Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: They Never Came Back

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers      Year: 2010

ISBN-10: 0385738080

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense, Convicts, Family Life

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney http://goanimate.com/videos/0-1DbRFgc0yA

My Take:

Imagine having the world at your fingertips: a rich family, mansion, any type of lessons you could want, new clothes and accessories, vacations out of the country, etc.. Now imagine that in one day everything is flipped upside down and you are told your parents are criminals that have fled the country and have left you behind to answer the questions of dozens of people with initials like FBI and NASD. All this and you are ten years old. I could not begin to imagine what young Murielle must have felt.

My heart goes out to Tommy and his family because they so badly want to believe that Cathy Ferris is their missing niece/cousin, Murielle Lyman. The whole book I kept wanting to read ahead to see if Murielle’s parents would ever come back or if they were truly just in love with the money. At the head of each chapter is either Murielle or Cathy’s name which tells the reader not who is talking but what year it is … the present is Cathy and five years back at the time of the incident is Murielle. This was a pretty neat way to not only tell the current story but provide the reader enough of the backstory.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … I didn’t like finding out so quickly about Cathy Ferris and felt that should have been drawn out more.

Similar read: The Face on the Milk Cartoon by Caroline B. Cooney … after reading They Never Came Back, I had a strong urge to reread The Face on the Milk Cartoon. I remember that book giving me the chills.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Square Fish           Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0312674397

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Outcast, High School, Relationships, Social Situations, Art

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My Take:

It’s pretty obvious within the first couple of pages what happened at the party so right away the suspense that captured my attention from the back of the book is gone. The book has a long, drawn out story which is interesting, yet all of a sudden everything is A-Ok at the end. I don’t think so. If she really did experience that terrible thing from the party, I hardly doubt that just by speaking everything is going to be better. That might be the step to recovery but it most definitely does not make everything right.

What I did like about the book is how it is divided by school semesters and the report card so you can see how her grades are being affected. This book is easily relatable to any teenager who is or may have been a social outcast. The occurrences throughout the book could happen to anyone these days which further helps the reader’s mind perceive what is going on. I do think there is an important message to be taken away from this book which is why I would recommend it to teens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars … I didn’t hate or love the book which is why I stand in the middle

Similar read: Monster by Walter Dean Meyers

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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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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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Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: MTV Books          Year: 1999

ISBN -13: 978-0671027346

Age: 14 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: coming of age, high school, young adult, teen

Awards: Bluegrass Award, Garden State Teen Book Award, Volunteer State Book Award

Plot Summary:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful and painful story about 15-year-old Charlie and his experiences through his freshman year of high school. Unlike most diary novels, Charlie writes his accounts in the form of a letter to an unknown friend and within those letters he is brutally and unabashedly honest. The year before freshman year his one and only friend committed suicide and when he was six, his favorite aunt passed away in a car accident, both of which he holds himself accountable. Charlie is a wallflower who blends in with his surroundings but observes everything in incredible detail. It isn’t until he befriends seniors Patrick and Samantha that he even begins to come out of his shell and “experience” high school.

My Take:

The reason I read this book was because it cause quite a stir at the middle school where I work. There are some pretty detailed scenes about teens talking about rumors they heard of other teens having sex and drug use. There is also a teen pregnancy which results in an abortion without the parents knowing. This book is truly a great read and deals with the not so pretty side of growing up that unfortunately some teens face. My biggest advice is to know your teen and what they are capable of reading, understanding and handling. As for those details? Don’t jump around and look for all the “dirty” parts because if you read them out of context that is all you are going to get out of it … “dirty parts.” Read the whole book and take it for what the author intends it to be.

Charlie is a wallflower because he observes people and feels very deeply for the experiences around him. He must deal with the intensity of a first crush, the excitement around a new-found “private” activity, beer parties, bad trips, and sex. Charlie encounters and deals with everything that is prevalent in high schools today. My favorite part of the book is when Charlie, Samantha, and Patrick are driving around listening to music. Samantha and Patrick ask Charlie if he is ok because he has gotten silent and he looks at them and says, “I feel infinite … and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” What a powerful moment! At that moment in the book I was reminded of the nights spent driving my convertible with my girlfriends and music blaring. I too, truly believed those nights would go on forever.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … I wasn’t very happy with the ending 😦

Similar read: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Title: Something Like Fate

Author: Susane Colasanti

Publisher: Speak      Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0142418826

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: high school, relationships, romance, young adult, teen love

Plot Summary:

Erin and Lani are not just best friends, they are soul sisters bonded together in the deepest ways and yet total opposites. Lani is environmentally conscious and the president of the school’s One World Club whose goal is to make students more green friendly. Erin is part of the popular group and completely boy crazy. Erin begins dating fellow popular kid Jason, but there is an unmistakable chemistry between Jason and Lani! When Erin goes away for the summer, Lani is encouraged by her friend to spend more time with Jason but the temptation of love is proving to be too much. Lani must make a difficult decision … put her friendship first or give in to true love.

My Take:

While reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about and comparing it to Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. The storylines are almost exactly the same with the only exception being that Something Like Fate is written for tweens/teens and Something Borrowed is the adult version. While pursuing my school book fair the cover of Something Like Fate caught my eye; the reader is looking at the back of a couch where a boy and girl are cuddled yet the boy is hold hands behind the couch with a girl sitting on the other end! In my mind I’m thinking, “Scandalous! What is this?!” Below the hands is written, “What if your soul mate is your best friend’s boyfriend?” Immediately I plopped down ten bucks and just had to buy this book.

The cover is juicy. The description on the back of the book is juicy. The story itself was ok. Like I said earlier, while reading I couldn’t stop thinking this was a toned down replica of Something Borrowed. This book needs a lot more drama and a much better ending. There is way too much mundane description and not where it is needed. Some conflict is resolved too quickly while other conflict is left unresolved.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars … I’m really stuck in the middle with this book. I love the plot line and the characters, but I feel as though I wasn’t given a full story

Similar read: Forget You by Jennifer Echols

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Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publisher: Graphia      Year: 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0152061548

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Young Adult Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2007, shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Science Fiction or Fantasy Book of 2007, Booklist Editor’s Choice Award for Books for Youth (Older Reader’s Category) in 2006,  nominated for the 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award and the Truman Readers Award of 2008-2009, CCBC Choice, Junior Library Guild Premier selection, Listening Library selection, Amazon.com Best Book of the Year, 2011 ALA Popular Paperback, winner of six state awards

Themes / Subjects: Post-apocalyptic, young adult, survival, catastrophe, science fiction, dystopia, family life

Plot Summary:

I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open.

Miranda thought that the asteroid hitting the moon was just an excuse for her high school teachers to pile on more homework. So at 9:30pm on Wednesday, May 18th, Miranda joins her mom, brother Jonny and the rest of the world outside to watch this event. Disbelief suddenly turns to fear, as the moon is knocked out of orbit and suddenly much closer to the Earth. The result is catastrophic. Tsunamis begin wiping out the coastlines and islands, earthquakes shake the nation causing fires and destruction, sleepy volcanoes begin to erupt and the ash blocks out the sun. As summer turns to fall and fall into winter, Miranda’s family retreats into the sunroom of their home with only a woodstove for heat and a stockpile of food to survive. Everyone keeps saying it’s going to get better; it has to get better, but will it?

My Take:

I just finished this book today and am extremely sad that it ended! BUT while looking up more information about this book and author I am so proud to announce that the story doesn’t stop here, but is only the beginning of a trilogy! Three cheers for Susan Pfeffer! Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray!

Everyone at some point in their life has wondered about the end of the world, even more so recently with most of History channel’s programs telling us all about the Mayan Calendar and underground bunkers. But how much serious thought have you given it? Would you know to ration your food or to start chopping firewood at the beginning of summer? How would you take a bath? Wash your clothes? Cook food? We’ve all been taught that sharing is caring but what if sharing meant less for your own family?

This is the latest book cover for Life As We Knew It. It's much less girly but still contains a fabulous read for both boys and girls.

What I love most about this book is that Susan Pfeffer doesn’t hold back ANYTHING. The drama and action begins immediately with the reader learning that Miranda’s father and stepmother are about to have a baby and want her to be the godmother. Really?! We meet her friends; boy-crazy Sammi, religious-fanatic Megean, cute boy crush Dan from swim team. Then right when we are starting to feel comfortable with Miranda and her seemingly normal/teen drama filled life BOOM! An asteroid hits the moon knocking it closer to Earth and catastrophe strikes. All this within the first fifty pages, whew!I would love to read this book with a group of tween/teens, friends, and/or family because I think there is so much room for discussion. This book definitely opened my eyes and made me realize how vulnerable I would be should I live post-apocalypse.

Rating: 5/5 stars … This book deserves a bajillion stars! It left me with goose bumps and wanting more. Kids and their parents should read this together because you will definitely want someone to talk to about it.

Similar read: The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer … I try really hard to suggest similar reads not just the next book in the series, but this book was so good all I can think about is getting my hands on the next book!

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Troy High by Shana Norris

Title: Troy High

Author: Shana Norris

Publisher: Amulet Books      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0810996656

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: high school, relationships, social situations, family life, rivalry

Plot Summary:

Troy High follows the story of two high schools, Troy High, the Trojans, and Lacede High, home of the Spartans, as they declare war on a modern day battlefield…the football field. Due to district re-zoning some of the Spartans will now have to attend Troy, including the most beautiful head cheerleader, Elena Argos. An all-out war erupts between the schools when Elena dumps the Spartan star football player Lucas Mennon for the Trojan football star Perry Prince. Cassie, Perry’s younger sister and outcast, is thrust into the middle of the conflict, of which she doesn’t care about and wishes people would just grow up and forget the rivalry. However, she herself must make a difficult choice; remain loyal to her family and school or give in to a forbidden crush.

My Take:

An excellent retelling of Homer’s Illiad with a modern twist! I am a huge fan of Greek mythology and an even bigger fan of the story of the Trojan/Spartan War. I loved that Shana Norris used typical high school rivalry for her setting because it made the story more relatable. Who hasn’t heard of or been a part of high school pranks? A lot of my middle schoolers have older siblings and I hear them talking about the stunts pulled at the high schools daily. What makes Troy High such an enjoyable read is that the pranks that are pulled are harmless and funny so you don’t have to worry about your child getting any wild ideas. I’ve almost come to expect stories regarding high school to have mention of drugs or sex or some profanity but this is truly a “clean” book. I think the most “action” we read about is Perry and Elena kissing. For some reason as I was reading I kept thinking about the movie Troy with Brad Pitt …hmm…but I digress. The love story will captivate the girls, the football war is something for the boys, and band geeks and nerds everywhere will feel a special connection with Cassie.

Rating: 5/5 stars … Suitable for all ages of tweens and teens and a great way to introduce kids to Greek Mythology

Similar read: Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan – another great book with references to Greek mythology.

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