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A sequel to his other book, this pone follows the protagonist after she blows up the wifi and wins a temporary victory against the people who try to charge you for every (copyrighted) word you say in this dystopic novel. I thought this story was a little more interesting--they leave the dome, they learn more about other places, some of it takes place in Mexico--but there’s a lot of really grim stuff happening to some pretty young characters which, for whatever reason, I found a little tough to take. Loved it, but be warned, parts of it are heavy.

Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians

Any book with evil librarians in the title is going to go right on my reading list. This was an enjoyable romp with a main character who swears he is unlikeable but who isn’t really. It’s the start of what will hopefully be a series of books of a vaguely magical kid, raised by normals, waging this sort of war where the evil librarians are the bad folks. It’s fun and sort of meta for a YA novel and I enjoyed it a lot.

All Rights Reserved

A college friend wrote this book! It’s a dystopian YA novel about a future world where everything is copyrighted, even the words you say out loud. It’s an interesting premise and the lead character opts out by refusing to say anything. Chaos ensues. Sort of. I liked a lot of the specific bits of social commentary in this book--food for poor people is made form 3d printers and one of the most coveted things you can get is a real orange--but I felt weird about the overall environment. I mean it’s tailored to me since there’s a climactic scene in a Very Rare Library but the whole thing was just super-bleak. If bleakness is your thing, this is a well thought out and well implemented cautionary tale about copyright and the increasing corporatization of everything.

The Amber Spyglass

Hey this didn’t turn into some huge war book like it hinted that it might! I was expecting either a lackluster petering out of some of the topics (like Hunger Games) or some sort of over the top religious allegory that I didn’t understand (Narnia) but this was understandable and interesting and it wrapped up just fine. Perfect summer reading series.

Americus

I got this book out not knowing that it was a story about books being challenged in the library. Enjoyed it. The good guys won. It seemed a bit two-dimensional in parts--the local religious people are really out in left field and seemingly nuts--but overall the story of the fantasy-book loving kid who lives in a place where the type of book he likes to read is seen as “evil” is well written and illustrated. Yay for good librarian characters and happy endings.

The Aviary

Grabbed it from a booksale shelf at a teeny library. I liked the cover and I wanted to read about a big spooky magician house and not be stuck in the Jonathan Strange universe which, quite frankly, I did not like. This was a great YA book about a girl being raised by her mother while taking care of a very old woman in a big spooky house after the resident magician had died. And there is a big birdcage out back with noisy birds. Fun to sort of see where it’s going, some nice friendship and a very female-centered novel. Enjoyable.

Aviary Wonders Inc.

I had a very random walk to get to this book. I was doing Wikipedia work, noticed the author fo the book I was currently reading wasn’t in Wikipedia but she HAD won an award. Made a page for her, saw which other award winners wasn’t in there and found this author and book. This book is so simple and yet really complicated. Sammworth is an accomplished artist who works in paints and also printmaking. This short book is supposedly a bird catalog in the near future, so that you can have a cool bird in your home with the assumption that all the REAL cool birds are... gone. Thought provoking and also lovely to look at. So glad I found it.

Awkward

I think I am all done with this series published so far and I have enjoyed them all quite a lot. Sort of “gentle” graphic novels about middle school and all the new stuff that you deal with when you are a kid. This one is about a character who is awkward and tries to do the right thing. Ultimately works out.

Be Prepared

Being an out of place nerd is difficult if your family is from someplace odd and you don’t have a lot of money. What would make it better? Camp! With people like you! But of course the main character in this mostly-autobiographical tale finds out that people can be terrible anyhow. There’s some redemption here and as someone who never went to camp, I read along with interest. Sometimes it’s great to think “Man I’m glad I’m not a kid again.”

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas

Read this and a few other Benjamin Bear books that we just got into the library. Fun! Simple graphic novels for kids but with little bits that make you (or a young kid) think about the bigger picture. Really delightful, each short strip has some little bit that will make you smile.

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl

Joyce Carol Oates does YA! I liked this book a lot. The YA-ness of it made me pretty certain that it wasn’t going to be as over-the-top creepy as some of Oates' other stuff, and I’ve been on a YA kick lately. The loose story outline is about a loudmouth kid who gets in trouble (or set up) for “threatening to blow up the school.” The resident weirdo jock girl comes to his aid. They deal with a lot of crap from school and parents. Things somewhat resolve the way things in high school always sort of do, meaning not really and not definitively.

The story is told in alternating chapters, third person with Big Mouth and then first person with Ugly Girl. This is not difficult to keep up with and gives the story some depth especially when you’re looking at these kids and thinking “Why did he/she DO that?” it doesn’t have a lot of dangly parts that don’t make any sense. If I had one criticism it would be that all the supporting family for these kids seem a little two-dimensional, first bad, then good, then possibly bad again. This may be due to the fact that we mainly see the family through the eyes of the teenagers, but sometimes it’s tough to see them as fully formed characters the way two main teens are. This is a warts and all YA book that does manage to deal with complicated teen issues without feeling like an issue-oriented book.

Big Nate in a Class by Himself

Picked this up because it reminded me of the Wimpy Kid books.Enjoyed it but not quite as much as the Wimpy Kid books.

Bowery Girl

This was an odd YA book that friend gave me. It takes place in the late 18th Century and follows two dirt poor young women as they try to make sense of their world of violence and crime. One is a thief, the other is a whore. One doesn’t know how to read, the other is disdainful of anyone who would suggest that she might want to do somethign other than what she’s doing now. The book is full of bad sex and wanton violence and a lot of people in really destitute circumstances that don’t improve much at all as the book progresses. It was interesting enough to me, as an adult, but it seemed a little heavy to give to a teenager, though I readily admit that I may be out of touch with what teenagers are reading nowadays.

Brave

I try to read every thick graphic novel my library gets. Enjoyed this one which was a tough look at middle school bullying with a sympathetic (though spacey and very relateable) main character who has trouble coming to terms with his own bullying. A lot going on in this book including the fact that many bullies are battling their own demon, and a lot of school nonsense (dress codes, censoring the school paper, cliques and mercurial friendships). Very well done with a wide range of characters.

Cardboard

Needed a palate cleanser after the 700+ page book I’ve been slogging through. This book was great. A story of “being careful with what you wish for” about some cardboard came to life. It’s a great combination of real-world characters with a fantastical premise that allows for some really interesting drawing. People learn some small lessons. Great story.

Catching Fire

Second in the series and I think the first book I’ve read from start to finish as an ebook. Also enjoyable.

The Changeling

Found this book on a list of YA books that everyone should read and was surprised I’d never seen it. Was SO GOOD, one of those great “growing up” books about young kids who have a fantasy life in the woods, one is from a sort of “normal” family and one is ... not. Snyder really captures that whole thing of being a weird kid and wanting your own world where you can accomplish things and not just fit into the mold someone else made for you. I’m surprised I missed this book when it first came out.

Class Act

A look at one of the other kids from New Kid, this is another Jerry Craft high school story looking at issues of race, class and self-identity by watching a group of friends struggle with (new) feelings and their old lives. It’s really well done and it’s nice to see the kid from the last book doing okay, while a lot of the other kids grapple with issues and the ups and downs of their relative social strata which are somewhat transparent but becoming visible to them.

Crumbs

A bit of a palate cleanser after a bunch of darker stories. This is a cute semi-magical YA graphic novel about what to do when your dreams for who you want to be are confusing and complicated. Everyone’s trying their best but conflicts still happen. Beautifully illustrated and a fun read.

Crush

Was surprised that this book was only a year old because the copy at our library is SO WORN but I think that just points to what a great book it is. This one is in the series along with Brave (which I also enjoyed) and is about the quiet jock type kid, Jorge, having a crush on Jasmine, the drama kid who is a good friend of his good friend. It’s nice to read books about awkward adolescence where the central characters have a strong bond and it’s not all backstabbing and where the system actually WORKS. I know it’s not true for everyone and some may not like this for that specific reason, but it reads true in a lot of ways and, like Chmakova’s other book, the illustrations are really terrific and just add to the story.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

This was free in the ibook store so I bought it and read it at the gym. Fun. Reminiscent of the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole but a bit more US-centric, and more of a comic book (with great drawings) and less of a journally thing. I liked it. I’ll go get the other ones from the library.

Down Cut Shin Creek

This is a great short book for kids detailing the WPA program thatpaid for librarians to ride pack horses into the rural areas of Kentucky to promote literacy and reading. It’s a great book full of interesting pictures and anecdotes.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

I try to read all the chunky graphic novels that come into my library. Gownley is well known for his Amelia Rules books which I haven’t read so this was all new to me. It’s a great story of basically what it’s like to be a kid with an idea in a dead-end town (mining town in this case) and trying to work on your dreams. Along the way we catch a glimpse of teen romance, Catholic schooling, good parenting and good friendships. I really enjoyed this.

The earth, my butt, and other big round things

You can sort of guess what this book is like. It’s another one of those weird kid YA stories, but I love them all just the same. In this version, our protagonist is an overweight smart girl who lives in New York City and her best friend has moved across the country. She’s stuck starting school with the dreaded Lunchroom Problem. To add to this, her sister has left to join the Peace Corps and her superstar older brother -- to whom she is often unfavorably compared -- has gone away to college where he seems to be continuing to be awesome as she wallows miserably in high school. She’s also been spending some time making out with another nerdish high school guy and makes a set of rules for herself as to how fat girls are supposed to behave when shown attention from the opposite sex. The book actually opens with a racy scene that is nto at alll indicative of the tone of the rest of the book.

Even though our heroine is a bit on the mopey side, her family is irritating enough that you read a lot of the book thinking “wow, kid, I feel your pain” She has a Mom who constantly pressures her and, as a child psychologist, thinks she has her all figured out. She has a Dad who talks about her weight all the time. Her brother eventually has a fall from grace and her sister turns out to be fairly supportive albeit far away. It wraps up a bit neatly compared to some of the other gloom and doom YA titles but the whole thing is an interesting romp with a likeable character whose high school trials ring true.

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Cars

Hey my landlady illustrated this book, and my other (deceased) landlady wrote it. NY Review reissued a few of their books including this and the Pushcart War and sent me a copy, I am not sure why. It was a five minute read, but a very enjoyable short tale of resistance and compromise. Lovely reprint.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

This was an Ellen Raskin type puzzle book which is clearly written by someone in love with libraries. Super fun with a bunch of interesting characters and some fun puzzles to figure out.

Evil Genius

This was a great long book for a bus ride and a vacation. This sotory is a YA novel about a weird young man who, from an early age, is nurtured into becoming an evil genius. He goes to evil genius school for a while, he meets a lot of wacky characters. He makes friends (sort of) and tries to muddle things out with a slowly expanding intellect. It’s a fun read with interesting characters and and plot that will mostly keep you entertained.

Fair Coin

One of those Monkey Paw, “careful what you wish for,” stories, in a YA vein. This was on the scifi shelf at the local college and it reads like a YA book but still interesting enough to be worth reading. There’s a coin, and maybe it grants wishes, but maybe it doesn’t. I read it feeling like it was a standalone and now, hey, there’s another one. OK I will probably read that one too. The author seems interesting and that was part of what drove me to read this.

Fake Blood

I picked this up because it was thick and I had no idea part of it was about Transylvania. What fun! It’s all about being a sixth grader and the good and bad that can happen in a lot of different directions. I enjoyed it, I liked the characters and the illustrations were lively and colorful and compelling. I’ll go abck and try to track down Gardner’s other novels.

Fart Powder: Bubble in the Bathtub

This book is the second in Nesbo’s Fart Powder series, a romp through time with two young kids Lisa and Nilly and their friend Doctor Proctor the scientist and some good and bad guys along the way. I started with this book but it’s still fully understandable without reading the first book. Along the way the kids encounter historical figures you might have heard of like Napoleon and Joan of Arc. While there’s a time travel aspect to the book [there is special soap you can mix up in the bathtub that allows you to move through time] it’s much less science fiction and much more of a wacky caper book and Amazon categorizes it under “Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Norse” for whatever reason. The book is translated from the original Norwegian.

There are funny fart jokes and other goofiness along the lines of Captain Underpants. This is a thick book, over 400 pages, but the text is good sized, the chapters are short and there are lots of illustrations along the way. Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship and creative problem solving. The two young characters each have distinct and enjoyable personalities and I found myself eagerly flipping pages to see what would happen next.

Firebirds Soaring

Another terrific Firebird collection by my friend Sharyn November. This collection of young adult fantasy short stories serves as both a great collection of pieces but also an introduction to many great authors working in YA today. The stories range from super-short almost-poems to long stories that operate on their own as well as chapters or sequels to existing works. Each story has a lead illustration that is a neat addition to this already-rich compilation of stories. Sharyn is a stickler for details and this book is well-chosen and well-edited. Another must-read for fans of YA fantasy.

The First Rule of Punk

Jenna’s booklist for last year had this on it. I like YA books, reading about diverse characters, and PUNK. This was a great book about a kid who has to move from the town she loves to a big city where she’s not sure she’s going to make friends and she doesn’t want to change her style. She gets along with her parents but has predictable disagreements with them. She writes zines, only sort of tries to fit in at her new school, and drinks a lot of coffee. I think all zinesters would really enjoy this book with its likeable characters and not totally predictable plot twists.

Fish Girl

Not your usual mermaid story. This one is about a Coney Island style attraction where there’s a young girl mermaid and a guy who acts like he’s Neptune but maybe he isn’t. If you’ve read any of Wiesner’s other books, you’ll recognize his terrific style but the story by Donna Jo Napoli is what really makes it. Complicated, no lusty fisherman, just a young girl trying to figure out what her life is about with her octopus pal.

Genius Squad

A fun YA novel a lot like the one that came bafore it. A lot of scene setting, some intrepid “what’s going on stuff” a big scary chance and a nice resolution. I’m not sure if I will like the third installment of this book since the first two follow a fairly familiar narrative structure, but I enjoy the character of Cadel Piggot and I like listening to pretty much any author who can convincingly write about technology whether it’s being used by a band of savvy teens or something else. Jinks maintains my interest and I feel that I should check out more of what she’s written.

Genius Wars

This is the last in the Evil Genius series. I have to say I was hoping for something a little different. This was the same “all is fine, oh no it’s not fine, people are getting hurt, face-off between Cadel and his nemisis” formula. I was hoping to see more of Sonia and more of the burgeoning family setup. And, at the end, in the final faceoff, we have the same unresolved “Is the bad guy dead or just hiding out?” question despite Jinks saying that this is her last book in the series. So, I enjoyed it a lot, it was a perfect plane read, but I think I was hoping for more.

A Girl Like Sugar

This sexy YA book was included in the envelope of a pal who sent me some perfume samples and I wasn’t sure if she included it just to take up space or if she was recommending it. I enjoyed it. It’s the story of a girl called Sugar whose rock star boyfriend had recently died in a suicide/drug overdose sort of way. She has to deal with living independently, meeting new people and the fact that his ghost keeps visiting her and wanting to have sex with her. She has a hippie Mom and a father she knows nothing about, few friends and an okay amount of money. This is a fairly classic and straightforward “girl with new life situation learns to find new voice” but I enjoyed it, liked the main character and found myself wondering what woould happen to her next.

Go with the Flow

A great high school friend story with the added storyline of girls talking about their periods. Different girls, different experiences including “Why are all the pad dispensers always empty?” and “Why does this hurt so much, am I broken?” There are also the usual ups and downs about meeting people, sexual preference/orientation and just the usual school things. Super well done and without any uterus diagrams.

Golden Compass

Was sort of stoked to have never read these books before so I had them available for my first plane ride in almost a year. I’d heard a lot about them and of course they were very popular at the library. I enjoyed this book a lot, liked the plucky young girl protagonist and generally this story about a place that was sort of like here only not exactly. I watched the movie shortly afterwards and felt that while the movie told basically the same story there was too much glossing over some of the parts of the book that made it really great like Lyra explaining how she knew how to read the alethiometer and the complicated relationships between people and their daemons. Off to read the next two books.

Greg’s Microscope

This is a great kids' book that I had when I was a kid and didn’t even know that it was older than me. I picked it up again at the library to show to some young friends who were visiting. It’s great. It is a story of a kid who gets a microscope and has a good time learning things and experimenting with his family (mom and dad) and there are a lot of neat drawings of what things look like under a microscope glass.

Guts

Another memoir of Telegmeier’s growing up. This one about her anxiety disorder that manifests itself as eating/digestive issues. This is all about how she and her family tracked down and diagnosed her issues and partly about going to therapy. Her growing up in California with her parents' slightly non-normative lifestyle (all three kids shared a bedroom until Telegmeier was in her teens) and her extended family all play into this. Tense at times but some nice lessons learned (about school, about family, about growing up) and wraps up well with some words from modern-day Telegmeier.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

A neat book about a girl in an Orthodox Jewish community and the funny woman she meets who owns a pig and helps her find a sword. A neat look into a community that many people may not be familiar with (and the book helpfully defines words that readers may not recognize). Great illustrations and a lead character that people can relate to, for whom not everything got right.

Hey, Kiddo

Krosoczka was raised by his grandparents because his mom was a heroin addict. This graphic novel talks about what that was like all the way from when he was a baby, through his adolescence and into his teenaged years. Spoiler alert: he turns out okay but it was difficult and part of the issue was just how much he didn’t know and how it was sort of hard to find out. This book poked me in a lot of the feels because I had a parents with a problem (different than Krosoczka) and I could relate to some of the same weirdnesses that he relates to. Also he’s about my age, a little younger, and grew up in the same slices of Massachusetts that I did so there were a lot of familiar places.

The Hunger Games

Thought I’d like this book after seeing the advertisements for the movie. I was not wrong.

Ichiro

This graphic novel about a two-culture kid is two stories in one. One about a kid from Brooklyn trying to make sense of growing up with an absent (dead) soldier father, and one about the mythological history of Japan. They only sort of line up though you get what the author is after. I found some of the Japanese history stuff a little tough to follow, though still really interesting, but I mostly wanted to get back to the young boy and what his deal was. Not quite enough Tenuki, but is there ever?

In Real Life

Said it before but everything that First Second publishes is great. This is a graphic novel for feminist gamer girls specifically but enjoyable for anyone interested in games or global inequality or just being a high school girl. The story takes place half in-game and half out of it with the general message that it’s all "real life", really.

Ingledove

[review pending]

Into the Dream

William Sleator’s book House of Stairs was a particular favorite of mine as a YA novel and when I saw this book on a free pile at the local library, I figured I’d take it home and see what it was like. I enjoyed it. it was a super quick read wiht the basic premise being two kids who find out they’re having a nearly identical dream and one that fills them with a sense of urgency. They have to muddle out what it all means, together, and the two kids are sort of opposites. He’s from a brainy academic family, she’s from more like the wrong side of the tracks but only together can they figure out what’s going on, which they eventually do. The book is well-written and suspenseful and only a little scifi-ish.

Kaput and Zosky

Fun space comix! I guess part of them are illustrated by Trondheim and part of them are illustrated by Eric Cartier. I have to admit not noticing the difference between the images. This was mostly taken from a television show (I guess?) that I did not know either. It’s mostly amusing spacemen who try to go to different worlds and take them over with amusing results.

The Last Treasure

This was a YA novel that a pal of mine sent me. I like to read good YA fiction and I really enjoyed this book. It’s loosely another book that falls into the “weird isolated family” genre. There is a family that lives in a small weird town. They have nine identical houses that are all arranged around a small park. The threee houses on the south end are “treasure houses” which have, in the past, been the location of mysteries and, ultimately, riches. When the family finds itself down on its luck with the remaining members old and feuding, two teenagers -- one stuck spending the summer there and one who comes of his own volition -- decide to untabgle the mystery of the last house. The kids are interesting. The story-line is believable and yet just a wee bit fantastic, and the ups and downs of being one person in a huge crazy family are reflected upon. This is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year and a good fun mystery book, even for pretty little kids.

The Library of the Dead

Maybe a YA novel? This book takes place in Scotland, where there are a lot of haves and the have-nots are really just barely eking out an existence. There’s a weird library and some supernatural stuff going on. Our plucky hero is a young woman of color managing a lot of stuff--poverty, supporting her family, learning magic, threats--while trying to learn a bunch of stuff and figure out a bit of a mystery. Very engaging.

Lint Boy

This book was actually sort of upsetting for what is, i am sure, supposed to be a tale about overcoming adversity. Lint Boy comes from the dryer and is captured by a mean sort of sadistic woman who tortures him and the other toys she finds, trying to make them prove they are alive. They plot an escape. I don’t know if it hit me in the feels for some particular reason or what, but I found the sad toys really difficult to deal with and interact with. Well done and well illustrated but maybe not for some kids

Lio: Happiness Is a Squishy Cephalopod

This is more a collection of strips than a graphic novel. I saw this book in the library and thought it was more the story of a boy and his squid, but it’s so much more. It’s really weird and dark in a way that makes it mostly-palatable for a newspaper strip but only just barely. Lio is a weird kid with a penchant for creepy-crawlies, robots and other weird kid stuff. These strips have almost no words i them (no one ever talks) but they are incredibly deep and layered just the same. As a huge fan of Gahan Wilson’s “kid” character, Lio has some of the same weirdnesses, updated for this century.

Little Brother

I read Cory Doctorow’s YA book Little Brother on the plane home from the library conference after seeing him speak on a panel on privacy and then coming home to learn that my LOCAL library, one who pays me occasionally, had, um, had a visit.

If you have/know smart kids who love computers, this is one of very few books I’ve seen that gets inside what really techie people are like, and it’s a decent YA novel at the same time, deals with a terrorist event where the Bay Bridge is blown up and civil rights get suspended, etc. If you know Cory’s work you’ll know how it goes, but I was surprised how engaging it was at the same time as it painted a dystopian near future and hit all the EFF-ish talking points.

Some of the web has a hate-on for Cory a lot of the time, but I like him and his writing. I like to read about people who are really deep into a tech universe. Few activists come across sounding so smart about tech.

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!

A super fun romp with a kid with a smart kid with a big imagination and his talking dog. I don’t read many graphic novels that are actually for kids but this one had enough to still be interesting to an adult lady while having kidlike themes (time machines! dinosaurs! science fairs!). I’ll definitely try to track down the other ones.

Mockingjay

I somehow managed to not read any of these books when they came out even though I knew they were immensely popular. And then for some reason, I think because I had seen the ads for the movie, I decided to read them all over about a week. I enjoyed them, I had some issues with them. All in all I was not only happy to read them but happy to have one more popular book that I liked well enough that I can talk to people at the library about. Lots more thinky stuff about how the kids are all used as pawns and a lot of the critique of nation-states that I perceived in the texts, but as stories even the books were quite good and it’s a refreshing change to see a female lead who isn’t (entirely) either an emotionless robot or a dim-witted pawn. The books, it seems, make her out to be some of each from time to time but not wholly one or the other.

Mosses

Got this book as a gift over holidaystime. It’s a nice short book about mosses and liverworts which has a lot of beautiful photos and a lot of weirdly dull explanations of how mosses reproduce. Like, it’s a really short book and yet there’s a lot of super-detailed explication of how different types of mosses reproduce. I could see this being a smaller part of a larger book, but it seemed odd. That said, it was lovely to look at, and a quick read and now I know the word “calyptra” so that’s sort of neat.

My Darling, My Hamburger

I haven’t read this book probably since high school or possibly college. It’s aged sort of weirdly. It’s like many young adult novels are nowadays, full of drama and bad parents and girls getting pregnant. However, unlike books nowadays, the teen who gets pregnant doesn’t have the legal abortion option, so the drama is even more dramatic and depressing.

Zindel always had a good ear for kid/parent interactions and each of these kids is so clearly a product of their weird families and the baggage that they bring into their young adulthood. At its core, it’s the story of two girls who are friends, the popular one with the terrible stepfather and the dumpy one with the decent family. The popular one is mean to the dumpy one, etc etc. I still enjoyed it, quick read that it was because the kids seem so teenlike. Even though I’m now reading it through an adult’s eyes, it really felt like the high school that I remember, hellish and dramatic and not as big a deal as I thought it was at the time.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)

Had forgotten how much I loved this book when I was a kid. Someone brought it up again recently and I decided to re-read it. Loved all the wordplay, the subtle kid-level mystery and the neat illustrations that Raskin did herself. This was a great junior level mystery and puzzle book with a bunch of quirky interesting characters, well worth a second read if you haven’t picked it up in a while.

N.E.R.D.S.

I liked but did not love this book. I think I was expecting a YA nerd story but what I got was a tween thriller. Which is FINE, it was a fun book to read though maybe I was not its target demographic.

The New Kid

A really well done graphic novel about being the new kid in a school. But it’s more complicated than that. Jordan Banks is a Black student going to a fancy private school. So not only are some of the kids weird about his race (with sort of micro and macro-aggresions towards him and the other students of color) but also the teachers trot out a lot of the familiar tropes ("Why are you so angry?" etc). Craft does a really good job at teasing out the subtleties of many different types of intersections of race and class, so a lot of these interactions ring true.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Another great graphic novel from :01 (First Second). Everything I’ve picked up from them has been terrific. This one is about a jock and a nerd who are friends and who face a bunch of different challenges in high school culminating in a holidaytime robot competition. Great illustrations from Faith Erin Hicks make this a really worthwhile read.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Friends could not believe I had never read this. I finally lay down one chilly evening and plowed through it. Super fun! Wordplay and great illustrations and a neat little story about how not to be bored. Super enjoyable, sort of glad I waited so long.

Pretty Monsters

This was the best book I’ve read on a plane in quite some time. Link has a handle on making stories mostly real but just a little unreal in a way that makes them compelling and just a little freaky. It ends on sort of a weird note which was my only little irritation in an otherwise terrific collection. She is great at dark slightly foreboding stories and she’s clearly so masterful at writing stories that she can now mess around with the form with great results. Even though this is technically a YA novel it’s good reading for people of any age.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

A great graphic novel about women who do primate research. It tells three interesting stories and doesn’t shy away from the fact that Dr. Leakey was maybe a little creepy.

Prisoners of the Sun

This was the follow-up to The Seven Crystal Balls. I’d never read Tintin before and this was a gift from a young friend and I dove into the first book and he graciously sent me the second. I liked it. Don’t really know from Tintin. My favorite character is the dog. These are very “of a time” meaning they’re basically racist, for the most part, and are not really that thoughtful about cultural differences and there are barely any women in these stories. Given the context, I enjoyed this as much as I could. Nice drawings. Fun dog.

Ready Player One

A kid told me to read this and it was great! Sort of like Daemon but without the overarching awfulness and war of all against all. I really enjoyed this book about a near future world where most people spend their time interacting in an online space, and then the guy who builds the online space--a fan of all things 80s--dies and there is a contest to see who will win his vast fortune. Just futuristic enough to be interesting but with enough pop culture references to seem really here and now, maybe it’s just because the setting for the quest covered a lot of the same spaces that I used to populate when I was a kid but it all felt so fun and familiar. The quest is quest-y enough, the characters are believable, good at games but sometimes bad at life, and there’s a lot of low level hackery and back and forth action. Loved it. You should read it.

Rodrick Rules

I’d been working my way through a terrible headcold and decided I’d like some lighter reading. I really like these books both for their excellent illustrations and the bildungsroman approach to their main character, the Wimpy Kid. I guess they turned it into a movie?

The Rules for Hearts

My friend Sara wrote this book. I rad an early draft wich had nothing at all to do with this book. I read it all in one sitting on the plane on the way home. It’s an interesting noval following the non-main character from her last book Empress of the World. I have to say two things about this book besides that I liked it. One: I was, like many of the other reviewers, a little bummed that the main likable character from the first book didn’t show up in this one and that the relationship had sort of fizzled in to not much. I’m sure it’s realistic, but I don’t like the main character of this book as much. It just means I’ll have to wait to see if she reappears in a later book. Two: when I first read that there was going to be some sort of play as a central part of this book, my immediate thought was “Oh shit, not a bunch of heavy-drama drama people...” and actually that fear was unfounded. Sara has, as usual, created a bunch of interesting and fairly complex characters that are fun to follow around for a summer.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

A fun romp through the world of an unlikely alliance of nerdy kids who love science. The illustrations in this book are reminiscent of Chris Ware with a lot of little details that reward a close look at every page. Fun story. Neat kids. Something for everyone.

The Seven Crystal Balls

Somehow I had never managed to read a Tintin book before this one? This one was good, an odd story with odd characters, vaguely racist and the first of a two-partner. I will try another one soonish.

Shadowed Summer

This was a book given to me by a MeFi pal. It’s written by someone who is also a MeFite. It’s a YA supernatural book and when I saw the cover I was a little concerned that it would be yet another teen girl witches story. But it’s not. It’s a small-town slightly supernatural mystery with a little coming of age plot tossed in for good measure. It’s a story about friendship, about two girls stuck in a dead end town with not much to do. They spend their afternoons in the cemetary practicing spells and then one day something funny happens. This sends them on an exploratory path, delving into the history of the town and prying into stories some people would best like to forget.

The best thing abotu this book is how real it seems. The girls act like girls, not some older woman’s idealized idea of what her teenage years might have been like. The kids are awkward and strange and interact clumsily and awkwardly with the adults around them while at the same time trying desparately to figure them out. I got a real sense of the place of this story without feeling overwhelmed by adjectives and/or drama. A lot of YA books are “issue” books where it’s just one terrible thing happening after another. This really is a town in which not much happens, but there’s enough little background stuff happening to keep the story moving forward without the reader feeling like they’re overwhelmed by teen angst.

Sheets

A nice concise story about the complicated world of death, loss, the afterlife, and the current life we’re in. Relateable. Good teenage angsty story that winds up okay.

Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical

A friend handed this to me as I was preparing to take a long train trip and I read it in fits and starts. It’s a YA collection of freak show fiction, stories specifically about sideshows and circuses and that sort of thing. A few of the stories have no circus on them at all but some other odd or mysterious event. A few of the stories are in illustrated graphic format. Many of them stick with you. It’s a book for teens so it’s not too freakish and is more of a sideshow-starter volume, but worth picking up if you thing Geek Love may be a little too mature for your freak-fascinated teen.

Sisters

The library where I am for the summer does not have a good graphic novel section. However I always check it. This time they had one book by Telgemeier that I hadn’t read before, Sisters. I have a pretty close relationship with my sister but I didn’t always. I thought I could relate to this book. I could not. I found their relationship sort of confusing and a bit of a conflict without resolution. At the end of the book (unless I missed something) we thought the parents might get divorced but we weren’t sure. There was a graphic novel device of having the flashbacks be sort of sepia toned that I found a little confusing. In the past I’ve found Telgemeier’s stuff pretty accessible so maybe this was just a miss for unrelated reasons, but I’ve really liked all the rest of her stuff.

Small Steps

A follow-up from the author of Holes. Armpit, the protagonist is back living at home with his parents and trying to get by as a teen with a record. I had thought I rememberred him coming into some money or fame at the end of Holes but it clearly didn’t follow him back to Summer school and back home. Armpit is still a sort of hard luck guy with an okay job doing some summer classes. His main companion is a ten year old neighbor girl who has cerebal palsy. People are not particularly nice to him and he has a hard time figuring out other people. His friend from the work camp elists him in a scheme to resell tickets to a pop star’s rock concert. The pop star is her own character in the story, isolated and lonely as her parents manage her career and misuse her money. It’s another wacky caper book, sort of, not as full of violence as the last one, but still having a lot of little side stories all of which wrap up neatly at the end.

The Subtle Knife

Again, catching up on books I should have read a decade ago. I find these books sort of slow. There are a lot of slow reveals and a lot of “Huh I wonder what THAT is about...” stuff going on. The second book had even less information than the first, though the story was pretty interesting. It did rely on the “main character is hurt and you worry they’re going to die” aspect to it which is one of my not-so-favorite themes, though there was also a favorite theme, that of the lady scientist. In any case, I’m now propelled towards the third book and I only sort of care what happens.

The Takedown

I enjoyed this very tech-forward look from a high schooler’s perspective on the downsides to the social media panopticon. Kyle is a senior at a fancy prep school in Brooklyn with cool friends and a bright future when all of the sudden her world is turned upside down with a leaked sex tape that looks like it’s of her. How she and her friends respond to this fills up the bulk of this story which takes place in the near future where tech is slightly more advanced than now, or is it?

Appreciated a lot of the causal intermingling of tech and social lives in this book. Felt that some of it was a bit hand-wavey about some of the legal and moral implications (there is one specific part where people are talking about the sex-with-minors part that felt very not true=to=life about how such things are dealt with in America today) of all this tech. And, like many tech stories, this one is about the digitally plugged in and doesn’t really stop to give much time to class or poverty issues. Not that every book has to be everything to everyone, but it did seem noticeable in its absence.

I found the main character likeable but also sometimes unreliable in a way that felt refreshingly teenaged. Not sure how I felt about the ending but that’s mostly because I was really deep in to the story.

White Bird: A Wonder Story

Other than the fact that this didn’t look like a WWII/Nazi book when I picked it up, I liked this. It takes someone who is a sort of side character in the Wonder world and explains a little bit about the history of that person and their family. Ultimately, this is a story about a Jewish girl in WWII who has to hide out in a barn for a really long time to escape the Nazis. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it definitely is worth reading, though a little graphic at times.

Who wants a cheap rhinoceros?

No idea at all why this never-checked-out book from the Silsby Free Public Library wound up on the free shelf of my local thrift store but I am glad it did. Previously published under his “fooling no one” pseudonym Uncle Shelby this book about how to play kid games with a very large rhino claims to be “revised and expanded” but for all I know that’s what the original claimed also. Silverstein’s great combination of amusing drawings and funny rhino situations make this a great book for young and old alike.

The Wild Girls

This was an exceptional YA book. It follows a pretty standard formula -- new girl comes to town, meets weird girl who spends a lot of time in the woods. School starts, weird girl is an outcast, new girl has to make a choice about whether to hang out with normal kids or the weird kid. However, Murphy gives this story much more depth. The characters are all fleshed out, even the grouchy Dad and the weird writing teacher, and you always get multiple perspectives on all the characters. The two girls wind up going in to the big city for a writing class and discover a bit about themselves but again it’s not the pat sort of self-discovery that I’d expect (possibly my expectations are just too low) and interesting things happen.

WWW: Wonder

Turns out this book which I grabbed off of the new shelf in my local library was book three of a trilogy which explains some things. Loosely put, it’s about an AI that gets loose and starts to use its immense superpowers to help the world while other people try to stop it. It’s good, and very nerdy and techy which I always enjoy. In fact, I have a tendency to be like “Bah this author clearly doesn’t understand technology like I do...” but in this case even though I might still have said that once or twice, I was wrong. Sawyer is a supergenius as far as tech stuff goes and even though this book is written towards a YA audience, its super well-researched and generally, while still fantastical, based on real-world and real life things that could be or are happening. Now I’m trying to figure out if I’ll start over at the beginning or not, since I know how it all ends.

Zita the Spacegirl

Everything :01 does is amazing. This is a fun romp to another planet with a nifty young girl. It has fun monsters and robots and its not too scary. Very worthwhile.