Thursday, March 3, 2011

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

by Morgan Matson

Also, School Library Journal is just starting up Battle of the Kids Books for the year- go check it out! So fun!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Lets talk about guilty pleasure stories.

Okay, I'll admit it. I love Chick Lit. Most of the books I've read so far this year have been teen contemporary romances. I love how light they are, that everything ends well, and that it really doesn't take much time to finish them. Oftentimes they are just the right balance of sweetness and drama to keep me reading.

But above all Chick Lit storylines I love a good Pride and Prejudice retelling. In 2003 my best friend discovered a modern movie version of Pride and Prejudice that had been produced by a Mormon movie company. We loved it. It was the movie that started it all for me- I liked Jane Austen before but loved her ever since.

Here's the trailer:

Yeah. Watching that again kind of makes me want to watch it right now. I will always have a soft spot for this Darcy.

Anyway, I recently came across author Elizabeth Eulberg. Last year her book, The Lonely Hearts Club was published. This year she came out with:

It's so delightfully pink!

And although I'm only about half-way through I am loving the Jane Austen goodness. Who doesn't want to fall in love with their very own Darcy?

Modernizations of Austen's stories just work. The stories are timeless. A retelling just feels fresh, fun, and accessible.

I believe Eulberg has done an excellent job bringing Pride and Prejudice to a whole new set of readers (and reminding the rest of us why we fell in love with Pride and Prejudice in the first place)!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


by Janne Teller

A Printz Honor Book.

Whew, what a book. It was translated into English from Danish and published in the states in 2010. It's appeal is almost entirely literary, so it may not be the most popular book, but it sure has a lot to offer. I've thought been thinking about this book for a few days in an effort to decide how to write about it.

Here's a quite plot summary:
When their classmate, Pierre Anthon, declares that nothing matters and drops out of school his peers decide to find meaning and prove him wrong. They start by collecting little stuff, then it escalates to each student giving up what matters to them most.

I don't want to give away the ending of this one, so I'll leave it at that.

The first page of the story only has four lines of text on it:

"Nothing matters.
I have known that for a long time.
So nothing is worth doing.
I just realized that."

I wrote down my reaction to that when I first read it: "Whoa, I hope this book goes on to prove this wrong... if not it's going to be depressing."

But then I found the plot a little slow. However, there's a passage that grabbed hold of me. In it the students are gathering things that have meaning and placing them in a pile. They plan to eventually show Pierre Anthon their "Heap of Meaning" in order to prove to him that something means something. I'd like to share it here:

"Elise remembered when she was six and had cried when an Alsatian dog had bitten the head off her doll, so she dug out the old doll and its chewed-off head from the boxes in her basement and brought them along with her to the sawmill. Holy Karl brought an old hymnbook that was missing its front and back and quite a number of its hymns, but nevertheless ran with no other defects from page 27 to page 389. Ursula-Marie delivered a pink ivory comb missing two teeth, and Jon-Johan chipped in with a Beatles tape that had lost all sound, but that he never had the heart to throw out."

I just really loved the first things they bring to the "Heap of Meaning," things that mattered in the past. Soon after the students continue to collect things that are no longer just sentimental, but have actual value. As the story goes on it gets more and more chilling. It gave me the same feeling that Surrender by Sonya Hartnett gave me when I read it a few years ago: unsettled, anxious, and hoping for a resolution at the end.

I wont say I loved this book, because I didn't. It's not fun read, by any means, but it makes one think. It challenges the reader to better define what "meaning" means to them. It would be excellent for a book club or high school classroom because there is a lot that can be discussed. It's a great literary work and it deserves the recognition it's getting from receiving the Printz Honor this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins

Quick plot summary:

Anna is a high school student who is forced into enrolling in a Paris boarding school for her senior year. Anna is not exactly excited for the move. She does not want to leave her friends or her crush, Toph. But her dad (a Nicholas Sparks-ish author) gives her no choice. As school starts in Paris she meets new friends; including the beautiful- but oh, so off-limits, St. Clair.

My thoughts (with spoilers):

It has been a long time since I've gotten as absorbed in a book as I was in Anna and the French Kiss. The pace was excellent, the humor subtle, and the romance, well, seriously romantic. Anna falls for St. Clair instantly, but their relationship builds into a true friendship. That foundation for their relationship is partly why the story is so interesting.

However, St. Clair has a girlfriend and Anna knows she can't have him. And to make matters worse, Anna's good friend Mer has a crush on St. Clair, too.

Meanwhile, back home, Anna's best friend Bridgette is falling for Anna's old crush Toph. Soon Bridgette and Toph are together, but neither of them tells Anna. After she finds out Anna feels totally betrayed by Bridgette and can't stand to see her.

Not long after this, Anna does the same thing to Mer. Anna and St. Clair have a moment and Mer sees them.

These things happen, I know. But Anna rationalizes both Bridgette's and her own actions by saying (emphasis from text):

"Bridgette couldn't help it. The attraction was there, and I wasn't there, and they got together, and she couldn't help it. And I've blamed her this entire time. Made her feel guilty for something beyond her control."

I have trouble with this. Yes, perhaps, attraction is out of your control. But your actions are not. Bridgette could have told Anna how she was feeling towards Toph. Anna could have talked with Mer about St. Clair. Maybe that would not have made a good story. But, in the real world- outside of the story, it is never okay to assume that something is out of your control just because your are attracted to someone.

You always have a choice. Always.

I don't disagree with everything Perkins offers, though. One example: it can be assumed that if your group of friends has a cute, charismatic guy among them, more than one of the girls has a crush on him. Just like in Anna's group of friends. So, thread lightly.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down. I had to know if things would work out between Anna and St. Clair.

And I am really looking forward to the two follow ups that are currently planned. Well done, Stephanie Perkins. I am eager to read more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Real Live Boyfriends

by E. Lockhart

Watch my thoughts on this book here (it's the second part of the video!):

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

This book is written using the same basic idea as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Cohn and Levithan write alternating chapters following the adventures of Dash and Lily. Cohn writes Lily, Levithan writes Dash. Their characters spend most of the book writing to each other in a red moleskine notebook. The twist: they don't know each other.

Feeling lonely at Christmas, Lily allows herself to be convinced by her brother to start a notebook featuring a series of dares and hide it at a bookstore. Self-professed "word-nerd" Dash stumbles upon it, and quickly accomplishes the first series of dares and sends Lily on a dare of his own. The dares continue back and forth as the two characters get to know each other through creativity and a red notebook.

I'll admit the other books written by Cohn and Levithan held no interest for me. However, this one caught my attention. Two strangers writing each other in a notebook found in a bookstore? How could I pass it up? It's like the bookish, teenage, low-tech version of You've Got Mail.

Both characters were well-written and, unlike some books with two narrators, I found I liked them both equally. I liked the setting and the scavenger hunt romp through New York City. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares will definitely become a book I visit again during future Christmas seasons, just like Let it Snow did a few years back.

All in all, I found this book totally enjoyable. I love the bookishness of the story and the vocabulary used (Dash's chapters are particularly full of excellent words while Lily's have a charming turn of phrase throughout). While no heavy themes are being explored, I know I'll recommend it to teen readers and probably pick it up again myself.

Perhaps I should gives Cohn and Levithan's other collaborations a second chance.


I just read on Rachel Cohn's Twitter that Dash and Lily's Book of Dares has been optioned for a movie. I love this idea! Find out more here, in an interview with Cohn and Levithan about the book. Also, as a bonus, there's a bunch of jokes about Justin Bieber.