The Princess Diaries

cover image for The Princess DiariesCabot, Meg. (2000) The Princess Diaries. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers

Plot Summary:

Mia is an ordinary girl who spends her days doing ordinary things – like stressing out over math tests and getting caught up in her friend Lilly’s latest scheme.  Until her dad comes to visit and confesses that he is actually royalty – and she, Mia Thermopolis, is the crown princess of Genovia.  Being a modern princess is not all it’s cracked up to be though, and Mia is not at all sure she’s ready for the attention and responsibility.  With help from her friends and family – and the best stylists money can buy – Mia finally find a way to be herself and save Genovia too.

Critical Evaluation:

Anyone who has simply seen the movie is really missing out.  Cabot’s style is unique and hilarious, making this lighthearted story not only a breezy read but an absolute delight.  Who cares how improbable it all is? As long as Cabot is snarking and cracking jokes, I’m there.

Reader’s Annotation:

Mia is an ordinary girl who spends her days doing ordinary things – until her dad comes to visit and confesses that she, Mia Thermopolis, is actually the crown princess of Genovia.

Author Information:

http://www.megcabot.com/

http://www.facebook.com/megcabot

@MegCabot

Genre:

Girl’s Series

Booktalking Ideas:

The hard part with this book is getting people to forget the style of the movie, while there are similarities, that’s not going top convince people that haven’t already to read the book.  Pulling out some of the funny lines and jokes and letting them get a taste of that would be best.

Reading Level/Target Age:

6th grade/13-16

Potential Controversy:

This book is so full of fluff it practically floats.  I would seriously wonder about anyone who challenged it.

Reason for Choosing This Book:

I, like many, dismissed this series as merely being as good as the movie so why bother? – until a cousin of mine began raving about them to me.

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Sister Went Crazy

cover image for Stop PretendingSones, Sonya. (1999) Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Plot Summary:

When Cookie’s sister suffers from a mental breakdown and is sent to a hospital to recover, Cookie deals with her confusion, pain, and loss the way so many other 13 year olds do – by writing poems.  Starting from the night of her sister’s breakdown and ending with signs of recovery, Cookie chronicles the heartbreak and confusion of a family torn apart by mental illness.

Critical Evaluation:

Stop Pretending is the kind of story that is meant to be told in verse, for poetry is exactly the kind of creative outlet that a teen girl would turn to in an effort to deal with and make sense of the heartache of losing her sister to madness.  While each poem helps to move the story along, every single one could also stand alone and feels like it would be the kind of poem a teen would write.  (Readers will be unsurprised to learn that the story and poems are based on Sones’ own family’s experiences.)  None of the verse feels forced or warped in an effort to include important plot points.  Stop Pretending is crushingly beautiful and, like all good young adult books, ends on a sad but hopeful note that offers solace and understanding.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Cookie’s sister suffers from a mental breakdown and is sent to a hospital to recover, Cookie deals with her confusion, pain, and loss the way so many other 13 year olds do – by writing poems.

Author Information:

http://www.sonyasones.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sonya-Sones/175441839174257

@SonyaSones

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

Because the format is such a large part of the story, it would be important to incorporate into the booktalk use of the poetry.

Potential Controversy:

While some of Sones other books are often challenged because of their sexual content, Stop Pretending seems to mostly fly under the radar.  There is frank discussions of mental illness and the typical teen angst and anger at her parents and sister.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I have to admit I picked this up in part because I thought it would merely be a quick read.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.

Crank

cover image for CrankHopkins, Ellen. (2004) Crank. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

Plot Summary:

When Kristina leaves home to try to reconnect with her absentee father, she first stumbles across love…and then meth.  Eventually Kristina has to go home and leave the boy behind, but the addiction stays with her.  Kristina tries to it together and keep her secrets hidden, but piece by piece her formerly perfect life begins falling to pieces.

Critical Evaluation:

Hopkins’ poetry is not perfect by any means, but the disjointed free verse works well for the story being told, often mirroring Kristina/Bree’s fractured sense of self and loss of control.  The story itself is compelling – when it sticks to Kristina’s interactions with her peers.  Unfortunately, I could not get past the part where Hopkins is writing about a story similar to that of her daughter’s real life experiences – and doing so in the first person.  It’s a disturbing example of co-opting another person’s experiences for your own needs and, considering that the person in question is a minor that was under your care at the time, rather silencing as well.  I’m sure Hopkins feels as though she is giving a voice where one is needed, but her skewed focus is readily apparent during the times when Kristina contemplates her relationship with her mother.  In general, the dynamic leaves me questioning the entire narrative.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Kristina leaves home to try to reconnect with her absentee father, she first stumbles across love…and then meth.

Author Information:

http://ellenhopkins.com/YoungAdult/

http://www.facebook.com/ellenhopkinsya

@ellenhopkinsya

Genre:

Realistic fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

The only time I would booktalk this book was if I was given a choice between it an Go Ask Alice.  I will provide it to teens that ask for it and books like it, and ensure its place in my collection, but I will not tell kids to go read it.

Reading Level/Target Age:

6th grade/14-19

Potential Controversy:

Crank is frequently challenged because it includes drug use, profanity, sex, rape, violence, and illegal activities.  Despite my misgivings about this book in particular, I believe these are all topics that should be available for teens to read about.  Hopkins is clearly trying to warn kids off of drug use in particular, however, and that should help bolster the freedom to read arguments.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

This is such a popular title among teens that I would feel remiss if I did not eventually get around to at least trying it.

What Can(t) Wait

cover image for What Can(t) WaitPerez, Ashley Hope (2011) What Can(t) Wait.  Minneapolis, MN: Carolhoda Books.

Plot Summary:

Marisa is a good, hardworking daughter who gets good grades and gives half her paycheck from her cashier’s job to help pay the bills.  Lately though, she can’t seem to do enough to please her parents.  They want her helping out at home more and can’t understand why she would even think about not taking the promotion and extra hours at work.  Marisa’s teachers are concerned that her grades are slipping and are frustrated by her reluctance to talk about the fast approaching deadlines for college applications.  Marisa can’t figure out how to tell her parents that she wants to go to college, or how to explain to her teachers that her parents will never let her go.

Critical Evaluation:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled through much of this book.  Not because it was especially heartrending, although the story is well told and touching, but because I’ve known so many Marisas and there are so few books out there telling their story.  Marisa’s parents are never portrayed as backward or cruel, they just human – and have expectations that clash with those of the culture they have moved into.  Marisa’s teachers are kind and sometimes helpful, but their ignorance and arrogance gets in the way.  Marisa is strong and kind and talented, but still a teenager ans still without superpowers; the conflicting expectations and dismissal of her own wants and needs is often too much for her to handle.  The resolution is spot on as well, from the fights, to the running off, to the last minute blessing from her mother and reassurance that Marisa will always be family.  I want this book available everywhere because if coming across it meant this much to me, I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the girls who lives are like Marisa’s.

Reader’s Annotation:

For Marisa and her parents, family comes first; if her niece needs watching, her own school work will have to wait.  But with college deadlines approaching, can Marisa afford to put her own dreams on hold?

Author Information:

http://www.ashleyperez.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ashley-Hope-P%C3%A9rez/167177466648492

@ashleyhopeperez

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

One of the main strengths of the book is it’s realistic portrayal of Marisa’s relationship with her parents, so I would likely focus on that – starting by asking the teens to think about what they love and hate most about their own parents.

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/13-19

Possible Controversy:

There’s some mild language and Marisa fights with her parents, runs away, and goes to a typical party with alcohol.  It’s all pretty mild though, largely because the narrative requires it – the point is to show how unobjectionable Marisa’s conduct is by many people’s standards.

Reason for Choosing This Title:

I’m always on the lookout for books that feature characters that reflect the diversity of my library’s patrons and this looked like a likely candidate.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead

cover image for Crispin: The Cross of LeadAvi. (2002) Crispin: The Cross of Lead. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children

Plot Summary:

As a serf and the fatherless son of an outcast mother, Crispin’s future has never held been especially bright.  When his mother dies, and he is accused of thievery, it grows bleaker still. On the run and not even sure why he is really being hunted, Crispin sets out merely to survive but ends up unearthing the secrets of his birth.

Critical Evaluation:

This is really meant for younger readers and will appeal best to them, but Avi’s work here is engaging, dense, and layered and will work well for many older readers as well.  Crispin’s actions and thoughts are sometimes too childish for some older teens to relate to, but they are not overly simple or shallow either.  Avi also sheds light on a period of time that is rarely talked about in young adult historical fiction – especially historical fiction featuring boys.  While it generally belongs in the young reader section, it will often be a good book to pull out for reader’s advisory.

Author Information:

http://www.avi-writer.com/

while Avi does not have a twitter, blog, or facebook, he does do class visists via skype

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

This would be a good title to ask teens to imagine themselves in Crispin’s situation and ask them what they think they would do in his shoes.

Reading Level/Target Age:

6th grade/12-15

Possible Controversy:

As this title is generally considered tame enough for elementary students, there is little here that would cause anyone to object to it being available to teens.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I have been meaning to read this and figured this was as good of an excuse as any.  In retrospect, perhaps a title meant for a slightly older audience would have been better.

Mastiff

cover image for MastiffPierce, Tamora. (2011) Mastiff. New York, NY: Random House

Plot Summary:

It’s been two years since the events of Bloodhound and while Beka Cooper can not yet be considered a veteran, she’s no longer a rookie, either.   When an assignment comes up that will require all her concentration, Cooper is eager to get started and put off working through the conflicted feelings she has about her recently deceased fiance.  She and Tunstall arrive at the Summer Palace as summoned, only to find it is near ruins, the only survivors being the king and queen, and quite possibly their young son, who they believe has been kidnapped.  Cooper and Tunstall set off in search of the young prince in a journey that will not only change them both, but the entire kingdom as well.

Critical Evaluation:

Like the previous two novels, Pierce’s conclusion to her Beka Cooper series is fast paced and suspenseful.  Never one to shy away from heartbreak, the conclusion is especially devastating and triumphant.  While it’s best to have read the rest of the series first, the events of the book still make sense without having done so, they just won’t have the same emotional resonance.

Reader’s Annotation:

Summoned to the Summer Palace in the wake of a devastating attack, Cooper and Tunstall set off in search of a kidnapped young prince in a journey that will not only change them both, but the entire kingdom as well.

Author Information:

http://www.tamora-pierce.com/

http://tammypierce.livejournal.com/

Genre:

Fantasy

Booktalking Ideas:

This would be a difficult book to booktalk, as it’s the third in a series.  Instead, I would choose to either talk about the first book, or the series as a whole.  Pulling out a fight scene from the first book would be a great way of giving listeners an idea of both the plot and tone.

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/12-17

Possible Controversy:

Pierce doesn’t shy away from having heroine’s that take charge of not just their public life, but their private life as well.  The book also spends a decent amount of time showing Beka struggling with a more restrictive religious culture that is growing in popularity.  Many conservative religious groups will (rightly) see the parallels between themselves and the religious leaders in the book, and may take offense.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

Pierce has never been a disappointment.

Feed

cover image for FeedAnderson, M.T. (2002) Feed. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press

Plot Summary:

Titus is hooked up 24/7 to FeedNet via an implant he received at birth, which gives him a direct line from his brain to all the internet has to offer.  While spending spring break on the moon, Titus and his friends run into Violet.  Violet isn’t like other girls; for one, her feed is new, she hasn’t had it since infancy.  For another, she isn’t so sure that life is unlivable without it.  In fact, she thinks that for her, life might just be unlivable with it.

Critical Evaluation:

Feed depicts a world in which decisions are made to maximize short term pleasure at the expense of education and culture, and in which class differences and are widened to an alarming and tragic degree. The Feed itself is created and controlled by a conglomerate of corporations, providing even more critique of consumerism and economic inequality.It’s an unusual book and, typical of Anderson’s work, it’s style is not one that will appeal to all teens.  It is, however, thought provoking, fascinating, and stands up well 10 years and several billion new websites later.

Reader’s Annotation:

Titus and his friends went to the moon to have fun, but the only part of that trip that did not suck was meeting Violet.

Author Information:

http://www.mt-anderson.com/

@Manderson_Rules

Genre:

Science Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

The hook for this will definitely be the idea of the internet jack to your brain.  The trick will be to not make it sound to much like a lecture, or else it will turn kids off.

Reading Level/Target Age:

7th grade/14-17

Potential Controversy:

Most adults would approve of the idea that media dumb down kids (which isn’t necessarily what Anderson is saying, but is what many people will get from it) as well as give respect the praise and awards it has received, but some will not like the accusations aimed at capitalism or the destructed behavior exhibited by the teens in the book.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I liked Octavian Nothing and I like science fiction, so I figured this would be the perfect combination.  Sadly, not so much, although it was good.

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