August 2006

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In Such A Pretty Girl, Laura Wiess grabbed and held my attention from the first page to the last. New Jersey teenager Meredith was supposed to have nine years of safety from her father, so she’d be eighteen and out of the house when he was released from prison, but three years later, when Meredith is fifteen, her father gets out for good behavior. No matter what he did to Meredith and to other children before, Meredith’s mother is more than ready to take him back.

Meredith isn’t alone, though. She has her grandmother, the mayor of the town, who wants Meredith to move in with her to escape her father. She has Andy, her best friend, the guy she is in love with, who was also scarred by Meredith’s father as a child. She has Andy’s mother, who moved across the street from Meredith’s family just to keep other children from the horror from which she couldn’t protect Andy. She has Nigel, a retired policemen who has a plan to get Meredith’s father back in jail and away from children. Even though Meredith is far from alone, she still feels that way when she can’t even count on the people every kid is supposed to be able to count on: her parents.

Meredith wants to get her father back in prison. She wants her mother to go back to visiting him instead of having him in their house. She wants to be able to go into her own home without fear. She wants other kids to be safe, too. She doesn’t know what that’s going to take, and she’s certainly not unafraid, but she isn’t going to let him hurt her, or any other kids, again.

This moving, powerful novel is one that should not be missed. When it is released in January, be at your local bookstore, ready to get a copy! Once you start reading it, you won’t be able to put this book down. I wasn’t! It’s an emotional book that is beautifully, powerfully written and unique, and it’ll stay with you long past the last word.

Laura Wiess’s characters are as well-written as the rest of the book, very realistic (in some cases, scarily so). They’re three-dimensional characters in an equally (and, again, scarily) believable story that will certainly be a favorite of anyone who reads it. I know it’s one of mine now! Don’t miss this book. I am giving it a ’10’ rating, but, I must say, it doesn’t deserve that ten–It deserves a twenty, at least!

Rating: 10/10

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Lauren Barnholdt’s Reality Chick tells a story from inside one of those tell-all reality TV shows instead of what everyone else sees on television screens. In this entertaining novel, Ally Cavanaugh auditions for a show called In The House about students attending college in Syracuse, New York. To her surprise (she thought herself much too normal), she gets a spot on the show. Why, though? Perhaps it’s the fact that she has a boyfriend who is a basketball star in Florida, and she’s sure they’re going to be together no matter what.

College would be different enough without the constant presence of the cameras, or the fact that everyone she knows can see every little detail of Ally’s life every night on television. The only people who really know what it’s like are her roommates: James, Simone, Drew, and Jasmine. She’s also got her best friend, Grant, but she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone else. Is it Ally’s friendship they want or a chance to be on TV? Forget what they want–what does Ally want to do with her life?

Reality Chick is, yes, a story about a girl figuring out her life. Yeah, there are a ton of those, but this is an interesting twist. Ally Cavanaugh is figuring out her life while America watches it for entertainment! This is a fun read, well-written and with an l plot that is definitely part of the lives of people today–reality television is everywhere, and even if most of us are watching it on TV instead of living it, it’s still something that is very familiar. Ally is also a character who’s easy to relate to, and very believable. All of the characters in this novel are believable, and readers can see people they know in these fictional characters. No one here is exactly what they seem to be, either, which is also a lot like reality. And why shouldn’t it be? They’re all on reality TV.

Lauren Barnholdt grabs the reader’s attention from the beginning, when Ally and Grant are trying out for In The House, to the end. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, and the tidbits from ‘Now’ Ally made me even more eager to find out what happened ‘Then.’ Pick up Reality Chick as soon as possible! This book is definitely going on my ‘favorites’ shelf.

Rating: 9/10

Playing With Fire by Gena Showalter

Earth, Wind and Fire aren’t just a band anymore…

Used to be my greatest achievement was holding a job more than three days. Now suddenly I can shoot fireballs, chill your drink, or blow-dry your hair at fifty paces with a blink of my eye!

It all started when this crazy scientist dropped something in my grande mocha latte. Of course I got wicked sick. Next morning I’m waking up with this total hottie bending over me. He tells me 1) his name’s Rome Masters, 2) he’s a government agent and 3) I can control the four elements with a thought.

He seems even less pleased by my (apparently irreversible) transformation that I am. . . because now he’s supposed to kill me. The only good news: I didn’t make this bed of trouble, but Rome sure seems to want me to lie in it. With him.

Read an excerpt

Order your copy from Barnes and Noble or Amazon or Books A Million

And if you’d like a chance to win signed copies of *all* Gena Showalter’s books, all you have to do is post this entry, too. Post the cover, the blurb, the links, and this contest announcement, then head over to Gena’s blog ( ) and let her know you posted the material. A name will be randomly selected on September 3rd from those who do!!

Wuthering High is a novel by Cara Lockwood published by MTV Books, and I must say, the MTV Books are certainly much better than readers might expect from a name known mostly for reality television. In fact, these books are fabulous, no matter what you’re expecting, and Cara Lockwood’s story is no exception. In Wuthering High, Miranda Tate is a spoiled but still likeable character who, after a few mistakes involving her Dad’s car and stepmother’s credit card, is sent off to Bard Academy, a boarding school for misbehaving teenagers.

At Bard Academy, a few things happen that Miranda didn’t exactly expect from what she thinks about reform schools. She’s having terrifying nightmares involving Kate Shaw, a girl who went missing from the school fifteen years earlier. When she tries to escape through the woods, she finds herself going in circles. One of her teachers, Ms. W, always leaves wet footprints. If those little oddities aren’t odd enough, there are some eerie coincidences concerning classics such as Dracula, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. For instance, there’s Heathcliff, remarkably similar to the character in Wuthering Heights, who seems to think that Miranda is really Cathy, another character from the novel. Something weird is most certainly going on, and Miranda and her new friends Hana, Samir, and Blade have to find out what it is–fast.

This is a book that is definitely worth reading! Cara Lockwood’s characters are interesting, well done, and realistic, and readers will be able to relate to Miranda’s situations with her parents and friends (although perhaps not teachers). The character of Miranda also shows realistic character development instead of being the same slightly bratty fifteen-year-old throughout the book. Aside from her great characters, Cara Lockwood’s story in Wuthering High is entertaining and original. It’s better than just another overused idea with a few differences in details and characters. This novel is one that will keep readers hooked from the very first page to the end, and eagerly awaiting the next novel from Cara Lockwood about Bard Academy.

Rating: 10/10

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What If…Everyone Knew Your Name: a choose your destiny novel is an interesting idea. It’s a lot like those Choose Your Own Adventure Books you read as a kid, but this, instead of being a fantasy-adventure story like those, this one is a YA novel. It’s about Haley, a fairly average fifteen-year-old girl who has just moved to suburban New Jersey and is starting school at her first public high school. She starts out average, so that the reader can pretty much choose everything that happens to her as the story goes on.

You make every little decision for her, even the ones that seem really minor, like riding the bus to school or getting a ride from her father. You decide who she wants to be friends with and what crowd she wants to be a part of. You decide everything about her.

While an interesting idea, and fairly well-written, this book isn’t for everyone. If you’re all about finding out what will happen, this book might not be for you, because you decide what happens. It’s a cool concept, though, and a fun read, especially since you can read it more than once, with a different story and outcome. The characters aren’t particularly three-dimensional, but I guess they have to be simple enough so that it is believable that they would make any one of the very different choices you choose from. This book is fun, but not a must-read.

Rating: 7/10

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Simone Elkeles has a book coming out that I just can’t wait to read called How to Ruin a Summer Vacation. I haven’t read this book, but I will definitely be buying it once it is released in October! I’m posting because it’s one of the upcoming releases I’m most excited about, and you should be excited, too! You can check out her website here, see what you think. I am also posting because there is a cool interview with Simone posted at Veronika Asks (click on ‘Interviews’ and you’ll see it). Check it out; it’ll have you even more anxious for October to come!

Copied and pasted from Simone’s website:

How does a fashionista teen end up on a farm in the middle of Israel with her estranged father? Oy, vey doesn’t even come close to describing it.Camel

For Amy Nelson, the last thing she wants to do is go to that country she hears about on the news channels. For one, she’s not Jewish…or Israeli. Okay, so her father is, but that’s another story. Amy swears she’s got red, white and blue blood running through her veins, and needs amenities to survive.

Read Amy’s journey and find out if this American teen survives the struggles of dealing with a father she hardly knows, Israeli teens, and an extended family while traveling in an unknown land full of history that touches her heart, wild animals that scare her to death and…cute boys?!?

It will be part of Llewellyn Press’ FLUX imprint, due to be released in October, 2006.

Other exciting upcoming releases I can’t wait to read include (but are certainly not limited to) Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer, Devilish by Maureen Johnson, and I Was A Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum.

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) is the story of Patty Ho. The event that triggers all the others in the book is when Patty’s tyrannical Taiwanese mother drags her to see a rather unusual fortune teller who claims to tell the future using not palms, tarot cards, or a crystal ball, but belly-buttons. One of the predictions made by this woman involves a white guy in Patty’s future, and that one really sets off her mother, who chooses to ignore the fact that Patty is half-white, and pretend her daughter is all Taiwanese. It’s not something Patty can forget, though–she feels like she doesn’t fit in, not Asian or white.

After the visit to the fortune teller, Patty is promptly shipped off to math camp at Stanford University. As if it wouldn’t be bad enough to spend a summer doing math (just like school), she has one other school assignment to complete. She’s got to rewrite her “truth statement” by the end of the summer. It’s something she turned in at the end of last year, and, while great, it didn’t really reflect who she was. So now, she’s rewriting it–but to do that, she’s got to find out more of who she is.

Over the course of the summer, that is what she does, through her various adventures. These adventures include “buildering” (rock-climing on buildings) with her new friend Jasmine, meeting her Auntie Lu, find out some surprising things about her mother, meeting a guy who is Asian but STILL not what her mother wants for her, and find out that her goody-two-shoes classmate, Anne, who is at math camp with her, is writing a romance novel. During all of this, and lots more, she learns even more about herself than she does other people, which definitely helps with her truth statement.

Justina Chen Headley’s novel Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) is fabulous; it’s most certainly worth reading. The characters (not in the least the main character, Patty) are all brilliant, original, and well-written, as is the entire story. Sort of off-topic, however, I was a little disappointed to see the cover art of the final book in the bookstore; the version I read was an ARC, with a different girl on the cover, covering her face with her hand, and I liked that one better (I don’t know where you can find a picture of it; my search turned up nothing, so if you know a link, post a comment here!). Anyway, back to the book. It was a great read, one that will definitely be going on my favorites shelf. I’m really looking forward to reading Justina Chen Headley’s next novel as well (this was her first)! It’s a story that’s not as common in the world of YA literature, that makes it better than books about more typical things like lives of rich kids or vampires (I still love some of those, but not being something so common adds something extra to Justina Chen Headley’s novel). Pick it up, everyone; you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 9/10

So that people can more easily find this site by searching others, the Teen Book Review now has a LiveJournal and an Xanga. If you’re a member of these sites add/friend me (whatever they call it there). Here are the links:



Thanks everyone!

Okay, so number one, there might not be a new review until next week. I’m not at home, with all of my books and unlimited internet access :) Still, I have lots of time to read, and there will probably be several when I do get back to a computer for a long period of time….

Second, Erin, did you get my email about High School Bites? Anyway, I’m glad you liked Hope Was Here! Thanks for reading & commenting :)

Third, remember to add me as a friend if you have a Myspace! The link is in the post ‘links’.

Thanks for reading, everybody!

In Gabrielle Zevin’s novel Elsewhere, Liz is fifteen, looking forward to turning sixteen and getting her driver’s license, when everything changes. She’s riding her bike, only three months from driving a car instead of using her bike as her main mode of transportation, when she is hit by a car. She wakes up on a ship, sharing a room with a girl named Thandi who has what looks like a bullethole in the back of her head. Liz doesn’t look like she normally does, either; she doesn’t have any hair. In this “dream,” as she thinks it is, things are a little weird. There are no modern electronic devices on the ship, and everyone with the exceptions of herself, Thandi, and Liz’s favorite singer, Curtis Jest, is over 80.

After watching her own funeral (used by her high school principal as an opportunity to lecture on traffic safety), Liz realizes that this is no dream. Nor is it exactly her “life.” Liz is dead. She was killed in a car crash, and, in the world skillfully created by Gabrielle Zevin, this is where people go once they die. On a ship. Of course, boats have to go somewhere, and this one finally lands in Elsewhere. The afterlife, though not as anyone on earth imagined it. In Elsewhere, for one thing, people age backwards. Liz will never turn sixteen (but they’ll still let her get a driver’s license); instead, she’ll be turning fourteen again, under the care of her dead grandmother, who is surprisingly young (about the same age as Liz’s mother).

Elsewhere, though the people grow younger rather than older, is a lot like earth. Some artists continue their work here (you can see new paintings by Picasso!), just as they did on earth. Marilyn Monroe is a psychiatrist. Everything you can find on Earth–music, books, artwork–you can find Elsewhere. Elsewhere, Liz thinks, “could have been a walk to the next town or an hour’s ride in the car or an overnight plane trip.” It shouldn’t be too hard adjusting to this…right?

Gabrielle Zevin’s first YA novel is brilliant, and readers can only hope there will be a second! Sad, hopeful, creative, and well-written, this is a book that is not to be missed. The afterlife in Elsewhere is an original, interesting view of things that is somewhere between the heaven and hell spoken of by most religions; as has been said, this afterlife is a lot like an extension of life on earth, only backwards. It seems like a nice place, a happy place to be–except for what it takes for people to get there. Gabrielle Zevin creates this world brilliantly, in a novel that is sure to have readers hooked from the very first page. Definitely worth your money; you’ll want to read this book, sure to be a favorite with readers of all ages for a long time to come, again and again.

Rating: 9/10

Okay, I just thought I’d share! According to, this site has now had 100 first-time visitors. Three digits! Exciting, huh?

There are plenty of reasons for readers of young adult books to be enthusiastic about Polly Shulman’s new novel, Enthusiasm! It is full of fascinating characters, funny situations, and even romance. The book is told from the point of view of Julie, who is best friends with always enthusiastic Ashleigh. Ashleigh doesn’t just have interests; for her, they’re always full-blown obsessions. She’s been through phases where she has loved a band called the Wet Blankets, Harriet The Spy, ballet, King Arthur, and a lot more. When Julie lent her friend Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austen, the newest fad began.

For Ashleigh, the Enthusiast, it could never be just a great book. She’s got to speak like someone from hundreds of years ago, learn ballroom dancing, wear long skirts, and find True Love. As usual, Julie’s got to try and talk some sense into her friend. Sure, they’ll still end up publicly humiliated (as usual), but maybe it can be to a lesser degree. Perhaps she can convince Ashleigh to at least put on some jeans!

No matter what Julie does, however, she still can’t convince Ashleigh to give up the idea of finding True Love–dressing and acting like the heroine from a Jane Austen novel. Ashleigh is convinced they’ll be able to find True Love when crashing a dance at the local boys’ prep school, Forefield Academy. The rest of the story has confusion, romance, comedy, humiliation, and a lot more that will have readers hooked up until the very last page!

It’s a story that teens will be able to relate to, even if their best friends aren’t nearly so enthusiastic as Ashleigh. Everyone’s been embarrassed by a friend, but you’ve still got to stick by them, right? And then of course there’s the fact that Ashleigh has set her sights on the guy Julie’s crushing on. A sticky situation that lots of girls can relate to! Told in Julie’s engaging, witty voice, this entertaining story has every element of a great YA novel that is sure to be popular for a long time to come. I know I’m not alone in hoping for another novel by Polly Shulman that’s as unique and interesting as this one!

Rating: 9/10

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Bass Ackwards and Belly Up is a book readers won’t want to miss! It’s the story of four best friends–Harper Waddle, Sophie Bushell, Kate Foster, and Becca Winsberg, who have just graduated high school. Since they’re members of nice, normal (ish) suburban families, they have, of course, plans to go to college. But then Harper makes a shocking announcement, and everything changes for the four of them. Harper isn’t going to her dream college, NYU. In fact, she’s not planning on going to college at all! It is, she tells her friends, because she wants to stay home and write the Great American Novel. Yeah, right. In reality, Harper wasn’t accepted to NYU, and she didn’t apply anywhere else, but she’s too chicken to admit any of that.

When Harper commits the “ultimate suburban sin,” it’s shocking enough. When Sophie and Kate send the worlds of their families way out of orbit by making the decision to put off college as well, no one can believe it. Kate was going to Harvard! Now, though, things are different. Kate is going to travel across the world, starting with Paris. Sophie is going to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Becca’s the only one sticking to her original plan and going to Middlebury, but there are some challenges for her as well.

This is a brilliant book from two equally brilliant authors, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. They’ve got to be brilliant; they’ve written for a number of television shows, including the last two (and best two) seasons of the wonderful Angel! If you are a huge (slightly obsessive) fan of Buffy and Angel, you can imagine how exciting it was to read this on the back of the book. Bass Ackwards and Belly Up definitely lived up to my expectations. It’s a funny, entertaining, sad, touching, and very real story about four friends who, with lots of support from each other, learn a lot about love, friendship, their dreams, and most of all, themselves, having some fun and suffering some humiliation along the way (isn’t that just how life is?). Harper, Sophie, Kate, and Becca are very realistic, original, and well written (of course, everything in this book is well written) characters. The less major characters are great, too, and there is more to everyone than meets the eye, which is definitely a plus for a novel. The idea of the book is interesting as well, and certainly shows a different side of the whole “taking a year off” idea than teenagers get from their parents and school counselors, which is nice. Bass Ackwards and Belly Up is a page-turner and a must-read; I’m really looking forward to the sequel, due out next May!

Despite the questionable title, this book is a cute, innocent, and entertaining read. Sandra Nicholson, however, didn’t read the book in question or even a review before tyring to ban it! Off the subject–any thoughts about book banning from anyone? Personally, I think anyone who thinks books should be banned should just not read the book (or let their children read it) and let anyone who wants to have the choice of reading it. Just because you don’t want to read it doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t. Ignorant people like Sandra Nicholson just have way too much time on their hands. She needs to get a hobby. How about stamp-collecting? Knitting? That one’s becoming quite popular…

Anyway, fourteen-year-old Felicia and her two best friends in Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love have nicknamed themselves the Sex Kittens after a deck of tarot cards in Felica’s mother’s funky New Age-y bookstore, the Unbound Page. This particular deck didn’t have the usual pictures of jugglers and middle ages-type people, but instead had kittens! And the Sex Kittens, students of the Manhattan Free Children’s School (which they refer to as the Pound), were born. They nicknamed the boys Horn Dawgs, to go along with the Pound theme as well. That’s where the name comes from; totally innocent. The three Sex Kittens aren’t sluts and they don’t dress or act like them. They are unique, interesting characters with interests such as poetry (the narrator, Felicia) and playing the violin.

Felicia is a creative, interesting character, and when she’s tired of waiting for Matthew (a science nerd and Horn Dawg working on a project to make rabbits more intelligent) to notice her, she has an interesting idea for a science project they can work on together. They’re going to search for X. The thing that makes people fall in love. Felicia wants to use this project to make Matthew fall in love with her, of course! It’s a rather complicated world out there, though, and nothing ever works out the way you expect (or want) it to. There is, for instance, some speculation that Matthew’s friend Randall is in love with Felicia! Things are a little complicated at the Manhattan Free Children’s School, and it’s up to Felicia to figure them out (and win the science fair!).

Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love is a funny, entertaining unique book taking place in a city full of possibilities, New York. Without the settings of New York and the Manhattan Free Children’s School, the story couldn’t happen! The idea is solid, and the characters well-thought out. Felicia’s struggles with love are something anyone (of any age, but especially teenagers) can relate to! Maryrose Wood’s writing style is funny, easy to follow, and pulls the reader right in. This is a good read to keep you occupied on these hot summer days (and there have been a lot of them lately). Pick up a copy; you won’t be sorry!

Rating: 8/10

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