Liar | Justine Larbalestier

Compulsive liar Micah finds it difficult to tell the truth in the aftermath of her boyfriend’s mysterious death.

Awards & Honors

• A School Library Journal Best Book, 2009

• A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, 2010

Review

Micah is the kind of person who likes to start rumors about herself. For the first two days of school, she had everyone convinced she was a boy. Later, she got them all to think she was the daughter of an arms dealer. With all the lies Micah’s told, it’s hard to know when she’s telling the truth. And all of a sudden, the truth is more important than ever: When Micah’s secret boyfriend is found dead, her classmates, her parents, and the cops all look to her for answers.

As Micah reveals the supposed real story of Zach’s murder, readers will have to decide for themselves whether they trust this unreliable narrator. Larbalestier’s talent for suspense will keep the pages turning as fast as Micah runs through the streets of New York City, especially after shocking twist halfway through the book. What happens next? That depends on who, and what, you believe.

Larbalestier, Justine. Liar. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Reviewed from library copy.

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April 5, 2010. Tags: , , . High School, Paranormal, Realistic. Leave a comment.

Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies | Justina Chen Headley

Half-Taiwanese, half-white Patty Ho feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere—until she goes to math camp and makes some important discoveries.

Recommendations

• A YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2008

• “Great voice from a very promising debut.” Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006

• “Headley makes an impressive debut with this witty, intimate novel.” Publishers Weekly starred review, April 10, 2006

• “Patty’s contemporary, immediate thoughts about finding direction and relating to family have universal resonance, while her specific struggles will speak directly to biracial teens.” Booklist review, June 1, 2006

Review

When a fortune-telling granny sees a white guy in Patty’s future, her overbearing Taiwanese mama has a few ideas for reversing the prediction: Patty will eat stinky tonic soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Patty will attend math camp this summer. Patty will meet a Nice (Taiwanese) Boy.

Never mind that Patty is half white herself. But Mama considers marrying Patty’s dad the one mistake she ever made, and she’ll do anything to keep her daughter from repeating it. So as Patty’s white girlfriends look forward to a summer of fun, she heads off to Stanford for what is sure to be a month of torturous Asian geekery.

To her surprise, some of the kids at math camp are actually cool, and she might even have a chance with Chinese hunk Stu. Things are looking up for this banana-split girl—but in order to feel truly whole, she’ll have to learn the truth about herself and her family.

This is, first and foremost, a novel about the search for identity. Patty doesn’t remember her father, but with her long legs and big eyes, sometimes she feels like she has more in common with him than her Mama and older brother. And that’s hard to reconcile with the jerks at school who call her “Chopsticks.”

Despite some painful moments, the story is carried by Patty’s humor and insight. (On Chinese foot-binding practices, she thinks: “Chastity belts for feet. If you can’t walk, you’re not likely to sneak out in the middle of the night, say to kiss a secret lover in the Quad.”) Any girl struggling to figure out who she really is will find the real deal in Nothing but the Truth.

Headley, Justina Chen. Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies. New York: Little, Brown, 2006

Reviewed from library copy.

February 27, 2010. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. 1 comment.

Lockdown | Walter Dean Myers

Reese struggles to keep hope alive while working toward an early release from the Progress juvenile detention facility.

Awards & Honors for Walter Dean Myers

• 2000 Michael L. Printz Award winner

• 1994 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner

• Two-time Newbery Honor recipient

• Five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner

Review

They call it the Progress Center, but 14-year-old Reese isn’t sure he’s making any inside the juvenile detention hall. Locked up for stealing a doctor’s prescription pads, he’s been given the chance to prove himself through a work-release program. Now he helps take care of the residents at an old folks’ home a couple days a week and spends the rest of his time trying to stay out of trouble at Progress.

With fellow inmates always looking for a fight and the threat of new charges being brought against him, Reese doesn’t know whether he’ll be released early for good behavior or stay behind bars for another 20 years. The heart-wrenching story of a teen on the wrong side of the law, Lockdown manages to steer clear of being too preachy while remaining inspirational. Through Reese’s relationship with an elderly man at Evergreen, stint in the solitary detention cell, and love for his little sister, readers experience the imperfect protagonist’s internal battle between hope and despair.

Myers, Walter Dean. Lockdown. New York: Amistad, 2010.

Reviewed from advanced reading copy provided by Goodman Media International.

January 4, 2010. Tags: , , . Realistic. Leave a comment.

Skunk Girl | Sheba Karim

Nina attempts to fit in at her small-town New York high school while respecting her parents’ wishes for her to remain a “good Pakistani-Muslim girl.”

Recommendations

• “Rife with smart, self-deprecating humor.” Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2009

• “A rare exploration of Muslim culture … will be a welcome addition to teen collections.” Booklist review, April 15, 2009

Review

Bleaching her mustache and missing out on all the best parties are part of what Nina’s come to expect as a Pakistani-American teen with the strictest parents in town. At the start of her junior year in high school, she’s still living in the shadow of her genius older sister and still trying to figure out how to keep up socially in spite of her family’s fear that she’s becoming too “Um-ree-can-ized.”

Then the unexpected happens: Nina meets an attractive Italian exchange student named Asher—and Asher catches a glimpse of the dark line of hair running down the middle of her back. More humiliated than ever, Nina is certain that Asher will prefer button-nosed blond Serena over her scholarly, hirsute self.

Teens of all backgrounds will be able to relate to Nina’s struggle in reconciling her own identity with her family’s culture. While the girl-crushing-on-boy story may be familiar, the funny and touching Skunk Girl is truly a novel of a different stripe.

Karim, Sheba. Skunk Girl. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.

October 24, 2009. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. Leave a comment.

Paper Towns | John Green

After Quentin’s dream girl goes missing, he follows a series of cryptic clues to track her down—learning how little he knows about the real Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Awards & Honors

• A School Library Journal Best Book, 2008

• A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, 2009

Review

As 9 year olds, Quentin and Margo shared the traumatic experience of discovering a dead body at a local park. Now high school seniors about to graduate, the two travel in different circles and barely talk. Then one night, Margo appears at Q’s bedroom window. Dressed all in black and looking for a partner in crime, she drags him out for a few hours of debauchery—and promptly disappears the next day.

Following the trail she left behind, “Q” finds himself exploring the poetry of Walt Whitman and the subdivisions of central Florida in order to make whatever sense he can of the enigma that is Margo. Like the protagonists of John Green’s first two novels, Quentin is a thoughtful, nerdy guy on a quest to figure out the elusive girl of his dreams. Smart and engaging, Paper Towns is inspiration for readers to stop seeing their peers as archetypes (the beautiful girl, the jock) and start thinking of them as real people.

Green, John. Paper Towns. New York: Dutton Books, 2008.

August 26, 2009. Tags: , , , . Realistic. Leave a comment.

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