The winner of the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award!!!!!!!

(real blog post coming later today, but I was so excited, I had to post this)

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

http://commack.suffolk.lib.ny.us/cplteencentral/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/my-most-excellent-year.jpgMy Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Somehow I completely missed this title when it was published, but the cover of the paperback (pictured below) caught my attention in a Spring 2009 catalog, and I'm very glad it did.

My Most Excellent Year  is the story of three high school freshmen, Augie, T.C., and Alejandra.  T.C. and Augie have been best friends since they were six years old (soon after T.C.'s mother died), and are such good friends that they call each other brothers and have become permanent fixtures in each other's households.  Alejandra, the daughter of a Mexican diplomat, is the new girl in town and the object of T.C.'s affections.  Augie is coming to terms with his sexuality and his new crush on his friend Andy. 

This may sound a bit complicated, and it is (and more), but that's really what makes this novel great.  Kluger seems to be making the point that life is complicated, and that family is more than just the people you happen to be related to by blood.    The novel is written primarily in journal entries with IM conversations, e-mails, and other random methods of correspondence interspersed here and there, and this style works perfectly for portraying the intricacies of the relationships between the characters.   I would definitely recommend this novel to teens (and adults), even if they're not particularly interested in baseball!

Readers may also enjoy...
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Reviewer XThe YA YA YAsLibrarilly BlondeEmily Reads, Bookshelves of Doom, Jen RobinsonBook Dweeb, A Hundred Visions and RevisionsMidwestern LodestarPark Ridge Library Children's StaffThrough a Glass, Darkly, worducopiaSnarky Title Not IncludedWSU reading nowErin Reads.  

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green

http://www.sparksflyup.com/uploaded_images/papertowns-side-by-side_02-26-08-743840.JPGJohn Green is brilliant.  End of story. 

Seriously, I don't know how he does it, but each one of his novels is humorous, fun, and profound.    Paper Towns was no exception (obviously).

Quentin Jacobson has been in love with his next-door neighbor Margo Roth Speigelman since childhood, but by high school they are barely even friends, and definitely not in the same social circle.  But one night, about a month before their high school graduation, she takes him on a midnight adventure and then disappears the next day.  Quentin believes she has left him a clue to her whereabouts, and he and his friends begin to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. 

Like Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns is populated with a host of quirky characters (such as Q's friend Radar who spends his time obsessively updating the omnictionary) whose interactions with each other are complex and often quite amusing to the reader.    The novel, while dark, contains just the right amount of comic relief -- along with the exact right amount of self-exploration and literary analysis (a Walt Whitman poem becomes an important part of the plot).

Very, very highly recommended, especially to those who enjoyed Green's first two novels. 

Readers might also enjoy:
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
My Most Excellent Year
by Steve Kluger (just finished yesterday, review coming soon!)

Other bloggers' reviews (can you tell this one's popular?):
Avenging Sybil, And another book read..., Emily Reads, Just ListenThe Book Muncher, The Miss Rumphius EffectReading Keeps You Sanea. fortisBookendsBookshelves of DoomEm's BookshelfConfessions of a BibliovoreGuys Lit WireLiv's Book ReviewsReader RabbitPlenty of PaperJen RobinsonOnce Upon a BookshelfFrenetic Reader, The Compulsive ReaderYA books and moreKids LitReviewer XReading Rants

And for more evidence of John Green's brilliance, read his recent speech from the ALAN conference which he kindly posted on his blog.

Kendra by Coe Booth

Kendra by Coe Boothhttp://lh5.ggpht.com/coebooth/SCMDi9caEMI/AAAAAAAAB7Q/J2244augyuE/s800/official%20kendra%20cover.jpg

I've had this review in my drafts folder for over a month (and read the novel longer ago than that), but this past month has been pretty busy at with scary budget news at work, lots of renovation planning*, the usual crazy-making customers,** and the three final projects due for school.  But my semester has now ended (and only one more to go!!!), so I finally have time to give this blog the attention it deserves.

After reading Coe Booth's debut novel Tyrell, I was eagerly anticipating Kendra.  I took it along on my last trip to New York to read on the plane, and ended up finishing it while we were still on the runway (I really need a Kindle). 

At 14, Kendra is now the same age that her mother was when she was born, and has been raised by her grandmother while her mother was completing her education.  Her mother, now 28, has just finished her PhD, and Kendra is excited for her to move back home. 

At the same time, however, Kendra is starting high school, navigating the new world of teenage relationships, while her grandmother is intent on preventing her from making the same mistakes as her mother. 

In Kendra, Coe Booth presents an interesting perspective on teen pregnancy, and a much needed one.  So many novels on this subject end with the birth of the child, or quickly wrap everything up in a epilogue, but Booth instead focuses on the difficulties that face the child of such a young mother, and does so in a compelling narrative. 

While I definitely would recommend this novel for teens, I should point out that there is one rather explicit sex scene, but Booth handles it brillantly, and I think it's absolutely necessary for character development in the novel. 

And, as a side note for those who enjoyed Tyrell, he does make a small cameo near the end of the novel.

Around the blogs:
YALSAMy Life in...Westchester Library System

*Not sure if I mentioned this before, but the branch where I work is getting ready to close for about 9 months for renovations.   We're closing Dec. 17th, and there are still so many things up in the air, so it's a bit stressful.

**How many times do I have to explain that e-mail addresses do not have spaces?  To the same customer? 

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

http://justinelarbalestier.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/htdyf.jpgWhen I was in high school (back in the dark ages known as the late 90s), there were two special programs for gifted high-school students here in Virginia Beach (yay IB!).   By the time I graduated from college and moved back here, almost every high school had some specialty; legal studies, fine arts, marine science, global studies...  Personally, I thought it was a bit over the top -- I mean, should 13 and 14 year-olds really have to specialize?... but I digress.

In Justine Larbalestier's fictional world of New Avalon, the high schools are even more specialized, and 14-year-old Charlie attends the sports high school, taking classes in subjects like public relations, sports accounting, and, of course, a variety of sports including cricket and basketball (Charlie's favorites). 

There are a few other things that are a bit weird about the citizens of New Avalon -- such as the way they worship their celebrities, the way they never even think about what might go on in other cities (a nod to insularity of the US, perhaps?), and, most importantly, the fact that many people have fairies.

Charlie's fairy, for instance, is a parking fairy, which helps her to get the best parking space (not very useful, since she can't even drive).  Her best friend Rochelle, on the other hand, has a shopping fairy that helps her get the best deals.  Charlie, being driven crazy by her fairy, decides to do whatever it takes to get rid of it.

While the story is a bit predictable at times, How to Ditch Your Fairy is light and fun, and was a wonderful distraction on my flight to New York last month.  The world that Larbalestier has created is recognizable, but just different enough to make the reader want to go exploring (sequels perhaps? about students at some of the other high schools?).  And the Shakespearean-ish slang is genius (e.g. a hot guy is referred to as "pulchry" -- short for pulchritudinous).

Definitely recommended, for middle school and older (I wish this book had been around when I was in middle school!).

Readers may also enjoy other titles about unusual high schools:
I'd Tell You I Love You but then I'd Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter  (a spy school)
Fly on the Wall
by E. Lockhart (an arts high school)
I know there are others, but none are coming to mind.  Feel free to add any in the comments?

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Emily ReadsThe Compulsive ReaderReviewer XYA New YorkBildungsromanThe Ravenous ReaderBookshelves of DoomReading Rants!The Book MuncherKits LitLibrarilly Blonde