Reviews on our favorite and newest teen and tween books!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Luck for the Luckless

The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Published: April 2011 (Candlewick Press)

The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker is a story about a twelve-year-old girl, Tugs Button. Tugs is from a long line of luckless, somewhat unhappy and completely undistinguished family, who consider the eating of pie to be a sign that something is wrong. Needless to say, nobody expects much from the Button family. One day Tugs meets a young charismatic gentleman, Harvey Moore, who plans to start a newspaper to bring progress to the small town. As the town of Goodhue is swept up in the anticipation of the newspaper’s promised publication, Tugs finds a mystery and sets out to solve it. Armed with her Brownie camera that she won in a raffle and backed by several unlikely characters, Tugs will start a journey that proves that luck may just be attainable for those who look for it.

I loved this book. Not only did the cover art win me over, but the story did too. It was adorable, and I must admit that I am a sucker for cutesy stories. Tugs was such a charming and spunky character, I couldn’t help but laugh and get swept up into the plot. Although the plot was straightforward, I felt that it delivered a great young heroine, an upbeat tale, and a wonderful message: You are what you make of yourself. Despite the fact that this book is targeted to a younger audience, I feel that it can be appreciated by people outside of the intended audience, as long as the reader is not looking for anything overly profound or complex. Great characters populated the book. Most were flat, but they were likeable, especially Tugs, Granddaddy Ike, and Aggie. Although development for secondary characters was lacking, Tugs definitely was a figure that was responsive to the environment and grew throughout the book. The story does use terms and phrases that are typical for the time setting, so be ready for that when reading the book, though it didn’t detract from the story at all. In fact, I think it enhanced the authentic, rustic feel of the story line. On a more nitpicky note, some of the wording in the beginning was a bit awkward, but for the most part, that was my only real complaint. As long as the reader goes in with the expectation that this story is a quick, easy, and fun read, it will be enjoyed. I acknowledge that this book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I liked it but others may not. I would recommend The Luck of the Buttons to someone who is searching for a fun-loving, at times silly, but completely charming tale. This book was given as an ARC from Candlewick Press.

---Posted by Lauren G.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Teen Speak

Motorcycles, Sushi, & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue

Genre: YA Fiction
Published: April 2010 (Zondervan)

Jessie Hatcher is a fifteen-year-old girl with ADHD who lives with her bipolar mother. One day, out of the blue, Jessie’s father, who was said to be dead, suddenly calls her and comes to visit. This visit causes Jessie's mother to try to commit suicide by overdosing on pain medication. Since her mother is getting treatment at the hospital, Jessie has to stay with her dad. On the way there, she finds a book with the letters ‘RL’ on the cover. The book has bible stories in it that makes Jessie look at her life differently, as well as get through some hard times.

I really liked Motorcycles, Sushi, & One Strange Book, especially because the scriptures are written in the 'street language' of today. The cover makes it seem like the book is your typical fluffy chic-lit, but in reality it talks about some very serious and deep subjects. This book covers topics such as ADHD, mental illness, depression and alcoholism, but does it in a tasteful and thought provoking way. Thanks to Zondervan for donating this book!

---Posted by Natalie

The Summer I Lost It by Natalie Kath

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Published: August 2011 (Stone Arch Books)

Being fourteen years old is hard enough for Kat without having to worry about being overweight. Tired of feeling badly about herself, Kat decides that this summer she is going to do something about it. When her initial plan of attending “fat camp” falls through because her parents cannot afford to send her there, Kat doesn’t let that stop her. Instead, she joins the gym and changes her eating habits. Though losing weight isn’t easy, Kat never gives up and learns some important life lessons along the way.

The Summer I Lost It is a great motivational book for pre-teen girls who may be struggling with their weight. I received this book from NetGalley as an ARC. It is a really quick read, but contains a strong message. For Kat, it’s not just about losing weight however she can so she can look like everyone else; it’s about liking who she is as a person, improving her self-esteem, and losing weight the healthy way. I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with their weight. The Summer I Lost It is not only entertaining, but also a guide on how to lose weight the healthy way. There are even recipes at the end of the book to get you going!

---Posted by Ashley

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Princess and the Cokyri

Legacy (Legacy, #1) by Cayla Kluver

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YA Fantasy
Published: June 2011

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Hytanica. The people of Hytanica were of a peaceful nature, but that peace was disrupted when the evil sorcerers of Cokyri waged war with them. Forty-nine newborn boys were kidnapped from Hytanica, and forty-eight lifeless children were returned. Just as suddenly as war began with Cokyri, so did it end.

Sixteen years later, Hytanica is prospering. Enter Princess Alera, heir to the throne of Hytanica. Alera is nearing her seventeenth birthday and must choose a husband to take over the throne when her father steps down. Though it is technically her choice who she marries, the king has made it known that he wishes Alera to marry Steldor, a handsome though pompous man who sets Alera on edge. This is bad enough without the threat of another war with the Cokyri, and when Alera meets Narian, a mysterious stranger, and falls in love with him, trouble ensues.  

I received Legacy as and ARC from NetGalley. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to like this book, and in the end, I really didn’t. I really don’t like giving bad reviews, but I just couldn’t get into this one even though the cover was so pretty and the prologue captured my interest. Unfortunately, the book dragged on from there. Taking into account the author’s age when she wrote Legacy (she was just 14), I would say this book was a good first start. Ignoring Kluver’s age, I would say it needed a lot of work. The protagonist, Princess Alera, is immature, and though she was a feisty heroine, she often acted out irrationally causing herself and others to land in some very hot water. In truth, the only character I really enjoyed was London, her bodyguard, who wasn’t even in the whole book. I also found the language to be unbelievable. It was very flowery, stilted and overly descriptive. Kluver is a strong and imaginative writer, and I think that as she matures so will her writing.

--Posted by Ashley

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teen Speak

We’ll Always Have Summer: A Summer Novel by Jenny Han
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: April 2011

"Belly has only ever been in love with two boys, both with the last name Fisher." This from the front cover pretty much sums up what this book is about. Isobel “Belly” Conklin is just finishing up her freshman year in college and is getting ready to spend the summer working at home and hanging out with Jeremiah, her boyfriend of two years. Things seem to be going perfectly for the couple, even though Belly had previously been in a relationship with Conrad, Jeremiah’s brother, and considers him her first love.

Belly’s faith is shaken in her relationship with Jeremiah when she discovers he cheated on her while on spring break. With Jeremiah’s desperate solution being to get married, Belly is forced to decide once in for all if Jeremiah is the right Fisher for her, or if her first love should be her last.

When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was part of a series (The Summer I Turned Pretty & It’s Not Summer Without You). My bad. Even so, it worked well as a stand-alone novel, though I’m definitely going to make a point of going back and reading the others. I love how real all of the characters are. Belly matures and becomes more self-aware as the book progresses. Jenny Han did an excellent job making the characters and story believable. There were numerous times you could really sense what the characters were feeling and going through, especially the desperation of keeping a relationship going even when you know the odds are against you. If you like Sarah Dessen’s books, I would recommend this series for you. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for donating this book to us!

---Posted by Lynn