Category Archives: YA

Orbiting Jupiter

Kleenex alert … I was blind-sided by this book, which was so easy to read, so simply written. The story revolorbiting jupves around Joseph, a 13-year-old boy and father, yes father, who is put into Maine’s foster care system. He needs a shot at redemption, and his foster family is up to the task; he desires to see his infant daughter, whom he’s never met.

I did not see the ending coming. I want to read everything by Gary D. Schmidt.


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A teen reader recommended this book, well, actually handed it to


me and said it was a must-read. I was in the middle of reading Go Set a Messenger, which I put aside to start Crazy, so, um, this better be good.

This story is very much in the vein of Love Letters to the Dead, an introspective narrative interspersed with poetry that moves the story along at a fast clip. The story, set in the early 1960s against a backdrop of JKF’s assassination and high school home economic classes and sewing projects, addresses the toll that mental illness takes on a family and the shame that a 15-year girl experiences as she comes of age with an erratic and unpredictable mother. While the main character finds comfort in her paints and easel, when her mother, a once-promising artist, begins painting, it precipitates a nervous breakdown. Readers will discover the limits of treatment for mental illness and the limitations and conformity expected of young women in that era.

This was a really enjoyable read, but now I turn my attention and eyes to Scout and Atticus.

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Natasha’s Flight

Natasha's flight jpegWhen you read a first-time author’s work, you are entering uncharted territory, taking a leap of faith that the author is a storyteller. So it is with Natasha’s Flight, a story about a Belarusian internet bride who embarks on her own leap of faith.

This story begins in the first-class cabin of a jetliner departing Russia and headed for New York and Natasha’s new life with her future American husband, who is a smidge too old and bland for her. However, Natasha meets and sits next to an American who works—of all places—in the U.S. embassy processing visas, and who she observes, unlike her internet husband, has a flat stomach. The author allows the two passengers to haltingly reveal their suspicions and impressions of the other, permitting the reader to settle back and enjoy this tale. Curiosity, doubts, and, maybe something else, is kindled on this flight.

The reader is in good hands while Natasha reconciles her life-altering decision with the internal turbulence that the flight causes.

* This blog is slowly shifting from tween reads to YA reads. This book is recommended/appropriate for YA readers.

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Love Letters to the Dead

Love lettersGorgeous.

When author Ava Dellaira was a panelist at YALLWEST 2015 (see earlier posts), she was asked what her debut novel was about. She modestly said something along the lines of, “It’s about a girl whose sister dies and she begins to write letters to dead people.”

The opening missive in Love Letters to the Dead is to Kurt Cobain, the mysteriously deceased older sister’s favorite musician. Each letter to Judy Garland, River Phoenix, Janis Joplin, Allan Lane (voice of Mr. Ed), among others reveals younger sister Laurel’s guilt, anger, abandonment, and emotional metamorphosis as she shares the events leading up to a tragic night that tore her family apart.

The book reads like a diary that’s been left in plain sight with the invitation to read. Maybe that’s why previous readers had underlined favorite passages and scrawled “Fave Page” on numerous pages in my public library copy. Every passage in the final chapters of this book was emotive and indelible. My favorite passage: There’s a new sadness now, as I open my fist I’ve been clenching shut and realize that there’s nothing there. I don’t know how to keep her.”

Please read this book before its adaption appears in theaters.

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This One Summer

this one summer

This One Summer is perfection. The story is about two tween girls who meet up each summer at their families’ summer cabins and, of course, this summer are awkwardly traversing adolescence and dealing with their parent’s emotional baggage, their attraction to boys and horror films, and the danger that is just below the water line in the woods and in the convenience store they frequent. The girls are just that  … girls. Nothing contrived here. The artwork is gorgeously stark and soothing, like waves lapping the shore, hypnotic, but with an unsuspecting undertow. I just finished it and want to read it again.

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Filed under Graphic Novel, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, This One Summer, YA

I Want to Like The Wrenchies, but

I tried, really tried to like Farel Dalrymple’s gorgeously and intricately drawn futuristic apocalyptic tale The Wrenchies, but couldn’t. I could lose myself in the artwork (amazing), but could not get past the unimaginative, unnecessary profanity and complex storyline. I kept waiting for something to happen, found myself skimming the pages, and, then, just giving up.

the wrenchies

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Filed under Farel Dalrymple, Graphic Novel, The Wrenchies, YA

YALLWEST Beat Expectations!

TheYallWest April 11-12 YALLWEST festival for YA authors and readers was amazing and beat all attendance expectations–with possibly 8,000 in attendance at this two-day fest at Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica Public Library. The energy was high on day two at the smaller venue, Santa Monica Public Library, and the action spilled onto the sidewalks (as evidenced in the photo), plus the special sessions were standing room only.  Organizers are coy about the potential for a YALLWEST 2016, but keep your ear to the ground. After years (decades?) of neglect, the YA genre is thriving and coming of age!

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