Not Just for Teens! Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

RipperFirst Impressions
I am obsessed with tales of Jack the Ripper because no one really knows who he was. [Editor’s note: It looks like they might have?!]  This book, the first in a series, offers an alternate history of Jack’s reign of terror.

Drive-by Summary
Arabella Sharpe, orphaned and at the mercy of her grandmother, is finding life within the stifling cage of social propriety boring and unfulfilling. Her grandmother has decided to “toughen” Arabella’s character by sending her to Whitechapel to volunteer at a woman’s hospital. Life there is rough and dark, but Arabella has resolved to stay and help no matter what the cost. She is soon a first-hand witness to the dilemma of the poor and unwanted when things take an even worse turn.  Aided by her “visions”, Arabella gets deeply involved with a secret society bent on catching a monster. She quickly becomes instrumental in solving the gruesome clues left by a deadly serial killer as she follows “him” through London’s East End.  This book is definitely a page-turner with a twist on a story that has been told and retold.  You will not be disappointed with this series.

My Favorite Character
I love Arabella’s character and the strength it takes for her not to turn and run away.  She does not settle into a life of comfort and makes her own decisions to be an active member of a society that sees her as a mere object.

Words to Live By
At the beginning of each chapter, there are quotes from Jane Eyre which remind us of how women were regarded during the Victorian era:

“I was weary of an existence all passive.”

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow minded… to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to play on the piano and embroidering bags.”

Recommended For
This is a young adult book, however, the story kept my adult-self intrigued to the last page and have now moved on to the next book in the series.  Also, this series is the author’s debut novel.  She has a PhD in Nineteenth Century British Literature which gives this series the realistic edge that conveys the social conformities and how, during that time, things had to change.

Final Say
It is not often that I come across a well-written and pragmatic mediation on the purpose of life in a novel.  This series will teach and leave the reader with a sense of curiosity about the indignations of how people regard one another according to the social norms of the time.

You can check out Ripper today!

-Keyla

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Not Just for Teens: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

All the Truth That's In Me book coverFirst Impressions
I can’t remember exactly why I put this book on hold, but I seem to recall reading a review that intrigued me. The cover is startling, and I liked the premise of two girls going missing but only one coming back alive, shrouded in mystery, so when I found it waiting for me on the hold shelf, I delved right in.

Drive-By Summary
When two girls go missing, one is found floating in the river after a few days and, four years later, the second walks back into town, maimed and mute. No one uses her name anymore and Judith (for that is what they used to call her) lives like a ghost, unable and unwilling to detail where she has been and what she has seen. She watches her neighbor boy (now a man) – her love – and her narration is directed towards him. When an enemy attack causes her to take action that has ramifications she could never have predicted, it throws them both into a quagmire of lies, secrets, love and death.

My Favorite Character
Judith is such an fascinating character, whom we see from an interesting angle with her narration towards her neighbor and childhood crush, Lucas.  Through the course of the book she finds her strength, sense of self and, ultimately, her voice.

Words to Live By
“I feel my sadness float away, my regret and humiliation. I can forgive myself for the fool I’ve made myself before you. The awkwardness is over. My body is empty, and empty is a great relief.”  – Judith

Recommended For
Teens and adults who are looking for an original voice and a story rich with language and strong, memorable characters.

Final Say
Unwinding like a puzzle, in a setting that is not defined but feels historically familiar, this story is a lyrical, mysterious, chilling and romantic exploration of human nature.

You can delve into the mystery of All the Truth That’s In Me at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Staff Picks of 2013: Teen Reads

Young Adult, or YA, literature has become increasingly popular in the last several years and 2013 produced some really great fiction. Here are three of BPL’s favorites from 2013:

Out of the Easy book cover

Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys
Jo, daughter of a prostitute, named after a madam, is growing up in post-World War II New Orleans. Jo’s New Orleans is richly drawn and filled with multi-faceted characters. The author does a good job of not creating caricatures, but rather well fleshed-out people whose presence makes Jo’s story come alive. I found it to be a rich coming of age story with strong, believable characters. – Jennifer

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
A fresh take on the vampire novel; original, suspenseful, and lots of great characters. – Lesley

 

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Controversial, yes, and beautifully written young adult novel about a developing relationship.  I hadn’t read a YA novel for a long time but did so because there was controversy about its language; I found it hard to set down with amazing, engaging characters. – Pam

 

Tomorrow we have large selection of Children’s 2013 picks for you to enjoy — so don’t forget to check it out!

 

Not Just for Teens: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing book coverFirst Impressions
David Levithan’s novel Every Day is one of my all-time favorites. I knew I had to read this highly buzzed about novel as soon as it came out!

Here is a great interview with David Levithan that discusses Two Boys Kissing  in some detail: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/10/24/david-levithan-explores-gay-teenage-love-in-two-boys-kissing/

Drive-by Summary
The story of two high school students, former boyfriends Craig and Harry, who are trying to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss, intersects with the concurrent activities of other, local young gay men: an established couple, a new romance and a disassociated young man. All the stories are told through the omnipotent narration (or chorus) of an earlier generation of gay men, many of whom lost their lives to AIDS.

My Favorite Character
Avery, a trans boy with pink hair who falls for Ryan at gay prom.

Words to Live By
“One of the kids who asks to pitch in is eleven years old. His name is Max, and his dad brought him to see this.

Max is a marvel to us. He will never have to come out because he will never have been kept in.”

– The Chorus

Recommended For
Anyone who likes stories of love and perseverance. Of stories that transcend gender or sexual orientation. This is not a “gay” story; it is a love story.  (Actually, multiple love stories.)

Final Say
The chorus might turn some people off, and I’m not sure if the chorus’ character (as it is, in fact, a character in this story) won’t come across as preachy to some readers.  I struggled with that at the beginning, but I believe the author tied it all together, making what could seem preachy instead a message of hope for the future.  David Levithan’s prose is full of beauty and poetry and a dozen lines will resonate with you before you finish this book.

You can find Two Boys Kissing at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Not Just for Teens: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy book coverFirst Impressions
I’m trying to read all the books that are possible contenders for the Printz Award (the award given by the American Library Association for the best fiction book for teens). Out of the Easy is one of those contenders and has great-word-of-mouth buzz, so I picked it up.

Drive-by Summary
Jo, daughter of a prostitute, named after a madam, is coming of age in post-World War II New Orleans. Finding herself caught in two worlds, she is as comfortable reading poetry and working in a book shop as she is firing a shotgun and cleaning the brothel where her mother works. Desperate to get “out of the easy” and go to college, Jo goes up against obstacles including gangsters and her own mother, and finds help in unlikely places.

My Favorite Character
Willie, the madam who has a huge impact on the person Jo becomes, is fascinating. I wish she had her own novel so we could read her story.

Words to Live By
“I no longer wondered why Ray and Frieda were afraid of the dark. I was too.” – Jo

Recommended For
Anyone wanting to read a rich coming of age story with strong, believable characters. Anyone wanting a change of pace from teen fantasy and dystopia.

Final Say
Jo’s New Orleans is richly drawn and filled with multi-faceted characters. The author does a good job of not creating caricatures, but rather well fleshed-out people whose presence makes Jo’s story come alive.

Extra CreditWant to know  more about Out of the Easy?  Here is author Ruth Sepetys talking  about the world and people that inhabit her book:

 

You can find Out of the Easy at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Not Just for Teens: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Breaking news: We just found out that Maggot Moon won the The CILIP Carnegie Medal this week. Congratulations Sally Gardener!

First ImpressionsMaggot Moon Cover
I’d heard rumblings about this book that both intrigued and worried me. The draw for me was the alternative history/dystopian society theme, but reviewers have also called it “difficult” and “hard to sell”, which made me wary.

Drive-by Summary
“Can’t read. Can’t write. Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.”

Standish Treadwell is 15 years old, living with his grandfather in the bombed out guts of Zone Seven. First, his parents disappeared. Then Hector, his best friend, disappeared, too.

Standish Treadwell, who can’t read or write (or tie his tie) and will probably get kicked out of school and made to disappear, too. Standish Treadwell, who isn’t a good specimen of the Motherland, with one blue eye and one brown, but has amazing brains for dreaming and imagining.

As the Motherland prepares to land the first men on the moon, Standish decides that if he’s going to become maggot meat, he might as well take down the Motherland, too, like David and that giant. He might as well try to change things somehow. He might as well do it on the moon.

My Favorite Character
Standish Treadwell, of course!

Words to Live By
“I have this effect on people. They think I’m not paying attention when I am.” – Standish Treadwell

Recommended For
Older teens and adults who like dark, allegorical fiction. Be warned, there are illustrations of flies, dead rats and maggots on the bottom of the pages.

Final Say
With the feel of a fable, Maggot Moon gives us a chilling alternative history of the 1950s where a fascist government rules all with an iron fist. The book is dark, but Standish’s story is one of hope in a hopeless world. Highly recommended.

You can stand up for Maggot Moon at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Not Just for Teens: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

First Impressions5th Wave book cover
Wow, this teen book is long; over 450 pages. But I’ve heard it will be the next “Hunger Games”  (which I’ve only heard said about roughly two hundred titles since Suzanne Collins’ book became the next “Twilight”). All the reviews I’ve read about “The 5th Wave” have been stellar and the most recent, from Entertainment Weekly, was downright brilliant, so I thought I would give it a go.

Drive-by Summary
The aliens came. For ten days they floated above while we tried to make contact. Ten days. And then…

The first wave: Lights out – communication fails; planes fall from the sky

The second wave: Surf’s up – giant tsunamis take out all coastlines

The third wave: Pestilence – weeks of plague wipe out billions

The fourth wave: Silencer – they are among us

Cassie escapes the city filled with death with her father and little brother in search of hope and safety. They find neither. They find war. They find they can trust no one.

And no one knows what the fifth wave will bring.

My Favorite Character
Zombie: “Zombie is hardcore. Zombie is bad ass. Zombie is stone-cold.” But Zombie also takes five year old “Nugget” under his wing, protecting him as best as he can, as they train for combat against an unknown enemy.

Words to live by
“Because we will die, but at least we will die unbroken.” — Zombie

Recommended For
Older teens and adults who like character-driven science fiction.

Final Say
A new take on dystopia, this time with aliens. Grittier and more suspenseful than a lot of current books in the genre, but peppered with (just enough) romance and teen angst for it to fit right in. Highly recommended.

You can hunt for the 5th Wave at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer