Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

Drought by Pam Bachorz

Title: Drought

Author: Pam Bachorz

Publisher: EgmontUSA         Year: 2011

ISBN -13: 978-1606840160

Age: 12 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Young Adult, Slavery, Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cult, Dystopian, Social Drama, Forbidden Romance, Friendship, Family, Coming of Age

Summary:

For the past 200 years, Ruby and the Congregation have been enslaved by Darwin West and forced to collect “blessed” water for a mysterious visitor. Brutally beaten and starved, the Congregation waits and endures for their savior, Otto to arrive and deliver them from their hell. Few people know that the secret to the water is Ruby’s blood which gives it healing and life-sustaining properties. When Ruby falls in love with an overseer she is greatly conflicted with the desire to escape oppression and live in the modern world, and the obligation to endure and sustain with the Congregation.

My Take:

BORING! Not only did the Congregants have to wait and endure until Otto arrived, but I spent the whole book waiting and enduring a poor storyline for something to happen. This book just seemed to drag on and on with very little action and not enough description. Based on how this book ended, I have a very bad feeling that Pam Bachorz is planning on releasing a sequel, gosh I hope not. Although, maybe it will be one of those rare cases where the sequel is actually better than the original but I doubt it. I guess we’ll just have to wait some more to find out. There just wasn’t enough information and back story to truly understand the Congregants plight. And what little action there was lasted no more than a couple pages.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars … I didn’t absolutely hate the book and the concept of it is interesting, I was just so bored.

Similar Read: I’m not sure what to recommend because I would hate for it to be another dud.

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The Shadowland by Meg Cabot (Mediator Series Book 1)

Title: Shadowland The Mediator Series Bk.1

Author: Meg Cabot

Publisher: HarperTeen           Year: 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0060725112

Genre: Fiction

Age: 13 and up

Awards: ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Themes / Subjects: Ghosts, Fantasy, Romance, Relationships, high school, mediator

Plot Summary:

Suze is a high school sophomore, who, in her own words has “this unfortunate ability to communicate with the dead.” She’s a mediator which means she is responsible for helping ghosts solve unresolved issues so they can move on to the next world. As important as Suze’s role is, it is one that she has always resented. At sixteen, she just wants to be a normal teenage girl, worried about clothes and boys, not dead people To make matters worse, her mom has remarried and is moving them from New York City and clear across the country to northern California. With a new stepdad who’s pretty cool, and three stepbrothers who turn out to be a pain, Suze hopes this move to California will be a positive change. At least she thought that until she meets Heather, the angry ghost of a girl who committed suicide over Christmas break and wants revenge on her ex-boyfriend.

My Take:

Meg Cabot is one of my all-time favorite authors so I was really surprised I hadn’t heard about this book until a student suggested I read it. This has now become one of my favorite YA series! Every day I would look forward to seeing this particular student and would greedily beg for the next book in the series.

This is a fast paced novel, chock full of sarcasm and ghost busting action! The book immediately begins with action and just continues to get better. Things really pick up when Suze realizes she is stuck sharing a room with the ghost of a young boy named Jesse. Swoon! He sounds really dreamy (kinda weird since he is dead) and it’s hilarious how much he aggravates Suze. Heather (angry, evil spirit) is absolutely crazy and truly believes that Suze is trying to take over her life and place at the high school.

You will find yourself constantly laughing in the most random of places and breezing through this book with no problem. If you are a fan of the paranormal, romance, and sarcastically funny protagonists, then this is a book for you!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! All teen girls should READ THIS BOOK!

Similar read: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White … Evie considers herself a normal teenage girl even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency.

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Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched

Author: Ally Condie

Publisher: Speak      Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0142419779

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Chosen as one of YALSA’S 2011 Teens’ Top Ten,  Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010,  #1 Pick on the Winter 2010/2011 Kid’s Indie Next List,  YALSA 2011 Best Fiction for Young Readers,  YALSA 2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers,  Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010,  Winner of the 2010 Whitney Award for Best Youth Fiction: Speculative

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy Fiction, Action & Adventure, Love & Romance, Survival, Social Situations, Relationships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

17-year-old Cassia has always trusted the officials and their choices. She lives in the future society of Oria where every decision and action is decided by the officials. Meals are specifically tailored to each individual, occupations are chosen based on the data collected throughout ones early years, and everyone is matched with their genetic and perfect mate. So when Cassia’s best friend Xander appears on the screen as her perfect Match, she knows with complete certainty that he is the one for her … that is until she decides to view Xander’s microcard and his image fades out and is replaced with another. Now Cassia must decide whether to follow the official’s perfect plan or rebel and follow her heart.

My Take:

As soon as I started reading Ally Condie’s book Matched I immediately thought about Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games and immediately felt the same emotional tug at my gut. How could mankind allow our society to become a place where government officials dictate everything about our lives from who we love and where we work to when we die? Within a couple chapters, however, those intense feelings/emotions were replaced when I realized the focus of Condie’s book wasn’t the dystopian society but the crazy obsession of 17-year-old Cassia for a boy other than her match.

Don’t get me wrong. The whole love triangle, going against the rules set in place by the officials definitely moves the story along. However, I found Cassia’s obsession to be long, drawn-out and at times boring. When I really like a book I will devour it, yet with this book it was okay if I didn’t read a little bit each day. I wanted the author to, as my high school honors English teacher would tell the class, “go beneath the iceberg.” There are so many details about society that Condie introduces the reader to yet fails to fully develop them. Hopefully we see more in the sequel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. While I like a book about crushes and falling in love, I really wish there had been more about the dystopian society.

Similar read: The Giver by Lois Lowry. Like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Ally Condie, Lowry’s The Giver provides readers a snapshot of a society where decisions are handled by officials and of course there will be someone who will rebel.

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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Title: Twilight

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Year: 2008

ISBN -13: 978-0316038379

Age: 14 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: high school, forbidden romance, fantasy & magic, vampires, relationships

Awards: Publishers Weekly’s “Best Children’s Books of 2005”, School Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2005”, 2008 #26 in USA Today’s list of “Bestselling Books of Last 15 Years”, bestselling book of 2008 and second biggest selling of 2009

Plot Summary:

When 17-year-old Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington she unwillingly becomes the center of attention in her new peers eyes, except one. Bella is mystified by the alluring and handsome Edward Cullen who spends little time socializing with his classmates and most of the time with his family. The Cullens have managed to keep their vampire identity a secret in the small community of Forks but everything changes when their existence and Bella’s life is threatened.Can Bella and Edward’s love survive their biological differences and will Edward be able to protect everyone he loves?

My Take:

This wouldn’t be a teen book review blog if I didn’t include the “hottest” book since Harry Potter and before the Hunger Games. I’ve put off this review because I’m not sure I can be completely unbiased. Let me explain …

The first time I read this book I was in college and recently single. I never really fit in with any of my classmates so I was totally feeling like Bella Swan. The idea of falling in love with a good-looking but dangerous boy? Enticing. I devoured every page and didn’t sleep a wink that entire week because I JUST HAD TO READ THE WHOLE SERIES.

The second time I read the book I hated every minute of it. Coming out of a tough break-up probably didnt’ help but all I could think was Bella was an idiot. I couldn’t understand what had appealed to me the first time I read the book but this second time I was definitely not Bella. How could she put herself in danger and not think or care about how it would affect her family or few friends? Or my biggest annoyance, how could their love be so deep and true if they hardly knew one another?!

Not too long ago I reread this book for a third time. I can honestly say, I don’t understand the hype around this book or movie. Sure the story is fun and a little daring but I found too many flaws and inconsistencies in Meyer’s writing to really enjoy the book. For example in one paragraph it’s the beginning of the week and Bella is getting ready for finals, the next paragraph finals are over but in the paragraph after that Edward is walking her down the hall after Bella finishes her first final. What the heck? I found myself having to reread certain passages over and over again before I could move on which made this third reading rather tedious. I found the characters to be rather shallow and poorly developed. How could Bella an honor student act so stupid sometimes? And if Edward has lived for a hundred years, why isn’t he smarter?

All in all … if you are thinking about reading it after a break-up, don’t. You really won’t like it. If you are thinking about reading it for fun, then enjoy. If you have an analytical brain who likes a story to have a consistent flow, I’d think twice.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Those inconsistencies really bug me!

Similar Read: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 9780439023528

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: #1 New York Times Bestseller, #1 USA Today Bestseller, Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Publishers Weekly Bestseller, Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2008: Children’s Fiction, New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2008, An American Library Association Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults Selection, An ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2009 ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, #1 on Winter ’08/’09 Children’s Indie Next List, Indies Choice–Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book Honor, 2008 Cybil Award–Fantasy & Science Fiction, 2009 Children’s Choice Book Award, Teen Choice Book of the Year Finalist, YALSA’S Teens’ Top Ten 2009, NYPL “Stuff for the Teen Age” List 2009, CCBC Choices 2009, A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, A Kirkus Best Book of 2008, A Horn Book Fanfare, School Library Journal Best Books of 2008, A Booklist Editors’ Choice 2008, LA Times Favorite Children’s Books 2008, Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2008 for Teens and Kids, Borders Best Books of 2008: Teens, Amazon Best Books of 2008: Top 100 Editors’ Pick, Top 10 Books: Teens

Themes / Subjects: Science Fiction & fantasy, dystopia, morality, obedience, oppression, rebellion, redemption, sacrifice, survival

Plot Summary:

In the ruins of North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capital is a cruel and harsh government, forcing each district to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games. Winning the games means fame and glory while losing means certain death and there can be only one winner. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister. On Reaping Day, when the tributes from each district are selected, Katniss makes the ultimate sacrifice, shocking the districts by volunteering to take her sister’s place.

My Take:

I’ve put off writing a review about The Hunger Games because it is such a fantastically well written book that I don’t think my thoughts on it would do it justice. You just have to read this book to fully appreciate its awesomeness.

I can’t think of any other book, and I’ve read a lot, that has invoked such strong and personal emotions. The whole time I was reading my emotions were on a crazy roller coaster ride: I was angry at the citizens of Panem for allowing such cruelty to happen, I loathed the Capitol, my heart was shattered throughout the story beginning with the very concept of the Hunger Games to the gut wrenching ending. And all I could keep thinking in my head was that these were children forced to kill one another. These were children who were around the age of the kids reading the books. These were children.

The violence was pretty graphic and conjured some unsettling images in my mind. Kids are speared, mauled by animals, stabbed, heads are smashed, necks are broken, burned and all in realistic detail. Yet it is Collins mix of current reality shows (Survivor and American Gladiator) and inference to current political and social trends that makes The Hunger Games a terrific discussion starter for teens where they can make connections to our own society.

And finally Katniss is such a strong role model for boys and girls alike. She takes on the responsibility of caring for her family by hunting, although illegal, to bring in extra food, sacrifices herself to save her sister, and faces certain death with unimaginable courage.

When you read this book make sure to have a box of tissues nearby because I guarantee you are going to need it. Then pop in a super happy, cheesy movie to lift your spirits back up.

Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 … just thinking about this book brings shivers down my spine and goose bumps on my arms

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie … I just started reading this book last night and I immediately could make comparisons to The Hunger Games

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends      Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0312641894

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: Science Fiction & fantasy, fairytale retelling, dystopia, alternate worlds, Cinderella, family, friendship

Plot Summary:

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing and a cyborg. Orphaned as a child after a terrible accident, doctors were able to save her life by replacing her foot and hand with metal ones. Despite being a medical miracle, cyborgs are looked down upon and considered second class citizens. Now sixteen-years-old she spends long days at a booth in the market repairing androids and portscreens then heads home to a cruel and loveless home ruled by an evil stepmother. Cinder’s two step-sisters couldn’t be more opposite; where Pearl is mean and just as evil as her stepmother, Peony is sweet and Cinder’s best human friend. One afternoon Prince Kair comes to the market to have Cinder fix his beloved android and immediately there is chemistry between them. But when Peony contracts the deadly plague letumosis for which there is no cure and Cinder gets caught in the middle of a political battle between two worlds, Cinder’s life changes drastically.

My Take:

Cinderella as a futuristic cyborg named Cinder? AWESOME! I had never heard of this book until I saw it on one of the shelves of the school book fair. How cool is that beautiful red high heel with a translucent leg and metal bones showing? As soon as I read the back cover I knew I had to read this book!

Marissa Meyer’s takes the well-known fairytale Cinderella and gives it an interesting futuristic/sci-fi twist. Although much of the book was predictable, I still found myself unable to stop reading as the suspense of the Lunar people and their Queen was built up. There is just the right amount of romance, heartache and humor to captivate all readers. While reading, it was a lot of fun to notice subtle tributes to the original Cinderella story such as the pumpkin-orange car and a loose foot that could possibly be left on the palace stairs.

My favorite and scariest parts of the book are Cinder and Prince Kai’s interactions with the Lunar people, especially Queen Levana, because Lunars have a special kind of “magic.” I won’t spoil it for you so go and read the book and find out for yourself!

Again, I have found myself in a predicament … this is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series with the next books Sarcelt, Cress, and Winter not coming out until 2013, 2014 and 2015. UGH!! I hate waiting!! What happens next?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars … the “twist” at the end of the story was predictable from the beginning otherwise a fun retelling of Cinderella

Similar read: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

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The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

 Title: The Red Pyramid

 Author: Rick Riordan

 Publisher: Hyperion Book CH

 ISBN -13: 978-1423113454

 Genre: Fantasy Fiction

 Age: 10 and up

 Awards: A #1 New York Times bestseller ; A School Library Journal Best Book of 2010 ; Winner: Children’s Choice Book Awards 2011: Best Book, Grades 5-6

Themes / Subjects: Fantasy, adventure, Egyptian Mythology, family life, siblings

Plot Summary:

Carter Kane, 14, and Sadie Kane, 12, have grown up practically as strangers since their mother’s death six years earlier. While Sadie has grown up with her grandparents in London, Carter has travelled the world with their father, Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. On Christmas Eve, the family is reunited in London and headed to the British Museum for an experiment to “set things right.” Things, however, go terribly wrong and five Egyptian gods are released, including Set who entombed Dr. Kane and causes the children to flee for their lives.

Now the siblings must embark on a journey to master their hidden powers as descendents of magicians who can host Egyptian gods, learn to work and understand one another and save mankind from Set’s destructive red pyramid.

My take:

After reading the Percy Jackson series by Riordan, this book was very hard for me to get into even with my love for Egyptian mythology. I expected it to have as much action and adventure as the Percy Jackson series and instead felt like there was a lot of down-time/explanations which made the story seem to drag on. Riordan does an excellent job incorporating Egyptian mythology and providing readers with additional information and a means of keeping track of all the gods in the back of the book.

The best  part of the book was the way the character’s personalities and relationship developed throughout the book. The book is told from both Sadie and Carter’s perspective, alternating chapters and as though it were an audio recording allowing readers inside the thoughts of both the main characters. I was especially impressed with the impact race/ethnicity played and how it impacted the characters. Although they are siblings, Sadie and Carter are not only practically strangers but physically look nothing alike. Sadie is caucasian with an English accent who likes to wear combat boots and a streak of color in her hair. Carter on the other hand is African-American and always dressed presentable in slacks and a button down shirt. Immediately I felt sorry for Carter because of the two he always seems to get the raw end of the deal and is overshadowed by his little sister.

Rating: 3/5 stars because it was not as adventurous as some of Riordan’s other reads but still an interesting insight to how Egyptian gods might spend their time and the hilarity of sibling rivalry.

Similar Read : The Pharoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss

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