Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books            Year: 2002

ISBN-13: 9780440237686

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: 1994 Newbery Medal, 1996 William Allen White Award,  American Library Association listings for “Best Book for Young Adults”, “ALA Notable Children’s Book“, and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000”,  A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Winner of the Regina Medal, Booklist Editors’ Choice, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Coming of Age, Classics, Dystopia, Survival, Social Situations

Plot Summary:

Jonas lives with no pain or worry, a place where our world’s issues have been eliminated. Everything in his community is orderly and perfect, but there is no love, until The Giver shares it with Jonas. Then life’s pleasure and pain become part of his own life, his truth. Jonas begins to question the perfection of the community and it is here that the story begins to unfold. Angered and confused by his imperfect and very intriguing past, Jonas must save himself and his community from the fantasy life that has been thrust upon them.

My Take:

Back before parents were complaining about Twilight, Harry Potter, or the Hunger Games, parents had issues with Lois Lowry’s The Giver. There are some pretty disturbing situations that Joans must go through to test his courage, strength, and heart in the story but it is not without reason. Like The Hunger Games this book brings up a multitude of emotions such as joy, anger, horror, love and desire. This read is an excellent part of a student’s curriculum because in the classroom there is an opportunity for discussion and further understanding. Parents should encourage their teens to discuss the consequences of the book and how that might look in our own society.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie

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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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Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Title: Gym Candy

Author: Carl Deuker

Publisher: Perfection Learning          Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1606863763

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, High School, Family Life, Sports, Health – Steroids, Friendships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

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

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker http://goanimate.com/videos/0vXZkYLbVR68

My Take:

I am not a football person at all. When I was in high school marching band and had to go to all the football games, I would hide books in my uniform and read when I wasn’t playing. I watch the Super Bowl every year and even then I fast forward during the game to watch the commercials and half time show. Did I mention I strongly dislike football?

With that said and off my chest, I loved this book! All the football jargon confused me a little bit but honestly it wasn’t overwhelming. The best part was getting to see the darker side of sports. I’ve always heard about professional athletes using steroids on the news and never thought that it would begin as young as freshman in high school. This book in no way encourages the use of steroids and really goes to great length and detail to show just how screwed up Mick’s life became all because he wanted to be the best. Parents who push their children to be star athletes need to read this because I don’t think they realize the consequences their actions can have on their kids. And all kids whether they are pressured to be the best or not should read this book because it will cause them to think twice about trying any sort of drugs.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars … while I can’t say it has turned me on to being a football fan, this book has caused me to really examine the pressures we put our young athletes under.

Similar read: Boost by Kathryn Mackel. Whereas Deuker explores the use of steroids in male athlets, Mackel takes the readers into the girls locker room for a change.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Press      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0385737951

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2011

Themes / Subjects: dystopian society, young adult, fantasy adventure, science fiction, relationships

Plot Summary:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name everything else is a complete blank. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them open and every night they are closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Take:

If you are looking for a great series to read after finishing Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games Trilogy then this is exactly what you are looking for.

From the very beginning and until the finish, author James Dashner provides barely enough information to answer the questions that form in the reader’s mind but what information he gives does promote one to keep reading. I found myself reading the book in one sitting because I just had to know what was going on and how the story was going to end.

I felt the characters weren’t as well developed as they could have been. Teresa is an extremely important character yet she is just so flat. Thomas was a bit of a disappointment as well and his character really doesn’t develop until almost the end of the book. On the other hand certain secondary characters were so deeply created that they at times had a larger impact on me than the main character.

By the end of the book I was wondering, what was the point of all that? The characters themselves don’t understand why they were put through the horrors they were and one can only hope this is because the author will develop the story I the next two books. The reason I liked this book was because the suspense kept me intrigued. I just had to know why the boys were in the maze and how they were going to escape. I just with it had been more thought provoking and detailed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … The plot seemed to drag which dragged out the suspense and not always in a good way. Still a great read.

Similar read: Divergent by Veronica Roth

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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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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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