Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy-Go-Quirky Tale of Gay Adolescence Will Appeal to Any Age

Source: Author Website
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2003, 192pp.)

Narrated by Paul, a gay teen, this happy-go-quirky tale chronicles one academic year at a very non-conventional high school, where the quarterback/homecoming queen is a transvestite named Infinite Darlene, the cheerleaders ride Harleys, and being straight-out gay is perfectly okay. But even in this oasis of tolerance, Paul still has ordinary teenage problems. First, he starts dating Noah, a quiet, artistic newcomer at school, but finds that he may still have feelings for his ex, Kyle. Then, his best female friend, Joni, starts dating not-so-nice-guy Chuck, and begins drifting away from their close-knit circle of friends. What's a boy to do? A treasured classic in the LGBT community, Boy Meets Boy is a funny, touching story about acceptance of self and the true love our friends and family give us, despite the stupid mistakes we make. Recommended for all walks of life, Ages 13-Up.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Smart Sci-Fi Tale with a Feministic Twist

Source: Author Website
Salvage (Salvage #1) by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow Books, 2014, 528pp.)

On the deep space merchant ship Parastrata, polygamy is the norm, women are second class citizens, and traditional gender roles are strictly enforced. When Ava, an unmarried teen, choses to give her virginity to the boy she loves rather than waiting for a husband of her family’s choosing, she is banished from the only home she’s ever known. Ava knows she cannot survive on her own, so she decides to travel Earth-side to find her mother’s long-lost half-sister. Along the way, she gains a new sense of self-awareness, and learns some hard lessons that challenge the conservative values she was raised with. A smart sci-fi tale with a feministic twist, Salvage is recommended for Ages 16-18, particularly for fans of Wither and other girl power-themed stories.

Monday, June 15, 2015

One Teen's Struggle to Recover is Well-Documented in This Controversial Novel

Source: Author Website
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007, 416pp.)

At 12, Josh Mendel was never really the kind of kid you’d expect to get into major trouble—but then he meets his history teacher, Eve, and that’s when everything changes. Like many boys his age, he has a crush on Eve, and is surprised to find out one day that Eve really likes him, too. In the months that follow, Eve teaches him how to please her sexually, and makes him promise not to tell anyone about their “special relationship.” Confused by the adult feelings aroused by his affair with Eve, Josh blows their cover when he accidentally almost rapes his childhood friend, Rachael, after she engages him in an innocent make-out session.

Five years later, Eve is in prison, and Josh is still reeling in the aftermath. He and Rachael are no longer friends—in fact, he barely has but one friend, Zeke, still left from childhood. He’s angry all the time, gets into trouble constantly, and finds it difficult to forgive himself for what almost happened to Rachael. Will he always be known as “that kid that banged the history teacher?” More importantly, was it really love that he and Eve had? Or was he actually molested as his parents and the police claim?

Parents, never fear. Boy Toy isn’t quite the illicit sex-fest you may fear it to be (though it does have a few sex-scene flashbacks). The purpose of the novel is to examine one teen’s struggle to recover from a complex, traumatizing situation, and in my opinion, it does that perfectly. With well-developed characters and quick pacing, I’d recommend this novel for mature teens, ages 16-18.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Great Read; Just Ignore the Flawed Premise

Source: Publisher Website
Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011, 358pp.)
In the world of Wither, men only live to age 25, while women live to age 20. After they reach those respective ages, each will fall prey to a malicious virus, and because of this, the world is becoming depopulated very quickly. In a frenzy to keep the human race from dying out, polygamy becomes the norm, and incidents of human trafficking go through the roof. “Gatherers” kidnap young girls to sell to the highest bidder. As the story opens, three young women are auctioned off to the wealthy Ashby household. Jenna, age 18, sullenly accepts her fate. Cecily, age 13, has always wanted to be a society wife, and rejoices. But Rhine, age 16, who has been separated from her beloved twin brother, vows to fight and escape by whatever means necessary...even if it means pretending to enjoy her captivity, until someone lets their guard down.

Some reviewers have questioned the validity and science behind the premise: how would a virus automatically kill off EVERYONE at the precise ages of 25 and 20? Why would North America alone survive the desolation of the Earth, while all other continents have been literally reduced to rubble? To which I would reply that yes, they’re correct. It is a flawed premise; the whole narrative is filled with scientific inaccuracies and other implausible details. Would I still recommend this book? Yes! But perhaps I should explain why, since I have criticized quite a few books in the past for their scientific implausibilities. The fact is, I was too swept up in the human aspects of the story to think about the science. The characters are all well-developed, and the villain is believably creepy. So, if that sort of thing bothers you, just skip it. If not, then enjoy the ride! Recommended for Ages 16-Up.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Gripping, Issue-Driven Debut

Source: Author Website
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer + Bray, 2015, 352pp.)

At 18, Kristin Lattimer discovers something shocking: although she has feminine features, she has male chromosomes and a hidden pair of gonads. In other words, she's intersex. When she makes the mistake of trusting her friends with this secret, word spreads quickly throughout the school. Friends turn into tormentors, and her boyfriend, Sam, publicly humiliates her for "lying" to him about her true gender. Suddenly adrift in a hostile environment, Kristin struggles to come to terms with her new identity, and with the loss of the people she once thought were her friends. While Gregorio's characters aren't exactly memorable, the heroine's struggle certainly is. This gripping, issue-driven debut successfully makes Kristin's dilemma relatable to all readers, and takes pains to correct common misconceptions about this little-talked-about condition. Recommended for Ages 16-18 for sexual content.