“The Curse of Crow Hollow” Billy Coffey

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Thomas Nelson. 406 pp. (Includes “Discussion Questions.”)

TheCurseOfCrowHollowSomething strange is going on in Crow Hollow. People say a witch on the mountain cursed the town many years ago, so have stayed away from her mountain out of fear. The day Cordelia and her friends decided to trespass on the witch’s mountain was the day something caused the girls in town to be stricken with a mysterious illness. As town residents try to find out why the witch has stricken them and how to rid themselves of her reach, they end up turning against each other in ways no one had ever thought could be possible.

A mysterious narrator takes readers through chaos of their own making in a supposedly religious town. Once actually face-to-face with the “evil” they heard about every Sunday morning from their Reverend, they forget what they’ve been taught. Casting suspicious eyes outward rather than inward serves only to fuel the fires of distrust. While echoing some events from the Salem Witch Trials, “The Curse of Crow Hollow” works to show readers what can happen when religion combines with hysteria rather than common sense.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Boundless” Cynthia Hand

Rated 4 stars **** Unearthly, book #3. HarperTeen. 2013. ebook.

BoundlessAfraid of what might happen to Tucker if the Dark Wings find him, Clara breaks up with him and flees to Stanford. She tries to live her life as a normal college freshman, hoping to forget about Tucker, find her purpose with Christian and find Jeffrey. Her feelings for Christian and Tucker are like ocean waves, drawing her from one to the other, leaving her more confused than ever.

Everything is put on hold when Angela becomes pregnant from her secret angel boyfriend, and is forced to hide the baby when the leader of the Dark Wings decides he wants him. Dragged off to hell, it will take all of Clara and Christian’s power to rescue her and save the world as they know it.

Hand pulls out all the stops, calling on Christian and Clara to work together to solve the problems of the world. Fans of will be excited to have the series end on a high note.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Golden Boy: A Novel” Abigail Tarttelin

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published May 21, 2013. Atria Books. 343 pp.

GoldenBoyThrough the use of alternating voices, readers learn the story of 16-year-old Max. When Max was born, he was diagnosed as being “intersex.” Since he has both male and female sex organs internally and externally, he’s spent his life feeling different. He has self identified as a male, wants to go out with females, but has a feminine look. Max’s condition has always been kept hushed up because both his parents are big-shot lawyers and in the public eye.

Max has always been the Golden Boy at school and at home as he’s loved by girls and guys alike. He’s even tempered, well behaved, handsome, and a great soccer player. He’s Mr. Popularity. What’s not to love? However, when he’s raped by a family friend and becomes pregnant, secrecy is the least of everyone’s worries. How can Max face his peers? What will they think? How can he explain being pregnant? Max doesn’t know who, or what, he is anymore. With his parents fighting over what to do, Max becomes more confused and lonelier than ever.

Tarttelin paints a realistic picture of a young teen boy who, faced with a life altering condition, does his best to cope. Reading “Golden Boy” brought more understanding of this condition, and helped me visualize the many issues faced by hermaphrodites in sports – especially women. Despite the very boring cover, mature teens, aged 14 and older, will learn much from Max.

“Brianna on the Brink” Nicole McInnes

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published January 7, 2013. Holiday House. 170 pp.

BriannaOnTheBrinkSixteen-year-old Brianna never expected her life would change the night she met Derek. She was popular, a cheerleader, well known, and had a great group of friends. Even though her mother never cared about her and had kicked her out of the house so she could marry her boyfriend and she was now forced to live in a tiny corner of her sister’s apartment with her sister’s boyfriend, life was still good.

The night she met Derek everything changed. Brianna never expected Derek would do what he did, but there was no going back. Brianna is now a pariah at school, shunned by everyone, off the cheerleading squad and has nowhere to turn. Her bad luck continues when her sister takes her boyfriend’s side in an argument and kicks her out of the house. With nowhere to go, Brianna is forced to live on the street. Help eventually comes from an unexpected source, as Brianna finds out friends can be found in the most unlikely of places.

“Brianna on the Brink” is a quick and emotional read, perfect for reluctant readers aged 14 and older.

“Me, Him, Them, and It” Caela Carter

ARC Advance Reading Copy. Published February 26, 2013. Bloomsbury. 369 pp.

MeHimThemandItEvelyn hates her lawyer mother for never talking to her, and her father for having an affair. She hates him for returning and both of them for getting back together and making their house a Silent House filled with their silences towards each other. So, to get back at them, she decides to become Bad Evelyn. Bad Evelyn drinks, smokes pot and has sex. Despite her best intentions, her parents don’t even notice she’s being Bad.

As part of her Bad Girl image, Evelyn makes it seem like she’s sleeping around, but she’s only been with Todd. He wants their relationship to be kept a secret from his family and her friends. Evelyn is hurt, but hides her feelings for him and for the situation – just like she does with everything and everyone in her life. When she gets pregnant during unprotected sex, she decides to hate the “bean” growing inside her body. She hates “it” for ruining her life, and doesn’t know if she should get rid of it, become a teen mom, or give it away. Todd refuses to help, her best friend is angry at her, she can’t relate to her parents, and she feels alone in her quest to figure out what to do. Her Silent House never taught her to show emotion, or how to talk, and her fears overwhelm her on a daily basis.

As Evelyn rides a seesaw of emotions, readers are drawn into the confused state of unwed teen moms, seeing through her eyes the reactions of parents and teen dads-to-be, and the overwhelming amount of decisions that need to be made with an unplanned teen pregnancy. Readers aged 14 and older, especially those in similar situations, will want to read “Me, Him, Them, and It.”

“The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir” Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

Simon & Schuster, 2012. 218 pp.

The Pregnancy ProjectGaby’s mom was 14-years-old when she got pregnant, and was married at fifteen. Divorced after 16 years of marriage and 7 children, she found herself pregnant with Gaby. Gaby had grown up without a father and knew her mother’s story. She watched her older brothers and sisters become teen parents themselves and vowed to never become a statistic. The more she thought about the stereotypes placed on teens, the more she wanted to make a difference. Her own brother believed his genes stated he should be an alcoholic because his father was one, and she realized these stereotypic beliefs existed in many areas. Thus began the idea for her Senior Project.

For her Senior Project Gaby decided to pretend to be pregnant. During her “pregnancy” she would record the comments others said, as well as the reactions of her family and teachers. She only told a few people about her project so reactions to her “pregnancy” would be genuine. She had been an A student, and had thought her actions in the classroom would make the reactions to her “pregnancy” be different. However, she was unprepared for the negativity her peers and family members threw her way. Many times she wanted to give up, but knowing she was making a difference for teen moms of the future kept her strong.

Gaby’s project went on to become a Lifetime movie, and her story is told in this book. Readers age 14 and up should read her book and, hopefully, understand that they can rise up against the stereotypes placed upon them. I’d call it a dark horse for some sort of honor  at the upcoming ALA Media Awards in Seattle.

“A girl named Mister” Nikki Grimes

Zondervan Books, 2010. 223 pp.

A Girl named MisterIn poetic verse, Nikki Grimes tells the story of Mister, a young girl who gets pregnant shortly before her 14th birthday. Despite her promise to keep pure until marriage, she falls for Trey. Their one time together leaves her pregnant and afraid, especially when Trey refuses to acknowledge it as his own. Terrified to tell her mother, Mister tries to hide her growing belly and finds comfort in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Using Biblical accounts and poetic license Grimes tells Mary’s story. Fearful of retribution from her family and neighbors since she and Joseph are not married, she hides her pregnancy believing no one would understand she’d been visited by an angel and told she would become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God.

These two stories of young, unwed, teenage mothers in vastly different circumstances and worlds are interwoven to create “A girl named Mister.” Mister wonders how her unborn child will change her life, while Mary does the same. Faith, hope and love combine to give both young women strength to deal with their situations. “A girl named Mister” is a good read for those 12 and older.