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)

Holes by Louis Sachar

holesI found a copy of Louis Sachar’s Holes in the laundromat last summer and immediately snatched it up, vaguely remembering how good the movie was that I saw years back. It took me a while to finish it as life happens, but I did.  The book is an intriguing read of fate, destiny, and friendship.

There is a great mystery in the book about why children are sent to a prison camp and need to dig holes. There is apparently a lesson to be learned digging holes all day for reasons unknown, and that lesson is slowly revealed to us. I also liked the subtle theme of faith and God woven into the pages of this book.

This book certainly won the Newbery Medal for a good reason and I am glad that seeing the movie prompted me to pick up the book. It is a great read, especially easy to digest for people like me.

(Stella Oh, Glenwood Branch Library)

(Editor’s note – In my opinion, this is one where both the movie and book are good.  Plus, in the movie, it’s fun to watch Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight ham it up as villains.)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Author Rowell has captured the essence of being an unusual, awkward teenagerfangirl springing into adulthood.  The aspect about Cath, the main character, that will capture most readers is the veer from the traditional depiction of an ideal teenage character to someone like Cath.  Instead of a bombshell teen in disguise who changes for those around her, we have Cath.

Cath is a twin, and the more introverted of the two.  Their mother left Cath and her sister Wren when they were 8 years old, leaving them to handle and care for their sporadic, workaholic, and mentally unstable father.

Initially, Wren wants to separate herself from Cath to find herself, but ends up crashing and burning, leaving Cath to try to pick up the pieces.  Cath must deal with the inner struggle of letting go of the comfort she had in Omaha, Nebraska prior to college and coping with all the newness in her life.  To handle this change, she dives into the familiar fictional world of Simon Snow by her favorite author, Gemma T. Leslie.  Simon Snow is the equivalent to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in the real world.

Cath never changes who she is at her core.  Unlike her sister, she does not go out and drink, or try to join a sorority.  She maintains a respectful relationship with her roommate, Reagan, and a distance to blindingly optimistic sort-of boyfriend Levi who is constantly at their dorm room.  However, Reagan becomes closer to Cath despite differences, and inadvertently, so does Levi.  This is especially true after Cath’s boyfriend from back home in Omaha, Abel, breaks off their comfortable, yet shallow, relationship.  Cath must learn to manage her newly found emotions and rein in her life.

All in all, Fangirl is an enjoyable book and interesting read.  Rainbow Rowell keeps you hanging on her every word and introduces a duality in which we follow Cath and peek into the world of Simon Snow through Cath’s fanfiction.  Fangirl is inspiring to both young and old by the ability to relate to someone who is juggling life the best way she can, which involves mental hurdles, social aversion, coping, and adjusting to change.

For the readers and fans of Fangirl who want more about Simon Snow, Rowell has released Carry On as its own separate novel.

Carry on, readers!

(Amanda Sanson, Central Library)