The Brothers Torres

Brothers Torresby Coert Voorhees

Frankie looks up to his older brother Steve.  Steve seems to have it all — he’s an excellent soccer player and is more than likely going to get a scholarship to college because of it, he’s smart, he’s cute, and he could get any girl he wants.  Sure, Frankie and Steve’s parents seem to be a bit lax with Steve because he does so well with soccer and school, and sure they don’t make Steve work in the family’s restaurant like they do Frankie, but Frankie doesn’t resent that too much.  Recently, though, Steve has changed some, just little things.  He’s started hanging out with the cholos, a local gang, specifically Flaco, the gang’s leader.  Steve doesn’t come home much anymore, just stops by for food, he sneaks out at night and doesn’t come back until early morning, and he begins dating a girl that you would not take home to meet the parents.  At first, Frankie doesn’t think too much about these changes and even relishes the respect he gets through association with his older brother, but Steve also begins to become harder, quicker to temper, a bit more violent, and has odd ideas about what earns respect.  The more Steve changes, the less Frankie continues to idolize his brother.  Who is this person Steve has turned into and is there anything left in him that Frankie can look up to?

Reaction: I thought this book was really well done.  While the heart of the story is Frankie and Steve’s relationship, most of the book is simply about Frankie trying to survive high school.  It’s Frankie hanging out with his bestfriend, blowing stuff up in his bestfriend’s backyard.  It’s crushing on a girl he’s been friends with forever and trying to get up the nerve to ask her out.  It’s dealing with the fact that he isn’t too fond of working at his parent’s restaurant but also isn’t so pleased when they sell it without consulting him.  It’s teenage Frankie living.  But all the while, Steve is changing and Frankie doesn’t see it at first.  Frankie knows Steve is probably doing things he shouldn’t and at first it’s just a bit aggravating — like the way his parents are always asking Frankie to narc on Steve but then never actually punish Steve — or funny — like when Steve brings home the girlfriend that no one in their right mind would bring home to meet the parents and their parents freak out.  When Steve finally convices Frankie to do something illegal with him for the sake of their family’s honor, Frankie isn’t so sure Steve is really all that great anymore.  The slow build of Frankie’s change in his feelings toward his brother is subtly and wonderfully done.  This is a great teen boy book and a great book about how any teen, no matter how smart or how good the family situation, can get dragged into a bad situation.

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Splendor Falls

My first WoW post.  I probably won’t do this every week but there are a couple of books I’m really excited about.  Here’s one of them:

Splendor FallsThe Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Can Love Last Beyond the Grave?

Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper. What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage—a union that’s only driven an even deeper wedge into their already tenuous relationship.

Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness. Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. And that’s where things start to get shady. As it turns out, her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems to be perfect in every way. But Rhys—a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s—has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand.

Then she starts seeing things. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything—is she starting to lose her mind as well?

I won’t have to wait too long.  The Splendor Falls will be out September 9, 2009 (9-9-09).

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  What are you waiting for?

Modern/Current Classic Teen Lit

I’m part of a group of people, mostly teen librarians, who get together and talk teen books.  I love it!  Our library system is made up of a bazillion branches so each branch only has one teen librarian (if it has one at all — in the smallest branches the manager seconds as the teen librarian).  This means that I am often starved for people to gush with over teen books.  I shouldn’t make it sound as though I am completely deprived because both the children’s librarian and manager where I work are fairly avid teen readers and so are a couple of my other coworkers but I still savor the opportunity to just talk teen lit for two hours with other people who are as passionate about it as I am.

This group meets quarterly and we always have a topic for our discussions.  We are meeting on Wednesday and the topic is modern or current classics.  I’m having trouble figuring out which books to take and talk about with this topic.  First, the topic itself.  When we discussed it at the last meeting, I wrote it down as modern classics but the webpage with the group info says current classics.  I think “modern” could be taken in a broader sense than “current”.  Current seems so much more immediate, so much more “right now” to me, which makes it hard for me to determine a date range for these current or moder classics.  Second of all, a classic to me has to have made it through some sort of test of time, which current classics wouldn’t really have had time to do, or ones I think are going to stand the test of time, and I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good judge of what is going to be around in 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Here are some that I think might be contenders for modern/current teen classics:

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (though I sense a drop in popularity since the last book came out — anyone else feel the same?)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (shockingly, I’ve not read it yet — I know! — but I still believe it is an important work)
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (one I would consider modern but not current)
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (because I love it)
  • Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss (a small, powerful book that I wish got a bit more action)
  • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (ah-mazing fantasy, still popular though came out when I was in high school)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (maybe?)
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (because I absolutely want it to be and will fight to make it be true :) )

These are my gut decisions.  I’m not sure I’ll stand by all of them and I’m sure there are some I missed.  I will continue to think on it.

Now, I ask you: What is your idea of a modern or current classic?  Do you see a distinction between the two or am I just being picky? Which books would be on your list?

Update:

Now that I’ve attended my gathering, I thought I would share with you some of the ideas that we discussed.  First, we decided it is possible for an author to be considered classic and not just one piece of work from their collection — ie there are classic books and classic writers.  Also, no one really cleared up the question of what exactly a modern classic is or what the date range should be.  Pretty much anything from the last 10 or so years, with a few of my older ones, was accepted.  Someone also brought up the fact that we had no graphic novels on the list and we hurriedly tried to come up with some, though struggled.  The only one named was Bones.  Anyone else have any ideas for modern classic graphic novels for teens?  And here are some of the books and authors that were discussed:

  • Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (which I just looked up on Amazon and has an amazing 1,288 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars!)
  • Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (though some argued that he was a classic author or that some of his other works — namely the Midnighters series — deserved recognition as well)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix (which I am not familiar with AT ALL but suppose I should be.  What do others think of this one?)
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • all Harry Potters
  • Twilight simply because we believe it has staying power, which may not be the same thing as classic.  I compared it to Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews because it may not be the best written book but it remains popular as each generation seems to form an attachment to it.
  • Alexie Sherman
  • Ellen Hopkins
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • M.T. Anderson
  • Sharon Draper
  • Older but still popular: Lurlene McDaniel, Lois Duncan, Ann Rinaldi, and Caroline B. Cooney

Girlfriend Material

Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantorby Melissa Kantor

Katie’s parents have this cycle.  They fight, usually over her dad’s inattentiveness and her mom’s need to be acknowledged, things become tense in the house for a couple of days, then her dad buys her mom flowers or jewelry and things go back to normal for awhile.  Not this time.  This time Katie’s mom decides that she is going on extended vacation to stay with some old college friends, the Cooper-Melnicks, at their house in Cape Cod and take Katie with her.  Understandably, Katie’s upset.  Cape Cod is over half the country away from her home and she’s already started off a great summer taking a writing class and hanging out with her best friend.  To make matters worse, when Katie and her mom arrive in Cape Cod, Sarah, the Cooper-Melnick’s daughter, treats Katie like she’s not worthy enough to be Sarah’s friend.  Just when Katie begins to think all hope is lost for her summer, she meets Sarah’s friend Adam.  Adam shares her love of literature and they have a great time when they hang out.  Katie thinks she may have found the guy who will be her first boyfriend when she learns that Adam has a secret.  When his secret comes out, Katie will have to decide what exactly she wants from Adam and their relationship, and whether or not she is girlfriend material.

Reaction: Perfect summer reading!  It is easy to relate to what Katie is going through.  She and her mother have never really been that close because her mother is into more “girly” things like crafting and shopping while Kate is into tennis and writing.  Because of her lack of closeness with her mother and because her parents fighting seems like second nature in the household, Katie is ill-prepared for her mother’s impromptu trip and doesn’t really understand how close her parents are to splitting up.  She really thinks her mother is just throwing a hissy-fit to end all hissy-fits and subjecting Katie to the fall out.  Only after spending some time in Cape Cod and having her father, with whom she’s always been close, brush her off as if he doesn’t have time for her, does Katie begin to see the seriousness of her parent’s relationship problems and view the situation from both her father and mother’s perspectives.

The best part of the story, though, is Katie’s relationship with Adam.  I think every teenage girl should read this story so they can know they’re not alone.  All of the uncertainties that I felt when I first started dating were acted out through Katie: not wanting to read too much into a friendship, afraid after one date or one kiss you’ll never hear from the other person again, and trying to act cool or like you don’t really care when you’re really feeling needy or insecure.  Katie and Adam’s relationship made me feel better about my first dating experiences even though they happened over 10 years ago now! :)

If you’re looking for something light and romantic but something that also has a bit of substance, definitely look for Girlfriend Material.

Library Loot: July 22-28

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Here’s my loot from this week:

Recheckouts:

  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (I promise to actually read it this time. Goal: to be finished with it before next book comes out)
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctrow

Currently Reading: Little Brother by Cory Doctrow and Derby Girl by Shauna Cross
Current Checkouts:
59
Current Holds: 5

Along for the Ride

Along for the Rideby Sarah Dessen

Auden acts on impulse, maybe for the first time in her life, and decides to spend the summer with her father.  She has missed him since her parents’ divorce and has visions of getting some serious quality time with him before she heads off to college in the fall.  In reality, Auden ends up spending more time with her stepmother, Heidi, and her brand new baby stepsister, Thisbe, as her dad locks himself away in his office to finish his long awaited second novel.  Summer in the beach town of Colby, where her father and stepmother live, turns out to be just as lonely as her summer at home was looking.  Until Auden begins working in Heidi’s store doing some bookkeeping and makes unlikely friends with the girly girls who work retail at the store.  Until Auden meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, who shows her a nightlife unlike any she’s ever seen before.  Until Auden decides to try new things and have the childhood she never enjoyed when she was a kid.

Review: First of all, like many reviews have said, this is a Sarah Dessen novel.  It follows the same patterns all of Sarah Dessen’s novels have followed.  Yes, they are all similar but this does not bother me, yet.  Right now, I find Dessen’s novels comfortable like my favorite jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt combo.  I enjoy them and greatly look forward to them.

Moving on, I think Along for the Ride is one of my favorite Dessen novels, though it still cannot trump my beloved Just Listen.  I’m trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about the book that spoke to me and I’m not quite sure.  I don’t think I could relate to Auden on a personal level.  Though I was driven in school, not nearly to the same extent as Auden, who was uberdriven.  Though I wasn’t necessarily a social butterfly, I certainly had more of a life and more of a childhood than Auden.  That being said, I could really relate with Auden’s journey.  I enjoyed Auden’s discovery of views outside those of her parents and her quest to reclaim a small bit of her childhood.  Both Auden’s parents are strong personalities and Auden spent much of her life conforming to their expectations without, perhaps, figuring out exactly what she wants out of life or without viewing the world through her own lens.  I also think Auden learned the very important but hard to take lesson that your parents are people too, flawed just like everyone else.  I believe most teenagers probably understand this to some extent but I think it takes a measure of personal growth before the parents as people idea really sinks in.  Auden was able to view both of her parents with a more mature eye by the end of the book.  For example, Auden’s mother seems very self-centric, and in many instances she is exactly that, but by the end of the book the reader and Auden know that despite her flaws she really does love Auden and want the best for her.

And then there is Eli.  I will just say that I really enjoyed the dynamic between Eli and Auden and how they both helped each other move on and grow into the future.  Very nice.

I don’t approve of:

  1. The cover.  Auden would not be caught dead in pink, even with her new, more “enlightened” mindset.  Ever.  Especially not pink with polka dots.  Not Auden.  And, I definitely didn’t picture Eli (whom I am assuming is the guy on the cover) as a character from grease but more skater (in this case biker) dude.
  2. The booktrailer.  It relates to maybe 1% of the story and tells you nothing about the true plot line.  Instead of linking the booktrailer, here is a video of Sarah Dessen reading from the part of the book the booktrailer represents but the reading actually gives you a sense of who Auden is and of her new summer surroundings.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFyPlKoac-M]

Library Loot: July 15-21

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Not a big week on the checkout front, which is good.  I have too much to read! :)

Here’s what I checked out:

Also, I rechecked out:

I have 57 items checked out and 3 holds.