 pages

Published by Penguin Books, 2000

ISBN: 0-329-27047-8

Interest Level: 9th-12th grades

Reading Level: 4.4

15 year old Sophie is trying to make it. Her brother Erhart died of Leukemia just before he turned 8, when she was 12 years old. Since then her life has been a series of burying herself in her schoolwork, keeping people at bay, and being angry with her father for having an affair while her brother was dying, and as a result tearing her family further apart. Now at age 15, she is dealing with the fact that boys who were her friends have begun treating her like a girl and asking her for dates, and her mother has started dating.

It is through her mother’s boyfriend that she meets Francis. All of a sudden, here is this strange boy with a tattoo on his face, asking her questions she doesn’t want to answer and forcing her to feel things she doesn’t want to feel. At first it is good to have someone to talk to about her feelings for her brother, because Francis lost his mother as well. She is able to tell him things she hasn’t been able to tell anyone, including her mother. But when Francis begins to try to deepen their relationship, Sophie has some choices to make. Does she allow Francis to become more to her than just a friend, or does she continue to keep him at arm’s length?

From the Reviewer: This book would be good for older, reluctant readers. The sentence structure is very short and to the point. There aren’t many long, descriptive sequences and the author does not get bogged down in a ton of details. It’s a fast-paced read. I was able to read the entire book in about 3 hours. There is some good snarky humor in the character responses, and a couple of times I chuckled to myself, thinking these are probably the types of responses that go through my own teenager’s heads. I normally state that parents should peruse the book to determine if it is right for your young reader, but I really suggest that this is a book for the YA reader because it deals with the death of a child and the effect that has on a family, extra-marital affairs, divorce, and brief mentions of sex.

Category: 8th Grade, High School | Comments Off on When I Was Older by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

302 pages

Published by Hyperion, 2006

ISBN: 978-142310126-0

Interest Level: 9th – 12th grades (Young Adult/Teen)

Reading Level: 5.4

Schulyer Van Alen comes from one of New York City’s elite ruling families. But she doesn’t fit in with the rest of the rich kids that attend the prestigious Duchesne Academy, New York’s premier private school for the wealthy. Partly due to the downfall of the family fortune and partly because she chooses not to. However, like it or not she has more in common with the other kids than she cares to admit: she is one of the Four Hundred – the number of vampires allowed to walk the earth at any one time. Also known as Blue Bloods.

All too soon, Schulyer begins the change that all vampires must go through at the age of 15. She also comes to the attention of Jack Force, one of the richest and most popular boys at Duchesne Academy. But more frightening is the fact that the young Blue Bloods are being killed off before they have a chance to fully come into their powers. Who, or what, is behind the murders? And why?

This is the first book in a 7 book series. We meet five of the main characters in this first book: Schulyer Van Alen, Oliver Hazard-Perry, Mimi and Jack Force and Bliss Llewelyn. There are many other secondary characters that take turns on the main stage of this book as well and all play a pivotal role in the plot-line.

From the Reviewer: I enjoy all things vampire and this book was no exception! The pace of the book is good, the characters are for the most part believable, and descriptions of the characters were well done. I immediately decided which characters I liked and which ones I didn’t care for. I also really enjoyed that Melissa De La Cruz’s point of view on the conception of vampires was completely different than any other vampire creation story I’ve read.

All that being said, there were parts that gave me pause in this book as there are a few inferences of sexual situations. Even though the vampires (or vampire consciousness’s) are several hundreds of years old, the shell (or human bodies) they inhabit are those of 15-18 year old teenagers, so as a parent it made me uncomfortable. Having already read book 4 to see if it is suitable for our school library, I know that this is something the author touches on frequently in the series.  I’m not judging this book on those merits however, it was still a good read. But as always, I suggest parents peruse Blue Bloods and be aware of this to determine if your child is ready for this kind of book.

 

Category: High School | Comments Off on Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

Like a Thorn by Clara Vidal Translation by Y. Maudet

 

119 pages

Published by Delacorte Press, 2008 translated edition

ISBN 978-0-385-73564-3(hc)

Interest Level: 9th – 12th grades

Reading Level: 4.3

 

Mélie is sure she has two mothers: Rosy Mother and Dark Mother. Rosy Mother is kind, loving, attentive and full of smiles. Dark Mother is mean, yells at her, calls her names and says horrible things. At first, Mélie is unable to predict when Dark Mother is going to show up. She eventually comes to learn the signs of Dark Mother’s coming and wishes and waits for Rosy Mother’s return. By the time Mélie is 10, she has developed eating issues to the point that she is no longer growing very well. After seeing the doctor, Mélie’s mother uses her health as a reason to send her away to camp for two months. While there, Mélie has added to her nightly rituals of wishing for a nice mother instead of a mean one.

By the time Mélie has entered her teenage years, life at home and in school is almost unbearable because of her mother’s behavior towards her. She refuses to give Mélie the things she needs to have a happy upbringing: love, attention, kind words, small nice gifts. Mélie becomes more and more withdrawn and more and more consumed by her “rituals” until her mother finally announces one day that she is taking her to see a psychologist. As her mother puts it: “Since you’re behaving like a nut, you’re going to see a specialist for crazy people.”

From the Reviewer: At 119 pages and a reading level of about fourth grade, this was an easy book to read functionally, but a tough one to read emotionally. It’s never easy to read a book about someone who is being abused and this one was no exception. The book almost reads as if to be Mélie’s diary, and I felt the author did a good job of conveying Mélie’s pain and anxiety. Even though this book was translated from French, I didn’t get the feeling that much was lost in the translation. The author also does a good job of showing that abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be damaging. I would recommend that children under the age of 14 not read this book due to its content and the handful of profanity that it contains. For parents of younger children, please read the book first to be sure your young reader can handle the content. Even with the translation and what may have been lost, this is still a powerful book to read, but it  does have an abrupt ending.

Category: High School, Reviews | Comments Off on Like a Thorn by Clara Vidal Translation by Y. Maudet

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

 

 

563 pages

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2009

ISBN 978-0-316-07703-3 (pb)

Interest Level: 6th grade +

Reading Level: 4.5

 

 

Hide your babies! Bolt your doors! Shutter the windows!

This must be how Lena Duchannes feels when she goes around the Southern town of Gatlin. She already has two strikes against her on her very first day at school – Strike one: She’s an outsider. She wasn’t born in the town of Gatlin, therefore she doesn’t belong there. She is not considered one of them. Strike two: She is the niece of Gatlin’s very own recluse, Old Man Ravenwood. Everyone thinks the Ravenwood Estate is cursed, Ravenwood Manor is haunted, and Macon Ravenwood is crazy. It doesn’t take long for Lena to earn Strike three: strange things that occur when she is around, even though no one can prove she’s responsible. As far as the townspeople of Gatlin are concerned, she’s out! Little do they realize just what Lena is capable of and the power she will come into on her sixteenth birthday…..

Ethan Wate was born in Gatlin, has lived in Gatlin all his life and cannot wait until he is old enough to leave Gatlin…for good. As far as he is concerned, there is nothing in Gatlin worth staying for. Even though he is popular in school, a member of the basketball team, and from one of the oldest families in Gatlin, he is counting down the days until he can get away. That is until he meets Lena Duchannes who bears a striking resemblance to the girl that has been haunting his dreams lately. When he finally gets a chance to talk to her, he realizes that she is the girl from his dreams and makes it his mission to get to know her. But knowing Lena has its price in Gatlin, because Gatlin protects its own…

As Lena and Ethan embark on a journey to learn why they have such a strong connection to each other, secrets are revealed to them that many do not want them to learn. They learn about the history behind Ravenwood and Macon Ravenwood himself. They learn about Lena’s powers and the future that Fate may have in store for her. They learn about the connection between Ethan’s family and the Ravenwood family. And they learn that sometimes, love can break curses or at least hold off Fate for awhile….

 

From the Reviewer: I did not think I would, but I liked this book. It isn’t what I would call an immediate “grab and finish” kind of book. The first couple of days into it, I had no problem stopping where I was in the book and returning to it later. It wasn’t until my third trip into the world of Gatlin that I became absorbed in the story. I think part of the reason for that was the scene involving an argument between Macon Ravenwood and Mrs. Lincoln in front of all the townspeople. That is when I started to really get into the story, because that is when the gloves between two forces come off. I was impressed with the amount of detail the authors put into the descriptions of the Civil War Era and the ties that Gatlin has to that time period. I was also glad to see that they took the time to develop the main characters of the book. Most authors wait until book 2 in a series to really develop their characters, but these authors did it in this first book. As a reader, I appreciated that, since this is the first of a 4 book series. I will say that several times as an adult reader, I had to suspend my belief. Not because of the plotline itself, but because the narrator of the story is apparently a very well spoken sixteen year-old boy. I’m not saying they’re not out there, I’m just saying they’re rare.

All in all, this was an enjoyable book to read, and I think that most teen females between the ages of 15 to 19 will enjoy it. I do not recommend this book to anyone below 7th grade only because I don’t think many kiddos are interested in the amount of Civil War imagery that is supplied in the book.  I recommend that parents of children younger than 14 read the book first to make sure your child won’t find the material too heavy. This is an interesting story, full of detail and character development. The only drawback I found was a few too many pages of “What aren’t you telling me?” and Lena constantly bemoaning the coming of her sixteenth birthday.

 

Ruined by Paula Morris

 

309 Pages

Published by Scholastic Inc., 2010

ISBN 978-0-545-23607-2

Interest Level: 6th grade +

Reading Level: 6.0

 

Imagine being a 15 year old girl living in New York. Imagine being suddenly sent to New Orleans to live for 6 months with a woman you barely know. Imagine going to a school where you’re treated as a nobody because you’re an outsider. Imagine meeting a ghost one night in a spooky cemetary….

All of this and more happens to Rebecca Brown. She is a 15 year old girl who has lived in New York City all her life and loves it there. However, one day her father tells her that his company is sending him to China for 6 months, so she is sent to New Orleans to live with her “Aunt” Claudia; a woman she’s only met one time and barely knows. She is made to attend Temple Mead School for Girls and while there makes enemies instead of friends: Helena Bowman and Marrianne Sutton and their friends. This group of girls  are from New Orleans’ oldest and wealthiest families and they do not take kindly to Rebecca at all. They consider her an outsider and make sure that Rebecca is aware of their disdain for her.

At first Rebecca doesn’t really care what the girls think because she’s only in New Orleans temporarily. If she can make it through these 6 months, then she’s home free back in New York. But one night she follows Helena Bowman and her friends into the cemetary that is across the street from her aunt’s house. When it is time to leave before she’s discovered, she panics because it is very dark and she can’t find her way back to the cemetary gate. This is when she meets Lisette, who shows her the way out. She later discovers that Lisette is a ghost. Both girls are startled that she can see the ghost, but their relationship soon blossoms into a friendship as Lisette shows Rebecca her world and tells her the story of how she died. When Rebecca learns that Lisette is tied to the Bowman house and can’t leave until she finds peace, Rebecca wants to try to help her. But in doing so, Rebecca’s own life becomes endangered….

 

From the Reviewer: I liked Ruined because it is an entertaining read if you like ghost stories. The story moves along smoothly even though it is not a gripping tale. I read the first five chapters and had to put the book down because of other obligations, but when I had a few hours of down time, I picked it up again and was able to finish it in one sitting. The author does a good job of keeping the story interesting and detailed for the most part. I would caution parents against allowing younger children to read this book however. While it has been deemed suitable for readers ages 12+, I would advise allowing readers ages 14+ read it instead. My reason for this is that most of the characters in the book are 15+ years old, and there is one section in the book where Rebecca and Lisette are walking back to Lisette’s home in Treme. During their journey, Rebecca is able to see other ghosts in New Orleans because she is holding Lisette’s hand. The descriptions of the wounds and how the other ghosts died is detailed and I feel may be too intense for younger readers to handle. The author also describes a class system that is in place in New Orleans between old, monied, white families, and everyone else. There are several references to the Roman class system which younger readers may not understand. Parents may want to read this book beforehand to determine if your young reader can handle the content. I felt there could have been a little more character development and there were some explanations given at the end of the book that seemed rushed to me, as if the author wanted to get them down on paper before she forgot what she wanted to say. Other than that, it was an enjoyable read to pass the time.