Tag Archives: YA fiction

What if you could see a person’s death reflected in their eyes?

I think I would be a lot more messed up than Jem.

Since the day her mother died, Jem has known about the numbers.

Numbers that pop into her head when she looks into someone’s eyes.  They’re dates, the numbers.  Dates predicting death.

Burdened by such grim knowledge, Jem avoids relationships.  Until she hooks up with Spider and decides to take a chance.  But on a date to London, Jem forsees a chilling chain of events.  The city’s a target.  The clock’s running out.  The countdown is on to a blowup, and her world is about to explode!

This book was pretty good.  More of a 3/5 than the 4/5 that it has been touted on all the blogs as being. The book begins with a tiny backstory of Jem and her heroine addicted mother.  Jem has always been able to see the numbers reflected in people’s eyes, but she hasn’t always known what they mean.  It isn’t until she discovers her mother’s body in their bedroom on the day that she has seen in her mother’s eyes for years that she finally puts two-and-two together.   Now in foster care, we meet her in London as a very angry, antisocial teen who refuses to look people in the eyes.  She also refuses to let people get close to her.  After all, what is the sense of getting emotionally attached when you know that the person is going to be gone in a year? Why bother?

However, her very tall, energetic friend Spider doesn’t let her get away with this once they become mates (that’s slang for friends).  He gets under Jem’s skin and even manages to get her to agree to a date around London.  At the London Eye, Jem discovers that the people around them all have one thing in common.  The date of their death…and that date is today.  This causes a chain of events that forces Jem and Spider on the run, and forces Jem to open up and begin to trust other people.

For a thriller novel it’s alright.  As long as you can manage to get past Jem’s tough, superficial crust and into the girl who emerges in the last half of the book, you’ll like it.  Although I will admit to feeling a little lost when all of a sudden the tough, “I don’t need anyone” girl turns into a whining, weak city girl while they are on the run from the cops.  Although I have read reviews that state that this made Jem more believable.  True… but not within the short time frame that is given.  She’s been living with her anti-social self for 15 years, which means that she knows how to take care of herself.  However, after being put on Britain’s most wanted list, she suddenly gives up almost all the decision making responsibilities to Spider and cries about how her ankles hurt after 6 minutes of walking on gravel.  Her reason?  Because it isn’t concrete…

Nope, doesn’t fly with me.

But I love how the ending leads up to the second book.  That definitely deserves props. I’m hoping that Chaos lives up to its reputation!


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Romance for Boys: The Secret Genre

The other day I had a request from a student that really made me stop and think.

Student: “Ma’am, do we have any cool books about a boy pursuing a girl?”

Me (mentally): Twili… nope that’s a girl.  Hmmm… Hunger Ga… nope, girl.  What about Tamora Pierce’s books?… nope, Briar doesn’t actually pursue love.

After staring blindly into space for a full minute (which I’m sure made him think I hadn’t even heard his request), I had to admit defeat.  I just couldn’t think of any books off hand that had a male protagonist who was pursuing love and not being pursued by some angsty girl.  Not even a Google search was really of any help. He went away with a recommendation to check the public library, and I made it my mission to find some Romance for Boys.

This is what I’ve come up with.

1. Because, as we all know, boys are unfeeling fighting machines who are NEVER interested in anything but blood, guts and gore.

2. Because of point 1, books written for YA boys are rarely of the romantic variety.

3. If a book does have a boy pursuing love, it is usually located within the LGBT genre. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I love YA LGBT fiction and have procured some for the library.  But not what this student was looking for.

4. Reading is a girls world.  No doubt about it.

So, needless to say, that afternoon I was a little bit frustrated by my lack of research amazingness that usually allows me to find anything I want within 10 seconds by adding or deleting or completely changing my search parameters.  It was then that the little lightbulb inside my head went off and I was able to think of 2 books that we have in our library that would have fit this student’s needs to a T.

1. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – yes it is considered LGBT, but the one Will Grayson is definitely straight and is after the “girl who got away because I was too blind, but now I know that I love you”.

2. Youth in Revolt – HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THIS BOOK???! Seriously.  I saw this movie!  I knew it was a book! I ORDERED it because it was a romance for boys! I can’t even defend myself… except with maybe an excuse about a lack of coffee.

As for my search, I’m still looking for other great modern YA books that have that perfect mixture between a sword fight to the death and winning the pretty princess.  Any suggestions?



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Will Grayson Will Grayson

It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets.  When fate delivers them both tot he same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurling in new and unexpected directions.  With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.

Let me say that this book wasn’t what I expected it to be.  I was expecting a typical YA novel, and I was a bit leery of the co-authorship of this book.  In my reading adventures, co-authorships usually end up crashing and burning.  And despite what all the reviews of this book had touted, I wasn’t really ready to believe that this book was amazing.

Can I apologize to John Green and David Levithan for even thinking that?

This book was absolutely stunning.  I read it in a single night, literally as soon as I got off of work.  I have this really annoying (for drivers and other pedestrians) ability to read while walking, on the skytrain, and traversing crowds down stairs.  I could probably read while practicing yoga, although I have yet to test this theory out.  Anyways, where I was going with this is that I only use this super-reading ability when a book is absolutely stunning and I cannot put it down lest I miss something.

Will Grayson is a normal teen boy with one stupendously gay best-friend Tiny, who pretty much runs most of Will’s days.  And there’s also Jane, the girl in their small group who Will has on again/off again feelings of attraction to.  When Tiny begins planning the school’s biggest musical debut Tiny Dancer, Will is dragged out of his two rules: 1) Don’t care too much and 2) Shut up.

will grayson is a depressed, medicated wreck who hangs out with maura during the day, and talks with the love of his life Isaac at night… except that he’s never met Isaac.  they met online and have been talking over the internet for the last year.  when they finally have the chance to meet, things don’t go quite as will had planned…

Tiny Cooper is just epic.  No more need be said.

I won’t say anymore because I think I’ve hinted at enough things that just have to be experienced by others when they read this book.  I will say that I definitely cried somewhere in the vicinity of chapter 7.

Overall, I think that this book is important for young people… regardless of their sexual orientation.  It is a book about relationships, about trust, about love.  Young people will be able to read this book and think to themselves, “Hey, I’m not the only one with these problems.”  Or maybe it will help them realize that even the guy who is always helping others out might every now and then need help as well.  Go Tiny!

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore @ SGSS

Deadly Grace

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill.  As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away.

So, I first read this book because I had read somewhere online that the story was quite similiar to the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  I loved the books by Suzanne, and based on the high turnover of the books from the library, the boys liked them as well.  So I bought the book on my Kindle in order to pre-read it before I put it on the “to get” list.

Now, despite the female lead and some sentimental parts (which were also in Mockingjay so I wasn’t too concerned) I felt that the story wouldn’t scare away any boys who picked it up.  In fact, there was so much action that I hardly noticed the “mushy” parts at all!  “Perfect,” I thought to myself.  “The boys will get caught up in this action!”

So we ordered it… without my looking to see what the cover looked like… and in my experience with books, covers do make a difference.

Now, let me start with a comparison of the cover of Mockingjay (strong, confused, love-stricken girl lead)

Now, I’m not an expert on graphic design by any means.  However, this cover is wonderful in that it is so… simple and not just marketed for female readers.  The soft blue colour isn’t going to scare off the boys.  There isn’t some girl on the front cover with windswept locks.  There aren’t flowers all over the place.  Basically, this a book that a boy can read in public and not feel embarrassed about reading the book that looks like a YA romance. Nice job gods of book covers!

And here are two of the cover designs for Graceling (strong, confused, love-stricken girl lead)

The cover on the left is the UK cover.  The cover on the right is the US cover.  I love them both, and we have the US cover.  But I’m a girl, they appeal to my “Ooh, pretty!” genes.  To me, these covers seem to be marketed for just the female market.  They don’t seem to cater to the boys in the way that the US covers of the Hunger Games trilogy did.  The first thing one of the boys said, before even knowing what the story was about, was, “Ma’am, this is so girlie.”  He didn’t have a clue what the story was about.  After filling him in on the plot line, and letting him know that the story wasn’t terribly girlie, he did take it out…

So that is my gripe about the covers.

The story itself was well written.  Katsa is a believable character who we see develop from this girl who is controlled by her uncle, and her fear of her actions, into her own person.  She learns to handle her Grace in an acceptable way and uses it to defend instead of destroy.  She also develops emotionally.  She begins to allow people to become close to her outside of Raffin, including the Graced fighter Po.  Katsa also learns that the only one who can control what Katsa does is Katsa.  Katsa learns to control her anger at her uncle which allows her to finally escape the psychological prison that he has kept her in for years.

I asked one of the boys what he thought of it when he brought it back.  He said that he liked it, but the thing with Katsa being so affected by Po’s eyes was “weird Ma’am.  I don’t get it.”  Fair enough. I thought that it was a little strange too how she seems to be so caught up in Po’s eyes.  Very Bella and Edward.  But if that’s the only criticism that he had, then I’m happy enough.

If you want to know more about Kristin Cashore or her books, check out her blog HERE.

Other Important But Important Info

Reading Time: 1.5-3 hours (this was hard to judge as I was reading this in-between bus transfers and coffee breaks)

Re-Readability: 5/5

Rating: 4/5 (the eye thing just reminded me too much of Twilight)

Price: Chapters- $11.99/ Amazon – $9.99 USD/ Kindle – $8.59 USD

Side Note for Libraries: If there is a book trailer of a book that I’m posting about, I always include it…. however, the trailer for Graceling by HMH Childrens (the publisher) is just terrible!  I would not use it to promote this book.

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Love Drugged by James Klise

If you could change who you are, would you?

Should you?

Fifteen-year old Jamie Bates has a simple strategy for surviving high school: fit in, keep a low profile, and above all, protect his biggest secret – he’s gay.  But when a classmate discovers the truth, a terrified Jamie does all he can to change who he is.  At first, it’s easy.  Everyone notices when he starts hanging out with Celia Gamez, the richest and most beautiful girl in school.  And when he steals an experimental new drug that’s supposed to “cure” his attraction to guys, Jamie thinks he’s finally going to have a “normal” life.

But as the drug’s side effects worsen and his relationship with Celia heats up, Jamie begins to realize that lying and using could shatter the fragile world of deception that he’s created – and could hurt the people closest to him.

So I haven’t read this book yet.  However, one of our staff members has, and she gave it glowing reviews.  Think Apollo glowing.  Which makes me really excited to read it! And while this book might not become the most popular book in our collection (or maybe it will?!), what I hope is that one student will read it… and it will help them, or change their way of thinking, make them more tolerant or understanding of others.

And since I haven’t read it, and therefore cannot give a review (or even a detailed synopsis) I’m going to let James Klise do it for me.



Love Drugged is about a Chicago teenager named Jamie Bates. Jamie’s gay, but he’s in no hurry to come out to anyone. In Jamie’s view, what’s the rush? He’s only fifteen.

But when a classmate learns this secret, Jamie freaks out. He responds by doing what generations of gay boys have done before him: He begins dating a girl in his class, Celia Gamez.

Celia is fantastic. She’s beautiful, funny, smart. Plus, she’s super into Jamie.

Courtesy of Celia’s dad, a wealthy doctor, Jamie gets his hands on a new drug – a little blue pill that promises to “cure” gay men. Love Drugged chronicles the weeks and months of Jamie’s experiment with these pills, at the same time that his relationship with Celia heats up.

One teeny-tiny problem? The only way Jamie can get more of the drug is to steal it.

And that’s not easy to do when the two things standing in the way of Jamie and the drug are Celia and her dad, neither of whom must ever find out that Jamie is gay! Or wait – WAS gay.

Oh, and there’s one other thing: Without meaning to, Jamie develops a major crush on an older classmate named Ivan. NOT exactly part of the new plan…

Part comedy, part thriller, part star-crossed romance, Love Drugged examines the dangers of a life constructed almost entirely of lies … especially the lies we tell ourselves.

Question: WHY does Jamie enter into this romantic relationship with Celia?

Answer: Because he is confused and afraid.

It’s normal for ANY teenager to sometimes feel confused or afraid – and especially if you’re a teen who is gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered. This was certainly true back in the 1980s, when I was in high school. It’s still true now.

I wanted to write a story that could explore those feelings in a way that was both meaningful and entertaining. That was my goal for Love Drugged.

I hope you enjoy it.


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Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Cow.  Wall.  Moon.  Love.

These are the words Zulaikha knows how to write, tracing their swirls in the dust of the Afghan mountains.  When she writes, she isn’t the girl with a cleft lip, a girl the mean boys call “Donkeyface”; she’s her mother’s daughter, worthy of her name, which means “a brilliant beauty”.

Army.  Poetry.  Wedding.  Surgery.

Then American soldiers roll into Zulaikha’s village, bringing new threats and opportunities – even the chance of an operation to fix her face.  A woman named Meena offers to teach her to read, adding to her precious store of words.  And her sister Zeynab gets engaged at last, fulfilling the fairy tale both girls have dreamed of.

Loss.  Hope.  Ending.  Beginning.

But wishing for change can be dangerous, and change itself more frightening still.  As her world shifts around her, Zulaikha must find the right way to use all her words to claim a future as yet unwritten.


This book was inspired by a real girl that Trent Reedy met in Afghanistan.  I came across this while browsing the Diversity in YA Fiction blog.  The story follows Zulaikha, a girl who is teased and bullied by her community for her cleft lip.  She has never learned to read, except for a few words that her mother had taught her before her death at the hands of the Taliban.  When American soldiers come to her small town and commission her father to help build schools, Zulaikha begins to hope for a brighter future.

I found this story to be so amazing in how it chronicles the shift that occurs within a conservative family after the Taliban is gone. And more importantly, it shows that not all of the conservative traditions are “forced” upon the young women.  As Zulaikha grows more, and sees the fate of Zeynab (who is a third wife to a much older husband), she begins to see the potential for school (which she felt was of no use to a wife).  We also see Zulaikha’s brothers, father (and eventually herself) begin to throw away the Taliban view of women.  Absolutely wonderful!  I am very excited to have added such a rich book to our collection.


“Bah. Let him play.” Baba backhanded our concerns out of his way with the same movement he used to shoo flies from his rice.  He reached into his pocket again and pulled out a shiny caramel, unwrapping it for Habib. “Here, bacha.  You eat this.  I’ll give Khalid his when he gets home.”

“But Sadiq, Khalid is just -”

“I said let him play!” Baba shouted.  He slapped thw all, then paced to the front window in the silence.  When he turned around, he spoke very quietly.  “I’ll not be contradicted in my own house.” He glared at Malehkah. “Khalid is a growing boy.  He is getting too old to listen to women.”

My mouth hung open at Baba’s words.  I watched Malehkah take in a breath to speak, then press her lips together to let it out through her nose.  She couldn’t argue with Baba, but her anger was clear, and Malehkah had ways of forcing me to regret her anger.

Other Important But Boring Info

Reading Time: 1 hour

Re-Readability : 3.5/5

Rating : 4.5/5

Price:  Chapters- $15.95/ Amazon – $12.23 USD

Note: Not available in e-book format

Check out this student review of Words In The Dust on Kiss The Book, a book blog created by school librarians that feature reviews by library professionals and students!  Lots of great books, and great reviews.

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Sonya Sones

A Short Bio:

Sonya wasn’t always a writer.  She first gained her B.A. in film and photography, going on to teach at Harvard University.  Deciding that the academic life wasn’t quite for her, she moved to Hollywood where she worked as a film editor for many years after an unsuccessful stint as a personal assistant to a famous movie director.   Wanting to spend more time with family, and less time in a studio, Sonya began a small home business out of hand-painted baby shirts which admittedly have very cute dragons and rabbits on them.

Sonya’s first book came about after she enrolled in a poetry class at UCLA.  Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy would prove to be Sonya’s breaking out bestseller that has now made her a favourite among young readers.

The reason for this?

In addition to having a huge amount of humour in her writing, her books are written entirely in poem.  And not the poetry of Shakespeare either.  But funny, connected poetry that will make a book less intimidating when there is only about 50 words per page instead of 200 words per page.  She writes about events that everyone can relate to.  Teenage love, heartbreak and family squabbles.  There are also deeper messages within the stories that will make you stop and think… what if this was my story?

Sonya @ SGSS

We recently bought What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know for the boys.  Told from the point of view of Robin, a fifteen year old “loser” who finally has his dream girl fall for him… only for things to begin falling apart.  Is getting what you want actually worse than not getting it?  That’s the question that Robin must ask himself as his life as his high-school’s “Murphy” comes to mean less for him than his life at Harvard’s and the people that make up those two worlds begin to collide.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  I found that Sonya’s poetry is incredibly easy to read, and the poems can be read as a single page, or continuous.  Each poem is given a name in relation to its place in the story, allowing for continuous flow.

Definitely will be reading more!


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