The Memory Of Things is a brilliant teen read that unfolds in the shadow of 9/11.

28220960In 2016 several new historic fiction books came out about 9/11.  I am trying to read them all.  Gae Polisner’s The Memory Of Things is fantastic!  I highly recommend it for middle school and up.  The characters are in high school.  Kyle gets separated from his classmates and walks across the Brooklyn Bridge back home.  On his way he finds a girl wearing angel wings, covered in ash.  She looks like she might jump.  He can’t just leave her there so he brings her home with him.  The girl can’t remember her name or what just happened.  His mother and sister are stuck in California and cannot get a flight home.  His father, who is a NYPD detective is busy at ground zero, trying to find his fellow police officers.  Kyle and the girl are alone in the apartment with his Uncle Matt.  Because of an accident, his uncle needs around the clock care.  He was a detective too.  Kyle and the mysterious girl exist inside their post 9/11 bubble, watching the news, caring for his uncle and not sure what to do next.  Kyle doesn’t think he can take the girl to the police just yet with so little information and no one really sure what is going on.  He tries to help her remember who she is.  The story is beautifully written with her confusing point of view alternating with Kyle’s point of view.  Slowly, like removing the petals on a lovely flower, we learn who this girl is.  It is a sweet love story, but can it survive once the girl finds out who she truly is?  It is a page turner and a way to introduce the events of the day and the chaos of the aftermath.  I also love this cover!  The Memory Of Things is another favorite read of 2016.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Do the teens have any memories of 9/11?  Were they born yet?  How old where they?  What do they know about that day?

Discuss how this story takes place in a bubble of sorts.  Kyle hasn’t spoken to many friends since he evacuated after the attack and he hasn’t seen his mother or sister.  His father is barely home.  His world became smaller in these days after the attack.

Discuss this passage: “I spin and I spin and I spin.  I’m a jewel box ballerina, and he is the music that’s winding me.”

Discuss Kyle’s relationship with his Uncle Matt.

Do you think Kyle’s relationship with the girl can last outside of their bubble?

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.”

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?

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?