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Posts Tagged ‘teenage relationships’

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile.

July 19, 2020 Comments off

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile. Pub. Anderson Press, 2020.

This is the most powerful graphic novel  for high school students that I have ever read and it deservedly won the Newbery Medal. It is about basketball and it is about families and all the characters in this novel are black.

JB and Jordan are twins, they are 13 years old and a very gifted basketball players. They live and breathe basketball and they are fans of rap music. Their father was a pro baller and won a championship ring as “da man”, but he is not a well man. Their mother is Principal of the High School the boys attend and both parents are highly involved with boys lives.

The boys compete, the father coaches them and the mother ensures that the boys education takes priority. Then a girl comes on the scene. She is beautiful, wears pink gym shoes and she makes a play for Jordan and they become an item. This upsets JB and the closeness the brothers once had starts to deteriorate to the point that it erupts into a violent act in the middle of a basketball game.

The family is wracked with problems, the boys become enemies and then tragedy. The ending is stunning.

There is lots of basketball talk most of it in rap verse. The book is divided into four quarters and there is a competition going on.

Easy to read with the illustrations superb. I read the book in about an hour and got emotionally involved with what was happening, you will too.

Reluctant boy readers and readers who like sports stories particularly basketball will love this novel. The rap prose is inspiring to as is the relationship between Jordan and the girl. Black Lives matter is also a strong theme of this novel.

A Trio of Sophies by Eileen Merriman.

March 2, 2020 Comments off

trioA Trio of Sophies by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2020.

This is a page turner make no bones about that. It is about friendship between three girls, all called Sophie, all 16 years old, all at the same school and what happens when boyfriends and sexual relations enter their lives.

Sophie A is very attractive with hair that doesn’t go frizzy on the most humid of Auckland days. Sophie T is sporty but not so academically gifted as the other two, and Sophie M is academically gifted and wants to become a forensic scientist. They have been friends since they were 9 years old but the hormones are buzzing around and this is going to shatter all their lives.

During the summer holidays Sophie M, who narrates this story, falls while running at Muriwai and is tended to by James Bacon. He tells her he is 19 and their romance blossoms with him being very much the leader and Sophie a willing participant. It is a dream come true for her and she is in love. She tells no-one but he is not being honest.

First day back at school is a massive surprise and things start deteriorating between Sophie and James. To make things worse Sophie A, the attractive one goes missing. I can tell you no more but it is riveting.

Structured in 3 parts the first of which takes up 75% of the book and the last two deal with the aftermath of what has occurred. What makes it a page turner is that it is written in diary form by Sophie M and there are hooks that make you keep reading. Also Sophie knows something that no-one else does but is it ever resolved. Read it and find out.

Teenage girls will love it, plenty of first love experiences, feelings and doubts and a male character who is as devious as a ferret. Much to enjoy in this novel. Other titles by the same author are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Best  New Zealand YA novel of the year so far. Don’t miss it you will kick yourself if you do. The ending will make you think. Classy cover.

One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

January 20, 2020 Comments off

one of usOne of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus. Pub. penguin Books, 2020.

If you are ever in an on-line Truth or Dare scenario take the Dare. That is the message of this compelling mystery novel about the toxic danger that on-line social media Apps can have.

This novel is a sequel to One of us is Lying in which high school student Simon arranged his own death to make it look like his friends murdered him. Sick ? yes I know. These friends who include a champion gay baseball pitcher, a courting couple and a girlfriend, are in this novel but a new generation have taken over.

A Truth or Dare App has taken over the lives of the students of Bayfield High School run by an anonymous sicko called Darkestmind. He taunts the students to play truth or dare and all the memories and sick behaviour shown when Simon was around come to the surface again.

The students of Bayfield High School are mesmerised by the new game and show behaviours that no school or society should condone. The school doesn’t but the students do. All they had to do was ignore the App but they flocked to it like lambs to the slaughter.

The main characters in this are Maeve, sister of Bronwyn from the earlier novel, and a leukemia sufferer who is in remission. Knox a law student and shy boy who is treated cruel in the Truth and Dare game and Phoebe who has a fling with her sisters boyfriend and suffers the consequences in the game.

Crisis time comes when a member of the school is killed, but is it murder?

Structured in two parts this novel has much to say about teenage relationships and the dangers of on-line social media Apps. Then there is the mystery of who is behind the Truth and Dare game.

Superbly written by Karen McManus who keeps the tension flowing and gives a satisfying ending, but the human behaviour amongst the young is often appalling. One comment stands out to me. When the girls look up Knox’s website this comment is made “No selfies. What kind of weirdo is he?” Astonishing!

You just have to read it. Senior high school and young adults

Chasing the Shadows by Maria V. Snyder.

January 14, 2020 Comments off

chasing ShadowsChasing the Shadows by Maria V. Snyder. Pub. HQ. Young Adult, 2019.

This is set on a Planet called Yulin on the outer area of the Galaxy. On this Planet is a human force preparing it for civilisation and carrying out archaelogical digs which are mysterious.

All over other Planets in the Galaxy are Pits containing Terracotta Army warriors like those in modern day China. The Warriors have magical marks on them and have hearts made from a substance not known on Earth. It is suspected that the Warriors have some power that can give supremacy to anyone who can crack the unknown markings on the Terracotta Warriors.

It is suspected that alien symbols on the warriors prove the Aliens believed in demons and used the warriors to protect themselves perhaps using an as yet unknown dimension.

On Yulin, Ara who is about 18 years old and was killed in the last book Navigating the Stars by a Looter named Jarren. She is  secretly revived and learns security on Yulin while her parents work on the Warriors. But why was she killed and why was she secretly revived? Ara works on the giant Internet system called Q-Net and is able to go places no-one else can, even more so since she was brought back to life. She discovers that all communications between Yulin and DES or home base have been secretly stopped for some months probably by arch villain Jarren.

To lure Jarren out those on Yulin decide to open an as yet undisturbed pit full of Warriors to see what will happen. In the meantime Ara is having a first love affair with Niall and trying to break through the barriers on Q-Net that link Yulin to home base.

Lots of Internet type talk which is relevant to today’s world. It you are a techie you will love this Science fiction novel. I found it compelling and there is probably going to be another.

Rocking Horse Road by Carl Nixon

December 20, 2019 Comments off

rockinghorseRocking Horse Road by Carl Nixon. Pub. Random House, 2007.

I missed this excellent novel about teenagers growing up in Christchurch New Zealand in the 1980’s.

It attracted my attention because I live on the coastal East side of Christchurch and I intimately know the Rocking Horse Road area of South New Brighton. It is a long beach finger, between the ocean and the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote rivers.

One morning in the hot summer of 1980 the body of 16 year old Lucy Asher is found at the high tide area of South Brighton beach. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered. She is found by Pete Marshall who is a year younger than Lucy and the consequences of Lucy’s death will affect him and his mates for the rest of their lives.

The police investigation into Lucy’s murder does not result in a culprit being caught so the boys(one of them narrates the story), conduct their own investigation until well into their 40’s. It dominates their lives, but will they solve the case?

At the same time the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour of New Zealand takes place, a tour that divided the country and resulted in some appalling behaviour from both sides of the argument. The boys are caught up in this as well.

It is a loss of innocence story both for the teenage boys and the country. Neither will be the same again. The environment of the estuary and beach is a huge part of the appeal of this novel. If you live in New Brighton you will love it.

Powerfully written by Carl Nixon. Once you start you won’t put it down. For young adult and adult readers.

 

 

Frankly in Love by David Yoon.

November 19, 2019 Comments off

franklyFrankly in Love by David Yoon. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

I first received this novel for review two months ago and somehow I have sat on it till now. I shouldn’t have. It is absolutely superb. It is about first love, it is about racism and it is about cultural difference in American culture, written in a way that will totally enthrall you.

Frank Li is 18 years old he is by his own words a Korean-American and proud of it. He speaks no Korean and has grown up as an American kid except that he is Asian. His parents are dyed in the wool Koreans who came to America in the 90’s. Their English is halting and they earn a living from a liquor store come grocery in California which they own. They have done very well but stick to their Korean friends and are totally racist in their views especially towards other Asian groups. Its about the human ties that matter.

Previously their only daughter and Frank Li’s sister Hannah, has been disowned by the family because she developed a relationship with a Black American while at college and has since married him. Frank Li is distressed about this as he loved his sister and his parents want him to marry a Korean daughter of one of their friends. Her name is Joy and she has a secret Chinese boyfriend without her parents knowledge. Joy is a joy to read about.

When Frank Li starts a relationship with European American girl, Brit Means that develops into love and hot love at that, Joy and Frank Li start a pretend relationship to hide their real relationships from their parents.

This is a dangerous game and soon it is going to go pear shaped. Find out how and why by reading this very readable novel for yourself. It is compelling reading, superbly told.

In a nut shell the parents have to let go of their racist views and the kids have to learn to be brave in a melting pot that is the American dream. An added bonus is that the multi cultural kids in this book are highly intelligent and the wit and interaction they have both in person and via technology is totally engrossing

Senior secondary and young adult but younger teen readers will thrive on it too. In my top 5 books of the year so far and I pick it will stay there.

I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

May 11, 2019 Comments off

I ClaudiaI, Claudia by Mary McCoy. Pub. carolehoda Lab, 2019. Imprint Walker Books.

Sometimes there comes a novel that you don’t want to ever finish and this political thriller about a student council in a Los Angeles high school is one of them.

I savoured this novel over 10 days and was not disappointed by a thing. Yes I was. I was disappointed that the Head and Board of Governors of the school did not step in earlier in spite of ample evidence to do so, but then that would have ruined the story

The Imperial Day Academy is a prestigious school that is run by a student body titled the Honour Council which is structured somewhat like the Roman Senate with representatives from each class level and a President and vice President. The candidates are elected annually and have as many qualities as everyday American politics – liars, cheats, bullies, power freaks and idealists. . The aim is to destroy your opponents character and intentions and make you seem like the only wise choice. Whether it is true or not.

The novel is told by Claudia McCarthy in the form of a testimony and you the reader will find out why this is when you finish the book. The aim is to work out who are the bad guys and who are the good guys and it is not easy. Claudia’s approach is this “I make a habit of identifying the psychopaths in my environment as quickly as possible”. But is she right? Claudia’s character is charismatic. She appears to be a nobody and describes herself as an historian and is ultimately totally brave.

The characters are stunningly conceived from the ruthless, manipulative Livia, to the power crazy Cal and the heroic Claudia. There are deaths, there are inhuman episodes, there is corruption, there is sexual violation and there is love albeit misused.

The tactics used by Nixon during the Watergate scandal are a blueprint for the political drama at Imperial Day school and there is a lot of Trump’s America in there too.

This is a novel of today’s America and if you miss this one you will kick yourself. The ending provides all the answers but leaving some doubt as well. In politics do we ever learn the truth?

For High school students and Young Adults. Just superb. Stunning cover.

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James.

March 18, 2019 Comments off

quiet worldThe Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

Is it possible that the human race could become extinct? This is a major theme of this new sci-fi novel from Lauren James and her next after The Loneliest Girl in the Universe also reviewed on this blog.

Shen and Lowrie are 16 & 17 and are the only humans left on the planet. A virus years before rendered humans infertile and once the storehouse of eggs and sperm was used up no more humans were born. Shen and Lowrie are the last and they are yet to discover the truth.

They live in London which has a population of only three hundred and spend their lives in a hi-tech world run by androids and robots with their parents. Their parents have not told them everything and as the book evolves the whole truth comes out and it is mind-blowing.

While exploring an old Tube station Lowrie discovers a wallet belonging to someone called Maya who lived through the period when humans became infertile. They read her Posts on a social web site as some old sites are still available, and find out what happened and how humans reacted.

Humans became lonely without children so created their own robotic children in a programme called Babygrow. For a while living humans and Babygrow children existed together and how they related makes for interesting reading.

Then a helicopter accident sparks off a series of events that reveals the astonishing truth. Read the novel and find out what.

Excellent science fiction that feels like normal life. But is it? Well structured with old facebook and Twitter like comments from Maya and friends feeding the historical information. Great environmental message for the future

Senior and young adult fiction. Confident intermediates could handle it too.

Invisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman

March 13, 2019 Comments off

breathing invisibleInvisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2019.

When 16 year old Felix Catalan was in year 7 he realised he was different and he was going to be lonely for the rest of his life like a solitary moon orbiting a distant planet he’d never be able to call home. He probably has Asperger’s Syndrome although this is never stated, loves Green Day and lives with his mother and brother after his parents split up.

Then he meets Bailey.

Bailey is questioning his feelings too after a failed relationship with a girl. He has 3 siblings, an abusive father, he is good at judo and he has just moved to Wellington from Auckland. His first encounter with Felix is at school and they later attend a school party together and sparks fly.

Both boys feel it. When Bailey touches Felix’s arm it feels like all his atoms are spinning away from each other. They both feel like they never have before and they can’t get enough of each other. But it is a perilous world out there. Homophobia is rife and pretty soon life at school and at home becomes upsetting as the relationship between the two boys blossoms.

Conflict is inevitable and invisibly breathing becomes impossible.

Then Lucy comes along. Read it and find out what happens.

Eileen Merriman is at the top of her game as a writer. Her descriptive prose is a delight and the dialogue between the characters is totally believable. She deals with a sensitive subject with aplomb and knowledge. I couldn’t put it down and nor will you.

Definitely senior fiction but anybody out there agonising over their sexuality be assured this is the book for you.

Only Love can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

October 9, 2018 Comments off

only loveOnly Love can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber. Pub. Walker books, 2018.

I have always liked romance and relationship novels and I liked this one, but it drove me to distraction yet I couldn’t put it down. As Gene Pitney once sang “Only love can break a heart, only love can mend it again”. So it is with this novel.

Among other things it is a novel about control in a relationship and getting over the death of a loved one.

Reiko is a beautiful 17 year old girl with a Japanese father and an American European mother. Everybody notices Reiko wherever she goes but she has  a monkey on her back that she never talks about and needs to get it out.

When Reiko was 12 years old her 14 year old sister Mika died in an accident. Reiko feels guilt and has never grieved properly. Mika appears to Reiko in her room and they talk.  Reiko tells nobody, she should. Everybody skirts around the subject.

Then Seth appears on the scene and a relationship develops that drove me crazy. Reiko is practically perfect and Seth is a lone wolf. They get on well but Reiko keeps him secret and exerts a control over the relationship that upsets Seth. Both of them are using the other for their own purposes and sooner or later the dirt is going to hit the fan.

When it does, major change takes place for the benefit of both.

The strong parts of this novel are the friendships between Reiko and her brother Koji, her parents and her girlfriend Dre. Reiko is lucky to have them but Mika needs to be talked about.

Reiko drove me nuts with her self analysis and her secrecy and control over Seth, but I always felt Seth was out of his league with this beauty. It really enhanced the belief that women are from Venus and men from Mars. This has to change and it does.

I loved it and so will you. High school and young adult.