Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson

Title: King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson

Author: Terry Collins

Illustrator: Michael Byers

Publisher: Capstone Press      Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1429679947

Genre: Graphic Novel

Age: 8 – 14 years old

Awards: N/A

Themes / Subjects: Michael Jackson, King of Pop, artist, entertainer, humanitarian, legend

Plot Summary:

In the 1960s, Michael Jackson was just a young boy with big dreams. By the time he died in 2009, Michael had grown to be a music icon and an international legend. Follow Michael’s journey as he spends his last day reminiscing about growing up in the tumultuous music industry and the legacy he would leave behind.

My Take:

What a disappointment! As a library media specialist, I expected more of from this book for my students, although what can you really expect for five bucks? Michael Jackson led such an interesting and complicated life. I’m not saying that we need to tell young people every little detail of every trial or mishap Michael had, but nor should we sugar coat a person’s ENTIRE life. A graphic novel is an excellent way to get young or reluctant readers to read, but let’s make sure we are giving them all the facts. I want to see more about Michael growing up, the charity work he did, how being such a pop icon made him an easy target for accusations, and how a horrible addiction ended his life. I’m not saying it should go into graphic detail, but come on people! There is nothing worse than lying to kids!

Rating: 1 out of five stars. Teens (and I) want the truth! But perhaps in the famous words of Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessep in 1992’s A Few Good Men (fyi, not an appropriate teen/tween movie), You can’t handle the truth!

Similar read: I’m not about to send you guys out to read an equally sucky book so this will have to wait until I come across something similar but much, much better (which shouldn’t be hard).

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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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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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Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life By Rachel Renee Russell

 Title: Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life

 Author: Rachel Renee Russell

 Publisher: Aladdin     Year: 2009

 ISBN -13: 978-1416980063

 Genre: Fiction

 Age: 9 and up

 Themes / Subjects: junior high, popularity, comics, middle school, cliques, humor

 Awards:  New York Times Bestseller list for 42 weeks; USA Today Best Sellers list for 7   weeks; 2010 Children’s Choice Book of the Year Award for the 5th/6th grade division; nominated as Book of the Year by the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice

Plot Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Nikki Maxwell is a self proclaimed dork. This school year she has been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious private middle school, thanks in part to her dad’s contract with the school as their bug exterminator.  Nikki believes that a new iPhone will help her cinch a spot in the school’s  CCP (cute, cool & popular) group so when her mom returns home from the mall with a “special back-to-school”  present she is pretty ecstatic. What does her mother purchase for her? A stupid little diary. Nikki swears not to write in it but soon the pages are filled with sketches and stories of drama with the school’s resident mean girl, her embarrassing parents, new friends and hot crushes.

My Take:

For being a self-proclaimed dork, Nikki Maxwell is a pretty mean girl herself. Her character is shallow and self-centered and changes very little by the end of the book. While some of the situations she finds herself in are humorous there were twice as many situations where I felt like cringing with things that she had said or done.  This book is recommended for ages 9 and up, but some of the humor and situations would be much more appropriate for older girls. How would you like to explain to your 9 year old why “…hordes of celebrity party girls regularly FORGET to wear undies, not a single one would be caught dead without her cell phone” (p.4)? Hopefully we see some sort of character development in the next book, but I won’t be rushing off to read it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars – Girls are probably better off reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Similar Read: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

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