September 2006


Dear Zoe is a letter, from Tess DeNunzio to her younger sister, who died in a hit-and-run accident on a day when the world’s attention was focused elsewhere, with no grief to spare for Zoe’s death, except in Tess’s family. On September Eleventh, 2001, Zoe died, leaving Tess and her family devastated. It’s certainly something we don’t think about, all the personal tragedies that played out on that day. When you hear the words ‘September Eleventh,’ you see the towers falling or the Pentagon smoking, not the individual deaths of all of those people, related or not to terrorism, on that day.

That’s not what that day means to Tess, though. To fifteen-year-old Tess and her family, it means the loss of her little sister, Zoe. It means their lives are changed forever, in ways the rest of the world (to whom that day may seem life-changing as well) can never imagine. Still, Tess has to find a way to handle it all, to go on with her life, to keep on living even if Zoe can’t.

Philip Beard’s Dear Zoe is a powerful and emotional story about love, grief, growing up, and moving on even when forgetting is impossible. It’s a story about one personal tragedy on a day when everyone else mourns the deaths of thousands of others. In Dear Zoe, Tess is just one of a cast of very real characters; her voice is powerful, and will have the reader’s attention from the beginning to the end, keeping the reader breathless and racing through the book, but still not going too quickly–wouldn’t want to miss something!

Dear Zoe is a powerfully moving, beautifully written story that will haunt readers even after closing the book at the end of the last page. This painfully real, breathtaking novel is sure to be a favorite with all who read it.

Rating: 10/10 (And I’d give it more if I could…Wait, who says I can’t? 20/10!)

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Amy Nelson thinks her summer vacation is, as you may have guessed from the book’s title, ruined. Instead of spending it at home with her mother and friends, she’s being shipped off to Israel to meet her father’s (AKA Sperm Donor’s) family–who, by the way, don’t know she exists. Amy’s father has never been in her life before; what gives him the right to drag her unwillingly to a foreign country that is a war zone where people are drafted into the army? To top it all off, she’s now got to share one bathroom with six other people.

In How To Ruin A Summer Vacation, Amy’s stay in Israel is not turning out to be the fabulous shopping experience her friend Jessica described it as. Instead, she’s herding goats, being followed around by a dirty puppy with a speech impediment, and dealing with her annoying cousin, Osnat (AKA O’snot, or Snotty). Osnat obviously doesn’t want her there, and neither do the other local teenagers, speaking in Hebrew when they know she can’t understand, or calling her a spoiled American. Her father, though, keeps pushing for her to fit in.

The only thing that seems right in Israel is finally meeting her Safta, or grandmother. She’s the reason that Amy is in Israel at all; Safta is sick, and Sperm Donor wants Amy to meet her grandmother while she has the chance. The two of them click immediately.

Of course, no summer vacation would be complete without a cute guy! Avi, while he may look great, however, is kind of a jerk. Amy could never like him, right?

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation is certainly a fun read and a page-turner (I actually read it all in one sitting), but it’s also a very interesting look at life in another side of the world, and how it is both different and the same as life in America–and different from what we see on television. The reader, along with Amy, discovers what it really is to be Israeli, and how different it is from what the media always shows us.

Simone Elkeles’ characters are very believable, and Amy’s character in particular develops the way a real person would when put into the situations she is. All of the characters, however, seem very real. Their relationships don’t always feel as completely developed as they could be, but I’m hoping that comes in the sequel, due out next year (which I can’t wait to read!). Amy’s attitude makes her a fun character to read about, and readers will probably sympathize with her–even when they don’t really like her!

This fast-paced story, while a bit predictable, is a great read, and I’m glad there’s going to be a sequel. Simone Elkeles writes in a way that will draw you in immediately, and have you laughing in all the right parts. Don’t miss How to Ruin a Summer Vacation!

Rating: 8.5/10

Veronika
interviewed Simone–check it out here!

Jennifer Scales is just like any other fourteen-year-old girl. She’s going through some…changes. But it’s all normal, right?

Not exactly. In Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace (don’t let the title keep you away; it’s not what it sounds like), Jennifer’s parents tell her some…surprising news. She’s going to be changing a lot more than most people do at her age. In fact, she’s going to be getting scales, horns, and claws–at least some of the time. Jennifer is a weredragon, from her dad’s side of the family (her mom never has a tail the way Jennifer and her father do), and her parents waited to tell her until the day of her first morph. Whenever there’s a crescent moon, Jennifer, her father, her grandfather, and so many other seemingly normal people turn into dragons.

That gives Jennifer a lot to deal with. She’s got her friends (who she can’t tell), school, and, well, being a fourteen-year-old girl. She’s got to put her life on hold, though, when she goes to her grandfather’s farm to become a dragon, and learn the skills she needs for that (at first, even standing up is hard!). Jennifer (and all weredragons) also has some ancient enemies, though: beaststalkers (humans with the power to hunt weredragons) and werearachnids (people who turn into giant spiders every crescent moon). As if starting high school wouldn’t be hard enough!

Jennifer Scales And The Ancient Furnace is a fast-paced story that I read all in one sitting! The writing isn’t particularly remarkable, but it’s simple enough to keep the reader focused on the story. The characters all seem pretty realistic, if a bit removed from the narrative. The idea is pretty original–a great spin-off of the less original, and more often written about, idea of werewolves. MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi’s writing allows the reader to easily suspend disbelief, and every bit of the story seems as if it could be happening right now, despite what common sense tells us.

This is a fantastic and unique YA fantasy novel that every fantasy fan (and perhaps those new to fantasy) should read! If you do, you’ll certainly want to pick up the next book in the series, Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light.

Rating: 8/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**

Read my review of the second book about Jennifer Scales, Jennifer Scales And The Messenger Of Light (these titles could use some work…The first one sounds ridiculous and the second sounds like a religious book…Don’t let that keep you away, though!) for Curled Up With A Good Kid’s Book.

So you know there are a ton of ways to keep up with this blog, right? (Check out my links in the sidebar). Well, another one has just been added: Vox. You can keep up with my reviews at http://teenbookreview.vox.com. Check it out! Plus, it has a cool layout, a tokyo cityscape. Another reason to look it up!

Check out the Internet Book Database! You can catalog your books, organize your books (as wanted, owned, favorites, etc.), post book ratings & reviews, and more! I am going to be an official reviewer (when the site’s owner sets up the official reviewer page=) for the site, so if you have a book you’d like reviewed on the Internet Book Database, email me, I’d probably be glad to read & review it.

On my statcounter account, I just found some cool stuff. I can find out how many people from a specific country, state, or city have visited the site, and what page they came from. Very cool. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of it with you:

This week: Visitors by country:

Num Perc. Country Name
drill down 74 82.22% United States United States
drill down 5 5.56% Canada Canada
drill down 4 4.44% United Kingdom United Kingdom
drill down 3 3.33% France France
drill down 2 2.22% Singapore Singapore
drill down 1 1.11% Spain Spain
drill down 1 1.11% Germany Germany

Some google searches that referred people to this page:

“choose your destiny” novel
bass ackwards and belly up
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
hope was here joan bauer extended plot
review of Hope was here bauer
book review for Elsewhere by Garbrielle Zevin

Cool, huh?

Check out the box to the right to join our mailing list! I think you have to have a yahoo account to sign up, but it’s easy and free. Join, and I’ll send periodic updates, with new stuff and links and everything. Email me if you have some ideas for the mailing list!

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