CLP Teens Blog

 

The Girl Who Was Supposed To Die by April Henry

April Henry is back with another nail biting suspense filled book.  Cady Scott doesn’t know where she is, why men are trying to kill her and where or who she can turn to for help.  She doesn’t even know who she is!  She only knows that the bad men chasing her are determined to find out what she knows or kill her trying.  Her parents are scientists who have harnessed the power of a chemical weapon that, if left in the wrong hands, could produce catastrophic results.  But, she doesn’t remember anything about them or her little brother or anything. She doesn’t’ remember anything beyond being tortured in a cabin by some pretty rough dudes.  The trauma of being abducted has rendered her in a state of amnesia. What would you do if you didn’t know who to trust, what to do or worst, who you were?  “The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die” by April Henry will cause you to have a sleepless night because when you  read this book, you won’t want to put it down before you  solve this exceptionally written mystery/adventure/thriller!

 Review by Andrea, CLP-Homewood
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Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

Only one day before sixteen-year-old Olivia Tithe is supposed to return to art school across the country, she kisses her childhood best friend, Lucan Stern, and realizes that she loves him. But Notes from Ghost Town isn’t a fairy tale. Before she can confess her love, Stern’s kiss turns artist Olivia’s world to shades of grey. The color is gone—almost as if her eyes can sense the shock she can’t see coming. Because only a week later, Stern is dead. Olivia’s schizophrenic mother is found cradling his body, his blood on her hands. She confesses to killing him and is sent to jail, awaiting sentencing.

Olivia is shattered by Stern’s death and her mother’s arrest. She’s kicked out of art school after she stops painting and acts out. She fears that her mother’s delusion, The Grey Space, has come to haunt her. And soon, she is haunted. Stern returns and speaks to her. He can’t remember his death, or most of his life, but he tells Olivia that her mother is innocent. Has Olivia inherited her mother’s disease? Is she going crazy, seeing Sterns ghost at every turn? Or is her mother innocent, and Stern’s ghost lingering here to help Olivia uncover the truth?

Olivia’s father and best friend are both concerned for her. They want her to go to therapy and deal with her trauma. Only Austin Morse, the filthy rich stepson of her father’s business partner and a reformed snob, seems to support her. But should she trust someone she used to hate? And will she be able to handle the truth she finds lingering in Ghost Town?

With an unreliable narrator and a ghost who may or may not exist, author Kate Ellison keeps readers guessing until the end. And beyond the mystery of Stern’s death lies a relatable struggle—how do you get over your first love? Olivia must answer this question if she wants to find happiness.

Review by Erin, CLP-Allegheny

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Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

In 1876, Abraham Lincoln, deceased for almost 11 years, would make an attempt to resurface! Not of his own doing, but rather by way of a little known heist. This sounds like the beginning of a crime thriller, that can only be fiction, but it is complete truth. This historical account is chronicled at an exciting and frantic pace, perfect for any reader.

Sheinkin provides a detailed account of Ben Boyd, who was a master civil war era counterfeiter and his eventual arrest. It is the arrest of Ben Boyd, which puts into motion the series of events, “which would fit perfectly into any modern day James Bond or Jason Bourne novel”, leading to the devious plan to steal President Lincoln’s corpse.

An ensuing cat and mouse game between the would-be grave robbers and the newly formed Secret Service ensues. Riveting action is present throughout the investigation. Did the Secret Service succeed, or did Ben Boyd’s band of counterfeiting fellows pull off the most daring body snatching ever conceived?

Review by Tim, CLP-Allegheny

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The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

What can a person do to be considered a war hero? Do they have to save someone else’s life? Do they have to give up their life? Do they do something so extraordinary for someone else that ‘hero’ is the only term fitting enough to describe that person?

To Tessa’s desolate town, Gideon Thrall is that hero. For Tessa’s entire existence, her town has been at war. One thousand six hundred thirty two! No, that is not the year this book takes place.  That is the number of dead, all at the hands of Gideon in his most recent battle. He is an academy trained pilot who drops bullets and heavy artillery on the neighboring enemy towns. He is the war hero that, when the novel opens, is set to receive the highest medal awarded a military personnel. The town has gathered to honor Gideon, however, he bolts from the stage saying he’s a coward. Everyone else is just attributing his behavior to possible post- traumatic stress disorder that many who have battled in a war have a tendency to exhibit, but not Tessa. She lives next to Gideon and grew up with him. She comes to his defense with neighbors and even his own mother, but not because Gideon asked her too. Gideon’s condition deteriorates to the point where he escapes by burrowing a hole in the wall through the apartments. Tessa follows the make shift labyrinth only to see from a distance that Gideon is in trouble and in need of her help.

A stowaway, a meddlesome neighbor and a rogue soldier weave quite an interesting, life changing discovery in The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix. A fast exciting and exhilarating read.

Review by Andrea, CLP-Homewood

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My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Have you read the 2013 Alex Award winner My Friend Dahmer? (P.S. Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18). If you haven’t read this grippingly doleful graphic novel about a bizarre human being who became one of the most notorious criminal names of our time, you should. Well…I can’t really say you should because, well…it’s disturbing. But…can ‘disturbing’ be award winning? I say yes. If you do it the right way, and I think this book accomplishes that in a mega-way.

First off, let’s get the gore out of the way. Who is “Dahmer”? Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer known for particularly gross crimes that (in the inevitably sensational telling of such) included cannibalizing his victims. The title tells you right off who the author is. Derf Backderf was a friend of Jeffrey Dahmer’s in high school. What?! Jeffrey Dahmer was once young and went to a normal high school like everyone else? What?! Jeffrey Dahmer had friends? Not only did he have friends, this graphic novel presents an extremely relatable version of the man many have often thought of as a monster. What makes this book so good is that the author accomplishes creating a sympathetic depiction without asking the reader to feel sorry for the criminal. But…I for one couldn’t help it. What you as a reader have an opportunity to see in this book is the origination of pain and the depths of reaction to that pain. Jeffrey Dahmer inexcusably went off the deep end with his reactions and responses to what he found confusing in this world, but that is also what makes the book so gripping—why did he react this way, and why don’t ‘I’?

On top of the captivating psychology of the book, the illustrations are appropriately stark in black & white, framing the subjects as what David Small (author of Stiches, also very worth reading) refers to as “figures that look like organic robots”. It perfectly depicts the weirdness of Dahmer’s life of binge drinking, surprising attention grabbing, cerebral palsy impersonating, and shy chagrin.

So is it disturbing? Yes. Is the subject approached delicately and insightfully? Yes. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I can tell you that I felt moved and made better for reading it by coming closer to understanding the power of depravity and pain, an understanding I found very worthwhile.

Review by Gigi, CLP-Brookline

 

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The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales

You may recognize the title of this book, as The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson (Hermione), was recently out in theaters.  This is the book that inspired the movie.  The Bling Ring is what the media named a group of seven people, mostly teens, who robbed the homes of “celebrities” such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. Their activities, which occurred October 2008 through August 2009, resulted in the theft of about $3 million in cash, clothes, and other material goods.

This is an important read because not only is this an intriguing book about a teenage burglary ring, it also provides a lot of insight into today’s obsession with fame and celebrity culture. According to Sales, a 2011 survey conducted by the ChildFund Alliance discovered that a majority of children in developing countries aspire toward professions that help others — becoming a doctor or a teacher —while those in developed nations desire jobs that will make them rich and famous — becoming a professional athlete, actor, singer or designer.  Nowadays, you can’t go online without reading the most intimate details about the rich and famous.  The Bling Ring crew was often able to know when to burgle a particular house based on logging onto TMZ or following twitter feeds.

While it was a fun and quick read, The Bling Ring really made me think about the world we live in today.   I enjoy reading US Weekly and about the salacious details of Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest as much as the next person, but it is not something that consumes my life. What is it that made the Bling crew feel that they had the right to break into homes and steal millions in possessions?  Was it the draw of fame and fortune, or that they thought these people had so much that they wouldn’t even notice the items removed from their homes?  I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the DVD to be released.

Review by Maddie, CLP-Squirrel Hill

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Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Sophomore Ashleigh’s boyfriend, Kaleb, is leaving for college at the end of the summer, and Ashleigh is afraid that he will forget all about her once he’s there. During a big summer party, Ashleigh’s friends suggest that she text Kaleb a nude picture of herself to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it and armed with liquid courage, Ashleigh snaps a picture and texts it to Kaleb.

The next morning Ashleigh wakes up with a hangover and second thoughts about what she did, but Kaleb’s enthusiasm convinces her that she made the right choice. Then Kaleb leaves for school and Ashleigh realizes that long-distance relationships are very challenging. They go through a bad break-up when Kaleb comes back home for a visit. Ashleigh’s friends decide to get back at Kaleb for breaking her heart, and in retaliation, Kaleb shares the text with the baseball team. The photo goes viral.

Soon the photo has gotten the attention of the entire school, the school board, the media, and the police, and Ashleigh finds herself in big trouble. Ashleigh is humiliated and betrayed as she finds herself and her family in the center of a major scandal. In a world where almost everyone has a smartphone and access to the internet, a book like “Thousand Words” is so important to read and discuss.

Review by Maddie, CLP-Squirrel Hill

 

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Super Pop! by Daniel Harmon

Super Pop’s subtitle is “Pop culture top ten lists to help you win at trivia, survive in the wild, and make it through the holidays,” which pretty much says it all. This book is for you if you want a cultural education on what is awesome.

Take, for example, the chapter on finding your spirit animal. Before getting into the top ten list to assist with this spiritual pursuit, Harmon advises his readers to “take a breath, take your time, and choose wisely—because spirit animals, like face tattoos, are forever.” Then comes the list, which includes media formats like TV shows, podcasts, books, movies and music. Any part of pop culture that gives a good overview of spirit animals is in there, which pretty much guarantees you’ll find something you’ll be into to get you going on your quest.

One of my favorite chapters is called “Gain Some Perspective: Read a Book and Try On Another Human Being,” which is probably no surprise to you since I’m a librarian. I’m old and I’ve traveled, but I’m not that old and I haven’t traveled that much, so reading a book helps slay boredom and be a better person by showing me what it’s like to be someone else in another place and maybe even another time. Reading is seriously awesome like that.

Read Super Pop! if you’re looking for a book you can flip back and forth through where you can learn something cool on every page. Like how to be more responsible by watching the movie Alien (p. 137).

Review by Annica, CLP-West End

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The Elite by Kiera Cass

Thirty-five hopeful girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. Now only six remain with the hope of winning the heart of Prince Maxon and the crown. America Singer, once a reluctant participant, is one of the few left in the competition. Things have gotten increasingly complicated as she now is torn between her surprising feelings for Prince Maxon and those for her first love, Aspen, who has suddenly appeared at the palace as a member of the King’s Guard.

The longer America stays at the palace the more she realizes that beneath the opulence and luxury, things are not as perfect as they may seem. Prince Maxon introduces America to a secret room of banned books, and she soon understands that the idyllic stories she heard about the creation of Illea may have been nothing more than propaganda. This discovery becomes even more baffling as the palace is frequently under siege by the “rebels,” one of whom America sees running away with a sack full of banned books.

The Elite, the second book in the trilogy by Cass, is just as exciting and action-packed as the first. I also appreciated that the author took the time in this book to reveal more about Prince Maxon’s past and the history of the nation of Illea. I’m not sure if I can wait until 2014 for the conclusion!

Review by Maddie, CLP-Squirrel Hill

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Game by Barry Lyga

In his sequel to I Hunt Killers, Barry Lyga delves deeper into the psyche of Jasper Dent, the seventeen-year-old son of the world’s most famous serial killer, Billy Dent.

It hasn’t been long since Jasper, his best friend Howie, and his girlfriend Connie hunted the Impressionist, a serial killer in their small hometown of Lobo’s Nod. Though his father is still on the loose, escaped from prison, Jasper’s just getting back to “normal” when—surprise!—another killer’s crimes interrupt his life. This time, there’s a New York City detective on Jasper’s doorstep asking him to use his lessons learned from Billy to track the Hat-Dog Killer, a murderer whose erratic crimes seem to have no logical pattern or meaning.

Jasper agrees to go to New York to help, and leaves his senile grandmother in the care of Howie and his formerly-estranged Aunt Samantha, Billy’s older sister. Meanwhile, Connie refuses to sit on the sidelines. Not only does she trick her parents into letting her go to New York too, but she begins communicating with a mysterious caller who leads her on a race to uncover clues to Jasper’s childhood with Billy.

In this very creepy and gory look into the murders of the Hat-Dog Killer, the reader is “treated” to the perspectives of all of the players, including Billy and Hat-Dog as they commit their crimes. Not for the faint of heart, you may find that this realistic portrayal will give you goosebumps and make you check under the bed at night.

Review by Erin, CLP-Allegheny

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