Tag Archives: Young Adult Literature

Exploring the Confusing Emotions Around Young Friendships | Review of “Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell” by Liane Shaw (2016) Second Story Press

Liane Shaw will be participating at the 2017 Toronto Word on the Street Festival.

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It is hard to understand people sometimes. It may be the way a person thinks or just a way a group of people act. Trust is a difficult thing to give  sometimes, but we give it – rightly or wrongly – to certain people and we don’t want to loose that trust when others give it to us. Those are the types of issues that Liane Shaw explores in a brilliant fashion in her novel Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell.

Pages 3-4

“Frederick! Please focus. You need to talk to the officer!”

The loud voice startles me right out of math class, and I look up at my mother’s face. She isn’t looking at me, though. She’s looking at a man. Not just a man. A police officer.

I’m at the police station because my mother said that the police wanted to speak with me. That’s what she said when she came into my room this morning without knocking, which was a direct infringement on our room privacy agreement.

“Frederick! You have to get dressed and come with me now. The police want to talk to you!” Her voice shrieks through my door, high and shrill like a chipmunk yelling at you to stay away from his tree. The thought makes me smile a little, and she sees it because she comes in without an invitation.

“Why are you smiling? This isn’t funny. The police called here and want me to take you down to the station. What is this about? What could they want with you?” She’s not looking at me when she asks the questions, so I don’t answer. She’s always told me that you have to look directly at someone you want to have a conversation with.

Her rule.

Answer me, Frederick. What do the police want with you? Did you see something or do something?

I still don’t answer because I’m not sure what she’s asking. I see and do lots of somethings every day. She’s leaving words out of her sentences because she’s upset for some reason, and now she doesn’t make sense.

“Frederick! Are you listening to me? We have to go and see the police!”

It’s interesting the way people say “the police” as if you are going to see all of them. Or as if there is only one of them.

“Frederick. Pay attention to me. Please.”

A reader can’t help but feel sorry for poor Frederick. His odd behavior at school has made him an easy target some of the different cliques there, but he’s gotten use to eating lunch alone in the ‘Reject Room.’ However, Angel has taken a bit of shine to Frederick as well. Now in her sixth school, she has had a hard time making and keeping friends. But she finds Frederick interesting – he’s annoyingly smart and refreshingly honest and she decides to teach him all her rules of friendship. Yet when Angel disappears, Frederick is torn by telling the police where she has gone or break one of those rules of friendship. The decision may even lead Frederick into danger himself.

Page 90

I have emotions. Lots of them. Everyone does. Most people wear them on their faces and in their voices for the whole world to see and hear. I think emotions are private and should be worn on the inside where they’re safe.

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.”

“Well, think about it now. Would you wonder or worry and any other W words if I suddenly disappeared without telling you first?

Would I wonder or worry if I came to school, and Angel wasn’t sitting in the Reject Room at lunch time, ready to fill my ears with words that I only half listen to? Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know there was an Angel. If she wasn’t there anymore would I feel different?

She isn’t going to be there anymore. I’m going to be eating alone again. Quietly. I hadn’t thought of that before. Now one will smile at me and tell me I’m funny, even when I’m not trying to be. No one will talk to me except Robert, sometimes, and Peter Murphy the rest of the time.

No one will ask me to the movies, even though we never actually went.

I was scared at the idea of going to the movie with her, and now I don’t have to do it. I guess I should feel relieved. But I’m not sure that’s what I’m feeling.

Shaw has certainly documented the confusion and the ambiguity of emotions that surround friendships for young people. Her words are clear and concise as she gives us insights to the thoughts of Frederick as he considers his actions in his dealings with his friend Angel and her disappearance. This is a story told from a unique perspective and documents some interesting elements of the human condition.

Page 122

I thought this would all happen a whole lot faster than it seems to be happening. I don’t know why I thought that. I’m pretty sure it isn’t logical to think that. I have a very logical mind about most things. But I have no experience with this sort of thing. Is this a sort of thing? Is there a precedent for someone taking a bus to a strange city to find someone who seems to be missing even though she had a foolproof plan?

If I don’t get back in time for school tomorrow, my mother will find out what I’m doing, and she will be angry with me.

I don’t like anger. I try not to feel it because it’s an uncomfortable and out of control feeling, as if my insides are turning red and molten with heat that burns my common sense until it melts and drips out of my mouth with words that I shouldn’t say. When people are angry they say hurtful things. My mother’s angry words always burn me, and it takes a long time for the scars to go away. I don’t like to make her angry.

Liane Shaw has given readers some unique thoughts and perspectives with her novel Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell. A clearly written book which documents some important elements of the human condition. Truly a great read and one for starting some great discussions.

*****

Link to Second Story Press’ website for Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell

Link to Liane Shaw’s website

 

‘What I do now will cause . . .?’ | Review of “Me (And) Me” by Alice Kuipers (2017) HarperCollins Canada

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(I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book. I will add pull-quotes to this review once I get my hands on a true printed copy.)

It is never easy of any person to make a decision, let alone one that needs to be made at the spur of the moment. Consequences need to be considered to words said or actions  made which may  have long lasting results. And for  an adolescent, those decisions  can be heart-wrenching, especially if their young minds are already guilt-ridden  from past traumas.  That is  one of the major themes Alice Kuipers brilliantly explores  in her book Me (and) Me.

The story of the book deals with Lark, a young girl who is just in the process of celebrating her seventeenth birthday. She has mixed feelings about the day, since it brings back memories of her mother’s passing a few years ago. Readers witness Lark’s day  starting off in a well-enough manner; The sky is clear. She has just finished writing a ‘kick-ass’ song for the band and she has a date with the gorgeous and Alec out by the lake. Alas, things  take a turn for the worse when a neighbourhood girl begins to drown and Alec gets himself into trouble as well trying to save little Annabelle. Lark is in a quandary as she tries to decide which one of the two to save.

Kuipers uses the concept of parallel universes in this book in a brilliant fashion to explore the roles of cause/effect. Reader’s witness the two Larks – one where she save little Annabelle from the depth of a lake and suffering from a long-lasting coma AND the other where she saves Alec from the same fate. Both Larks are guilt-ridden by their decisions and their guilt becomes overpowering that they both act out in different manners.

Alice Kuipers’ Me (And) Me is truly a unique read. The book does an excellent job in exploring cause/effect roles in the actions of human beings. A great read and an enlightening one for the younger set.

*****

Link  to HarperCollins Canada’s website for Me (And) Me

Link to Alice Kuipers’ website

Link to my Q&A with Alice Kuipers about Me (And) Me – (M)y books often explore how writing and creativity give my characters tools to deal with the world

 

 

 

(M)y books often explore how writing and creativity give my characters tools to deal with the world | Q&A with author Alice Kuipers on her novel “Me (and) Me”

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Alice Kuipers is a very popular author of Young Adult fiction and one of good merit.  Her newest book  –  Me (and) Me –  is already garnishing praises on from all manners of readers and bringing new fans to her works. Kuipers was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and include me in her blog tour of her new book.

*****

1) First off, could you give an outline of the plot of Me (and) Me?

Hi there. Thanks for interviewing me! The description of Me (and) Me from my website is this: It’s Lark’s seventeenth birthday, and although she’s hated to be reminded of the day ever since her mom’s death three years ago, it’s off to a great start. Lark has written a killer song to perform with her band, the weather is stunning and she’s got a date with gorgeous Alec. The two take a canoe out on the lake, and everything is perfect—until Lark hears the screams. Annabelle, a little girl she used to babysit, is drowning in the nearby reeds while Annabelle’s mom tries desperately to reach her. Lark and Alec are closer, and they both dive in. But Alec hits his head on a rock in the water and begins to flail.

Alec and Annabelle are drowning. And Lark can save only one of them.

Lark chooses, and in that moment her world splits into two distinct lives. She must live with the consequences of both choices. As Lark finds herself going down more than one path, she has to decide: Which life is the right one?

That gives the opening. After that the book is structured around both of Lark’s lives as she tries to figure out how to put her life back together again. Each choice has good things and bad things about it—but Lark spends the book encountering glimpses of the life she isn’t leading and that sends her into a tailspin. I’m not sure how much to say without spoiling the story!

2) Was there anything that inspired to write this book? (If yes, what was it?) Is there anything you are hoping the book will accomplish?

I started writing this book when I was eighteen, but I had a whole different set of characters and ideas at the time. Suddenly, about three years ago, the character of Lark came to me and from there, the ideas from the unpublished book I wrote when I was eighteen realigned. As to what I hope the book will accomplish, well, that’s an interesting question. I don’t really think while I’m writing the book about anything other than the story. And then when a book goes into the world, I let it go. A book is a co-creation between the author and the reader, so, if anything, I hope that I’ve given the reader a lot of room in the story to bring their own ideas and imagination. I hope the story becomes the living, breathing thing it was for me when I wrote it.

3) Your website lists this book as your seventh published book. Has your writing change since you began writing? If yes, how so?

My writing has changed because when I first started writing I had no idea what I was doing. I had to spend a lot of time reading books on grammar and studying writing to be able to write the ideas in my head—that’s why the first time I tried to write this book, it didn’t ever get read by anyone else. I just didn’t even know how to punctuate speech correctly (to be fair, that is hard!) My first published book was at least my sixth attempt at writing a completed novel. And then during the editorial process for each of my published books I learnt so much about writing that I felt like a beginner all over again. As a writer now, I am more confident sentence by sentence, but I find it very hard to create a whole book—and that’s what stimulates me as a writer too—the challenge.

But thematically, my books often explore how writing and creativity give my characters tools to deal with the world. Lark is a singer-songwriter and she uses her songs to help her deal with her new, crazy life. That part was really fun to write.

4) Are you planning a book tour or any public readings of Me (and) Me? If yes, are there any particular events or dates you are looking forward to? Are public readings something you enjoy participating in?

This blog tour is a great way for me to share the book with readers, along with public events and readings. I have four small children so I try to do a lot of publicity from my couch—but I’m looking forward to the Literacy For Life Conference in Saskatoon (Link here) on May 1st and 2nd, when I’ll share the book with 2000 local students. The Festival of Words in Moose Jaw (Link here) is going to be great fun too—me, plus the children, plus my partner (Yann Martel) who is a writer too, plus the spa in Moose Jaw, plus a lot of eager readers and writers! I do enjoy doing events but they make me a little nervous. Speaking to a big group of people can be intimidating, until I remember that I am not talking about me but about my books. And hopefully I’m giving the people I’m speaking to some ideas about writing that are useful for them, too.

5) You seem to be active on numerous social-media sites. How do you like using those sites in relation to your writing? Is there one platform (like Facebook or Twitter) you enjoy hearing from fans of your work?

I love hearing from readers and I think as an author for teens it’s a good way for them to reach out to me. I enjoy being active on social media—it’s a fun way to procrastinate and connect with a bigger world. (Link to Alice Kuipers’ Twitter account) (Link to Alice Kuipers’ Facebook account) Writing involves me tuning out of the world—I am alone with my thoughts and my books. Social media opens the world up so that I can hear from readers and writers about the books and stories that spark their worlds. I like all of the platforms that I use, but my current favourite is Instagram where I regularly post writing prompts for people.

6) You have a program on the internet called Freeflow: A Writing Journey in which you have had budding writers learn skills on how to write? How has that been working out?

That course is free for anyone who signs up to my newsletter and it has a lot of people working through it online. I also have a course with Children’s Book Insider (Link Here) called Chapter Book Blueprint that has been a lot of fun too. I love working on online courses as, again, I’m reaching out from my sofa. It means I can share my ideas about writing with other writers, but then turn to my bouncy children (who are all under the age of eight) and spend a lot of time with them too. I can work around their schedules.

7) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

Yes, I’m always working on something new. Right now, I’ve been working on a YA novel about a girl who claims to be from the future, and a YA memoir about travelling around the world with panic disorder when I was eighteen. I’ve also got a chapter book series upcoming with Chronicle Press, which is exciting. The first book comes out in 2018. It’s called Polly Diamond.

8) Your biography on your website lists you as living in Saskatoon. How do you like living there? Are there any cultural institutions or landmarks there that you enjoy that help you with your writing?

I’ve been living in Saskatoon for thirteen years now and we have a good life here. The children go to a great school, we have a close community of friends, and we enjoy everything the city has to offer. The winters are a bit long for me, but I’ve learned to cross-country ski, which helps. This year we did a lot of ice-skating too. Saskatoon influences my writing, absolutely. Walking by the river seems to come up for my characters in all of my books now, based on my walks along the Meewasin Valley Trails.  (Link here) I also enjoy Living Sky Café (Link here) in the old Mendel Art Gallery space, and The Children’s Discovery Museum (Link here) is a great place to hang out with the kids and get ideas for stories. I spend a lot of time at my children’s school at the moment—meeting with kids and talking about writing with them seems to help me with my own writing a lot too. And then I go to D’Lish regularly (Link here)—which is the name of the café in Me (and) Me.

*****

Link to Harper Collins Canada’s website for Me (And) Me

Link to Alice Kuipers’ website

 

 

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Engaging the Younger Audience on their own Terms | Review of “The Death of Us” by Alice Kuipers (2014) HarperTrophyCanada

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I am always asked to recommend books for young adults, usually by parents looking to recommend something for their kids to read. It is usually something I am somewhat nervous in doing. I am not sure that I understand the lives that most teenagers have these days. But there are books that are written for that age group that I enjoy. And The Death of Us by Alice Kuipers is certainly one of those books.

Callie Page 5

I get it, I do. The have a baby now and they’ve done their part: what a successful, balanced teenager they’ve created.

I don’t take drugs. Check.

I don’t drink. Check.

I don go to wild parties. Check.

Okay I have a couple extra piercings in my right ear that Mom  hates. And I’ve dyed my hair black, which Dad moans about. And he definitely can’t understand why the dark-blue nail polish, with one green nail on the fourth finger of each hand. I’ve told him there’s nothing to understand.

Still, I keep my room tidy. Check.

I get my homework in on time. Check.

I’ll get into any university I want, probably. Check.

I’m perfectly bone-crushingly normal. Check. Check. Check.

If only I didn’t feel like I do right now around my parents, we could all just get along like we used to.

I originally picked up this book for research into another blog piece but I feel it deserves to be mentioned here. We have three protagonists in this story  who move the plot along by giving their points of view: Callie, Ivy and Kurt. Callie seems to be up for going through an average summer until her old friend Ivy shows up after a three-year unexplained absence. Although somewhat hesitant at first to renew the friendship, Callie is soon going to parties and trying new clothes and much more new activities with Ivy. However when a handsome boy appears on the scene, the friendship grows more than toxic.

Ivy Page 49-50

Kurt beeps the horn outside my house. Mom’s asleep on the couch. She’s gorgeous when she’s sleeping. I spot a text on her phone from Kevin. Dirty words. Gross. I tuck the phone next to her. She stirs, the sour stink of her rising like steam. Screw it, Mom, two days we’ve been back. Don’ you think Kevin’s gonna notice? I take the bottle.

The room is dark, curtains drawn. No one’s watching but I check around anyway. I put the bottle to my lips and hold it there. Then, slowly, I take the bottle away from my mouth. I won’t drink. I’m notlike her – see how easy it is, Mom not to drink? We’re the result of the choices we make every day and this is my choice. I pour the bottle out into the sink, wishing she didn’t always find a way to get more. But I’m not going to waste energy thinking like that. I count one, two, three, four, five.

I’m ready for the boat trip. Summery dress for a sunny, summery day. Kurt beeps the horn again. I’ve made him wait long enough, poor boy. Men are like dogs, they need training, and every dog needs a reward when he’s done good. Kurt has been very patient. I pop my gum in my mouth, step down the porch stairs and slide into the back because there’s another guy in the passenger seat – a thin guy with a beard and glasses, crouched over because he’s so tall . . .

Kuipers has written a narrative here that is honest and frank. The language hasn’t been filtered or corrected by any means, making it an honest read for any young mind to follow. The issues in the story are current for today’s audience. Kuipers drops hints during the story that something massive is going to happen to the trio in the end but does an excellent job in keeping readers in suspense, ensuring readers are enraptured to the end.

Kurt – Pages 119-120

I glance at the black coffee. I can’t drink it. Inertia. I don’t like it about myself, wish I could be more decisive, but when things get tough I blank out. Freeze.

It was the only way to protect myself when I was a little kid. When my mom tore up the world around me. There’s no way to explain to most people, people like Callie or Xander, that life can be so bad sometimes the only way to deal with with it is to pretend none of it’s happening. Or, the opposite. Life can be so good, the possibility of the future so awesome that the only way to protect yourself from ruining it is to sit back. Let the opportunity slide by.

The Death of Us by Alice Kuipers is a unique and enlightening read for  a younger audience. It is a page-turner and a great exploration of thoughts and emotions. In short, a truly exceptional book.

*****

Link to HarperCollins Canada’s website for The Death of Us

Link to Alice Kuipers’ website

“While the story itself is fun and light, it addresses some serious issues” | Q&A with writer Danika Stone on her upcoming novel “Internet Famous”

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Cover image linked from Danika Stone’s website

Although Danika Stone is quite a busy writer,  her talent does shine through in her works. As 2017 starts to produce a new batch of books, fans of Danika’s are no doubt eager to read her new work Internet Famous. Danika answered a few questions for me, giving some insight to her new book, due out in June.

*****

1) First off, could you give a bit of an outline for Internet Famous?

Absolutely! Internet Famous tells the story of a successful teen blogger, Madi Nakama, whose internet fame from her pop-culture blog attracts the unwanted attention of a troll. Much like any thriller, Internet Famous lets readers play ‘whodunnit’ with the various characters, as Madi and her friends track down her harasser. While the story itself is fun and light, it addresses some serious issues. It also has an interesting text and multi-media narrative that readers of All the Feels will appreciate.

2) How long did it take you to write the book? What inspired you (if anything) to write it?

Most my YA books take me about six months, start to finish, to complete. Broken down that’s about two months for the rough draft, then a couple months of editing back and forth, followed by a couple more of copy-edits. I’m really lucky in that the rough draft process down pat. It saves so much time!
My inspiration for Internet Famous came from two sources. The first was MarkDoesStuff, a truly fantastic pop-culture blogger. (Link to his website.) I remember watching some of the backlash after one of his posts hit a few readers the wrong way. Another source of inspiration was my RL (Real Life) friend ‘M’, who is truly one of the most positive and outgoing people I know. Her personality became the cornerstone of the fictional Madi.

3) I know the book is being released this June, but are there details on any book tour yet? If yes, are there dates/events you are looking forward to?

I have a number of online blog tours set up. They’ll kick off as we near the June release date, so check my Danika_Stone Twitter for details! (Link to Danika Stone’s profile page on Twitter)

As for in-person tours, it’s still early days, but I do have a few solid dates. I’ll be promoting in Alberta (Canada) at the (Southern Alberta Library Conference)  on March 3rd, 2017 (Link here) , in Atlanta at RT Convention May 4th through the 7th, 2017 (Link here), and (hopefully!) at Comic-Con in San Diego, July 20th through the 23rd, 2017. (I’m still waiting for my CC badge.) (Link here) I also have an as-yet undated interview with CBC Daybreak, with Russell Bowers, arranged for later this spring. (Link to the show’s website here) Truthfully, I’m looking forward to ALL of them!

4) It has been a little while since All The Feels came out. How did you find the reaction to it? Was there any memorable reactions to it you care to share?

I was overwhelmed by the positivity that fans showed the book. When I went to Dragon Con last summer, All the Feels had been out for only a month, and yet there were people waiting for me in the signing room. It was an amazing feeling to realize that the book had connected to them this much!
I was also honored when All the Feels was nominated for the CYBILS Award (Link to the Childrens and Young Adults Bloggers Literary Awards website here), and for YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.  (Link to the Young Adult Library Service Association’s website here) While it didn’t win either category, it was great to be nominated. I hope Internet Famous gets as warm a reception!

5) You mentioned in a previous Q&A that you are always writing. Is that still true? If yes, are you working on a new book?

It’s absolutely true! I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t writing. In the time since we last talked, I wrote a sequel to my contemporary Canadian thriller, Edge of Wild. This new book, The Dark Divide, is now in the editing phase. And my most recent WIP (Work in Progress) is another as-yet-untitled YA, that I’ve been working on for Swoon Reads. Check in with me next year and at least one of those should be on shelves!

6) Have you read any books in the last little while that you enjoyed? What are you reading right now?

I always have a pile of books next to my bed, and I tend to be reading two or three of them at a time. My favorite YA in the last few months was These Vicious Masks, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas. It’s such an incredibly inventive Victorian Superhero story. (Yes! Those elements CAN go together!) I keep forcing everyone to read it.
My most recent poetry collection is The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace. I read an early version last year just prior to its debut, and I knew I needed a hard copy. It’s just as lovely as I remembered.
As to contemporary fiction, I always get “into the mood” with thrillers when I’m revising my own mysteries. I loved The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’m nervously waiting to see what direction the movie version of it takes.

7) Are you still living in Alberta? How do you like living there as a writer? Do you do a bit of traveling with your publisher being so far away?

Yes, I’m happily settled in Alberta. I really love it! First off, my family is here. Secondly, it’s a beautiful, relatively-untouched part of Canada. The mountains are an hour away, and there are unblemished prairie landscapes preserved just minutes from my door. In fact, the only challenge I’ve ever encountered is that I have to make a concerted effort to actually get out to conventions and do book tours. I am lucky enough, however, that travelling is an option and I love it! It leaves me with the best of both worlds.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog again, Steven. I enjoyed talking to you!

The pleasure is mine! My followers are eager to know about your work!

Danika’s Biography

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Image provided by Danika Stone.

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (Edge of Wild, The Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (Internet Famous, All the Feels and Icarus). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.
Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency. (Link to their website)

*****

Link to Swoon Reads’ website for Internet Famous

Link to Danika Stone’s website

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All the Emotions of Youth and Fandom | Review of “All The Feels” by Danika Stone (2016) Swoon Reads

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The relationships that younger people have today are complex and far-reaching. They spend a lot of their time in the realms of digital media and popular culture, hence some of the terms they use – like fandom – are odd and confusing to us. But Danika Stone has written a novel that not only allows many of us some insight into the world of fandom culture, but gives younger readers some groundwork to start a discussion about their obsessions. So readers can explore All The Feels on a multitude of levels.

Page 15

If she’d been feeling ambitious, Liv might have picked up groceries and persuaded Xander to teach her another of his “soon to be famous” recipes. With three little brothers and a mom who worked nights, he had taught himself how to cook. As Xander always said, “it was that or starve,” but Liv had been proctoring in the audio lab all afternoon – adjusting audio levels for amateur musical performances – and by the time she made it back, she was wiped. Besides, Liv reasoned, whenever Xander cooked, he talked . . . And tonight she wasn’t in the mood to hear about his latest cosplay ideas, or – worse yet – his last date with Arden, his bubbly girlfriend. The duo make a striking couple. (Liv could see that as much as anyone.) Arden was light and laughter to Xander’s brooding looks, but Liv wasn’t in the mood to hear about their evident happiness.

She was grieving.

Liv flopped onto the couch and pulled out her phone to scroll through the latest postings on the various Spartan websites. Almost a week after the Christmas Eve release, there were spoilers everywhere. The entire Starveil fandom was in an uproar over Spartan’s death. Liv’s throat grew thick and painful, and she searched until she found a fix-it AU, posted just today. She was halfway through reading it when she heard the garage door open. Katherine swirled through the doorway, coat flapping like the sails of a ship.

“Dinner’s on!” she called, dropping a moisture-soaked bag onto the floor of the entrance.

Stone has brilliantly wrapped up so many concepts and issues in her story about college freshman Liv. We do read about Liv’s obsession about the “Starveil” movie franchise but we also get to experience Liv’s anxiety about: friends, relationships, her mother, death, school, money, and so forth. But Stone has managed to keep all those issues flowing through the story, making the plot easy to read.

Page 112

“If you wanted to go out to a movie sometime,” she gasped. “Like  . . . Like a date or something.”

The bomb dropped.

She waited, but Hank didn’t move. He stared at her for a long time. Live felt like she was caught in a movie, and everyone else had switched into slow motion, but she hadn’t. She was certain at least thirty seconds passed before he blinked, like the film he was in had been on pause and he had abruptly caught up to her.

Hank smiled, but his time it was a different sort of smile. A weaker one. “Liv, I  . . . I don’t know what to say.” He beamed down at her, but it wasn’t the toothy grin she knew. This was something else. Something that hurt the inside of her chest. “I’m flattered. Really, I am. But I have to say no.”

“What?” The word was the sound of someone kicked in the gut.

Hank’s smile faltered. “I can’t. I mean, I’d love to, if I didn’t have a girlfriend.” He winced. “And I felt that way about you.”

Liv turned away from him. Her stomach roiled. The only possible way this situation could get worse was if she did throw up. “Oh my God.” She pushed past a gaggle of girls lingering outside the doorway and headed down the hall. She needed to get away!

“Liv wait!”

She waled faster, vision tunneling down. Now she felt like she might pass out. Oh God, her mind screamed. What have I done?

Not only has Stone kept the language clear and concise here but uses phrases and terms appropriate to the age. Many of my followers have stated they have had problems finding books for younger readers because much of the  language used in today’s selections seem stilted and dated. This book uses terms and phrases that are common usage today. Stone has not only come up with an interesting story line here but also must have researched terms and technology well.

Page 160-161

Liv glared at the laptop screen, the cursor pulsing in time to her thoughts. There was footage on her hard drive: used segments from the bonus features of various Starveil films and twice as many outtakes with Xander, music and audio clips. It was all there, ready to make and #SpartanSurvived vid.

She just needed to break her promise to do it.

“Liv?” her mother called from outside her bedroom “Can we talk?”

“No.”

Liv slid her chair over to the door and locked it.

“Liv, sweetie,” her mother pleaded, “I know you’re angry I talked to Gary, but if you’d listen you’ll-”

Liv put on her headphones and hit Play.

The well-known trill of the Starveil theme flooded her ears, and she let out a sobbing laugh, overwhelmed by emotion. This was it. This was where she felt at home. Not at the dinner table with Gary! Not doing stupid school projects that didn’t matter. The sound of her mother’s knocking faded, and Liv sighed in relief. She needed this the same way she needed air. The last few weeks, she’d felt trapped, but now she was free.

Decision made, Live opened the video editor and smiled.

It was time to bring that passion back to fandom.

Danika Stone has written a great and modern book with All The Feels. The story line is easy to read yet covers a multitude of issues that concerns younger readers. In short a great and enlightening read for any age.

******

Link to Danika Stone’s website

Link to Swoon Reads’ website for All The Feels

Link to my Q&A with Danika Stone -“I was eager to find a Canadian press for Edge of Wild, since it’s a Canada-focused story.”

 

The Telling of a Heartache that a Young Girl must Endure | Review of “Rodent” by Lisa J. Lawrence (2016) Orca Book Publishers

Rodent

We all don’t live fairy-tale lives. Many of us have issues to deal with that are difficult and ugly which take their toll on us emotionally. The same counts for many young people. So why should they have to endure fairy tales when their lives really “suck” and they need some way to better understand their world around them. Lisa J. Lawrence has written a book that reflects a grittier side to a young person’s life called Rodent.

Page 6-7

There have been five schools in the past three years, not to mention all the ones I passed through before I even hit junior high. I’ve seen it all. If I keep my head down, after two more years of this I’ll be free. Then it won’t matter if Mom has a good day or two when she finds a new job, drags us off to some other hellhole, the brings the whole thing crashing down. I won’t be a puppet in this stupid game anymore.

I don’t realize how hard I slam my locker until the girl next to me jumps. I give her a look like, What? and march off. Then I have to pull out a map of the school because I have no idea where I’m going. English. Room 102. Okay

When I find it, I make a beeline for the back row, which is already taken by other students trying to be invisible or goof off. I end up sitting in front of a tall guy with a mop of dark hair and glasses that look like they belong in the sixties. He’s reading a thesaurus. To my left, a chubby girl with stringy hair picks at her split ends. I think I’ve found my corner.

We are thrown into Isabelle’s life right at when it’s most traumatic. She is starting out in Grade 11 and facing all the usual teenage problems that come up in young girls lives. But she is also the caregiver to her younger brother and sister while her mother suffers from alcoholism. We witness Isabelle face crisis after crisis while we silently see the tension take their toll on her emotions until she snaps.

Page 10-11

“Pick it up yourself,” I say again, louder. Something grinds inside me. The redhead flees.

It happens in an instant. The blond narrows her eyes and moves to take a step toward me. Between the eye-narrowing and when she lifts her foot, I form a fist. I know how to make a decent fist. My cousin Jacquie taught me – thumb on the outside, knuckles not too tight. It has served me well, especially at these ghetto schools I usually end up in.

The blond opens her mouth to say something, shoulders squared for a fight. Before she can get the word out, I slam her in the face. She staggers back into the arms of her friends. Grabs her nose to stop the gush of blood spraying down her turquoise tank top. Shock is all I see on the face of every single person, including her. They weren’t expecting this. Ice floods my gut. Tears form in her squinty eyes. Then something else, something I recognize instantly: rage.

Lawrence has capture a big slice of the human condition by bringing the story of Isabelle forward. The lifestyle endured by the main character does actually exists as does much of the responsibility and the angst she has. And Lawrence hasn’t tempered the language for publication at all. She has Isabelle talking and thinking the way a teenager talks and thinks today. Easy enough for any reader to relate too.

Page 122

Monday morning. Will’s eyes light up as I drop my backpack by my desk. He doesn’t look away, waiting for me to give something back to him. A word, a smile. something I barely nod at him before sliding into my seat. You don’t want this, Romeo. How could I think for an instant that he could be part of my world?

I picture Will sitting on the ugly sofa as Uncle Richie hurls beer bottles and we all scatter like cockroaches. Isn’t that what every guy wants? Congratulations, Will. You just won yourself a nice, dysfunctional family. Even worse if he tried to help, to fix. The girlfriend who’s also a project. It’s for his own good that I walk away. He’ll never know about the Molotov cocktail he just avoided. Still, the ache in my chest makes it hard for me to lift my head today.

Gritty. Honest. Bold. These words certainly describe this story. But most importantly Lisa J. Lawrence’s Rodent has captured a slice of life that a good number of people (not just teens but adults) have to endure. This book should start a number of conversations and great deal of soul searching by many. Exactly what a great piece of literature should do.

*****

Link to Orca Book Publisher’s website for Rodent

Link to my Q&A with Lisa J. Lawrence – “I think most of my inspiration . . . comes from those very human moments that can happen anywhere”

Unleashing the Minds of a Young Reader | Review of “Unleashed Retribution” by Sigmund Brouwer (2015) Orca Books

unleashed

I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program on Librarything.com

It takes a bit of an effort at times to engage a young reader to consider their world around them. There is so much that distracts them and confuses them. But perhaps having them read Sigmund Brouwer’s novel Unleashed Retribution might be enough to spark some consideration for them to ponder their lives and begin to ask questions.

Page 1-2

THERE IS NO ONE AROUND TO HEAR YOU SCREAM.

The words came into focus as I woke up on a toilet. The last thing I remembered was drinking Gatorade. Then a fog that had turned into midnight black.

Someone had ragged my unconscious body from the back of the mildewy gym where I’d passed out to the bathroom of the locker room, where I found myself now.

I was bound with duct tape. I was still in my sweats, sitting on top of the toilet-seat lid. Those factors, at least, were a small mercy. One, being in sweats, and two, on the lid of the toilet seat as opposed to the seat itself. After not knowing how you got there and being unable to move, it would be even more awkward to look down and see your sweat pants bunched at your ankles.

Not only does Brouwer have a suspenseful novel here but he touches on themes that occur in young lives. The book deals with Jace, who has been dealing with a cold and abusive household for a very long time. The situation is worsening and Jace decides to take matters into his own hands before his brother is hurt even more. The story is one of the The Retribution Series that young readers can continue to read on with.

Page 41-42

“Hey,” Bentley said.

“Hey,” I said. no point in any encouraging words, like, Yeah, Dad must be in a bad mood – he didn’t mean what he said.” First, it would have been laughable to call Winchester by any other name than Winchester. He wasn’t a dad. He was a biological father. Second, Bentley and I both knew that Winchester always meant what he said when he threw out barbed words. And third, we’d been through that conversation endlessly during our younger years, with Bentley crying and me raging, until we’d finally accepted that it wouldn’t change, and then we’d come to a more important understanding: we weren’t going to blame ourselves for Winchester’s treating us the way he did. And, no surprise, that made us tight as brothers.

The language Brouwer uses here is simple and frank, yet it still flows in a lyrical manner. He manages to clearly get inside the mind of a young person and understand how they think and feel. Then he took that understanding and created this book.

Page 85-86

Yeah, I was scared of gravity. But I kept whispering to myself, That all you got?

Halfway up the wall I realized I was winning the fight against my fear. The process just took determination and a willingness to believe that if you hung in there – ha! Nice pun, given the rope that dangled three stories down the side of the hospital in the dark night – you’d wind in the end.

I’d pull on the Jumar with my left hand, trusting that the mechanism would lock and hold. With my right had, I’d slide the other Jumar up as high as I could. Then I’d pull down on the right Jumar, locking it in place, and slide the left Jumar up.

The effort didn’t hurt my biceps or forearms. My boxing workouts had left me with plenty of strength. But alternating the weight of my body from my left hand to my right and back to my left was tearing at the broken and crusted blisters. Without the leather gloves, it would have been unbearable.

Unleashed Retribution by Sigmund Brouwer is a great book to engage young minds about the world around them. The language is simple and frank yet the story line flows along well. A great read.

Link to the website for the Retribution Trilogy

Link to Sigmund Brouwer’s website