Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘lgtbqia

cover image for Does My Head Look Big in This?Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim is sixteen and about to start her third term as an eleventh grader at the exclusive and expensive McClean’s Prepatory Academy when she realizes that she’s ready to wear the hijab full time.  But is she ready for the assumptions people will make about her – about her parents and her abilities and her dreams – if she starts wearing the hijab to school? To the mall? To job interviews?  And yet what will it say about her, and her faith, and her country if she lets fear and prejudice keep her from making her own choices.

Despite the rather slow moving plot and lack of action, I found myself liking this book quite a bit.  It’s not just that it offers a very compassionate and balanced view, and presents readers with a perspective that is sadly in short supply in YA.  Abdel-Fattah writes in a very compelling and engaging voice and I look forward to reading more books by her.

cover image for How Beautiful the OrdinaryHow Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart

Boys who love boys.  Girls who love girls. New loves and old loves.  Teenagers forced to hide their true selves.  How Beautiful the Ordinary collects twelve stories from twelve authors who know what it’s like for their normal selves to treated as different, as outside the norm.

I expect a mixture of quality and taste when it comes to the content of anthologies, but that doesn’t excuse the disrespect for others that I found in a handful of the stories in this particular collection:

William Sleator’s Fingernail has it’s Thai protagonist and narrator telling readers that ” [English] is the most important language in the world” and pointing out that were it not for his abusive, European ex boyfriend, he never would have met his current, loving boyfriend from the West.  It’s not that it’s inconceivable for a young man like this to exist, and to have these kinds of thoughts, but that it’s not really appropriate or responsible for an white American to be putting these words into the mouth of a Thai character he created.

Jennifer Finney Boylan’s The Missing Person is in many ways a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a girl who everyone else sees and treats as a boy.  Unfortunately, it also uses the misfortune that befalls a Taiwanese exchange student as a metaphor for the main character’s own struggles, rather than as an experience belonging to the exchange student herself, and as a source of common ground.

The stories are not all disappointing, however.  Jacqueline Woodson’s Trev is elegant and full of sorrow, determination, and hope.  Margo Lanagan’s A Dark Red Love Knot is twisted and cruel and beautiful.  Emma Donoghue’s Dear Lang, a testament to the meaning of family, left me in tears.  And lastly, Gregory Maguire’s The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, N.H. contemplates paths not taken and shows us the costs of hiding in closets.

cover image for Lucy the GiantLucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith

Fifteen year old Lucy Oswego has always towered over her classmates.  Not that she needs to in order for people to remember her, Sitka is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone else – and their business.  Which is how all the bar owners know to call her when her dad gets so drunk he can’t even stumble home on his own.  So it’s no surprise that Lucy wonders what it would be like to blend in, to fit in – to be someone other than Lucy the Giant.  And when a crabbing boat crew mistakes her for an adult, and invites her to sign on, Lucy finds her chance to do just that.

Have I mentioned how much I love Smith’s books? Lucy the Giant is no exception.  Smith has a gift for finding the extraordinary in the everyday, and for centering the kinds of characters that tend to exist on the fringes of most mainstream narratives.  Lucy the Giant is a deceptively simple story; more complicated and subtle than it appears at first, and one that packs a punch despite it’s short length.

cover image for Mommy, Mama, and MeMommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson

I’ve been known to complain about the quality of books like Heather Has Two Mommies in the past.  While the diversity they bring and respect they show are both much needed, their quality in terms of craft isn’t always up to par.  Not so with this lovely book.

Newman’s text is full of catchy rhymes that keep the pages turning and the illustrations are expressive, clear, and skillful.  While Thompson’s style doesn’t quite match my personal taste, there is no denying that her work is well done and engaging. Together they present scenes that are familiar to all families, and yet depict a type of family that is under represented in quality children’s books.

More like this, please!

cover image for Rapunzel's RevengeRapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale

For as long as she can remember, Rapunzel has lived in comfort in Mother Gothel’s villa, never knowing what lay beyond.  Until the day she scales the walls and finally begins to understand what the woman she was taught to call mother is really capable of.  Now her curiosity has become a question for the truth, and Rapunzel won’t stop until she, and everyone else, is safe from Mother Gothel.

I so very much wanted to love this book, and there was, indeed, much that I liked about the characters and plot. Unfortunately, the illustration style never grew on me and so ended up being distracting rather than adding to my enjoyment of the story.

cover image for Close to FamousClose to Famous by Joan Bauer

Sonny Kroll dreams of being a baker, a world famous chef with her own television show.  Right now though, she’s sitting in the car with her mom, all their belongings tossed hastily into the trunk and backseat, on their way to a new town, a new place to live, and a new school.  Complete with a new principal that Sonny needs to keep from finding out that she can’t read.

I’ve heard good things about Bauer’s work, but this was another book that wasn’t awful, yet didn’t really impress me either.  It’s the type of book I’d try including in a large library collection, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend.

cover image for Keeping You A SecretKeeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

As her senior year draws to a close, it looks as though Holland Jaeger has everything going for her.  Good grades, best friends, the perfect boyfriend, a job she loves, and a sometimes trying blended family that she nevertheless loves.  (Well, Holland loves her Mom and baby sister anyway – her stepdad is tolerable and her stepsister lives elsewhere, mostly.)  Then gorgeous, brilliant, and completely Out and Proud Cece shows at school up one morning and Holland begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself.

Peters writing is rather rough here, and while the rawness fits the subject matter there’s not enough depth to transform this from a Problem Novel into something more enduring.  It’s not so much the talk of Goths and CDs that date the book as it is the assumption that high school will always be a place where only the Brave are Out, and the accompanying lack of introspection that might help teens, a decade later, better understand Holland’s experience – and better recognize what much hasn’t changed.

cover image for Chasing ShadowsChasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips

Savitri’s acceptance into Princeton should be good news, not a secret she’s afraid to share.    But attending Princeton means leaving Holly and Corey behind in Chicago.  It means a long distance relationship with Corey, no more hanging out with Holly, and an end to the time the three spend exploring the city as freerunners.  Yet before Sav can make her choice, Corey is taken from them in a random act of violence.  Now Holly’s the one with an impossible choice, and Sav may be the only person who can help her.

I stumbled a bit getting into this book; a trio of friends who do parkour seems to be an increasingly common trope, and while it’s one I would normally enjoy, the previous two books I read with this setup were less than stellar, so I cringed at bit at first to see it again.  Thankfully, this isn’t them.

Chasing Shadows is a book about grief and loyalty, friendship and betrayal.  It tackles often complicated topics: from survivor guilt to cultural appropriation, and it deals with all of them with grace and honesty.  There are no simple answers here, no easy way to make the pain go away.  Instead we get complicated relationships and heartbreaking decisions wrapped up in a deceptively simple story.  Highly recommended.

cover image for Marie Antoinette, Serial KillerMarie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

A class trip to Paris is just the opportunity Colette Iselin needs.  A chance to meet new people, to get away from home, to escape her mother, to hang out with the popular girls, and to explore a new, fabulous city – and her family’s past.   But a serial killer is on the loose in Paris, murdering young men and women about the same age as Colette.  And Colette herself has been seeing strange things – including what may be the ghost of Marie Antoinette.

Needless to say, this particular novel requires a decent suspension of disbelief.  Not so much because of the ghosts, but rather because of the way it plays loose with history.  Still, while not quite as good as the other book by Alender that I’ve read, Bad Girls Don’t Die, this new novel is entertaining enough.

cover image for The Rule of ThirdsThe Rule of Thirds by Chantel Guertin

Preparing for Vantage Point, the photography competition for high school students that Pippa hopes will launch her career, is stressful enough by itself.  But now Pippa also has to deal with rocky friendships, cute boys, and rivals out to sabotage the entry she’s been working on for months.  And because that’s not enough to deal with, Pippa also been assigned to work at the hospital for her community service requirement.  The same hospital where she used to go to visit her Dad, and where she promised herself she’d never have to go to again.

The Rule of Thirds isn’t the type of book to make top ten lists, but it’s a nice, solid, entertaining novel with a good balance of humor and heartbreak and just enough surprises to keep you guessing.  I very much enjoyed reading it, and thought Guertin did a great job explaining the artistic process (when the subject came up) which isn’t something that’s always handled well in books like these.  I very much look forward to reading the sequels.

cover image for The Running DreamThe Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

At night, Jessica dreams of running.  She can feel herself taking her regular morning jog, or racing in another competition, always fast and strong and sure of every step.  But by day, Jessica can no longer walk. The accident that left a teammate dead also left Jessica missing the lower half of one leg.  She doesn’t mind the pain so much – there are drugs for that.  What she’s really afraid to face is the fact that she no longer knows where she’s going, or how she’s going to get there.

I was a little afraid that this book, based on the premise, was going to be maudlin and trite, full of Life Lessons and Inspiration From Unlikely Places.  Fortunately, this book is by the same author who gave us Flipped, so while the story does indeed end on a hopeful and triumphant note, there are no easy solutions here, no universal truths.  Just how one teen girl copes with a dramatic change in both mobility and identity.  Van Draanen does a wonderful job of crafting a nuanced story, and of not only showing us how Jessica changes, but also of letting the tone and mood of the book change along with Jessica.

cover image for If You Could Be MineIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Sahar was six when she told her mother that she wanted to marry her best friend, Nasrin.  Maman told Sahar to not to talk about such things, that the girls could always be best friends, but to marry would be a sin.  But Sahar’s love for Nasrin wasn’t something that she could outgrow or forget.  So Sahar and Nasrin hide how they feel from everyone but each other.

How long can two teenage girls kiss and profess their love in secret? And what choice do they have in a country where being discovered means jail or death?

There are a great number of things that I love about this book.  The first is, of course, the subject matter, and how it’s handled.  If You Could Be Mine is a story about first love, and what it’s like to fear losing it.  It’s also a story about identity and relationships, and the extent to which we are shaped by who we love, and what parts of ourselves we are willing to give up for that love.  And, of course, it’s also a story about what it’s like to be different in a culture that rejects those differences, often violently.  The book handles all of these topics with grace, and in particular does a wonderful job of showing that American views on sexuality and gender are not the only way of looking at things.

The second is that the rhythm and language used feels different from what I’m used to; which makes sense, considering that the book takes place in Iran.  There is something about it that doesn’t quite match the typical cadences of American speech and writing.  Neither does it feel like Farazin is trying too hard to capture the different rhythms of Farsi, it all flows very naturally. Nothing about feels off or wrong, it’s just different, and in a way that clearly communicates that this is Iran, not America – without framing the people and culture in the book as exotic or lesser.  (Although keep in mind that I’m hardly an expert on this topic.  I could be very wrong here.)

cover image for The Letter QThe Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon

Just as the title says, this is a series of short letters (and a few comics) written by queer writers and addressed to the teens they used to be.  The intended audience actually consists of teens today (of course) and the letters reflect that in they way they consider how things have changed – and haven’t changed – for queer youth over the past several decades (or more).

There is an overall  “it gets better” tone to the book,  what with the letters being written by successful writers and all, but it thankfully lacks the condescension that can sometimes creep in when telling kids to hang in there.  Instead, a sense of wonder permeates the letters, as the writers reflect on the dreams they had when they were young, and marvel at how excited (or possibly disappointed) their younger selves would be to see what they will become.  The letters also cover a wide range of experiences and life paths and acknowledge that the teen years do not have a monopoly on pain, nor does adulthood have a monopoly on joy.  Thus presenting queer youth with roadmaps for the future and into a world in which they are not alone.

cover image for The ClearingThe Clearing by Heather Davis

Amy moved to the country and in with Aunt Mae to get away from the her past, specifically: an abusive boyfriend.  Henry fears the future – and what his brother’s death will do to his mother and grandfather.  They live in the same town, yet it’s impossible that they would ever meet, as Amy lives in the 21st century and Henry is stuck in 1944.  But something happened the day the letter came to Henry’s house, and now his family – what’s left of it – lives in a never-ending summer.  When Amy crosses through the fog and into Henry’s life, he begins to think that maybe it’s time to face the future after all.  And Amy starts to think that maybe she’s strong enough to face her past as well.

This was an odd book, but not a disappointing one.  I found myself asking “what? how? why?” a lot when it came to Henry’s predicament, but the main characters complimented each other well, and the ending was satisfying without being…well, any more credulous than the premise.  I’m not sure how strongly I would recommend this specific book, or who I would suggest it to, but I am interested in reading more by this author.

cover image for JaranJaran by Kate Elliot

As the younger sister and only living relative of Charles Sorenson, a duke in the alien Chapalli Empire, Tess is heir to wealth and power.  But this is not the life she wants, so when she finds herself stranded on a planet outside of Chapalli control, she finds it tempting to take her time returning home, and enjoy life with the Jaran, the nomadic people who find her and take her in.  Except that Tess’ own arrival via a Chapalli spaceship is proof of their disregard for the treaty that places the planet Rhui out of their control, and she fears the Chapalli may have plans for Rhui, ones with dire consequences for both her brother and the Jaran.

Jaran is a very different kind of science fiction, one focused on empires and culture and not just aliens and changes in technology.  It also manages to look at these themes from both an intimate and wide angle perspective.  I definitely recommend it; I enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.  But there were parts of it (mostly concerning the romance between Ilya and Tess) that would have had me worried if I didn’t already trust the author, so that might be useful to keep in mind.

cover image for Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Moyer Justice and her friend Maddie have just come back from the funeral of Celia Forester, a fellow pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary and a quiet girl they barely knew.  It’s Rose’s job to write up a report on Celia’s final flight – and the speculation is that Celia lost control of her plane while trying to take down one of Germany’s flying bombs. Leaving Rose to wonder what she would do when faced with a similar choice. What kind of sacrifices would she make for others? How far would she go to ensure her own survival?  Questions she’ll have to answer several times over when her own service in the war effort finds her trapped behind enemy lines – and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

The problem with talking about how amazing Wein’s books are is that I hate giving out spoilers.  Rose Under Fire doesn’t have quite the same kind of twists that Code Name Verity does, but I still find myself wanting to say that it was brilliant the way that Wein…and then I have to stop because I don’t know how to explain it without giving to much away.  Not of the plot, precisely, but of the experience of reading the book and traveling on Rose’s journey with her.

What I will say: you should read this. Yes, that means you.  Also, I loved the way that poetry was used throughout the book: to connect Rose to the life she used to have, as currency in the camp, and as a way for her to process what was happening to her – to all of them.

cover image for Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

“Friends don’t let friends date vampires.”

Mel lives in New Whitby, a town whose bragging rights include being the first city in America to welcome vampires. For the most part, they stay on their side of town, and humans stay on the other, and that’s just the way Mel likes it.  But paths are bound to cross sometimes, like when a friend’s father, a psychologist who treats both humans and vampires, runs off with a vampire patient.  Still, it’s very much NOT normal for a centuries old vampire to decide that he’s interested in attending high school, of all things.  So Mel has her suspicions about Francis from the start.  And then he starts showing an interest in her best friend, Cathy…

This book is definitely different, but in a good way.  A clever and funny way.  I like how wrong Mel gets things sometimes – and the fact that she’s not the only one making mistakes.  It’s also nice to see so many different family dynamics being explored.  It’s a wonderful story about friendship and family and community – and I want more!

Speaking of, weren’t we supposed to get a sequel?

cover image for A Big Year for LilyA Big Year for Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger

Lily Lapp loves the long days of summer, but she can’t wait for school to start again so that she can play with her friends at recess. In the Amish town Lily and her friends live in, everyone’s houses are too far apart for little girls to go by themselves to play at each others houses – and besides, it’s not like she minds the schoolwork.  Until then, at least she still gets to see everyone on Sunday, at church, and there’s plenty of adventures to be had at home with her brothers.

A Big Year for Lily is a nicely written tale about school and friends and family, along the lines of Ramona Quimbly, Betsy and Tacy, or Little House on the Prairie – only this time the story is about a little girl who happens to be Amish.  The chapters don’t always seem connected to each other – except that they do go in chronological order – but it works well for the book because Lily, at age nine going on ten, is still rather distractable.

For the most part reading about Amish life was merely interesting, and Lily’s life didn’t seem all that different from the lives of most other little girls in other parts of the US.  While the chores that Lily and her brother are responsible for are highly gendered, that sadly isn’t all that different from the rest of the country – it’s just more noticeable in the book because the chores are different and because the chores being gendered is condoned rather than ignored.

That said, I was taken a bit aback when Lily switched to women’s clothing at age ten and her first comment about wearing her new dresses while playing was that getting stuck by the straight pins used to hold them together would take some getting used to.  Perhaps there was simply something wrong with how Lily’s pins had been put into her dress? But I got the impression that instead it was more how Lily was moving (and amateur internet research backs that up) – which is just rather awful if it’s true, as that sounds like that would be rather restrictive of girls’ and women’s movements.  Not that there aren’t plenty of really crappy things the rest of us make ten year old girls do, but…still. ugh.

cover image for Magic StepsMagic Steps by Tamora Pierce

It’s been over four years since Sandry first came to live at Summersea.  Her friends – Triss, Daja, and Briar – have all left with their teachers on travels that will keep them away from Winding Circle for years.  Although she misses them, Sandry has plenty to keep her busy.  Not just keeping up with her own studies, but also looking after her Uncle, who refuses the get the rest he needs to recover from a recent heart attack.  Soon Sandry has has even more to take care of: a pupil of her own to teach and a mystery to solve.

The premise of this quartet – that Sandry, Briar, Daja, and Triss are responsible for teaching the mages they find, no matter how young they are themselves – is not the most credulous.  (And yes, I realize I just said that about a book that centers around magic.)  It is fun to watch though, and I always appreciate the way that Pierce centers craft – particularly “womanly” ones like textile arts – in these books.

cover image for Paper DaughterPaper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold

The death of someone you love is supposed to turn your life upside down, but not quite like this.  When Maggie Chen’s father is killed in an accident, she and her mother struggle to carry on with out him.  But while going through his papers – clippings of articles he’s written, notes for future stories, mementos of a life he’s no longer there to live – Maggie discovers that her father’s life might never hav been his to begin with. That her father may have lied about who he was from the moment he met Maggie’s mother.

Although interesting at times and clearly well researched in terms of the history of Chinese immigration to America, Paper Daughter is also a good example of why authenticity is important.  Rudine Simms Bishop talks about the difference between books that are intended to be read by children of color, versus books that are about children of color but intended more for white audiences – and the way that the latter tend to define racism as requiring active malice and often include “lessons” for the characters of color about not expecting all whites to be racist.  Unfortunately, this book definitely fits in that category.

It’s not an awful book, and as I said, includes fascinating bits of history and culture.  It also has engaging characters  and – the problem mentioned above notwithstanding – thoughtful and poignant moments.  Recommended, but with reservations.

cover image for grl2grlgrl2grl by Julie Anne Peters

In ten short stories, Peters shares with readers significant moments in the lives of a variety queer youth.

I think what I like best about this collection is the way that it doesn’t try to provide readers with any solutions or answers. Novel length stories about queer youth are so often about dealing with the baggage that tends to come with being queer in a heteronormative society, and thus even when well written usually come to “it gets better” type resolutions. This collection is made up of only glimpses into people’s lives, and the length of the stories precludes any kind of universally uplifting resolution.  Peters is also not afraid to be honest here, and shows us not only heartbreak but the joy of discovery and hate motivated violence as well.  The end result is a collection that’s not only honest and real, but complete in a way that happy endings aren’t.

cover image for She Loves You, She Loves You NotShe Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters

Alyssa hadn’t planned on coming out to her father and stepmother yet, that happened quite by accident.  Now she’s been shipped off to live with the biological mother she barely knows, in a small town far from her friends and the girl she loves.

Parts of this book were a little odd – such as Alyssa believing that her mother is a prostitute when she’s not – and this isn’t Peters’ best novel.  But the general premise is interesting and it’s a good perspective to make sure is included in library collections.

cover image for Here I AmHere I Am by Patti Kim

After a long plane ride, a young boy arrives in a new city, in a new country, full of unfamiliar words and sounds and places.  In his pocket, he’s brought a small piece of home.  When he accidentally drops it, and another child picks it up, will he lose his last treasure from home? Or make a new friend?

I thought this story was rather sweet, the illustrations were well done, and the decision to make it wordless fit the plot and themes perfectly.  I’m not sure how easily children would be able to parse the logic of the story; it’s definitely a picture book that is best for older children, younger children may require guidance or the opportunity to re-read the story several times.

cover image from Far From XanaduFar From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Mike was born and raised in Coalton, Kansas.  She figures she’ll live the rest of her life there as well, and that’s just fine by her.  Until the day Xanadu walks into Mike’s life, and she begins to wonder if maybe there’s more out there for her to find.

This is by far one of my favorite novels by Peters.  There’s just something about the characters that felt very real and unforced.  There’s plenty of messed up people in this book, but also quite a few that are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, and, of course, kids just trying to figure things out.

cover imafe for It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Prom is so very NOT Azure’s kind of thing.  It’s expensive, elitist, and not at all inclusive.  So when the principal asks her to be on the Prom committee she jumps at the chance to turn it into the kind of party she thinks it ought to be – and she convinces her two best friends, Luke and Radhika, to help her do so.  But when the school board hears just what Azure has in mind, they might change their minds about wanting her to be a part of planning this year’s prom.

It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) is told alternating points of view, Azure and Luke’s, but it really felt like there should have been a third.  Not having Radhika’s point of view made the trio feel unbalanced, and it also meant the book spent a lot of time wondering why she was upset, who she liked, etc.  When, instead, it would have been much more interesting if it had focused more on how people would react to her confessions, and not just vice versa.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t spectacular, and could have been much better.

cover image for Moxie and the Art of Rule BreakingMoxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Moxie has always been good at following the rules: Don’t answer the door or have friends over when home alone. No using her T pass unless she has a friend or family member with her.  Be home by nine. Until the day Moxie slips up and opens the door to a dangerous looking stranger.  Now she has fourteen days to find the missing loot from a decades old museum heist – or the crooks who think her grandfather stole it will find a way to make her whole family pay.

The premise and plot are more than a little farfetched, but Dionne’s characters have depth and their relationships are nuanced.  I especially appreciated the allusions to classic middle grade mysteries like From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Westing Game; they’re definitely part of what makes this book memorable as well as fun.

cover image for LunaLuna by Julie Anne Peters

Regan’s family has their share of problems…and secrets.  Whose doesn’t?  But it’s Luna, Regan’s sister, that has the biggest secret of all.  To everyone but Regan, Luna is Liam, her older brother, their parent’s son, a normal boy.  But at night, Luna becomes the person she knows she was meant to be. And Regan is the only one who knows.  How long can they keep this secret?  And what will happen to their family when it comes out?

This book was so very frustrating, because while I’m glad for any and every book that depicts transgender teens respectfully, and I understand Peters’ reasoning for not wanting to speak for Luna, I kept wanting to hear the story from her point of view.   The main theme of the story was to show people what it’s like to be Luna, but having a first person point of view that wasn’t hers meant that we always saw her through the eyes of others instead.

cover image for By the Time You Read This I'll Be DeadBy The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Daelyn Rice needs to escape her life – and she knows the only way out is death.  She’s tried before but failed, and thus why she’s home schooled, why her parents hover, and why she knows this time has to be her last.

I hate being critical about books that tackle serious subjects, but the truth is this just wasn’t very well written.  Like much of Peters work, it wasn’t awful, and there were some poignant moments, but neither did it manage to be anything to get excited about.

cover image for Define "Normal"Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters

Antonia Dillon already has too much to do.  With her mother unable to function most days, it’s up to Antonia to make sure her brothers get fed, laundry gets done, and everyone stays alive – and that’s on top of her own school and homework.  So when Dr. DiLeo asks her to volunteer for peer counseling, the last thing she wants to do is say yes – despite how good it will look on her college applications.   And if she’d known she’d be assigned to counsel Jasmine Luther, she most definitely never would have agreed to do it.

This book may have been published in 2000, but it felt like it should be from the early 1990s.  It’s not quite an after school special – but it’s very, very close.  The conceit of asking readers to question who is more “normal” – Antonia, who teachers love but whose home life is falling apart, or Jazz, who teachers hate but who is cared for and confident of herself – is a laudable one.  Unfortunately, the Peters’ image of what is considered punk or outside the mainstream of teen culture seems to owe more to My So Called Life than anything from the same year.

cover image for AdaptaionAdaptation by Malinda Lo

After a humiliating performance at nationals, all Reese wants to do is get home as quickly as possible so that she can start avoiding David, her debate partner, and Mr. Chapman, their coach.  But when a series of freak bird related crashes kills hundreds and grounds all air travel, the trio are forced to drive a rental back to San Francisco.  With police barricades limiting their route options, everyone  panicking, and birds continuing to act strangely, just getting out of Arizona may be more than they can manage.

I like a lot of different sff, but I’ve never been a big fan of the kind of tales that revolve around Area 51 and alien abduction.  So while this book will never be a favorite of mine, it says a lot that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  (The romance between Reese and Amber helped with that.)  I definitely want to see what happens to Reese, Amber, and David – and I may even be a little curious about the government conspiracy as well.