Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Release date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 328

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Eleanor & Park is the story of two misfit teenagers who fall in love, set in 1986.  Eleanor is a teenage girl who is very uncomfortable in her own skin.  She's a big girl with crazy red hair, pale skin, and a terrible home life.  Park is a half-Korean teenage boy who stands out in Omaha, Nebraska.  The two of them hate each other at first but they are drawn together by their mutual love of comic books and music.  Their romance is based around shared comic books, mix tapes, late night illicit phone calls, and lots of opinions from people in their lives.

Rainbow Rowell includes many topics that are found in other contemporary novels but Eleanor & Park still manages to stand out among other books on the shelves.  Eleanor & Park are two teens that readers won't be able not to love.  They are both so unique and really quirky.  There is also the fact that Eleanor is such a strong girl even though there are so many terrible things in her life.  Her story is truly heartbreaking.

The age range for Eleanor & Park would probably be around 14 or older.  There are quite a few curse words and some sexual content.  There are also quite a few subtle things that older teens would be able to appreciate whereas younger teens might overlook them.


  • love
  • bullying
  • abuse
  • friendship
  • music
  • poverty

Extra content:

Prettybooks' review: "Eleanor & Park is a novel that you’ll read and understand why people love it so much, even if it’s not your cup of tea."

Young Adult Indulgence's review: "I believe readers will be in for a treat when they read this story."

Another interview with Rainbow Rowell (that includes hints about an Eleanor & Park sequel)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti, Attila Futaki, Jose Villarubia

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti, Attila Futaki, Jose Villarubia
Release date: October 12, 2010
Pages: 128

You've read the book. You've seen the movie. Now submerge yourself in the thrilling, stunning, and action-packed graphic novel.

Mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking out of the pages of twelve-year-old Percy Jackson's textbooks and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now, he and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus.

Series creator Rick Riordan joins forces with some of the biggest names in the comic book industry to tell the story of a boy who must unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.
The Lightning Thief graphic novel is the first in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series.  It tells the same story as the text novel, just in an illustrated format. I have not read the regular novel so I can't tell you how the two compare but the graphic novel was a fun, easy to read story about half-blood children of the Gods and their quest to stop a war brewing between the Gods.  It's an extremely quick read with very little text but plenty of gorgeous, action packed illustrations.

The Lightning Thief graphic novel can easily be read by YA readers of pretty much any age.  It does have a few more graphic scenes but nothing too bad.  It would be a good place to start teens learning about Greek mythology.


  • identity
  • isolation
  • love
  • family
  • disabilities
  • mythology

Extra content:

Murphy's Library's review: "I thought the history and the graphics were like pieces of a puzzle and it went together so well."

Mother, Daughter, & Son Book Reviews' review: "It bridged the reading levels across the group and it was an enjoyable experience for everyone, even kids who thought they hated Percy Jackson."

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Crank
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Release date: January 1, 2001
Pages: 537

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.
Crank is the story of Kristina, better known as Bree, her alter-ego.  During a trip to visit her father Bree discovers two things: boys and crystal meth.  With her return home to live with her mother, she takes her new found love for both things with her.  Throughout the course of the book Bree becomes more and more addicted to meth and the people that provide it for her, usually boys that are no good for her.  Crank is a story of addiction and abuse told through verse.

Crank is definitely not something I would recommend to readers that aren't in high school, at least.  It's a very dark story full of drugs, alcohol, sex, abuse, and other heavy topics that younger readers might not be able to comprehend.  While it is a dark story, it's one that deserves to be read.  It is a book that will make you think.


  • abuse
  • addiction
  • family
  • love
  • loss of innocence
Extra content:

I'm Loving Books' review: "In the end I was not a huge fan of this book and I’m not entirely sure if it’s the style (in-verse) or if it’s the author."

Peeking Between The Pages' review: "Crank by Ellen Hopkins is an intense and intricately woven story of the damage that drugs can do an individual and those around them."

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Title: Endangered
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Release date: October 1, 2012
Pages: 272

The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.
Endangered is the story of a young girl caught in the middle of a war in Congo with no one but a bonobo named Otto to help her survive.  It's told over the course of many months and spread over many towns in Congo.  There is very little dialogue or interaction with humans but the bonobos are really portrayed like people.  Each bonobo in the book is a character more than an animal.

Endangered can easily by read by younger teens and the animal aspect may appeal to them.  However there are some very graphic scenes that may not be suitable for younger readers.  I would recommend older middle school or older for this one.


  • war
  • famine
  • safety
  • friendship
  • humanity 
  • family
Extra content:

Rather Be Reading's review: "As a whole, Endangered has the feel of those naturalistic but intense novels from my childhood (Lord of the Flies, Bridge to Terabithia, Julie & the Wolves) because it can be enjoyed by both sexes equally and forces great discussions, while beaming with this timeless quality."

Beauty and the Bookshelf's review: "For one, I wish there were more books like this, books that show other parts of the world that are less fortunate, books about fighting for what I want to fight for and work with so, so much: animals."

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Title: Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes
Author: Chris Crutcher
Release date: January 1, 1993
Pages: 304

Sarah Byrnes and Eric have been friends for years. When they were children, his fat and her terrible scars made them both outcasts. Later, although swimming slimmed Eric, she stayed his closest friend.

Now Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known—sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she's hiding, before its dark currents pull them both under.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is the story of two kids, Eric and Sarah Byrnes, brought together by their outcast status.  Sarah Byrnes is severely scarred and Eric is seriously fat.  Their friendship changes when Eric joins the swim team and loses a lot of weight.  Their friendship is tested though when Sarah Byrnes enters a catatonic state and Eric starts to investigate what it is that made her that way.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a novel that can easily be read by younger readers but it does touch on some topics that might be better suited to older readers of YA.  I would definitely recommend this one for late middle school or early high school readers though older readers (such as myself) can also enjoy the story.


  • bullying
  • friendship
  • religion
  • abuse
  • love
  • family
  • abortion
  • abandonment
  • suicide 
Extra content:

YA Love Blog's review: "In my opinion, if you’re a teacher or librarian, it would serve you well to have a copy of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes in your library."

Reading For Sanity's review: "While plenty of books on the YA shelves are meaningless drivel, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is not one of them."

Interview with Chris Crutcher

Author chat with Chris Crutcher

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Title: Boxers & Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Release date: September 10, 2013
Pages: 325, 170

One of the greatest comics storytellers alive brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing new work.

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.

This boxed set includes the trade paperback Boxers as well as the trade paperback Saints, packaged together in one slipcase.

Boxers & Saints are two graphic novels chronicling the boxer rebellion from the perspectives of both the boxers and the Christian converts in China.  The first book, Boxers, is from the point of view of Little Bao, one of the figureheads of the Boxer rebellion.  The second book, Saints, is from the point of view of Vibiana, a young Chinese girl who converts to Christianity during the boxer rebellion.  The stories intertwine throughout  both books and the full story is truly told through both books.

Boxers & Saints might be made easier to read by their graphic novel format but they are not meant for readers much younger than high school age.  The story is brutal and graphic.  Older readers and older teen readers are going to be the ones to appreciate this story the most.

My full review!


  • war
  • love
  • family
  • loyalty
  • rejection
  • religion
  • bravery
  • friendship
Extra content:

Between My Pages' review: "It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature."

Emilie Hanson's review: "As a pair, both Boxers and Saints create a thought-provoking reading experience for readers young and old, inspiring questions as to how history is made and how much it depends on point of view."

Interview with Gene Luen Yang

Another interview with Gene Luen Yang

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Release date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 339

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called "a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel" in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
Code Name Verity is the story of two young British women in WWII.  One of them is a spy captured by the Nazis in German occupied France.  The other is the pilot who brought her there.  Verity (the spy) is forced to write a confession about the British war efforts.  The beginning of her friendship with the pilot is told through this confession.  The second half of the book is told from the pilot's point of view detailing what happened following the plane crash.

Code Name Verity is historical fiction and so it may not appeal to most readers.  However, it's a thrilling, informative novel great for teen readers.  Because of some content I would recommend this for late middle school/high school age readers.

My full review!


  • friendship
  • loyalty
  • war
  • death
  • bravery
  • right and wrong
Extra content:

The Book Smugglers' review: "Above all though, Code Name Verity is about its two main characters, two incredible women (I LOVE them. I.LOVE.THEM) and the friendship they had – they are indeed sensational and I wish I could tell you how or why but I can’t really tell you more about Verity without stealing her thunder."

Dear Author's review: "“Code Name Verity” is unlike any book I’ve ever read before."

Interview with Elizabeth Wein

Another interview with Elizabeth Wein