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?

Readers Who Love Music Will Love Red Velvet Crush

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Teddy Lee’s somewhat deadbeat brother, Winston, has an idea.  If he built a band around her talent and songwriting, he and the radio station where he works could make some money.  Enter Ty, Ginger Baker and Jay.  They come from another school which might as well be a different world.  They have great musical skills and money.  But when it comes time for Teddy Lee to sing, her sister Billie jumps in.  Billie is her younger sister who is everything Teddy Lee is not.  She is wispy, blond and sings in a smoky voice that Teddy Lee knows is better than hers.  Billie exudes confidence and sex appeal where Teddy Lee feels more awkward.  When adorable Ty starts to show interest, Teddy Lee hopes it is for real.  The two start a budding romance that involves their shared love of music.  Teddy Lee is a songwriter but she doesn’t want her sister to sing the songs she poured her heart into.  When the band goes on a summer tour things happen that can cause permanent damage.  This story is about both love and sisterly rivalry and the horrible wounds that only sisters can inflict on each other.  This book is a great read alike for fans of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist.    I highly recommend this one as a great summer read.  It comes out in June.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage, “She bumps along with a smile on her face, knocking into everyday shit, unknowingly changes the trajectory of everything around her.  Lives, furniture, even things that appear to be set in stone are nudged into another dimension when she bounces up against them:  poor unprepared world.”

Discuss this passage, “I am kind of amazed that he is telling: flat out, up front, admitting to something that most people would try to push under the rug or pretend never happened until some unforeseen situation forces it to light later on and by then it seems even bigger and uglier because of the wait.  The truth always finds its way out.”

Discuss this passage, “Sometimes smashing the guitar to bits is more important than the song.”

Discuss with Teddy Lee says she can’t let Billie have everything.  Discuss their relationship and how she felt when Billie took over singing in the garage.

Discuss Teddy Lee and Ty’s experience at The Wall Of Sound.

Talk about how Teddy Lee’s relationship changes with Billie.

Discuss when Teddy Lee says to her father, “He could have been everything.” And her father says “Nobody else should be everything, then where are you?”

Discuss how Teddy Lee’s relationship with Ginger Beard changes.

What do you think will happen between Teddy Lee and Ty?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin Reul Is One To Watch! My Kind Of Crazy Is A Perfect Read For Eleanor & Park Fans.

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It stated out like a grand romantic gesture.  Hank just wanted to ask Amanda to the prom, with sprinklers in her front yard.  But instead he burnt down her tree.  This debacle leads him to a friendship with a new girl, Peyton who likes fire and has a lousy home life.  Hank’s home life is not a picnic either.  His mother and brother were killed in a car accident which leaves him with his heartbroken father.  His other friend may or may not be in a mafia family.  Peyton has a dangerous habit.  She is a bit of a fire bug, lighting leaves and barbie dolls ablaze. In the meantime, Amanda starts a website to find the person who performed this grand romantic gesture.  Hank fills out the questionnaire but his feelings for Peyton grow and he is not sure what to think or who he is supposed to be with.  This is a teen romance about two imperfect people who find a perfect connection.  It has the same realistic and hopeful love that readers found in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.  This is Robin Ruel’s first novel for teens and I hope that she writes more.  The story pulls you along and I enjoyed the characters, especially Hank’s father’s stripper girlfriend, Monica.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage, “It’s like they transform from being beautiful to ugly and distorted.  There’s a different kind of beauty in that, I think.  Everything beautiful can be ugly, and everything ugly can be beautiful.  It’s all perspective.  But it’s like you’re the artist with the brush, and everything else is your canvas. “

Discuss when Hank says this about Peyton, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  It’s not like Peyton’s an enemy, but she’s not exactly a friend.”

Discuss Hank’s relationship with Monica and his dad.

Discuss this passage, “I feel my insides twist.  It’s the truth, but saying it so casually feels like I am throwing Peyton under the bus.  I try to ignore my conscience and focus on Amanda.”

Do you find that life lives up to your expectations?

Discuss this passage, “Sometimes, to help make sense of things, we tell ourselves stories and we convince ourselves that they’re true, but that doesn’t mean they really are.”

Discuss how “everyone needs somebody who gets their kind of crazy, right?  That doesn’t come along every day.” and “Crazy is a relative term.”

Discuss when Monica says, “This is real life, Hank, not some movie.  Every problem doesn’t necessarily have a solution.”

Talk about how Amanda and Peyton are different.  Which one do you relate to?

 Discuss this passage, “Family isn’t about sharing the same blood in your veins; it’s about the people who come into your life and see how completely messed up and nutter you are and then stick around anyway.”

Quirky New Teen Read Will Thrill Fans Of Sherlock

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Brittany Cavallaro’s new series on Sherlock lore is great fun!  Charlotte Holmes is just as socially unaware, drug addicted and brilliant as her great-great-great-great grandfather, the famous Sherlock Holmes.  The premise of this book is that Holmes and Dr. Watson were real people.  Dr. Watson wrote all of the great stories.  His descendents are not too terribly fond of the Holmes family.  They think they are weird.  Somehow Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson end up in the same American boarding school.  Both are accused of a murder of a fellow student. Jamie recently beat him up. They quickly fall into the same type of relationship as their forebears.  They have the same fun chemistry and banter as the original characters.  This book has heavy content such as rape and drug use.  It is more for older teens.  I think this book is great fun and adults will love it too.  It is a series and I look forward to other installments.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage when Watson thinks, “It felt disconcertingly, as though I stood with one foot in a novel and one foot in a shopping mall.  I might’ve belonged here, but Holmes very much didn’t.”

Discuss the Galway Kinnell poem, “Wait, for now.  Distrust everything, if you have to.  But trust the hours.  Haven’t they carried you everywhere, up to now?”

Discuss what the Watson family thinks of the Holmes family.

Discuss Charlotte’s relationship with her older brother.

Discuss Charlotte’s behavior and how she figures things out.  Could you deduce something?

Discuss Charlotte’s addiction issues and how that affected her relationship with Moriarty.

Why do you think Jamie Watson is drawn to protect her?