“The movie version” Emma Wunsch

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Amulet Books. 354 p.

themovieversionSeventeen-year-old Amelia and her older brother Toby have always been more like best friends than brother and sister. They love watching all kinds of movies, and their movie quotes drive everyone crazy. Toby comes up with fun, silly ideas of things to do, is the life of the party, and always has an entourage of friends.

She and Toby have always been there for each other so, when he starts cutting school, smoking pot, staying in his room, and acting strangely, Amelia covers for him. She starts to put her own life on hold for him, getting mad at her boyfriend and best friend for suggesting something might be wrong with him. When Toby is diagnosed with schizophrenia, Amelia has to learn how to deal with his diagnosis and to live her life without her brother by her side.

It took some time before I could really get into this book. I started it, put it down for a few months, and then decided to try again one more time. The constant movie quotes, titles of movies I’d never heard of, and constant references to movies at inopportune times were very off putting. It wasn’t until Toby was diagnosed and Amelia decided to stop living her life like a movie that the book became bearable. Only then was I finally able to read without the constant distraction of movie titles and quotes. I also didn’t think the author needed to be so explicit when describing Amelia and her boyfriend’s sexual antics. I thought it was an unnecessary distraction, and the book could have stood alone without their relationship.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, and the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one was because I thought it important for readers to learn about how mental illness affects teenagers.

“Watched” Marina Budhos

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. Wendy Lamb Books. (Random House.) 264 p.

watchedNaeem was 5 years old when his mother died and his father moved from Bangladesh to New York. He waited for his father to send for him, but it took another 6 years before he found himself on a plane to Queens, New York. There, he was reunited with his father and met his new little brother and stepmother.

He loved New York, spending years hanging out and roaming the streets instead of helping his parents in their little store. It’s now his senior year of high school and he expects to go to college, but is told he can’t graduate due to low grades. His future is staring at him bleakly until he gets arrested.

To avoid jail time he agreed to work undercover with cops, as they were sure terrorist attacks were being planned. They felt he could blend in and pick up information at mosques. Naeem thought by working with them he could prove Muslims were regular law-abiding citizens but, the deeper he got into play acting, the more he realized he enjoyed learning about his culture.

As time passed Naeem became more and more anxious. Who was he? Was he a traitor to his people, or was he helping them be seen in a better light? Would his work make the world a better place for his little brother, and for his parents, or would he incriminate innocent people?

“Watched” takes readers into the life of a Muslim family and into Muslim neighborhoods, describing an insider’s view of what it feels like to always be watched and judged by others. It will cause readers to think about their own prejudices and, perhaps, make them think twice before passing judgment on others.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“My sister Rosa” Justine Larbalestier

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published November 2016. Soho Teen. 312 p.

mysisterrosaSeventeen-year-old Che and his 10-year-old sister Rosa have lived all over the world. They’ve lived in Australia the longest, but now his parents are moving them to New York City. At first Che is upset because he’s leaving close friends behind, but soon finds himself at an excellent boxing gym with the most beautiful girl in the world, and is starting to form new friendships. The biggest fly in the ointment of his life is Rosa.

Rosa is not a normal 10-year-old. Her inability to show empathy, or feelings of any kind, as well as her ability to convince people to do her will, has always troubled Che. He is sure she’s a psychopath but no one, including his oblivious parents, believes him. Che loves Rosa, but is tired of years spent covering up her behavior and trying to reason with her. For her part, Rosa feels perfectly entitled to act the way she does, and is confident in her ability to get her way – even when it means that life can never be normal for Che or her family.

I found myself very frustrated with Rosa’s behavior and Che’s inability to get the help she needed. As she became more and more intense, I became more and more upset with the situation, which is why I could only give it 2 stars. I will inject a spoiler alert below to explain my rating but, for those who dislike spoilers, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

********SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT********

 

Besides the fact that I disliked the way Rosa got away with everything and that no one believed Che, I also HATED the ending. I hated that Che is trapped for the rest of his life, that Sally has checked out of their lives, and that David and Rosa got away with everything.

“The Memory of Things” Gae Polisner

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan.) 275 pp. (Includes Author’s Note.)

thememoryofthingsTerror and helplessness followed the events of 9/11, felt throughout the United States and, especially, in New York City. “The Memory of Things,” released for the 15th anniversary of that tragic day, tells the story of 16-year-old Kyle and the mysterious girl he found cowering on the Brooklyn Bridge as he and others fled the horror of downtown Manhattan. In alternate voices the teens recount their stories and memories, gradually turning their terror, pain and sorrow into a sense of hopefulness and determination while falling in love.

I lived through those days as a teacher in N.Y.C., and managed to spend the past 15 years avoiding graphically descriptive yearly television documentaries or photographs of the time. It took several years before I could listen, or look at, a low flying plane without my eyes filling with tears. Even now, 15 years later, it’s still painful.

Knowing 9/11 hit me stronger than others, I was a bit leery about reviewing a book about 9/11. However, since it was a young adult book, I was hopeful it wouldn’t be too graphic. Polisner covered the feelings of loss and bewilderment that filled the days after this terror attack, while also infusing a sense of hope that radiated through Kyle’s generous nature. As she described New Yorkers’ reactions towards the events that shook us to the core, along with Kyle’s sense of duty and protectiveness towards a complete stranger, readers will get the sense that there will always be a shoulder to lean on when it’s needed to help us through the roughest of storms.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The edge of lost” Kristina McMorris

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Kensington. 340 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Q & A with Kristina McMorris,” and “A reading group guide.”)

TheEdgeOfLostThe year is 1919. Twelve-year-old orphan Shan Keagan from Dublin, Ireland is living a hard knock life with his Uncle Will, trying to earn money and meals as a singer, dancer and impressionist in local bars. When the two of them decide to immigrate to America his uncle dies onboard, leaving Shan to figure out how he will enter the country of his dreams and find his real father.

Befriended by an Italian-American family who had just lost their younger son, Shan began his new life in Brooklyn, New York as Tommy Capello. As Shan adjusts to his new life with the Capellos, he hopes for a chance to find his father and finally find happiness with a real family. Despite his best efforts, life doesn’t turn out as he’d hoped, and Shan finds himself on the short end of the stick of life once more.

McMorris’ keen attention to detail brings Prohibition, Vaudeville, and Alcatraz, among other happenings of the 1920’s and 30’s, to life. These historical events, along with Shan’s struggles to find happiness while still keeping his own heart pure, will keep readers wishing for more even when the last page has been turned.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Crossing into Brooklyn” Mary Ann McGuigan

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. Published June 1, 2015. Merit Press.

CrossingIntoBrooklynRich and pampered sixteen-year-old Morgan Lindstrum is upset because her mother and father aren’t talking to each other, and not spending time at their beautiful home in Princeton, New Jersey. She is also confused about feelings she’s been having for her best friend Ansel and, on top of everything, her beloved Grandfather passed away.

While trying to make her way through the minefield that has become her life, Morgan discovers her mother has a secret centered in Brooklyn. Her curiosity about her mother’s past leads her to discover poor Irish relations, which include her real grandfather Terence Mulvaney. Her mother is reluctant to forgive her father for past wrongs, but Morgan is determined to bring the family back together.

While seeking a bridge of reconciliation she soon discovers her newfound relatives may soon become part of Brooklyn’s homeless population. Morgan must call on all of her resources to try and reconcile her family, but it may come at a price she cannot pay.

Though “Crossing into Brooklyn” realistically described the city’s homeless population, contrasting its poverty with Princeton’s upper class, fake exterior, I thought Morgan’s constant references to what happened in Chicago did not lend merit to the storyline and were a distraction. In addition, though she came across as a heroine, there were aspects of her story that did not come across as believable. Her encounter with Carlos, as well as the fact that she managed to come and go many times through a very poor, rough area of Brooklyn without once being challenged by area residents for being a richly dressed girl in a poor neighborhood did not ring true to this Brooklynite.

I have mixed feelings about this book, so will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“The book of Laney” Myfanwy Collins

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Ebook. Published May 17, 2015. Lacewing Books. (Includes Reference materials.)

TheBookOfLaneyWest and his best friend Mark hated high school, and planned revenge for all the times jocks ignored or made fun of them. After spending time researching terrorists, both homegrown and abroad, they were ready to make their mark on the world. Using knives, machetes and homemade bombs, they worked their way through a school bus filled with high school kids, and forever changed Laney’s world.

With West and her mother now dead, joining the father she’d never known, fifteen-year-old Laney is sent to live with her grandmother, Meme, in the woods of upstate New York in a place upon which civilization has not dared to encroach. Meme is not an exceptionally friendly woman, but she and Laney soon come to an understanding. It is with her help that Laney learns to put herself in the shoes of those who have gone before and to rely on nature for her needs. She also learns to quiet her own mind and regain the glimmer of a path for her life, which West had taken in his quest for revenge.

“The book of Laney” gave great insight into the minds of terrorists like West and Mark, as the author used real diary entries from homegrown terrorists to help readers understand why people would behave in such an horrific way. The life which Laney now found herself living, and how she saw herself after the murders, were all realistic topics.

However, I felt the book lost its attempt at being believable when Laney’s paranormal visions become its highlight. It would have been better if the author had found a realistic way to help Laney find a way to cope with her issues without having to resort to make believe. Struggling teens who may have looked to this book for insight into their own situations will not find solace through the paranormal.

I would have given the book a higher rating if the author had stayed true to the book’s premise of a young girl learning to cope with life after facing death one too many times, instead of letting it deteriorate into these visions. In addition the cover is very “blah,” and would have been lovely if it had looked like the beautiful Adirondack woods into which Laney poured so much of her heart and soul.

Because of having a major issue with this hugely unrealistic topic in the midst of realistic ones I can’t recommend this book, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.