Ask the Passengers - YA Review by Ellen P

Reader: Ellen P
Age: 15
Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pub Date: 10/23/12
Galley: No
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I think that this book had one of the strongest and most realistic voices I've read in a long time. The main character and her inner feelings and confusion was really well fleshed out and developed through the story. Other, minor characters were also brought to life fully, and the characters you began to dislike were revealed to be far more complex than you wanted to believe. Basically, though there are many conflicts in this story, none of the characters is clearly bad or good, and King avoids painting moral and ethical questions in black and white. The setting, rural Pennsylvania, worked well because it was not full of any specific regional details. I feel like I've seen this town, and so I can identify with Astrid's feelings about living there.
Memorable or Forgettable: First, this book breaks some molds of GLBT fiction. Sure, Astrid's questioning of her sexuality was the basis of the plot, but it wasn't a book about lesbians. It was a book about teenagers and growing up and family, and what all those things mean. Astrid's romantic and platonic relationships were, to me, less interesting than her struggles with family and the way philosophy was integrated into her story. Sometimes when a class in school is used to connect with a protagonist's struggles, a story becomes predictable and tiresome, but Astrid's connection with Socrates fit perfectly and seamlessly into the story. Her family was fascinating and unpredictable. And finally, the airplane passengers who she sends her love to were themselves fleshed out characters. A.S. King, share your secrets. These characters are Awesome. I sat down with this book and started it, and after every chapter I tried to put it down and failed. Miserably. Go read it, when you have a couple hours to get completely immersed.
Cover: I love love love this cover. Everything about it is beautiful. Usually I shy away from books that use models on the cover, but the camera spots blur out the model enough to give an idea of a person and not put an image of Astrid in readers minds before they open the book. The white is really clean and I just adore the color scheme over all. Seeing this on a shelf, I would absolutely pick it up.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 5P Everyone wants to read it
Annotation: Astrid Jones doesn't know who to talk to. Not her dysfunctional parents, her distant sister, her maybe girlfriend, or her friends. So she sends her love and her questions up to the passengers in the planes flying overhead.

tags:  GLBTQ / coming of age / ya lit

Endangered - YA Review by Sophie D

Reader: Sophie D
Age: 17
Title: Endangered
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pub Date: 10/1/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I didn't know much about the Democratic Republic of Congo before reading this book, and now I really want to know more. I also didn't know anything about bonobos (which are like chimpanzees, kind of), and now I really want to know more about them too. This book was a learning experience for me. Not only was it full of really interesting tidbits about ape behavior, it also really opened my eyes to what it is like to be a teenager living in a war torn country.
Memorable or Forgettable: I won't be forgetting this book for a long time, because the images of violence and the way Sophie and Otto really had to use every ounce of strength to survive were so powerful. I also thought this book was really well-written; it wasn't preachy, and it was honest. The author also didn't try to play down the more violent aspects of the book, which in this case, made it more realistic.
Cover: I love this cover. It perfectly captures the spirit of this book. The sweet little bonobo face is enough to make you want to pick it up, but the fear in his expression and the darkness in the background makes you do a double take. It really shows all the darkness but also the hope that is in this book.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Growing up in Congo makes you tough. But when Sophie stumbles upon Otto, a baby bonobo who needs her in order to survive, all of her skills will be tested as she struggles to keep them alive in the midst of a bloody revolution.

tags:  adventure / Democratic Republic of Congo / bonobos / ya lit

Perfect Escape - YA Review by Sophie D

Reader: Sophie D
Age: 17
Title: Perfect Escape
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 7/10/12
Galley: No
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: The thing that I loved most about this book was how Kendra's insecurities were clear to the reader from the beginning, but it took her the whole book to figure them out for herself. You could almost imagine yourself interacting with her while she went on this journey. Kendra's voice was so strong and real that you got a perfect idea of what she would be like to be around. And she wasn't perfect. She was a very real person, someone that I could imagine meeting and understanding. Also, her brother, Grayson, was not treated just as someone with OCD. He was also a very real person, also someone that I could imagine in my own life.
Memorable or Forgettable: The honesty of the dialogues, both inner and outer, was memorable and really stuck out to me. I was thinking about this book days after I finished it, wondering over the decisions of some characters, and thinking about how they were similar to me.
Cover: The cover is OK. The orange lettering is very striking, but I don't think the pictures are anything special.
Age Range: 12 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Kendra has always strove to be the perfect child-which is difficult when she is constantly shadowed by her older brother whose OCD at times threatens to overwhelm her family. But when Kendra decides to take her brother on a road trip, escaping for her problems and trying to solve his, she will be forced to confront the unpleasant truths about herself.

tags:  OCD / coming of age / road trip / ya lit

The Rithmatist - YA Review by Eoghan

Reader: Eoghan G
Age: 12
Title: The Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub Date: 5/14/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book:  Rithmatists are chosen by the Master. They have power to make their drawings come to life.  Secrets surround them. Joel is a chalk-maker's son. Melody is a rithmastist. More than anything, Joel wants to become a rithmatist. Joel studies everything he can about rithmatists. Whereas Melody claims she is failure and doesn't want to be a rithmatist. But when rithmastist students start to disappear in the night with odd symbols nearby, Melody and Joel must work together to help their professor, Professor Fitch, solve the mystery.
Memorable or Forgettable: Well I finished reading the book three days ago and I can still remember all the main character's names and the plot in detail. So that's good.
Cover:  I picked up the book after looking at the horse made out of machines. At that point I thought was going to be a steampunk book. But when I read the back of the book it turns out the book was based more around magic than steampunk. The cover was interesting. It didn't really reflect what happens in the book. But yet at the same time there is a subtle reflecting of the contents that you would only recognize if you had read the book.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  What do missing students, two curious kids and a downsized professor equal? A mystery of course! Follow Joel, a chalk maker's son, and his friend Melody, a rithmatist, as they try to solve a mystery.

tags:  fantasy / suspense / magic / mystery / steampunk / ya lit

Quicksilver - YA Review by Sophie H

Reader: Sophie H
Age: 14
Title: Quicksilver
Author: R. J. Anderson
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Pub Date: 3/28/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: Tori's voice is clear and strong. Over the course of the book, you realize she is attempting to fit in with people who will never know her, and this is the story of accepting that.
Memorable or Forgettable: When I first started this, I expected more focus to be on Alison, as the first book was. I was pleasantly surprised that while Alison is known and recalled, it is truly Tori's story this time.
Cover:  I immediately knew it was linked to ULTRAVIOLET because of the similar covers. Then when I saw the title, it told me there was something different from the first book and I liked that.
Age Range: 14 through 15
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional Comments:  Reading ULTRAVIOLET beforehand is necessary to understand the plotline. I found it to be just as enjoyable, if a little jarring.
Annotation:  In the sequel to ULTRAVIOLET, the viewpoint switches from Alison to Tori and fills in what happened after the fact. Tori is revealed to have hidden depthes of courage, loyalty and ingenuity.

tags:  sci fi / ya lit

The New Normal - YA Review by AJ

Reader: AJ G
Age: 17
Title: The New Normal
Author: Ashley Little
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 3/1/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: I thought that there were several issues with this book, the first being character voice. I found it incredibly hard to connect with Tamar, which tends to make me more disengaged as a reader.  I think it was just her extreme factual-ness. Even when she was experiencing deep emotions, it was just written in a very shallow manner. The second problem I found was that Tamar develops in a very sudden, jerky sort of way. One minute boys are gross, the next she wants to kiss a boy. There's no lead-up to the change in her thinking or personality. The third issue is that the 'happily ever after' ending is really rushed. The author didn't spend enough time painting the happy ending for us with words. It just kinda cuts off, like in a classic fairy tale. "They all lived happily ever after, the end." I find that particularly irksome seeing as Tamar and her family go through a lot in the two hundred some pages, and I want to know what happens to them.
Memorable or Forgettable: Well, this is the only book I've read where the main character had alopecia. It's also the only book I've read where they never name the serious illness that the main character is struck with. Additionally, in most cases like that, one would seek professional attention and help, right? Well not Tamar. Apparently she's just too stoic, even though other, much more mundane things completely shake her. Since one of the central conflicts in the story is her losing her hair, I feel she takes it much too lightly for me to really sympathize or care all that much. The other really memorable thing was that all character descriptions were just hair, or occasionally hair AND eyes.
Cover:  I think the cover is fairly visually appealing. It's certainly minimalist, which I like. But I feel that it didn't do the best job of reflecting the story. Losing the hair on her head is a bigger deal to Tamar than losing her eyelashes, so maybe a wig would've been better. Or a bald girl, since the biggest thing is learning to accept her new lack of hair. I can see how that might be harder to sell, but I think it could look just as stunning, and be more reflective of the book.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional Comments: It bothered me intensely that she referred to her mom and dad as "the parents." Additionally, I think that the relationship aspect was simultaneously over- and underworked.
Annotation:  Tamar is like your average teenager. Except her problems are real. She just lost her younger sisters in a car accident, and now she's losing her hair. What else could the universe possibly throw at her, and how will she inevitably work it into her new normal?

tags:  alopecia / ya lit

Prince of the Elves - YA Review by Lyric

Reader: Lyric K
Age: 12
Title: Prince of the Elves (Amulet Series #5)
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Scholastic
Pub Date: 9/30/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: First: I have only read the first book to this series.  It was a great book and very fun to read, especially the action and drawings. To me it felt like it was a bit fast but that was probably just me not having read the others.
Memorable or Forgettable: It was a very memorable book for me in all aspects allowing for the fact that I did not understand the setting or know the characters.
Cover:  The cover is great, it displays all the main characters and an amazing landscape in the background. The cover was the sole reason I picked it up, only to realize that I had started the series back when there where only two books.
Age Range: Under 12 through 15
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 5P Everyone wants to read it
Additional Comments:  5Q weight not on a "book" scale but a "graphic novel" scale

tags:  graphic novel / fantasy / adventure / ya lit

Twin Cities, MN - Teens Know Best Author Series

Minnesota is THE place to be this winter if you're a teen or just love YA lit.  The Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA) has partnered with the Teens Know Best (TKB) book club to host some of the best loved young adult authors during the Teens Know Best Author Series.

Saturdays in February, March, and April provide opportunities for you to meet: 
  • 2/9 Jay Asher - Thirteen Reasons Why
  • 2/16 Steve Brezenoff - Brooklyn Burning
  • 2/23 Lauren Myracle - Shine
  • 3/9 Jordan Sonneblick - Notes from a Midnight Driver
  • 3/16 Neal Shusterman - the Unwind trilogy
  • 3/23 Andrea Cremer - Rise
  • 4/6 Tamora Pierce - Mastiff: the Legend of Beka Cooper
  • 4/13 Barry Lyga - I Hunt Killer
For complete information on dates, times, and locations visit the MELSA program page:

As fans of this blog, you know that TKB is blessed to have an awesome group of teen readers/reviewers.  Recently, a couple of our members have become local media stars!  Check out this segment from KARE 11 that features our very own AJ and Elise (and Sally Lederer from MELSA) as they promote the Teens Know Best Author Series:

An event like this takes an amazing amount of time, creativity, and effort to plan and execute.  So, for everyone involved, please know you have our appreciation for your contributions.

Thanks MELSA and TKB for making Saturdays in the Twin Cities a whole lot hotter!

The Loop - YA Review by Simon

Reader: Simon D-S
Age: 12
Title: The Loop
Author: Shandy Lawson
Publisher: Hyperion
Pub Date: 4/30/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The author had a very interesting idea, but it lacked explanation. In the book, the characters are trapped in a "loop" in time.  For example, when the characters die in a loop, they go back in time to where the loop began, and then they die again, and again, and  again. The author gives no explanation on why they are in a loop, or what causes it. On the plus side, how the author explains remembering being in a loop is genius. The author describes it as dejau vu.  I thought that way too many plot lines were smashed together to make this story. The author tries to multitask between love/urban fantasy/murder plot, while also trying to juggle time travel in between.
Memorable or Forgettable: I thought the explanation for dejau vu was pretty creative, but with so many story elements, this book lost quality.
Cover: Having a smashed clock did reflect the contents, and also sorta made me want to take a better look at.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags: time loop / urban fantasy / murder/ romance / ya lit

I Funny - YA Review by Eoghan

Reader: Eoghan G
Age: 12
Title: I Funny
Author: James Patterson
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 12/10/12
Galley: No
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book:  I liked this book because it is funny. It has very good dialogue. It helped me relate to the characters. I also liked watching the characters evolve through out the book.
Memorable or Forgettable: The comedy. The jokes in the book were classics but some of them were new to me.
Cover:  It defiantly screamed READ ME! The cover related to the title and book's context.
Age Range: 12-13
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Annotation:  Jamie Grimm is a standup comedian with a twist he can't stand.

tags:  standup comedy/ middle school / physical disability / ya lit