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Welcome to the book blog, featuring reviews for teens from InfoSoup librarians and users!

Reviews by : Waupaca Area Public Library

Weetzie Bat

Author: Francesca Lia Block

A genie of the lamp grants Weetzie Bat three wishes. The three wishes begin to come true as Weetzie meets her “Secret Agent Lover Man” (named just that), and her gay best friend Dirk meets “Duck.” They all live together in a house in Los Angeles that Dirk inherited from his grandmother. When Weetzie decides she wants to have a baby, Secret Agent Lover Man tells her that he has no interest in being a father because of what the world is like. Dirk and Duck want to be parents as well, but since they are both men, they cannot conceive together. Weetzie, Dirk, and Duck hatch a plan to conceive a child together. When this is achieved Secret Agent Lover Man feels betrayed and leaves. Is he gone forever? Will Weezie’s happy family ever be happy again? Can Secret Agent Lover Man get over this betrayal?

The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

After the people attempted to rise up against their government and their efforts were squashed, the Capitol has maintained strict authoritative order. One of the annual happenings, and part of this strict order, is something called the Hunger Games. Each of Panem’s districts must sent two (one male, one female) tributes to fight to the death in a game of survival of the fittest. When Prim, our heroine’s little sister, is chosen to attend the games, Katniss steps up and volunteers—saving her sister from certain death. In the games, Katniss must overcome many obstacles including teenagers in survival-mode, rule changes, and much more. Eventually, Katniss and her fellow tribute, Peeta, emerge victorious.

Author: S.E. Hinton

The story follows the lives of Ponyboy, his two brothers Darry and Sodapop, and their “gang” of greasers as they deal with the death of their parents, their positions in life, and trouble with the law caused by the accidental death of a rival (Bob). Ponyboy and Johnny run away from the scene of the crime in order to evade the authorities and the repercussions of what happened. They stay at a church out of town for five days and end up saving a group of children from a burning church. Johnny is severely injured during their act of heroism and requires hospitalization…will he survive?  Ponyboy goes back to school and brings the book full circle with his theme paper. It begins as the book began, “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight…”

Author: John Green

Miles “Pudge” Halter is obsessed with famous last words; his favorite being that of poet Francois Rabelais who said, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”  The idea of finding his personal “Great Perhaps” inspires Miles to attend the Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama. During his time at Culver Creek, Miles become friends with the beautiful, wild, and self-destructive Alaska Young, Chip “The Colonel” Martin, Takumi Hikohito and Lara Buterskaya. The group is thick-as-thieves and experiment with smoking, drinking, and drugs. The different cliques in school quarrel through pranks, with each prank being more extreme than the last. Alaska is determined to pull the best prank of all. That’s all I’m going to say…I can’t seem to find a great way to conclude a summary for this book without giving away all the “feels,” so I’m going to leave it at that for those that haven’t read it. 

Author: Peter Sís

This book is about a boy who grew up in communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. This boy loved to draw and drew whatever he wanted…that is, until he began school where communist indoctrination took place. He then drew what he was told to draw. Many major events took place in this boy’s life—Prague Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of Communism, etc.

The illustrations are crude, yet detailed and mostly black and white, with some red. The color red seems to symbolize Communism in this context—red flags, red hammer and sickles, red Russian tanks, etc… Whenever the author speaks of freedom, Western ideals, and the like, the illustrations are done in full color. It is a beautifully executed concept.

This book won the Robert E. Siebert Medal and was named a Caldecott Honor Book, among other awards and honors. The plot itself is quite simple, but the addition of captions to the illustrations adds a great deal of depth. Keeping the sentences short helps to add to the feeling of mounting fear of the government as the author experienced it.

Personal Reaction:

I loved this book because it covered a topic that is quite close to my heart. Sís helped to make this topic simple enough for children and teens to understand without bogging them down with the more depressing aspects of Communism, as it played out in Eastern Europe. The drawings were interesting, sometimes comical and I really enjoyed the way Sís used color. The red in his black and white panels was very striking.

Themes:  Communism, Authoritative government regimes, following directions (“compulsory”), dreams, rock ‘n roll, fear, individuality, social conditions

Author: Steve Sheinkin

This is a true story from WWII that has been overlooked in textbooks and in the mainstream civil rights history.  Segregation in the military was common.  Port Chicago was a naval base in California where munitions ships were loaded by all black crews.  Following a huge explosion that killed hundreds of sailors, fifty black sailors refused to go back to loading bombs on ships.  They were tried and convicted of mutiny.  This is their story..... told by Steven Sheinkin in a manner that is easy to read and understand, yet complete with all the primary sources necessary to make this a history textbook in its own right.

Title: Noggin
Author: John Corey Whaley

Sixteen-year old Travis Coates decided that he did not want to suffer through his losing battle with cancer. He, instead, accepts an offer to cryogenically freeze his head—the only part of him not riddled with cancer. When the time was right (you know how science can be) and a donor body had been found, Travis would be brought back. What Travis did not realize was that his time would come  to be brought back a mere five years later. After waking from his head transplant, Travis soon finds that life moved on without him; his parents got rid of all his stuff, his girlfriend is now engaged, and his best friend is in college…and living a lie. Travis must return to the school he left behind and relive his sixteenth year, only with a healthy body. He makes some new friends, rekindles his old friendships and tries to win back the affections of the love of his young life—all with a little comedic flare and a few touching moments.

My Reaction:

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I think the idea behind the plot is really unique—Hello!? Head transplant!—but, far-fetched. The characters were developed well and story as a whole had nice flow. It is told by Travis after he wakes and shifts between his recent experiences and memories of before the procedure. It think structuring the story this way helped to add some authenticity to such an “out-there-in-left-field” story. With that said, there were some inconsistencies that really made it difficult for me to love this book (which is rare, because I generally love just about everything I read, as you may have noted from my GoodReads ratings).

First, a number of characters make some mention of Travis’ time as a severed head, cryogenically frozen…and there are a number of times when he/someone mentions not having been dead during that time, or not having been ‘brought back from the dead’ because he wasn’t dead in the first place. WHAT!? If your head was severed…you were dead. Period. End of story.

Second, I get that Travis is sixteen—even after he was brought back—because he never lived through his sixteenth year and he was frozen at that age, but why was he sent back to high school?  That was really what his parents thought would be best for him? There wasn’t a GED program or online high school that he could have attended? His birthdate obviously proves—which he does use at one point to get into a karaoke bar—that he is technically (physically?) not sixteen, so strongly suspect that no school would accept him back at 21 years old.

Besides those few plot issues, I thought the story was fun, engaging, and I did enjoy reading it for the sake of staying current in my collection. Recommended for grades 9-12.

Themes: cancer, coming of age, contemporary, cryogenics, death, drama, fantasy, sci fi fiction, first love, friendship, grief, humor, Kansas City, leukemia, LGBTQ, mad scientist, male protagonist, organ transplants, relationships, science fiction, teen, YA, young adult

Author: Candace Fleming

Nicholas II, last Tsar of Russia, his family, their servants and their physician were imprisoned at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg (or, Yekaterinburg) during the upheaval of the Russian Revolution and brutally murdered in a cellar in the wee hours of the morning on July 17, 1918.

For three hundred years, the Romanov Dynasty reigned over Russia, yet Nicholas never wanted to be Tsar. He was shy and less commanding than his father, Alexander III. Because of his great love for Russia, he took his place as Tsar after his father’s death, with Alexandra at his side.

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