Friday, May 26, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give begins like an Alessia Cara song.

“I shouldn’t have come to this party.” 

This is what sixteen year old Starr Carter thinks before shots ring out at a Garden Heights party. By the end of the night, Starr’s life is changed forever, when a police officer kills her childhood friend, Khalil. 

Khalil’s death quickly becomes headline news. Starr must decide if she is willing to speak her truth, even as the media makes her friend out to be nothing more than a drug dealer and gang banger. Starr finds herself trapped between two worlds—her white suburban high school where she has no greater fear than being labeled 'ghetto' and, Garden Heights, where residents desperately seek justice for Khalil’s murder.

The best thing about this novel is that author Angie Thomas doesn’t take it easy on anybody. Even though she boldly tackles the issue of police brutality in African American neighborhoods, she also asks tough questions about race of everyone involved—from the police officers to Garden Height’s residents and Starr’s very own family. This book makes it clear that there aren’t any easy answers. Everybody has some waking up to do.

While this book is filled with many intense and suspenseful moments, it also has a lighter side as Starr experiences the excitement of first love and spends 'dawww'-worthy quality time with her humorous and quick-witted family. Not to mention Starr also fangirls hard over the Jonas Brothers, Drake, and Harry Potter. Oh, and if you are a lover of 90's hip-hop and R&B, please don't let this read pass you by. The pop culture references will fill you with bubbly nostalgia.

Other books you can check out are: Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson and The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Riviera

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

“If the world were really right, humans would live life backward and do the first part last. They'd be all knowing in the beginning and innocent in the end...”-The First Part Last

So, The First Part Last will make you cry. You know that ugly cry you do with the snot and the wrinkled, prune-like face? Yeah, you’re going to do that one. But eventually you will smile, because the love between this male protagonist and his infant child is so powerful and heartwarming.

On his sixteenth birthday, Bobby finds out his girlfriend, Nia, is pregnant. At a time when he wants to be hanging out with his friends and playing basketball, he is suddenly trying to figure out how to be a father. Bobby isn’t your average teen dad, though. He knows he’s made a mistake, but he is willing to step up to the plate. It’s just going to be tougher than he thinks.

This book is the second in Angela Johnson's Heaven series. It is amazing for several reasons. First, it gives you a peek into the mind of a teenage dad, which is a perspective that is often forgotten or ignored. Second, that very exploration of the male psyche explodes many of the stereotypes that teen fathers, particularly African-American males, face. Lastly, the author, Angela Johnson, beautifully renders the emotionally poignant moments between the child and his young father in poetic language. So, grab your tissues, and give this book a try.

Other books you can check out are:  Heaven by Angela Johnson  and Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this.”

That quote sums up Every Exquisite Thing pretty well. If life has ever felt like too much. If you have ever wanted to run away. If you have ever needed to free yourself, but didn’t know how…you will find yourself in this book.

Nanette O’Hare’s life is a sham. She's doing everything everybody else wants her to do. She can’t quite explain why nothing feels right and is not even sure what she should do or even if she has the right to complain. After all, she is living the privileged teenage suburban dream. 

However, when she reads the cult fiction book, The Bubblegum Reaper (which is suspiciously similar to Catcher in the Rye), her entire life changes. Suddenly, she is no longer willing to indulge in the herd-like mentality of her high school frenemies. With the help of The Bubblegum Reaper’s mysterious author and a newfound love, Alex, Nanette, begins a journey of tumultuous self-discovery. She quickly learns that being yourself always comes with a price--and, sometimes, it feels too high.

Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook, does an excellent job of weaving together this story of angst, rebirth, disillusion, and hope. If you are a lover of literature and poetry, you have come to the right place. You will enjoy references to many widely known literary works, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Antigone, as well as discover a few new ones.

Other books you may want to check out: It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire: The World of Dan and Phil

Imagine if you took every documented portion of your life-photos, text messages, pages from your high school diary, notes you wrote to your friends in middle school, weird collages of your favorite stuff, old quizzes you tore out from teen magazines—and put them all into a book.  Weird, right? Well, that’s exactly what The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire: The World of Dan and Phil (by Dan Howell and Phil Lester) does.

This nonfiction book is 50% mad science and 100% awesomeness. Don't worry about the math.

Each page provides an exclusive peek into the lives of British YouTube stars Dan (danisnotonfire) and Phil (AmazingPhil). Together, the duo have attracted millions of subscribers worldwide with their unorthodox humor and quirky antics. In an average video, they can be seen discussing paranormal events, drawing cat whiskers on their faces, and reviewing video games. They are amongst the growing number of YouTubers who are translating their internet fame into stacks of cash. This co-authored book is a #1 New York Times Best Seller on the Young Adult Hardcover Books List.

The Amazing Book takes you on a colorful, irreverent journey through their hilariously awkward lives and shares their haphazard ascent to YouTube stardom. It will probably be most loved by fans who will enjoy delving into the lives of their favorite YouTube stars and getting to read the authors’ fan fiction, interviews, funny tutorials (such as “How to Draw the Perfect Cat Whiskers”) and random inclusions such “Phil’s Hamster Breeding Page.” The book also has a serious side as it tackles issues such as cyberbullying. However, even those who have never heard of Dan and Phil will enjoy the book’s quirky humor.
Other books you may enjoy are: Selp-Helf by Miranda Sings and Binge by Tyler Oakley.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Highly Illogical Behavior

Highly Illogical Behavior is the kind of young adult novel that’s supposed to be a tearjerker, but, in fact, just ends up making you laugh and fall in love with its quirky characters.

The book begins with Solomon, a teen suffering from agoraphobia, who hasn’t left the house in three years. But, as far as he is concerned, life is great. His days are filled with Netflix, gaming, and dinners with the family. That’s the way he likes it and he doesn’t understand why everyone has a problem with that.

Lisa is an overachieving high school student who understands EXACTLY what the big problem is (or so she thinks) and is bent on helping Solomon overcome his fear of the outside world. However, her intentions aren’t entirely pure. Never mind she has problems of her own...

Clark is Lisa’s boyfriend. He is the quintessential hot guy and ruler of the school type. He dotes on her and seems to only have eyes for her, but why do things seem so off lately?

Highly Illogical Behavior is one of those YA books you would really like to put in a box, because it has all the usual trappings of a coming of age novel: the end of high school love story, rocky friendships, the sexual self-awakening, and the parents who just don’t understand. However, in reality, it is a frank exploration of teen mental health issues. An endearing homage to all things nerdy (demonstrating how a Star Trek episode can keep you keeping on in the darkest of times). And, lastly, a reminder that love is beautiful, in and of itself, no matter how it ends—or begins. Other books you might want to checkout are: Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger and True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall

Sometimes life can throw some really horrible things at you with no warning whatsoever.  Dan Marshall knows this better than most.  Although his mother had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before, she was successfully beating it and life had resumed to somewhat normal.  Dan, a recent college graduate, was living the dream in Los Angeles with a great job and a beautiful girlfriend.  His twenties were shaping up to be the best years of his life.

Then, out of nowhere, his extremely fit and health conscious father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  And by the way, his mother’s cancer has taken a turn for the worse.  At first, Dan did what most self-absorbed young adults would do:  he blissfully pretended that everything would turn out ok. However, as his mother’s phone calls became more urgent, and his guilt grew exponentially, he knew that he had to leave his California paradise and return home to Utah to help take care of his ailing parents.

What follows is a very frank and sometimes jarring account of how Dan and his siblings learn to take care of their dying father as his disease quickly progresses. Their mother is almost no help, as she is going through her own chemotherapy treatments, and is also not taking her husband’s diagnosis very well.  Dan does not try to hide the fact that sometimes they don’t do a very good job as caretakers, and he honestly admits his disgust about the situation being forced upon him at such a young age.

In the preface of Home is Burning, Dan apologizes upfront that his family has a crude sense of humor and uses profanity…a lot.  He explains that this was their “way of dealing with the world and reducing some grief and depression.”  As a result, some may find the dark humor and generous use of expletives off-putting.  Despite this (or because of it), it is obvious to see just how much this family loves each other and deals with tragedy on their own terms.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pumpkin: The Raccoon Who Thought She Was a Dog by Laura Young

Animal lovers may agree with me that the book Pumpkin: The Raccoon Who Thought She Was a Dog, is perhaps one of the cutest ever.  Raccoons, with their masked little faces and hand-like paws, are fascinating creatures that are entertaining to watch.  However, they are not usually considered as ideal candidates for keeping as pets.  This book introduces us to a special raccoon named Pumpkin, who is the exception to the norm.

One night after a windy storm, Will and Laura Young found an injured baby raccoon that had been blown out of its nest and abandoned by its mother.  After consulting with local veterinarians and the Humane Society, it was evident that the only chance of survival this little animal had was to be hand-fed around the clock and nursed back to health by the couple.  As a result, Pumpkin became so tame and attached to her caretakers that she was unable to return to the wild.  Much to everyone’s surprise, Pumpkin also became incredibly attached to the couple’s two dogs, Toffee and Oreo.  The three animals are now constantly together; napping, cuddling, and playing.

Rather than telling a story, the book contains mostly pictures of the best-pal trio of Pumpkin, Toffee and Oreo.  Each photograph is more adorable than the last, and has a funny caption to go along with it. 

If you can’t get enough Pumpkin cuteness from reading this book, you can also check out her Instagram page at Pumpkin the Raccoon.