Thursday, November 29, 2012

Printz Watch 2013: Underrated Gems

The Printz award will be annouced in two short months!! I'm very excited and I'm going to step up my blogging to reflect all the awesome titles that have come out this year.

Today, I'm going to talk about three books that I've read this year that I loved, but they didn't receive a lot of press.  Which is a shame, because they're fantastic.

Miracle by Elizabeth Scott is the story of Megan, the sole survivor of a plane crash.  She's a miracle, at least that's what her whole town is saying. Everyone--including her family, her friends, and her church--can only seem to see her as Miracle Megan.  But she doesn't feel miraculous. She really doesn't feel much of anything.  When the memories of the crash start coming back, she doesn't know how to deal with them.  And her community is no help. They're so thankful that she is alive that they can't see what's happening to her.

This story is an unflinching look at post-traumatic stress disorder, though it never mentions the syndrome by name.  Megan feels broken and she feels like there is something irreparably wrong with her.  She feels guilty for surviving, and she is drowning.  Her family is so grateful that she is alive that they can't seem to handle the fact that she is still struggling.  Her feelings of grief and helplessness are drawn beautifully by Scott.  Her interactions with Joe, the boy next door with a tragic past of his own, are awkward and painful yet ultimately cathartic.  And her friendship with Margaret, a woman from church, is more helpful than anything anyone else has to say.  The story has some flaws--Megan's parents are a little too desperate to overlook her anguish and believe she's fine--but mostly, you're willing to overlook it because it's so real.  Well done.  It was a relatively small book.  It didn't get any starred reviews or buzz and somehow I have a feeling that the Printz committee won't have much discussion about it.  But they should.  And you should read it.

Small Damages by Beth Kephart is the story of Kenzie, who has just finished her last year of high school.  She comes from a prestigious family, she's bright and ambitious, and she's in love with Kevin, who is bound for Yale.  But she's also grieving the loss of her father, and she reckless chances, and she gets pregnant.  Refusing to end the pregnancy despite the wishes of her stubborn mother, Kenzie finds herself shipped off to Spain for the summer to wait out her pregnancy and give up her baby to a Spanish couple.

Kenzie's story is quiet and sad and full of emotion.  Her interactions with her mother and her boyfriend when she finds out she's pregnant are interspersed with her life in Spain.  She is learning to cook from Estela, she is learning to be friends with Estaban, and she is trying to find out how she feels about the adoptive parents of her baby.  She feels very alone but starts to find healing as she immerses herself in the culture of gypsies and bullfighting and orange groves.  As a heads-up, this isn't an action-filled book.  It's much more character-driven than plot-driven, and I know that drives some of my regular teen readers crazy. It's introspective and lovely and about how a young woman grows up. It got two starred reviews and I certainly hope there are some conversations about it.

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara is the story of Wren. Wren Wells survived the car accident that killed her boyfriend.  It tilts her world on its axis and sends her life completely off course.  She moves to remote Maine to live with her sculptor father, to recover, but her grief threatens to overwhelm her.

Oh my gosh, THIS BOOK.  First of all, the writing is gorgeous.  Some of you poetry afficiandos will love this one, because the language is downright poetic.  This isn't an easy book to read, because Wren's grief is palpable.  It weighs her down and beats on her from all sides; it is relentless.  The setting of Maine and the weather and the snow make her isolation seem even more extreme.  Wren begins to work for Cal, which turns into a relationship.  But it's not all happy--they are both broken people.  One of the things that I love the most about their story is that Cal is not Wren's salvation, or vice versa. They're each trying to find their own way back to sanity.  They're both trying to deal with their situations, and their families, and their pasts. Their interactions with each other are very real and very human.  This one is not upbeat, but it is gorgeous.  The second I finished this book, I wanted to start it over from the beginning. You won't regret this read.  As for the Printz? I hope the committee reads it and rereads it and talks about it.  Since it's a debut, I think it's a strong contender for the Morris Award (I may have nominated it already. Ok, I did.)

There you have it, three underrated gems. All three of these are available at the Pearl Library.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to reread these pronto.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teen Anime and Manga @ Pearl Library

 Hey all my Anime and Manga enthusiasts!  It’s that time again! Turkey Day is coming up soon and so is the next meeting of the Pearl Library Anime Club! The next meeting is November 19th, 2012 from 6-7p.m.  As always you can read Manga, draw Manga and Anime, talk about Manga and Anime or just hang out and listen to everybody else talk about Manga and Anime.  Even you guys who don’t know anything about Manga and Anime are welcome to attend.  Believe me we will tell you every single detail we know (Can you say over share?)  But, hey, that’s what the Thanksgiving season is all about right?  It is Japanese tradition to give gifts at this time of year so our craft for this month is Furoshiki. Let’s all say it  together F-U-R-O-S-H-I-K-I. In other words the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in clothe.  Oh and did I mention that there will be snacks?  As always I want to say that Anime and Manga fans are the most interesting and talented people around so we hope to see you there!
Your faithful Pearl Anime Club Host,
Miss Vickie

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Printz Watch 2013: Superstars of YA!

So maybe I've been boring all of you with my super-technical geeking out over starred reviews and YA from other countries that you might not have read, so in this post I'll be discussing two authors that you know and love.

David Levithan is a pretty prolific and popular YA author these days.  He had a book in the Printz Watch last year (Every You, Every Me), which you can read about here.  He's teamed with Rachel Cohn for popular books like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which I know you love because they're never checked in at the Pearl Library!  He's even coauthored with John Green!

His 2012 title is called Every Day.  Every Day is about A, whose life is very different.  Every day, A wakes up in another person's body. A different one every day. A has been black, white, girls, boys, gay, straight, sick, well, brilliant, suicidal, you name it, A has been it. A has learned over the years not to get to attached to these lives. A trudges along, trying not to disrupt them too much, trying not to be too out of character, trying to make it through the day.  Until the day that A wakes up in Justin's body and falls in love with Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon.  Suddenly, A's body-switching life becomes more and more erratic:   The story is intruiguing: what would you do if your only life had to be lived vicariously through others? This one, like a lot of Levithan's books is very lyrically written.  This is definitely a character-driven novel and the characterization is pretty great, especially considering that one character is essentially a chameleon.  I feel like maybe this one could have been longer and developed the backstory character more, but the sparse background actually made the story more engaging, not less.  This one has received multiple starred reviews and will definitely be talked about around the Printz deliberation table. Check it out by clicking here.

Maggie Stiefvater wrote the insanely popular Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Linger, Shiver, Forever) that y'all loved. I'm not a huge reader of werewolf books (I'm a scaredy cat, y'all, it's so sad!), so when last year's The Scorpio Races came out, I almost passed it by.  I'm so glad I didn't, because it ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2011 and it also won a Printz Honor! So when I got my hands on an advance copy of Maggie's newest book, The Raven Boys, I snatched it up and devoured it almost in one sitting. Blue's entire family is psychic, but she isn't.  Her gift is that she seems to make the powers of her mom and crazy aunts stronger, which is helpful to them, but pretty useless to Blue.  She's grown up with psychic predictions--like the fact that she's been told since she was tiny that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die.  She also does things like help her aunts see the spirits of the dead--which she never sees. Until the night that she sees the ghost of a boy wandering around the cemetary.  And her life makes a turn with that same boy--very much alive--comes into her mother's house for a reading.  This one is brilliant.  It has the backstory of a town, a mythology about a long-dead kind, psychics, clairvoyants, ghosts, brooding private school boys, and a raven.  The only thing that may count against this dark delight of a story is that it's the first book in a series and though some things are cleared up, there are definitely more mysteries to be solved.  I can't wait to read the next one! Click here to request The Raven Boys.

So what do y'all think? Are Levithan and Stiefvater some of your favorite authors? Will they win again?


Friday, November 2, 2012

Cupcake Wars @ Brandon

Click on picture to enlarge.
Last night our teens had a blast learning the basics of cake decorating. They didn't do a bad job eating them either! Wish you could have joined us? No worries; we will be having Cupcake Wars Part 2 on November 15 @ 6:00. Join our teens as they return to compete to find out who is our star decorator. Even if you missed part one you may still compete!

For more info call us, 601-825-2672.