CLP Teens Blog

 

 

noggin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

When 16-year old Travis finds out that he’s not going to beat the acute lymphoblastic leukemia (i.e. cancer) that has suddenly taken over his body, he volunteers for a new experimental treatment: he has his head cut off and cryogenically frozen. It takes five years for a donor body to become available, and when Travis wakes up in the hospital after those five long years he feels like he’s just woken up from a nap.

Travis becomes a media sensation. He’s one of only two successful head transplants, but he feels like his regular old self. He goes back to live with his same parents, goes back to his same school, and tries to rekindle relationships with his girlfriend, Cate, and best friend, Kyle. Obviously things can’t go back to the way they were. Kyle, who confided that he’s gay on Travis’ deathbed, is dating a girl when Travis comes back to life, which seems odd. And Cate is now engaged to a 25-year old man.

Five years have gone by for everyone else, but Travis is still the same 16-year old he was when he died. He makes it his mission to make things right with Kyle and Cate, even though he’d be better off trying to move on than get back with Cate. Travis truly believes that he and Cate belong together, which makes some uncomfortable and frankly sad situations.

Travis has a way of emerging from something truly tragic with a one-liner that makes you laugh out loud. It’s one of the talents of author Whaley – you know you’re going to laugh and you know you’re going to cry. Recommended for fans of The Fault In Our Stars and for lovers of reality fiction with a sci-fi twist.

Annica, CLP-West End

 

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legends

Legends, Icons and Rebels:  Music That Changed The World by Robbie Robertson

The beginning American music like Jazz, Blues, Gospel and Country provided inspiration. These 4 separate and unique art forms gradually blended and mixed to create something brand new. Some artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Hank Williams have come to define one specific genre, but other artists like Elvis, Little Richard, and Bob Dylan created completely new and uniquely American art forms by sampling from each genre. The evolution of American music continues as modern artist take their cues from musical legends and get inspired to create new styles. Robbie Robertson, himself a pioneer of Rock and Roll, takes us a tour of the truly unique history of American popular music.

With short biographies of legendary Jazz pioneers, early Mountain Music pickers and Gospel luminaries, Legends, Icons, and Rebels takes its readers to the birthplace of modern music. If you want to know more about the origins of the music you love check out Legends, Icons, and Rebels.

 

Reviewed by Brooke, CLP-South Side

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every day

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day I am someone else. I am myself–I know I am myself–but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.”

So you wake up, and you are happy. The next day you wake up and you are depressed. One day you feel ugly. The next day you look great and you’re on top of the world. Each of these feelings are you. Each day may be different, but still you wake up to the same people, in the same house, go to the same school, and make plans for what to do after school. For as out of control as you may feel, you at least have consistency. Your psychology may feel chaotic, but your physical presence is constant. It has always been like this.

But not for the character in Every Day by David Levithan.

Every day is different for this person. This person wakes up in a different body. The emotions may change like anyone else, but so does the body. One day this person is a female punk rocker. The next day this person is a male mathlete. For as chaotic as you may feel now, from day to day, what kind of chaos would this add to your life? What would it do to your identity?

Consider this:

1) You could never write anything down to gather your thoughts. Each morning you wake up someplace else, anything you wrote down would be somewhere far away with yesterday’s body.

2) You could never keep anything. Any gift you would ever be given, would be gone when you switch bodies.

3) You could never know if you are male or female. If you are always switching bodies, how would you know which gender you are? How would it feel? Or would it matter?

4) You could never have a name. Each day you take on the name of whichever body you inhabit. Would you name yourself in secret, even though no one would ever say it?

5) You could never have friends. If you made a connection with someone, they would be gone the next day. Anything you’d want to ask anyone, you’d have to find out in one day. There would be no such thing as ‘see you tomorrow’.

6) You could never fall in love. Or, if you did, you couldn’t have a relationship.

These are just a few facts and feelings that came up while falling through the compelling rabbit hole of Every Day. The last one is the key to a fantastic story–falling in love. When I first started reading I thought, “Yeah, yeah, you’re a different person every day, we need to understand other perspectives and welcome diversity into our lives.” But as amazing as that would be in a book (and is), Every Day gets even better. David Levithan creates a complete and satisfying story built around this premise and it’s one I found almost entirely unpredictable. I couldn’t figure out how this character could possibly make a romance work. He/she (because, again, we don’t know the gender) would be miles away in an unrecognizable body. Even if you could get to the person, you’d have to reintroduce yourself every time. What if you were a hot girl one day, and an ugly dude the next? Could the person you care for be attracted to you? People say it’s what’s on the inside that matters and this book truly tests that theory.

For all the switching of bodies, the author unfailingly makes you care for the characters you follow. Intensely. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt such empathy, and part of that empathy came from vicariously living their lives with the changing days of main character. One day I was a drug addict and I could feel the painful pangs of addiction jumping off the page. Another day I was from a family of religious zealots, and I could see how that way of life was perceivably legitimate as any other to them. In this book you get the chance to see inside people. This book lets you step out of your own body to see what motivates other people on the inside. It’s a beautiful experience and I found it lastingly moving. More than once I’ve referred to the experiences of these characters to better understand the people around me, particularly people I previously didn’t understand.

In essence, what makes you you? This book is about motivations. What moves us as people? Why do we do the things we do, and are those things because of who we are or the circumstances around us? If you want to ask some big question, while getting lost in an amazing story, read this book! Every Day goes deep into this kind of identity asking, and reminds us that every day is a new day. Who are you going to be?

 

 

Reviewed by Georgiana D. CLP-Brookline

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nearly gone

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Life isn’t really that great for high school junior Nearly Boswell. After her father walked out with no explanation, Nearly and her mother ended up in a trailer park, where her mother can barely pay the rent with the tips she makes stripping. Now a teenager, the “gift” of empathetic touch that she inherited from her father makes Nearly a self-made outcast. Nearly isolates herself rather than feel and taste the stinging, throbbing, bitter pain of anyone she touches. Despite her few friendships, she’s alone.

So Nearly makes a plan to escape. She’s competing with her best friend and other honors students for a chemistry scholarship. It’s her only chance at being able to pay for college and her future. To qualify for the scholarship, Nearly has to earn the top grade in her class and fill a service requirement by tutoring other high school students.

But nothing is easy for Nearly, and someone’s willing to resort to murder to make her already abysmal life even more miserable. When her students are killed one by one, Nearly finds notes in the personal ads that give clues before the murders take place. Horrified and confused, Nearly tries to do the right thing and goes to the police with what she knows. But instead of being thankful for her information, the police make Nearly the target of the investigation and ask an undercover informant to keep tabs on her. Nearly realizes that she’s being framed by the killer and stalked by a dangerous and alluring police narc.

With a long list of potential murderers, a “touch” of the supernatural and a personal-ad puzzle to solve, Nearly Gone is a winning mystery that will keep you guessing to the end.

Reviewed by Erin, CLP-Allegheny

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doll bones

Doll Bones by Holly Black.

You’ve all heard of Chucky, right? The doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer? Doll Bones is about a possibly possessed doll that is less psychopathically violent than Chucky but may be even creepier.

For as long as they can remember, Zach, Poppy, and Alice have played a made up game that takes place in a fictional world ruled by the Great Queen, a bone-china doll kept locked away in Poppy’s house.

One day, Poppy starts having dreams about the Queen, the ghost of the little girl whose bones were used to make the doll. She convinces her friends that the only way to get rid of the ghost is to bury the doll in the little girl’s empty grave, though Zach and Alice aren’t quite sure they believe in the ghost. On their quest to bury the doll, nothing goes according to plan, with a simple trip turning into an epic, creepy adventure.

Is the doll just a doll—or is it actually possessed? Zach and Alice aren’t sure—until the ghost starts entering their dreams and adults start to see the doll as a live girl. Poppy starts to act strangely—could she be possessed, too? If the Queen really is a ghost, will it let them go? Will burying the doll in the empty grave put the spirit to rest?

Read Doll Bones to find out.

 

Reviewed by Amy, CLP-Lawrenceville

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life after theft

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

It is hard enough changing to any new school, but when you go to high school, it is so much tougher. To make friends you try to fit in and try not to cause a fight at least on the first day. Imagine if you were Jeff Clayson. His family came into money and now he is a student at Whitestone Academy, a very exclusive private school in Santa Monica, California. Jeff did exactly what you would not want to do, call attention to himself and get in a fight. The problem was who he got into a fight with.

Now everyone thinks he is absolutely crazy! Apparently, Jeff is the only one who can see a young lady name Kimberlee Schaffer. She’s beautiful, dressed very trendy and apparently from a very wealthy family. The problem is; she’s dead. She died a year ago and no one but Jeff can see her. Kimberlee was the epitome of a mean girl and she was also a thief. Kimberlee is not sure why she was left on Earth and why Jeff is the only one who can see her. Possibly it is to correct some past wrongs. In an attempt to cross over, she solicits Jeff’s help in returning the stolen merchandise to the rightful owners. Easy peasy right. . .? Jeff finds out that it was probably easier for Kimberlee to steal the items than it is for him to return them. Follow the mayhem that ensues in Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike.

 

Reviewed by Andrea, CLP-Homewood

 

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choked

How they Choked:  Failures, Flops and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg.

Did you know the only reason Marco Polo is famous for being an explorer is because he spent time in jail? Or that Isaac Newton poisoned himself to the point of insanity while trying to turn lead and mercury into gold? These stories and more epic failures of the epically famous are told in How They Choked.

Marco! It’s true that Marco Polo was a famous explorer, but he overestimated his abilities. His inflated ego unfortunately led him to believe he could defeat an army when he was clearly outnumbered. He was arrested as a prisoner of war and while in jail he spent time with a historian and writer. Marco Polo passed the time by telling amazing stories of his travels on the Silk Road and being sort of adopted by Kublai Khan. The historian turned those stories into a book called Description of the World (also known as His Travels). It was written 150 years before the printing press was invented and even so was hugely popular and translated into many languages. And now people all over the world hide from people shouting Marco from pools.

Even though the genius Isaac Newton lived into his 80s he was insane by the time he was 50 from practicing alchemy, which was very illegal. Alchemy is the “science” of turning common metals into gold. Even though it doesn’t work, it was still against the law to try. Newton was a strange guy in many ways, but trying to get rich quick, er um, slowly since he tried and failed for 25 years, made him all the more strange when lead and mercury poisoning turned his brain into mush. Perhaps his lack of social skills hid his madness, but take a lesson from Newton and don’t try this at home.

 

Reviewed by Annica CLP-West End

 

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 anya

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Ghost stories can be pretty horrifying. Some have grisly looking spirits erupting from dark corners of long abandoned mansions. Others feature ghastly specters wandering cemeteries at night, hoping for someone from the land of the living to enter. Anya’s Ghost is a ghost story of a different kind. What if you met a ghost that seemed a lot like you? Someone who wanted to go with you to school, read the same fashion magazines, watch the same TV shows? Doesn’t sound quite as horrifying does it? That’s exactly what Anya thought too. Unfortunately for Anya, ghosts are always as transparent as they seem.

In Anya’s Ghost, author Vera Brosgol creates a graphic novel that blends humor, drama and suspense. Her illustrations are simple but affective, using a grey scale palette and focusing more on giving the book style and infusing it with character rather than creating overly detailed artwork. However, the ideas within Anya’s Ghost are not quite as simple, and will hit rather close to home for most readers.

Anya is a girl struggling to find an identity. Torn between her family who are Russian immigrants and an American culture at school that demands conformity, Anya is more and more choosing the latter lifestyle over the example her mother has tried to make. Throughout the book, we see Anya dealing with issues of cultural identity, self-confidence, body image – basically the kind of issues most teens deal with when they’re in high school. Plus, you know, there’s a ghost.

It’s an interesting dynamic between Anya and her newly found ghost friend, Emily. Emily was about Anya’s age when she passed away and has plenty of advice to give her about family, school and boys, all through the point of view of someone living in 1918.

Through the course of the book, Anya realizes that this helpful ghost may not be what she seems and ends up discovering more about the Emily’s life (and death) than she ever wanted to know. The results of these epiphanies are thrilling and lead to a climax that you’ll have to read to get the details. Highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by J. J., CLP-Beechview

 

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foul trouble

Foul Trouble by John Feinstein.

Terrell Jamerson has it made. He’s the best high school basketball player in the country. His team is about to win state. He has an entourage of friends (or are they “friends”?) who follow him around. He’s getting multiple scholarship offers from universities and could probably play in the NBA tomorrow if he wanted. Sneaker reps offer him free gear, college scouts offer to buy his mom a house. Everyone says they’re just trying to help him out. This is the dream, right?

Best friend and teammate Danny Wilcox, who is also highly recruited, isn’t so sure. This kind of “help” could get Terrell investigated by the NCAA, and possibly ruin his career before it even starts. Even an innocent lunch with the wrong people could land them both in trouble. Danny questions the motives of the entourage that follows Terrell around, and even Terrell’s mom’s boyfriend might be on the payroll of one of the colleges. Danny and Terrell both have some huge decisions to make that will impact the rest of their lives.

Together, Terrell and Danny have to decide who to trust. Will Terrell decide to take the guaranteed “help” now, or wait to earn it?

Reviewed by Amy, CLP-Lawrenceville

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The End Games

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

I love epigraphs. You know those one-ish sentence quotes at the beginning of a book? Not all books have them, but the ones that do have a special place in my heart. The End Games by T. Michael Martin is one of those books—it has TWO epigraphs! Epigraph 1) I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day. –Albert Camus. Pretty good right? Even better though: Epigraph 2) Everything not saved will be lost. –Nintendo “Quit Screen” message. This mix of philosopher wisdom and video game pop culture pretty perfectly sums up the zombie infested post-apocalyptic world of The End Games. Yes, my friends, another, but worthwhile, zombie story.

The book tosses you immediately into the action as the main character Michael wakes up around a campfire and his 5 year old brother Patrick is not sleeping beside him and is nowhere to be seen. These brothers are on no camping trip, though, they’ve been on the road for weeks since the arrival of the Bellows and the END OF THE WORLD. “Bellows” is the first clue you are getting into a pretty good zombie story. The author sticks with the unspoken rule not to call zombies “zombies”, using the name Bellows instead, for the terrifying way they echo everything they hear, creating an audio landscape of screams, pleas, and last words. When Michael calls out his brother’s name, that’s what the Bellows begin to echo: “PAAAAAAATTTTRIIIIICKKK!”—in chill-inducing vividness.

Non-spoiler alert: In the first few pages, Michael grabs Patrick and they high tail it out of there, but that close call leads to an unceasing storm of others, as they try and make their way to the safe place described by the Game Master. This is where epigraph #2 (the Nintendo quit screen quote) comes in. Michael keeps talking about a Game Master. Apparently the boys are stuck in some kind of game? Is the whole thing a computer game? Is this virtual reality? Are they in some sort of new and perverse Hunger Games? All zombie narratives have an element of unreality, but not being able to determine whether the Bellows are all a game and will disappear soon (which is every characters wish in a zombie narrative) adds an added element of surreal-ness. Are the boys going to be able to escape from it all? Will it be over soon? CAN it be over soon? Even better than that though, the use of gaming as a motif really highlights the undercurrent of how we live our own lives. Would we approach our lives more strategically if we treated it more like a game? Or are our lives stuck in technology, like they are stuck in “The Game”?

This is where epigraph #1 comes in—“Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” Wait, I have to fight off Bellow/zombies every DAY?! Well, no, but seriously, how do you live your life? This is the real question of a zombie story—how do you keep (or live) your humanity? By putting humans in the most extreme circumstances you see who they truly are, and The End Games is no different in posing questions about what is good in a world gone bad.

 

Harper Collins calls The End Games “John Green meets Stephen King”. I don’t know if I’d take it as far as John Green, but that is the style of writing thrown into a desperate world, and John Green himself calls it “A stunningly intelligent, thrilling story about family and love that just happens to include some zombies.” I can agree with that. In the end, I really found The End Games to be a unique end-of-world read. A handful of times I had no idea where the story was going, which was slightly alienating and aimless, but I also love it when I can’t predict what will happen next in a book, and this one definitely fits that bill. If you like not knowing how a story will end, and are looking for a new spin in a genre that seems to be all the same, give The End Games a try. And be sure to ask yourself: what kind of epigraph would YOU give yourself at “the last judgment”?

Reviewed by GiGi, CLP-Brookline

 

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