YA Book Reviews for the Seasons: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

You may have heard that author Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. Ishiguro is best known for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day. More recently, in 2005, he published a haunting novel entitled Never Let Me Go. While Ishiguro likely intended Never Let Me Go to be read mainly by adult audiences, the plot of the novel focuses heavily on the main character’s recollections of adolescence. As such, it can be relateable and enjoyable for teens, especially older teens. This beautifully woven novel is the perfect, contemplative read for a snowy day, provided that you don’t mind a sad story. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Celebrate National Novel Writing Month with Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Published by Doubleday, 2011.

Happy National Novel Writing Month! Even though writing can be a fun form of self-expression for kids, teens, and adults, motivating yourself to write can often be challenging. Novels in particular require a great deal of self-motivation over a long period of time. Since 1999, the organization and movement known as “National Novel Writing Month” has encouraged amateur and professional writers to push themselves. Anyone can participate in NaNoWriMo, which asks participants to write a 50,000 word manuscript in a single month, between November 1 and November 30. That means an average of 1,667 words per day! NaNoWriMo helps writers across the country and beyond by providing “pep talks” from professional authors, and meet ups in real life so that writers can take a break from this solitary pursuit. Read the rest of this entry »

Spooky Stories for Teens in Pretty Monsters

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Monsters, ghosts, aliens, wizards, and magical librarians all make an appearance in Pretty Monsters, a multi-genre book of short stories by local Northampton author, Kelly Link. In her first book written specifically for a young adult audience, Link demonstrates her ability to blend elements of fantasy, magical realism, and horror together. The overarching thread of this enchanting collection is Link’s skillful voice. The author’s writing seems to be strongly influenced by fairy tales, a factor which gives her unique narratives a sense of familiarity even as they dazzle readers with imaginative twists and turns. Read the rest of this entry »

YA Book Review: Back to School for the First Time in This Girl is Different

This Girl Is Different by J.J. Johnson. Published by Peachtree Publishers, 2011.

For lots of kids, parents, and young adults, September signals time to re-adjust to the schedule and lifestyle of school. For a homeschooler attending school for the very first time, this transition is much more difficult…and exciting! J.J Johnson’s young adult novel This Girl is Different centers around Evie, a homeschooler, entering school for the first time as a high school senior. This book flips the typical high school narrative on its head. Evie has to beg her mother to go to school. She wants to meet more people and experience a lifestyle she has only seen in movies. Before school even starts, Evie happens to befriend kindhearted Jacinda and Jacinda’s cute cousin Rajas, both seniors. But Evie quickly discovers that she knows less than she thought she did about the rules and cut-throat culture of public school. Read the rest of this entry »

YA Book Review: Romance, Fantasy, and Social Justice in Shadowshaper

August Review: Shadowshaper By Daniel Jose Older

Daniel Jose Older’s young adult fantasy novel Shadowshaper (Published by Scholastic, Inc. 2015) accomplishes a great deal in under 300 pages. On the surface, Older weaves an exciting, at times creepy plot featuring magic and romance. On a deeper level, he tactfully addresses several issues at the intersection of race, self-esteem, and body image for his main character Sierra Santiago. There is a lot for young, as well as adult readers, to analyze in Shadowshaper. Older raises important questions related to the ethics of anthropology, asking readers: Who gets to study whom, and why?
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Literary Guide for Maggie Thrash’s “Honor Girl”

Literary Guide for Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl

Download Literary Guide for Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl

Honor Girl, the debut book by graphic novelist Maggie Thrash, is part memoir, part coming-of-age story, and part critical analysis of the discovery of sexuality. This young adult story (without a doubt written for teen audiences) is set at an all-girls summer camp in the south, and follows its author through a summer of confusing emotions, unexpected challenges, alongside a slew of heteronormative, gender-based assumptions.

Maggie has attended a very traditional sleepaway camp for nearly every summer of her life. It’s so traditional, in fact, that campers wear uniforms, sleep in true canvas tents, and can only arrive at camp via barge. It almost goes without saying that Maggie’s fellow campers are overwhelmingly white and Christian, and are portrayed as epitomizing what it means to be a budding southern belle. Vanity reigns supreme, trends are set through creative use of barrettes and non-camp-issue socks, and rumors of crushes on the few males to set foot on camp grounds run rampant.

Within this microcosm of southern culture, Maggie discovers that she has fallen in love for the first time. It comes as a surprise and catches her off guard – not only because it’s the first time she has ever experienced such feelings, but because the person for whom she falls madly and deeply is Erin, a female counselor a few years her senior. Read the rest of this entry »

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