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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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 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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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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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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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

 Title: The Arrival

 Author: Shaun Tan

 Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books     Year:  2007

 ISBN -13: 978-0439895293

 Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction

 Age: 12 and up

 Awards: 2006 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year ; 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Premier’s Prize ; 2007 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year

 Themes / Subjects: Graphic Novel, social situations – immigration

 

Plot Summary:

From the School Library Journal

Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man’s experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pour over it again and again.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 My Take:

Normally I write my own plot summary but I found it exceptionally difficult with this book. This was my first experience “reading” a graphic novel and quite honestly, not the most pleasant experience. I expected to have to use my imagination to create the story based on the illustrations but without any prior knowledge of what it was supposed to be about I had no idea where the story was going. On Tan’s website he explains that in this book “the absence of any written description also plants the reader more firmly in the shoes of an immigrant character.” In my case, the absence of written description left me thoroughly confused. So I passed the book on to my eleven year old friend Josh. When he finished reading it, Josh turned to me and asked what is it about?

The illustrations are beautifully drawn and I understood that I was following the trials and travels of an immigrant, but the little alien creatures and strange language really threw me off. After reading the artist’s note at the end, I finally understood what the artists was trying to portray. With that said, I think the complexity of the story will go over many young kids heads, heck even older kids. This book is an excellent way for parents or educators to open up a discussion on immigration but I strongly suggest giving kids an idea of what they are about to read.

Rating: 1/5 stars … needs some sort of preface or text to help guide readers

Similar Read: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (“…not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” – from Brian Selznick’s website)

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Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Title: Incarceron

Author: Catherine Fisher

Publisher: Penguin Group Year: 2011

ISBN: 9780803733961

Genre: Science fiction / fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010

Subject/themes: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

 

Plot Summary:

Incarceron is a prison like no other. Imagine a prison with no guards or bars but a futuristic and artificial world containing forests of metal trees, cities, oceans and the ever watchful red-eye. Incarceron has been sealed for centuries and escape is only a dream that few believe in and supposedly achieved by only one man, the legendary Sapphique. However, prisoner and “Starseer” Finn, has no recollection of his past and strongly believes he is from the Outside.

Outside is a world that was once a realm of advanced technology and discovery but is now trapped in the 17th century because time has been forbidden in an effort to save humanity. Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is tangled in an arranged marriage to the (wrongful) heir of the throne and an assassination plot against the queen. She is suspicious of the death of Giles, her original betrothed and rightful heir to the throne, and believes the answers to her questions lie within Incarceron.

With the help of a few friends and crystal keys, Finn and Claudia must work together to save each other and discover who they really are.

My take:

This book was AMAZING and will seriously blow your minds! At first the idea of two separate worlds existing within one world was hard to wrap my brain around and I would stop and think to myself, “Isn’t Incarceron suppose to be a prison?” But I strongly urge readers to keep reading and it will all begin to make sense, I promise.

Incarceron was supposed to be a grand experiment where “undesireables” would be removed from our world and placed within its boundaries with everything needed to create a utopia. 150 years after it was sealed, the Outside still consider Incarceron to be a success, however the prison has become a complete failure. Violence and tyranny are rampant, resources have dwindled, and the prison has developed its own self-awareness. And yet no one, not even the Warden does anything about it. Yet on the Outside, things are just  as restrictive as being in a prison. Although advanced technologies and science once flourished, it has been forbidden by the king and the world has plunged back into the 17th century. Strict protocols must be followed at all times and resentment grows among the nobles. Imagine having to wash clothes by hand or not being able to drive a car but knowing those technologies exist.

The details to describe these two worlds is superb and the relationship between the characters is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Claudia is easily my favorite character because she is strong, stubborn, spunky, and intelligent. Finn, on the other hand, is not very strong but I found his reliability and compassion for his friends, despite their vices to be relatable.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars. This book had the ability to get a five star rating if some parts of it weren’t super confusing and didn’t require me to reread sections.

Similar in style and theme to : The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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