This is the story, a teen who runs away from abuse to the streets of Parana, Argentina, and gets involved with drug dealers and other sordid characters. This felt, to me, like a list of one problem after another, and did not feel realistic because it felt more like an after-school special. I can't say I enjoyed this one, or even really learned from it, since it was so heavy-handed.
This is the story of Skylark, who lives with her dad and younger brother above their record store in St. Kilda, Australia. Her brother refuses to leave the house without a pig snout mask, her dad is stuck in the past and won't even put any of their records online, and Skylark is swept up in the sophisticated world of her older friend Nancy, a whirlwind who comes and goes as she pleases. Skylark is also fascinated by the mystery of a teen girl's death and developing a romance with that girl's brother as the town begins to modernize around her.
This definitely felt like a throwback book, and I did not get many of the music references - perhaps those are things to look up. For me, there were a few too many things that I felt like I was supposed to understand but didn't; that being said, I did really enjoy the book and a peek at a part of Australia, and it has appeared on many 2014 best-of lists.
This is a dystopian YA novel about four teens who escape from their prison-like boarding school and start a revolution against the tyrannical government that killed their parents. The revolution is sparked, in part, by the beauty of one of the teen's voices - a voice much like her mother's, which was a unifier in the previous revolution and was snuffed out by the government.
I wanted to like this more than I did. It read to me more like middle-grade, which is not a problem, but it also felt simple and disjointed. There were several things that seemed to come out of nowhere - like dog-men and gladiator fights - and the story of the government vs. the people is never fully explained. I also would have loved more time at the boarding school, which was interesting. The book does make mention of the British mezzo-soprano Kathleen Ferrier, who apparently inspired the book, and for that I am grateful - a musician I never would have heard about otherwise.
Published in the US after the author passed away in 2013, this book tells the story of "boring" 14-year-old Mike who goes on a road trip through the countryside of Germany in a stolen car with his possibly-Russian-mob connected classmate Tschick. They discuss life and love, try to keep the old car moving with parts from a dump, and eventually come to a strange end to their journey (that involves pigs). I wish I remembered more - there's a lot in here, and a lot that's funny and interesting and feels like it gives a good picture of a slice of German teen life, even if the characters seem older than 14 (but perhaps I don't know 14-year-olds that well anymore, and certainly not European 14-year-olds).
This is YA horror, and I found it pretty disturbing, actually, not least of which because there is an awful scene with a kitten. A really awful scene with a kitten. It reminded me a bit of The Ruins (and I admit to only seeing the movie) in that it involves evil vines, but in this case, a vine found in a crypt at a cemetery. The main character, Alissa, is compelled to cut the plant that is growing from a corpse, and, if I remember correctly, eat it. After that, she starts hallucinating, and everyone she kisses becomes totally obsessed with her - to very violent ends. I found it weirdly compelling, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but horror fans (and people who can stomach bad things happening to kittens), and even then they would have to get through unfortunate plot giveaways at the beginning and a story that doesn't entirely add up.
This is the first book in "The Ruby Red Trilogy" and is about a time-traveling teen named Gwyneth who lives in modern-day London. Gwyneth comes from a family in which there is a time-travel gene, but only a select few inherit it. No one thought it was Gwyneth who had the gene - they thought it was her cousin Charlotte, who was groomed and prepared her entire life. But it turns out it's Gwyneth, and not only is she now traveling through time, but she must figure out why her mother kept her identity a secret from her.
I listened to the audiobook version of this and enjoyed it, although the plot is convoluted. I do enjoy a nicely accented audiobook narration, though. This had a great introduction to the time travel at the beginning, and although I predicted a major plot point early on, I was still eagerly awaiting the reveal at the end of the book. When I finished, I thought I might go on to listen to the others in the series, but it seems the pull was not strong enough. However, it's definitely an enjoyable book.
For fun, try to figure out how many works Anthea Bell has translated.
Unlike the other books in the Germany section of this list, this is an English-language publication that was published in the United States but is set in Germany. It is 1983, and 16-year-old Ada lives in West Germany but is separated by the Berlin Wall from Stefan, the boy she loves. The story is told both in first person from Ada's point of view and second person from Stefan's, although the focus is more on Ada. Ada wants desperately for Stefan to escape from East Germany, and as she deals with a tragedy at the day care center at which she works, the urgency she feels to have Stefan in her life increases.
This book took some time to grow on me, but I ultimately liked it a lot. I feel like it's possible that the more reading I want to get through, the lazier I get with my reading, meaning that I want to understand the characters and world immediately and have my footing within the story. That didn't happen here - Ada is a graffiti artist (something foreign to me) in another time and another place, and there is a lot that I didn't understand at first. However, as I persisted in reading, the book was more and more powerful, and I am now interested in learning about that time period in Germany. Ada herself is actually more of a typical teen than one might think at first: her need for Stefan seems to stem from a belief that his being near her will fix all of her problems. Without telling you the ending, I will say that we don't get to see if this is true, but we are certainly rooting for Stefan's escape for more reasons than that he will get to be with Ada. Although difficult, it is definitely one I would recommend.
This story is loosely based on Brew-Hammond's own life, and is a coming-of-age book about 14-year-old Lila, who gets shipped off to private school in Ghana by her single mother in London without any warning. All of a sudden, Lila has to deal with getting water from a well, cutting off all of her hair, and living in a world completely different from the one she knows. Eventually, her mother brings her back to London, but then sends her to New York to live with the father she barely knows.
This book worked best and was most interesting during the Ghana sections. Although it was horrible to see a mother send her child away without warning, these sections felt the most real, and the bonds formed between Lila and her friends were palpable. Once in New York, there were a series of coincidences that seemed unrealistic and a rushed, pat ending, but the sections set in Ghana are eye-opening.
This graphic novel is the second in the autobiographical series by Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi, and I will admit I did not see the "2" when I borrowed it from the library. This book takes place partially in Vienna, where Satrapi was sent to go to high school, and then Iran after Satrapi returns home. It is set in the 80s. This works without reading the first book, and is enlightening in terms of European and Iranian life at that time.
I wish I could remember more about this book. Resolution for 2015: at least take notes about books I mean to write about. Another resolution: don't make public promises on a blog that become hard to keep when there are pressing matters at hand, like schoolwork or Pretty Little Liars marathons. (This article my sister sent me about procrastination that was written by a professor of hers from Stanford explains my life.)
At any rate, this is about a teen girl named Sahar who lives in Iran and has been in love with her female best friend Nasrin for as long as she can remember. This is forbidden in Iran, and Nasrin is set to be married to a man. Sahar considers sex reassignment surgery to make their relationship legal. This book has won numerous awards, and I do remember thinking it was a good book at the time that I read it, despite feeling that Nasrin was a selfish character for much of the book.
I just read this yesterday! Which means I can convincingly talk about it. Set in 1993 in Ireland, this is the story of Maggie Lynch, a teen who has been dragged by her mom from Chicago to tiny Bray, Ireland, to live with her new stepfather. Navigating the new culture, her difficult relationship with her mother, and a family tragedy, Maggie also falls in love and finds her own personal strength.
I really, really liked this. I would say this is probably my favorite book from this post. Yes, my first international trip was to Ireland at age 18, and I absolutely loved it, so this probably brought back memories. But it is also a well-told story, and although some of it is predictable, that can be forgiven. Kurt Cobain is a big part of the story - Maggie wants to get herself to Rome to see Nirvana perform - so people who remember that time and music of the 90s will also enjoy the nostalgia. Additionally, the boy Maggie falls for actually seems like a good guy, which is refreshing after some of the "awful but we're supposed to think he's nice" boyfriend books I've read recently. (Just One Day and Just One Year, I'm talking to you there.) There's also a lovely relationship with a 99-year-old in the village, and I know as I get older, I certainly appreciate it when those older than me are treated as valuable humans. The book also seems to capture the way I imagine Ireland would feel to an outsider, and it made me want to go back.
Set in Nigeria, this is a more middle-grade oriented Harry Potter-esque book, supposed to be the first of a series. Sunny was born in New York City but now lives in Nigeria, and although Nigerian by heritage, she doesn't fit in there because she is albino and can barely spend any time in the sun. It turns out, though, that she has magical powers, and with three other friends, she learns what this means and how special this makes her.
Interestingly, I saw a lot of press about this book around the time I was reading it in May, and I have definitely seen it checked out of the library recently, so I feel like it's becoming quite popular. It's a good book - friends, adventure, and a very cool magic village. I'm definitely interested in reading more from this author.
Well, now I feel like I need a time out. While looking at the Akata Witch Goodreads page, I discovered that Rick Riordan somehow has the time to do a ridiculous number of really long book reviews. What? He said great things about Akata Witch, by the way.
Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus is a difficult but beautiful one. 15-year-old Kambili and her older brother live in Nigeria under the thumb of their successful but strict and abusive father. Extremely Catholic, her father even makes the family recite the rosary in car trips. When a coup threatens their lives, the children are sent to live with their Aunt Ifeoma, a more rebellious professor with a happy family. Kambili at first doesn't get along with her cousins, and is actually scared to spend time with the grandfather her father considers a heathen, but eventually she starts to come into her own and understand just how oppressive her father is. This is definitely a worthwhile read, one that paints a picture of different aspects of Nigerian life, and one that will grab at your heart and make you wish for Kambili, her brother, and her mother to get away from her terrible father.
Errr...I could really not describe this one. It's set in Lisbon, and it involves a pizza boy who gets sucked into an occult adventure, but other than that, I'm at a loss. I do have trouble with certain types of graphic novels, though - this is one of them. Although the artwork is atmospheric and colorful, I found it difficult to follow the action and the dialogue. Incidentally, the Filipe Melo who wrote this is not the Brazilian football player, and he actually has a very interesting musical history.
I listened to the audiobook version of this and loved it at first. Set in Calcutta in the 1930s, its setting is unique and atmospheric. The characters, all orphans who live and are schooled together and will soon be separating and moving on to adult life, are all interesting (at first). One of the teens is being targeted by something evil, and the book is creepy and mysterious...until about two-thirds of the way through when there is a massive information dump, everything the teens could have found out on their own is revealed (and still makes little sense), and there is still an incredibly long climax and finale to get through. I listened to the end at four-times-normal speed and still wake up hearing the annoying word "Jawarhol" (or whatever the name of the bad guy is) months later.
I said that The Carnival at Bray was my favorite of this list, but this is a close second, if not a tie. It has been on a lot of best-of lists for 2014 (and President Obama recently purchased a copy on Small Business Saturday). Young Will is a wild-and-free girl living on a farm in Zimbabwe with her father until the unthinkable happens: she loses her father and her farm, and is sent off to boarding school in London. For a girl used to not wearing shoes, eating fruit of off trees, and taking off whenever she feels like it, this is a nightmarish change.
Will is spirited and adventurous, and her wonderful energy jumps off the page. Her despair is palpable - I found myself wringing my hands in the hopes that someone would take the time to try to understand her situation. Although this is billed as a "middle grade" novel, and I'm obviously one who thinks that everyone should read whatever they want, I would say this is a novel about someone who happens to be young, and people of all ages will benefit from reading this book.