Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Thirteen year old Paul Robeson is traveling in a small bush plane to spend the summerHatchet with his father in the oil fields of northern Canada, when the pilot suffers a heart attack in mid-flight.  The plane crashes into a lake deep in a forested area, and Paul is the most vulnerable he’ll ever be in his entire life.

Paul is dazed, hurt, and bruised from his abrupt landing, and more than scared of his surroundings.  He is fortunate in that it’s summer, with its temperate weather, but the mosquitoes are relentless during the dusk and early mornings.  And although the woods he is in are teeming with possibilities, Paul does not yet know his options for food and water.

After eating himself sick on certain berries (which are edible within reason), Paul begins to parse out his options for sustenance in the wild.  He learns the real value of the hatchet that his mother gave him right before his flight.  Paul has by luck held on to it and this valuable tool becomes his gateway to staying alive in the wilderness.  With the hatchet, Paul learns how to build a rudimentary shelter, how to get a fire going (it becomes a necessary obsession) and the process for creating tools.

Without the crutches of modern day conveniences, Paul gains a resourcefulness beyond his imagination.  Instead of daily expecting a rescue, he sets up routines, learns the lay of his environment, and keeps his strength up.  Paul also has a few harrowing run-ins with other denizens of the forest, and a nasty storm tests even his best new skills.  Through all these hardships, Paul learns how to work with nature and stare down his own personal demons – the aftermath of his parent’s divorce, the specter of the downed plane sticking up in the middle of the lake, etc.

Will Paul make it out of the woods before winter time, or is he destined to grow up a grizzled hermit?  Read it and see.

I read young adult/youth fiction once in a very great while, and always like books about people roughing it and/or surviving out in the wilds.  At the suggestion of a co-worker, I tried this book, and enjoyed it very much.  I’d heard of Gary Paulsen years ago and never read anything by him.  I’m glad I read Hatchet, and wished that this one had been available when I was a teenager.  Still, we had books such as My Side of the Mountain, and I’d recommend it as well.

Hatchet is (thankfully) available in ebook format as well.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is also a StarI had to read (or rather listen to the audiobook of) The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon when I saw previews of the upcoming movie at the theater.  I just had to find out for myself what the young adult novel was all about when I realized that the lead male character is Korean.  Korean American, of course, and debonair at that, although I personally had the most difficult time believing the actor was either Korean or a teen.  But the book was more than convincing, as I understood a little of his experience as a Korean American myself.

Daniel Bae is on his way to a prestigious college interview when he runs into Natasha, a Jamaican immigrant who is about to be deported that very day.  They meet and, of course, fall in love, but Natasha, who is all science and rationale, is the harder of the two to fall in love.  Daniel, on top of being a candidate for Yale, is a romantic aspiring poet and pursues Natasha to no end.

The romance is cute and funny enough to make it a worthwhile teen read for me, but what really made the book worthwhile was identifying with living in two cultures, particularly the Korean American one.  Although I grew up somewhat different in that I was never pushed for straight A’s and excellence, I did have expectations that were put on me.  And I feel these pressures simply by being Korean or Asian, not because any person has put it on me specifically.  I felt the need to excel academically, to play a musical instrument like a virtuoso, and so on, at least superficially.  But really I am more like Daniel.  Just as he loves writing poetry, I had my stint pursuing photography (and failed spectacularly).

I sadly did not identify with Natasha as much.  She seemed rather dry, straight, and analytical to me at times, even though I didn’t think that was her true nature.  I have never had the experience of being undocumented and deported.  Maybe I was lucky to have a relative who sponsored our family to come to the U.S. and I was doubly lucky that my parents took the citizenship exam and got it, became naturalized under them, and never, ever had to take such an exam myself.  It was a privilege to go college and be able to get loans to pay for it, although I do curse their presence from time to time.  And I do feel exceptional having a U.S. Passport and having traveled to many different countries previously.  Natasha was not able to experience these things and probably never will.

The Sun Is Also A Star is for anyone wanting an entertaining and romantic teen story.  This book is also for anyone who wants to contemplate on immigration and race relations.

(Stella Oh, Benjamin Branch)

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

If you read the story about Lina and her exploration through Florence, Italy in Jenna Evans Welch’s love and luckprevious book, Love & Gelato, then I am happy to announce that the story continues!  In Love & Luck, the reader gets to meet in more detail Addie, Lina’s bestest friend. 

Welch starts up where she left off in the previous book.  Addie, after losing her bestest friend to another country, has to survive the worst experience to ever happen to a young girl in the modern age – she trusted a boy and he broke her heart.  The worst part about it?  It was the teammate of her oldest friend, her brother Ian.  Crushed, she escapes under the guise of her Aunt’s fourth or fifth wedding, to Ireland, dreading the start of school after the summer is over.  The only ray of light she has is to be reunited with her best friend in Italy for a few days.

However, things go wrong when Ian decides he isn’t going with Addie to Italy and is staying in Ireland.  In hopes of changing his mind, Addie tags along, ultimately missing her flight and losing that glimmer of Lina.  With no other choice, she ends up tagging along with Ian and his new, unexpected friend, Rowan.  During the trip, she finds a guidebook to help mend her broken heart, and goes off on an unexpected adventure through Ireland.  Along the way, she mends her relationship with Ian, discovering that there is more to him than the all-star footballer player everyone else sees, and discovering herself outside of her broken heart. 

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Someone Like You deviates from many of Sarah Dessen’s works.  She typically focusessomeone like you on adolescent romances and coming of age stories.

In Someone Like You, the coming of age portion leaves the romance in the shadows.  The book concerns the friendship of Halley and Scarlett, two best friends – better yet, soul sisters.  Scarlett moved into Halley’s neighborhood when they were still young and they have never left each other alone since.

Scarlett, bold and beautiful, has a summer romance with Michael Sherwood, a wild boy with mystery.  However, Michael meets an untimely death, leaving Scarlett hurt and with a surprise.  Halley, shy and beautiful, while battling with breaking away from her mother’s overbearing ways, has to help Scarlett get through the most challenging events a sixteen-year-old girl should face.  In addition, Halley falls for Macon Faulkner, a boy with a reputation.  She tries to keep up with his bad boy ways until he asks for something she may never be ready to give him.

This endearing tale focuses on the strengths of both girls individually, making choices that will make or break them. I highly recommend Someone Like You for anyone trying to find their voice and personal niche in today’s society.

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell astounds readers with her novel Eleanor & Park.  The writing style pullseleanor and park the reader into a sense of familiarity.  Rowell opens the story up by letting the reader know tragedy strikes, almost as if letting the reader prepare for the winding road ahead without giving too much away.  She also creates a world where it is difficult to feel any malice, even towards the antagonists of the story.  In a subtle way, she shares little pieces of every character’s life in the story to submerge the reader into an entirely new world.  Rowell exposes the real world to the readers without scaring them, and in Eleanor & Park, she has created a wonderful book that helps understand differences.

Eleanor & Park concerns the lives of two outcast teenagers. Eleanor is an outcast in her own home, trying to find solace in the books and music she saved from her past.  She returns after a year of banishment by her stepfather, only to feel solace in the bus seat she shares with Park.  Park, a boy who grew up in the same neighborhood, never feels any excitement or passion for anything outside of his comics and Walkman.  Initially, he views Eleanor just as everyone else on the bus and school does – with disdain.  However, as time passes, their bus rides become intimate.  Eleanor opens up to him and he finds a fire in himself for her that he has never known before.  The story progresses through the heat of young love, abuse, and eventually, freedom for both Eleanor and Park in their own ways.

This book would be great for adolescents and adults alike.  I highly recommend Eleanor & Park because almost anyone who reads it can relate to some part of it in their own way.

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

love & gelatoIf you have ever had the urge to see Florence, Italy, but don’t have the time or resources to go, then read Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. This young adult novel lets readers see the city through the eyes of a sixteen year old girl named Carolina (pronounced ‘Caro-leena’) Emerson.  The novel starts out a bit melancholy due to the loss of Lina’s mother, the famous photographer Hadley Emerson.  However, as a last request, Lina’s mother persuades Lina to leave her best friend, Addie, and her life in Seattle, to go live in Florence, Italy with the mysterious Howard Mercer. 

Lina stays with Howard in a unique home, where she meets Lorenzo “Ren” Farrara, Thomas Heath, and a few others who attend the international school she will also go to if she decides to stay.  These fun-loving natives introduce her to the city’s famous and not famous sights, such as the Duomo, and mansions galore.  The Duomo is a large cathedral that took 150 years to build and has a large dome on its top that tourists are free to climb and see.  All are explored by Lina in her hunt to discover the truth about her mother while dealing with a love triangle between her new close friend and the Italian adonis look-alike that she first fell for. 

This book captivates from beginning to end, and exposes the reader to new places without so much as leaving the bedroom.  It also provides insight to the mind of a sixteen year old trying to balance a new life, a social life, and maintaining her old life all in one.

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)


Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

“My first-ever friend was a hallucination: a sparkling entry on my new resume as a crazy Made You Upperson.

Alex was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was only seven years old, after an incident at the grocery store involving a boy and some lobsters. Ever since then, Alex is unsure of what is real and what is only happening in her imagination. She takes pictures to make sure what she sees is there, often times realizing it was all made up. When she is forced to transfer schools, she meets a boy from her past, but is he made up too?

Made You Up is about mental illness but does not solely focus on it. Alex has friends, has after school activities and even has a part-time job. The story is quirky and weird, and with an unreliable narrator, I could never tell what was real or made up, just like Alex.   This book was very enjoyable and unique – highly recommended to all fans of YA contemporary.

Made You Up is available through the NC Digital Library as an Ebook.

(Michelle Colbert, McGirt-Horton Branch Library)

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Academy 7Academy 7 is a futuristic science fiction novel centering on the interconnected lives of Aerin Renning and Dane Madousin.  Aerin opens up the novel by surviving an escape from a planet where she has been enslaved for the past 7 years.  Dane first appears by diving in to save a life from a forest fire in an unauthorized spacecraft, ending up in jail for a few hours until a good old friend of the family comes to bail him out.  As the story moves forward, the two find themselves in a school for the most gifted called Academy 7.  They maintain the top two marks: one a general’s son, the other an illegal immigrant to the Alliance.

The Alliance was formed to protect the peace among the planets following the rapid expansion of intergalactic travel and colonization.  There is another organization called the Trade Union.  The Trade Union is negotiating with the Alliance, fighting this large organized body of government; similar to labor unions formed in most occupations to fight for equal rights for the workers.  They view the rights of each planet as being neglected.

This novel does not center so much on the developing romance between the two characters, which is refreshing in itself.  It is more focused on uncovering the mysteries between Aerin and Dane, relating to their parents and their government’s secrets.  The novel is directed at young adult readers, but anyone who enjoys a peek into intergalactic development may find this interesting.  It is a short but interesting read that may lack in some areas, but packs a punch with the plot itself.

Lift off, readers!

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

flawedYou may be familiar with Cecelia Ahern as a fiction and romance author with novels such as P.S. I Love You and The Time of My Life.  This is Ahern’s first swing at writing Young Adult novels.  In Flawed, Celestine North has a perfect life.  She is in love with the perfect boy who has a powerful father in a society where perfection is mandatory.  For those who have not been perfect, they are branded with a red F for Flawed for everyone to see.

When Celestine takes a risk and helps an older gentleman who is Flawed, she is suddenly in court facing her boyfriend’s father to see if she will be a Flawed citizen.  However, Mr. Craven has different plans when Celestine will not apologize for helping a Flawed man when he was dying.  Celestine’s world is turned upside down when she suddenly becomes a Flawed, has to have a handler, cannot eat any lavish food, and her loving boyfriend suddenly wants no part of her.  But Celestine has a secret that only few know. Can one Flawed change the whole system?

If you are a fan of The Hunger Games or Divergent, this might be the perfect read for you.  The second book in the duology, Perfect, is also available.

(Michelle Colbert, McGirt-Horton Branch Library)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

carry onRainbow Rowell has done it again.  In Carry On, she continues the fan fiction by Cath, the main character, in her captivating previous novel, Fangirl.  Carry On operates on a multiple-perspective basis, in which the chapters alternate between each of the significant characters’ perspectives on both the war and the world of mages.  This works to keep the reader guessing until the last moment.

Because this is a short-lived one shot into the world of Simon Snow, readers are introduced to this new world at the end of what would have been a long series.  Simon Snow is back at Watford, a school for mages.  He is the Mage’s Heir, the chosen one, destined to end the war within the magical realm and stop a dark creature called the Insidious Humdrum.  His obsession with his roommate for the last 6 years, Basilton “Baz” Pitch, evolves into a realization of his true feelings for his so-called nemesis.  His foes morph into his friends and the one person he trusted becomes his greatest enemy.

The relationship between Simon and Baz transcends romance in the sense that it all started out with hatred from two families: the Pitches and the Mage.  It develops in a way that is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  However, instead of a couple of weeks, Baz and Simon have been battling for 7 years.  Then, after realizing their love for each other, they continue trying to honor their families’ wishes, even assuming that the entire situation will end with a large battle between the two.  But this doesn’t stop their affections for each other, which is admirable.  It also does not help that this conditioned dislike for one another leads to many misunderstandings, such as when Baz “tried to kill” Simon with a Chimera.  However, the love they share is not the center of the novel, as one would expect from Rowell’s Fangirl.

Rowell creates an entire realm similar, yet different, to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  There are similarities (such as a personal familiarity in Simon’s best friend Penny Bounce and Harry’s Hermione Granger), but the overall plot is set independently of Harry Potter.

The author tends to allude to real-life materials and situations, which almost brings readers into the world of Carry On.  As a young adult novel, Rowell hits the nail on the head with her references for a younger audience.  The book has many different appeals that extend to a plethora of readers.  Although there are some instances where there could have been more expansion or resolution, it is a pleasure to lose yourself in the stormy romance of Simon Snow and Baz Pitch.

Carry on, readers!

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)