Flashback July 2009

And now, a flashback to what I was reading in July 2009.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd HerdEdited by Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci. From my review: “In this collection of short stories, we meet all sorts of people who are interested in something to the point of obsession. Interested to the point where it seems to control their lives. Sometimes it’s something that people readily call “geek” — dressing up as a Klingon. Other times it’s dinosaurs. Whatever it is, you know what’s nice? In this book, at least, the geeks are the norm. That isn’t always the reality; though, thanks to the Internet bringing people with shared interests together, geeks are no longer isolated. Being a geek can be, well, geektastic. (Groan. Sorry.) Not everyone reading this will be a geek; not everyone takes that extra step from enjoying Star Wars to dressing like a Jedi. But anyone reading this will identify with falling in love; searching for a voice; learning about themselves and their place in the world. And, sometimes, will feel reassured in learning they are not alone in being passionate about something.”

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. From my review:”Nick Ryves, 16, and his brother, Alan, 19, know only one thing: they have to keep one step ahead of the magicians. Why? Magicians get their power from demons; and the price they pay the demons? Human lives. Years ago, their mother, Olivia, had been a magician. She ran away and was saved by their father. Thing is, she took something from the magicians — something valuable — and they want it back. All the Ryves’ brothers know is how to say one step ahead of the magicians. Sometimes it’s close; 8 years ago, their father died when the family was almost trapped. . . . The Ryves family may run – but they also know how to fight back. When Nick kills a magician, he knows he is killing a human; but he doesn’t care. Alan, older, with a bad leg, glasses, appears to be the bookworm – but that would be underestimating him. Don’t underestimate Alan. Their father left Alan, 11, as the man of the house. Alan has taken that charge very seriously. And by the end — let me repeat. Don’t underestimate Alan.”

The Pigman by Paul Zindel. From my review: “High school sophomores John and Lorraine are best friends and opposites. John is an attention-seeking smart aleck who acts like he doesn’t care about anything; Lorraine is quiet, with few friends, always analyzing but also always wanting to make sure she keeps John’s respect and friendship by being up for anything and always willing to laugh at the world. Crank-calling “the pigman,” Mr. Pignati is one of those jokes pushed to far. Yet it develops into an unlikely friendship, until John and Lorraine take things one step too far.”

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick. From my review: “I feel like I should put a disclosure in this review — Lizzie Skurnick is my best friend. The problem with such a disclosure is, of course, that Skurnick and I have never met. (I hope Skurnick isn’t now on the phone to her lawyers, reporting me as a potential delusional stalker). But having read Skurnick’s essays on teen books, Shelf Discovery, I am convinced that somehow we are friends. How else to explain how she wrote about my favorite books? She has snuck into my house and looked at my bookshelves; she has remembered the titles I have forgotten; she has eavesdropped on my fifth, seventh, ninth grade self as I sat and talked books with my friends. . . . They are the books that we, the readers in the 70s and 80s and 90s, chose to read. Wanted to read. Found, ourselves, on library shelves, in classrooms, passed on from a friend, picked up at a garage sale, found in a bookcase at home. And while there is a so-called classic or two among these pages (because even classics can be loved), most are not. They are classics in our hearts; because we remember and love them; not because of committees and teachers and assigned summer reading and classroom book discussions.”

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises. From my review: “Stella Madison is the 17 year old daughter of foodies; and not just any foodies. Her father is a world famous French chef; her mother owns and runs the “Open Kitchen” restaurant. Stella’s idea of fab food? Burger King. Kraft Mac’n’cheese. Yet somehow, she’s gotten herself a gig at the local paper, reviewing restaurants. Luckily, Jeremy, the new (and cute!) intern at her mom’s restaurant is there to help her out. (Did I mention cute? And older? And flirtatious?) But what about world’s best boyfriend, Max? Oh, yeah. Maybe life isn’t so sweet. Romance, self-discovery, humor, good food, what’s not to love?”

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine. From my review: “Fumiko Ishioka, curator of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Center, receives a child’s suitcase from Auschwitz to display at the center. A name: Hana Brady. A birthdate: May 16, 1931. Who was Hana? What happened to her? The horror of the Holocaust is told in the dual stories of Hana and Fumiko’s efforts to find out who she was.”

Crash Into Me by Albert Borris. Simon & Schuster. From my review: “Owen’s on a road trip with Frank, Audrey and Jin-Ae. It’s not your typical group of friends. Their shared interest: suicide. They four teens are on a road trip to visit the graves of famous suicides. The trip will end in a suicide pact. . . . As the road trip moves from Boston (Anne Sexton) to Idaho (Ernest Hemingway), these four bond and find out more about each other. Jin-Ae is a lesbian who cannot tell her family; Frank loves sports but isn’t good enough to compete so drinks; Audrey’s father is in jail; and Owen’s brother is dead and his father left the family. . . . This is more than just a morbid road trip. For each teen, it’s the first time away from the family and friends that have failed them. Perhaps they can learn that they can live their own life. Early on, Owen thinks “I don’t know if I want to die. I just want to be happy. I want to feel better.”


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