Tag Archives: coming-of-age

Book Review: Calling My Name

2 Aug

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Calling My Name by Liara Tamani is the story of Taja a young teen growing up in Houston, Texas with her family and friends. Taja knows what her parents expect of her – spend quality time with the family, get good grades, go to church every Sunday and abstinence is the only option. Taja is trying to keep up with her classmates as the talk ranges from first kisses to first relationships and beyond, while also being the daughter she is expected to be. She also has high hopes of going to college in California to follow her dream and to find her own relationship with God, separately from what her parents expect that relationship to look like.

I really liked this story, much closer to my own in many ways than much of the young adult literature being published today. I took my grades seriously, wasn’t too interested it boys, but struggled in some ways to figure out where my relationship with God fit into my world as a teenager living in today’s society. This is not the type of story you see written very often and I felt that Taja’s voice rang true to a young teen searching for herself in the midst of family and friends.

The writing was a bit confusing and it’s easier to think of the chapters as short stories spanning Taja’s teen years rather than a specific day-to-day account. But I felt that this was a voice that many teens will be able to relate with and understand. Taja struggles with her family’s conservative view on abstinence while also realizing that her brother always has more freedom than she does and dealing with peers who bully/body shame her at times. It’s a very real story that needed to be told and I truly enjoyed it. I’ll say this – it is a young adult story in that although Taja begins as a middle school student in the beginning, there are intimate scenes as she grows up that will firmly plant this book in the young adult department. Give this to teens searching for themselves – especially those who are spiritual/religious as they navigate high school.

Twitter Booktalk (140 characters or less): High schooler, Taja Brown is searching for her own relationship with God as she navigates family, friends, romance and dreams.

Title: Calling My Name
Author: Liara Tamani
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: October 24, 2017
Page Number: 384 pgs.

Book Review: Orphan Island

26 Jul

3How do I even begin? Every year a mysterious boat lands on the island with a young child. The young child gets off the boat, the oldest child on the island gets on the boat and disappears into the midst. The nine children on the island don’t ask questions – it’s always been done. And there’s no need to question, the island takes care of the children, protecting them for getting seriously hurt, providing food and teaching the children how to work together to survive. No one questions, until Jinny becomes the Elder and she knows that she only has a short time to teach her Care (the newest and youngest child on the island) everything she needs to know before Jinny must climb aboard the boat. And so, Jinny begins to question how and why they do things on the island, until one day she makes a decision that affects not only herself, but all the children on the island.

I really enjoyed this story – the island itself was almost like a character and was fully developed to the point where I had a map in my head and could picture each part of the island. My favorite descriptions were that of the sunrise and sunset when beautiful animations lit up the sky. And although some dislike the story as it leaves you with more questions than answers, I really enjoyed it- it leaves so much more to the reader to decide, than what the authors tells us in the text. This was a wonderfully written coming-of-age story when kids straddle the border of childhood and adulthood. It would pair fabulously with Jerry Spinelli’s Hokey Pokey where reality and fantasy combine. Do yourself a favor and definitely grab this book before summer is over (it feels like a summer book).

If you want to learn more about this book, check out Laurel Snyder’s post on the Nerdy Book Club, her interview with Corrine Allen on the Books Between podcast or check out this review by Betsy Bird on School Library Journal’s website. And if you loved The Giver by Lois Lowry, check out this tweet by Harper Childrens!

Twitter Booktalk (140 characters or less): “Nine on an island, orphans all/Any more, the sky might fall” What happens if Ginny doesn’t wan to grow up and decides to stay on the island

Title: Orphan Island
Author: Laurel Snyder
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Page Number: 288 pgs.

Book Review: Just Fly Away

31 May

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Fifteen-year-old Lucy learns a family secret that not only devastates her, but separates her from her friends, family and even her boyfriend. Her father has an eight-year-son from a brief affair that he’s kept hidden from Lucy and her sister and although her sister seems unfazed, Lucy feel as though a rug has been pulled out from under her and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t seem to get her feet under her.

Soon it’s too much for Lucy and without truly realizing it, she escapes from the world she thought she knew so well to Maine, to spend some time with her estranged grandfather. It is there where Lucy begins learning more about her family as she spends time getting to know her grandfather.

This is a coming-of-age story with the voice of a teenage girl desperately trying to figure out her world and where she fits in it. I felt at some places that the author tried to fit in a little too much – parent betrayal – check, brother she never knew she had – check, new friends after old friends diss her – check, new mysterious boyfriend – check, extended family drama – check. I felt as through there was a little more focus the characters and plot could have developed more naturally that feeling like the plot points were getting checked off a list.

My favorite part of the story was when Lucy comes in contact with her grandfather (whom she has only met once). Their time together and the development of their friendship was the truest part of this novel and I believe is what kept me reading to the end. As a side note, the author – Andrew McCarthy is not usually a YA author, he’s an actor (Pretty In Pink, Weekend at Bernie’s, etc.), director and has written a memoir, but writing YA does not come easily to everyone.  I think he shows promise and would definitely pick up another title if he published anything else in this genre.

Twitter Booktalk (140 characters or less): 15yo Lucy’s world is crumbling around her, so she visits Maine and her estranged grandfather to learn more about herself and her family.

Title: Just Fly Away
Author: Andrew McCarthy
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: April 2017
Page Number: 258 pgs.

Book Review: Be True To Me

4 May

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A summer filled with a house on a private island, lazy days laying out in the sun and sundresses for dinner at the club is exactly what Jean’s summer has been for every year as long as she can remember, but this year it was going to be different, her older (perfect) sister is going overseas and Jean might just have found the perfect summer love, in her godfather’s visiting nephew. She’ll be out from underneath her sister’s shadow and can forget the humiliation of losing the Fire Island tennis championship last year to an outsider. Continue reading

Book Review: Some Kind of Happiness

31 Aug

13260524.jpgI don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I absolutely adore book dedication – more often than not, they’ll tell you a little something about the author, the story or if you’re lucky you’ll find one that sounds like it was written just for you.  The dedication in Some Kind of Happiness is absolutely perfect,

“If you are afraid, sad, tired, or lonely
if you feel lost or strange
if you crave stories and adventure,
and the magic possibility of a forest path –
this book is for you”

This book was suggested to me by a good friend, frequent library user and fellow blogger.  She’s normally a young adult reader, so when she picked up this book and enjoyed it, she knew she had to tell me about it – and I’m so glad she did!

Some Kind of Happiness is the story of Finley as she spends the summer with her estranged extended family on her father’s side – she’s never met any aunts, uncles, cousins or her grandparents.  But, her own parents are having problems and they want to spend the summer figuring out the next step for the family and believe that Finley would be better off at her grandparents’ house.  Finley has no idea why her she’s never met the family or what everyone is hiding as she discovers a run-down old house in the woods, is told never to hang around the Bailey’s (the kids next door) and learns secrets in her grandparents’ house that she’s not allowed to talk about.  Because if you don’t talk about an issue somehow her grandparents feel it will just go away, but Finley knows differently.  Finley has secrets of her own as she tries to navigate her “blue days” where feelings of sadness and anxiety threaten to overwhelm her.  Her only escape is Everwood, a fantastical place Finley created in the pages of her notebook, but soon she shares her stories with her cousins as they try to discover some answers to the many secrets of the magical forest and of her grandparents’ house.

This writing is this book is absolutely amazing – creating a realistic world and a fantastical one – both of which are fully developed and described so vividly.  I also really enjoyed Finley’s voice – her understanding that these “blue days” are not normal, while realizing she has nothing to be sad about – yet not being able to do anything about it.  Legrand also does a great job of navigating the children through an adult’s world and fully understanding that children pick up more than adults ever know and can handle the truth even when the adults in their lives sometimes cannot.

What I love more than anything about middle grade fiction is that even when there are “big issues” – such as divorce and depression as there are in this book, there is an element of hope that runs as an undercurrent through the story, giving the reader a sense of security; that even though there are tough times, the protagonist will be alright.  This is a definite must-read and a story that will resonate with a lot of middle grade readers as they find there place in the world.

Twitter Booktalk (14o characters or less): Finley’s “blue days” threaten to overwhelm her; her escape- Everwood, a place that exists only in her mind-until she visits her grandparents

Title: Some Kind of Happiness
Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2016
Page Number: 374 pgs.

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