Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Pemba's Song by Marilyn Nelson and Tonya C. Hegamin

What's It About?  ghosts; teen girls; slavery; history; 'new kid in town'

Summary?  As fifteen-year-old Pemba adjusts to leaving her Brooklyn, New York, home for small-town Connecticut, a Black history researcher helps her understand the paranormal experiences drawing her into the life of a mulatto girl who was once a slave in her house.

Why Did I Read It & Where Did I Get It?  While at work, the "ghost story" subtitle caught my eye. I checked it out from the library.

What I Thought...
This was a short yet interesting book about an African-American teen girl who moves with her mother from Brooklyn, NY to a small town in Connecticut.  Angry at having to move and desperately missing her friends, Pemba initially brushes off her strange experiences in their new home, but when she seems to form a connection with the ghost of a slave --  experiencing unsettling blackouts at the same time -- she begins to delve deeper into the history of her house and the small town.

Pemba is an easy character to sympathize with - her father died several years before in the Iraq war, and she and her mother both clearly feel his loss.  Her mother moves them for a good job opportunity, but understandably, Pemba's resentful about leaving her friends and boyfriend, a feeling acerbated by the fact that her cell phone gets very little reception in the small town.  While the ghost story is slight, it's still creepy, and the glimpses into the ghost's life - in the late 1700s - are unsettling.  Pemba writes about her feelings and impressions in a journal of poems, and I found those reflections the most interesting parts of the book.

This would be a great ghostly read for reluctant readers, or for those looking for high interest/low reading level books.


YA Reading Challenge Count: 6

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Reading Club, Vol. 1 by Cho Ju-Hee & Suh Yun-Young

What's It About? Horror; books; reading; The Ring meets shojo?

Summary? After getting stuck with the job of cleaning her high school's long-forgotten library, a 9th grade girl stumbles across a suspicious looking book. Simply opening the book causes her to see unspeakable horrors - does she dare read it? If she does, she could find something more terrifying than she ever imagined...

Why Did I Read It?  It's a horror manga about an evil book. And it's called Reading Club. Kind of a no-brainer for me...  :)

What I Thought...
This...was...weird. Don't get me wrong: I dig horror. This has it, especially a panel spread that includes the image from the cover. *shudder* And, being a librarian, I can't help but hug books that are set in libraries, even when said libraries are filthy and largely ignored, as the high school library in Reading Club is.

HOWEVER. This book, in addition to the strange mystery of a book that may cause suicide and may be haunting a student at the school, is a medical examiner whose scenes are full of her going chibi and pretending to be a dead body so as to startle her assistants when she sits up with a scream. I'm not at all used to books who mix in slapstick humor in with the horror and gore...

I'll probably pass on future volumes, but I can think of a few teens who will eat this up!

YA Reading Challenge Count: 5

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

What's It About? 'coolness'; trends; fashion; adventure

Summary?  Hunter Braque, a New York City teenager who is paid by corporations to spot what is "cool," combines his analytical skills with girlfriend Jen's creative talents to find a missing person and thwart a conspiracy directed at the heart of consumer culture.

Why Did I Read It? It was February's book for my teen book club.

What I Thought...
What is cool? According to Hunter Braque, most people need to be told the answer to this question, and he's one of those who know: he's a 'cool hunter,' meaning he gets paid to inform his boss of the cool things he sees on the streets. When his boss goes missing, however, he must team up with an Innovator (one of those people who effortlessly is cool) to find her.

This was a pretty entertaining read - Hunter is an appealing character, up-front, easy-going and pretty knowledgeable about 'cool,' how 'cool' happens, and how 'cool' spreads. He's also very funny, and his observations (he's a paid observer, and it's what he does best) are pretty often spot-on. As his boss works for 'the client' (a shoe company that's VERY well known) and Hunter's shy of endorsements, he almost never names brands, instead talking around them, and it's a lot of fun to try and identify those brands.

Hunter spends a lot of time talking about trends and trendsetters, and how companies have taken a major interest in trendsetters, in the hopes of starting and profiting off of trends themselves, and so the reader gets a lot of mini, yet completely fascinating history lessons on how things - fashion, trends, even viruses - spread. 

A lot of this book reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, and I'm now rereading the Tipping Point so I can talk to my book group about it as well as this one. 

Again, Westerfeld writes a clever, fast-paced, fascinating book (I'm remembering his fully awesome Peeps as I write this).


YA Reading Challenge Count: 4