Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review of Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

         Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, edited by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil.  Sourcebooks/Fire, 2013.

“Tonight I got arrested.”  This is the first sentence of journals kept by Mary Rose, a young teenage girl who is fighting addiction to drugs and alcohol.  She has a tragic home life; her father left Mary Rose and her mother when she was very young.  Her mother always seems to choose boyfriends over Mary Rose and her sister.  Her mother’s boyfriends are both physically and mentally abusive.   By the age of fifteen, Mary Rose is an addict, has experienced sex, and has been gang-raped.  Her loneliness leads to boredom, bad hygiene, drugs, and alcohol.

Mary Rose longs for friendship, love, and acceptance, but she continuously chooses the wrong kind of people to befriend.  She is in and out of rehab clinics and hospitals; she reveals later in her journals that she has cystic fibrosis.  Many of the children she has known through in hospitals have died; the life expectancy of CF patients is only thirty-two years of age, and that is for someone who has taken care of himself.

So Mary Rose lives her life on the edge, trying to experience everything she can as fast as possible because she doesn’t know how long she will be around.   She writes to Nobody since no one will ever read what she has written, or so she believes.

Mary Rose’s journals were found after her death in her bedroom closet by her friend and given to the editors.  They actually did no editing per se, only cut out some of the entries.  Because Mary Rose died as a minor,  her mom had to go to court to have her father removed from Mary Rose’s estate; he would not give permission for the diary entries to be published.  After he left Mary Rose and her mother, he did not pay one penny in child support, and the editors did not think he should benefit from any of the proceeds of the book.

Mary Rose’s writing takes place over a course of about three years and is brutally honest; even though she had to drop out of school in second grade due to her illness, she was a brilliant writer.  In her diary, she talks of despair, guilt, loneliness, and the physical pain of cystic fibrosis.  She dreamed of being an rich actress or a famous writer but knew, in her heart, that she wouldn’t live long enough.  She had seen friends as young as eleven pass away and had looked death in the face several times before she finally succumbed to complications due to CF in 1999.

I recommend this book with caution for high school and public libraries.  It contains profanity, underage drinking, drug abuse, and many sexual situations.  Readers who enjoy books by Ellen Hopkins or read Go Ask Alice will devour this book.  Thank you to Sourcebooks/Fire which allowed me to read and review this book.  I give it three out of five fleur de lis!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review of Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Cosimano, Elle.  Nearly Gone.  Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2014.
Sixteen-year-old Nearly Boswell is smart, especially in chemistry, where she is vying for a huge scholarship against her best friend, Ahn, and another student.  She is also getting community service hours by tutoring fellow students.  She and her mom, a stripper at a local club, had to move into a dilapidated trailer park five years earlier when her father left them.  She feels that the scholarship could be her ticket out of Sunny View Mobile Home Park and her present life.  But Nearly has a special, but unwanted, talent.  When someone touches her she can taste the emotions that person is feeling. 

Obsessed with the personal ads in the newspaper, Nearly hopes to read a message from her absent father.  Instead, she finds mysterious math and science messages that foreshadow attacks on the students she is tutoring.  Nearly realizes that the killer is taunting her and challenging her to solve the crimes.  She thinks he is also trying to frame her for the attacks, which have progressively turned into murders.

A new student, Reece Whelan, is assigned to be tutored by Nearly, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  But as more of her students die, she turns to him for help instead of her best friend, Jeremy, who wants to be more than friends.

It’s literally a race against time to catch the killer.  Will Nearly and Reece be able to solve it in time to save her and prevent more deaths?

Nearly Gone is extremely character-driven, and is a very well-written mystery. Nearly is smart, tough, and streetwise—a great protagonist!  Reece comes across as a typical bad boy, but actually has a soft, protective side to him that girls will love.  The cryptic clues so cleverly worked into the novel had me stumped during the whole story.  Elle Cosimano’s debut novel will keep readers guessing and turning pages until the very end.  It is scheduled to be available on March 25, 2014.  I highly recommend it for high school and public libraries.   I give it five out of five fleur de lis!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review of Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

          Kuehn, Stephanie.  Charm and Strange.  Electric    Monkey/Egmont, 2013.

My review of Charm and Strange is going to take a different format from the reviews I usually write.  It is not very often that I come across a book that I really do not know how to review.  What makes this review even harder is that I cannot say much about the plot without giving up spoilers.

This debut novel is written through a series of events—“Matter” in the present and “Anti-Matter” in the past---through the eyes of Winston Drew Winters, aka Win and Drew.  In the present, sixteen-year-old Win is a boarding school student in a remote part of New England.  He won’t let anyone get close to him for fear of what he might do to others.

In the past, Drew is a young boy who excels at tennis and looks up to his older brother, Keith.  He fears his overbearing, drunken father and often has unexplained blackouts.  Drew has terrible motion sickness and bouts of uncontrollable, violent anger.

The summer Drew, Keith, and Siobhan, their younger sister, visit their cousins and grandparents leads to a family tragedy and more mental problems for Drew.  It is also the reason he ends up at boarding school fighting demons in his mind and fearing what will eventually become of him.

Charm and Strange seems to start out as a paranormal novel but ends up as something totally different.  The beginning of the novel is confusing and the plot wanders, but the plot threads finally weave themselves together to make sense.  Some readers may not wait long enough to see this through and will miss the satisfying conclusion.

The plot is character-driven, and the author does a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters.  Even the minor characters are extremely complex.  Additionally, the subject matter has obviously been well researched and brilliantly integrated into the story.

Charm and Strange is a psychological thrill that deals with a sensitive subject.  It is for mature readers.  I highly recommend it for upper high school students and public library libraries and give it five out of five fleur de lis!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review of Find Me by Romily Bernard

Bernard, Romily.  Find Me.  HarperTeen, 2013.

Wicket Tate and her younger sister, Lily, are living with their newest set of foster parents in an affluent neighborhood.  Lily loves her new life, but Wick is only cautiously comfortable.  She is a hacker extraordinaire, but she only hacks to keep she and Lily safe.  Besides, Wick is only helping women who have domestic problems.  If she and Lily have to leave because their dad shows up, the money will come in handy.

One morning, Wick finds her former best friend’s diary on her foster parents’ doorstep with a note that says, “Find me” attached.  Tessa committed suicide, so why would anyone need to find her?  Did the detective who keeps stalking Wick put it there?  The answer comes in the form of Tessa’s sister, Tally, who tells Wick that Tessa was raped, and Lily is the next target.  Tally wants Wick to use her hacker skills to discover who raped Tessa and to save Lily.

To complicate matters, Wick’s dad and partner are planning a con scheme and are dragging Wick into it.  Wick hoped her dad was out of her life, but he may never be.  She can’t tell her foster parents because what would they think?

Wick and her computer lab partner, Griff, work through clues to find the rapist and bring him to justice.  Will they be able to locate him in time to save Lily?

What a thrilling mystery this is!  Romily Bernard’s debut novel is filled with twists and turns to keep the pages quickly turning.  This is one of those books readers will not be able to put down. 

The two main characters, Wick and Griff, are strong and dependable.  Wick has been through so much in her life—her mom’s suicide, her dad’s brutal abuse, several foster homes—but she has not broken.  Grief and guilt over her mother can be felt pouring from her.  Griff has his own problems, but he is a stabilizing influence in Wick’s life when she finally allows him to be.  He is a loving, reassuring, and an all-around good guy.  Wick and Lily’s father and his partner are pure evil.  Wick’s dad manages to control the girls’ lives through his contacts even when he is not around.

Find Me is not for immature readers.  It is the first volume in a new series of the same name.  Remember Me, the second installment, is scheduled to debut on Sept. 24, 2014.  I highly recommend Find Me for high school and public libraries and give it five out of five fleur de lis!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review of Alienated by Melissa Landers

Landers, Melissa.  Alienated.  Disney Hyperion, 2014. 

High school senior Cara Sweeney has gotten every honor attainable—Young Leader Award, state debate champ for two years, president of the National Honor Society, and class valedictorian.   All she needs now is a good scholarship for college.

Imagine her surprise when Cara’s family is chosen to host an interplanetary exchange student from Planet L’eihr.  As payment for hosting, Cara will receive full tuition to any college she chooses.  Not only that, she will be able to post about her experiences with the alien on her blog.

When Aelyx, the L’eihr exchange student, arrives, Cara discovers that even though he is he handsome, he is rather cold and aloof.  He likes the drab colors of winter, doesn’t care for earth food, and is dreading his time with his host family.  As Cara and Aelyx grow closer, HALO—Humans Against L’eihr Occupation, begin staging protests, hoping to upset the alliance between Earth and L’eihr.  HALO’s demonstrations become increasingly violent and eventually result in another exchange student’s death.

Fearing for their lives, Aelyx and Cara flee earth.  Cara discovers that Aelyx and the other exchange students have tried to sabotage the Earth alliance by poisoning crops with a L’eihr parasitic tree.  Feeling that Aelyx has betrayed both her and Planet Earth, Cara must decide if she will accept his apology and continue with their relationship.

The plotline and world building of Planet L’eihr and its inhabitants are ingenious.  The novel is extremely character-driven, and the two main characters—Cara and Aelyx—are strong and likable.  There are some intense romance scenes between the two that will leave readers breathless.  Aelyx is very literal in his comments to others, which adds humor to the novel.  Alienated is the first book in the new series by the same name and will be released this Tuesday, Feb. 4.

Invaded, the second book in the series will debut in 2015.  I highly recommend Alienated for high school and public libraries.   I give it five out of five fleur de lis!