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White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean July 15, 2009

Posted by Lisa in Teen Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews.
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white darkness








White Darkness

Geraldine McCaugherean

HarperTempest, 2005

ISBN:  978060890353

Age: 13-16

4Q* 2P*M*J

White Darkness is about a 14 year old girl, named Symone Wates.  Symone is a very unusual girl who is in love with Captain Oates-a dead guy from a long ago time.  Symone is infatuated with the South Pole and Captain Oates expedition to the pole.  Symone actually ends up going on her own expedition to the South Pole with her Uncle Victor.  Victor is crazy and Symone believes she will suffer the same end as her Captain did on his own journey. 

White Darkness is very much a suspenseful thriller that keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seats.  Symone Wates tells this story in her own words as she tries to figure if her Uncle Victor can be trusted or not.  Victor’s obsession with the South Pole places Symone in grave danger.   Symone’s expedition becomes a struggle for survival and Symone must learn t trust her instincts. 

This story didn’t really capture my interested as I was expecting from looking over the cover of the girl with the deep looking eyes.  I struggled to finish this story.  It was just hard for me to believe that a 14 year old girl could ever be so slow at catching onto Victor’s craziness and not so nice disposition.  Also, I had a hard time believing that a 14 year old girl could even go on an expedition to the South Pole.  This story was just way too far out there to keep my attention for long.  The style of writing was just like most young adult books with the main character telling the story and traditional dialogue between the characters as the story unfolds.


True Believers by Virginia Euwer Wolff July 15, 2009

Posted by Lisa in Teen Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews.
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true believer








True Believer

Virginia Euwer Wolff

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001

ISBN: 0689828276

Age: 15-18


True Believer is about a young girl seeing life as simple and uncomplicated then becoming more complicated as she grows up.  La Vaughn has a plan to go to college when she graduates.  As a child all of the obstacles that could prevent her from fulfilling her plan didn’t really seem like that big of a deal.  Later as 15 year old teenager, Le Vaughn’s life began to become more complicated.  She becomes interested in a Jody and old friend who have grown into a very handsome young man.   La Vaughn and her childhood friends are growing apart.  La Vaughn is transferred to a more challenging class in school.  Life for Le Vaughn at 15 becomes more complicated as she goes through all of these changes.  As life becomes challenging for Le Vaughn she learns to hold onto her dreams and not let the temptations of boys, peer pressure, gang shootings, and poverty get in the way of fulfilling her dreams of going to college. 

True Believer is written as if it was a poem, but the simple everyday language makes reading the story a pleasure.  Le Vaughn tells the story of her life and dreams through this poem.  Le Vaughn’s character is vivid and powerful.  Virginia Euwer Wolff has created a wonderful story about growing up, facing challenges, and holding onto your dreams.  The cover even depicts the challenge of young love with a silhouette of a boy and girl moments away from a kiss.  I truly enjoyed reading this story with the poetry.

The Luxe by Anna Godberson July 15, 2009

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the luxe







The Luxe

Anna Godgersen

New York: HarperTeen, 2007

ISBN: 9780061345661

Age: 15-18


The Luxe is set in a New York City in 1899.  The story is about four young girls each with different personalities and stations.  18 year old Elizabeth, the good girl of the story, strives to follow society’s rules and to please her mother while secreting meeting Will her family’s coachman.   Elizabeth falls in love with Will and is heartbroken because she is being forced into an unwanted marriage to Henry Schoonmaker. 

16 year old Diana is the opposite of demure polite Elizabeth.  Dianna is so out of control with her behavior chasing after young men for that extra something special that may be found in a kiss.  Dianna is after excitement and has no fear of being caught.  She just doesn’t care what society thinks. 

Penelope Hayes is supposed to be Elizabeth’s best friend, but she secretly begins plotting to destroy Elizabeth’s future.  Penelope has become Elizabeth’s enemy after Elizabeth supposedly steals Penelope’s “man.” 

Lina Broud is Elizabeth’s maid is a proud young woman who dreams of becoming a part of high society.  Elizabeth and Lina use to be friends, but now Elizabeth seems too busy to spend any time with Lina.  Lina becomes hurt and angry at Elizabeth for what Lina perceives as being ungrateful.  Lina finds out Elizabeth’s secrets and plans on using them as a way to move up the social lad

For a historical fiction novel this story is pretty good.  It grabs the reader’s attention right off the bat with describing Elizabeth’s funeral.  The very next chapter then goes back over the events that led up to the funeral.  Usually when reading a historical novel I am bored out of my mind, but this novel doesn’t drone on about historical facts.  No, it leads the reader through the everyday lives of the four girls above and the people in their lives.  The historical facts are just a part of the story.  The cover of the book with the girl wearing the beautiful dress along with the title really caught my attention.  Teens will enjoy this historical story without even being aware that they are reading about history.

I’d Tell You I Love you, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Ally Carter July 15, 2009

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ally carter






I’d Tell You I Love you, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Ally Carter

New York: Hyperion, 2006

ISBN: 9781423100041

Age:  13-17


Cammie Morgan is a sophomore at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young women.  Cammie may seem like a normal teenage girl, but she is really a spy in training.  Cammie, the chameleon, special spy skill is that she can blend into the scenery.   Cammie works hard at learning to be spy.  After all she is the daughter of a former CIA Agent and the headmistress of the Gallagher Academy. 

Cammie and her friends are excited about starting fieldwork in their sophomore year.  Cammie almost messes up her future career as a spy when she meets a boy (Josh) and falls for him.   She talks her friends into helping her to sneak out of the academy and track Josh down; so that she can “accidently” bump into him.  Unfortunately for Cammie, her “night” operation is found out.  Cammie learns the hard way what it means to be spy.  She can’t ever tell anyone outside of the academy about being a spy. 

“I’d Tell You I’d Love, but then I’d have to Kill You” is a hilarious action packed story.  I just couldn’t put the book down.  I had to find out whether Cammie and Josh will get together or not.   The themes in the story are about friendship, loyalty, making choices, and love.  The book was highly entertaining.  The cover would definitely attract teens with the photo of a teenage girl on the white background only showing part of the girl’s face creates a sense of mystery.  Teens will want to read the book just to find out what it’s all about.

Looking for Alaska by John Green July 15, 2009

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Looking For Alaska

John Green

New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2005

ISBN: 9780132402511

Age: 15+


16 year old Miles Halter enrolls in the Culver Creek Boarding school with the hope of starting over with a new life.  Miles is smart guy who likes to memorize famous last words.   Miles begins his first few days at the new school with high hopes of making friends and finding “the Great Perhaps.” 

At the new school, Miles meets Colonel his roommate and Alaska a messed up girl full of attitude.  Hanging out with the Colonel and Alaska, Miles experiences many firsts, a girlfriend, a kiss, a drink, and breaking the rules.  Tragedy strikes the school, when Alaska is killed in a car accident.   Alaska’s death affected both Miles and the Colonel deeply.  They blamed themselves for not stopping Alaska from driving while drunk in the middle of the night.    

This story is both entertaining and sad.  I laughed my head off at the witty dialogue between the characters and the “life lessons” that Alaska taught Miles and his first real girlfriend.  The themes in this story include friendship, love, loss, and grief.  Each of the characters has their own personalities that teens can relate to.  I enjoyed reading Looking for Alaska.  This is a great for teens 15 and up.  The cover was little boring for me with just the smoke blowing on the black background.  At first I wasn’t quite sure what the smoke was on the cover.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson July 15, 2009

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Laurie Halse Anderson

New York: Viking, 2002

ISBN: 0142400017

Age: 14-17


Catalyst is about 18 year old Kate, a preacher’s daughter, who has to have complete control of her own life.  Ever since her mother has passed away Kate has been taking care of her younger brother and her father.  Kate is determined to get into MIT; the same college that her mother had attended. 

Kate loses control of her life when she is hit with one problem after another.  First, she receives a rejection letter from MIT.  Second, Terri, a bully from school, along with her family moves in with Kate after a fire damages Terri’s house.  Finally, tragedy strikes when Terri’s brother (child) dies from a terrible accident. 

I wasn’t all that impressed with Catalyst.  The story itself started out okay, but then the ending really blew it for me.  The story just didn’t create a sense of depth with the  ending.  I was hoping that Kate and Terri would resolve their differences and become friends.  The story implied this at the end, but it just didn’t happen.  The writing style was okay.  Kate narrated the story with traditional dialogue among the characters.  The characters and the story can be connected to real life.  I just think Laurie Halse Anderson could have developed the plot a little  more and provided the readers with a more satisfying ending.  The cover itself is definitely intriguing with the large eye displayed on a blue smoky background along with the title.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead July 15, 2009

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Vampire Academy

Richelle Mead

New York: Razorbill, 2007

ISBN: 9781595141743

Age: 15+


Teens top ten

Vampire Academy is a totally different story about vampires.  This story begins with two best friends, Rosa and Lissa have been “captured” and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy after being on the run for over a year.  St. Vladimir’s Academy is a school for vampires and half-blood vampires who train to become guardians.  The Guardians protect the full-blooded vampires or Moroi from the Strigoi-evil vampires who have chosen to live forever by feeding off the Moroi. 

Rosa is a guardian in training who is so strongly bonded to Lissa , a Moroi princess, she will sacrifice her very life to keep Lissa safe from the Strigoi.   Rosa places Lissa’s safety above everything including her feelings for her guardian trainer Dimitri. 

Lissa’s life may be in more danger than anyone thinks.  Lissa has a rare magical ability that hasn’t been seen in generations of Moroi.  This rare power attracts the Strigoi.  Rosa and Dimitri have their hands full protecting Lissa. 

This story is excellent.  I couldn’t put it down until I finished the book.  Rosa is a tough feisty girl who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do.  She isn’t afraid of anyone.  Lissa on the other hand is a softy.  She has all of these emotional hang-ups due to being the last of the Dragomir (her family’s) line.  The story is told from Rosa’s point of view with the traditional dialogue between characters.    The danger and forbidden love creates an atmosphere of romance and adventure all in one book.  This book has a strong teen appeal from the attractive cover to adventures plot and well developed characters.  The cover sets the scene for a vampire story with a beautiful girl on a dark red and black background.  I highly recommend this book to vampire fans.

Someday this Pain will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron July 15, 2009

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someda this pain






Someday this Pain will be Useful to You

Peter Cameron

New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007

ISBN:  9780374309893

Age: 18+


James Sveck is a confused 18 year on the brink of adulthood.  Living in New York City with Gillian his sister and divorced mother, James searches for his direction in his life.  James is undecided about going to Browns University and has no idea what his sexual orientation may be.   He is drawn to fellow employee, John, at his mother’s Gallery where he works.  James makes a mistake of pretending to be another person on an internet social network.  John unknowingly asks James out to learn that James is the interesting male that John has been chatting with online.  Furious with James “joke” John threatens to quit working at the Gallery.   James is fired from the gallery by his mother for the infraction.  After being fired for the infraction by his mother James takes off to see his grandmother.  James often relies on his grandmother for advice about his problems. 

I wasn’t all that impressed with this story.  The style of writing was all dialogue or run on descriptions that made a boring story.  It took me awhile to figure out the plot because I was too busy trying to figure out what the paragraphs was actually saying.  This book is a challenging read and some college bound readers may find the story interesting, but I do not recommend this book at all.  The cover itself depicts a young man in pain with a white background.  The cover may attract the attention of readers that hold an interest for the topic, but most teens wouldn’t be interested in this type of book.  Also, after reading the first few pages most teens would be bored out of their minds.

Nana V.1 by Ai Yazawa July 15, 2009

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Nana Volume 1







Nana V. 1

Ai Yazawa

San Francisco, Ca: VIZ Media, 2005

ISBN:  1421501082

Age:  15-18


Nana is a graphic novel about two 20 year old girls who share the same name.  Nana Komatsu is an attractive young woman who has bad luck with the men she dates.   Nana Komatsu follows her latest “boyfriend” to Tokyo after he is transferred there for work.  In Tokyo Nana Komatsu found love with a young man named Shoji.  Volume one ends with Nana and Shoji having a long distant relationship as Nana Komatsu works to earn enough money to go to college. 

Nana Osaki is the opposite of Nana Komatsu.  Nana Osaki is a confident outgoing woman who dreams of becoming Japan’s number one rock star.   Nana Osaki lives with her band mate and boyfriend, Ren Honjo.  She heads off to Tokyo to pursue her dream after Ren is offered a position in another band.  Nana Osaki’s and Ren’s relationship ends after 1 year and 3 months of living together. 

Volume one of Nana begins with an introduction to the two Nana’s who will eventually meet up in Tokyo and become best friends. This graphic novel wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  It was interesting to read about the two Nanas.  The illustrations are very helpful in drawing the reader into the story.  This story is about friendship, heartache, and love. 

The cover of the graphic Novel is different than many of the teen novels that I have seen.  The cover is of a girls sitting in front of a window in an impartment reading a newspaper.  The cover is attractive for an older teen because of the mature illustrations on the cover.

July 15, 2009

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Nick Abadzis

New York: First Second, 2007

ISBN: 9781596431010

Age: 13-15


Laika is a heart wrenching story that is a combination of facts and fiction combined to tell about a historical period in the Soviet Union.  Laika, a small trusting dog was trained by Soviet Scientists to be the first space travel.  She wasn’t just a dog.  Laika was special to those who trained her for space.  Yelena Laika’s keeper fell hard for the little dog, but fulfilled her duty as she prepared Laika for the launch to space on Sputnik II. 

Korolev, a former political prisoner and chief designer of the Sputnik II space program was determined to send a live animal up in space.  His mission was so important he didn’t care that the little dog would not return to Earth after being sent out to space. 

My heart was broken when I read this story.  I thought the scientist were cruel to send up an animal who had no way of understanding what was happening to her.  This sacrifice was not worth the trip to space or the fame that it came about.  A picture of Laika can be found in the back of the book.

The illustrations and text in this graphic novel kept my attention throughout the story.  I felt for little Laika and her friends.  I wanted to find homes for them, so that they wouldn’t be treated so harshly.  This graphic novel has enough of the facts in it to provide the reader with important historical information.  I had no idea that the Soviet Union sent up a dog in space.   The format of the book does nothing to take away from the historical facts.  In fact, the illustrations made the information more real for me. I was very touched by the story. 

The cover is somewhat misleading.  The cartoon design doesn’t allow the reader to realize the seriousness of the information.  Instead, it makes the reader think the book will be a light hearted story about a dog.  Younger teens may pick this graphic novel up because they are looking for a light hearted “comic,” but older teens will pass it by because the cover looks childish.