Jay Asher’s Latest Novel Is Perfect For The Holiday Season

29093326I loved Jay Asher’s two previous books so I couldn’t wait to dig into his new novel, What Light.  One of the things I noticed right off the bat is that the story has an incredible sense of place.  I feel like I am at the gorgeous Christmas tree farm in Oregon and in her family’s trailer when they sell their trees during the holiday season in California.  Sierra has two lives in a sense.  She lives in Oregon on her parent’s Christmas tree farm.  Each year at Thanksgiving they move to California for the holiday season to sell their trees at the same lot her grandparents ran many years ago.  Sierra has a best friend in California she looks forward to seeing every year.  Heather decides that Sierra needs a winter romance, but Sierra wants no part of it until she sees Caleb.  Caleb has a dark past that has made him a bit of a pariah in his small town.  But Sierra knows there is more to his story and sees the sadness in his eyes.  At the same time Sierra’s parents are struggling with the economic challenges of opening the tree lot each year which would end their holiday tradition.  This is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness.  It gave me the warm fuzzies with its holiday atmosphere.  I highly recommend this one on your holiday reading list.  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss how Sierra’s life is different in Oregon her time in California.

What makes Caleb more appealing to Sierra than Andrew?

Discuss what it would mean to have a vocation that you loved the way Sierra’s parents love their farm and seeing the customers faces as they pick out their favorite tree.

Discuss that moment where Caleb realizes Sierra has heard something about him.

Discuss how their relationship unfolds.  How did Sierra and Caleb change each other’s lives?

Discuss how rumors can affect someone’s life.

Discuss Caleb’s relationship with his former best friend and how his family acted around him.

What do you think is next for Caleb and Sierra?

 

 

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is one of my favorite reads this year.

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Nico lives with her dad and mom is missing.  She has a few memories but doesn’t understand why her mother would just leave her.  She comes up with the idea that her mother had an affair with Kurt Cobain and maybe he is her real father.  Nico searches for Kurt, convinced he is still alive and will lead her to her mother.  This book has such vibrant characters.  The cover jumped off the shelf for me and I was instantly hooked.  Just like I did as a teen, Nico uses music to escape and make her stronger.  I recently read The Carnival At Bray and Love Letters From The Dead which are teen books that feature the Nirvana front man.  It’s been quite a while since I was a teen but listening to the music always brings me back to senior year when Nevermind rocked my world.  But I digress, back to the book.  Nico dangerously follows a man she is convinced is Kurt Cobain hiding away from the world.  Nico discovers much about herself during this journey and learns what really happened all of those years ago.  Along with well developed characters, Manzer writes with a fantastic sense of place in Canada.  I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults who remember what it was like to be a teen.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Nico’s friendship with Obe.

Discuss how Nico guards her memories and does not want to hurt her brain so her memories of her mother won’t fade away.

Discuss how Nico uses music from Nirvana to deal with difficult moments like when the girls in the bathroom made fun of her.  How did the music make her stronger?

Have you ever used a Ouija Board?  What did you ask it?

Discuss when Nico says, “Nirvana’s music made me feel better even though it was dark.  I had never heard music before that sounded like I felt.”

Discuss when Nico says, “People were always hopeful that I was a normal girl, and I always let them down.”

Talk about Kurt Cobain’s journal and how it said, “If you read, you’ll judge” on the cover.

Discuss how Nico and Obe’s relationship changed.

Discuss this line, “There is a comfort in being sad.  But I am ready to give it up.”

 

New Riveting Read About Amish Teens Is Hard To Put Down

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Lucy is Mennonite in Pincecraft, Florida. While she and her father have electricity, he is very strict and she cannot use the computer or have a cell phone.  Her best friend, Alice is Old Order.  Every summer Alice comes down on the bus from the north for the season.  Alice’s culture is much more strict but she has something that Lucy does not, Rumspringa.  This is the time when Amish teens can try out life outside the Amish way.  This means drinking, wearing English style clothing and using electronics.  Alice is going through her Rumspringa so her new behavior is shocking to Lucy.  She gets Lucy to come to a party with her and her new boyfriend.  There Lucy meets Faron, an Old Order boy who has been shunned.  Their love story is an interesting one.  During the party Alice disappears.  Everyone Old Order and Mennonite blames Lucy. Lucy will won’t stop until she finds the truth about what happened to Alice.  Snowbirds is a riveting read.  It is a mystery, love story and a peek into several secretive cultures from Amish to LARPing.  The story twists and keeps readers engaged until the end.  Lucy is a strong female character who has dreams and isn’t afraid to seek out ways to make them come true.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss when Lucy says Faron is “like a book I want to keep reading.”

Discuss what it must be like to have your dreams go against your family’s plans for you or the beliefs you were raised with.

What do you think is the significance of the doves inside the sand dollars?

Discuss Rumspringa.  Why do you think you would do with Alice’s choice?

Discuss this passage as Lucy talks about her dad. “But he doesn’t understand why I need to study the ocean.  When I told him about the hole in the Gulf, he shrugged.  “Not my business,” he said.  He’s wrong.  It’s everybody’s business.”

Discuss the experience when Lucy sees how the community shuns Faron.

Discuss this passage, “The longer you hold a secret, the deeper it grows like the poison bleeding into the Gulf.  I know exactly how it feels.”

Discuss when Crystal says, “When I’m LARPing, I can be myself.  At school, everyone things I’m a freak.  But at the Games, we’re all freaks.”

A Season For Fireflies Is One Of My Favorite Teen Reads Of 2016

 This book is easily my favorite teen read of 2016.  In the past year Penny has lives two lives.  The problem is, she doesn’t remember one of 26869838them.  One day she is a drama geek with her group of friends and falling in love with Wes, next she wakes up in the hospital and none of them are her friends anymore.  Instead she is the best friend of the popular Kylie.  How did this happen?   Before being struck by lightning, Penny is dealing with the public embarrassment her mother’s drinking has become. It is too painful to talk about, even with her best friends.  The storytelling is excellent with a great slow reveal of what really happened.

I love that even though Penny struggles to win back her old friends, Kylie fights for her and shares the pain that she is also losing a friend. It is painful for Kylie to watch Penny not remember their friendship.  Popular girls are often the villain of teen books.  It is refreshing to see that character played a different way.  I love that Penny can be friends with all of them.  What a great message to send to teens.  Why can’t we all be friends?

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Describe why Kylie is a “safe” friend for Penny.

Discuss why penny rejected May and Wes when things became painful with her mom.

Discuss when Penny wonders “why guys have to make fun of a girl in order to interact with her.”

Discuss how Penny impacts May, Wes, Kylie and her mom.

Discuss why Penny’s mom blames her for everything.

Discuss how penny can be friends with everyone and not have to have one or the other.

Discuss the Shakespeare quote, “Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service.”

Exciting End To The 5th Wave Trilogy.

 

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Book Three in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series is full of action.  The fast moving story ties up some things while leaving room for readers to speculate what happens next and fan theories to grow.  Cassi, Zombie, Ringer, Megan and Sam are trying to get Evan back.  He has been taken by the human/aliens for reprogramming.  We learn more about the silencers and who they are as the team comes in contact with them.  The book is also largely about the evolution of Ringer as a character.  She has the alien technology in her but she can how use it to help the humans instead of hurt them.  Cassi also has an important role to play in saving what is left of humanity.  The book is very fast paced and exciting. But in the mist of all the action, the characters are still able to reflect on what it means to be alive in this war zone.  The idea is interesting that the aliens might see us as bugs that need to be exterminated.  We do not usually feel bad if we wipe out a colony of ants or cockroaches.  That gave me a lot to think about.  Fans of the first two books will love this.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Cassi says she is having more cravings than a pregnant woman.  If you were a survivor during the apocalypse, what would you crave the most?

Discuss what losing your ABCs would mean.

Discuss the relationship between Cassi and Evan.  How he feeds her when she is hungry but it is very complex.

Discuss this passage, “The world used to contain two Bens, the real Ben who didn’t know I existed, and the imaginary Ben, who feds me popcorn with buttery fingers.  Now there were three.” pp. 33

Discuss this passage, “Our true selves shimmered like a desert mirage forever receding into the distance.” pp. 34.

Discuss what it would mean to destroy culture.

Discuss Ringer’s bombshell.

During the book, did you think aliens were real or are the humans behind this?

What do you think will happen next with the survivors?  Where do they go from here?

Teen Mean Girl Drama And Wonderful Vengeance In New Teen Read, Winning!

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Alexandra is the worst stereotype of a popular girl.  Lara Deloza’s portrayal of a pageant winning beauty queen is wonderfully complex and engaging.  Alexandra is a shoe in for Homecoming Queen.  It is one of the steps in her plan to become miss Indiana and get out of her small town and have a life.  Her mother had the same plan but got knocked up with her so the pressure was passed onto Alexandra.  This story is told in varying view points.  Alexandra doesn’t care who she hurts on her way to get that crown.  Her best friend, Sam, has a crush on her.  Sam is not out and doesn’t want anyone to know.  A new girl named Erin moves to town and isn’t intimidated by Alexandra’s popularity status.  What’s more, this girl is actually nice and cute and students like her.  Alexandra has a fear that Erin knows more about her than she should.  When the nominations for Homecoming Queen come out, Erin and a girl very few people will associate with are on the list with enough votes to make Alexandra nervous.  The second girl’s name is Ivy and a while back she had an outburst and then disappeared.  People think she is a freak.  Alexandra decides to play a game of her own and “befriend” Ivy, making her over and bowing out of the race to make sure Ivy becomes queen and Erin’s chances at popularity are squashed.  But when you are mean to everyone at some point your enemies will rally against you.  Sam and Ivy are the other two view points in the book.  I like the theme that runs through the book that girls like Alexandra are not born that way.  They are made by not so great circumstances and often have something painful to hide behind their aggressive and manipulative ways.  Both Sam and Ivy evolve quite a bit through the book.  I thought the back story about why Sam is so devoted to Alexandra is interesting.  This book was a quick and enjoyable read.  Many teenage girls and adults who remember high school all too well will relate to these characters.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the friendship between Alexandra and Sam.  Are they truly friends in your opinion?  Talk about how their friendship began.

Discuss Ivy’s observation that Alexandra doesn’t have many friends.

Discuss Ivy’s comment about Alexandra wearing Matt “like a human accessory.”

Talk about dance proposals.  Would you want one or would it be embarrassing?

What do you think of pageants?

Discuss Alexandra’s relationship with her mother?  How did that create the person Alexandra is?

Discuss how Erin says “poor girl” and how that is learned behavior when she talks about Alexandra.

Discuss Ivy’s evolution in the book.  Also Sam’s.

Discuss what you think Alexandra’s next move could be?

 

Creepy, fun read with great teen LGBQ character.

22370796I loved Adam Selzer’s I Kissed A Zombie And I Liked It. So I was jazzed to get my hands on the ARC of his latest book, Just Kill Me.  Megan has an interesting job opportunity.  Her former babysitter, Cynthia and her boyfriend run a ghost tour company in Chicago.  Cynthia thinks Megan would be a natural.  Megan tries to hide it from her mom and quickly starts training.  To up their game, Cynthia decides to create ghosts of her own by murdering people on the sites of the tour.  This for some reason does not scare Megan away.  Selzer tells a great story.  Megan is a good female character and a good one for teens looking for great LGBQ characters.  Megan has an online relationship with a girl that won’t reveal what she looks like.  This can spark great discussions with teens on whether or not that is a good idea. Cynthia may have sinister plans for Megan as well.   I am not familiar with Chicago but I trust with an author like Selzer that it is authentic. The history and research makes the book even more interesting.  Selzer now has a Ghost Tours company in Chicago based on the book.  This is a fun read with a hint of creepy and fantastic characters.  Selzer knocks it out of the park again.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Do you believe in ghosts?

For teens that live in Chicago.  Do they ever go to these places?

What would you do if you caught on to Cynthia’s plan to make ghosts?

Discuss Megan’s online relationship.  Is this something you would do?  Why or why not?

Discuss what happens with the lady from the nursing home.  Was it mercy?

Discuss her interaction with the girl who may or may not be a ghost.

What do you think happened at the end when Cynthia wanted to make a stop on the way to see the girl?