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

coming of age

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Author: Jack Gantos

Gantos does okay in school, but he doesn’t get too attached to people because his family moves a lot. His father takes a job out of the country forcing the family to move during his junior year of high school. They decide not to enroll him in school since he doesn’t speak Spanish, instead; they put him to work for his father. Gantos longs for something more…he wants to be a writer. He moves back to Florida and re-enrolls in his senior year (despite not having finished his junior year). He struggles in school this time and eventually follows his family to the Virgin Islands. In order to earn money for college, Gantos participates in a drug scheme—attempting to sail a large yacht full of hashish from the Virgin Islands to NYC. Eventually, he is caught by federal agents, arrested, and sentenced to six-years in prison. During his time in prison, he escapes the horrors of prison life through his writing and is released after a little over a year. 

This book has won a number of awards: the Sibert Honor in 2003, the Massachusetts Book Award for Children's/Young Adult Literature in 2003, named a Printz Honor book in 2003, and was nominated for the Abraham Lincoln Award in 2007. Gantos tells the story of his life—or a small portion of it—in a “matter-of-fact” way that teens and adults alike can relate to. 

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Author: Sarra Manning

First Line: There's a stack of folders piled up on the desk in front of me.

The first line was hardly what I would call gripping. *sigh* However, I did enjoy how Mistress Manning's prologue was what was going on to our young Rocker Molly Montgomery at the present moment, then the story proceeds as she tells us what her life was like through her year of fame.

"My name is Molly Montgomery. I'm nineteen years old, and I'm being sued for £ 5,000,000 by my former record company..."

*Gasps* Now my gloved hands are shaking in great anticipation. I simply could not image little ol' me being sued for such a grand amount. The premise has such great potential. Sadly the book fell a slight bit short for me.

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Author: James Lecesne

Set in steamy Florida, Dylan (a character every reader could relate to) is a caddy at a local golf club.  His town and golf course is turned upside down when an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) is noticed on the bark of a tree.  Enter the alluring and somewhat mystical, Angela (and we've all known a few Angelas too), who pushed Dylan to take risks that he would never have attempted.  In the chaos of the time, Dylan's family and friends all have to decide whether this sighting of the BVM is really a blessing.

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Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth

Enter a futuristic Chicago; it is divided into sections based on the virtues people value most. There is Candor, a group of the honest, Abnegation, a group of the selfless, Dauntless, a group of the brave, Erudite, a group of intelligent, and Amity, a group of the peaceful. Children are raised in the section, or faction, they are born in and when they turn sixteen, they get to choose the faction they will follow. Beatrice, a girl born into Abnegation, faces the most difficult choice of her life: to stay with her family, or to be herself. Conflicts ensue as she tries to belong.

This book has everything a reader could want. The entire story hides details from you so you want to read more. There is the ever confusing romance that never goes quite where it is supposed to go. There is action. There is friendship. There is betrayal. It is a book where the characters are believable, their decisions are challenging, and you will want to know the answers to their questions just as much as they do.

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Author: Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird is a beautiful, wonderful story that everyone should read. Don't just pick it up because your teacher asked you to; do it because you want to. Even though the beginning might not start off with breathtaking action, if you finish the story you will have no regrets. Harper Lee wrote a powerful and moving story that inspired me. To Kill A Mockingbird could just about be one of the best stories of all time.

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Author: Carolyn Mackler

Mara is a high school senior, studious and conscientious, who is aiming for Yale. Her niece V moves in with her and her parents when her older sister Amy (V's mom) moves to Costa Rica for a while. V is short for Vivienne and she is everything that Mara is not--a poor student, drug user, and boy magnet. She is a high school junior and will be attending the same school as Mara. The story is told from Mara's point of view. Mara and V may seem light years apart but they are both struggling with who they really are and how they want to be. After much tension and anger towards one another, an uneasy friendship ensues and they learn to respect each other. There are subplots for both Mara and V. For example, Mara works in a coffee shop called "Common Grounds" and V wins the role of Lola in the high school play, "Damn Yankees". I like this story because it shows that we can learn from anyone if we are open minded. Both girls had to quit judging--when that happened they discovered that they were more alike than different!

How Does That Feel?

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Author: Gary Schmidt

Gary Schmidt has done it again (think Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and Wednesday Wars)! Eighth-grader, Doug Swieteck, has moved with his family to "stupid" Marysville, New York. His family is used to being in stressful situations, but it is never easy. Doug and his brother are suspciously viewed right from the start. But Doug soon learns that he himself has made some judgments, too, about Marysville. This is a story of survival, of friendship and family. Schmidt tells the story with an authentic voice and sometimes the best story lines are read between the words on the page. I give this book a 5 star rating and recommend it to any tween, teen and adult.

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Author: Terri Farley

Samantha has a choice ahead of her. What started out as a simple, coed team, cross country race turns into a question of who she will betray. The stallion she raised as a colt and trained with her best friend Jake Ely or Jake? It all began with the fall off Blackie that sent her to San Fransisco for recovery. Blackie escaped and became the Phantom. Turning from black to white he becomes the mystical legendary horse. Now after 2 years he still is her horse - coming to her when no one is around. The leader of a band of horses she is the only one who knows the secret valley where they're safe from the BLM and having their freedom taken away.

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Author: Betty Smith

I just finished listening to this--I had such fond memories of it from high school. I loved it all over again. Sweet, deceptively simple writing makes for a profound story about coming of age. The protagonist, Francie, grows up in poverty but is smart, ambitious, observant, and good at finding her way in the world. She is as strong and stubborn as the tree growing behind her apartment building. The characters are very well written and the reader learns so much about life in New York just prior to World War II. Wonderful! 

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Author: Chris Crutcher

This was so authentic--I loved it. Chris talks about his boyhood, adolescence, and somewhat about adulthood. Some of the stories are laugh out loud funny. I am just going to say one word, "scab", without being a spoiler! Chris fills us in on how many of his experiences contributed to plot lines and character sketches in his wonderful Young Adult books. Chris sees the universality of things that happen to form who we are. That was so interesting! If you are a Chris Crutcher fan I can promise you that you will enjoy reading about his life.