Monday, July 31, 2006

Mock Printz: Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Title: Skin
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Publisher: S&S (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Starred review in: Kirkus (3-15-06)
Review: I have to say that this book is nowhere near the top of my list of favorites, or even on my list of favorites at all. Quiet, friendless Donnie defines himself by his vivacious older sister, Karen, who dies on page three of heart problems related to anorexia. In flashbacks, we see Donnie's memories of Karen's anorexia, his infatuation for her best friend, and the havoc their dysfunctional parents wreak on their lives. While the writing has a somewhat lyrical quality to it, I found the characters too unbelievable to consider this for a major award. Donnie defines himself mostly by what other think of him. The parents are caricatures, sort of Teen Novel Evil Overlords. Also, I wasn't entirely convinced by Donnie's transformation through Karen's illness and his eventual romance with Amanda. He was a completely different character inside than out, and while I don't necessarily have a problem with that, it did make for uneven storytelling.
Reviewed by: Carlie Webber, BCCLS

Mock Printz: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Title: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs
Author: Jack Gantos
Publisher: FSG
ISBN: 0374336903
Starred review in: Kirkus (4-1-o6), nominated to BBYA

Review: Jack Gantos, well known for his humorous Joey Pigza series and his Printz Honor autobiography Hole in my Life, offers a gothic novel with themes of familial love, eugenics, and taxidermy. Trust me on this one. Ivy has lived all her life in a small town in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, with her mother. Her mother works for the eccentric but kind Rumbaugh twins, Abner and Adolph. Then Ivy discovers that the twins' eccentricities go a little beyond their quiet nature. Expert taxidermists, the twins have preserved their mother and all her little parts in the basement of their pharmacy. More than just a fascination with the macabre, this need for preservation is tied to the Rumbaugh family curse, which is not something from which Ivy can so easily escape.

Although it's not outright horror, this is a creepy, creepy book, and I'm still amazed that Jack Gantos, whose books are always so funny, wrote something so unnerving (and incredibly well-structured). There's a lot of metaphor here, about love, about racism and eugenics. And some parts of it are just plain weird. Overall, it's wonderful and in my personal top 10 of 2006.

Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mock Printz: A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

Title: A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl
Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (Random)
ISBN: 0385747020

Starred review in: Kliatt (January '06), School Library Journal (January '06)
Review: Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva don't know each other very well, but they do all know the same bad boy. He woos all of them to a degree of success, and when each of the relationships end, the girls feel bad, not for what they've done but because they realize that the boy is just bad news. Josie decides to send the message to other girls about the bad boy, and she uses the school library's copy of Forever as her sort of bathroom wall. The book is written in verse, and cleverly Stone uses forms and words that teen girls would, such as writing one/word/per/line/like this. It looks like a simple, light read, but there are thoughtful themes of what sex and love mean to teens. The incorporation of old books/stories in new books is a popular trend in teen lit right now. I don't think this book will win the Printz, but it will definitely win teen girl fans and be passed around just like Forever.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Mock Newbery: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Title: The King of Attolia
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 006083577X
Starred review in: Booklist (January 2006)
Review: I finished this one awhile ago. I loved it and was so happy because I really didn't like The Queen of Attolia, but now I might have to go back and reread both The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. After reading the third, I think I might end up liking the second a bit more. I'm not so sure that this book will stand as a read alone. If anyone has read this, or is planning to, but hasn't read the first two yet, I'd love to hear what you think of it as a stand alone. There is a whole subtleness to how Gen acts that readers familiar with the first two books get that I'm not sure will come through to a reader introduced to King of Attolia first.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENA

Mock Printz: It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Title: It's Kind of a Funny Story
Author: Ned Vizzini
Publisher: Miramax
Starred review in: Booklist (2-1-06), Publishers Weekly (4-10-06), School Library Journal (April), nominated to Best Books for Young Adults
Review: Bright but mostly directionless Craig Gilner is under a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed at his prestigious Manhattan private high school. He studied for months before the entrance exam and aced said exam, but life in his classes is much more involved and time-consuming than the test would lead him to believe. Craig frets over not being an overachiever and spirals into depression. He can't eat, feels distant from his few friends, and contemplates suicide. On the advice of a suicide hotline worker, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward of his local hospital, where he begins the journey to recovery. The hospital gives him the opportunity to find out what it is that he loves to do, and he resolves to "live for real."

I felt torn while reading this, like I never knew whether to laugh or cry. Craig's situation is tragic, but Vizzini, who based Craig's experience on his own, uses dry humor, honesty, and perspective to make Craig into someone completely likeable, who we want to succeed and be happy. Unlike many other teens with depression, Craig is lucky enough to have a supportive, loving family who wants nothing more than to see him get better. Underneath the story, there's a lot of commentary on the high pressures to achieve both socially and academically that today's teens face, and the consequences of this pressure. This book is one of my personal top five of 2006.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Mock Printz: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 0670061050
Starred review in: Kliatt, VOYA
Review: After a traumatic summer, Annabel Greene returns to high school friendless and isolated. A part time model, Annabel comes from a family where everything seems fine on the surface and everyone’s problems are held inside. As a result, Annabel has perfected the art of swallowing her emotions, until she begins a friendship with Owen, the loner-with-an-anger-management-problem. Owen helps Annabel face the truth and deal with her problems , instead of pretending they don’t exist. I found this book to be very true to high school life. Owen’s obsession with music provides much of the framework for the story and is appealing. Annabel is a very likeable character who is easy to relate to. The other characters are believable and the problems very real. (KIND OF) SPOILER: The storyline does seem to mirror Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak a little too closely to be considered very original, but there are other situations and problems that help make the story more well rounded. All in all, this is another good Sarah Dessen story. It will be popular with her fans, but is in no way groundbreaking.
Reviewed by: Annie Miller, PARA

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mock Newbery: The Quail Club by Carolyn Marsden

Title: The Quail Club
Author: Carolyn Marsden
Publisher: Candlewick
ISBN: 076362635X
Starred review in: Kirkus (3-15-06)
Review: A companion to the Gold-Threaded Dress, but I would not call it a sequal. I never got around to reading Gold-Threaded Dress and had no problem sinking right into Quail Club. It's set two years after Gold-threaded Dress and Oy is in 5th grade. She and three other girls have formed a club which watches a clutch of quail eggs waiting for them to hatch. When Oy hears about the 5th grade talent show, she wants to do a traditional Thai dance, but one of her friends wants to do an american dance together. Oy is worried that if she doesn't dance with her friend she will lose her friend and her place in the quail club. With advice from her mother, Oy comes up with a compromise for her friend. The book addresses a prolem many children of Asian/American families have of holding on to thier asian culture while fitting into american culture. Marsden does a great job of presenting a realistic problem and solving the problem with a realistic solution that doesn't feel forced or preachy.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENF

Mock Newbery: The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

Title: The Homework Machine
Author: Dan Gutman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Starred review in: Kirkus (2-1-06)
Review: Four fifth-grade students--a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker -- is how the annotation for the book starts and it's one of the problems I have with this book. The four kids who are the main characters of this book are all stereotypes and nothing but stereotypes. Add to that loose ends all over the place at the end of the book and a concept that kids might love, but isn't at all realistic. I'm all for fantasy, but this book didn't fit that either. The idea was interesting and I'm sure that it will be a fast, popular read with kids, but so are Animorphs and Babysitter's Club books.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENA

Mock Newbery: Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 0786839163
Starred review in: Kirkus (4-1-06)
Review: This book had such a promising idea. A hidden race of magical beings: Wizards, Enchanters, Warriors, Sorcerers, and Soothsayers. A complex political struggle and an ancient pact which rules them. It had all the elements fo a fantastic epic fantasy, but somewhere it fell flat for me. It started with flashes of history before zooming to modern day Ohio. From there the plot advanced quickly at first and was interesting. Maybe not totally unique, but clearly a new mix of ideas by a skilled author. However, just after the main character find out he's not 'normal' his aunt drags him off on a sudden hunt which seems abrupt. He and two friends confront wizards, dig up an ancestrial sword, and then go back to school on Monday as if nothing changed....except now there war Warrior lessons for Jack. From there the plot slows even more. I just couldn't seem to get on track with this book. Each time I would start to get into the story, it would bog down and just when I was about to give up something interesting would convince me to try one more chapter. I ended up giving up around the middle and jumping to the last 2-3 chapters. The ended was really good and I liked how most of the history now made sense and losse ends were tied, but I still couldn't face going back and reading the 2nd half.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENA

Mock Newbery: Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks

Title: Jumping the Scratch
Author: Sarah Weeks
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060541091
Starred review in: Kirkus (4-15-06)
Review: Jamie thought that bad things happened in threes and once his cat died, his father left him and his mom, and his aunt had a freak accident which forced he and his mom to move in with her that the worst was over. Moving in with his aunt meant changing schools in the middle of the year and his mom working nights for extra money. Unfortunatly for Jamie, he found out that not being able to forget is sometimes worse than not being able to remember. The characters were interesting and the plot with just a touch of mystery was interesting enough. Even most young readers will guess Jamie's secret fairly early though and everything in the end almost seems to wrap up too neatly and too quickly. A good fast read, but not outstanding.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENA

Mock Newbery: Gossamer by Lois Lowry

Title: Gossamer
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0618685502
Starred review in: Kirkus (3-1-06)
Review: Littest, a young dream-giver, tries to learn how to give dreams while helping young boy deal with the after effects of an abusive home. I found the whole book very unique. The idea of dream-givers or beings that protect one's dreams isn't all that new, but I have never read it presented in such a way. I really liked this book and it made me think about many things some more obvious than others. It's a very unique coming of age story where instead of a boy becoming a man or a girl becoming a woman, it was Littest becoming Gossamer.
Reviewed by: Latricia B., TENA

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Welcome to the blog for the BCCLS Mock Awards 2007! Watch this space for more information on what we're reading.