Flashback August 2011

And now, a look back at what I reviewed in August 2011:

The West Memphis Three: A look at the case includes a brief review of The Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt: “filled in a lot about the case and gave much more background and details. It addresses questions such as why Echols was a suspect from the beginning, the relationships between the teenagers, the police investigation, the legal maneuverings, and the community reaction.”

Bumped by Megan McCafferty. Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2011. From my review: “Mel’s world is one where teen pregnancies are accepted and encouraged, with the “delivery” going off to live with adoptive parents. A pregnancy is either “amateur,” unplanned, with post-delivery auctions, or “pro,” carefully arranged pregnancies with contracts that can include college tuition and cars. Because infertility occurs in both sexes, boys, too, can go pro. A “pro” is someone with an appealing nature and nurture package: good looks, the right DNA, good in school, good in sports. Too short, too tall, too fat, not the right shade of color? No chance to go pro, but some couple may take the baby at a post-delivery auction. Jondoe is an example of what it means to be a male pro: he is flown around the world for top pregnancy arrangements and has endorsement deals. His face is everywhere.  While this is Mel’s and Harmony’s story, McCafferty does give hints to a broader world where there are different reactions to pregnancies: families arranging for younger teens to act as surrogates for family members, religions that reacted differently than Goodside, and public schools that encourage girls to keep their “deliveries”.”

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. Candlewick. 2011. From my review: “Blink accidentally witnesses a crime — actually, a non-crime. Jack Niven, an important businessman, has been kidnapped, but Blink saw Niven with the so-called kidnappers and knows he not only went willingly; Niven was in charge, the boss. Homeless and living on the streets, Blink helps himself to the man’s smartphone and wallet and now has linked himself to the crime. Caution has run away from her drug-dealing boyfriend, taking his stash of money and pot. Somehow, he keeps tracking her down. Blink and Caution are both on the run. Their paths cross, their stories merge, and two broken teens begin to put together the pieces of their lives.”

Stay With Me by Paul Griffin. Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin. 2011. From my review: “Stay With Me broke my heart. Their story is told by both Cece and Mack, and the reader shares their feelings and thoughts and point of view. At first, it is tender, with the first fumbling of love. Cece thinks Mack doesn’t like her, Mack thinks Cece is too good for him. Mack’s home life is pretty horrendous, he’s already been arrested a time or two, but Tony sees more to him than “thug” and so, too, does Cece. Mack has a gift for training dogs, pit bulls especially, and his relationships with the dogs is beautiful. It’s a gift, the way he can connect with and train the most broken dog, but it is also a gift in that the dog gives Mack what he doesn’t get from people: love. Or, at least, what Mack thinks he doesn’t get because the reader sees that while his parents have let him down, others — Tony, Cece, and Vic, the owner of the restaurant where they all work — do love him. Mack just has a hard time seeing it and accepting it.”

It’s The First Day of School . . . Forever! by R. L. Stine. Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. 2011. From my review: “Every single thing a kid worries about happening on the first day of school happens to Artie, from locker mishaps to lunch missteps. There are also some things kids don’t worry about. Like the possibility that their school is built on a graveyard. Or a principal that takes the side of the popular kids and makes threats that no adult should make to kids. Poor Artie. He just wants to make a good impression, because not only is it the first day of school, it’s the first day at a new school. As the days repeat, he keeps trying to do it better: don’t stand near the puddle, don’t throw the ball at the back of the cool kid’s head. Avoiding one thing just brings about something worse. He hardly has any time to figure out what is going on.”

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce. Little, Brown. 2011. From my review: “Gretchen and her older brother, Ansel, are on the road, driving through South Carolina, when their car breaks down. Bad luck turns to good luck when they meet Sophia Kelly, owner of Kellys’ Chocolatier. Sophia needs some help around her house and store; she cannot pay much, but she can offer a roof over their heads. She also offers friendship. Gretchen cannot believe their luck. The Kassel siblings have only known hard times and trouble: twelve years ago, Gretchen’s twin sister disappeared. Their mother died. Their father remarried, and then he died. Once Gretchen turned eighteen, their stepmother threw them out. After all that loss, the self-imposed isolation of grief, the warmth and welcome that Sophia offers is almost too good to be true. It may be too good to be true. There are rumors about Sophia, whispers, linking her to teenage girls who have gone missing. Not missing, say some — just high school graduates eager to leave their small town. It’s not Sophia’s fault. Gretchen believes in Sophia, because Gretchen knows what it is to be whispered about. Gretchen is convinced that the reason her sister went missing years ago is a witch took her. As Gretchen learns more about Sophia and the missing girls, she comes to a horrifying realization. Witches aren’t real . . . but werewolves are.”

Rotters by Daniel Kraus. Delacorte, an imprint of Random House. 2011. From my review: “Rotters is a haunting book. It is horror, that unique type of horror book that has nothing to do with either the supernatural or serial killers. How can digging up the dead, disturbing corpses, stealing jewelry and gold teeth be anything other than horrifying? And yet . . . And  yet when Joey discovers the truth about his father, he stays. He not only stays, he semi-forces himself onto his father as an apprentice in graverobbing. Soon Joey is learning about the ancient craft of robbing graves, with ties to both the “Resurrectionists” who stole bodies to sell to medical schools and the people who plundered the tombs of ancient Egyptians.”

Forever by Maggie StiefvaterScholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic. 2011. From my review: “The romance between Grace and Sam is not just satisfying and mature and jealousy inducing; it is also almost drama free. Or, rather, the drama comes not from Grace and Sam. These two know their own hearts, know how to communicate, know how to be themselves with each other. The drama and conflicts come from the outside world: the shifting into wolves, the danger to the wolves, Grace’s parents. It’s refreshing to have two teens who respect each other and respect themselves.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I include this review of a TV show because it’s where Shailene Woodley, the current go-to girl for any YA book turned into a movie, got her break. From my review: Secret Life has mastered the art form of telling, not showing. It’s like a teen version of My Dinner with Andre, in that almost all the action is told via conversation. Half of this is Amy and Ricky talking about something that happened off screen, and Madison overhearing, then Madison telling Grace, then Grace and Ben talking about it, and by this time you almost forget that half the time you didn’t see the original thing being talked about. I find this both infuriating yet oddly realistic, because people do have these gossipy conversations that take on a life of their own.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan. Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House. 2011. From my review: “I adored the character of Annah: she has been beat up by the world, but she is not broken. She has built up emotional walls to protect herself, yet learns to let sister, friend, lover in. . . .  Let me take a second to say, Ryan pulled me so into Annah’s interior and emotional life that I became more angry at Elias than Annah was! Luckily for Annah (and this reader), there was Catcher. I loved the love triangle here because the love between Annah and Elias was not about lust, not about boyfriend/girlfriend love. And Catcher, well, Catcher has his own secrets that keeps him at arm’s length from Annah and of course Annah believes “oh, it’s because of my barbed wire scars” and up the angst when Annah finds out the connection between Catcher and Gabry. Just in case you’re thinking this is just an emotional merry go round, let me remind you: Living Dead. Zombies. Civilization survived the initial zombie apocalypse, yes, but the structure that developed has collapsed just as an endless, unstoppable Horde of living dead attack the Dead City. What happens is not pretty, and Annah (along with Elias, Gabry and Catcher) find themselves in the middle of it. The Dead and Hollow Places is full of running from zombies, encounters with zombies, and the nastiness that humans exhibit when faced with the end of the world as they know it.


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