Friday, December 31, 2010

Charles Benoit. YOU

You begins with a cryptic scene where one of the characters appears to be dying. Then the novel backs up to tell the story of "the last year of your life." Of course, I'm intrigued.

Kyle Chase is a high school sophomore hoodie. In middle school, he was on the fast track to go to the "smart" high school with all of the opportunities therein. He had friends who studied and made smart choices preparing for their futures. But Kyle made a few bad choices and derailed himself from the "smart" course. He ended up at the "other"high school. The one with less opportunities and a new group of friends who lead him into drinking, crime and general delinquency. He could have stood up for himself in several instances, but he just goes along with everyone. He sees his life as pretty much "same crap, different day." He's nursed a crush on Ashley for months and can't get up the nerve to ask her out. He's good in math, but puts in no effort. He's just going along, trying not to get caught or noticed.

Then Zack McDade transfers to the school. He definitely livens things up. He's unusual, to say the least. He dresses kind of geeky, yet is suave and clever in so many ways. He reminds me of Ducky from Pretty in Pink for two reasons: The way he talks ("My good man, Chase.") and the way he confidently dresses how he wants, rather than according to what's in style. (Just an observation.) Zack befriends Kyle. They work together to take revenge on a jock that was harassing Kyle. When Kyle begins to hear negative things about Zack, he ignores the warnings. Should he be more careful?

The second-person narrative threw me for a loop, at first. I almost didn't continue. I've never seen it done successfully before. But, I'm glad I carried on. This is a suspenseful, clever, thrilling book. I enjoyed the little bits of foreshadowing along the way. It keeps you guessing, for sure. The adult characters feel a little too depressing and sad. Perhaps that's because we're viewing the story through Kyle's distorted viewpoint. Anyway, the teen characters feel authentic. Kyle is a typical teen who made decision after decision and didn't realize how they would all pile up in the end. Zack was extremely smart, conniving and deranged- not a typical teen, but all the more delicious to read about!

The author is extremely talented to pull off such an unusual book! There are no chapters. There are snippets of verse thrown in. The foreshadowing is pretty blatant, but still makes you keep reading. And finally, as mentioned earlier, it's in second-person! Pretty freaking-cool!
Go here for his snazzy looking website.

You'll enjoy YOU!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keith McGowan. THE WITCH'S GUIDE TO COOKING WITH CHILDREN

The title alone would've grabbed me, if I haven't been alerted to this book because it's on next year's Bluebonnet List. When I read the title, I knew I needed to read it right away!

When the first words from the witch's diary say this:

"I love children. Eating them, that is.
I've eaten quite a few children over the centuries. You may wonder where I get them all."

You know it's gonna be good! But that really isn't enough to make a whole book. So then we're introduced to two wonderful children. Eleven-year-old Sol and eight-year-old Connie are siblings. They're unaware of the bizarre situation their parents are in, which is why they aren't curious when their dad drops them off and leaves them in town. However, they're smart kids and are able to figure out some mysteries on their own.

I don't want to give any more away. But you will absolutely love it! The tone reminds me a lot of SCHOOL OF FEAR - with the matter of fact voice and the old-fashioned feel. I loved that tone in Gitty Daneshavari's writing, as well. (LOVE her). But what made me keep reading was the hysterical beginning. What starts out as a sort of re-telling of Hansel & Gretel but ends up way more delicious!

The illustrations by Yoko Tanaka (SPARROW GIRL) give it the old-fashioned, but creepy feel the story deserves! They're perfect!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lauren Oliver. BEFORE I FALL

On the surface, Samantha Kingston seems to have the perfect life. She's popular, has a wonderful group of friends and a boyfriend, who most girls in school would die for. But when she dies and begins reliving her last day over and over, she begins to question her choices. She begins to see people differently. Perhaps the boy she wrote off as a loser, really isn't. Perhaps there is more to the girl who everyone called psycho. Maybe her perfect boyfriend isn't really so perfect. With each passing "last" day, Sam learns more and more about what it means to be alive.

I've been hearing about this book for a while. Now I understand what all the praise was about. I'm stunned that this is Lauren Oliver's debut novel. It's unbelievably beautiful, heartbreaking and complex. I love it! I didn't want it to end. Sam and her friends are written realistically. The setting and events felt very real. (Maybe because it felt like a giant flashback to my own high school days...). She captured the teen environment perfectly. The actions and reactions by Sam, her friends, Kent and Juliet felt natural. I couldn't put it down. The ending was brilliant!
If you haven't read it yet - go get it now! You won't regret it!

Lauren Oliver's next novel is due out next month. It's on my list! Check her out here.
Check out the trailer

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sharon Draper. OUT OF MY MIND.

This is another one of those books that I'll always remember. I liken it to STUCK IN NEUTRAL in that respect. It's also has a similar premise, so maybe that's why I linked them. However, the premise is the only thing they have in common. The two stories play out way differently.

Melody is incredibly smart. She has a photographic memory, so she remembers everything she learns. However, no one knows this but her. She cannot talk, walk or communicate in any way. She's wheelchair bound and has been since birth. She has cerebral palsy.

Her parents have always believed that she is intelligent. Unfortunately, she hasn't always had the most perceptive teachers. She's had a few that feed her brain and curiosity, but mostly they've been lacking. Typically teachers replay nursery rhymes and reteach the alphabet over and over.

Luckily, a more capable and supportive teacher aide named Catherine is assigned to work with Melody. One afternoon, she discovers a device that could help her speak. Melody is over the moon!

Her parents agree to purchase the machine. After being stuck inside her head her entire life, Melody is finally able to communicate. Catherine and her parents are not surprised at all by how smart Melody is. But the other kids and teachers at school aren't so ready to accept Melody's newfound skills.

Wow. You will be amazed. It will give you a new appreciation for people who on the surface don't seem to be as capable as others. You will fall in love with Melody. You will be moved.

Check out this book trailer I found:




Also, check out the author's website here.