A blog to keep up on what's happening for teens at Brooks Memorial Library including: • new books • events • resources available • fun website suggestions • ... and more.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

4 Incredible Reads 4 U...

by M.T. Anderson
(1st Floor YA Fiction)

Phew! When I finished this book I felt my brain had had a workout. Imagine a time in the future when there are direct connections to the internet emplanted in your brain. Think a question and an answer will appear. Then imagine that the whole thing is run by corporations eager to influence what you buy. You think “I’d like a better car” when yours isn’t running right and you head is flooded with ads ... ads tailored to you because the corporations know your taste, your income,your feelings about cars, everything that will help them market to you as an individual.

On top of it all, the book is written in the language of the text message and teen slang. Kids have apparently loved the book. I thought it interesting, but also scary in a not very good way. I found it all too easy to believe that it might come to pass that generations in the future might want to have the equivalent of a very high tech communications device actually embedded in their brains. No call phones to charge, no Blackberries to lose tract of, no i-Pod to load.

On the down side (besides all those ads aimed just at you manipulating your consumming habits) “the Feed” limits your choice of news sources to those approved by the government and the corporations. A president could start wars that the “news media” wouldn’t cover. Details of enviromental disasters could be kkept secret to avoid “upsetting” the populace and exposing the corporations to regulation.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

(1st Floor YA Fiction)

Have you seen the comment slips in the back of the newer books at Brooks Memorial Library? I love reading what others have to say about books ... and adding my own comments, too. There’s only one comment on this book: “Brilliant and moving, don’t pass it up.” I agree, and the book shows enough
wear that I’m pretty sure it’s been read by quite a few folks.

The title is not one whih grabs you (unless you have been the advisor to a geography club) but that’s the point. A group of gay and lesbian teens and their friends use it as a cover for their support group. The author has obviously “been there,” and writes about high school and the loneliness of thinking one is uniquely outcast with empathy and humor.

The characters he created range from funny and smart, the kind of kids anyone would enjoy spending time with, to real jerks. Yet there are enough twists and turns here to reveal that first impressions can be wrong and sometimes ... right. It is a story about heros who face not physical danger, but cruelty and soul destroying fear. Nevertheless the overall impression I was left with is one of hope, and gratitude that I have had a chance to get to know these kids.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

(741.5 YAN)

Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award (for young adult books)
and a National Book Award finalist

The Printz award is a relatively new one, brought to you by the same folks who sponsor the Newbury and the Caldecott medals (the American Library Association). Not to worry, this is NOT a heavy, feel bad treatise on the burdens of being Asian American. It is a graphic novel of considerable sophistication, and laugh out loud funny.

Three seemingly unrelated stories are woven together, that of Jin Wang, a student who has just moved to a new school from one in San Francisco’s China Town; the Monkey King of traditional Chinese tales; and Danny, an ordinary kid who is plagued by annual visits from a cousin who represents all the worst Chinese stereotypes ever known. That all these threads will become one story seems impossible, but Yang pulls it off.

I’m still trying to figure out things about this book, although they in no way detract from my enjoyment of it. The pictures are simple, they look like real people (except the gods, godesses, demons and so forth) and the story is grounded in an American high school which fulfills every stereotyped expectation going. The ground covered is not unfamiliar, but there’s nothing here which is predictable or dull. And as every student knows, it has the great appeal of being short, a fast read, but serious and worthy of a book report.

I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

(1st Floor YA Fiction)

Cormier, author of The Chocolate War, was not one to repeat himself, except in writing books about teens which leave the reader unsettled. In alternating chapters we follow a sixteen year old boy from Central Massachussetts as he rides an old beat up bike to “Rutterburg, Vermont” (read Brattleboro) and we also read the transcription of his sessions with ???? a shrink ???? The question marks represent the basic mysterious creepiness of the book.

Adam, the bike riding main character, is driven by a compulsion he never sucessfully explains. The mysterious “doctor” who questions him seems to be from another universe. Adam’s bike ride is grueling, and puzzling. He knows there are things he believes which don’t make sense in the world he encounters. Why is the motel where he stayed the previous summer abandoned? Is he being followed? Why is his mother so sad?

And for someone who lives in Brattleboro the question lingers, is the place Adam is riding to ... is questioned in ... is imprisoned in ... the Retreat?

A book with tantilizing questions.

The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson

(1st Floor YA Fiction)

A Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

Dickinson never disappoints. In this acclaimed fantasy he introduces us to a vaguely familiar Empire where one even needs permission (and to pay a tax and a bribe) to die. No wonder the people of the Valley don’t want anything to do with the Empire! Neither do they favor invasion by the barbarian horsemen from the North. Four brave souls set out to renew the magic which protects their homeland, never guessing the challenges they will encounter.

Some of the dangers are physical (a raft trip on a river in flood), many are magical (will the Watchers get them before they find the master magician?), some are spiritual (will they be corrupted?). Inventive and utterly believable, a story which features teenaged girl and boy, a crippled grandmother and a blind grandfather, up against forces as evil as they are banal. Breath taking.

All Reviews written by Linda Hay, former librarian at Academy School and Brooks Library volunteer.