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.”

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?

Fans Of Miss Peregrine’s Will Enjoy Leah Thomas’s Debut YA Novel

Ollie is a boy who cannot tolerate any electricity.  I makes him so ill he has seizures.  Moritz is a child born without eyes but can use echolocation to see, much like Daredevil.  The boys have never meet in person but Ollie’s doctor set him up with Moritz as pen pals to see if they could be a source of comfort for each other since they have peculiarities they set them apart form society.  The two share their lives which are unique to say the least.  Ollie lives out in the woods in an electric free cabin with his mom.  Their only visitor is Ollie’s doctor and a girl whose uncle lives nearby.  Moritz lives with his adoptive father, goes to school and has to deal with a bully. He can “see” in great detail with his ears.  Both have secrets they want answered about their pasts and what may make them superhuman.  Because of Moritz’s pacemaker, the two can never meet.  This book is unique and the characters are fascinatingly complex.  It is a mystery that slowly reveals how the boy’s stories are intertwined. It is fascinating how they interact with each other and those around them.  It is told in alternating voices of both Ollie and Mortiz in their letters to each other.  I think because of the unique nature of the boys, readers who loved the Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children will enjoy this.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss how the personalities of Ollie and Moritz are different.  How are they alike?

Discuss what it would be like to have their unique attributes.  Which do you think would be more difficult for you?

Discuss having pen pals.  Have you ever had one?

Discuss the poop analogy when Ollie says he and Moritz are “not the poop” on page 290.

Discuss when Moritz talks of being haunted by those who came before him on page 246.

Discuss Ollie’s relationship with Liz.

Discuss Moritz’s relationships with Owen and Fieke.

Talk about what “eyes are windows to the soul” means for Moritz.

What do you think of the laboratory where Moritz lived?  What about his mother?  Did she have a right to do what she did?

Discuss what happened with Lenz.  Did Mortiz have a right to do what he did?

Discuss how Moritz blames himself for what happened to Ollie.

Discuss what happens when Mortiz goes back to the laboratory.

 

 

Bone Gap Is One Of My Favorite Reads of 2015

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is one of my favorite reads of 2015.  It crosses genres, American Gothic, horror and fairy tale wrapped into an interesting tale that unfolds beautifully.  Roza is a beautiful woman who mysteriously arrives in Bone Gap and leaves just as mysteriously.  Finn saw her taken, but cannot describe the man who took her.  He cannot recall his face, only how he moves, which is like a corn stalk.  Most of the town thinks Finn is a bit spacey and some blame him for letting Roza go.  Finn’s older brother, Sean is in love with Roza but cannot bring himself to look for her.  The relationship between the two brother is interesting.  Bone Gap is a story about fascinating characters and the gaps of reality.  As one character states, you have to find the gaps to find out what happened.  Finn falls in love with a girl that most would describe as homely but he does not see her that way.  The girl is a keeper of bees.   Ruby is a master of magical realism, weaving what can be real and fantasy into a seamless story that is a joy to unwrap.  From start to finish, I was enraptured with this characters and the setting.  The corn stalks have a lot of meaning and I love the thought that the scarecrow is not to scare the crows, but the corn. I highly recommend this one.  It is worthy of a finalist for the National Book Award.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Finn’s relationship with his brother Sean.

Discuss Roza and the town’s reaction to her missing.

Discuss Finn’s relationship with Priscilla/Petey.  How did it change when Petey realized Finn is face blind?

Discuss the “gaps.”  And what it means when Finn says, “Yeah, but I’m the one who’s here.” (pg 283)

Discuss when Petey says there should be a ceremony to mark the occasion of her heartbreak.  (pg. 302)

Have the teens describe someone who has had the biggest impact on their lives using only adverbs like in the book.

Discuss how magical realism is different from the other books that they read.

Discuss this moment with the crows, “the birds helping her with this one small task, and telling her with their shining wings and knowing laughter that the truly impossible ones where yet to come.” (pg. 312)

Why do you think the Rude brothers defended Petey’s honor?

Discuss the final paragraph on page 345.

The Most Intense YA Read So Far Of 2009!

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Not since the Hunger Games have I been so engrossed in a book. I could not put Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth down. I felt like I was there in the forest, full of fear of the character’s precarious situation and full of hope that there is another village somewhere that survived.
Mary lives in a post-apocalyptic world where much of humanity is infected with a type of disease which turns people into zombies. Some zombie books can be rather goofy. This book is not! She lives in a village surrounded by a dark forest. The setting very much reminded me of the M. Night Shyamalan movie, “The Village.” A series of metal fences and gates are the only thing keeping the living humans apart from the “Unconsecrated.” Harsh rules enforced by “The Sisterhood” are meant to keep the people safe and preserve humanity. The people of the village are led to believe they are the only humans left.

The story takes off running when we learn Mary’s father is likely one of the Unconsecrated. Her mother, in her grief decides to join him rather than stay alive. The description of her change and how she’s dragged into the forest by her ankle is great horror story telling! Mary must suffer the consequences when her brother hands her to the Sisterhood because the boy she loves has not asked for her hand in marriage. The story takes another fantastic twist when we learn someone from the outside has found their way to the village. Mary won’t stop until she has answers about the girl, Gabriella.

This book is about so many different themes woven beautifully together. It’s about wanting. The hunger and want of the Unconsecrated is unending. They keep going even as their bodies can no longer move. Mary’s mother wants her husband so much she is willing to become one of the Unconsecrated.  It is about dreaming of the great perhaps. Mary knows there is something out there. That curiosity never wavers. She puts herself in dangerous situations in an attempt to satisfy her curiosity. I could barely breathe as she hid in the basement of the Cathedral trying to find out what happened to Gabriella. She knows if she’s caught she’ll likely be tossed into the forest as food for the zombies. It is about love verses duty. Mary wants Travis, but Travis is willing to step aside because his brother loves her too. It is about how The Sisterhood withholds information and keeps the population ignorant, because they feel it will save lives. But mostly for me, this book is about the search for truth, even though everyone you know tries to stop you. Mary never stops believing. The ending, even though not a happy one, is satisfying. I love the way she figures out the gates and which one goes to the ocean. I love the struggle to survive and not accepting the status quo.

I can’t wait for Carrie Ryan’s second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, where we learn about Mary’s daughter. The Dead-Tossed Waves will be released in March 2010.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about how the strict enforcers of religious rules are women and not men. Does this change things?

Talk about Mary’s mother’s decision to join the Unconsecrated. If a loved one was lost, would you do the same?

Did The Sisterhood have a right to keep the villages away from the truth?

Talk about sacrifice. For example how Travis was willing to sacrifice himself to save the others. He was also willing to sacrifice his love for Mary so his brother could marry her.

Is duty more important than dreams?

Did The Sisterhood have a right to keep the villages away from the truth?

Talk about sacrifice.  For example how Travis was willing to sacrifice himself to save the others.  He was also willing to sacrifice his love for Mary so his brother could marry her.

How do you think Gabriella was infected?  Why was she so much faster than the others?  Any theories?

Talk about how Mary felt when she found the pictures of New York City.  She was amazed by the buildings and had no idea places like that once existed.

Why did Travis wait to long to share information about Gabriella?

Talk about the ending.  What should happen next?