The Shadows We Know By Heart is my favorite 2017 book so far!

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This is another debut novel from a new author I could not put down.  Jennifer Park tells the story of a family in turmoil after a child is killed ten years ago.  The parents are still barely holding on while Lean and her surviving brother, Matt try to live their lives in high school.  Sam was killed 10 years ago.  At the beginning of the story we don’t know how or why.  All we know is that Leah is not allowed in the forest behind her house.  But the forest is where she feels most at home, where she can be her real self and deal with the loss of her brother.  She has a secret.  She knows that Sasquatch are real.  She’s been watching them for years.  Then one day she sees a human boy is with them.  This boy has intense green eyes and they are drawn to each other.  She starts sneaking out away from her extremely protective father who is the local preacher.  We don’t realize right away but her best friend, Ashley’s family also suffered loss in the same incident.  Park’s storytelling is a slow reveal that kept me staying up late to finish reading.  I just couldn’t put it down.  It is a story of grief, romance, family and the wildness of things we don’t understand.  One of my favorite moments is when Leah connects with the Sasquatch child.  A six foot tall child she nicknames Bee.  The reason she and the boy share a connection is both beautiful and devastating at times.  Park writes beautifully and descriptively.  I felt like I was in the forest myself with my fingers digging into the dirt.  So far, this is my favorite book of 2017.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the legends of Bigfoot.  What would you do if you were Leah?

Discuss when Leah thinks, “We’re a breath apart, and instead of closing my eyes like any sane girl would do, I’m trying to rationalize this, because this is the boy I’ve wanted, who now wants me, and for some reason, it’s not enough to make me surrender.”

Discuss when Leah thinks, “My claim I think I have on this boy is so strong that I can’t dispel the jealousy that wraps around me like a second skin.  Sharing him is not something I’m sure I’m willing to do anymore.  And he’s not even mine.”

Discuss how the male Bigfoot and Leah’s dad are similar.

Discuss how Leah feels more at home in the forest.  Is there a place that feels that way to you?

Discuss how Leah’s feelings for Ben and the boy in the forest are different.

What would you do if you came face to face with a Sasquatch?

What do you think will happen to the boy in the future?

Discuss Matt’s revelation to the parents and Leah about Sam.

 

New Angel Powers Relvealed In Cynthia Hand’s Exciting Conclusion To The Unearthly Series

Boundless (Unearthly, #3)Clara is now single, yearning for the lost love of Tucker.  She, Christian and Angela are beginning freshman year at Stanford.  She is going to attempt a relationship with Christian.  Angela is acting strange and she comes to realize that Angela is pregnant with the child of the mysterious angel blood she met in Italy.  Clara is having frightening visions of a dark place with Christian and her father, Archangel Michael wants to train her for battle.  All of this has her pretty freaked out.  In this final book of the trilogy, we learn some new tricks that Clara can do with her triplare angel blood powers.  Those powers keep drawing her back to Tucker which is painful for both of them.  At the same time dark forces are closing in on her brother, Jeffery.  But will Clara be strong enough to save him?  And should she risk everything to do so.  I really enjoyed this series.  I love it when Archangel Michael shows up to add an interesting element to the plot line.  I love Clara’s new powers with the ability to cross space and time.  One of my favorite moments is when she sees an earlier version of her mother.  It makes me wonder what my own children would think of an earlier version of me.  The thought is a little scary.  I highly recommend this series to angel fantasy fans.  It is definitely one of the better ones.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Clara’s relationship with Christian.  Should they be together?

What did you think “The seventh is ours” means?

Discuss Jeffery’s girlfriend.

How do you feel about what happened to Angela?

Do you think Clara should have risked everything to bring her brother back?

When Clara needs to cross over, her strongest link is Tucker’s barn.  What would your link be?

If you could cross over to a time or place, what would it be?

Conclusion To Angel Fantasy Halo Series Takes Us To Heaven

Heaven (Halo, #3)

Bethany and Xavier get married, much to the chagrin of her siblings and a frightening group of rogue angels known as the Seven.  The priest pays his own price for performing the rite and we get a look at the grim reaper.  Just minutes into their union, the couple goes into hiding in a cabin in the woods.  When that idea fails Gabriel and Ivy create new identities for them and send them to Ole Miss to pose as brother and sister.  That creates all kinds of interesting challenges.  Her friend from Venus Cove, Molly, shows up with a scary new boyfriend who is a Christian extremist.  It is interesting how Gabriel deals with this strange cult.  Adornetto’s descriptions of the Seven are frightening with their hollow eyes and expressionless faces. The idea of rogue angels adds a little more drama to the story, especially in the slower parts.  Xavier, surprise, surprise is not entirely human.  Bethany ends up back in Heaven and separated from Xavier.  Time moves differently and she will do anything to get back.  But to return she must make the ultimate sacrifice.  This was a decent ending to the trilogy.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Xavier and Bethany go to Ole Miss.  What is your idea of a great college and would you want to go a school like Ole Miss?

If you were Bethany would you choose to stay in heaven or go back to earth?

Is it worth all the trouble for Bethany and Xavier to be together?

What do you think about the different take on the grim reaper?

Discuss the Sevens.

If you were Gabriel would you have made that sacrifice for Xavier?

What do you think drew Molly to Wade?  What would you do if that was your friend?

What did you think of Bethany’s roomate?  Would you want her to be your roomate?  What would the ideal college roommate be like?

Talk about what Xavier really is?

If you could be an angel what kind would you want to be?

How does the author’s version of heaven compare with your own?

Beautiful Angel Imagery In Unearthly Sequel

Book Two of the Unearthly series, Hallowed, deals with the fall out of what happened when Clara didn’t fulfill her purpose.  She is puzzled over what she saw in her vision and how Christian is supposed to play a role in her life.  She is not sorry she saved Tucker, but she is so confused about what to do next.  Her love for Tucker deepens so she pushes away her thoughts of the inevitable.  At the same time her brother, Jeffrey is acting strange and her mother is weakening.  This book takes us deeper into the world of angel bloods.  We find out why Clara is stronger than she first thought when we meet her father.  This book is about sacrifice.  Clara must make painful decisions in this book.  Does she follow her purpose or her heart.  She has free will which is a dangerous thing for an angel with a purpose designed by God.  Cynthia Hand creates characters that are complicated and beautiful.  My favorite part of the angel gathering in the mountains.  The imagery is so beautiful.  I also love the way Hand describes Michael, Clara’s father.  I am eagerly awaiting the next installment which is expected to be published in 2013.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

What would your heaven look like?

Talk about purpose in life.  What does that mean to you?

Why do you think there are so many angel bloods in Clara’s town?

Discuss this passage on page 98.  “Fighting my purpose. Which means I’m going against my design.  The sorrow is mine.”

Talk about the sacrifice she made to let go of Tucker to embrace her destiny with Christian.  What would you have done?

Talk about Angela’s reaction to Clara’s true angel powers.  Have you ever felt jealous like that?

Talk about the loss of Clara’s mother.  Have you experienced anything like that?

What would you do if you had wings?  Where would you fly?

I Enjoyed Alexandra Adornetto’s Hades Even More Than Halo!

I’ve been reading as much angel fantasy as I can get my hands on. I’ve said before that for the story to really take flight (yes, that pun was intended) there needs to be a religious component. Alexandra Adornetto’s second book in the Halo trilogy was a very exciting read. There is a lot of mushy love between Bethany and Xavier in the beginning, but the story really gets going when Jake Throne tricks Bethany and kidnaps her into Hades aka Hell! The author creates a vivid and frightening underworld that draws on legend with plenty of creative modern twists. Some souls are destined to club forever. They cannot stop dancing. The demons that look beautiful on the outside just barely hide the hideous disfigurement of their true selves. Jake hopes to make Bethany his bride. We find out quickly that for Jake this is not just about starting a war with Heaven, he truly loves Bethany and wants her to accept him and choose to love him back. Back on earth, Bethany’s siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, along with Xavier try to figure out how to rescue her. Both angels are tied to whatever the Heavenly Father has planned. He sends word through the magnificent archangel, Michael. The plan is cryptic and involves saving more souls along the way. The book is about sacrifice and what you would give up for the ones you love the most much more than just a simple teen love story. Heaven’s rules are complicated. Bethany often wonders if she will be left in Hell. Is someone watching over her? Will she ever see Xavier or her siblings again? The ending will make you dying to find out what happens next. I’m hoping to see as vivid as description about Heaven and she created for Hell. The third book in the trilogy, Heaven, will be published sometime in 2012.

Ideas For Discussing With Teens:

*Much of this book is religious in nature. Most of these questions take a Christian perspective.

Talk about Bethany and Xavier’s relationship. Is their love worth all the risks she is taking?

Discuss the séance and Ouija Boards. Have you ever tried one? Do you think they are real?

Why do you think Jake wants Bethany? Is it really about war? Is he capable of love?

Discuss when Bethany finds Taylah in Hades wastelands. Talk about why she ended up there. How do you feel about her final judgment?

Why would God send such a cryptic message through Michael? Why not just tell Gabriel and Ivy what to do?

Talk about Bethany’s powers to heal in Hell. Talk about her act with the small child.

Talk about how Satan himself was portrayed by the author.

Talk about how Tucker and Hannah traded their souls to help others and ultimately what happened.

Talk about how the experience changed Bethany.

What do you think Heaven will look like in the third book? What will happen next?

New Fallen Angel Fantasy With Christian Flavor In Halo

Bethany and her brother, Gabriel (as in Archangel Gabriel) and sister, Ivy are on assignment to Earth to spread love and goodwill.  They must battle against the darker forces that are spreading hate, crime and misery.  An angel’s love is supposed to be for all humans, not just one.  So when Bethany falls in love with Xavier, she has a real problem.  She not only risks angering her brother and sister, who trust her, but God himself who is far less lenient with his angels as he is with humans.   Bethany is becoming very comfortable in her human skin, which separates her even more from Gabriel and Ivy, who long to return to Heaven.  Jake Thorn’s arrival at school makes things even more complicated.  He has the power to block Bethany’s healing powers.  He is starting to cause chaos and you can guess where he is from.

Readers who fell in love with Edward from Twilight will love Xavier too!  He is just as selfless, romantic and crush worthy as the him.  This good versus evil tale is filled with hope and optimism, unlike some of the other fallen angel romance you will find.  This one is much better written as well.  Bethany, Gabriel and Ivy are more angelic than tragic and beaten down.   I enjoyed this book much more than Lauren Kate’s Fallen and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush.  I feel very strongly for angel characters to have depth, there needs to be a religious tone and biblical perspective to the story.  The characters in Fallen and Hush Hush felt flat without them.  The cover is awesome!  There will be two more books in this series, Hades & Heaven

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Is having a boyfriend worth breaking your family’s rules?  Is it worth punishment?

What do you think makes Bethany more human than Gabriel and Ivy?

Why is Jake Thorn attractive to people?

If appropriate, discuss about what they think life after death means.  What do you think Heaven will look like?

Are characters like Xavier and Edward from Twilight realistic in their treatment of teenage girls?

Would you rather be like Bethany or Molly?

How do angels compare with vampires when it comes to supernatural romance?

Christian Teen Fiction About Teenage Pregnancy

17 -year-old Sophie is starting her senior year with a big secret.  She’s pregnant.  This would be difficult enough, but she and all her friends are conservative Christians.  She is terrified of what they will think of her.  The father, a college boy who also goes to her church, had a fling with her while they were both counselors at a Christian summer camp.  To make things worse, her best friend, her minister’s daughter, has a huge crush on him.  Sophie is terrified.  She is now the editor of her school paper.  She uses her journalistic skills to investigate a center at her high school for pregnant teens.  This experience helps her make her own decisions.

Sophie’s story is compelling but not preachy.  The values the author wants to convey are there, but I didn’t feel pounded over the head with them.  Sophie feels ashamed because of what her family and friends will think of her situation, but also of what God will think.  Her relationship with God is very tender and real and her need to distince herself from him during her stuggle is very painful for her.  It is a very quick read.

Discussing with teens may be difficult because of the religious nature of the book.  I wouldn’t recommend using this in a public library or public school setting.  If you do feel this book is appropriate for your teens, here are a few discussion ideas.

Sophie takes an absinence pledge.  Do you feel this kind of pledge is effective for teens?

What is the best way to handle teen pregnancy?  Should more be taught in the schools?  Birth control education?

Sophie felt duped by Dylan.  She trusted him and thought he loved her.  How should she handle that situation?

Teenage pregnancy is in the media a lot lately.  Some examples, Bristol Palin, the character of Quinn on the TV Glee and the movie Juno.  How are these situations different (besides Bristol being the only real person mentioned?)  What message do they convey to teens today?

How does Sophie’s religion influence her choices?

Talk about the teens at the pregnancy center.  How do they differ with Sophie?  Do they differ at all?