Saturday, December 28, 2013

Trip to the Library

I've been reading a LOT, which is great, but as frequently happens, I am running out of things to read! On Thursday, I went off to the library to inspect the new book shelves, only to find that I'd already read the vast majority of the things there. Sigh. Now I have books that are being published in March, and reviews still to post for January. First World Problems, to be sure!

Here were some books that I picked up that weren't quite what I need for my library, but which others may find interesting. There was enough to recommend them that I brought them home and read through most of them, so here we go.

17302571Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine.
August 20th 2013 by Alqonquin Young Readers 

"In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin's parents announce their daughter's arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution."

What I wanted: Romance with cultural context, like Lovetorn.
What Didn't Work for Me: While this would be a fantastic GLBTQ addition for high school libraries, and was circumspectly done and really, really interesting, it just didn't feel like a good fit for middle school. Too much angst and longing-- middle school students are more interested in lighter romances, since their own experience with romance is fairly slight.

17365807Friedman, Laurie. Can You Say Catastrophe: The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair.
August 1st 2013 by Darby Creek 

"Thirteen-year-old April Sinclair gets her first two kisses--from two different boys--and is not sure how she feels about either one, and cannot wait to be at summer camp with her two best friends and away from her embarrassing family, but her parents cancel her camp plans in lieu of a family RV trip."

What I wanted: Funny, light romance for my readers who like the Darling Crush series.
What Didn't Work for Me: April is the most slap-worthy character I've read lately. Yes, many teenagers whine about their parents, family, and friends, but April takes this too a new level of annoying, cringeworthy whining. That said, I will probably buy this one, especially since it is a series, like The Clique, or Dork Diaries. Doesn't mean I have to like it personally.

17296690Alexander, Kwame. He Said, She Said.
November 19th 2013 by Amistad

When a popular football 'playa' and ladies man and the smartest girl in school lead a school protest, sparks fly as their social media-aided revolution grows"

What I wanted: Urban romance with cultural context, socially relevant high school drama, some football.
What Didn't Work for Me: The style and dialect made this one very difficult to understand, and if I struggled with it, I think my students will, too. This seemed like more of a high school book, as well, given the talk about sex. Great cover, and a great choice to attract reluctant readers in high school.

Cover image for Confessions of a so-called mid... Lennon, M.T. Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child
August 27th 2013, Harpercollins

"Charlie C. Cooper, reformed bully, gifted hacker, and middle child wants to make "cool" friends at her new school in Los Angeles, but her psychologist tasks her with becoming friends with the school's "biggest loser". "

What I wanted: Fun, realistic fiction title about a girl in a new school, dealing with typical middle school issues.
What Didn't Work for Me: Charlie is just nasty to everyone. At the very beginning, we hear the explanation of how she tried to frame a girl she didn't like by putting laxatives in the cafeteria food, an offense so terrible that her family has to move. And she feels no remorse. Even Charlie's attempts to help Marta didn't feel quite right, somehow. Other girls in her school are even crueler! While Catastrophe was whiny, this one seemed overly mean, so I will pass.

17978095Vaught, Susan. Insanity.
February 18th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens 
ARC from Baker and Taylor

From the publisher:
"With her deep knowledge of mental illness and mental institutions, Susan Vaught brings readers a fascinating and completely creepy new book intertwining the stories of three young people who find themselves haunted beyond imagining in the depths of Lincoln Hospital."

What I wanted: Creepy book like Poblocki's Ghost of Greylock.
What Didn't Work for Me: This would be an excellent, creepy book for a high school library, but two things keep it from being one I want to buy for middle school: it goes a little more into gory detail about the grandfather who killed 6-year-old boys than I would like, and it gets rather confusing, what with the different perspectives and the different levels of reality. I like Vaught's realistic fiction (Freaks Like Us, Big Fat Manifesto, Trigger and Exposed), but she is very edgy and best suited for high school.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life Now I know how my students feel when they come up to me in the library with pained expressions on their faces and ululate "I need a book!" They don't know what they want; nothing sounds good. I understand, I do. In fact, I'd love to have some recommendations now.

Luckily, I do have two things that look good-- I'm a HUGE fan of Bryson's work; I just want to BE Bill Bryson. Plus, I love nonfiction, and his book on home life looks fascinating. The other thing that is calling my name very loudly is Kate Hanigan's Cupcake Cousins, but since it is not coming out until May, I feel like I am not working hard enough if I read either of these!


  1. I wish I could invite you over to peruse my bookshelves! I bet I could solve your problem just beautifully if only I had you in person!

  2. which is to say, I have lots of old our of print books I'd bet you'd like....but since most of them are unobtainable, it is a bit pointless to start listing them....

  3. Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927 is excellent. Don't know if you're a Muppets fan, but Brian Jay Jones's Jim Henson: The Biography is terrific. Also try The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan; it's about the women who worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN.