Pirate Cinema - YA Review by Ellen P


Reader: Ellen P.
Age: 16
Title: Pirate Cinema
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tom Doherty
Pub Date: 10/02/12
Galley: No
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I've read a couple of Doctorow's books before this one, and it seems to fit his mold- it deals with current issues for teens, but is set in the future, it includes a lot of techy language, the characters are cool, and emotional development takes a backseat to the overarching plot. Which is, of course, challenging the government. I am totally okay with that. Pirate Cinema is a great book in the sense that you don't feel lost if you don't understand the details of what is happening (but you can learn a lot if you're interested) and you get a sense of empowerment. Unless you're lived under a rock for a few years, you probably heard about SOPA, and the numerous bills limiting internet freedom following it. This book deals with the disastrous consequences of those bills and more passing in which activity on the internet is suspended for trivial offenses. The teens in the book are all strong intelligent characters who take on the whole of British government without too much help. They're awesome.
Memorable or Forgettable:  This book kept me interested through the high stakes that all the characters faced in protecting their safety and rights. Doctorow makes the premise believable and frightening, and the writing is smart. However, if you're hoping for a romance or deep friendship novel, this isn't for you.
Cover: The cover in my opinion is great for this book. The bright colors and bold font draw you in, while the shadowy figure in the background creates mystery and interest. The cover led me to pick up the book and was extremely appealing.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In near-future Britain, this is more illegal than ever. The punishment for being caught three times is to cut off your entire household from the internet for a year - no work, school, health or money benefits.

tags: dystopian / coming of age / intellectual property / ya lit



Adaptation - YA Review by Guanani


Reader: Guanani
Age: 17
Title: Adaptation
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 09/18/12
Galley: No
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The main reason I disliked this book was that it started out so promising and then became unbearable. The first fifty pages could make a good short story as they are, and the following 330 have little to contribute in terms of interesting content, plot, or character development. I finished the first part in one sitting, excitedly flipping pages to learn more about the mysterious dying birds as well as the extreme panic reaction they caused. One of the more intriguing ideas set in motion in the first part of this book is how panic can change an entire society in a matter of days, and then what that society does when it realizes the panic was not based on truth and regrets its actions. I was hoping the rest of the book would develop these concepts and the characters’ role in them, but instead it went off on what felt like a tangent of typical science fiction tropes such as “evolving” better humans, secret government labs and, of course, aliens.
Memorable or Forgettable: This book will be memorable for me because I was so disappointed. I recommend the first fifty pages, but after that people might as well put down the book and pretend it was a short story. Adaptation begins with an intriguing premise and thrilling pace. Two San Francisco teenagers are waiting in a Phoenix airport after a debate tournament when suddenly flocks of birds start falling dead from the sky and crashing into airplanes. As more and more planes go down, the country falls into an anarchist panic and nowhere is safe. Unfortunately, this wonderful and suspenseful beginning gets cut off about fifty pages into the book, when the two main characters crash and the reader is given a “28 days later.” I was sorely disappointed when the entire rest of the book wandered into a slow paced, mostly clich├ęd plot of scifi tropes and dull navel-gazing. The exciting events of the first fifty pages were explained away in general terms by government experimentation and aliens, while the bulk of the book focused on reporting the characters emotions over and over. Even the almost interesting romantic interest subplot faded away and fell apart by the end.
Cover:  I found the cover rather unpleasant. I almost didn’t get the book because of it. The cover on my copy shows a pale, greenish girl with rolled back eyes who looks like she is about to faint into some unwholesome water. I find the trend of drowning girls on covers a bit unsettling, and this is probably the worst example so far, especially since it has absolutely nothing to do with what happens in the book. I disliked the cover so much that I took it off and hid it under my bed while reading.
Age Range: 14 through 15
Quality: 1Q How did it get published?
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  science fiction / suspense / ya lit



When We Wake - YA Review by AJ G



Reader: AJ G
Age: 17
Title: When We Wake
Author:  Karen Healey
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: 03/05/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: It's no secret that I'm not a fan of killing the main character as a plot device. I can get behind it if it's done well, but unfortunately for this book, I'm not sure it was. The premise hinges on Tegan, the protagonist, being accidentally murdered, cryonically frozen for a hundred years, and then revived. It's obvious that this is just done to allow the reader to feel the same culture "shock" of someone stepping into their own future. However, all these social changes are down played to the point of insignificance, which is fairly irritating. I would have loved to learn more about what the world will be like socially in 2127, other than the fact that apparently every female character has to be a lesbian because that's socially acceptable. However, what I think I found more irritating than that was that this girl is given the opportunity to expose some pretty huge, largely ignored issues to a vast number of people, and is running for her life for a large part of the story, but she stills gets all caught up in a boy! It's so completely unnecessary, and really quite unrealistic. I could tolerate the weak story line but the romance aspect is just a little unforgivable.
Memorable or Forgettable:  I think it was just the weak plot that made this a fairly forgettable book. How many times have we seen a mini-activist, fighting desperately against an elaborate government scheme, in a wild attempt to save humanity? Too many, in my opinion. Sure, it's a novelty that it's set in the future, but this version of the future isn't much different than the present. The only major thing is that global warming is a lot worse. I'd have much preferred an actually changed future, like one with no countries or where we live underwater. Then it could have been memorable. As it was though, it was just sort of like "oh look, a preachy teen trying to save us from the government, and by the way it's super hot outside."
Cover: The cover is certainly striking, and it makes sense to some extent. I really love the white on white color scheme. But I think it could have done a better job conveying the story. While cryonic freezing is certainly a major element, it's not really a fully developed one until very near the end of the book. But I think that it's a fairly good cover all the same, and one that can draw attention to itself.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  science fiction / dystopian / cryogenics / BFYA nominee / ya lit




Exile - YA Review by Alyissa S


Reader:  Alyissa S
Age: 13
Title: Exile
Author: Rebecca Lim
Publisher: Hyperion
Pub Date: 04/23/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: Mercy, a fallen angel, takes control of bodies. This is Mercy’s second jump from a body. She jumped into Lela’s. Lela’s mother is dying and she doesn't care about herself. Mercy‘s dream boyfriend Luc wants her to find Ryan, a playboy who loved her when she was Carmen (in the first book). This is so Luc can take over Ryan’ s body. They know they can live together on earth as fallen angels. Mercy has  to decide if she is in love with a dream or Ryan?
Memorable or Forgettable: The most memorable moment was at the end of the book. When she was about to end her life with Lela‘s creepy stalker. She tells Ryan that she promises to end it right. Then she dies. I love this book because it shows a life of a person who doesn't know who she is. She reclaims herself in a way that changes what she used to be. I hope they make another book to tell what happened to Mercy. Does she change? I don't know. When will we find out?
Cover: No comment
Age Range: 14 through 15
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Additional Comments: Warning: Read the first book (Mercy) to understand this book!
Annotation: Have you ever thought about what life is like for a souljacker?

tags:  mystery / romance / angels / ya lit



The Tragedy Paper - YA Review by AJ G


Reader: AJ G.
Age: 17
Title: The Tragedy Paper
Author: Elizabeth Laban
Publisher: Arthur A. Knopf
Pub Date: 01/08/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I'm not generally a huge fan of switching points of view, but I thought it was really well done in this book. It wasn't the formulaic switching every two chapters and seeing everything twice. It was one person's story going on in another person's story. Like a play within a play (couldn't resist the Shakespeare reference, they're just so fitting and prevalent). I also really liked the character voice in both the protagonists. They just felt authentic to me. The dialogue was a little stilted at times, but it was nothing I couldn't look past. The story was incredibly compelling. You really wanted to find out what Tim was building to, but at the same time you could feel Duncan's trepidation about getting there. I thought the character development was well paced, not rushed or overdone. All in all it was a compelling plot with two great narrators.
Memorable or Forgettable: This was without a doubt a romance novel. And yet it didn't make me want to hurl. You may be asking yourself "how is this possible?" Well for one thing, Tim couldn't be with the girl he loved, unlike the usual boy meets girl, they start dating, happy ever after. Instead it was boy meets girl under unusual circumstances, she has a boyfriend who's a jerk, boy has to squirm around jerk boyfriend. This unusual structure made for a nice change of pace and also lends the reader's sympathy to Tim, and then to Duncan as he relives Tim's memories. It was this that let me get brought in by the romance aspect of the book.
Cover: I think the cover is absolutely beautiful. It's striking, it relates to the story without giving too much away, and it's noticeable from the shelf. This is one of the few times I actually like the cover.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Duncan Meade is a senior at the Irving School. He's haunted by the memory of Tim Macbeth, a senior last year. On top of the chilling memories of what happened last year, Duncan is faced with the task of writing the tragedy paper, the biggest senior English project. But Tim is there to help him, through his own tragedy.

tags:  coming of age / romance / high school / albinism / BFYA nominee / ya lit


If You Find Me - YA Review by Rayna Grace


Reader: Rayna Grace C.
Age: 14
Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin
Pub Date: 03/26/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: Honestly, I am not even sure what to say. This book was... Mind-blowing? Appalling? Crazy? Really, all of the above. The main character, Carey, slowly revealed the horrors her mother put her and her sister through as the book progressed in an understated, almost everyday manner, and you really could tell that Carey thought that this was the way the world really should have been, not like the world her father and stepmom tried to include her in. The two biggest conflicts in this book were Carey’s struggle to assimilate into the normal world and to cope with the abuse she endured while with her mother, which at times went hand-in-hand. Carey’s (slightly) warped outlook on reality was very unique and seemed to fit her backstory perfectly, which I loved. Everything in this book seemed so tangible and real, I wouldn’t be surprised if the author had done an interview with a real person who had been in a similar situation. Even the parts that could be seen as implausible were given explanations. For example, Carey and Jenessa had no previous schooling, but each tested one year above their grade level. This was because their mother was a very accomplished musician who taught Carey how to play violin as well as gave her workbooks for each grade level, which Carey then handed down and explained to Jenessa. This was a very well thought out and complex book like no other that I have ever read.
Memorable or Forgettable: This book was memorable because usually with books that are meant to come off as messed up and/or out of this world, they flaunt the gore or insanity like the newest circus animal, but this book was somehow different. Throughout the story, Carey hid both her amazing talents and the hell she had been through as hard as she possibly could, which is nearly the opposite of so many fictional characters and real people alike. Carey was one of the strongest, most complex characters that I have ever read about, hands down. Her complete selflessness and protectiveness when it came to her sister was, in my opinion, one of the best aspects of the book. Most of the time, Carey wished only for Jenessa’s happiness because she couldn’t see it for herself. This book was equally appalling and adorable, which is an extremely hard thing to do in a book dealing with abuse. Not only that, but it accomplished the even harder task of not being grandiose despite the awesome skills and terrors the protagonist carried with her.
Cover: The cover was really good, in my opinion, and the model did seem to resemble the main character very accurately, and the woods in the background really made the cover.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Carey Blackburn and her sister, Jenessa, lived in a trailer hidden in the woods of Tennessee National Park for almost all of their lives. When their meth-addicted mother leaves them for good to fend for themselves, Carey's father takes custody of them both. The secrets they feel they must keep from this time, however, forces Jenessa into near-muteness and takes an extreme emotional toll on Carey, especially when she enrolls in high school.

tags: coming of age / BFYA nominee / ya lit


Black Helicopters - YA Review by AJ G


Reader: AJ G.
Age: 17
Title: Black Helicopters
Author: Blythe Woolston
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pub Date: 03/26/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I really liked this book. I read it in one sitting, in fact. I really loved the way it was told, with flashbacks to gradually give you the whole story. It's reminiscent of the "bigger game" talked about in the story itself. The character was absolutely fascinating, and I loved her voice. It was so original and inspired, as was the plot. I've read plenty of books with terrorists or anarchists in them, but never from their perspective. It's almost like reading the diary of a murderer.
Memorable or Forgettable: I think most people would characterize the bombers as bad guys, but when you look from their perspective at their life, it makes you think about it. Perhaps they had a reason for it. This book did a good job of making me feel sympathetic for the people I would normally call the bad guys, and I can't help but love that, and congratulate the author for accomplishing so difficult a task.
Cover: The cover could use some work, unfortunately. It's really the only thing I dislike about this book. It makes me think its going to be an historical fiction story, or something of the sort. Some short, action-packed story for thirteen-year-old boys. But I think it has broader appeal than that, which the cover should reflect. I'm also not sure how much shelf appeal it has.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: How often do you get both sides of any story? Usually you only get to read the version the Man produces. Blythe Woolston's Black Helicopters tells the other side of the story for once. The bomber's side.

tags:  suicide bomber / mystery / thriller / BYFA nominee / ya lit


Rotten - YA Review by Marta M


Reader: Marta M.
Age: 12
Title: Rotten
Author: Michael Northrop
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pub Date: 04/01/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The plot was pretty good, but boring and one that I have seen many times before. This book is about a boy who spent his summer in juvenile detention for stealing some perfume. When he comes back, he sees that his mom got a dog. He becomes friends with the dog after the dog bites his friend because the friend was scaring the rescue dog. The boy's parents try to make a lot of money off the injury and this is what most of the story focuses on. I think it starts to get boring after a while because the two boys keep arguing and repeating a lot of what they said. The whole story is based on the simple matter of bringing the boy and the dog together. One of the only things that kept me reading was wondering what would happen to the dog and what the main character was doing over the summer, because they reveal that towards the end.
Memorable or Forgettable: The book is forgettable, because as I mentioned above, it has a plot I have already seen a few times - somebody/something helps another person get through some problem.
Cover: The cover was a little boring because it was just a part of a dog, but this also made it kind of a mystery of what the book was about. This reflected pretty well on the contents since the book focuses on the boy and dog bonding.
Age Range: Under 12
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags: second chances / Rottweilers / ya lit


The Nightmare Affair - YA Review by Elise S


Reader: Elise S.
Age: 17
Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Pub Date: 03/05/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: So I read a lot of fantasy books. Ones with werewolves, wizards, mages, dreams, and King Arthur, not the least of which feature magic schools and evil plots. All of these are perfectly valid components. When they are combined into a mushy, mixed up, indecisive soup, however, they are an instant reader turnoff. As soon as I started the book, it was like I was being bombarded with magical creatures. The author couldn't make up her mind which ones she liked best, so decided to USE THEM ALL. It was confusing, it was entirely cliche, and it made it hard to even get through the 100 pages I made myself read to be able to write this review.
Memorable or Forgettable: The blandness of the world creation was matched entirely by the nondescript characters. Being a curly-headed ginger myself, I'm automatically sympathetic to characters who have the same kind of hair. Dusty (distracting name) was every "sassy" teen. Teens are absolutely snarky, but not in a conscious way, in an I-am-speaking-like-an-adolescent way.  In all honesty, it felt like a first novel. I could feel the connection the author had with Dusty. The murder mystery plot could be cool combined with the dream-seeing stuff. To make a great book, the author needs to take a step away from her favorite influential books to find her own voice and story.
Cover: The cover fit the book. It was fairly blah, a stock cover for any magical book. I would not have picked it up if it was not on my list of required reading for the YALSA conference. Even then, I could only get through the first 100 pages before skipping to the predicted end.
Age Range: Under 12 through 13
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 1P Yech! Forced to read it

tags:  paranormal mystery / urban fantasy / BFYA nominee / ya lit


Allegra - YA Review by Katie J


Reader: Katie J
Age: 13
Title: Allegra
Author: Shelley Hrdlitschka
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 04/01/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: I thought this was a great book.  One reason I liked it was because it was written in a way that appeals to teens, not like other musical books that are boring.
Memorable or Forgettable: One quality that made it memorable for me is that the author actually talked about her family problems as well as school problems.
Cover: I thought that the cover was really cool.
Age Range: Under 12 through 13
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Allegra wants to dance, but when her music-theory teacher insists she undertake a composition project, their collaboration brings unforeseen changes in both of their lives.

tags:  coming of age / performing arts high school / BFYA nominee / ya lit


In the Shadow of Blackbirds - YA Review by AJ G



Reader: AJ G
Age: 17
Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pub Date: 04/02/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book:  I had a few issues with this book. First of all, it seemed as if the author couldn't decide between psuedo-steampunk or historical fiction. I would have been able to enjoy it a lot more if it been one or the other. The next potential problem was the sort of lack of character development. The only character the book who ever changed or grew was already dead. I would've liked to see more personal growth in the main character, and not in the way she did change, which brings me to my next issue. The main character starts off as a skeptic, but gradually begins to lose that as she gets pulled into the spirit world. My main issue with this is that she loses he skepticism by dying and coming back to life. I'm going to be frank, I very seriously dislike this as a plot device. I think it's sort of lazy, and that there are better ways of getting your character from skepticism to belief.
Memorable or Forgettable: I think that this book definitely has some appeal. It has a strong female lead character, there's an element of romance, and the setting is very compelling. However, I find the plot fairly forgettable. The paranormal aspect could have been done better, and I would have liked the psychological thriller parts to be a little more nuanced. But I can definitely see this book doing well.
Cover:  I think the cover is really well done. Spirit photography plays a huge role in the plot, so I really loved seeing a spirit photograph as the cover. This is taken right from the book, too, which makes it even better. On top of that, I think it's bold and striking, and it has pretty good shelf appeal.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  historical fiction / World War II / supernatural / vintage photographs / BFYA nominee / ya lit


This is What Happy Looks Like - YA Review by AJ G



Reader: AJ G
Age: 17
Title: This is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 04/02/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: I found this book horribly cliched. The whole boy meets girl thing is really overdone, and even worse when it's boy movie star meets small town girl with a secret. There's a ton of overwrought drama that could have easily been edited out, without the story losing anything, and I thought that both of the characters were whiney, irritating, and needed to have internet safety explained to them again. The entire premise is that they started emailing each other by accident, never told each other their names, but gave away almost all other personal information. To me, that's not sweet, it's sort of creepy.
Memorable or Forgettable: I saw nothing original in this book. I've seen these characters before, the girl with a secret that overwhelms her life and the tortured artist who wants to escape, I've seen this plot before, and I've seen this setting before. This could have been any other teen romance novel.
Cover: I thought the cover was certainly interesting to look at. It's a nice picture, and an okay font. But it's not striking, and there's not a ton of shelf appeal. I guess it reflects the contents, which are also fairly bland.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal

tags:  romance / BFYA nominee / ya lit


The Tragedy Paper - YA Review by Sophie D



Reader: Sophie D
Age: 17
Title: The Tragedy Paper
Author: Elizabeth Laban
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pub Date: 01/08/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book:  I really loved the intermingling of the two stories in the book. Duncan and Tim had two very different voices as characters, and their stories were different in many ways, but they also paralleled each other at crucial and unexpected points. All of the characters in the book were also incredibly real, as was the setting. It wasn't hard to imagine this school really existing, and it was really nice that every character was well developed. Even minor characters have back stories, and end up being not-so-minor in the end, just like in real life.
Memorable or Forgettable: Along with the two stories overlapping and connecting, there were other elements that carried through the book and made it a really interesting read. For one, the theme of tragedy and tragedy vocabulary kept on repeating itself. In the book, each senior had to write a Tragedy Paper, that is the defining project of their year. I felt like the book could have been a tragedy paper. I think the author also tried to write it as a tragedy, with all this foreshadowing leading up to the climax. It worked, the story was incredibly atmospheric with this feeling of something awful going to happen.
Cover: The cover is lovely. It really does capture the atmosphere of the book, and picks up on the themes of snow and whiteness.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: All that Duncan wants for his senior year is to forget, to forget the tragic accident of last year. But Tim Macbeth won't let him forget. Through a series of CDs left for Duncan, Tim tells his story of never fitting in, unrequited love, and, above all, the substance of a Tragedy Paper.

tags:  coming of age / romance / high school / albinism / BFYA nominee / ya lit



Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust - YA Review by Katie J


Reader: Katie J
Age: 13
Title: Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust
Author: Leanne Lieberman
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 04/01/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This was a great book. One reason I like it is because it let me see into the life of a teenage Jewish girl named Lauren who doesn't like being Jewish and hates the Holocaust.  While juggling family problems, friend problems, and the dread of high school, Lauren Yanofsky must make a decision that could challenge her friendships.
Memorable or Forgettable:  I really like the way this book was written. One reason I liked it was because it allowed me to see into the head of a Jewish teenager who hates her religion.  This was good because I like seeing into other teenagers heads, so I thought this book was almost written for me.
Cover: The cover was a bit weird, but it was interesting.
Age Range: 14 through 15
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Annotation:  Lauren, a teenage Jew, is sick of hearing about the Holocaust, but must make a tough decision when some of her friends play Nazi war games.

tags:  coming of age / Holocaust / high school / ya lit