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Thursday, December 24, 2015

REVIEW: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey's life is perfectly ordered and regimented at the hands of her overbearing mother.  Her senior trip through Europe hasn't been all that exciting since every single detail has been research and planned down to the most minute aspect.  This changes when Allyson meets super sexy and mysterious Dutch actor, Willem, in England.  Following instant attraction, Allyson (introducing herself as Lulu) agrees to spend 'just one day' with him in Paris. Neither divulge their true identities, yet it is the most intimate day of Allyson's life.

After a magical day and passionate night, Allyson wakes up the next day alone, her heart fractured. Willem is gone and she feels as if she's been duped. Crestfallen, Allyson returns to her life but can't shake the memory of that one day.  She embarks on her freshman year of college, spiraling into a deep depression while conforming to the 'perfect' life her mother has planned. Allyson finds herself, as well as her heart's desire, while following an unforeseen path that leads her to unexpected friendships, a much needed heart-to-heart with her mother, and an adventurous return to Europe to seek out Willem for closure.

Just One Day is a book about growing up, love, heartbreak, travel, identity and "accidents" of fate. As a fan of Forman's work, I've had this on my radar for a while but hadn't gotten to it yet.  My desire to read was expounded when I discovered it has recently been challenged for removal from a public middle school library in Minnesota. Parents of a 6th grader claimed it was inappropriate, citing graphic sexuality, underage drinking and a date rape scene. After reading, I agree that this isn't something for a 6th grader to read; however, I wouldn't pull it from a middle school library.  It comes back to parents actively parenting and knowing what their kids are reading. A panel of school administrators and such voted to keep it.

I found Allyson to be irritating at times but my opinion of her came full circle since she was able to mature and find herself and her voice instead of being domineered by her family.  I would never react in such a fashion to an ill-fated romance, but her depression is realistic and plausible shows young readers how one might recover from such heartache. I liked the ambiguity of the ending and will probably read the companion novel and the accompanying short story to get a sense of Willem's perspective and closure for a happy reunion.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#justoneday #gayleforman #YAlit #contemporary #realisticfiction #romance

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

PROGRAM: Sharpie Tile Coasters

I originally found this idea from Pinterest.  This is a relatively cheap and easy program for teens. They get the chance to be creative and have items to take home for practical use or to give away as gifts.
Nothing like a little blonde ambition!


  • Sharpies in a variety of colors
  • Glazed, 4 x 4 white ceramic tiles 
    • Purchased at any home improvement store. We got ours as Lowe's for $16.00. There are usually 100 in a box.
  • Pencils with erasers to sketch out designs before using the permanent markers.
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • Eye droppers (optional)
  • Access to an oven (bake these when they're done for 30 min @ 350 degrees to set the marker). Or, spray with clear laquer. (If neither are available, print instructions for teens to take home with them to give to their parents).
  • One can clear, spray laquer (optional)
  • Your imagination!

Once you have the materials gathered, decide on a location for teens. We were able to do this in our Teen Zone. You'll have to delegate materials based on the number of attendees. Teens were guaranteed 4 tiles to make coasters but were able to do more since we had a bunch of extras. 

At this point, let teens design at will. Most drew really fantastic images or other designs.  An optional technique is to stagger colors on the tile, then use an eye dropper of rubbing alcohol to yield a tie-dye effect.  Unfortunately, these materials went MIA on the day of our program. The Closet of Doom has swallowed whole! :(


Check out some of the cool creations!!!

Alice in Wonderland Inspiration
I think the Evil Queen would approve!
Give peace a chance!
After my own heart <3 <3
I am the Batman.

#teen #library #DIY #SharpieArt #programs

Monday, December 21, 2015

REVIEW: Silver Eve by Sandra Waugh

Silver Eve is book two in Waugh's Guardians of Tarnec YA fantasy series.  Evie Carew is a Healer and yet her own heart is broken following her abandonment of her village after the death of her beloved, Raif. She's determined to lead herself toward her own destruction until she learns that she has a greater destiny.

Meeting the Seer, Harker, who insists Evie find a specific shell, she learns that she is the Guardian of Death, the second of four Guardians--Life, Death, Dark and Light. Evie must find an amulet and combine it with the others to restore Balance to the world. To help her, she is paired with Rider, Laurent, with whom attraction sizzles as they form an otherworldly bond. Together, they journey on a quest to save their world from chaos.

I was pleasantly surprised by this hidden gem.  I hadn't heard of the series until I received this book to review for ROYAL.  I have not read the first book, Lark Rising, but wish to do so now.  In it, readers meet Evie's cousin, Lark, who is the first Guardian--of Life.

There is excellent writing, character development and word building while still making this a fast, accessible read.  I don't always love high fantasy but, Waugh pulled me in with Evie's story, the angsty passion felt by these potential lovers (Evie + Laurent = Forever) and the greater impact for adventure and an ultimate battle between good and evil.  Overall, I really enjoyed it.

Recommended for grades 7 and up. This series is a must purchase for school and public libraries. I wholly recommend it for readers who enjoy good fantasy and adventure novels with a dash of epic romance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#silvereve #guardiansoftarnec #fantasy #YAlit #teen

REVIEW: Save Me by Jenny Elliott

"Witches,whales, and a forbidden soul mate."

Something strange is happening in Liberty, Oregon. Cara's life takes a surprising turn when a routine whale watching expedition turns dangerous. Tossed overboard by an aggressive, transient orca, Cara is thankfully saved by the dreamy new guy in town. Feeling an instant connection, she's hopeful that David is the guy of her dreams--too bad he ends up being her new journalism student teacher.

With her love life in shambles, Cara turns to her best friend, Rachel; however, it seems as if Rachel has taken a walk on the dark side, exploring witchcraft and forsaking her friends and family.  Her only refuge seems to be Garren--the school's drop dead gorgeous new student who's just a bit peculiar.  The true question if whether he' friend or foe, when exceedingly dark and dangerous occurrences being happening to Cara.

I can genuinely find redemption in nearly any read but this is almost an impossible task for me concerning this book.  Save Me wants to be a swoon worthy supernatural fantasy in the vein of Twilight and similar series but it falls far short.  The plot is far too scattered to keep readers' interest.  The supernatural twist just didn't work for me and there were huge holes inadequately filled in to try and explain events.  I'd hoped that what I'd encounter were shape-shifting whales rather than the poorly developed explanation we received. 

The character development didn't do much for me either.  You'd think you'd show more emotion if your best friend was possessed by a demon and you'd just witnessed a gruesome exorcism, but not Cara.  All of the characters are a bit too nonchalant about the weird and dangerous things happening in town.  Garren is just creepy, even if he's supposed to be an all knowing, guardian angel. Furthermore, David is not the slightest bit swoon-worthy.  Cara's mother was right to be concerned about her daughter's growing infatuation with a college boy and his rather complicated relationship with his father. Despite this 'connection' they both feel, there is no spark or passion to their interactions.

All in all, I finished it but wouldn't have it it wasn't a book I was reviewing for ROYAL. For fans of YA paranormal romance, there are plenty of better books.  If I had to gauge an appropriate reading level, I'd assign this to grades 8 and up. I would say this is an optional purchase for school and/or public libraries, if collection development is keen to purchase all the 'Swoon Reads' titles.

Final rating: 1 out of 5 stars

#saveme #paranormal #romance #YAlit #teen #swoonreads

REVIEW: Soundless by Richelle Mead

For generations, sound has been absent from Fei's village. High atop a mountain, her people struggle to survive amongst the avalanche causing rocking terrain, which prevents them from building a self sustaining community.  Instead, they are essentially enslaved to a zipline which delivers meager supplies in exchange for an excess of metal (i.e. silver) found deep within the mines.  Not only are Fei's people slowly starving but extended exposure to toxins in the earth make many go blind as well as deaf.

After a startilingly prophetic dream, Fei's hearing returns and proves to be a valuable tool in aiding her people. She journies down the mountain seeking answers, her ability to sense noise a benefit while traversing dangerous terrain and people. Learning the truth is disheartening when her own people shun her and are then savagely attacked; however, Fei's vision comes to fruition when the ancient and powerful creatures of legend, the Pixiu (a winged lion), return to aid those deemed worthy.

I am a huge Richelle Mead fan starting with the Succubus series and then all the others including Dark Swan, Vampire Academy, and Bloodlines. When I first learned of Soundless' imminent publication I was thrilled. The premise sounded unique and interesting, especially since it hinted at the incorporation of Chinese mythology.  Unfortunately, the novel fell flat for a multitude of reasons:

1) Protagonist - Based on Mead's other heroines, Fei doesn't have much spark. She has good motivations but is portrayed as rather bland and boring.  I wasn't compelled to like her or follow her journey.

2) Supporting characters - these were pretty 'blah' too. There just wasn't anyone all that memorable which is surprising from this author.

3) More Pixiu please!  The creature appearance needed to happen so much earlier! This would have added a new dynamic to the story and made the plot much more interesting - HINT: think Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer! (Seriously, if you haven't read the Lotus Wars trilogy by @misterkristoff put it on your 2016 to-read list!)

4) Pacing - super slow and overall uncompelling.

Overall, for me this was just okay. I've read better and worse but I certainly expected more, especially from a standalone novel.

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

#soundless #mythology #Chineselore #bookreview #YAlit #teen

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

REVIEW: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Years have passed since the Moon split, leaving the sun suspended in the sky. Night never comes and those humans left on Earth must struggle to survive.  Let's not forget the Visitors--aliens who have come to take over Earth and use human bodies as hosts.

Fifteen year old Megan is determined to travel deep into the deadly and unpredictable 'Zone'--the area at the heart of the strange planetary disturbance--in order to search for her missing father.  Not only does she solve the mystery behind her father's disappearance but also the unsolved questions of Earth's paralysis.

I just wasn't a fan of this book.

1)  It is not something I'd pick up to read on my own. The premise doesn't do it for me.

2)  If I hadn't been reading this for ROYAL, I never would have finished it.


1) The plot felt unfocused and jumbled. The better story here would be the events right after the Moon splits and the world falls into chaos.  The world building and cohesive story based on a merging of plot and characters just wasn't there.

2)  While some of the description was intriguing and the idea that Earth has reverted to the Wild West has potential, the characters remained flat. I had little interest in Megan or the rest of her 'posse'. Too much of the setting and dialogue felt stereotypical instead of blending modern world survivors with the reinvention of the Old West.

3)  As villains, the Visitors lacked depth and and real sense of purpose.  The one central "Big Bad" should have made an appearance much sooner. There is a glimpse of the end game toward the end but by that point I'd lost interest.

Overall, I've certainly read better and worse.  I'm not sure I see the general appeal to teen readers. If a teen does pick it up, I'd say this is for middle school age readers. This is not recommended for purchase.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

#YAlit #dystopian #aliens #futuristic #bookreview 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

REVIEW: Let It Snow anthology

Let It Snow is a YA anthology featuring three interconnected holiday romances.  When an ill-timed winter storm buries the residents of Gracetown on Christmas Eve, chaos erupts with some unlikely outcomes.

"The Jubilee Express" by Maureen Johnson

Jubilee is not having a stellar Christmas Eve.  Instead of heading to her boyfriend's family Smorgasbord, she's whisked to an ill-fated train ride to spend the holiday with her grandparents in Florida when her parent are arrested in a holiday, Santa village brawl.  When the cheerleader-laden train breaks down, Jubilee dares an escape to Waffle House and continually tries to contact Noah all while meeting a host of interesting characters including Stuart.  Spending the holiday with Stuart's family, she begins to realize that Noah's unavailability is a sign and based on Stuart's own insights, she can do better--and better just might be right in front of her.

I really enjoyed this story. Jubilee is a fun character with noticeable flaws. What is endearing about her is her humor--Johnson writes her with a hilariously, authentic voice--,vulnerability and her emotional journey throughout. She's funny and smart but I hated the way she let Noah put her off. As a reader, I was glad when she listened to Stuart's experiences and realized that it wasn't going to work with Noah. I was angry when she bolted but the story had a nice ending.

One alarming factor might be that she willingly left the restaurant with a virtual stranger.  This probably isn't the best choice and makes her a sketchy role model.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

"A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" by John Green

Tobin, JP and the Duke are spending a blissfully parent free Christmas Eve watching a James Bond marathon when a phone call changes their plans.  Keun, acting assistant  manager, calls in a panic, trying to get friends to bring him Twister and make his night when a train-full of stranded cheerleaders wander into his Waffle House. The trio set out on a snow filled adventure full of dangerous crashes, adrenaline laden chases and some unexpected frolicking in the snow. As it turns out, Tobin and the Duke aka Angie are more into each other than either cheerleaders or greasy Billy Talos.

This story has Green's characteristic wit and sense of adventure. I had to cringe at all the bad decision making. I liked the story well enough as it fits within the whole anthology; however, I wasn't as invested in the story.  There are too many stereotypes and while the Duke tries to illustrate this to her male friends, it just seems to fall short. I did like the connect to Jeb, whom we met within Jubilee's story, and was interested to read how the third story would pan out.

Final rating 2.5 out of 5 stars

"The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle

Addie is having a terrible Christmas. She cheated on her boyfriend, Jeb, then broke up with him following a tear-filled confession before he could dump her.  After a heartfelt email, Jeb promised to consider meeting her at their spot; however, when he doesn't show up, Addie, pines, chops her hair and dyes it pink.  The day after Christmas, she's still mopey but her friends tell her to rally, quit thinking of just herself and carry on with life.  Addie has a job to do--take a break from her job at Starbucks and head to the pet store to pick up her friend Teagan's new teacup pig pet, Gabriel.  Of course, Addie forgets and has to work a miracle to find the little oinker. Later, as these three stories come together with a little help from Jubilee, Stuart, JP, Tobin and the Duke, she learns that Jeb was just delayed--it's pretty swoon worthy when he does show up.

This was my second favorite of the three and Myracle did a nice job of wrapping up all the loose ends. Addie is a bit annoying but I do think she learns from her mistakes but I'm a skeptic and don't think she and Jeb will be in it for the long haul--just saying.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#letitsnow #bookreview #romance #YAlit #teen #holiday

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

REVIEW: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Published in 2012, Cinder marks the beginning of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. A futuristic twist on Cinderella, protagonist, Cinder, is a 16 year old cyborg living in New Beijing as a mechanic and under the domineering thumb of her stepmother.  Everything she knows changes when 1) Prince Kai seeks her assistance in repairing a very important android and 2) her beloved step-sister, Peony, contracts a deadly virus, leading Cinder to be handed over by her step-mother for experimental testing.  Her immunity to the disease leads to some surprising revelations concerning Cinder's true identity and the role she'll play as Queen Levana of Luna threatens the security of not only New Beijing but Earth as whole.

I just love this first book.  I've read it four times and appreciate its innovative twist on a fairy tale classic more each time.  While elements of the original tale seep through, Meyer deftly creates a compelling world of her own with outstanding detail, memorable characters, excitement and humor.

The adventure continues with Scarlet--a twist on Red Riding Hood. At 18, Scarlet Benoit is a fiery and fiercely independent protagonist living with her ex-military grandmother on a farm in rural France. When her grandmother, Marie, goes missing, Scarlet is determined to find her; however, what she doesn't bargain for is the unexpected connection to Cinder and Queen Levana's alarming plans for genetically modified soldiers' attack on Earth. Scarlet is drawn to the mysterious streetfighter, Wolf, and together they unravel one mystery before joining Cinder as well as her new, unlikely ally, Captain Carswell Thorne--a wisecracking, wanted fugitive. They have to stay one step ahead of the queen's evil plans in order save Prince Kai from a deadly marriage alliance.

As much as I love Cinder--the story and characters--, the series as a whole begins to gel with Scarlet.  There are still plenty of memorable Cinder moments as she discovers more about her past but the addition of Thorne, Scarlet and Wolf and the intertwined stories push the adventure to another level. Lest I forget Iko, the beloved android with a faulty personality chip, readers grew to love in Cinder. She's back with a surprising new look much to her dismay, but it makes for amusing reading.

Cress, the third book in the series, is a retelling of Rapunzel. Born a Lunar shell which separated her from her family, Cress has lived nearly her entire life isolated on a satellite orbiting Earth. Forced to work as a computer hacking spy for evil thaumaturge Sybil, her only connection with the outside world has been immersing herself into the fantasies of Earthen net-dramas. Determined to aid Cinder's cause, Cress uses her skills to protect the rebel spaceship and its crew...and it's Captain. In a gloriously failed rescue attempt, Cress makes it to Earth with charismatic Thorne, too bad they are stranded in the Sahara and he's now blind. Readers are in store for an entertaining adventure with plenty of character in peril. The real question is if they'll reunite to foil the royal wedding.

Having finished the whole series, I can now say Cress remains my favorite book.  I adore Thorne and will be a Cress + Carswell shipper for life. It wouldn't be a Meyer book if Cress' backstory wasn't rooted deep within the queen's plan to take over Earth. What I love about Cress is her character evolution more than any other in the series. She's smart and innocent yet Cress is a survivor. I love the building of the story throughout. There's a great balance between what happens with Cress, Cinder and Scarlet as well as Kai.  I love the little glimpse of Winter and of course Iko!

For fans, Winter is the much anticipated final book of the series. Taking place almost entirely on Luna, Cinder has returned to reclaim the throne and incite a revolution among the Lunar people. Readers finally get to know Winter, the gorgeous princess with an unseemly scar who seems fragile and altogether out of her mind.  In this adaptation of the Snow White classic, Winter is the doomed heroine while Jacin fills the role of the Huntsman.  Best friends since childhood, Winter would have their relationship move forward, yet Jacin knows that he can never hope to call her his as a mere guard. Queen Levana is the evilest of evil stepmothers.

Meyer blends elements of this classic tale seemlessly within the complicated plot fueling this final book. I refuse to give away spoilers but it is safe to say that the end and all the adventures in between live up to the the hype and expectations set throughout the series. There's romance, humor, action and peril galore. But despite everything, readers truly get a happy ending worthy of our most beloved fairy tale characters.

Overall, I just adore this series. I rank it within my top five and that is hard to do.  It feels bittersweet that it is over. I do look forward to the short story release of Stars Above in early 2016. For fans wanting confirmation that Levana deserves to be despised, read Fairest.  This is an intriguing prequel to the series that will have readers, at times, questioning their hatred for Levana but ultimately agreeing that she put the 'E' in evil and should reap what she sows.

Final series rating: 5 out of 5

#Cinder #Scarlet #Cress #Winter #LunarChronicles #marissameyer #twistedfairytales #YAlit #teen #bookreview

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

REVIEW: The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Nielsen's trilogy is categorized as historical fantasy fiction with a plausible realistic flair.  The kingdom of Carthya is in shambles and a civil war is imminent. Nobleman, Connor, devises a plan to put his own 'king' on the throne by choosing a young man to impersonate the king's long lost son. Sage, along with three other orphans are subjected to a number of gruling tests in order to win Connor's favor and be chosen to complete this task; however, there is trechery and deceit at every turn.  The False Prince ends with a surprising twist.  

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Runaway King shifts gears. Prince Jaron has returned and taken the throne. However, when a deadly assassination attempt puts his life as king in danger, he must make some tough decisions to protect his life and the safety of his kingdom.  Jaron sets out on a journey amongst the pirates. This second book is filled with the same excitement and mystery. Jaron encounters a interesting mix of characters, some who'll have a large impact on his future and others who've shaped his past. 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Shadow Throne is the final book in the series. The kingdom of Carthya is still in peril as Jaron learns that King Vargon of Avenia is plotting a hostile take over fueled by kidnapping Jaron's best friend and possible love interest, Imogen. He plans a daring rescue when everything goes wrong. Isolated from his his allies, Jaron make one last ditch effort to save his kingdom and everyone he loves. The real question is whether his characteristic wit and cunning will be enough or if he'll lose everything

In general, I enjoyed the series.  This is one that bridges the gap between juvenile and YA fiction. The recommended age is for grades 6 through middle school.  There is good world building yet I wouldn't say that I was all that connected to the characters. After I finished the first book, I wasn't compelled to read further other than the necessity to get to book three which was the subject of my review. I didn't feel as if Jaron changed all that much over the course of the series. 

Overall, I felt as if this final installment lagged a bit with book two being my favorite.  Maybe it is because I'm a sucker for a good pirate adventure or that I found it the least predictable of the three. I would recommend this for those emerging as teens who enjoy similar fiction. There is moderate violence and a touch of romance but all is age appropriate and not graphic. 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Scholastic for a ROYAL review copy submitted to the SWON Libraries.

#AscendanceTrilogy #JenniferANielsen #teen #YAlit #review #fantasy #fiction

Friday, November 20, 2015

REVIEW: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer is the first in Rick Riordan's new Norse mythology centric series. Sixteen year old Magnus Chase (yes, he's Annabeth's cousin!) has had a turbulent few years.  Following the mysterious death of his mother two years, before, he's been living alone on the streets of Boston. When he's tracked down by the very man his mother warned was dangerous, Magnus get the shock of a lifetime.

In a strange twist of fate, Magnus' life is over before it really began.  Carried in his afterlife to the halls of Valhalla, Magnus is shocked to learn he's the son of a Norse god and that all the Viking lore he learned as a child is true.  The Asgardian gods are at war and doomsday is fast approaching. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus and his new comrades must search the Nine Worlds for a powerful weapon, the Sword of Summer, all while deciding who to trust and ensure that Fenrir--legendary wolf-son of Loki--doesn't escape his bound prison.

Fans of Riordan's other mythology based YA series won't be disappointed.  Magnus reminds me greatly of Percy Jackson but perhaps with a bit more sarcastic edge, especially since he's experienced far more tragedy and hardships than our beloved Greek demigod.  I found this first in the series far more humorous than the Heroes of Olympus series as a whole. Besides humor, there are plenty of other characteristic present which Riordan readers have come to expect including the introduction of diverse characters, creative, adventures plot and an easily accessible way to learn more about mythology.

Overall, I loved it and certainly recommend the audiobook read by Christopher Guetig.  He gives each character memorable flair and highlights the exciting story and hilarious moments. I think it will be a great series and I can't wait for the Hammer of Thor's publication in 2016.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#Norse #mythology #YAlit #teen #swordofsummer #magnuschase #rickriordan

REVIEW: Traffick by Ellen Hopkins

For Hopkins fans, Traffick is the much anticipated sequel to Tricks. Again, readers become transfixed by the stories of five teens, all pushed into child prostitution based on crucial life choices and as a necessity to survive. Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas after her escape from an abusive religious deprogramming facility; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who uses his body in order to have food and a place to live; Whitney, the privileged kid manipulated into the life and heroin addiction by a pimp; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling debts force him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead. As this novel closed, readers were left with so many questions as to the fate of these young teens.

While Tricks chronicled the downward spiral of these characters, Traffick brings readers back to Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody as each begins to change the course of their lives for the better.  There are definite themes of redemption and second chances. While each teen has significant struggles to overcome, Hopkins explores the aftermath of these events and illuminates the harsh realities of child prostitution in the United States.

As with most of Hopkins' novels in verse, I found both Tricks and Traffic haunting. These journeys are heart-wrenching, gritty and all too realistic.  I'm glad that there is this sequel to lend a bit of closure to the events in the first book.  Hopkins' delivery and writing style are like none other.  There is something about the narration via poetry that makes the reading experience that more intimate.

There are plenty of realistic fiction novels published with teen readers in mind. However, none deliver the edgy, hard to talk about topics quite like Hopkins. Such issues exist and are realities for many teens. It is important that they have access to such books to understand that they are not alone.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#tricks #traffic #ellenhopkins #verse #poetry #YAlit #toughissues #realistic

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PROGRAM: Fall Line-up--Zombie Prom

Halloween is my biggest library program of the fall.  As part of an October 'Zombiefest' including our Skype session with Jonathan Maberry, watching Warm Bodies and reading Rot & Ruin, our teen Halloween party this year was Zombie Prom.

Audience: Teens ages 12-18

Duration: An hour and a half (pre planning is a must! give yourself at least 2 hours for set up if you have help such as other staff members and teen volunteers)

Food: Pinterest was a huge help! Here's what we made:
  • Witch hats & brooms (fudge stripe cookies, orange icing, Hershey kisses, pretzel sticks, mini Reese’s cups)
  • Puking pumpkin & chips (ranch dip, ruffles, lil pumpkin carved)
  • Graveyard pudding cups (pudding cups various flavors, oreo crumbs, ghost Peeps, candy pumpkin)
  • Apple nachos (apple slices drizzled with caramel sauce, mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows)
  • Oreo eyeballs (oreos, gel icing, gummy lifesavers, M&Ms)
  • Spider pops (tootsie pop, pipe cleaner, googley eyes)
  • Misc. candy + tiny treat bags

Activities: Teens were content to hang out, nibble on treats and socialize. We did have a number of other fun games:

  • Halloween Scavenger Hunt
  • Halloween Trivia
  • Boo bean bag toss
  • How to draw a zombie station w/ supplies
  • Bingo

Music & Photo Booth: A co-worker's father is a DJ so we had a fun Halloween mix playing for atmosphere.  'Thriller' is always a favorite but I was surprised by the group's love of the 'Addams Family' theme.  We also had a photo op graveyard scene. Check out the pictures!

It was a super fun eveing.  In total we had 25 teens who dressed as zombies, anime heroes, Marie, Luigi and even Boba Fett!

#Halloween #teen #program #zombie #zombieprom #party #library

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REVIEW: Starflight by Melissa Landers

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Expected publication: February 2, 2016

Starflight is the first in a new series by Melissa Landers. Teen orphan, Solara Brooks is determined to flee Earth to embark on a fresh start.  Literally branded as a criminal, she hopes that she'll find a new life and employment as a mechanic in the outer realm. Solara is so desparate to escape that she's willing to indenture herself to former classmate, Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular heir to a fuel legacy.

Unforeseen events lead to quite a twist in fate when Solara and Doran end up on the Banshee, a space vessel of dubious reputation.  Soon Doran learns that he's been fraudulently been charged with conpiracy on Earth and that his father has been imprisoned. Dead set on completing his mission and clearing his name, Doran and Solara have to set their differences aside and agree to work together with hopes to avoid the forces gunning for their arrest.

Living in such close quarters on the ship is a challenge to all.  Both learn that they need to reevaluate how they look at the world and each other in order to survive.  Respect, trust and eventually attraction and love bloom. Readers are in store for a emotionally charged space adventure. The cast of secondary characters are compelling as are the villains and some rather startling discoveries. I loved the pacing, creativity and humor. I cannot wait to read book two and determine how certain events will impact other characters, namely Cassie and Kane.

Overall, I was reluctant when I began this book since space adventures aren't always of high interest to me as a reader. However, Landers weaves an artful web that will entice romance and adventure fans as well as those with a love of Firefly, Star Trek, and Star Wars.

Final rating: 4.5/5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @Melissa_Landers

#starflight #melissalanders #YAlit #space #romance #bookreview #teen #netgalley

Monday, November 2, 2015

REVIEW: Black Blade #1 & #2 by Jennifer Estep

In Cold Burn of Magic, book 1 of Estep's Black Blade series, readers meet Lilah Merriweather. Her life isn't exactly what you'd call boring. Sure high school is basically the same for everyone, unless you live in the "most magical place in America."  Run-ins with monsters just happen to be a common occurrence.  Orphaned, Lilah supports herself by using her Talents for Sight and Transference as a thief but her life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself embroiled within a deadly family feud--the same feud that cost her mother her life.

Suddenly tasked with being the bodyguard to the Sinclair family bruiser, Devon, Lilah struggles with her growing feelings for her sweet, charming, irresistibly good looking and sometimes infuriating 'assignment.' Someone is dead set on targeting Devon and Lilah must use all her fighting skills to protect him.

Dark Heart of Magic picks up a few week after book 1.  Lilah is still adjusting to her place within the Sinclair family.  Having learned that her mother was a Sinclair, Lilah is more determined than ever to discover Victor Draconi's secrets and expose him for the murderer he is.  More strange occurrences are happening in Cloudburst Falls, coincidentally just in time for the annual Tournament of the Blades.  Lilah unexpectedly finds herself a contender in the games; however, the real challenge is surviving the deadly mishaps befalling participants.

Lilah learns some startling facts about her family's past in connection to the Draconi family. These discoveries has a greater impact on the outcome of the tournament and will prove to be important for book 3, Bright Blaze of Magic, due for release in April 2016.

What I liked...

I'm a fan of Estep's work, especially the adult urban fantasy Elemental Assassin series.  The author has the knack for writing smart, sassy female protagonists.  These characters usually have experienced trauma, leading to the development of a hard, anti-emotional exterior; however, they are more than capable of compassion and helping others when necessary. In a lot of ways Lilah reminds me of Gin but she isn't quite as jaded and deadly...yet. I do like that Estep has included some subtle connections to people and places in her adult series.

The secondary characters, pacing and plot are all well developed. These proved to be quick, fun reads with just enough mystery, humor, romance and just enough supernatural elements to entice teen and adult readers alike.

What I didn't like...

Aspects of repetition in the second book seemed to bog down the narrative.  Just how many times does the reader need to be told that Lilah's go-to outfit is a specific t-shirt, cargo pants and sneakers? Additionally, I noticed an over repetition of certain phrases and ideas that were distracting, if not irritating while reading.

In general, I wholeheartedly recommend this series.  It will appeal to Estep fans as well as urban fantasy fans young and old alike. I look forward to the next book and can't wait to see the next twist in the story

Final rating 4 out 5 stars

#jenniferestep #blackblade #coldburnofmagic #darkheartofmagic #urbanfantasy #bookreview #netgalley #YAlit #teen

Friday, October 23, 2015

REVIEW: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Slasher Girls & Monster Girls is an YA anthology of scary stories edited by April Genevieve Tucholke.  Thirteen notable teen authors lend their prowess to some downright terrifying stories that will have general fans and more cowering in a corner with a blankie and flashlight at the ready. This is a fantastic go-to volume for year-round reader's advisory.  I know I get teens wanting something 'scary' all the time.  Let's face it, for YA readers there often aren't a lot of truly scary titles. I often recommend anything by Brenna Yovanoff or the Asylum series by Madeleine Roux if they want something beyond R.L. Stine and aren't quite ready for Stephen King.

Personal standouts within Slayer Girls & Monster Boys:

  • "Verse chorus verse" by Leigh Bardugo - a teen superstar lands herself in 'rehab' but sinister things happen that make this a not so sweet retreat to get her life on track.

  • "Sleepless" by Jay Kristoff - inspired by Hitchcock's Psycho, readers are in for a creepy treat. Full of Kristoff's trademark edgy humor.

  • "Dark, scary parts and all" by Danielle Paige - set in high school and heavy with Frankenstein and Dracula allusions.  The school outcast encounters bullying and other drama with a surprise supernatural twist.

  • "Fat girl with a knife" by Jonathan Maberry - a short story about a high school outcast but what happens when the bullied girl is your best defense at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

  • "Girl without a face" by Marie Lu - great, creep imagery.  This one will give readers chills!

  • "Stitches" by A.G. Howard - super, super creepy! A young girl agrees to dismember her father over time as part of his penance for other deeds.

Each story is inspired by a song, film or another literary reference. By far my favorite was "Sleepless".  In fact, a week later, I'm still pretty creeped out!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#YAlit #teen #anthology #shortstories #bookreview #horror #scary #slashergirls&monsterboys
Verse chorus verse /Leigh Bardugo

Monday, October 19, 2015

REVIEW: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Set some 14 years after the zombie apocalypse that ended the world, 15 year old Benny Imura has lived within the protected fences of Mountainside nearly all his life.  Benny must now find a job within town or face the reduction of his food rations.  When other opportunities don't pan out, he reluctantly agrees to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his brother Tom, whom Benny sees only as boring and cowardly.  However, their first trip outside into the Rot and Ruin begins to open his eyes to just how dangerous the world still is and that Benny knows little about his older sibling.

Violent events inside Mountainside lead Benny and Tom on a crucial rescue mission.  During this high stakes operation, he learns some truths, meets others who will impact his future and ultimately begins to discover more about himself and how he wants to fit into this world. Will he stay within Mountainside's fences and pretend everything is fine? Or, will he take a stand and acknowledge that he and others can stop more innocent people from being hurt?

What I liked...

Everything!  But to elaborate:
  • Characters - Benny is a well developed but evolving teenager.  He, like all the other protagonists, come across as memorable and authentic.  I absolutely adore Tom! What a multi-layered mentor.  Nix is also a force to be reckoned with and her continued development throughout the series always holds my interest.  There are plenty of others but I have to mention Lilah. I'm awestruck by her each and every time. The fierceness. The pain. I think she might be one of the most fascinating characters written in any genre that I've come across. Maberry is also top-notch at developing memorable villains.  They come to life and nearly jump off the page with their diabolical plans.
  • Story - the premise is just plain awesome.  What do you do when you are are teenager who has grown up after the zombie apocalypse? Get a job, of course! I love Benny's and Chong's failed job attempts.  The story builds beautifully. As readers, we watch Benny mature with the rise and fall of the major plot points.  The story is very much a coming of age, just with zombies and some truly unique challenges! I love how easy it is to get swept up in the humor, the action and the emotion.
What I didn't like...

Absolutely nothing!  This is my second reading of book 1.  I am a self professed Maberry fangirl.  I first read his adult Joe Ledger series. However, these are entwined with the Rot & Ruin and Dead of Night books. So, to get the true reading experience, you'll have to read them all as a before, during and after commentary.

Maybe what I don't like it that it is over. I want the series to go on and on and on.  Don't get me wrong. I thought the ending (Fire & Ash) was poignant and a fantastic conclusion but I adore these characters so much that saying goodbye makes me want to re-read them again and again. One bright spot is the 2015 publication of Bits & Pieces, a short story collection that fills in more of Benny's adventures. I'm still waiting (not patiently) for the audio of this since Brian Hutchison does a phenomenal job.

If you haven't read these yet, please do! I know some readers sigh and say, "I'm not into zombies!" However, like watching The Walking Dead this series is only partly about the presence of 'zoms' in the post-apocalyptic world and more about the evolution of the survivors and the choices they make to uphold the principles of their former society or spiral into lawlessness or fanaticism. The characters are so well developed and authentic that this is a great reading recommendation, especially for reluctant readers. There's a significant amount of humor offset but bigger thematic issues and fantastic fast-paced action.

You will laugh AND you will cry.  The ending wrecks me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Follow the author on Twitter: @JonathanMaberry

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#jonathanmaberry #Rot&Ruin #YAlit #zombie #bookreview #teen 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

OUTREACH: Lunchtime Book Club

Outreach Challenges

Let's face it. Outreach isn't always a walk in the park.  We're busy. Schools are busy. So how can we come together to make such a community partnership work?  I know I feel like I'm pulled in too many directions sometimes. It is often challenging connecting with the right person, be it school media specialist, administrators or that one teacher that makes a difference.

School outreach for me has been hit or miss.  I've been lucky to find a strong ally in the librarian at one of the local private schools.  She has previously worked in a public library setting and understands the importance of building these community partnerships AND that I'm available as a support system to her and the students without trying to create extra work for her.

Lunch Book Club -Year One

We've just entered the third year of monthly book club meetings.  It all started in the spring of 2013. We mulled over the idea of getting such a group started. She emailed all students and waited to see if we got any interested nibbles.  Turns out we did!  Ten high schoolers ranging from 9th-12th grade expressed interest.  Since it was late in the year, we started with 3 accessible and popular titles: Cinder, Seraphina and Divergent.  All were well received and luckily my library had access to enough book club copies.

Lunch Book Club -Year Two

After the obligatory summer hiatus, all teens returned for the second year.  Since this is a book club at a private Christian school, I do have to work with the school librarian to pick appropriate reading choices which won't be challenged by parents or administrators.  I make the distinction that we aren't censoring just being mindful.

You'll see below that we chose a wide range of titles. One original choice was Ashfall by Mike Mullin; however, we changed to Ender's Game after the librarian felt that the language, violence and sexuality present in Mullin's book wasn't appropriate four our group. Last school year we read: The Maze Runner, The Raven Boys, Ender's Game, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, A Christmas Carol, Feed, Code Name Verity, Midwinter Blood and The Book Thief. Attendance and interest remained consistent.

Lunch Book Club -Year Three

Now we're back for a new school year.  Apparently word has gotten out that we're the cool group to eat lunch with or the junior high students who haven't been able to participate are now old enough! Enrollment is up to 26 students!  That it amazing but such a large group comes with a new set of challenges--Namely that finding enough copies of each book title is difficult or next to impossible. Therefore, as facilitators, we've come up with the plan of themed months to a) provide enough books for the number of interested students b) expose students to more titles in the specified genre.

Our tentative schedule is as follows:

September: Open book discussion - choose your own to share - summer catch-up

October :  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis AND The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

November:  Steampunk theme - Clockwork Scarab, Girl in the Steel Corset, Leviathan, Friday Society, Etiquette & Espionage, Inventor’s Secret, Incarceron...

December: Dystopian theme - Legend, Starters, Gone, Matched, etc...

January Mythology theme Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan; Runemarks by Joanne Harris, and more.

February: Winter by Marissa Meyer (other adaptations of a twisted fairy tale--Splintered by A.G. Howard; anything by Alex Flynn, Jackson Pearce, Sarah Cross)

March: Bomb: the race to build--and steal--the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin OR another non-fiction of their choice--(Hidden Like Anne Frank)

April : Heist Society by Ali Carter; Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones, White Cat by Holly Black; Also Known As by Robin Benway

May:  a classic or twisted classic (Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, Dracula, Sense and Sensibility, etc. )

Another Lunchtime Approach

I have a co-worker at a different branch who has had great success with book clubs. Each month she visits 4 school and has 3 concurrent book discussions at each school.  How does this work?

  1. She works with the librarian at each school to advertise the initial meeting.
  2. At the first meeting, she shows the students a list of possible titles and lets them vote on which they'd like to read this year.
  3. She tallies the votes and then puzzles together a rotating schedule. No one group is ever reading the same book at the same time. One downside is that she has to make sure to have read all the multiple book titles. 

Money, Money, Money

Where do all these books come from? How do you buy extra copies on a limited budget?  Let's face it, all budgets are tight, especially teen services.  How do we swing having all these extra copies available? Since some titles are so popular and are crossover hits with adults, we often have extra system copies, especially through our contract with McNaughton. This is particularly helpful with popular new releases or those with spiked interest based on major film releases. 

A teen services predecessor in our system wrote a grant proposal to our local community foundation. When approved, this gave her funds to purchase the initial start up of titles. Before she left, the grant was extended and more titles and copies were purchased as well. We share these book club copies among three branches. A certain amount of damage and loss is expected. We replace or phase out copies/titles as needed.

The Wrap Up

My Advice - any way you decide to organize your own lunchtime book club and outreach, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start small - its perfectly okay if only a few students are interested at first. 
  • Find an ally in the school - be it school media specialist, administrator or a teacher who wants to help or at least be your voice at the school when you aren't there.
  • Set a plan for books in advance (make sure to pick titles you know you can feasibly get copies of for a set number of readers)
  • If you have more than one group, make sure to have a rotating schedule so that groups don't want to read books all at the same time. 
  • Bring a set of discussion questions to each meeting, but use them only to jump start the discussion - usually the participants will jump in and run things themselves.
  • Investigate grant options - if you can't afford to purchase additional copies, learn if a grant is the solution whether if be through a local organization or YALSA. Another suggestion would be to approach the Friends of the Library. 

Your Thoughts?

I'm really curious to see what you do or don't do for your own book clubs? Have you tried one at school? What works? What doesn't? What titles have you chosen? 

#YAlit #bookclub #outreach #library #teenservices #teen #school

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

REVIEW: Breakout by Kevin Emerson

Anthony Castillo is pretty much like any angst ridden rocker.  He's fed up with the constraints of day-to-day life and wishes that he could 'breakout' from under the thumb of those constantly telling him how to live his life.  The only difference between Anthony and other rockers is the fact that he's still an eighth grader. He's tired of being told what to do by his parents (be healthy!), his teachers (do your work!) and his administrators (tow the line!).  What he really wants to do is focus on his band, the Rusty Soles, their musical debut at the school's Art Night, and play the latest version of Liberation Force with his best friend, Keenan.  Unfortunately, like for any teenager, if seems as if life is out to get him.

The countdown to Art Night is less than two weeks away when disaster strikes and the Rust Soles lose their singer.  When emotion gets the best of him, Anthony pens and mixes an angsty anthem, which when posted online, surges in popularity and quickly becomes garners some worldwide buzz. The song's sentiment of feeling trapped resonates with other listeners and Anthony and his friends quickly find themselves elevated to small time celebrity status.

Excited to play "Breakout" for Art Night, the true challenge becomes whether the song's blatant language should be allowed. While parents and administrators require censorship, Anthony is conflicted.  The band and their fans plan the ultimate act of rebellion; however, Anthony is uncertain if he will have the guts to go through with it.

The characterization and themes are realistic, poignant and relevant. I liked Anthony quite a bit.  He is very much like the type of eighth graders I've encountered over the years.  He is certainly flawed but shows great potential since he is so young and is learning about finding his place in the world and shouldering extreme feelings with the notion of taking responsibility for his actions. The supporting cast of characters are solid as well both as protagonists and necessary antagonists.

I enjoyed the greater thematic discussion of censorship.  Emerson introduces the issue from both sides.  On one hand, the administration has a point regarding language and target audience. On the other hand, Anthony's lyrics were written with emotion and intent rather than for shocking effect. The outcome of Art Night illustrates that sometime we fail or don't live up to expectations but there in life and rock 'n' roll there is always another performance.

The recommended reading age is grades 7 and up.  I would recommend for purchase for public and school libraries.  The target audience is for those interested in realistic fiction and who are feeling the 'growing up' blues.  This is certainly also recommended for music lovers or anyone who enjoyed Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John, Road Rash by Mark Huntley Parsons or This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#breakout #music #YAlit #review #teenangst #censorship

REVIEW: The Third Twin by CJ Omololu

Adopted twins, Ava and Alexa (Lexi), have lived a privleged life. As children they playfully created a third twin, Alicia, whom they blamed whenever they got in trouble.  As seniors, the girls haved upped the game, giving Alicia a false identity, each posing as her for fun and to scam boys neither has the intention of seeing again. However, the game turns deadly when "Alicia's" last date turns up murdered. Both Ava and Lexi swear they had nothing to with the violent death, but suspicion grows as they learn someone else really is living life as Alicia and all criminal evidence in the mounting crimes points back to their identical DNA.

What I liked...

This is a well structured mystery thriller.  There are certainly enough twists and turns to keep any reader guessing whodunnit. I admit I had my suspicions but I was totally wrong which was refreshing. The characters are pretty well developed if a bit predictable with some of their actions. The Third Twin reminded me of some of those great R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike reads of my youth but I liked the modern update with the larger discussion of identity theft and to some degree a commentary on Catfishing.

What I didn't like...

There wasn't much I disliked other than the plot is so outlandish. I was betting on some switch up that reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie.  The stage is set pretty well for this to be some sort of twisted psychological created third person. I was pretty surprised when it wasn't. However, the next level of the villain reveal took it a bit far.  That being said, teen fans of Pretty Little Liars and the like will enjoy this book.

I recommend this for purchase for a public or school library.  Notes of caution are some graphic violence. The opening scene is Lexi's near rape in a dark parking lot.  The scene isn't all that graphic but the intention is implied.  Likewise, the description of later deaths are provided in realistic detail. No red flags for language per se. Target readership is ninth grade and up.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#YAlit #review #mystery #thriller #identitytheft #thethirdtwin

Monday, October 12, 2015

REVIEW: The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

Raine isn't your typical eighth grader.  Sure, she's nervous about starting another new school; but, how many teenagers do you know who can experience other people's memories via sparkles she finds in the oddest places? Soon Raine learns that she and her mom have moved into the former home of Emily Huvar, a teen girl her age who has been missing for months.  Using her unique gifts, Raine sets out to learn the truth behind what happened to Emily and makes some surprising other discoveries as well.

What I liked...

There's good character development throughout.  I liked Raine from the first page and think teen readers will also.  The situations that befall her and other like Shirlee make them highly realistic.  She's not perfect and certainly has flaws but she's representative of a typical eighth grade girl.

I found the bullying theme timely and appreciated Summy's writing style and ability to explore this issue not only with Raine's and Shirlee's treatment by Jennifer and Co but also the tie in to Emily's story.  I was also quite impressed at the foreshadowing and other layered hints throughout the narrative that hinted at the big picture and that more dire happenings were in store for the little town.

What I didn't like...

I had two strong dislikes. One was Raine's plan to get even with Jennifer, especially that she brings Shirlee into the fold too.  Catfishing Jennifer for spite, ruining Jennifer's relationship with her friends and then posting it all on YouTube is just as awful as what Jennifer had done to them. Yes, Jennifer is mean, nasty and shouldn't get away with treating others as she did; however, stooping to the same types of bullying isn't conveying the right message to teen readers. While truthful, it fails to acknowledge the severe consequences that all would face in real life.

My second dislike was (SPOILER ALERT) Emily's willingness to allow her family and everyone else to believe she was kidnapped or dead.  Yes, she had strong reasons for wanting to protect her little sister and the rest of her family but the emotional distress she causes shouldn't be dealt with lightly.

Overall, this was an interesting, quick read.  I'd recommend this for purchase to a YA collection for either a public library or at a school.  It would most appeal to middle school readers who are looking for a mystery but don't want it to scary or have a lot of gore.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#mystery #visions #disappearance #barriesummy #YAlit #review #bullying

REVIEW: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott

Callie Valesquez is a city girl.  Nothing sounds more unpleasant or terrifying than spending several nights out in the wilderness. However, Callie is desperate to bond with her new popular best friends, Lissa and Penelope, and her boyfriend of six months, Jeremy. But strange things start happening in the woods, someone might be watching them and other events gone awry leave them lost with no means of communication and very little supplies.  It appears as if they've been "saved" when Ted finds them and says he has a cabin nearby.  But can he be trusted?

Already on edge, relationships are put the test when secrets are revealed.  Callie feels betrayed and terrified.  When one of her friends turns up dead, they all know that the murderer is among them, but who can Callie trust to make it home alive?

What I liked....

The basic story elements are sound.  If I'd encountered this while in middle school during my R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike phase, I would have gobbled this up and wanted more.  It's a perfect suspenseful read for a middle school or high school reader.  The violence is present--so any reader or parent leery of strangulation and gun shots should steer clear.  There isn't any bad language, sex or drug/alcohol use--just your basic teens lost in the woods who may or may not be in the sights of a homicidal serial killer.

The intermittent journal entries from an unknown psych patient and the murderer are intriguing.  This really ups the mystery-thriller element and keeps readers guessing who it might be.  The musings are pretty sinister and creepy. Fans of this type of psychological thriller will want to continue reading for the big reveal.

What I didn't like...

I found all the characters and plot organization a bit too stereotypical.  For me, there wasn't a whole lot of depth for the characters.  I understand that Callie is written in such a way as to depict a typical, self conscious teenager who just wants to fit in; however, her insecurities are a bit much to take in.  I ended up disliking her in the first chapter and my perceptions of her did not improve. Everything is described in extremes with little room to breathe--Lissa is a hardcore manipulative friend (i.e. Regina from Mean Girls) and Penelope is fragile and lets herself be picked on. Callie is just too grateful to be included to actually voice her discomfort and Jeremy is just along for the ride.

While the basic story elements all work, I just found it all too predictable.  I had most of it worked out before the big reveal but I can see where teen readers would enjoy the book.  I recommend this for purchase in a YA fiction collection. It would be a good read-a-like- recommendation for those who enjoy similar creepy yet realistic suspense fiction.

Final rating: 3 out 5 stars

#YAlit #camping #murder #thriller #mystery #friendship #realisticfiction