Tag Archives: teen

Review: Rotten Apple by Rebecca Eckler

8 Sep

Publisher: Random House Canada
Release year: 2010
Genre: YA contemp
One sentence summary: Sometimes all isn’t fair in love and war.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review copy from publisher

Apple is the opposite of her outspoken mother and gossipy, chatty best friends; she’s always been the cool, calm, and collected one. But her life is about to spiral out of control. Apple’s super-sized, secret crush on her friend Zen leads her into major trouble. And she’s realizing it might not have been such a good idea to pose as her mother–the famous talk show host and self-help guru, Dr. Bee Berg–and send out fake advice emails to keep her (devastatingly beautiful) friend Happy away from Zen. Before she knows it, her best friend hates her, the whole school knows about her crush, and she is humiliated on national TV. How much more will it take for Apple to learn that taking advice is just as important as giving it?

From Random House Canada website.

CHARACTERS: I don’t know, I really wanted to like Apple, but there was just something about her that I didn’t click with.  She does some things that I couldn’t believe, the least being pretending to be her mother. I could kinda understand her motivations, but could never in a million years picture me handling things the way she did.  I found some of the other characters, particularly her friends, to be rather, well, bland. I did enjoy her crazy aunt quite a bit. Not sure what that says about me.

*Slight rant*

Okay, I REALLY need to talk about names. Apple, Happy, Brooklyn, Sailor, Zen, Bee Bee, Hopper, Cooper, Clover, North. These are all characters that appear in Rotten Apple. I had a really hard time believing that there would be this many weird-assed names in one social group. I dunno, maybe it is a possibility out there somewhere. All I know is that I think I would have enjoyed this book a heck of a lot more if there had been a Jane or John. There were some normal names, like Apple’s Crazy Aunt Hazel, but they were few far and far between.

*end rant*

PLOT: The back of the book blurb really doesn’t do justice to the book. Most of what it tells us happens in the last 1/4 of the book. There is a whole lot of stuff leading up to “the big moment”, important stuff about Apple, her secret crush and what she does to try to get his undivided attention. Buuuut …. since it isn’t blurbed I don’t to dish and spoil the book.

WRITING: Rotten Apple is written in third person and I’m thinking that maybe if it had been written in first person I would have had better luck connecting with Apple. With that being said, Eckler certainly has a way with words and her writing drew me into the story. And, despite what Apple was going through, Eckler didn’t write her whinny. You know, she wasn’t constantly “Why me?-ing”. There was some “poor me” stuff but it was just a sprinkle.

WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND ROTTEN APPLE TO: The blurb on the back cover from Quill and Quire says “Eckler’s breezy teen drama may appeal to kids who live for Gossip Girl, Laguna Beach and The Hills.” I’m not a fan of any of these shows (I don’t even know what Laguna Beach is), so maybe that’s why I was lukewarm over Rotten Apple. But that’s not to say you won’t like it, especially if you enjoy lighter teen fare.

Review: Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski

27 Aug

Random House Canada, 2010

A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi’s life isn’t turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn’t join any clubs . . . and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left.

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number . . . hers. At age fourteen, three years ago!

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn’t some wacko—she realizes that she’s been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do . . . because she’s already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self?

Except . . .what if getting what you think you want changes everything?

From Random House Canada website.

*Warning: overuse of the word “cool” ahead.*

Imagine being able to get a hold of your 14 year old self. How cool! I mean, the things I’d tell myself at that age! Let’s see, I’d start with “110 pounds is not fat”, “Ditch the dude but keep the music he introduced you to,” and “That scribbling you do all the time? For the love of God, keep at it!”  But enough about me. On to the book.

I first hear of Gimme A Call a while back on Twitter when the #gimmeacall hashtag hit. I think it was perhaps one of the coolest cases of viral marketing I have EVER seen. What started as a quiet way for the author to publicize her upcoming book on Twitter exploded into everyone and their dog tweeting what they’d tell their 14 year old self. Mucho cool and genius to boot. It made me curious about the book. Curious enough to request a review copy. So, yeah, kudos to Mlynowski.

This was just a cool book. Really. The idea was cool, the writing was cool, the ending was cool.

The book flips back and forth between now Devi and 14 year old Devi. It was cool to watch 14 year old Devi change something and then get to see how it affected today Devi. It was very butterfly affect-y. And of course the changes were rarely what today Devi was expecting.

I love when on the surface a YA book seems to be all about the fun and fluffy but underneath there is a layer of seriousness. Gimme A Call wasn’t just about watching the changes that happened in today Devi’s life and giggling about the snafus. It was also about choosing the right path, doing what’s best for you and how no matter how much you try to change, somethings are just inevitable. What was cool was that Mlynowski didn’t shove any big meaning in your face, but rather let it sneak up on you.

I think a lot of readers are going to enjoy Gimme A Call and find it as cool as I did.

Browse inside Gimme a Call.

It was very cool of Random House Canada to send me a review copy.

Review: thinandbeautiful.com by Liane Shaw

12 Aug

Second Story Press,2009

Maddie finds a dangerous “thinspiration” on-line

Seventeen-year-old Maddie has always felt a hole in her life, but she has finally found a way to fill it with her quest to mold her body into her ideal, thinnest shape. When she comes across the world of “thinspiration” websites, where young people encourage each other in their mission to lose weight, she quickly becomes addicted. Finally, she has found a place where she is understood and where she can belong.

Maddie becomes a part of a group of friends who call themselves theGWS, “Girls Without Shadows”, on the pro-anorexia website thinandbeautiful.com. Here she finds the respect and support she feels she doesn’t get from her family and friends in the so-called real world. Now in a rehab facility where they are trying to fix a problem she doesn’t think she has, Maddie is forced to keep a diary tracing how she arrived at this point. Angry that she is barred from accessing her online friends, Maddie refuses to believe she needs help. Will a tragedy change her mind?

From Second Story Press website.

This book made me mad. And frustrated. And sad. And hopeless. Seriously, as I read about Maddie and watched her descend into the world of eating disorders I think I felt every emotion humanly possible. I honestly wanted to take Maddie and shake the crap out of her for being so stupid, but at the same time I could understand where she was coming from. No, I don’t have an eating disorder. But I do have body image issues (what girl or woman doesn’t?) so I could understand the thought process that led to her eating disorder.

Maddie’s story is pretty straightforward and I imagine that her journey is fairly typical. In fact, every once in a while as I was reading I thought that maybe her story was a bit too cliche, but then I kinda realized that’s the beauty of thinandbeautiful.com: there were no huge surprises or twists. No gimmicks. It was just a story of a girl with an eating disorder. With that being said, there was one part towards the end that did, however, seem a bit cliche to me. I can’t say too much without giving plot away, but I wish that it could have been done a bit differently. It kinda took me out of the story for a bit and made it seem less about Maddie and more about making a point.

My only other real complaint about thinandbeautiful.com is the cover. Yes, it shows a girl on the computer and since Maddie was always online it makes sense. I just wish they wouldn’t have included the girl, especially one who looks like she has a pretty perfectly healthy thin body. I don’t know, I just think that it sends the wrong message. The back cover has a picture of socked feet on a scale that would have been a cool cover. Or maybe an image of a computer that is stretched thin. I was okay with the cover until I read the book. Then, I don’t know, it just rubbed me the wrong way. But who knows? Maybe that’s the purpose of the cover.

This wasn’t an easy, light, fluffy read. It was hard and the author left nothing out. Saying I enjoyed it seems off because of the subject matter, but I did enjoy reading it. Maddie was a likable character and I was rooting for her the whole book. Reading thinandbeautiful.com also made me re-evaluate my own relationship with food, which isn’t always the greatest. And I think that is the real beauty of the book.

Thanks to Second Story Press for the review copy.

Review: No Moon by Irene N. Watts

25 Jun

Tundra Books, 2010

A story of reliance and resilience. Did you call out to us, Johnny, before your small body was dragged down under the water? Why didn’t we hear you? I am sorry! I’ll never forget.

Louisa Gardener is the fourteen-year-old nursemaid to the young daughters of a wealthy, titled family living in London, England, in 1912.

Despite the bullying Nanny Mackintosh, for whom she is an extra pair of hands, she loves her work and her young charges. Then everything changes. The family decides to sail to New York aboard the Titanic. An accident to the children’s nanny, only days prior to the sailing, means that Louisa must go in her stead. She cannot refuse, although she dreads even the mention of the ocean. Memories she has suppressed, except in nightmares, come crowding back.

When Louisa was five and her sister seven years old, their two-year-old brother died on an outing to the seaside. Since that time, Louisa has had a fear of the ocean. She blames herself for the accident, though she has been told it wasn’t her fault.

If Louisa refuses to go on the voyage, she will be dismissed, and she will never get beyond the working-class life she has escaped from.

From Tundra Books website.

I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction in the past. It isn’t because I hate the genre, but more because I just didn’t have a strong interest in it. But in the last year I’ve read a couple of great adult historical fiction novels, including The Day the Falls Stood Still. I recently decided to give YA historical fiction a go, and to my delight it’s fast becoming one of my favorite genres.

No Moon definitely qualifies as historical fiction. And even though it’s story line is somewhat centered around the ill-fated Titanic, the Titanic plot line was secondary to Louisa’s story. So, even though most of us know what happened to the Titanic, this retelling never appeared stale. Nor was that part of the novel over-dramatic and heavy, which I appreciated.

Watts’ created such a wonderful character in Louisa that her decision of whether or not  to go on the Titanic weighed on me. I felt vested in what happened to her and the family she was working for so much that at times I wanted to yell “Don’t go!”. The will she or won’t she element of the book presented some nice moments of tension for both the character and the reader.

This was a short read (232 pages) but very meaty in detail and character development.  I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA historical fiction.

A big curtsy to Tundra Books for the review copy.

Review: The Worst Thing She Ever Did by Alice Kuipers

24 Jun

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

All Sophie wants is to forget what happened last summer. But that’s not easy when people keep asking if she’s okay, and her mother locks herself behind closed doors for hours at a time. And now her best friend, Abigail, cares more about parties and boys than hanging out with Sophie.

Lost in memories of the life she once had — before that terrible day — Sophie retreats into herself. But it’s only so long before she must confront the tragedy of her past so she can face the future.

From HarperCollins Canada website.

This was a beautifully written book that was, by times, tough to read. I don’t mean that it was confusing or bad. What I mean is the pain that Sophie goes through and the vivid description of her panic attacks and anxiety was hard to work through, but well worth it. For me, it was the depth and the detailed telling of Sophie’s emotional state that made The Worst Thing She Ever Did such a gripping read.

As readers, we don’t know what happened last summer until nearly the end of the book. It was this unknowing that added mystery to the novel and also intensified what Sophie was going through. Throughout the book I was constantly imagining what could have happened to make her as anxious and out of touch as she was.

The closer I got to the moment of revelation, the closer I got to figuring out what had happened. This is because Kuipers shows us, through bits and pieces, memories and Sophie’s wanting to forget, exactly what happened rather than simply telling us. And while I won’t give anything away, it was heart wrenching.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that towards the end, once we find out what happened to Sophie last summer, there is a bit of a generalized life lesson that is thrown in. While it by no means ruined the book for me, I think that it took me out of the main story for a bit.

This was a beautiful read and I highly recommend it.

Lots of thanks go out to HarperCollins Canada for this unexpected but much loved review copy.

Browse inside The Worst Thing She Ever Did.

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

21 Jun

Scholastic, 2009

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf — her wolf — is a haunting presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human…until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears and the temperature drops, Sam must fight to stay human — or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

From Scholastic Canada website.

Yes, I know I am coming late to the party with this one, but my God am I ever glad came! Shiver is one of those books I kept hearing about but didn’t want to read because of the major love story (since I’m not a huge romance fan). But finally I gave into the buzz, which has started once again since the second book, Linger is due out July 20th.

This is definitely a love story. And it’s a well written, engrossing, sweet love story. And, well, I loved it.

I loved everything about Shiver, right down to the color of the text. Shiver‘s cover has different shades of dusky blue-grays and it’s this blue-gray that is used for the color of the font. I never really thought of the color of font in a book before, because it’s almost always black. But the blue-gray of the words added to the mood and tone of the book, enhancing the reading experience.

Stiefvater’s way with words, particularly describing action and movement, was stellar. In one scene where Sam is upset, she describes him so vividly with his hands laced behind his head, pacing, that I felt like I was right there with him.

And while this was a love story, it wasn’t over done. It’s books like Shiver that are helping me to realize that I actually can read a book about love and romance and enjoy it, as long as it’s done the right way. From the get-go I was rooting for Sam and Grace and I was completely absorbed in their story.

For me, the true testament to a good book is how I feel once I am finished. Am I satisfied? Do I want to learn more about these characters? Do I want to share the book with everyone I know? It was a yes on all three counts. I finished Shiver, put the book down, sighed and impatiently started waiting for the release of Linger.

Thanks muchly to Scholastic Canada for sending a review copy my way.

Review: Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald

31 May

Candlewick Press, 2010

Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?

From Candlewick Press website


You know when it’s a nice summer day and your sitting at the beach, on the deck or by the pool and you’re looking for a fun, light summer read?  That’s exactly what Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots is. Yes, the title is a bit of a mouth full, but that’s the only super heavy thing about this book.

Jenna was a likable character, even if she did sprout off a bit too much about all things environment, at least in the beginning. As the book went on, she mellowed out and learned the very valuable life lesson that there is two sides to every story. Or in this case, every cause.

The only thing that really bugged me was Jenna’s incessant need to have the boys in the book like her. I don’t mean that she wanted every guy to fall in love with her, no. But when she was trying to make friends, she basically let them treat her like dirt and then was still trying to find ways for them to like her. I  mean, there’s no way they were the ONLY teens in the town. I totally would have told them to go jump in the lake, but that’s just me. And it may explain why I didn’t have a lot of friends as a teen.

There are some twists and turns and a bit of romance, as there should be in any self-respecting YA book. None of it felt heavy handed, though and McDonald did a great job of weaving them into Jenna’s story.

The writing style was very airy, fitting in with the overall tone of the book. I really felt like I was there in the wild with Jenna, experiencing it for the first time. Of course, as a Canadian I chuckled over some of the scenes, particularly the one with the moose. (BTW honking your horn at a moose? So not the thing to do.)

So, while I didn’t love Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots, I did like it an awful lot.

Thanks bunches to the folks at Candlewick press for the review copy.