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Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger July 15, 2009

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Hard Love

Ellen Wittlinger

Aladdin Paperbacks, 1999

ISBN: 068984154X

Age: 15-17


Hard love is a story about John an angry 16 year old who has walled himself off from caring about people since his parents’ divorce.  After the divorce John’s dad is more interested in his many “girlfriends” than spending time with his son.  John’s mother went through a very long period of depression.  John’s lack of a relationship with his parents has caused John to stop trusting people.  John builds a wall around his emotions as a way to protect himself from being hurt.  John describes himself as someone without feelings. 

John life begins to change after he meets Marisol, a “Puerto Rican-Cuban-Yankee-lesbian. Marisol is all about the truth.  She is a self-confident girl who isn’t afraid of showing people her true self.  She writes a Zine Called “Escape Velocity which tells it like it is.  John and Marisol friendship grows until John falls hard for Marisol.   John knows that Marisol doesn’t love him in the same way, but he can’t stop from loving her. 

This book is right on the mark with developing the teen characters.  As I read this book, I thought, “Yes, that is a teenager alright.”   Ellen Wittlinger did an excellent job of writing a book from a teen’s point of view.  The Zines and story really made the characters’ lives and problems real.   I felt for John when Marisol rejected him.  I really hoped they had gotten together in the end.   The themes in the book include developing one’s identity, friendship, and trust.  The cover is okay.  It is really bland and not all that colorful or exciting.  However, it does go along with the lonely tone of the book.  Teens will definitely want to read this book.  It connects with the many problems and issues that they face each day.


Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson July 14, 2009

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jenna fox






Adoration of Jenna Fox

Mary Pearson

Macmillian Audiobook, 2008

ISBN:  9781427204431

Age: 15 – 18


17 year old Jenna Fox woke up one day to discover that she has been in a coma for over a year.  Jenna’s memory of her past life is completely gone.   Her coma is the result of a car accident that Jenna doesn’t remember happening. Jenna begins to piece together her life through watching recordings of her life from childhood until just before the accident.   She feels like a stranger in her own skin. 

Jenna begins to recover from her coma she has many questions about her life.  She wonders why her parents moved her from Boston to California.  She wonders why her grandmother hates her and why she can’t go to a regular school.  Jenna asks herself why she doesn’t seem to have any friends.  All of these questions haunt Jenna as struggles to regain her memory and her identity. 

This story is set in a futuristic time in which scientists and medical personnel have gone too far.  Antibiotics no longer work and scientists (Jenna’s father) have created a new cloning process that uses a blue bio gel and tiny computer chips to grow human body parts.  To rein in the scientists the government has made law that prevents the creation of a whole human body from this bio gel.  Jenna slowly learns the truth about her own body.  Jenna’s father saved 10% of Jenna’s the brain and placed it into a bio gel body.  Jenna is distraught when she learns to the truth- that she is illegal and must keep this secret from everyone. 

It was great listening to the story in Jenna’s own words.  The narrator of the story did a wonderful job of portraying Jenna.  However, the narrator’s portrayal of the other characters needs some work.  Allys, one of Jenna’s new friends wasn’t all the great.   Allys’ voice sounded like she was whining all the time.   Other than that the book is a good audio book. 

The cover is very colorful and caught my attention right away.  The butterfly resting on the hand matches the books theme perfectly.  The themes for this book are searching for identity and asking questions about how far should scientists’ go with human cloning and medical practices.

Inside Out by Nadia Shivack July 14, 2009

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Inside Out







Inside Out

By Nadia Shivack

Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2007

ISBN: 9780689852169

Age 13 -18


Inside out is unique book of drawings that is similar to a graphic novel.  Nadia, the author and illustrator of the book tells her story of a painful eating disorder through a combination of drawings and text written in text boxes.  The drawings and words touches the heart of women who have experienced the same painful cycle of overeating, purging, shame, and self-hatred as Nadia has throughout her life. 

This book offers females 13 years old throughout adulthood a deeper understanding of food and body issues that we all may face.  I can honestly say that this book has spoken to me.  I have felt the same feelings as Nadia about the monster that lives inside of us and the monster that control us.  Teens with food issues need to know that they are not alone.  Nadia with her drawings and story provides teens with the knowledge that they can find help for an eat disorder. 

Many of the drawings are thought provoking, but some of the later drawings became too complicated to understand or read.  I ended up skipping the more complicated drawings and read the text boxes instead.  I was still able to “feel” the story.  The information in the book of the book will be useful in providing information that will help someone with an eating disorder. 

The cover of the book really didn’t jump out at me.  However, it may attract teens with the title and the cartoon type drawing.  I wasn’t too impressed with the cover because it seemed too bland.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher July 14, 2009

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Thirteen Reasons Why

By Jay Asher

Razorbill, 2008

ISBN: 97815914712

Age: 16 – 18


Thirteen Reasons Why is actually two stories being told at the same time.   The first story is about Hannah Baker and the reason why she has committed suicide.  Hannah has provided the answers for the reason of her on 13 audio cassette tapes that she has sent out to the 13 people on a list of the people who caused her death.  The second story is Clay’s.  Clay is an all around good guy how has had a crush on Hannah for a long time.  Clay, one of the people to receive the tapes is horrified to find himself on Hannah’s list. 

The stories are interconnected as Clay wonders through his hometown while listening to the tapes.  Clay haunted by Hannah’s voice follows the map marked by Hannah for the 13 people to experience the each of the places where Hannah found pain, distrust, and unhappiness.  Clay learns that not everyone is what they seem.  He knows that he will never look at these people the same way again as he discovers the other 12 people’s secrets. 

Thirteen Reasons Why is a powerful story that takes the reader on a journey along with Clay to discover why Hannah killed herself.   Readers not only learn about Hannah and her pain filled life, but they will come to know Clay as well.  

This story really stayed with me long after I had read the book.  Since reading Hannah’s and Clay’s story I have though a great deal about how our actions can affect other people.  Also, I thought about how people bury their pain so deep that they can’t find a way to climb out of the whole.  It seems to me that Hannah was in a vicious cycle of being a victim who needed someone to help her find a way to cope with all that pain.  Clay tried to reach out to Hannah, but she just didn’t give him a chance.    I am angry at Hannah for not trying harder to reach out to someone and I feel for Clay.   He truly is a good guy. 

The cover was intriguing.  The Photo of Hannah on the swing made and the title made me want to know what the story was about.  I wanted to know why Hannah was so sad.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson July 14, 2009

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Laurie Halse Anderson

Viking, 2007

ISBN: 9780670061013

Age: 15 +


Tyler Miller developed a reputation for being a dangerous bad boy after being arrested for defacing school property.   Tyler has problems both at school and home.  His father, who is under a great deal of stress takes it out on Tyler, his mother, and his sister by throwing fits and yellowing at everyone.  Tyler’s is treated as a trouble maker by his father and is blamed for everything that goes wrong in his father’s life. 

At school, Tyler is treated as an outcast and is ridiculed by many of his classmates.  Bethany, the most popular girl at school and Tyler’s secret crush, has begun to show an interest in Tyler.  She invites him to a party which turns out badly for both Bethany and Tyler.  Tyler chose to do the right thing after a drunken Bethany comes onto Tyler.   Bethany goes home with another boy and Tyler walks home.  Someone takes advantaged of Bethany and Tyler soon finds himself accused of the crime.  Tyler is innocent, but is being treated as if he was guilty. 

Tyler is repeatedly interviewed by the police.  He is attacked at school and has to be isolated from the rest of the student body.  Tyler ends up taking his classes alone and his being tutored by his teachers.  Tyler has tried to do the right thing, but because of his reputation for pulling a prank he is treated horribly by everyone, including his father.  Eventually Tyler has enough and begins to stand up for himself.  He stops being the victim. 

This story is very good.  It keeps the reader on edge wanting to know more.  This story brings up many questions about high school life and the issue of power and about living the life of a powerless victim being tossed this way and that by the whims of others.  In the story, Tyler struggles with feelings of being a loser and not being good enough.  He even considers killing himself to end his pain, but then Tyler comes to his senses and realizes that he was allowing himself to become a victim.  He realized that he could just give up and die or he could take control of his life.  This story takes Tyler through this struggle and helps him to grow into a man.  The cover is has a black background and a twisted pencil.  It is intriguing.  I wanted to know what the book is about.

July 14, 2009

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Ana’s Story a Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush

HarperCollins Publishers, 2007

ISBN: 9780061379086

Age: 16 +


Ana’s Story a Journey of Hope is the true story of Ana, a 17 year old girl living in Latin America.  Ana’s has experienced tragedy throughout her life from abuse to becoming a mother.  Ana’s life of misery began the day she was born after contracting the HIV virus from her own mother during childbirth.  When Ana was three years old her mother died of because of Aids. 

Ana’s father couldn’t care for Ana and her sister, so he sends them to live with their grandmother.   Ana’s grandmother tires her best in raising the girls, but she is tired and worn out from working.  She begins abusing Ana and Isabel both physically and emotionally.  She makes Ana feel dirty and ashamed because of her HIV positive condition.  Ana becomes afraid to tell anyone about her illness, because she fears that they will treat her horribly.   

Ana’s life isn’t all bad.  Ana’s father visits the girls frequently, taking them out dancing and other fun activities.  Ana enjoys these outings with her father and sister, but hates going back home to her grandmother because she always feels unwanted and unloved. 

Ana goes through some life changes and ends up in a juvenile center for children who don’t have anywhere to go.  Ana meets up with Berto another teen with HIV.  She soon learns to trust Berto and tells her own secrets, but then he leaves the juvenile center for a new home.  Ana herself ends up in this new home, a safe haven for people with aids, thanks to Berto.  Ana and Berto develop a close relationship with one another.  Ana becomes a mother as a result of that relationship. 

This true story is very moving.   The story unfolds as Jenna Bush tells the story in third person.  The writing is simplistic and maybe considered as poor writing, but I truly enjoyed the story and didn’t mind the writing all that much.  The story along with the photographs drew me completely into the story.  I was moved by Ana’s plight and wanted to help her.  I hated Ernesto her grandmother’s boyfriend who abused the girls.   Ana made me proud of her when she grew from a powerless angry girl into beautiful strong young woman.   Teens ages 16 and up would enjoy this story.  The cover of the book is good.  It may not attract too many teens at first glance because of its simplicity, but the story itself is worth reading.  Older teens may select this book because of an interest in reading a book from Jenna Bush.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins July 14, 2009

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The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Press, 2008

ISBN: 9780439023481

Age: 14-18


The Hunger Games is a futuristic story about survival in a harsh cruel nation called Panem.  Panem is the capital of what was once known as North America.  In this world there are 12 outlying districts that is kept under the Capital’s control through the hunger games.  Two children are selected annually from each of these districts to fight or die in the hunger games. 

16 year old Katniss from district 12 volunteered to take her younger sister’s place in the games.  Katniss who has spent all of her life just surviving and taking care of her mother and sister knows that she will die if she goes to the game, but she goes anyway to spare her sister’s life.  Katniss’ experience with a bow and hunting helps her in the games, but she has many opponents that have been trained for this game.  Katmiss is not the only person chosen from district 12.  Peeta, the boy tribute from district 12 has also been chosen to participate in the games.  Peeta has always been in love with Katniss and does everything he can to help her during the games.  Katniss doesn’t trust Peetra at all.  She treats him like th enemy and goes off on her own during the “battles.”  The officials of the game make survival difficult for the contestants by providing them with just enough supplies that they must fight one another to use them. 

This story will keep readers on the edge of their seats.   The story is told from Katniss’ point of view.  The pace of the story provides the reader with just enough action to keep reader engaged while taking the reader back into the characters memories to develop the characters and the relationship between Peeta and Katniss.  The tone of the story is one of action and survival.  I found myself deeply involved in the story.  I actually talked to the characters.  Telling them to run or stop, etc.  This book took me through a wide range of emotions such as sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, etc. I wanted to strangle the people in charge who were forcing these kids to kill each other.    This book is definitely a great read for readers who love suspense and action pack stories.  I am glad I read this book.   I almost didn’t pick it up because of the cover of the book.  The symbol on the cover just didn’t hold my interest.  However, after reading the story, I now know that the symbol has meaning from the book.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak July 14, 2009

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I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

New York: Borzoi Books, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002

ISBN: 0375830995

Age:  16 – 18


Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old cab driver with no ambitions other than driving his cab, playing cards with his friends, and taking walks with Doorman, his dog and Audrey, his best friend and love of his life.  Ed lives a fairly predictable and boring life until the day he foils a bank robbery.   That day, Ed becomes a hero.  The next day, Ed receives his first ace in the mail.  He becomes the messenger and embarks on a mission of helping people in town while trying to figure out who is the mysterious person sending him on these missions. 

  This story was hilarious and serious at the same time.  The interaction between Ed, Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey during the bank robbery and throughout the story is comical.  I had laughed myself silly when Ed, Marv, and Audrey continued their conversation about Marv’s car while the bank robber kept yelling at them to stop talking.  The seriousness in the story is caused by problems that Ed finds himself involved in after he began receiving the playing cards in the mail.  Each of the playing cards has an address on it that leads Ed to a person who needs his help.  Each of the problems is very serious.  The first address takes Ed to a house in which the alcoholic husband is beating and raping his wife every night.  Ed is scared but still finds the courage to help the wife.  With each new ace Ed has a new problem to solve.  Ed continues his mission for aiding these people, but he really wants to find out who is sending him the playing cards.  This book is for ages 16 years to 18 years old. 

The cover of this book is okay.  It has playing cards on the front cover.  I don’t believe it would attract the attention of teens because the playing cards are somewhat boring.

July 14, 2009

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Scott Westerfeld

New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005

ISBN: 0689865384


Ages: 13-18

Tally lives in a futuristic world that is segregated into two groups; the uglies or the pretties.  Tally, an ugly, can’t wait until she turns sixteen, so that she can have an operation that will turn her into a pretty.    Tally dreams of living in New Pretty Town where the only job of the pretties is to have fun.  Tally was looking forward to joining the other pretties in their exciting life of parties.  But then Tally’s dream turns into a nightmare when she is given the awful choice of betraying her friend Shay who runs away because she doesn’t wants to become a pretty.   Tally must find Shay and turn her in or remain ugly forever.   

This fast paced story keeps the reader fully engaged as he or she follows along as Tally journeys through the wilderness to find the Smoke and her friend Shay.  The Smoke is a place in which the pretties and uglies can be free from the Specials who enforce the law that everyone has to become pretties when they turn 16.  After finding the Smoke and meeting David, Tally begins to become comfortable with being an uglie and decides to stay at the Smoke.   Unfortunately, the Specials catches up with Tally and attacks the Smoke.  Tally is forced to return with the specials to have the operation by force.  Tally is horrified by being forced in undergoing the operation because of the secret she learns about the operation.  I truly enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down.

This book brings up many issues about what society thinks is beautiful.  Just look on the cover to see a pretty girl who was considered ugly because she didn’t have the operation to make her into a supermodel yet. 

Everything about the book appeals and attracts the reader.  The cover along with the title of the book makes the reader want to know what the book is about.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta July 14, 2009

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Jellicoe Road








The Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta

HarperTeen, 2008

ISBN: 9780061431838

Age: 16-18


The Jellicoe Road is about Taylor Markham who is a student at the Jellico School.  At this school Taylor becomes the leader of her school in a three way territory war against the townies and cadets.  The three groups follow rules and traditions set up years before by an unknown group to battle and negotiate to gain more territories for their own team. 

During the time of the territory wars that lasts six weeks which is the time that the cadets stay for camp in the area.  Taylor meets her match with Jonah Griggs, the cadets’ leader.  Jonah, Taylor, and the leader from the townies soon befriend one another through the conflict.  As these three leaders come together they learn of another story of five young friends from the school, townies, and the cadets that come together to create a history that will meet up with Taylor and her friends/adversaries. . 

These five friends are at the heart of the territory wars.  They are the ones that began the rules and traditions that Taylor, the cadets, and townies follow every year for six weeks.   Taylor’s soon learns of the connection and tragedy of the five friends to her own life through reading a manuscript that her guardian had left for Taylor to read. 

This book is wonderful.  I enjoyed reading the story, although it was difficult to keep up with the plot because the story kept jumping back and forth between the past and present through the manuscript that Taylor was reading.  It became easier once I understood that the manuscript was a story of the five friends from the past.  I definitely want to read this story again.