Monday, June 11, 2012

True Blue by Deborah Ellis

Jess and her best friend Casey have just spent the summer as counselors at a local camp.  During their last session they had bratty 8 year old Stephanie in their cabin.  Stephanie made everyone's lives miserable with her stealing and hiding.  When Stephanie is murdered on the last day of camp and her shirt shows up in Casey's clothing, Casey is arrested for the crime.  Jess is stunned, especially by how quickly the rest of the town turns against Casey and believes in her guilt.  But while Jess is unhappy, she can't bring herself to speak up for Casey either, unlike her mom who is yelling at everyone while she slips into her recurring mental illness.  This is an amazing book that pulls you slowly into Jess's mind.  It wasn't until fairly far into the book that I was struck by Jess's character.  It's difficult to describe without giving away too much because the joy for me was when I realized what the author was doing and began to squirm a bit in reading Jess's words.  Read it!

Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

Callie is entering middle school and things aren't going very well for her.  She has frizzy hair and lots of freckles.  Callie signed up for drama even though she didn't want to act in order to be with her best friend but Ellen is much more outgoing and has begun hanging out with new girl Stacy.  And if it's not bad enough that now Callie has to wear glasses, the pair she chose aren't available right away and she's given a huge pair with a thick, black frame as loaners.  But when Callie puts on the glasses she notices that windows open up next to people and show their thoughts.  This is helpful in some cases like when she's not paying attention in class but can still give the correct answer because the teacher is thinking it.  But Callie also learns some less fun things like that people think she's stuck up because she doesn't talk to them.  Callie has to learn to use the glasses wisely to solve the problems she is facing at school and at home.  This is a light, but cute book about growing up.  Callie starts out fairly obsessed with herself but comes to realize that others are hiding things as well. 

Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick

Since her parents have separated Marley now has to spend the summer at her father's house while her mother travels.  Her father's house doesn't feel like home and he doesn't have an internet connection so she can't even check her Facebook.  He seems to expect Marley to help him unload boxes and do chores around the house.  Worst of all, he has lined up a job for Marley babysitting twin girls every day.  Marley is looking forward to seeing her two best friends Jane and Leah.  Each year the girls play Monopoly with their own made up rules.  And ever since the original surprise water balloon blitz many years before, the three friends compete to see who can top the others with the best surprise water balloon fight each summer.  Marley's two friends are both in drama camp and don't have much time to visit and when they finally do come, things seem strained.  The friendship deteriorates even more after Marley springs the water balloon fight on them during a party.  The only upside to her summer so far is cute next door neighbor Jack.  This is a warm growing up story with which many people can identify.  Marley has to figure out what's important and what makes a true friend, both painful lessons.

Living Violet by Jaime Reed

Samara is looking forward to a relaxing summer interrupted only by her job at a bookstore.  Her peaceful summer is disrupted when she notices that women who date co-worker Caleb seem to end up in the hospital with heart attacks.  Caleb has always been full of himself, collecting quarters from women who ask about his startling violet eyes.  Now he has turned his attention to Samara, saying that she sees the "real" him.  Samara soon discovers that Caleb is a Cambion, a human who hosts a demon.  Caleb's demon requires human life force to survive and takes what it needs when Caleb kisses a woman.  Samara seems to be immune to the demon's draw which has Caleb intriqued.  With help from another Cambion, Caleb learns how to draw just a little energy from the people around him while Samara finds herself falling in love with him.  New troubles arrive, however, when Samara's mom goes on a date and ends up in the hospital with heart problems and obsessed with the man who put her there.  This book just left me cold.  The writing is uneven - does Nadine have an accent or not?  I was surprised when she was suddenly speaking like a foreigner halfway through the story.  And the story of the Cambion and how much it interacts with the host was unclear to me. 

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Mira lives with two aunts since the deaths of her parents when she was a baby.  Although she loves her aunts, she still longs for the parents she never knew.  A week before her sixteenth birthday she decides to run away and find their graves in the town of Beau Rivage.  What she finds there is a world she never knew existed.  Many of the town's inhabitants have been cursed by fairies and are destined to enact parts of fairy tales.  Viv carries the Snow White mark and has a tumultuous relationship with the man who is destined to carry out the role of the huntsman sometime in her future.  Rafe is an obnoxious boy who will someday become a beast.  Mira knows that handsome, charming Felix and his annoying brother Blue also have marks but no one will tell her what they mean.  All she knows is that everyone warns her to stay away from Felix even though she thinks she is falling in love with him.  She has also learned that she is marked by a Sleeping Beauty curse and unless she can figure out what sharp item will cause her to fall asleep, she has no control over her own future.  This is a really well done story weaving fairy tales into modern life along with a doomed romance. 

Rock God: The Legend of BJ Levine by Barnabas Miller

B.J. has just moved from Cleveland to New York City.  Luckily for him, his best friend has moved there as well but they are still a bit nerdy to be part of the cool crowd at school.  One day B.J.'s parents are visited by an old biker named Merv who has an angry, quiet conversation with them.  When he leaves, B.J. sees Merv drop a small notebook.  When B.J. reads it, he finds that it contains several steps that need to be followed to become a Rock God in just a week.  B.J. decides to follow the steps, the first of which is forming a band.  He recruits his best friend Kevin, a girl named Layla who pounds the drums, and Jann Solo, an amazing guitarist.  He also steals his dad's song to play in order to get discovered.  Within a few days the band is on an (accidental) road trip trying to become famous while eluding the gang of bikers who are following them.  This is a fun book.  The events in it strain believability but if you just stop trying to make it all work out, it's a fun ride! 

Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

Caitlin is a paranormal - a person who has unusual abilities.  In Caitlin's case, she can read minds even if people are long distances away.  Since Paras are hunted and imprisoned by the government, Caitlin and her mom are constantly on the run.  When they reach their latest town they decide to hide in plain sight and Caitlin enrolls in the local high school.  There, she meets two people one of whom becomes a close friend and the other, a boyfriend.  She also finally meets a Para with whom she has been communicating for years and discovers that they have a much closer relationship than she ever imagined.  Although Caitlin can feel the government closing in on her she doesn't want to leave her new home and friends.  When she discovers the plan that some people are working on, she knows that she's the only one who can help.  An interesting dystopia but too much convoluted description of the para fighting towards the end.  I also found it hard to believe how quickly some people were able to change their opinions.