Tag Archives: Young Adult Literature

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han
Book Reviews
April 15, 2010 posted by Katie

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

Everything that happened this past summer, and every summer before it, has all led up to this. To now.

Every year Isabel spends a perfect summer at her family friends’ house. There’s the swimming pool at night, the private stretch of sandy beach…and the two boys. Unavailable, aloof Conrad – who she’s been in love with forever – and friendly, relaxed Jeremiah, the only one who’s every really paid her any attention.

But this year something is different. They seem to have noticed her for the first time. It’s going to be an amazing summer – and one she’ll never forget…

Isabel has been called Belly for as long as she can remember. As long as she has been coming to the beach house for summer. For her mum and Susannah are best friends, and Susannah owns the beach house. The perfect big house, the pool out the back, the beach, the sun, the surf. During the school year, Belly distracts herself thinking about summer and the beach house. It’s the place that she knows exactly what is going to happen, even if it’s not exactly what she wants to happen.

For also at the beach house is Steve, her annoying older brother, Conrad and Jeremiah, Susannah’s two sons. As much as Belly wishes they would include her, she knows it will never happen, not truly included. The only girl in a group of guys? Yea as if they would include her in their adventures. It’s something Belly has gotten used to. Just like she is used to Susannah cooking the same meal on the first night, her midnight swims and being left alone a nights.

Yet this summer, something seems different. For one, the reaction of Conrad and Jeremiah when she gets out of the car is completely not what she expected. Susannah doesn’t come to meet them, running out the door like always. The mood is different, almost as if everyone else knows something that they aren’t telling her.

Then comes the moment that she has been longing for. An invite to the bonfire that she was always considered too young to go to. It is there that she meets Cam. Cam Cameron. Someone different to everyone else. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs and can speak Latin and French, even if technically Latin is a dead language. Finally Belly meets someone that she just might be able to forget Conrad with. Someone who tells her that she is beautiful, someone who actually wants her around.

Yet as the summer draws closer to a close, will this really be enough to Belly to move on? Will she be willing to hurt those she loves, to gain what she needs most?

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the second novel from young adult writer Jenny Han, and the first of her novels that I have read. This story captured me, in a way that reminded me of my first love and my teenage years. Growing up and just waiting for the one guy to notice you. It’s a story that I think a lot of people can relate to, both young and old, either going through it currently or remembering what it was like. The Summer I Turned Pretty captures that journey and adventure to find who you are and to be seen as something different to what everyone thinks you are. Reminding me, in style, of Sarah Dessen’s novel Along For The Ride, the characters in Han’s novel are instantly ones you can recognise and connect with. The characters and their actions is what invests you in this novel. You want the best for them; you want everything to end up okay for them.

Belly is a gem. I find reflections of myself in her actions, and things that I wish I had done when I was her age. She has the strength to keep going, to try for something better because she believes the best in everyone. Her relationships with Conrad and Jeremiah and how she deals with her feelings is something that I think we all go through. The confusion of not knowing exactly what someone else thinks of you. Cam was also another breath of fresh air. I wish we had got to see even more of Cam then what was included. Susannah was the mother you wished you had, and Belly’s own mother is that of a typical mother – doing more that her daughter realised at the time.

An element that I really loved was the chance to go back in Belly’s past and see memories from previous summers, and how they created the person that Belly is now.

A beautifully light reading and feel-good novel.

Publication date: 2010

Pages: 288

Rating:: ★★★½☆

Teaser quote: When it started to get cold, I rubbed my arms, and Cam took off his hoodie and gave it to me. Which, was sort of my dream come true – getting cold and having a guy actually give you his hoodie instead of gloating over how mart he’d been to bring one.

Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead
Book Club Read
April 8, 2010 posted by Katie

Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies…

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden deep in the forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger…and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…

Rose and Lissa are best friends; the kind that knows each other’s every thought. Well, Rose does. For she is linked to Lissa. They share a bond closer than that of two normal friends. It’s this bond that might have kept them alive for the last two years. That, and Lissa possess magical powers, even if she isn’t very good with them. But all that is about to change, on that one night when the guardians from St. Vladimir’s Academy are about to catch up with them. Lead by Russian guardian Dimitri Belikov, Rose has no chance, yet that doesn’t mean she gives up without a fight. Rose never gives up without a fight. Before they left the Academy, Rose was well known for her sarcastic tongue and tough personality. It had gotten her into trouble many times before.

Yet on her return to St. Vladimir’s, Rose finds that her quick temper is only one of the things she needs to watch. She’s placed on probation, meaning no social outings outside of normal class duties. She has extra training sessions with one Dimitri Belikov. Her freedom is gone, and she hast to start over, something that everyone will take a while to get used to.

But with these extra practice sessions that she originally dreaded, comes something Rose wasn’t expecting. For Dimitri Belikov isn’t what anyone suspects. Rumours frequently state that Dimitri is a god. A sexy badass Russian god who is more than likely the best guardian on campus. As Rose soon finds out, that reputation isn’t without reason. For Dimitri is relentless, constantly challenging Rose beyond her comfort zone, challenging her to find something more than herself. Yet Rose has something else she is struggling with. Against all her better judgment, she finds herself falling for her mentor. Something strictly forbidden in the Dhampir world.

First, Rose is a student, Dimitri her teacher. Second, that teacher is seven years older than her. But most importantly, everyone knows Dhampir’s don’t have relationships with other Dhampir’s. It would distract them from their job – protecting the Moroi at all costs. Lissa’s life could depend on Rose’s concentration. What Rose doesn’t know, is how soon her concentration is going to be tested.

Vampire Academy is the first novel in the series of the same name by author Richelle Mead. As her first foray into the world of Young Adult fiction, Mead has done so spectacularly. Her world is fresh and new. Vampires with routes in firmly established mythology, set in a contemporary society with characters that you wish you were friends with. You won’t find any sparkling vampires here. These vampires are living and real. They drink blood for survival from willing human donators. They enjoy a connection with the elements, each one giving of a different strand of magic that is infused in the spirit of each Moroi. Then there are the Dhampir’s – something not seen before yet equally thought up and developed. The social structure is defined, the places and locations real. There is a quality here that lends itself to every action having a reason and a thought behind it.

Add into that unreal characters. Rose is everything you could want in a female protagonist. Strong, independent and willing to fight for what she believes in, a streak which can sometimes get her into trouble. She is sarcastic, feisty and loyal, laying her life on the line for her best friend time and time again. Dimitri is another example. Strong and fearless, sexy and beautiful. He is the force that makes Roes realize just how serious her training needs to be. He is the one that finally gets through to Rose. Christian was a pleasant surprise to me. I liked his character and the way he cared for Lissa. He is someone that I hope to see more of in future novels. Finally, Lissa. This is the one I wasn’t completely sure about. She is Rose’s best friend, and for that, she keeps Rose sane. Yet, there were times where I saw a selfish streak from Lissa, the need for her to be taken care off. Lissa doesn’t really stand up for herself, though perhaps this is to do with partly how she was raised.

In all, a fantastic first book. This series I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys and is a fan of good urban adventure. A great read, and sure to get you hooked on the rest of the series!

Publication date: 2008

Pages: 332

Rating:: ★★★★½

Teaser quote: “Wow.” I hadn’t thought Dimitri could be any cooler, but I was wrong. “ You beat up your dad? I mean, that’s really horrible…what happened? But, wow. You really are a god.”

He blinked. “What?”

“Uh, nothing.”

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
Book Club Read
March 18, 2010 posted by Katie

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan


Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek god.

I was just a normal guy, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That’s when things really started going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends and generally trying to stay alive.

This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.

I first heard mention of the Percy Jackson books since watching the trailer for the recent adaption to screen, and as it is yaReads bookclub choice of the month, I decided to take a look and see what it is all about.

At first glances, Percy is a troubled kid. Constantly getting in trouble as school, unable to pay attention in classes because of his dyslexia, and his only true friend being the class outcast of Grover. With his best subject being Latin, taught by the slightly old Mr Brunner, Percy finds it tough to get a break. And when things start to seem slightly off on a recent school field trip to the museum, Percy starts to think that perhaps something isn’t right. For example, only he seems to remember their old maths teacher, and he seems to be the only one that Mr Brunner is really keen to get the ancient Greek and Roman myths right. Yet the vanishing maths teacher isn’t the only thing that seems to go wrong.

On a family holiday with his mum, things start to turn horrible. Being chased by a creature that shouldn’t exist, Percy must reach the sanctuary of a summer camp that even his mother doesn’t seem to know much about. When Percy arrives, he beings to discover exactly why he seems different.

For Percy is the son of a god. His is a half-blood, but just exactly who his father is, no one seems to know. At a summer camp that involves daily activities of sword fighting and learning Ancient Greek, Percy finally has a place where he belongs, a place with kids just like him. That is, until he attracts the attention of the one person you really shouldn’t disrupt.

Zeus thinks that Percy has stolen his lightning bolt – and demands that it must be returned before the summer solstice in ten days time. Accompanied by two friends, Percy begins the journey of a lifetime. One that could decide if he lives or dies. And with nearly every god and creature in the universe out to get you, locating one bolt of lightning is a lot harder than it looks.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the first in a series of novels by Rick Riordan. I had high expectations of this novel, hearing a lot about it from friends and seeing great reviews. However, the biggest let of the novel was plot. To me, it didn’t move with any form of flowing pace, and lacked development. It was one action seen after the next. Just as you thought nothing more could happen to them, another obstacle was thrown in their way. I understand that it was a ‘quest’ novel, but I would have liked to see some more non-action development of plot – some working out of clues and a plan to get from A to B instead of running headlong at everything that came.

That being said, I did find the characters extremely enjoyable to read about. Highlights for me were both Annabeth and Grover. Both characters where strong and unique, helping Percy on his quest and helping him to grow as a person. In particular, I hope we see a lot more of Grover in future novels, he was a personal favourite.

If you’re a fan of action and mythology, that I can say that Percy Jackson will be something that you will enjoy.

Published date: 2005

Pages: 374

Rating:: ★★★½☆

Teaser quote: He pulled a pen from his coat pocket and handed it to me. It was an ordinary disposable ballpoint, black ink, removable cap. Probably cost thirty cents.

‘Gee,’ I said. ‘Thanks.’

‘Percy, that’s a gift from your father. I’ve kept it for years not knowing you were who I was waiting for. But the prophecy is clear to me now. You are the one.’

Behind Green Glass – Amanda Von Hoffmann
Book Reviews
February 14, 2010 posted by Katie

Behind Green Glass – Amanda Von Hoffmann

Isolde is a shy and artistic sixteen-year old who moves into a house rumored to be haunted. When she discovers a shard of green glass, a new world opens for her. Through the glass she sees Lyric, who mistakenly believes he is a ghost, and other ethereally beautiful creatures.

As their mystery unfolds, Isolde learns they are not ghosts, but The Forgotten Ones, fairies cast out of their realm, labelled imperfect for their physical and mental differences. Isolde’s friendship with Lyric and The Forgotten Ones teaches her that sometimes our imperfections can also be our greatest strengths.

Isolde Rackham isn’t like other kids her age. For one, she is home schooled, automatically different to anyone in the small town of Thornville. Two, she just moved to Thornville with her slightly reclusive mother who is also her teacher. As if this wasn’t enough the house that Isolde and her mother moved into is supposedly haunted by a girl who committed suicide some 50-years before Isolde got there. So you might be able to understand Isolde hesitation to just walk around town, yet she can’t avoid going into town forever.

On her first trip in she runs into a guy called Matt. Well, not so much run into but Matt’s friends couldn’t leave her alone. So beings the relationship with Matt. At first, it’s a hesitant one, with both of them not really knowing how to act around the other, especially when they are so different to each other. But as time goes by, Isolde finds that she is trusting Matt more and more. Almost enough to tell him her secret – that was if, he wouldn’t think her completely insane for it. After all, how many 16-year-olds do you know that can see fairies?

It started when Isolde found a piece of green glass hidden in the draws of her new home. Then came the fingerprint on the painting – a fingerprint Isolde didn’t put there. And by chance, Isolde glances through the glass and in that moment, Isolde’s life as she knew it was changed forever.

For through the glass she saw a figure, human in shape yet graceful beyond anything a human could achieve. Isolde’s first thought must be that she is seeing ghosts. Yet ghosts aren’t meant to exist. As she gains courage and begins to have conversation with the mysterious figure, Isolde learns that his name is Lyric and that he isn’t the only one out there. Along with Lyric and his family, Isolde embarks on an adventure to discover the true meaning of who they are, why they are out there, seemingly the only ones of their kind. And not everyone is ready for that information to be uncovered…

Behind Green Glass is debut novel from Amanda von Hoffman and is a light and easy read with an engaging and captivating story. I found that reading from Isolde’s point of view to be quite easy and engaging, a skill that not all authors have. The story provided something different in the YA genre – fairies. Apart from Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, you don’t often see many fairy tales in the young adult section, and with Behind Green Glass, von Hoffman has made a notable contribution to this category. The characters I found intriguing and would have liked to know more about – especially Isolde and her mother’s friendly neighbor Joe Albright.

A genuinely easy to read and engaging story – I enjoyed!

Pages: 184

Publication Date: May 2010 (pre-order now)

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser quote: Perched in the maple outdoors she saw a figure, human in shape, animal-like in posture. A smooth expanse of bare muscled chest, light tangled hair, glowing irises. The glass slipped from her fingers…

Letters to Leonardo – Dee White
Book Reviews
February 5, 2010 posted by Katie

Letters to Leonardo – Dee White

The truth changes everything.

Dear Leonardo,

Truth is important in art, don’t you think?

Truth is important full stop.

Matt

It’s Matt Hudson’s fifteenth birthday and all he wants is some art lessons. Instead, he gets a card from his dead mother. How can someone who died ten years ago send you a card?

Simple answer – they can’t.

This awful truth changes Matt’s life forever.

On the morning of your fifteenth birthday you think it would be a happy situation and a reason to celebrate. Not for Matt Hudson. For Matt, it’s the 10th reminder that his mother isn’t here to wish him a happy birthday, that it’s just him and his father, Dave, who will probably not even remember and will make up for it with pizza for dinner.

Or that’s how Matt thought it would go.

He wasn’t expecting a card. Especially a card from his mother that is supposed to be dead. Suddenly Matt’s world is turned upside down. Was it just his imagination? Someone’s idea of a practical joke? For Matt can find no record of her anywhere. Relatives refuse to talk about her, no records of any kind linked to the name and a search on Google doesn’t even bring up anything with her name. After all, Zara Templeton isn’t exactly a common name.

Except for a bible found in his Dad’s draw with her name on it, Zara has all but disappeared.

Yet as Matt digs deeper, there are records of Zara. Except she calls herself Zora now. There are mentions of her as an artist. Matt even sees one of her paintings and knows for sure that this has to be his mother. For where else would he have got his talent and interest in art except from his mother?

As Matt discovers more, the anger in him builds. Anger at being lied to for 10 years of his life. Anger at events that took his mother out of his life, but above all, anger at his father for pretending like nothing is wrong, that he hasn’t just created one big lie. For what could make a father lie to his son about his mother?

Dave had his reasons. For Zora would abandon Matt as a child – leave him in shopping centers and home alone for days on end. Zora suffers from bipolar. And she refuses to take medication on the basis that it limits her creative ability.

At first Matt doesn’t believe him. And as events get more and more out of control, risking everything and everyone he loves, Matt comes to realise that maybe his father was right. But will Matt understand before he loses the one person who has stuck by him through thick and thin?

Letters to Leonardo is the moving story of how one family comes to terms with the biggest changes in their life and how it affects both them and those around them. Dee White’s debut novel is oddly compelling and real. The voice of Matt is so strong and true that you feel the confusion and the indecision that Matt feels, and his struggle to understand and deal with the events that has unfolded in his life. White provides an inside into a topic that isn’t often spoken about in ways that can be identified with and understood.

Pages: 246

Publication date: 2009

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser quote: You were little. It was for your own good. I had to protect you…

Brain Jack – Brian Falkner
Book Reviews
January 6, 2010 posted by Katie

Brain Jack – Brian Falkner

It would take a very special person to crack the computer systems of the White House.

An expert. A genius. A devil. All of the above, some would say.

Someone like Sam Wilson, brilliant teenage computer hacker. But Sam’s obsession is about to lead him into a dangerous world. A world of espionage and intrigue; of cybercrime and imminent war.

A world where logging on to your computer could mean the difference between life and death.

Sam Wilson is just your average teenager. At least he looks like your average teenager. What is different about Sam is his ability with computers. Sam can access nearly anything that is on the internet. He has written his own computer programs to allow this and just recently pulled off one of the biggest hacks the world has seen – with a few side effects. Sam hacked into Telecomerica, got himself and his friend a new computer and neuro-headset, but in the process, caused the majority of the United States of America to lose power. For a few days.

Of course, if you ask Sam, none of that was meant to happen but he needed to blow off his trackers somehow. And as Sam successfully gets his new computer without any obvious form of detection, Sam is ready for his next challenge – NetH@ack. The secret convention of the most skilled hackers on the net. With belief in his ability that he can’t be caught, Sam almost succeeds. That is, until the Cyber Defence Division of Homeland Security knocks on his door.

Transport to a containment facility, Sam is destined to be a prisoner for the rest of his life. Seemingly forgotten by all but his mother, it is the worst situation Sam could have ended up in. Constant security, no internet access and limited computer time on a computer so ancient and riddled in security protection, that it seems impossible to get through. Apparently. But if you know what Sam does, then it seems like biding your time is all that you have to do.

Making one of the most daring escape attempts in the history of Recton Hall, against all odds, Sam succeeds only to be picked up, again, by the Cyber Defence Division which seems like it was waiting for this exact move, somehow knowing that Sam would try to escape. Once Sam reaches CDD headquarters, everything that he thought he knew, gets turned completely on its head. Sam is given a lifetime opportunity – if he can survive the probation.

And when the next war begins, it starts in cyberspace, and Sam is part of the front line of defence, and it’s up to Sam to stop the internet taking over the world.

Brian Jack by Brian Falkner is a fast moving action thriller that kept me turning page after page, wondering what is going to happen next. When I started reading, and I found that Brian Jack was based in cyberspace, I was worried that it would become too technical, that I wouldn’t understand the language being used, but quite like his previous novel Falkner provides a way that you don’t need to be a tech-savvy person to understand and enjoy the novel. The feeling of being in over your head only enhances the understanding of the stakes the characters would be going through. The development of Sam from a teenager who believes he can do anything into a person who understands the implications of what one single action will have on the world is believable and engaging from start to finish.

A good read with a fast plot and an action thriller for all ages.

Pages: 438

Publication Date: 2009

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Feed – M. T. Anderson
Book Reviews
December 16, 2009 posted by Katie

Feed – M. T. Anderson

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

So says Titus, a teenager whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed,” a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

When I first saw Feed mentioned in Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Top Twelve Books of 2009’, I knew that I had to read this novel. (For those who don’t know, Maggie is the author of Shiver) What gripped me from the first page of this novel is the sense of grim reality. This isn’t a novel where everything is carefully scripted, it’s honest and raw. Dialogue and thought coming from a place that strikes me as real. Through every thought of Titus I got a sense of being completely in over my head, struggling to find meaning of events taking place. Which, I believe, is exactly the response author M. T. Anderson was looking for.

Feed opens with a group of friends on spring break who have decided to take off to the moon to find entertainment. But the moon isn’t exactly what they expected. They run into Violet, who for all appearances is as average and normal as the rest of them. Except for the fact she was home-schooled and needs to live a little. Yet everything doesn’t run smoothly on the moon. For Titus and his friends become the subjects of a hacker, resulting in their feeds being disconnected, leaving them shut off from the world. Imagine having the internet permanently accessible to you, then suddenly it’s gone. Yet this internet is the basis of everything. Communication, human contact. The world.

All too soon – or not soon enough depending on your point of view – the technicians of FeedTech have fixed the problem and Titus, Violet and their friends can continue on with their normal life as American consumers. However one member of this group doesn’t have it as easy as the rest. Even before the hack, Violet was about defying the feed. About not conforming to society. Testing the boundaries to see how far she can push. And her limit may have just arrived, for her feed hasn’t recovered the same as everyone else’s. Slowly, Violet is losing control of her most basic functions and without the money to fund repairs, Violet and Titus know that she only has a short amount of time to live.

With not enough time to do anything, Violet tries to do everything. Yet underneath it all there is still her belief in fighting the system. Her belief that there is something more out there than the average American. But can she communicate this to Titus in a way he can understand before it’s too late?

I’ve always measure novels in terms of how well I can get lost in the story. Feed is one that had me completely lost in the story. Anderson wove a story that was so compelling and so real. This isn’t a fantasy or alternate universe with different rules. It’s a grim look at a future possible reality. The ‘feeds’ which is the subject matter of a large portion of the novel is a highly advanced internet interface which is installed in your brain – it takes over everything from breathing and moving and completely removes the necessity of reading. It categories and records everything you do, building a profile of you used by American corporations. It is a place that we could very well be heading. A scary and controlling place. And through this, we have Violet who is fighting for a better world, a world where youth don’t live in ignorance of what is happening outside of their suburb, where youth remember the history of the past and what the world used to be like. It is Violet who made this novel all the more real, as she tries to break from society.

This is just one of those novels that needs to be read. At the core, one girls emotional and physical struggle to change the world, seen through the eyes of one that struggles and fails to break free of the constraints of society.

A warning to younger readers, frequent coarse language does occur.

Pages: 300

Publication date: 2004

Rating:: ★★★★★