BookPage Reviews 2009 DecemberCapture the imagination of your book-loving teen
For those trying to select a gift for a teenager, the choice can be fraught with uncertainties. Trends among teens change quickly, and what was the must-have possession last year is now hopelessly out-of-date. But books are a timeless gift, and if chosen carefully, they will be cherished for many years to come. That’s where we come in. From vampires to sports to historical adventure, we’ve selected the best books for every teen on your list.
Creatures of the night
If you know someone who’s caught the Twilight fever, you’re in luck: nothing is hotter in teen fiction right now than vampires, werewolves, zombies and other strange and spooky creatures. Assuming your giftee already owns all four books in Stephenie Meyer’s hit series, another set of teen paranormals could be just what you’re looking for. In The Van Alen Legacy, fourth in the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz, our heroine is a wealthy Manhattan teen at an elite private school—who just happens to be the latest in a long line of vampires. Schuyler Van Alen has money, privilege and power, yet all the glamour of her life may not be enough to protect her from a rival group of vampires, the Silver Bloods.
Worlds of wonder
There’s no shortage of well-written and engaging fantasy and science fiction books for teens; in recent months, BookPage has reviewed such excellent titles as Suzanne Collins’ edge-of-your-seat Catching Fire (sequel to The Hunger Games, this reviewer’s pick for the best book of 2008), Scott Westerfeld’s steampunk adventure Leviathan and Kristin Cashore’s gripping Fire (prequel to Graceling). Another series not to be missed is the Chaos Walking books by Patrick Ness. Last year’s The Knife of Never Letting Go introduced Ness’ truly imaginative setting, a world in which something called the “Noise germ” has killed all the women and caused the thoughts of both men and dogs to be broadcast aloud ceaselessly—and where 12-year-old Todd Hewitt may have discovered a very dangerous secret. Now, in the recently released The Ask and the Answer, Todd must face a new set of challenges and decide where his loyalties lie.
Danger on the high seas
If your teen likes swashbuckling adventure, narrow escapes and sea monsters, these two books will be a surefire hit. In Roland Smith’s Tentacles, the sequel to Cryptid Hunters, Marty and Grace O’Hara go along for the ride when their uncle rents a freighter and sets off for New Zealand in search of a giant squid. But will a mysterious saboteur end their journey before they can find the creature? The fascinating science of cryptids (animals thought to exist only in myth) and Smith’s fast-paced story will capture the imagination of any action-loving reader.
Seventh in the Bloody Jack series, L.A. Meyer’s Rapture of the Deep continues the story of Jacky Faber, a young woman who was once a homeless orphan on the streets of late-18th-century London, but has since been a sailor, a pirate and a spy, among other occupations. Now Jacky is about to marry her true love, Jaimy—but her plans are foiled when the two are kidnapped by the British Navy and packed off to Florida to search for sunken treasure. Jacky’s many adventures may strain credulity, but readers will be too engrossed in the story to mind.
The best-laid plans
Of course, there are plenty of teens who don’t care for vampires and want to read a story set in the real world. In Peter Lerangis’ wtf, six teens make plans for a wild night, but it soon gets much wilder than any of them expected. On the back roads of Westchester County and in the pulse-pounding clubs of Manhattan, they follow one another through a complex and twisting plot. From the shocking beginning to an ending that still manages to surprise, this is one book readers won’t be able to put down.
Cat Locke, heroine of Robin Brande’s Fat Cat, makes herself the subject of an experiment that will be sure to win top honors at the science fair, and show up her rival (and former best friend) Matt McKinney in the process. Her project—she resolves to
live like Homo erectus, giving up everything from driving to hair products to artificial sweeteners—is brilliant, but will Cat manage to pull it off? And how will her friends and family, not to mention Matt, respond to the new Cat she is becoming? Sharp writing and fully realized characters propel the story and make the resolution both sweet and
On and off the court
Sports play a major part in the lives of many teens, and this pair of sports-themed novels will surely find many fans among not just basketball and football stars, but anyone who enjoys a heartwarming story. In Front and Center, third in the Dairy Queen trilogy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, D.J. Schwenk has spent the past five months as the center of attention, first when she went out for the boys’ football team, and then when her brother was seriously injured. Now that Win is home from the hospital and basketball season has started, D.J. is happy to be in the background again. But between a budding romance, college recruiters and the expectations of her basketball coach, she won’t be able to stay out of the spotlight for long. Murdock’s sense of humor and pitch-perfect ear for dialogue make D.J.’s story as compelling as any Big Ten showdown.
Thirteen-year-old Nate Brodie, hero of Mike Lupica’s Million-Dollar Throw, has the best throwing arm his football coach has ever seen. When he wins the chance to throw a pass through a target on live television—even better, at a Patriots game, Nate’s favorite team—for a million-dollar prize, it could be exactly what his family needs to get them through some tough financial times. But Nate worries that he’ll let his family down if he fails to make the pass. And if that’s not enough, his best friend Abby is going blind, and he doesn’t know how to help her. Nate is a wholly likeable character, and the support he receives from his parents and friends helps him to make the right choices when it really counts. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 SpringAs part of a science project, Cat adopts a more healthful lifestyle and begins to lose weight. She starts getting attention from guys, but only cares about once-best-friend-now-enemy Matt, who betrayed her four years prior. How he did so doesn't quite justify Cat's prolonged hatred of him; otherwise, Cat is a believably complicated character whose journey toward self-discovery is inspiring. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #2To win the science fair, get revenge on a boy and become her true self, Cat, a hefty high-school student, decides to be her own experiment. Cat will live a prehistoric lifestyle, which involves walking everywhere, avoiding technology and eschewing processed food. Part fat-girl-slims-down book, part advertisement for the real-food movement and part love story, this novel chronicles the many changes in Cat's life as she goes from stout to scorching. The science-experiment part of the tale is a bit of a gimmick; it morphs from science fair to social science once Cat gets cute enough to attract boys. A subplot involving a restaurant venture bores, and a half-articulated argument for vegetarianism goes nowhere, but many girls may find the heart of the novel—how Cat changes psychologically as her fat melts away—inspirational. Others will find it discouraging: Savvy readers will notice that the book has an internal contradiction, strongly stating that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover while simultaneously showing how much better it is to be thin—which mirrors society's own pretty exactly. (Fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.PW Reviews 2009 October #2
Can an American teen survive 207 days without junk food and modern conveniences? Budding scientist Catherine (Cat) Locke finds out the answer after embarking on her most ambitious experiment yet: living the lifestyle of a primitive Homo erectus. Cat is determined to win a prize at the science fair and outshine her rival and former friend, Matt, "Mr. I've-Won-More Science-Fairs-Than-Any-of-You," but that's not her only motivation: she hopes that by following the diet of her ancestors, she'll shed some unwanted pounds. Going without processed food, technology and motorized transportation isn't easy ("A big fat Snickers and a slice of pizza would have made everything so much better"), but Cat learns much about herself and other members of the human species as she observes changes in her body and attitude, while noting how others react to her metamorphosis (namely, she's suddenly juggling the attention of several boys). Well-versed in adolescent emotions and behaviors, Brande (Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature) offers a fresh, funny portrait of a strong-minded young woman hurdling obstacles and fighting cravings to reach her goal. Ages 12–up. (Oct.) [Page 50]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.SLJ Reviews 2010 January
Gr 8 Up—Rotund brainiac Catherine "Cat" Locke, a junior, becomes her own science-fair project "guinea pig," trying to live a prehistoric lifestyle for seven months. Out for revenge on former best friend/crush and detested rival Matt McKinney, she gives up cars, phones, TV, computers, and processed foods in her determination to win this year's competition. Cat's slimmed-down body attracts several boys' attention, and she expands her project to observe the effects on herself and others, coached in the social graces by her beautiful, brilliant girlfriend Amanda. Delightful character depth and humorous plot twists make this a satisfying read as Cat confronts the real issues separating her from Matt. Brande precisely captures the different psyches of teenage guys and girls, weaving fitness, friendship, and forgiveness around the scientific method.—Joyce Adams Burner, National Archives at Kansas City, MO [Page 96]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.