If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Anything can happen. One moment you can be enjoying a spontaneous road trip with your family. Then next you can be having an out-of-body experience while your clinging-to-life body lies in a hospital bed.
Not a ghost story, not a tear-jerker (though it may have some appeal for fans of either. If I Stay is the story of 17 year-old Mia in the aftermath of a car crash that kills her family and leaves her gravely injured. She watches the efforts to save her life and we watch as the narrative seemlessly flips between the emotionally taut present and the vividly drawn memories of her family, friends, and music. The style reminded me a bit of one of my other favorite teen novels, Dana Reinhardt’s How to Build a House. If I Stay is easily a new favorite.
Intense. Beautiful. Do not miss.
Awards & Honors: 2010 Teens Top Ten, 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, Booklist Starred Review
On the Wiki: Musicians
Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rosen
“Every crooked pot has a crooked top.” This is the encouragement Nina’s larger-than-life father offers her to boost her confidence. He also makes sure that Nina has the best treatment he can get her for the port wine stain that is in and around her eye. No matter what her father says, though, Nina is the one who has to face the kids that call her “Big Eye, Little Eye” in elementary school, and later in middle school when no one wants to be friends with the freaky girl. This story has the feel of a memoir, and in fact much of it is based on the author’s life. The 1970′s setting and topics like losing virginity and life after high school give this teen novel crossover appeal to adults who are interested in looking back on these aspects of childhood and young adulthood. I felt a distinct nostalgia as I read.
Recommended to older teens or adults who are in the mood for a thoughtful read about a girl discovering who she is in relation to the way she looks and the way her family is.
On the Wiki: Disabilities in teen fiction, Losing Virginity in teen fiction
Alas, Babylon piqued my interest with an annotation that held promise of a “stunning” survival story after a nuclear attack. I am not too proud to admit my interest in such stories, so I quickly procured a copy from my local library.
The title refers to a code agreed upon by two brothers in case of an end-of-the-world type of emergency. It was the 1960′s, after all. Our main character, Randy, isn’t given much time to prepare for the looming apocalypse but he has more time than most. His home (and supplies) quickly become a refuge for family and friends in need, and we watch Randy slowly turn from failed politician with an alcohol problem to community leader and survivalist.
I can’t imagine it’s too realistic for a small area in Florida to be completely unaffected by radiation, but I didn’t really expect post-apocalyptic fiction published in 1959 to be particularly realistic. I also wasn’t expecting much in the way of character development. With those expectations set aside, I can say that I was satisfied with the story. Fascinated, even, with certain aspects of the how the group managed to survive and what their world was like after such a catastrophe.
Readers who liked Life As We Knew It who want more but aren’t quite ready for something quite as heavy as The Road (full disclosure: I was not quite ready for The Road) will probably like Alas, Babylon. There was nothing particularly “stunning” about it, but it was a decent survival story that shows its age in a somewhat charming sort of way (if you will).
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2005)
Originally published 1959
More info: Wikipedia, Reading Group Guides
Read More: Dystopian Futures
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Aiden and Maddy have been fighting to survive on their own since their parents and siblings died. Most of their neighbors have moved on due to the harsh conditions in the Midwest in 1865. The two have stuck together, worked hard, and kept themselves alive. Barely. The kids take the first opportunity out of there, which turns out to be a wagon train bound for Seattle. The two promise to work in a logging camp as their ticket out of lonely survival living.
Like any good saga, the story covers a lot of ground. It is easy to lose yourself in the richness of the journey. I must admit that I was much more keyed into the cross country journey portion of the book over the life in the logging camp portion. Interesting subplots about small pox and vaccines tie the parts of the story together. It doesn’t always seem realistic, but the details make it clear that a lot of research went into getting the historical back drop just right. Fans of historical fiction, whether teens for not, will likely appreciate that. Elements of survival and adventure may draw in some readers, and patient readers will see this saga to its drawn out conclusion. I was glued to the page for most of the book and found myself experiencing the whole range of emotions as the action in the book brought hope and despair again and again. I was fascinated by the details (including the author’s note), and some readers will likely be just as drawn in as I was.
The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
Knopf (January 2009)
Honors: Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review, School Library Journal Starred Review
Blog Reviews: Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Talk, Inkweaver Review, Flamingnet Young Adult Book Blog
Read More: Teen Historical Fiction
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Colors come alive in ways you wouldn’t expect with the poetry of Joyce Sidman and the art of of Pamela Zagarenski in this magical picture book. I must admit I love Joyce Sidman’s books and Zagarenki’s art is just the sort that I would love, so I was sure I was going to love this book even before I picked it up.
I loved the way this book pulled me into the details. It reminded me to notice the things that I am often too busy to see. It was a lovely invitation to see each season as something new to explore. I can’t recommend it enough.
Red Sings From the Treetops by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin (April 2009)
Audience: Anyone who loves poetry, but especially those in Kindergarten through second grade.
Reviewed from library copy
Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate. I receive a percentage of the purchase price on any purchases made from links on this blog.