Young Adult

A love story starring my dead best friend by Emily Horner

First book of the school holidays and it was a great choice.  This is a great cross-over novel, meaning written with appeal to both teenage and adult readers.  Emily Horner has a great website with lots of good stuff about this book and a thoughtful blog as well.

Cass is desperately missing her friend Julia.  Julia was killed in a car crash and it has rocked all her friends and her boyfriend, but Cass and Julia had one of those friendships which was deep and complex.  A finish each others sentences kind of friendship.  Julia was obsessed with drama and was writing her masterpiece when she died, the friends decide that they should put on the show she wrote.  This creates lots of difficulties because it isn’t exactly  your standard school musical, the title is Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad which is enough to set alarm bells ringing with the school staff.

In the meantime Cass sets off on her bike, to complete the journey to California that she and Julia always planned to make, bringing Julia’s ashes with her in a tupperware container.  The bike trip is beautifully written.  The relationship she has along the way, the feelings this brings on and the mechanics of the relationship are written in a realistic way. Tentative and scary, but also with comfort. The lonliness of being on the road, the dangers from big trucks, people you meet and dealing with the memories of someone you love who has gone from your life, dealing with your emerging sexuality and also love, lots of love in many forms, all make for riveting reading.  This is a wise book.  I know my girls would have loved it when they were teenagers, but it is also a book I would give them now.  This book has lots of the feeling you get when you read John Green or David Levithan and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Emily Horner.

 

 

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I’m doing a crosspost here, this is also posted on the school blog.  This book is so aptly named.  It is a wondrously beautiful book.  It is big, it is beautifully designed and it contains a really well crafted story, both in words and in pictures.  Wonderstruck is one of those books which will appeal to lots of people for lots of different reasons.  If you read books for a great story this book has one.  If you love art, drawing and design, this book has loads to offer you.  If you think books are things to be treasured then Wonderstruck is certainly one which people will want to treasure.  It is a book to buy as a present, it is a book to own.  But first you might want to borrow it from the library.  The first book by Brian Selznick is a poor battered thing in our library because it has been so widely read over the years.  There is a blog post about it here.

Wonderstruck is two stories, one told in pictures and one told with words.  It is the story of a young girl living in New York who runs away from home, and it is also the story of a young boy 50 years later in a small lakeside town.  You know that somehow the two stories will connect and when they do it is a moment of wonder.

Below is a video of the author, walking around inside the incredibly detailed drawings from the book.  This author is truly one of the great authors for young people today and I hope lots of our students pick up the book and take it home and spend time in the world of Wonderstruck.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I am a sucker for a concept novel.  I like novels around a theme, with extra bits and pieces, with added online content, it it has bells and whistles, quirky goodness, tricky little gizmos, I’m going to buy it.  This does not always guarantee an excellent read!  I have spent a vast fortune – well a small fortune – buying the book with the awesome cover, just because it had an awesome cover.  That folks is why I bought this book.  Oh but it was a gooden, yay!

Filled with weird old photos of children who were the residents of a home for ‘peculiar’ children, this book is the story of Jacob’s Jewish Grandfather, and Jacob’s search for the truth behind his death, the dreams that plague him, the bizarre sight he saw as his beloved Grandfather lay dying in his arms.  Jacob is on a quest for the truth.  The truth it turns out is very scary, very hard to believe – in short very peculiar.  The photographs sit alongside the story, helping you to visualise the peculiar children and their very peculiar attributes.  I’m not giving more away than this for fear of ruining the surprises.

This book kept me up until 1am last night.  I just had to get to the end and find out what happened to Miss Peregrine and what decisions Jacob would make.  I was hooked from page 1 and basically did nothing else yesterday but read this book.  It is a cross-over novel, fits nicely into Young Adult or Adult and is a treat book.  Lovely!  Book trailer below.

There is no dog by Meg Rosoff

There is no dog is about God, whose name is Bob!  He is a teenager (he is 19) who has been given the responsibility of creating and then the ongoing maintenance of Earth.  Unfortunately like most teenagers he takes his eye off the ball fairly regularly and chaos ensues on our planet.  He is minded by Mr B, my favourite character in the book, who spends his time trying to juggle the catastrophes which God causes, a lot of which involve God being irresistibly  attractive to young women, and being consumed with himself, his dislike of his interferring mother, who won Earth in a poker game in the beginning which is how Bob came to be God, and who also has now carelessly lost Bob’s pet in yet another poker game.  Mr B, is responsible for whales being on earth and has his hands full ensuring their continued survival what with Bob being all involved with himself and his lovelife.  Confused, I was! 

Meg Rosoff is one of my favourite authors but this book seems like a good idea that just ran off with itself and left the author with not enough places to take what remained.  It seems a bit disjointed, a bit loopy and underdone.  There are tone changes which don’t sit quite right, there are disjointed chapters and the resolution is – weird.  I kept reading because I really wanted it to be fabulous, and I always enjoy the cleverness in a Meg Rosoff book, and that is there in this book but not in big enough doses to keep me hooked.   The book is good natured, and has heart which Meg Rosoff always brings to her books, her sense of humour really is great.

I have adored every single previous novel by Meg Rosoff  here is what I thought of The brides farewell,  (loved it) and I will certainly await the next one eagerly but this one is one I’m glad I didn’t have to spend my library dollar on.  I was loaned a proof which is fabulous and exciting and always a thrill, it feels like you are in with an early look at a treat before anybody else gets hold of it.  I enjoyed parts of the book but I’m really more looking forward to the next one.

Meg Rosoff has been in NZ for Auckland Readers and Writers Week and I have been so jealous that she came south as far as Nelson, but not to Dunedin, and it is so nice here!  Come a bit further next time Meg and we will look after you – and we have far more excellent water than Auckland down here!  Read this post on her blog to see why I wrote that!

The Project by Brian Faulkner

Brian Faulkner is fast becoming one of the really reliable authors for young adult books in New Zealand.  His books have a great sense of adventure that is easy to sell to teenagers – particularly boys.  I haven’t read Brainjack which was the release before this one but I did enjoy The real thing and The tomorrow code (except for the hideous final chapter which I tell all the boys not to read).  I think his specialty is the chase scene.  Good guys versus bad in a race against time.  That seems to be the recurring theme in his books and for fast paced adventure books he is the ‘go to man’ of the moment.

The story travels from the modern day America back in time to Nazi Germany via a book, the most boring book in the world. Which of course turns out to be a book written in code.

I really enjoyed this book, he kept me interested all the way through, I knocked it off in two sittings and I thought he handled the time travel aspect really well.  I really liked the fact that the book was set in the USA but the main character had links back to New Zealand, cute!  I might even have to go and read Brainjack now!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

(I am hiding under a rock and typing this, I’m fairly certain to incur the wrath of the raft of Mockingjay fans out there in the blogisphere, lets hope none of them read this.)

Mockingjay is the third volume in the Hunger Games trilogy.  It has been eagerly awaited by teenagers and readers of young adult fiction and is ‘hot right now’ in New Zealand having only been out since early last month.  I was so excited to get my hands on a copy which one of the darling boys donated to the library after he had knocked it off in a night!  So, with his glowing recommendations and having read a few of the online reviews I was majorly keen to get stuck into it.

I was really disappointed, the book felt disjointed and slightly disconnected from what I remembered from the second book which I’d read earlier this year – see The Book Page – and which I really liked.  Our heroine Katniss Everdeen has been rescued and is rebuilding her strength and mental health after all the trials of the Hunger Games in the two previous books.  She has reconnected with her childhood friend Gale and her family.  She is being nursed back to health within District 13.  The descriptions of 13 are great, the action underground is really gripping, the explorations of new hunting equipment is cool, but I felt that the story faltered with a lot going on but no real threads being bought together until about half way through the book when finally I got hooked in and drawn into the story.

Suzanne Collins is a writer for film by trade and this book almost had the feel of something that would be taking place on a screen rather than a story with all the thinking and breathing parts and the internal stuff going on.  I think for me it was the relationships that weren’t quite right, the characters just didn’t connect with each other anymore.  I thought it was particularly the case with Katniss and her sister and with Gale. I felt that Katniss’s sympathy had been dredged out of her, which I suppose it understandable given the horrific things that have happened to her, but I wanted more of what made her real to me.

There are some great scenes, especially towards the end of the book – the action underground is great, and I was satisfied with the ending but for me this book just didn’t quite hit the mark.  I think the movie of these books which is due out in 2013 is going to be fabulous and I am really looking forward to that.